76 Words

Friday, September 25, 2009
Posted in category Uncategorized

An LRC blogger once asked me (paraphrase), “Why is it that of all the posts that I make, blogging social criticism causes me to receive more deranged, venomous emails than anything else I write?” I said, “Welcome to the world of nihilistic ‘libertarians,’ Mr. ______.”

When I posted this story about the cops who started playing Wii during a drug bust, I told a friend, “Watch the crazed, hate mail that rolls in from the Wii-loving, juvenile gamers who fly off the insanity couch at first sign of criticism of their hobby.” I said this because within that post I wrote 76 (evil, horrible, awful!) words criticizing Wii as an adolescent plaything. It went just as I predicted. Someone sent me a thread from the Mises discussion board and told me that each time I dare mention grown men obsessing on child’s video games, this punkazoid, game-obsessed kid attacks me. But, who cares?!

I won’t even comment on how worthless every single one of these “discussion boards” are ….. they are places for people who don’t need to be productive; who don’t want their face or name to back their words (cowards); and who have nothing better to do than troll the Internet, personally criticizing everyone else, calling everyone else “crazy” or “mean-spiritied” in the context of their crazy and mean-spirited posts that go unsupported by their name and reputation. Gary North calls them “tar babies” or “nits.”

Back to the thread on the Mises board, where someone states, “Have you ever read Mencken?  He was equivalent to the combined venom at LRC among all the contributors.” “Combined venom?” First, you have to be pretty limited in your capability for critical thinking to assume that criticism necessarily equals venom. Also, that statement reminds me of an article I long ago wrote in my head, but never put to paper (or MS Word): “If Mencken were alive today, imagine what his email inbox would look like?” I’m sure anyone who loves Mencken’s criticism as much as I do can finish that statment with some imaginative stuff.

Truly, to be a libertarian and a traditionalist conservative – let alone criticizing anything at all! – will earn you your share of assorted hatemongering from the (young and/or modal) libertrian nihilists that dominate the non-publishing Internet. One libertarian leading light once told me that this is why the great conservative scholar Hans-Herman Hoppe is so hated by so many Beltway/nihilist ’libertarians.’ And yet it is why I admire the amazing Hoppe.

I also received many emails – just as I predicted – from enraged Wii proponents. What is so darn funny is that people take my comments, my criticism – of course, criticism of adult gamers is quite common – and take it as personal. One male, Patrick, wrote me this comment: “People feel very personally about things in this world. Philosophy, religion, and yes, art. And people consider video games to be an art.” He went on and on, in (2) 800+ word emails, about how video gaming is art. He also said, “It is a subculture. You don’t have to like it, but I suggest you show a little respect for people who may have a different view of electronic video game systems than you.” Art. Now gaming is art. I suppose if I take up Bingo 5 nights a week, that could be called art, too. How about shopping for shoes? Really great art. A mall spend-o-rama can quickly become art appreciation. Patrick, may I suggest to you that I have my reasons, as a social critic, to criticize that which I find to be hilarious, ludicrous, or just plain stupid. If you don’t like it, your freedom – what little you have left in the U.S. – allows you to abstain from viewing it.

Several other people wrote me to complain about my criticism, bitch about my tone, and whine about my views on gaming. One guy writes, “Why I’d hate to be in your house!” Sir, you wouldn’t be welcome in my house. You would not have your blaring TV or your adolescent video games in my house. They don’t exist in my house. He’d hate to be in my house because much conversation actually takes place within those walls – intelligent, interesting, analytical, anecdotal, or funny conversation. Talking. People making eye contact, addressing one another, and enjoying conversation. Music plays in my house, and oftentimes videos/media from the web, lectures from CD or the web, podcasts, or movies, but not TVs and gaming trash.

