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Tone

I used the Greyjoy icon on this one for a reason.

We reap what we sow.

I will be returning to the key issues involving the Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppy slate soon. Maybe later tonight. Maybe tomorrow. But first a small aside. I want to talk about tone.

There's a thing out there on the internet called "the Tone Argument." Supposedly this is a bad, bad thing to do. In online discussions, one must never use the Tone Argument.

The way I have seen it work, dozens of times now, is that a debate or discussion starts out as a reasonable exchange of ideas, but then grows heated. Tempers fray, names are called, the posts get uglier and angrier... and someone, or maybe a bunch of someones, steps over the line and says something truly cruel or hurtful or just nasty. And the target, or maybe a bystander, objects and says, "no call for language like that" or "can't we all calm down" or something along that line... whereupon a loud cry of "Tone Argument, Tone Argument, Tone Argument" goes up, and person who called for calm is shouted down or torn apart.

The essence of the trope seems to be that if you're on my side, you can say anything you like, no matter how vicious or unkind or inflammatory, and I will defend not only your argument but your "right" to be as nasty as you want. If you're on the other side, of course, well, that's a whole different story. Then you might get silenced or moderated or banned.

There's also a lot of rhetoric about kicking down and punching up and the like.

I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

I am against punching and kicking. Up, down, or sideways. No punching here, please.

I applaud the Tone Argument. The Tone Argument is valid. Yay for the Tone Argument.

We can disagree with each other without attacking each other. And no, I am not going to listen to you if you're screaming at me and calling me offensive names. You shouldn't either, no matter who you are. None of us should have to put up with that shit.

It really pisses me off, reading some of the threads and comments on both sides of Puppygate, that every time someone calls for a more reasoned discourse and an end to all the name-calling, we hear a chorus of, "they started it" and "no, THEY started it" and "they called me X so I will call them Y" and "don't you dare silence me, I will say anything I like, I'm the one who speaks truth to power." I don't care who started it. I just want it to stop.

And it will. On my Not A Blog, at least.

We reap what we sow. Enough.

Comments

( 94 comments )
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Kells O'Connor
Apr. 9th, 2015 02:33 am (UTC)
Yea
As Wil Wheaton says, "Don't be a dick." Rule 1 of life.

Good for you, upholding it and trying to have a nice discussion without too much meanmode.
(Deleted comment)
grrm
Apr. 9th, 2015 03:00 am (UTC)
Yes, that's the argument.

But we all feel pain. We all get angry.

I was very angry when I first saw this year's Hugo ballot. If I had posted about it the night it came out, I might well have written a blistering intemperate post full of things I would have regretted later.

Wisely, I chose to wait a few days, think, calm down.

Anger breeds anger, not understanding.
(no subject) - jayblanc - Apr. 9th, 2015 06:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Apr. 9th, 2015 08:54 am (UTC) - Expand
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Surfeit - Lin Wicklund - Apr. 9th, 2015 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - akirlu - Apr. 10th, 2015 03:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Vera de Ferran
Apr. 9th, 2015 02:54 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, people do not seem to understand that who they are talking on the internet are real people with feelings and everything.
And I do not know if it was always like that, but people seem increasingly unable to argue in an intelligently way, really wanting to contribute to the discussion rather than just try to force their opinion on others.
krunchygoodness
Apr. 9th, 2015 02:55 am (UTC)
Fallacies
In some sense, the Tone Argument is not meant to make a point or argue a conclusion. That is what the crier is misunderstanding. The crier thinks that using the Tone Argument is a fallacy fallacy (https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/the-fallacy-fallacy). The Tone Argument is not an argument at all. It is a comment and a call for courtesy.
sue_bursztynski
Apr. 9th, 2015 02:55 am (UTC)
I agree. I had never heard of this whole thing till last Friday. Suddenly, someone on my list at Andromeda Spaceways, which had been celebrating its shortlisting, said, "Hey, I just heard we have been nominated by these people..." of whom we had never heard, being on the opposite side of the world, so I started googling it and became sick at the screaming from both sides. I'm inclined to say, "A plague on both your houses if you can't discuss this matter without shrillness." I have stuck to the blogs which discussed it reasonably and had, at least for the most part, reasonable comments and discussion of the matter. I am glad to see yours is one of them, Mr Martin, and I wish you all the best for your TV series nomination.
onionperson
Apr. 9th, 2015 02:56 am (UTC)
Walking the Walk
George - Thank you for living up to these standards with your tone and your example.

