It’s all so entirely predictable
[and this has to do with my New Years’ reflections, so I am saying a bit more here than I normally would on blog]
I’m often criticized for hypocrisy for not allowing ad hominem on this blog — there’s a short list of speech or behavior that will get you banned, and one of these is personal attack. There’s a subset of personal attack called “tu quoque,” which is the accusation of hypocrisy.
So yesterday, a fan accused Richard Armitage of hypocrisy for cursing on his Twitter after telling fans to keep his feed clear of things that mums and kids couldn’t see. (Which wasn’t within in his power and was a stupid thing to ask for, but whatever, he made himself vulnerable to this kind of thing.) Note that this isn’t an argument — either it’s okay to swear on Twitter or it isn’t, but his personal inconsistency, while potentially aggravating to some (not to me, incidentally), has no bearing on the answer to that question. It was just a non-argument that took the form of a personal attack.
So we see a demonstration of why I don’t allow ad hominem here in what happened next, because of course someone (correctly) perceived it as a personal criticism rather than a critical comment about the actual question, and that person then weighed in to ask the first fan why she never says anything nice. This kind of thing sends me around the bend because it’s policing — there’s no ordinance anywhere that everything that someone says to Richard Armitage needs to be nice or even logical. The employment of ad hominem inevitably also produces non-productive discussion of the “no I didn’t / yes you did” sort, which was just what happened. The second fan said the first fan only ever took a combative tone (so what? there’s no prohibition on that) and the first fan said her tone wasn’t combative (impossible to tell from Twitter, even if the argument was not intelligible).
Then Richard Armitage deleted his tweet. We never know why this happens, so fans feel free to adduce all kinds of rationales for this, and because a significant chunk of the fandom believes that Richard Armitage is a fragile little boy, a frequent conclusion is that his feelings were hurt. The one reason he’s ever given about deleting is that he wants to end the conversation, which is a lot more restrictive of free speech then I will ever be as a blogger, but somehow fans believe Armitage has been harmed. And if Richard’s feelings are hurt, then we have to be hurt as well. Admittedly, growing up as the child of an alcoholic, this level of codependency sends me around the bend, too — but I just don’t buy it as a general argument. We don’t know that he felt hurt in the first place; I can’t imagine that he did; but even if he did feel hurt by it, why would I automatically have to feel hurt as well? I am a different person than Richard Armitage, I have a different emotional life. I’m his fan, not him.
And finally, as we reach the end point of this discourse — people start accusing the first fan of bullying. This is also something that Richard Armitage has legitimated in that he supports a charity that is basically a racket with an incoherent position on bullying so people in the fandom throw the word around.
So there it is: ad hominem, degradation of actual argument, deleted tweet, codependent reaction, accusations of bullying. All before breakfast.
I’m writing this down not because I believe that my decision to point this out will change anything, but because I’ve come to believe that I need to change my interaction with Twitter somehow. I’m the only person I can change.