Friday, August 12, 2016

This Is What Happens If You Can't Handle Disagreements

I normally stay out of sticky, uncomfortable topics. The world is crazy enough, and I feel like I make my corner of the Internet happy with my stupid Doctor Who reviews and nonsensical babbling. However, as a reader, and as someone who would like to return to a library career, I have some strong disagreements with Book Riot.

They recently posted an article about how librarians should read diversely to expand their knowledge. I have no problem with this idea. It's a good idea to grow your knowledge in your chosen career. It is also a good idea to call attention to authors who may not be noticed otherwise. I agree that racism does in fact still exist; I can cite numerous examples of that.

However, the problem I have with this article, with the original tweet (which, can I just mention how Twitter with its 140 character limit is not a good place to discuss deep controversial issues? Why do people keep doing this?), and the subsequent moderator replies on the original article, is the condescending tone it takes.

I can't find these seemingly horrific responses to the original tweet. Most likely they were taken down, because if you disagree with anyone today, you get attacked, as demonstrated in this article.

For example, they take one argument, that many librarians don't have much time to actually read, and make an immediate assumption that the librarians in question are deliberately limiting themselves. I can attest that this is not always the case. When I was working in the library, I didn't have much time to read. One, we're not allowed to read on the job. Obviously. Two, I was taking classes. This meant much of my reading time was required college reading. Three, sometimes, after a busy day where I had to interact with a lot of people, I just needed to re-read Jane Austen. Or watch Doctor Who. Libraries are a magnet for introverts, and we need to give our minds a rest.

I completely agree that librarians need to make a concentrated effort to know more about the collection, especially those in charge of collections; but assuming that anyone who doesn't must be secretly racist is ridiculous. (More on that in a minute.)

As I said, I can't speak to the other arguments made. I didn't see the original tweets, and they are gone, so for all I know these are exaggerated versions that the article author made up for the article. (No, I'm not saying that is what happened. But I have no proof one way or the other, and some of these arguments sound nothing like any librarian I've met.)

Now, let's talk about how Book Riot handles comments. On this article, we have someone thoughtfully pointing out that making people feel like they must read something is not conducive to joyful reading. Through the entire exchange, the moderator keeps going back to the phrase, "if you don't want to read something because it's written by a brown person, then you're racist". Nowhere does the commenter ever say this; she simply says that people may have other reasons for not reading an author. Yet the moderator ignores then and goes back to her phrase. (I've seen this moderator reuse the same phrases over and over again in other arguments; I think she forgot that repeating yourself is not an argument, but a refusal to engage with the other person.)

This entire problem comes from the new idea that if someone thinks something is offensive, then it is offensive. No wiggle room, no gray area, no possibility that the other person might have their own biases.

In this exchange, the moderator could have gone into further detail on why it would be helpful to the commenter to read more diversely, or even give specific recommendations in various genres (as she says that there are diverse authors in every genre). But, she chose not to. She chose to respond in a condescending fashion, as the article did, implying that anyone who doesn't automatically agree or has a slightly different opinion is horrible and they must be put in their place.

We can no longer have deep discussions about issues, because ad hominem attacks come out immediately. Because people don't want to think about how they frame their arguments. Because we're supposed to mindlessly agree with any solution to a societal problem. I could blame Internet culture, but I think the Internet simply exposed and enhanced the tendency to be this way.

Race is a ticklish and often divisive issue, especially now. However, we aren't going to make any more progress with the issue if we use a hammer for every interaction about it. And for an article that encourages librarians to make a difference in their communities through reading and education to use that hammer is pure hypocrisy. The ideas behind this article were great. The way they were put forward has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Update, 2 hours later: The comments I was just speaking of have been deleted. I knew I should have taken screencaps of all of them. Unfortunately, I chose not to, thinking that the commenter was not saying anything abusive or against the rules, and therefore would be allowed to remain. I was wrong. The comments were deleted because the moderator disagreed with them. And this was her response to criticism:

I'm done with Book Riot. If they cannot handle disagreements or make logical arguments beyond repeating phrases and silencing anyone who disagrees, then I can't continue reading their articles with a good conscience. This doesn't encourage open-mindedness; it just encourages mindless agreement.

Now I just sit back and wait for people to call me racist.

1 comment:

  1. Told you to stick with cats.....they are so much more smarter than