When The Wheel of Time was nominated as a series last year for Best Novel, a legal nomination which itself created a fair deal of controversy, Brandon Sanderson (who finished the final three books of the series) wrote a blog post called "The Wheel of Time Nominated for a Hugo Award" on his website specifically requesting that voters not pool their votes. Instead, he asked for anyone voting to read all of the nominees in the category, and vote for the best one, and not their favorite.

In doing so, he said that he was following your example as someone who could have mobilized their fanbase but did not due so out of respect for the award. The Wheel of Time did not win for best Novel, but it certainly did not diminish Robert Jordan's accomplishment. It made me proud to be a lifelong reader of his series, and of yours as well.

Worldcon is in Spokane this year, close to home, and this controversy only makes me more likely to attend. George, while you clearly have an opinion on this matter, I hope you consider use your standing in the community to try to organize some type of meeting/forum to discuss this issue in person. Not only have you walked the walk, but if it came to it asnd you asked your fans to support you in making the awards legitimate again, Sad Puppies will never be able to match it.

- Hope to meet you there.
a_cubed
Apr. 9th, 2015 04:04 am (UTC)
Re: Walking the Walk
"It's an honour just to be nominated (*)." was the approach that Brandon took, as has OGH here who for many years had had nominations for Best Novel without winning one.

Of course, that honour is nullified if the final ballot places the nominated work below "No Award" in the ranking - the whole electorate as a body has then decided that that work was not worthy of being on the nominated list of finalists.

(*( Like the Oscars we long used "nominated" to mean "on the shortlist" but that had to be abandoned last year becaause people who were told by one other person that they'd included them or their work on the nominating ballot insisted that they'd been "nominated for a Hugo" on the basis of common meaning of the word, as opposed to the more nuanced common meaning for many two-stage voting awards.
Re: Walking the Walk - grrm - Apr. 9th, 2015 06:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Walking the Walk - rev_bob - Apr. 9th, 2015 06:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Walking the Walk - grrm - Apr. 9th, 2015 08:55 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Walking the Walk - a_cubed - Apr. 9th, 2015 07:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Walking the Walk - arkady - Apr. 9th, 2015 08:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Walking the Walk - dyrecorn - Apr. 9th, 2015 01:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Walking the Walk - kinfae - Apr. 9th, 2015 04:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
bakunin
Apr. 9th, 2015 02:59 am (UTC)
I hate that you have to address this whole issue, but I do have to say I'm enjoying reading your posts about it. Sometimes I wonder if I would enjoy reading the phone book if you wrote it...

I rarely get involved in Internet discussions for the reason that so many people seem to forget (or ignore) anything they were ever taught about how to have a civilized discussion the moment they arrive on the Internet.
mamculuna
Apr. 9th, 2015 12:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, somehow there seems to be a direct line between the keyboard and the amygdala, bypassing the prefrontal cortex completely.
ahaplessnewbie
Apr. 9th, 2015 03:01 am (UTC)
Someone finds something a certain segment of society is angered by. They spread it on social media of various sorts. It goes viral among that segment of society and they demand action. While there are voices that seem quite sane and capable of examining each side on its merits to decide where they stand, they end up being largely drowned out by the shrill and fanatical, for whom the other side is not merely mistaken but EVIL. Before long, you have doxxing (perfectly justified, since the other side is EVIL, remember), you have widespread accusations of racism, misogyny, misandry, fascism, communism, homophobia, transphobia, religious bashing...really, insert whatever fits the scenario and the political inclination.

Above all, there is absolutely zero chance for any positive change through dialogue, because the dialogue primarily consists of demonizing and insults, with everyone determined to prove they're 100% right and other party 100% wrong. Whatever remnants of sanity are there are usually long gone by the end, as it's obviously a complete waste.

Note: the group that starts it can be right-wing or left-wing. It doesn't matter. Before long, the representatives of the other side are likely to be acting much the same.

Suffice to say, a familiar pattern long before 'Puppygate.' I keep wanting to attribute it as a byproduct of the rise of social media, but the truth is I think it's a human characteristic and social media has simply allowed people to let it loose on a scale heretofore unimaginable.
(Deleted comment)
jayswanson
Apr. 9th, 2015 03:22 am (UTC)
Hear hear
If only we could inflict civility on the internet at large, we might be onto something.

