Main Items about Criticism and Offence

Paul Graham's “What You Can’t Say”

Paul Graham's “What You Can’t Say”

Have you ever seen an old photo of yourself and been embarrassed at the way you looked? Did we actually dress like that? We did. And we had no idea how silly we looked. It's the nature of fashion to be invisible, in the same way the movement of the earth is invisible to all of us riding on it.

What scares me is that there are moral fashions too. They're just as arbitrary, and just as invisible to most people. But they're much more dangerous. Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good. Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.

If you could travel back in a time machine, one thing would be true no matter where you went: you'd have to watch what you said. Opinions we consider harmless could have gotten you in big trouble. I've already said at least one thing that would have gotten me in big trouble in most of Europe in the seventeenth century, and did get Galileo in big trouble when he said it-- that the earth moves. [1]

It seems to be a constant throughout history: In every period, people believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you would have gotten in terrible trouble for saying otherwise.

Is our time any different? To anyone who has read any amount of history, the answer is almost certainly no. It would be a remarkable coincidence if ours were the first era to get everything just right.

Every Great Truth

«Every great truth once started as a blasphemy.» Adapted from G.B. Shaw.

Lawrence Lessig about Rewarding the Critics

Lawrence Lessig about Rewarding the critics

I find it insanely difficult to read these comments [to my blog posts]. Not because they’re bad or mistaken, but mainly because I have very thin skin. There’s a direct correlation between what I read and pain in my gut. Even unfair and mistaken criticism cuts me in ways that are just silly. If I read a bad comment before bed, I don’t sleep. If I trip upon one when I’m trying to write, I can be distracted for hours. I fantasize about creating an alter ego who responds on my behalf. But I don’t have the courage for even that deception. So instead, my weakness manifests itself through the practice (extraordinarily unfair to the comment writer) of sometimes not reading what others have said.

So then why do I blog all? Well, much of the time, I have no idea why I do it. But when I do, it has something to do with an ethic I believe that we all should live by. I first learned it from a judge I clerked for, Judge Richard Posner. Posner is without a doubt the most significant legal academic and federal judge of our time, and perhaps of the last hundred years. He was also the perfect judge to clerk for. Unlike the vast majority of appeals court judges, Posner writes his own opinions. The job of the clerk was simply to argue. He would give us a draft opinion, and we’d write a long memo in critique. He’d use that to redraft the opinion.

I gave Posner comments on much more than his opinions. In particular, soon after I began teaching he sent me a draft of a book, which would eventually become Sex and Reason. Much of the book was brilliant. But there was one part I thought ridiculous. And in a series of faxes (I was teaching in Budapest, and this was long before e-mail was generally available), I sent him increasingly outrageous comments, arguing about this section of the book.

The morning after I sent one such missive, I reread it, and was shocked by its abusive tone. I wrote a sheepish follow-up, apologizing, and saying that of course, I had endless respect for Posner, blah, blah, and blah. All that was true. So too was it true that I thought my comments were unfair. But Posner responded not by accepting my apology, but by scolding me. And not by scolding me for my abusive fax, but for my apology. “I’m surrounded by sycophants,” he wrote. “The last thing in the world I need is you to filter your comments by reference to my feelings.”

I was astonished by the rebuke. But from that moment on, I divided the world into those who would follow (or even recommend) Posner’s practice, and those who wouldn’t. And however attractive the anti-Posner pose was, I wanted to believe I could follow his ethic: Never allow, or encourage, the sycophants. Reward the critics. Not because I’d ever become a judge, or a public figure as important as Posner. But because in following his example, I would avoid the worst effects of the protected life (as a tenured professor) that I would lead.

(From his book - Remix)

What we are offended by?

We tend to take offence to things we know are true and an Elephant in the Room than we do to things that are false.

“Bring it On!”

