Patterico's Pontifications


Brainstorm or Green Needle?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:54 am

Watch this video and expect to hear the word “brainstorm” and you will.

Expect to hear the phrase “green needle” and you will.

Just pick one of those, say it in your head clearly, and then play the video. You will hear whichever one you heard in your head.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Two Phrases That Never Help Real Conversation

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:59 am

Here are two phrases that never help real conversation. Both are designed to show that criticism is invalid, simply by virtue of the criticism being impassioned or frequent.

1. “[The object of your criticism] is living rent-free in your head.”

This phrase translates as: “You are criticizing [the object of your criticism] and I do not like it.” It’s meaningless. I used to hear this kind of thing all the time when I was a frequent critic of the Los Angeles Times. I was told that I was “obsessive” about criticizing them. My response was: if they gave me less to criticize them for, I’ll criticize them less. (It turned out that there was another option: you could get bored.)

2. “If you’re catching flak, you must be over the target.”

This one translates as: “If you are getting criticized a lot, that means you must be right.”

This one is kind of a dumb corollary of #1. #1 suggests that your criticism of something or someone is invalid if it is impassioned or frequent. #2 suggests that criticism of you is invalid if that criticism is impassioned or frequent. They both make the same stupid and wrong point. But one targets the critic, while the other validates the critic’s target.

Both of these have zero to do with the quality of the criticism. If you use one of these, you’re using them to avoid the real discussion or conversation.

There are analogies that reveal something about the thing analogized to, and then there are pointless analogies like this one, which say nothing. When you start using pointless analogies, you can get into one of those silly discussions where you parry back and forth, not about the substance of your argument, but about the silly analogy. “Oh yeah? Well, I say if you’re getting flak, that means you left yourself exposed! HaHA!” (The early bird gets the worm, but what does the early worm get? HaHA!)

These are usually employed when there is no answer to the substance of the criticism. They tend to be a crutch for people who don’t want to have a rational discussion.

P.S. This is unrelated to the specific topic, but related to the wider topic of real conversation. For the next week, at least, to the extent that I populate the comments, I’m going to try to engage in real and polite conversation. I’m working on perspective and the spiritual side of my life, and having snippy conversations with people on the Internet is not something I’m interested in doing. That probably means fewer discussions with people unwilling to engage in real conversation, but it should hopefully mean better conversations with people who are willing. If we begin a conversation and it begins to turn sour, I’ll just thank you for the conversation and bow out. I’m making a public commitment here so that I am accountable to people, which increases the chance that I’ll follow through.

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