Billy Beck has latched onto a tiny bit in an email I sent that alluded to how we’re sometimes condemned on the sole basis of the guttural language we sometimes resort to. He’s also drawn Martin McPhillips into it. To get what I’m going to get at, you really need to read both references, including the comments to McPhillips’ entry.
I spoke peripherally to this issue in a recent entry, which, not so curiously, also involved Beck (and Kim du Toit, another potty mouth). Now I’ll address it more specifically.
As Billy already indicated in the first comment to Martin’s post, I said there was something else to it, in addition to his excellent work-up. Experience breeds confidence. We express as we do because we’ve stood the test and know we’re right. It’s that simple. I’ll explain.
I read on his blog (I can’t recall where) that Billy was up to 20,000+ posts to Usenet. For those who don’t know, Usenet was the Internet, insofar as political ideas were exchanged, before the advent of the blog. I did most of my time there between 1994 and 1996 or ’97, and although I don’t have a post count, my posts totaled over 3,000 pages of written text in that time.
My wife has never understood my use of gutter language. I tell her it’s therapeutic, but that’s really only half of the story. The rest of it comes from asserting things that guys like me, Billy, and Martin have dealt with a thousand times, have heard every lame argument, and quite simply, have lost patience.
To be sure, we “victimize” people who are simply misled or ignorant, but it’s a big boy’s game. They don’t know or understand that they’re dealing with people who’ve see this—or some pathetic variation of the same argument—a hundred times or more.
The rest of it is time. McPhillips makes reference to Scott Erb, some university professor, somewhere, who was or is still active on Usenet. Though I had a few, my main encounter with him was in a long-running thread entitled (that I entitled, that is) "Taxation is Theft." It was comprised of a group of attorneys, tax “professionals,” Scott Erb, myself, and Bruce McQuain, of the recent Q&O Blog fame. This is where I began to sense the practical utility of guttural language. You see, lawyers are highly trained in the “art” of discourse. To state it more precisely, they are trained in the surgery of dissecting a less worthy opponent. But take notice. Whether or not an opponent’s arguments are grounded in reality or not is of little concern. The attorney is trained, explicitly, in overcoming a predicament where an opponent’s arguments are grounded in facts, through the use of a cornucopia of sophistic devices (all of which I am fully versed in). Notwithstanding, due either to ignorance or persistence, these guys just wouldn’t quit. What eventually made them back out was, simply, ad hominem attack. And believe me, it was not for lack of being able to shred an undisciplined ad hominem. It was because the risk of being wrong was brought to a head through the use of tough language.
So, what I’m getting down to is that some of us use the harsh language we do because we’re so sure of our arguments in certain areas, and part of that is just pushing away those who don’t have a serious argument to offer. What we risk is being wrong. You see, no matter how many "fucking-idiot" admonitions we invoke, we know, because of what we know, that anyone who knows better is damn sure going to shove it down our throats if we’re off base. It’s happened, but it’s rare.
So, if you’ve got it, bring it on. If you feel intimidated, it’s likely that you don’t have it, you’ll shut up (as you should), and we’ll get on with other things.