Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Comment Type #39: Calumny


Calumny (kal-uhm-nee) is a word that isn't used much in modern English, it's a useful term that a rich vocabulary should include because it's one of those words that encompasses a lot of complex concepts in a tight package, like beloved or frightening. Calumny means either deliberate slander, a false accusation of an offense, or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions. It is that final definition that best fits the 39th comment type.

A calumy comment is when you interpret what someone says in the worst possible way, when you read their statements and pick or inject the most reprehensible, malicious, and offensive interpretation imaginable. For example, if I type
Yes, that's a peace sign and a Cuba flag with notorious and brutal mass murderer Che Guevarra on it. Hanging prominently in Senator Obama's election HQ in Texas. This man is running for president on a vague promise of change and hope with few specifics, but the specifics we have seen are about the old, the outdated, the discredited, and the failed.
A calunmy (or calumnicious) comment would be to respond this way:
If you are suggesting that Obama is a murderous thug who would advocate for violent communist revolution (which is what you seem to be implying in this posting)...
It is a deliberate, provocative interpretation in the worst possible light. A more charitable reading would be to see the obvious ties between a hippie viewpoint of life represented by Che tee shirts and peace symbols which is hypocritical or at least inconsistent with Che's actual behavior and history ... and the man's positions on the issues. In fact, that wouldn't even take charity, it would simply be the obvious and clear meaning of the text.

Calumny generally occurs when someone is particularly defensive or upset. In an argument, most of us will fall prey to this when we feel hurt, backed into a corner, or just particularly irascible at that moment. It is easy to lash out at people, taking innocent or thought-provoking statements in the worst possible way. Another example would be for someone to criticize President Bush for his poor handling of immigration and respond with an attack on the person for suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome and wanting to assassinate him.

This kind of retaliatory strike on one's opponent in an argument is not just childish, but it's deliberately hurtful. It is not an attempt to discuss a matter, convince them, or understand what's being said, but an attempt to bash them for daring to disagree or making you feel uncomfortable about the topic. It's a brute force response to questions and points of view you find unpleasant, as if hammering your opponent enough will make the bad stuff go away. It doesn't just happen in commentary, it happens in real life arguments, and I have much to my shame used to too often.

Usually, people don't do this on purpose (unless they are named Ann Coulter): it's an emotional response rather than a considered attack. If you find yourself typing this kind of comment - and we usually know it - sit back and think, cool down, and ask yourself what good it will do. In a real time argument you usually won't have time to master your emotions and prevent such an assault, but online at least you have time to think and ponder and reconsider. Please do: calumny helps no one and hurts your cause.

This is part of the Profiles in Commenting series.
[technorati icon]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

я считаю: неподражаемо... а82ч

6:24 PM, February 20, 2010  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home