Friday, October 14, 2011

You're Just Saying That

Okay, so there’s one thought about the LaunchBoot ™ that I haven’t seen anyone else saying. Or, rather, the reaction to the Launchboot ™. Or rather, the reaction to the reaction. (Still with me? Good.)

In case you’ve walled yourself up in your house and deliberately ignored every bit of DC news for the past month and a half (not a bad idea, all considered), then you’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the first issues of Catwoman and Red Hood & the Outlaws, and the treatment of women therein. For the record, I found the first ridiculous, and the second repulsive, but that’s beside the point. Like I said, it’s the reaction to the reaction that’s given my brain a kick-start.

So. Laura Hudson spoke out about this loud and long, as she well should. Responses to her post, and to the controversy in general, have ranged all over the map, from “I agree completely” to “I didn’t really see them as sexist, and here’s why” to “one’s sexist, but the other isn’t, and here’s why” to “typical American, you hate the sex, but not the violence” to “you’re a prude” to “you’re a man-hating feminazi” to “you’re a meany-poopy-head” and all points in between. The usual Internet fare, in other words. My own agreement with those various responses varies on a scale from 10 to “You’re an idiot,” but I can at least understand responders’ state of mind. I can, like Chesterton’s Father Brown, “see myself as the murderer,” and understand what leads someone to think that way and say those words.

But one type of response completely baffles me, and it always has, whenever I’ve encountered it (and I’ve encountered it a lot). In the recent ado, I’ve seen it expressed several different ways, but they all boil down to “You’re just saying that to cut DC down.” Hudson and ComicsAlliance in particular have been accused of hating DC and wanting to destroy it (and Dan Didio) by any means necessary, to the point of engaging in a prolonged campaign of false sexism charges.

This make so little sense to me that I have to invent a new fraction, beyond 1/infinity, to express it. Aside from the obvious violation against Occam’s Razor, I don’t see how a person can twist reality around to such a dismissive thought process and stay sane. It begins with an assumption that denies the truest thing I know about human nature: That the belief a person is expressing is not one that they, or anyone, could legitimately hold to.

Folks, I have observed a lot of human behavior, on and off the Internet, and if there’s one thing I am convinced of down to my bones, it’s that human beings can and will believe any damn thing they want to. I never assume someone is being insincere about their beliefs, because I have seen the human mind at work and play, and there are no limits on where it can go, logic and facts be damned. And I’m not even talking about conspiracy theories; I’m talking about tiny, everyday shit ordinary people think up without even noticing it. Stuff so small it doesn’t even count as superstition. Example: Ever press an elevator button that was already lit? Now you know what I mean.

But back to comics. I’m the kind of guy who gets into a lot of arguments, so, as I said, I’ve seen this one a lot. I don’t remember the first time I ever heard it, but I do remember one of the last. Against my better judgment, I’d followed a friend’s link to a discussion on CBR’s Spider-Man board about the best Spider-Man story of the last decade. The field had been narrowed to two candidates: J. Michael Stracynski and John Romita, Jr.’s “Doomed Affairs,” and Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s “Unscheduled Stop.” Both good stories, both worthy of the title; my preference lies with “Doomed Affairs,” just because JMS did something I’d never seen in a Spider-Man comic before. The discussion was a robust back-and-forth between both sides, which is to be expected. But what I didn’t expect was that, as the conversation went on, the “Unscheduled Stop” platform increasingly rested, not on the considerable merits of the story itself, but on accusing the “Doomed Affairs” camp of being partisans for the Spider-Marriage who were voting for a pre-One More Day story out of post-Brand New Day spite.

Yes, obviously I’m not an impartial observer. But you can go look for yourself; I’m not misrepresenting the arguments one whit. I had it tossed at me, and I didn’t bring up OMD or BND once. I had to sit down and walk people through how I could honestly like one story better than the other, because they couldn’t believe it for themselves.

 I suppose I’m not surprised that it came up, since it’s become the go-to strawman for any criticism of post-BND Spider-Man comics. Nor am I surprised at the board’s moderator being one of the prime offenders; that’s a whole different entry entirely. But I still don’t understand the leap. The human mind may be able to believe anything, but that doesn’t mean I always understand how it arrives at that belief. This kind of intellectual solipsism takes a degree of rhetorical blindness that I just cannot fathom.

Getting back to the general, what always strikes me first is how rude an argument it is. It takes a lot of gall to dismiss someone else’s opinion so entirely that you cast it out of their mind as well as your own. Until we get a real-world Professor X, another person’s thoughts are undiscovered country, and absent obvious signs of psychosis or deception, I think we have to take people at their word when it comes to what’s going on inside their own heads. Just disagreeing with someone isn’t sufficient to conclude that they don’t really believe what they’re saying.

But people do it anyway, and with depressing frequency. If I sit and think hard about it, I see it as an effect of the rising tide of fanaticism in our society. Not that the people levying the “you’re just saying that ‘cause etc.” are fanatics; they may be, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that fanatics have become so prevalent in our society, and fanaticism has so pervaded our conversations about every damn thing, that it’s becoming second nature to assume fanaticism on the part of anyone who disagrees with you. After all, they’ve got plenty of company.

All of which is another argument against fanaticism in all its forms. It’s a vicious, outwardly-directed form of narcissism, and it does no good to anyone. It’s bad enough that fanatics poison any discussion they enter, perpetuating revolting memes and sacrificing the original topic on the altar of their self-serving nonsense; now they’re doing it to discussions they aren’t even in. Nobody can hear anybody else speak over the din of accusations, and conversation, real exchange and consideration of ideas, withers and dies. People talking without speaking; people hearing without listening. That’s how civilizations commit suicide.

But hey, maybe I’m just saying all this because I hate Dan Didio.

No comments: