Wow, there’s a lot of sneering going on at the moment. The web is atwitter with people putting *sigh* into asterisks and screaming LOL at each other. It’s all reminiscent of the fuss Lily Allen set off when she blogged on music piracy and unleashed a tidal wave of indignant self-righteousness tinged with misogyny.
Two things have set everyone off: Rupert Murdoch’s statements about paywalls and newspapers, and Keith Vaz’s statements on Call of Duty.
So look. Can we agree that there are some nuanced issues worthy of discussion on both sides? And can we also try to believe that Messrs Vaz and Murdoch might have some interesting points while disagreeing with their conclusions.
You see the problem with that sentence. It’s bloody boring isn’t it? Far more fun to let rip on Murdoch and Vaz.
And let rip people have. Jeff Jarvis had a right old pop at Murdoch yesterday on Twitter, and today Cringely has a really stretched metaphor for why Murdoch has got it completely wrong. And they’re just the most famous ones. Everywhere you look there’s somebody pointing out why the most successful content publisher of modern times is a blithering, past-it moron.
Similarly on games. Vaz complained about the violence of the new Call of Duty, and Tom Watson jumped in with a proposal for a group to “provide a voice” for gamers, as if they were some oppressed minority. And again, everywhere you look, people who know about games (and I admit to not being one of them) are sneeringly shouting that Vaz and his ilk are, ipso facto, completely wrong.
So look. I know Vaz is a blowhard. I know that most newspapers print absolute garbage about this. But can’t we all just articulate some reasoned arguments on this stuff? And perhaps be a little more measured?
Jarvis has, of course, consistently made such arguments, and has even written a book about it. And you know what? He’s probably, almost certainly, completely right. But I don’t think he does his own intellect credit by resorting to sneer-mode at the first sign of significant disagreement. And I don’t believe free v. paywall is quite as binary as this type of debate makes out.
And likewise, games people: I know you’re all super-smart and switched on, but you know what? I do kind of worry that my son plays intensely violent video games. It’s an anxiety that doesn’t respond to being told it’s stupid. I think there’s something dehumanising and, well, not very intelligent about these games, and if I’m honest I’d rather he read a book. But that doesn’t make me a dyed-in-the-wool, antediluvian moron. It just means I have a slightly different point of view born of slightly different experiences.
And everyone: if you’re part of a group which has its own codes and its own beliefs, don’t just fall into the habit of creating a vast echo chamber of similar views which countenances no differing opinions. And don’t just assume that anyone who doesn’t seem to be part of your group is just stupid and wrong. They might be mainly wrong. They often will be. But they might also have a point. And, conversely, you can be right but still come across as wrong if you speak in this kind of way.
As my mother says, you catch more flies with sugar than you do with vinegar.