Dustin Harbin wrote a very good post about yesterday’s Scott Kurtz dustup and I wanted to respond to it, because Harbin constructs a reasonable argument and I try to respond to reasonable arguments with honest dialogue. And, in fairness, Dustin is not the only one to take issue with the tone I used in writing it.
In fact, most of the time I will try to respond to arguments with honest dialogue. I still, on occasion, will lose my shit with somebody. But arguments tend to fall into four categories:
1. A rational argument written civilly. Even if I disagree with this, I generally will try to engage it as fairly and civilly as possible.
2. An irrational argument written civilly. I will usually try to engage this civilly as well. Not always, mind you – if an argument is gratituously stupid enough I will backslide into mockery (witness my response to that “If I Was A Poor Black Kid” thing a while back). But even then I’ll usually try to direct my ire at the argument rather than at the person making it. I will not always succeed, of course. But I’ll try.
3.) A rational argument written uncivilly. I can go either way with these. Sometimes I’ll be civil to be “the reasonable one.” Sometimes I will write a civil response and then go back and throw in some insults. It really depends a lot on the original argument being made and the person making it. Some people, when they are uncivil, will drop back and apologize if challenged. Some want you to rise up and engage in a boxing match. (My sense for this isn’t perfect – nobody’s is – but I tend to think it’s not bad.)
4.) An irrational argument written uncivilly. Short version: fuck these people. Long version:
I understand Dustin’s point. An offensive response to an offensive post can turn off those who would potentially agree with you. And you know what, he’s not wrong. But here’s the thing: for those people, there is David Brothers’ logical sledgehammer of a post at ComicsAlliance about creator abuse, or Tom Spurgeon’s essay about “more Watchmen“, or many others besides (although those are the most important, I think). Those are both calm, insightful pieces that lay out the ethical and moral failings that have led us to this point in comics history. Both were widely read. And, if you look at the comments on Brothers’ article, a lot of people still didn’t get it.
When I first read the Kurtz article, my initial response was to say “just go read Brothers and Spurgeon and the others and they will show why Kurtz is full of shit.” But after a second reread of Kurtz’ post I decided otherwise, and this is where Dustin will likely disagree with me: I do think there is value in the expression of anger and disgust. Simply saying that Kurtz’ article is morally abhorrent and full of wind is not enough to convince some people; there are those who will be swayed by the expression of how horrible you found it, and I think viscerality plays a part in this.
The Overton Window is one of those things that has been bandied about far, far too often in the past decade, to the point where many people would prefer the phrase never existed in the first place, but the Overton Window gets shifted when one makes an outrageous argument on the far side of an argumentative spectrum. Kurtz’ post fell into this category (“not only was Kirby not that important, but the people supporting his side of the story are bad people”). When an argument like that comes around, I think it must be engaged and driven down as forcefully as possible. And at a time like that, there is value in scorn.
That’s my two cents on it, anyways.