...it sometimes seems as if fury leading to ill-mannered personal abuse and foul language is the predominant mode of disagreement in our society, at least among those who append their comments to an article that appears on the internet.From Thank You For Not Expressing Yourself, by Theodore Dalrymple.
For example, I received unpleasant abuse for articles I wrote about Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw. I am the first to admit that what I wrote was not emollient, indeed it strongly attacked both these figures to whom some people are strongly attached. But while I might have been mistaken in what I wrote, I do not think I am being partial in my own defence when I say that it was at least rational in the sense that it was based upon evidence culled from what they wrote. I quoted them at some length precisely to avoid the accusation of quotation out of context.
It is not necessary to repeat here what I said about them, but I shall give just one example. I pointed out that George Bernard Shaw never believed in the germ theory of disease (possibly the greatest advance in medical science ever made), regarded it as a delusion, and called Pasteur and Lister – two of the greatest benefactors of mankind, if one is prepared to admit that there can be such – impostors and frauds who had no idea of scientific method, unlike George Bernard Shaw, presumably. This was a preposterous, but not untypical, misjudgement of his, and one which he never recognised as such. Indeed, he went on re-publishing his libels on their memory until quite late in his life.
I suspect that he had that contrarian mindset that supposes that the truth must be the opposite of what everyone thinks, instead of the judicious mindset that supposes that the truth might be the opposite of what everyone thinks.
From the quality of the replies that I received, you might have supposed that I had animadverted on the moral qualities of the mothers of Latin American sons. No one ever wrote a reply (on these subjects, at any rate) claiming that I had misquoted them, quoted them out of context, misrepresented the totality of their work, overlooked their good qualities etc. I do not think I did these things, but still such replies would have been reasonable. No; I just received abuse, some of it unprintable and quite a lot of it vile.
If you don't have a good argument, just escalate your emotions
Posted by Ernie Bornheimer