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December 03, 2002


One of the nice things about writing something mildly controversial, such as the Big Bang and Creationism or Confederate idiocy, is that it brings in a number of new readers, many of whom are not familiar with my rhetorical style and are therefore shocked about how mean and unfair I am to whatever position it is that they have that I don't. So let's talk about being "fair" for a moment.

Basically, for the purposes of the Whatever, I'm wholly uninterested in it. Complainants about my unfairness have suggested that as a journalist (or having been one in the past), I should know something about being fair and objective. Well, I admit to having been a journalist now and again, although when I worked at the newspaper I was primarily a film critic and a columnist, jobs which were all about being subjective. So I wouldn't go entirely out of my way to trumpet my own rich personal history of journalistic endeavors. I can do traditional journalism, and when I do it, I do a very good job of it. But it's never been my main thing; opinion is what what I got paid for in my time as a journalist.

This space is not about journalism; never has been, never will be. It's about whatever's on my brain at the moment (hence the name), and it makes no pretense of being anything else. This gets written in the interstitial time between paid writing assignments; it's meant to be a venting mechanism and a practical way to keep writing in a certain style -- the writer's equivalent of doing scales -- so that when I do this sort of thing on a paid basis (it does happen), I'm ready to go.

But ultimately it's all about me: I pick the topics, I comment on the topics, and the basis for the comments is whatever I'm thinking about the subject. I. Me. Mine. It's all me, baby. What's going on in my head is inherently unfair because it comes from my own, singular point of view; I don't try to consider every point of view on a subject when I write about something here: I don't have the time, for one thing, and for another thing I don't have an inclination.

If you have your own opinion, don't expect me to air it for you, unless you understand that typically when I present other people's points of view here it's to point out why they are so very wrong wrong wrong. Expecting me or anyone to validate your point of view out of the goodness of our hearts seems a dangerously passive thing to do. You have a functioning brain and an Internet connection; get your own damn Web page. Don't worry, I won't expect you to be "fair," either.

But I doubt that many of the people who want me to be "fair" are actually asking for actual fairness, anyway. What they want is some sort of murmured polite dissent to whatever beef-witted thing they want to promulgate, something that implicitly suggests that their ideas have legitimacy and should be discussed reasonably among reasonable people.

To which my response is: Well, no. Your opinion that whatever it is you want to foist on the world is reasonable does not mean that I have to agree, or treat it with the "fairness" you think it deserves. Rest assured that I am "fair" to the extent that I give every idea I encounter the respect I think it rates.

To take the two most recent examples of this, by and large Creationism (from a scientific point of view) is complete crap; therefore I am rightfully critical of attempts to teach it (or its weak sister "intelligent design") in science classes. Likewise, denying that the Confederate flags represent evil is pure twaddle and I'm not required to treat the idea that they don't with anything approaching seriousness. You may not like this position, but ask me if I care. If you want me to treat your ideas with more respect, get some better ideas.

(Somewhat related to this, I've noticed that most of the people bitching about "fairness" to me tend to be conservative in one way or another. This makes sense as the topics I've been writing about recently fall into the conservative camp. However, inasmuch as conservatives have written the manual on how to demonize those who hold unconforming views -- please refer to Newt Gingrich on this -- this position strikes me as awfully rich. Not every single conservative person can be held responsible for the rhetorical attack-dog manner of many public conservatives, of course. But on the other hand, I'm not particularly moved by complaints of my mild version here. It's like someone from a family of public gluttons castigating someone else for going back to the buffet for a second helping.)

I'm likewise not responsible for your reading comprehension of what I've written. I do of course try to be coherent -- it's a good thing for a writer to attempt -- but what I write and what you think I wrote can be two entirely separate things. More than one person saw what I wrote about Creationists the other day as a general broadside on Christians and Christianity. However, had I wanted to do broadside swack at Christians in general, I would have written "Christians" rather than "Creationists" -- the two words not being synonymous, after all.

Another good example of this is when I mention a particular stance is likely caused by ignorance. Well, no one likes to be called "ignorant," since the common opinion is that people who are ignorant are also typically dumber than rocks. However, ignorance does not imply stupidity; it merely implies lack of knowledge. Ignorance is correctable; stupidity, unfortunately, is typically irreversible. The good news is that rather more people are ignorant than stupid, which means there's hope. So if you're ignorant, congratulations! You can work on that.

I'm happy to clear up any misunderstandings or offer any clarifications if you have questions; send along an e-mail, I'll respond if I can. But generally, in terms of my writing here, I tend to be a strict constitutionalist -- what I mean to say is usually in the text itself.

I recognize that a lot of people will consider my utter lack of concern regarding "fairness" here as proof that I'm unreasonable or disinterested in hearing other points of view, but again, that's another assumption over which I have no control. Likewise people may assume that I'm exactly like I write here, which is also not entirely accurate; what's here is just one aspect of my total personality, not the complete picture. It does no good to assume that people are only what they write, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it if you think that about me. I can accept a certain amount of unfairness. Life, after all, is famous for not being fair.

Posted by john at December 3, 2002 08:17 PM


uhura | January 14, 2006 10:31 PM

Is this going to be in the Hate Mail book? Because, reading it again, is fucking hilarious, awesome, and extremely descriptive of what anyone who reads Whatever is in for.

Have I mentioned that I can't wait for the Hate Mail book?

Jonathan | October 16, 2006 08:41 PM

Excellent. Hey man, it's your universe. I just visit to laugh and cry.

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