I’d Like to Have an Argument, Please

I recently tweeted the link to an article I found interesting. One of my followers shot back, however, this furious riposte: “This is a stupid article. In fact, that whole publication has gone badly downhill under its new editor. I have no idea why you’d want to bring attention to such a worthless bit of fake news…,” et cetera, et cetera.

He took up his full tweet character count, in fact…without accomplishing anything other than registering his outrage.

It made me wonder, though: Who cares? Who should? Who could possibly benefit from reading someone popping off like that?

Some people, yes, might be deeply impressed by the mere opinion of a celebrity or authority. “Ryan Gosling hates Levi’s jeans!” Oh, okay: I won’t wear those anymore. “John Piper says that women probably shouldn’t become police officers.” Very well. I’ll remember that when I’m next pulled over by a female cop and I shall politely, but firmly, refuse to accept the ticket.

(For the record, I like Levi’s. Always have. And I have found it prudent to comply with all police officers, male or female.)

Normally, however, merely signaling one’s opinion does no one else any actual good. Worse, it seems to grant them tacit permission to engage in the same irritating pointlessness.

In fact, all this opining just makes things worse. You don’t like what someone wrote and it upset you? Shouting your reaction is infantile (mere stimulus-and-response) and, worse, destructive. “You hurt my feelings? Well, I’ll hurt yours.” And on and on the venomous circle of vengeance spins and spits, spattering everyone involved. Ugly business.

What we need instead is argument: inference from evidence to clear conclusions. Or, in a more right-brained approach, the setting-out of a compelling alternative.

Either operation benefits the reader: new information (or old information intriguingly marshalled) and new insight (or old insight happily recovered) leading to new knowledge and wisdom (or old knowledge and wisdom blessedly regained).