Monday, March 2, 2015

Kenny Rogers School of Internet Argument

With apologies for the earworm. (Oh come on, you know you're at least humming it to yourself.)

I am proposing a set of guidelines for arguing on the internet. No, "don't read the comments" isn't one of them. For starters, that should be a law, not a guideline. An inviolable, nothing good comes of breaking it, law. Even though this started because I read some comments. This is more along the lines of, if you're going to argue, and we all know you are, then at least have the foresight to know when to quit. Knowing that this can be hard to do, I give the following examples, both of which occurred over the weekend.

Example 1: 
I started to watch a movie the other day, only to realize it looked vaguely familiar to me. I'm pretty sure I'd seen it when it was first on TV, and about half an hour in realized that, even if I hadn't, it was essentially a retread of the Bourne series. Now, while I will in no way argue that just because something has been done before doesn't mean it can't be done again, this didn't seem to be doing so in a way that added anything interesting. (And was, in fact, taking much of the interesting bits out of it.)

But to try and refresh my memory about whether I had seen it and was remembering the plot points correctly, I went to the IMDB page. Wherein, in the comments, I found the following argument:

Commenter #1: Everyone needs to stop saying movie X (the new one) is a retread of movie Y (Bourne). Movie X was based on comic book X that came out long before the movie.

Commenter #2: Movie Y is based on book Y that came out four years before comic book X.

Now, at this point, there's nothing new here. I remember the posting from the Twilight fan that made the rounds years ago about how The Wolfman was ripping off Twilight. People are idiots, and under-informed idiots at that, and I get this.

Only this wasn't where it ended.

Commenter #1: Well, comic book X was in development long before book Y was published.

[At this point I think you could hear the facepalming.]

Commenter #2: Comic books don't work that way, and, even assuming they did, author of comic book X has stated specifically that they were inspired by book Y.

And if you think that was the end of it, then let me be the first to welcome you to the internet.

Example 2:
This is not an exact representation of what went down, but a condensed version of something that happened on Twitter:

Commenter #1: Cruella DeVille is the best fairy tale villain.

Commenter #2: 101 Dalmations isn't a fairy tale. [Side note: this is what our culture has come to. All things Disney = fairy tale.]

Commenter #1: But it has talking animals.

Commenter #3: Talking animals = fairy tale. [Commenters 1 & 3 then nod their heads sagely. ... Okay, no idea if they did this or not, but it wouldn't have surprised me.]

Commenter #2: So... Watership Down is a fairy tale?

Now, in both cases, it should have been clear from the first counter-argument that the initial position was untenable. Talking animals are not the only criteria for a fairy tale, after all, and a simple correction saying that Cruella is the best Disney villain (which, by the way, she is most definitely not) would have put an end to it. Likewise, a simple chronology puts an end to the "which came first" argument of the over-zealous comic book fan.

Except they couldn't walk away. (This is where I come back to Kenny Rogers, in case you were wondering.) These two people were prepared and more than willing to defend their position no matter how ludicrous it became. They kept arguing, far past the point of logic and reason.

I know, I know, expecting logic and reason in an internet discussion is perhaps my first mistake. But, folks, you ought to have at least enough common sense to know when you're beaten. To know when the cards you've got in your hand don't do anything for you, and it's time to put them down and walk away. Sometimes you can bluff, and sometimes you're in the right and then, by all means, hold 'em.

When you can't? Fold 'em. It doesn't do you any good to keep arguing. You're going to lose. You've in fact already lost, and the only thing you do is make yourself look like more of an idiot than you're already doing.

We've all been there, remember. We've all argued something, been really, really wrong, and looked like idiots afterwards. It's not a big deal.

Just know when you're out of aces, and walk away.

And if you don't?

Well, that's when the rest of us are just going to run away, because you're nuts, and there's no reasoning with a whack job.

Going to leave this here, because Muppets. And because you're already singing it anyway.

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