I apologize for that title.
However: I'm betting it made a number of you look, assuming you're following a link from WFA.
And I bet a number of you arrived pretty angry, already forming before you'd even read this far some sort of reply or retort that would tell me off in some way. Some of you may have interpreted the title as an attack on a specific person, and may have been curious to see what the confrontation was about and who it involved; some may have even had a knee-jerk reaction, an instinct to defend the supposed "victim" of my outburst.
Before actually reading past the title, did anyone, anyone at all, even for the slightest instant, think that this post would be in any way benign or even helpful?
If so, I admire your keen insight and ability to keep an open mind, but you are probably in the vast minority.
In the comments section of my last post, an anonymous commenter expressed a dislike for the term "being nice", describing it in essence as a call to sit down and shut up. They (assuming it was the same anonymous) then defended the use of angry stances and rhetoric as a tactic to shock (or "shove", as they put it) those who might be ignorant or apathetic into realizing the scope of the conflict.
I'm skeptical about the chances of success for such a tactic, frankly. Most people don't like it when you yell at them, and I'm pretty sure the commonest response is to get defensive and grumble something like "what the hell are you yelling at me for?" or "I didn't do anything to deserve being yelled at!" Maybe some folks would step back eventually and think, "hm, maybe I should think about this a bit". Perhaps a few.
But anyone who arrived at this post ready to tear me a new one should keep in mind that if it doesn't work that way on you, you can't expect it to work that way on others. Even if you say "but see, we're thinking seriously about your words now that you got us here with your nasty title", it's ameliorated by the fact that in this post itself, I change my tone. Once past the title, I'm done with the seemingly angry name-calling. One hopes nobody finds my subsequent words as insulting or infuriating. At least, not yet.
And there's the matter of reward vs. penalty: would the few who would indeed tolerate a figurative "shove" and open their minds be worth the ill-will generated in others who maybe don't take kindly to "shoves", regardless of the underlying causes?
While you're considering that (or not), consider this:
The thing that disturbs me about this kind of justification for uncivil behavior is that it kind of echoes other, more despised patterns of behavior.
Like wife beaters.
I mean, isn't that the stereotypical excuse you hear? "Baby, I'm sorry I clocked you in the head with this pipe, but you know, it was your own fault for making me so angry. If you'd just done what I said like I asked, it wouldn't have gotten so bad." Every bit as stereotypical is the woman who's been battered into believing this kind of crap. "No, Mom, this black eye was my own fault for not having dinner on time, I should know how mad it makes him."
"I have to call this fanboy an asshole, it's the only way he'll ever learn. He needs to know exactly how angry I feel."
Yes, there's a difference in scale and effect, but the rationale is remarkably similar: less-than-polite behavior is justified because it's for their own good, it's the only way they can learn...
ADDITIONAL, LATER: Because some people apparently, when they see words they dislike, lose all ability to parse English, some clarification seems to be in order.
Wife-beating is not equal to making angry internet posts, and that's not what I'm saying.
What I am saying is that justifying your angry/abusive intarwub rants with the reasoning that some people somehow need to be yelled at by you for your message to be understood is the same kind of faulty logic that leads, for example, spouse-beaters to rationalize smacking people around because otherwise they just won't get it through their heads what they should be doing. It's all okay, because someone else has to be made to understand what you want them to understand.
Yes, of course there's a difference between physical abuse and verbal abuse. No shit, Sherlock. But as I've said before, this "ends justifying the means" business is exactly that, the ends justifying the means. If you don't tolerate the angry language from the other side of the debate, what makes you think they're any more receptive to you when you act the same?
But let's take this from theory to experience. I challenge anyone to give me a personal example of when, as an adult, being yelled at or insulted by another adult (genuinely, not banter between friends) convinced YOU that the other person was right, and perhaps you were in the wrong. Who yelled at you? A friend? Someone you knew or respected? Or some random person online?
When have you ever yelled at or insulted someone else and had it work out to where the other person genuinely said, "oh, well, my bad, sorry, I see your point" out of a sincere desire to correct a mistake and not just chagrin/embarrassment at being yelled at? Are you sure they really saw your point of view, or did they just want you to stop yelling at them?
And compare both examples with how often the opposite result happens: when you feel only anger when someone else gives you a hard time, or when you gripe at someone and they gripe right back at you, perhaps louder and more aggressively.
I mean, if this actually works for you in practice, fine, guess I was mistaken... but unless I get a flood of people saying how minds were actually persuaded by yelling in their direct experience, I'll remain skeptical that the less polite path has any benefit besides stirring up the converted and giving someone a bit of catharsis.