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Saturday, April 15, 2006

The King's Idiocy

Anyone may comment on postings in this blog. Comments are not edited but are moderated. What that means is that while I can't alter what commenters write in any way, I do decide whether each individual comment gets posted or not.

So far my only rule has been: no ad hominem. Ad hominem, Latin for "to the person," is shorthand for the logical fallacy argumentum ad hominem, which refers to the strategy of attacking the debater instead of his or her argument. Colloquially, it simply means attacking somebody. Since this is not a forum, I don't feel the need to allow anyone to say negative things about others for no apparent reason other than that it's their opinion.

The toughest comment to deal with is one that makes a substantive contribution but then throws in a gratuitous personal attack. For instance, "You asked what year he was born; he was born in 1931. But he's an idiot." Since I have no way of editing the comment, the informational content has to be sacrificed in order to disallow the insult. Too bad, but whatever.

Then there's the rather tricky issue of comments that are critical of me. For example, "You didn't mention that he was born in 1931. But then, you're an idiot." Disallowing such comments smacks of self-interested manipulation of the free exchange of information, which is one definition of censorship.

On the other hand, it's our realm, and we are the King; our power is godlike and we can crush insolent peons without remorse or fear of consequence. If one's purpose therefore is to proclaim the King's idiocy, one might be better advised to do it beyond the gates of the autocracy. Ya think? [Fade to: MAD LAUGHTER.]



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank god for "The King"!

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a fine line, because sometimes real commentary requires something that many would view as a 'personal attack'.

If we are deeply involved in photography, we learn (evolve?) to know good from bad. We recognize that flicker of special talent that separates the talented photographer from the technically competent but utterly average photographer.

But far too often, this 'averageness' is not recognized by the general public, and by the power of personal wealth, connections, hard work, good public realtions or other factors, these utterly average photographers (to say nothing of politicians) end up being place on pedestals where they really don't belong. My personal best example would be a blog that you may recognize as KR, written by someone that has neither technical nor visual skills, yet is widely read because he uses such an authoritative (and entertaining) writting style that people actually believe that he knows what he is talking about. There you go, a personal attack. But if it is an appropriate criticism based on something aside of malice, should it be expunged?

If a photographer is extremely good technically, but poor creatively, is it really wrong to say "He is a good printer but his photography is no good, he should stick to teaching printing"? (Or doing equipment reviews, or writting witty commentary) Is that a personal attack? Or is it just an expressed oppinion worthy of as much respect as any other oppinion?

If I say a person is a genius, will the comment be removed as quickly as if I say a person is an idiot? After all, they are both just oppinions, and if made as a valid critique, both worthy of respect.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Don't you think there's a constructive and non-constructive way to say such things?

And BTW I don't recognize KR, unless it stands for "King's Realm" and you're talking about me...(g)


10:36 AM  
Blogger Paul Butzi said...

I have no idea who 'KR' might be, but if he doesn't know what he's talking about, it seems like it should be a simple task to demonstrate that without resorting to name calling.

If he writes something which isn't true, refute it directly, using the most persuasive argument you can.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well you Bolshevik Pig, love this blog its the best thing on web.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

I've always felt that you can say anything as long as you phrase it right. Rhetoric is a virtually endless subject; there are limitless ways to use words to get your point across persuasively. I feel like I only know a tiny bit about the subject and am constantly learning more.

I suppose it's odd that I should object to ad hominem hereabouts, considering that I am (at least in part) a critic, and part of a critic's job, naturally, is to offer criticism. But in this case, of course, we simply don't need to come to some fine philosophical adjudication on the matter. As I pointed out, it's simply a despotic decision (though within a very trivial "realm")--the decision is "in or out," and I decide. This is obviously not a useful guideline in any broader context.

I think I've rejected maybe eight or ten comments in total--very few, overall. I probably would have felt somewhat offended if a comment I made were rejected, so I just thought it might be courteous to those few people whose comments I've rejected to make the criteria plain.


11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding "If one's purpose therefore is to proclaim the King's idiocy, one might be better advised to do it beyond the gates of the autocracy."

I don't think the king is an idiot, but even Martin Luther nailed his contrary take on things to the door (sort of a “gate”) of a Catholic Church, so there is at least a tradition contrary to the one stated above.

So, it may not be effective (bit it might), but it certainly is not without precedent.

Need Moar Cowbell !!!

1:06 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Martin Luther, Martin Luther...didn't he eat worms?



1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long live the King!

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A humble opinion, my liege:- the distinction is between criticism and insult - but to distinguish the two is no easy task. A criticism (maybe even non constructive) refers to something other than the others personal character - an insult has no bearing on anything other that their character - or is reduced to basic/foul language. As you said, there is usually a way to say something without the need to insult - even if that is your true intention.

If a person claims another as an "idiot" - it mirrors their idiocy in that they have no capability to express themselves - and use the delightful intricasies of the language.

This may not be a forum - but it can be used as a sounding board, and I think to err on the side of caution may be wise. The last thing anyone wants is this fabulous resource to go the way of certain forums - which way back when were also a useful resource.

Keep it up.

2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you ought to make an exception for really well done, creative insults. "Proficient but not skilled" -- gotta recycle that one!

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree. So much of the discussion on forums or blogs or what have you degenerate into attacking the person. That is not intersting to read, nor is it enlightening. It can be entertaining at times, but I for one can do without it.

7:48 PM  

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