Getting back to Gary North, he published an article this week called, “The Nits: People Who Cannot Afford to Spare a Piece of Their Minds, But Who Give Authors Selective Chunks.” Snippets from Gary’s piece:

* I have drawn a conclusion based on 40 years of evidence. These letter-writers spend their lives nit-picking others rather than producing anything for public comment. They have not written a book, published an article in a magazine, or been on the editorial board of a journal. They may have a blog, although I doubt it.

* They are spiritual allies of the flamers who have found their calling in life: sniping at published authors on the Web. The flamers always use pseudonyms. No one can find out who they are or what they have produced. The crucial fact I have learned over the years about these people is that they have not published anything, yet they see themselves as experts about writing. They see themselves as authoritative experts who can spot the flaws in the published work of someone good enough to get published by a third party or gutsy enough to publish something on his own site. The experts who are in a position to criticize don’t bother. They are too busy being productive. So, the only people who bother to straighten out published authors are people who have yet to write anything for public consumption. They are unwilling to expose their best work to people like themselves.

* The other factor in their lives is arrogance. Why would a stranger imagine that his negative opinion of an article is of any interest to the author? Why should the author care? The critic is unknown to him. If the author searches the Web, he will find no reference to the critic’s books or articles, for there are none. Yet the critic imagines that he has scored a victory for truth, justice, and the American way by sending an email to someone who has gone into print. Why? Because he is a nit.

Here is a snippet from his “Tar Baby” piece, written way back in 2001.

Most of these letters are civil. Some are hostile. A few are incoherent. But some are of the “you did not prove your case” variety. These are the dangerous ones.

If you respond, you are taking a big risk. The letter-writer almost certainly has never published anything. If he has published something, no one has read it. He wants a response from you because no one has ever paid much attention to him. And e-mail is free.

If you ignore the letter, you have become the latest in the person’s long line of people who have ignored him. He really does not expect you to respond. But if you do respond, you have just punched your fist into a tar baby. You have acknowledged his existence. Now, he expects you to refute him. No, he demands that you refute him. Can you refute him to his satisfaction? It would have been easier for the Pope to have persuaded Luther that he had it all wrong.

The problem with tar babies is that their time is of no value to them. They think that your time is of no value to you. And e-mail is free.

I really like Gary North. I have so much I’d like to add to this, but over time, each time I have thought of writing about this problem, I have come to the conclusion that to do further analysis would only be a waste of my limited and productive time.

Essentially, I have learned, like Gary North, what makes people ticked off. Social criticism, from a conservative viewpoint, is right at the top of the list. People especially hate when you criticize things that remind them of their perpetual adolescence. That is why they take broad criticism personally, straight to their own heart. Such a reaction not only boggles my mind – it is demented.

That said, occasionally I read criticism, on the web, about things I like. Not once have I ever been driven apeshit with a need to respond to the writer with a venemous, defensive, or whiny email condeming their post, even while claiming to generally like their work. Never. It’s because of the Gary North thesis above (I have opportunity costs), and it’s also an issue of being capable of maintaining order in your mind and control over your emotions.

Lastly, people asked about the connection between the thesis of the story I linked to (about the cops doing a drug bust at a house and stopping to play with the Wii game) and my comments about Wii. There are so blinded by rage they can’t see the most obvious connection that stares right back at ‘em. It jumped out at me in the title of the story. The cops didn’t walk away from doing their job to sit down and read the homeowner’s books, admire his coin collection, talk about the fine art on the walls, or watch Jeopardy. These impulsive, immature, bored losers decided to stop doing their job – collecting evidence from the bust – and they were drawn to the Wii game like moths to a light bulb. There is a reason they were drawn to Wii. Generally speaking, this is a time filler for bored people who need a constant dose of stimulation, perpetual amusement, loud noises, and things that go boom.

Think public schools. Think about the hyper-collective environment behind those prison walls. All these same people persistently criticize public schools and yet they can’t admit where these behaviors – that I criticize - are born and nourished.

