Posted by: cousindampier | 14 March 2012

Criticism and the Internet

I very much enjoy reading Chelsea Fagan’s work.

I understand people who might not.  Everybody likes different stuff (Lewis Black:”We’re all snowflakes.”) What I fail to understand are people who disagree, yet remain compelled to read and comment on how bad she is – or any writer.  That isn’t useful in any way.

Criticism on the internet is easy.   When that other person is not in the room and you are looking at a screen, it flows.  Criticism, in a focused sense, is good.  It helps one become better.  Criticism in the broad sense – ‘you writing is bad, and you should feel bad.  Oh yes, and you suck’ – is pretty useless.

It is easy in the internet era to do two things.  First, it is easy to dismiss any opposing view as preposterous.  Not only because a lot of what is written is superficial, but also because one is encouraged to read the same strands of news every day, or at the least read Fox News only for purposes of mockery.

Second, it is so very easy to criticize.  So, so very easy.  As I write this, I am in my room, sitting in a very comfortable chair.  It is easy to be confident in what I say when I’m surrounded by my own stuff.  If I was criticizing someone’s work to his or her face, it would be much more difficult to be as honest, and I would feel the need to frame it in a constructive way.  I doubt I would tell any person that his or her writing was total shit, unless, of course, it was.  But even then, a positive way remains to frame it.

Bill Simmons and Peter King are good examples of this as well.  Any successful writer, on whatever level, is subject to criticism.  It gets more legitimate as standards increase.  Some is pointless criticism which flows simply because the person has a platform.  This second kind is infuriating.  It is pointless, absurd, and a waste of time.

I find Simmons enjoyable.  Sometimes he says dumb things.  Other times he writes a piece which is excellent.  Most of the time I find him interesting and entertaining.  I find Peter King boring.  Sometimes he writes something which I save.

I’m not going to write Simmons and suck up, nor am I going to consistently degrade King because I do not enjoy reading him.

But here an interesting question comes to mind, and it has to do with Joe Morgan.  Well, more it has to do with, because Joe Morgan is a bad baseball analyst.  He is bad because he refused to acknowledge anything to do with the modern set of statistics baseball developed, remained stuck on his opinions, and was consistently (!) unwilling to make a prediction.

The line, I think, is in the response.  I think Joe Morgan was a bad announcer/commentator.  When I had to listen to him during a game, I’d get annoyed.  I’d make fun of him in my head.  I would wonder how he still had this job.

Granted, I didn’t need to seek him out, I had the firejoemorgan guys to do that, and they were excellent, and it was their website, and I still find it hilarious.  I enjoyed their criticism of him because it was hilarious.

But translate that to any other writer.  Peter King.  I rarely read Monday Morning Quarterback.  Mostly because I don’t care, and why in any rational way, would I want to continue to read something I don’t enjoy reading?

I enjoyed reading firejoemoran and I enjoy KSK mocking Peter King or Simmons.  There is an element of humour in all of that, and it is their shtick, and they do a creative job with it.  Sometimes I skip it because it is annoying.

That XKCD strip, where the guy has to stay up because “somebody on the internet is WRONG” always reappears because there is some sort of perverse pleasure of seeking out a view you don’t like and  bashing it, because…they are wrong.  It’s a stupid waste of time.

So back to Chelsea Fagan.  I hope she gets more good mail than bad.  I find her hilarious.  And while the internet makes it easy to criticize, the internet also makes it easy to not read a person’s work.  Just don’t go to the damn website.


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