Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reading Comprehension

Over the past few months, Scott Adams has been doing his best to pick fights with feminists (and various other groups of people). His modus operandi is making an outrageous and offensive statement, and then accusing anyone who gets upset of having "poor reading comprehension" and taking things out of context. There are some flourishes, like sending sockpuppets in to comment on the websites of people who are calling him out.

The latest noise has been around a post called Pegs and Holes. Here's the bit that people have been most bothered about:

Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior. That seems right. Obviously we shouldn’t blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society’s tools for keeping things under control.

The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable.

Adams doesn't ever define "natural instincts of men" (or of women), although later on we get this gem:
If we allowed men to act like unrestrained horny animals, all hell would break loose.
So I'd interpret "natural instincts of men" to be unrestrained horny animaltude, and the "all hell" to be a pandemic of "tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world." I can't see another reasonable interpretation of this post. (I'm still waiting to hear what women's natural instincts are.)

Sample size of one, but I have no instinct to tweet, rape, or cheat. And while I'm happy to be offensive to my friends and family, I don't think it would be fair to inflict that on the rest of the world. (Although maybe if I were a syndicated cartoonist with a 4-figure IQ, I'd feel differently about that.)

Now, I don't know what's going on in Adams's head. His claim is that his "only goal is to be interesting", but the whole schtick about men wanting to fuck anyone and anything isn't interesting, clever, or original. He's somewhere on the axis between completely clueless and intentionally trolling, and my suspicion is that as he gets more reactions he moves in the trolling direction. He clearly gets his jollies from feeling smarter than people around him. I can't really blame him for that - I like feeling clever too, but I prefer it to be collaborative rather than competitive. Plus, if I have smart people around me they're more likely to say interesting and funny things. Bonus.

Anyway, the "poor reading comprehension" accusation kind of touched a nerve. If you write something down, and the English-speaking world (with the exception of a handful of sycophants) infers something from it that you didn't intend, then the problem is not in their reading, it's in your writing. As usual, Mr Munroe captures this human failing perfectly.

In his latest post, Adams compares himself to Kruggers. Scott, I subscribed to Paul Krugman, I read Paul Krugman, Paul Krugman is an idol of mine. Scott, you're no Paul Krugman.

(I've been following this saga for the last couple of weeks, but the event that inspired this blog post was watching the new Futurama episode, "Neutopia", which manages to cram just about every gender stereotype into a 22 minute episode, and STILL have time for everyone to learn a lesson and everything to get back to normal in time for next week. The lesson I learned is that women like crazy things like "shopping" and "Diet Coke" and "being listened to" and men like crazy things like "fart jokes" and "not asking directions" and "lying". I expect this crap from sitcoms in 1992 with laugh tracks, not from you, Futurama.)

Other helpful links:

No comments:

Post a Comment