I read a well-written article by fellow Medium writer Pete Ross about how people are offended by the occasional curse word. He nobly defends his fellow writers from what were obviously petty and poorly-considered jabs at their writing prowess and personal choices from the horde of trolls that inevitably lurks around every corner of the social media landscape.
Even though I wanted to fist-pump and shout “Hell, yeah!” to his overall message, (why, indeed, must people freak over opinions that don’t mesh with perfect precision with their own?), I found myself being a bit confused by the way in which he went about building parts of his defense.
When touching on the idea of people’s dislike of writers using curse language, he suggests, “Maybe you don’t like it because you’re old or conservative.”
Oh, no he didn’t.
Yes, he did. And then he went on to call them stupid.
He writes, “I’m going both barrels on you right now, because you’re stupid. You’re stupid because you can’t separate one little word from what is usually an excellent body of text, or even worse appreciate its skillful use because it somehow offends your sensibilities.”
Oh, no. I love Pete–he’s super intelligent and it definitely shines through in his writing. But he lowered himself into the troll barrel with the name-callers and I don’t think he even realized it.
Not everyone that doesn’t agree with cursing in an article is old, conservative, and/or stupid. Some people just don’t like it. And guess what? That’s okay. It’s okay to have an opinion and to voice it . After all, examining opposing viewpoints is how we grow and learn. It’d be boring beyond belief if we were all the same! But, we all need to learn to voice our opinions with respect for each other.
We writers need to be the change, as trite as that might sound. I know that nasty, small-minded comments are hard to deal with; I’ve had my share of them directed at me, too. But we have to argue our points without descending to their level, or we just become part of the problem.
We should focus our writing on attacking the issue, not the person voicing the opinion. Pete makes fantastic arguments in his article. I loved his example about comments to a video in which a veteran uses the f-bomb. In the video, the vet responds with occasional profanity to the current “22 pushups a day challenge”. He wants people to understand that there’re better things to do to help vets with PTSD. Pete writes, “It was a rather deep and profound message, but that didn’t stop people showing up to tell him that using the f-bomb a couple of times devalued his message and turned them off. Seriously, a combat vet is putting his soul on video and providing some really important social criticism, and all you care about is the word “fuck”?
Way to hit home. Reading Pete’s sentence made me angry for that veteran. Ross goes on later in his article to say, “Get it straight: this isn’t academia, this isn’t The New Yorker and it certainly isn’t your local community newsletter. People come here to write wonderful pieces in the way that they want to write them, not the way you want them written.”
Again, a great argument that gets his opinion across without descending into name-calling and trollish behavior.
Writers, when you’re called to defend your writing, I hope you do so armed to the teeth with your superhero-power: a compelling way with words. You’re a writer, able to leap tall trolls at a single bound. At the very least, you ought to be able to use your verbal acumen to skewer the little buggers without turning you into a carbon copy of them.
See you on the next page!