«Whenever someone has a criticism of me, I'm going to say: "Don't go easy on me. #BringItOn!" -- … - #GoodDayToDie»

Play to Lose

“Play to Lose”

Quora: “How can I encourage people to criticise me”

Quora: “How can I Encourage People to Criticise Me”

Being Convinced of Being Wrong

Being Convinced of Being Wrong

« I love being convinced that I was wrong before. That way I knew I improved and am now wiser. Like the Klingon warriors say when it happens: “What a great day it was for me to die!”. »

Wise words from Eminem

Wise words from Eminem

«You've got enemies? GOOD. That means you actually stood up for something.»

Better to be hurt by the truth

Do one day every day that scares you

If— by Rudyard Kipling

If— by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

Opposite of Love :

«The opposite of #love isn't #hate—it's #indifference . If you spend a lot of time complaining abt some1—then you love him and #care 4 him.»

Stephen Fry Quote about “I am offended by it”

«It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that.”. As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. “I find that offensive.”. It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I am offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?»

Stick and Stones

«Sticks and stones may break my bones but words are even worse holy shit please dont say mean things to me.»

Free Speech from Freenode's Perl Channel

Thuryn: Free speech, by definition, means the ability to offend someone. Otherwise, it wouldn't be an issue in the first place.

Oscar Wilde Quote

«When people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong. » Oscar Wilde .

Note about "Getting Killed" in this day and age

  • Note: in this day and age, the Internet provides a shield for most "things you can't say" and most people who are blasephemous will usually only get banned from a certain sub-forum (e.g: a subreddit, or an IRC chat room), rather than getting killed like Socrates did, or getting themselves house-confined like Galileo did.
    • It was also said that tact is the way of "making a point without making an enemy". Plato, Aristotle and Newton learned from the mistakes of Socrates and Galileo and as a result all died as highly reverred and respected, regardless of their vices.
      • Saladin was able to defeat the Knights Templar and by the time he was finished, they were all happy, almost perfectly sane, highly respectful him, and unwilling to fight him.

How to handle criticism

The Stoic road to peace mind

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together…

The Stoic road to peace of mind

From “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns

The only person who can make you angry or feel down or whatever is you.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.

Dealing with Internet flamers - the Cognitive Therapy approach

This post will focus on a certain chapter in the book called "Verbal Judo: learn to talk back when you're under the fire of criticism", as adapted by me to the world of online, Internet-based, communication. What this chapter does is instruct depressive people (and other people in general) how to properly handle criticisms from their peers. The super-executive summary for this post is: "On the Internet, don't be right - be smart."

Dealing with Internet flamers - the Cognitive Therapy approach

Kamsa and Bar Kamsa

Kamsa and Bar Kamsa - what happens when one appeals to authority - up to death and destruction!

Mike and the Mechanics - “The Living Years”

Mike and the Mechanics - “The Living Years” - the importance of having a dialogue.

Quote from Selina Mandrake - The Slayer

Selina: OK, I’m still mad at you. But since I still find all this fascinating (I have to, as a wannabe Archaeologist and stuff), I’m going to continue talking to you, despite being mad.

(From ).

Quote from The Pope Died on Sunday

“‘I am.’, ‘I am.’ !”

“You are what?”

“‘I am” is the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything.”

“Really? I thought the answer to it was 42.”

Rachel really wanted to hit Greg with her fist. But she knew better than to do that, and so only said “Bleh.”, and went away. Greg watched her exit into the balcony.

(From ).

Quote from Selina Mandrake

Kate: [Drunk] M. Dumas, you treated me really well today, but now what do we do… about… about… about the people who ask me to slay them.

M. Dumas: [Not as drunk] Madame, just tell them that you no longer will slay. That you quit being a slayer, and that they should deal with their troubled life themselves.

Kate: Mr. Dumas, sounds like a good idea. You are a very wise man for your age. [She falls asleep.]

Applicable here to ward off random and frequent people who rant to the admins about the behaviour of dissidents on forums.

(From ).