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7 Responses to 76 Words

  1. cousin lucky says:

    September 25th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Dear Ms De Coster,
    I know that you are very busy but the prices of ” gaming computers ” should astound you. I am much to old for ” toys ” and ” gadgets ” and do not even have a cell phone. ( I carry a pager if anyone very close to me desperately needs to contact me ) I knew when I read your article about the police that the game nuts were going to jump sky high and I guess I was right!!

    I too enjoy Gary North and I wish that Charley Reese was still writing columns. I do not always agree with you but your writing gives anyone with an open mind a lot to think about!!

  2. Michael the Artist says:

    September 25th, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    What is creative about playing video games? Designing them, maybe, but if you’re restrained to using the game as the designers designed in then it ain’t art by any definition I would agree to.

    Gary wrote the tar baby piece in ’01, not ’91. In the more recent piece, he points out that these trolls are absent in the paid-subscription forums; I guess if they had money to pay for admission, they’d be working and wouldn’t have all that time available to them to troll!

  3. Karen De Coster says:

    September 25th, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Michael — I know it was 2001. Typo.

  4. Jay says:

    September 26th, 2009 at 4:08 am

    Karen, I am a gamer amongst being so many other things, and I don’t mind that you do not care for gaming. I’d rather focus on the things I do agree with you on than to worry about and be offended by the things we do not. I do not feel compelled to change your mind about any topic because what would be the point? I feel it’s generally better to accept people for who they are (within reason, I suppose). So yeah, watch out for the gaming fanboys, as we like to call ‘em.

    On the other hand, I cannot stand watching TV. That to me is a complete waste of time. And yet, for me, gaming is not. I’m 38, by the way; generally well-adjusted and married to a beautiful woman who also loves games — indeed we met on a gaming forum over our love of a particular game. How bizarre is that?

    To Michael the Artist: There are indeed games which allow players to be creative. You might consider looking up LittleBigPlanet. Some of things people have created in this game are astounding, and a number of players are indeed artists. One of my friends who plays LittleBigPlanet is a graphic artist and comic illustrator — this game is well suited to her creativity. I won’t call it art, which is always subjective at best, but it is lovely to see what people are capable of creating.

  5. Karen De Coster says:

    September 26th, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Jay, of course there are many intelligent gamers around that don’t fall into the general category. But criticism of behaviors doesn’t necessarily condone every person who engages it. If I was forced to have my child – or husband! – do one or the other, gaming is far less detrimental than TV, of course, whose purpose is, like the public schools, to indoctrinate and captivate. I know intelligent-libertarian gamers whose lives aren’t taken over by gaming; they don’t get upset at my views … we just laugh.

  6. Brian Beverly says:

    September 27th, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Agreed! I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madden, starving,
    from Halo!
    Video games are fun, but many are just addicts.

    Am I being a nit here? I get lost in the new rehashed jargon. There have always been critics. You need to take their bullshit and feces throwing ape shit comments and use them to fuel your creative fire.

    “Not once have I ever been driven apeshit with a need to respond to the writer with a venemous, defensive, or whiny email condeming their post, even while claiming to generally like their work.”

    I don’t care about the books and articles you’ve published, nothing personal because I can’t care if I haven’t read them. Blogging about how much you hate people commenting and then letting me comment is a contradiction. Instead you should right about nits in a really obscure journal that only you and your friends read. That way you can cite each other and apply for research grants to investigate the “nit epidemic”. Better yet go on TV and make nits a talking point.

    The internet gives everyone a chance to voice their opinion this is a democracy not an oligarchy. By what right do men exercise power over each other?

  7. Bob Wallace says:

    October 2nd, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    One of the first things I noticed about the emails I received is that some of them zeroed in on one word of an article, apparently completely ignoring the rest of what I wrote. Generally they thought my definition of that one word was wrong (which it never was) and they wanted to go back and forth about it. Gary North is right; they’re tarbabies.

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