Wednesday, March 20, 2013

geek vengeance: disemvoweling

I left this comment about disemvoweling elsewhere:
The technique has been described as the geekish equivalent of pulling down the pants of the kid everyone else on the playground doesn’t like. My biggest complaint is its supporters say you can decipher the meaning if you want to, but that’s blatantly not true: “historical” and “ahistorical”, for example, disemvowel exactly the same way.

It’s a remarkably easy technique to abuse. On BoingBoing, a moderator called Antinous is (or was, anyway) a devout supporter of the Dalai Lama, so when someone entirely unknown to me was disemvoweled for speaking up for China, I reemvoweled what he or she said, and was only able to do so because someone else had quoted a key part of the comment, and that quotation was not disemvoweled.

When I reemvoweled the rest, I expected to find something abusive in it, because disemvoweling usually occurs when disagreements have heightened. I was surprised—and then not surprised at all—to discover there was nothing rude in the comment. It simply rejected Antinuous’s narrative, and that had been reason enough to disemvowel.

As you may have guessed by now, I despise disemvowelling.

But since I am embracing the principle that humans are only rationalizing animals, it does not surprise me when smart and essentially good people—and most of its supporters can be fairly described as smart and essentially good people—rationalize it.
I'll add this: it is unethical to alter what people have said. Quote them—and try to quote them in context—or ignore them. Delete comments or answer them. Any other choice is simply an exercise of power to mischaracterize an opponent. Xeni Jardin tried to have it both ways when she said, "the misanthrope looks ridiculous, and the emotional sting is neutralized." I agree that the point of the technique is to mock, but for whom is the emotional sting neutralized?

Yes, this applies to kittening, too.