Saturday, 9 March 2013

We are not amused

When reading comment threads, I often encounter quite heated arguments where various rhetorical ploys are flung around in a frustrated effort at slapping down that supreme impertinence - contradiction. 

Usually it’s simple abuse such as calling the other person a racist. In fact that ploy seems more common than genuinely racist abuse, but that’s another story.

A particularly feeble and overused put-down is affecting to be amused by the person who dares contradict one's views. An old ploy in the art of gamesmanship it’s probably been around since the ancient Greeks looked down their noses at each other, but why it is still used eludes me.

As with most rhetorical tactics, it doesn’t work, in this case because it seeks to win the argument by establishing a kind of spurious social or intellectual superiority. So it’s a disguised version of the long discredited argument from authority, or argumentum ad verecundiam. That of course is yet another ploy - the well-known and modestly effective bung in a bit of Latin ploy.

Intended victims of the faked amusement tactic may even use it themselves as a counter, in which case each side ends up pretending to be highly amused by the other. Well at least it's a non-violent standoff I suppose.

For me there is something very British about it too, although I'm sure that's not really the case at all. But there is something of the flushed cheek, curled lip and self-righteous annoyance dredged from shallow waters.

Imagine! One’s views are contradicted by persons of the oik persuasion! How infinitely amusing!


Sam Vega said...

Indeed. What I also find interesting is the way in which there is little common ground on which to fight and hurl insults. "Persons of the oik persuasion" come in all shapes and sizes, depending on what one considers one's strengths are. They might be stupid, for sure. But we can also look down on them because they are over-intellectual. Or less experienced. Or less moral than us. Or less knowledgeable about the terrain. Or...

I think in such situations, what is going on is the maintenance of a sense of self, and this can only happen if we bounce it of the selves of others.

A K Haart said...

Sam - yes you are right, a sense of self is being maintained and protected. Some seem to be rather high-maintenance too.

James Higham said...

bung in a bit of Latin ploy

Nemo me impune lacessit.