I really appreciate your even tone, expecially in the last post. Your recounting of your personal history along with the overall picture of the Hugos/Worldcon was really helpful in better understanding why people are up in arms over the Pups. This controversy has been fascinating as I prepare to attend my first Worldcon - and I have to say that I was (and remain) slightly worried about how it will affect the convention. I hope it doesn't all come tumbling down as I'm finally able to begin participating.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to enlighten neophytes like myself.
a_cubed
Apr. 9th, 2015 04:09 am (UTC)
Re: Hear hear
I hope you enjoy your first Worldcon. Remember, there's much more to it than the Hugos. In fact, I'm worrying myself that the Hugos are becoming the tail that wags the Worldcon dog. Yes, they're an important part of the history of the Worldcon, but they're still only a small part of the event.
One unfortunate thing about this is that the image of the Worldcon in many potential new attendees will now be set by this controversy.
I may even see you around. Feel free to say hello if we meet.
(Deleted comment)
geek_flower
Apr. 9th, 2015 04:20 am (UTC)
"I say it's spinach..."
^
I'm definitely using this in future conversations.
grrm
Apr. 9th, 2015 06:02 am (UTC)
Not original, I fear. I stole it from... hmmm... somewhere. Was it Popeye?

I yam what I yam.
re: I say it's spinach - n6tqs - Apr. 9th, 2015 11:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bedii - Apr. 9th, 2015 01:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maryread - Apr. 9th, 2015 04:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Bryan T. Dare
Apr. 9th, 2015 04:42 am (UTC)
Practicality
Furthermore, no one is going to be swayed by an angry, belittling argument anyway.

As a very fiery person myself, I'm amazed how few people seem to learn, or care, that one only shuts people out by using angry rhetoric. No matter how articulate someone is, no matter how right they may be, if they're letting their anger get the best of them it is all the other side will see. And then the shouting match that ensues really is nothing more; the actual arguments being presented cease to matter.

Rage is a dangerous and circular path to walk down. Even people who don't care about being decent human beings should avoid it if they want to make a point and achieve anything more than blowing off steam.

Keep up the good work, George. I hope that wasn't too much of a tangent...
trinker
Apr. 9th, 2015 04:48 am (UTC)
Clarifying the definition of the Tone Argument
If I may, I think that the Tone Argument is being misunderstood here.

It is not about whether calls for less vitriol are appropriate.

It is about the fact that very often, marginalized people who speak up about issues that the majority think of as non-issues are seen as shrill, and that those marginalized people are told, "if you'd only ask for attention more politely, you'd get what you want!"

This seems reasonable, but the problem is that it's untrue. Horrible, dehumanizing things that are said matter of factly, as accepted truisms among the status quo, pass as genteel and polite, despite the inherent violence of their content. The upset reaction is abhorred as impolite by default because it's uncivil to question the traditions of "polite society".

It is to counter this problem that the term "The Tone Argument" was developed. It is not meant as carte blanche for viciousness on either side. I note this as a strong advocate of recognition of the problematic nature of the "if only you were more polite!" line (which is what the Tone Argument is -- "if you change your tone you will get what you want" -- and as the writer of the in-progress Dictionary of Social Justice.

I agree that it's popularly misunderstood by many people, and that grrm would not be the first nor the last to take it to mean a call to vitriol. I submit that much like the appropriation of the term "liberal" to mean "vile traitor to patriotism", the inaccurate explanation is itself a problem.
grrm
Apr. 9th, 2015 06:09 am (UTC)
Re: Clarifying the definition of the Tone Argument
The thing is... my own experiences in life have suggested to me that you DO have a better chance of getting what you want if you ask politely.

I can think of an instance a couple of years ago when a flight that I was on was cancelled. Like the other passengers, I had to queue up and try to get rebooked. I saw a couple of men shouting and swearing at the ticket agent, and making loud demands. They got nowhere. When it was my turn, I expressed sympathy to her, explained my problems and my needs, showed some flexibilty... and she went out of her way to help me. I gave her one of those "this person was extra helpful" airline coupons afterward.

Am I claiming speaking softly always works? No, of course not. But so far as I can see, being angry and unpleasant NEVER works.

Of course, there's a secondary issue raised in your comment: people being labeled "shrill" when in fact they are not shrill, or don't start out that way.

Edited at 2015-04-09 06:11 am (UTC)
(no subject) - fobok - Apr. 9th, 2015 06:34 am (UTC) - Expand
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rainier88
Apr. 9th, 2015 04:50 am (UTC)
Sea Lions
If ever there was a time for this comic, here it is.

http://wondermark.com/1k62

What is your take on this comic in light of your post? Do you sympathize with any of the characters? Is there a moral?

I've read it to be sympathetic to all three characters, and with at least five plausible morals. A Rorschach test of sorts.

I find the reactions this comic elicits to be fascinating and would enjoy any response.
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