Saturday, 9 May 2015

The decline of sneering

Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged.

Hilaire Belloc

One of the more destructive devices used in arguments is sneering. Many people use it to disguise the weaknesses in their position, often quite willing to do so even if it involves wrecking the debate. In any case a wrecked debate is a position preserved to fight another day.

So what? I sneer.

Although common and quite effective, sneering seems to be undermined by the internet. Sneerees now have numerous alternatives, being able to zip off elsewhere with a single click, taking them beyond the range of the destructive sneer. So Sneering is sidelined.

Socially this simple departure isn’t so easy. Relationships are involved. The burning of boats may be too high a cost simply to escape a sneer or two. Yet the sneer is a habit, a frequently unwarranted assumption of authority which grates and frustrates.

The internet is entirely different. If we don’t like the tone of any debate we may up sticks with the click of a mouse or the merest dab of a finger. Delete a bookmark and the job is permanent. Surely not an insignificant social trend, especially for all those erstwhile sneerees, liberated from the tiresome yoke of the oh so predictable sneer.

Unfortunately the decline of sneering doesn’t mean other social devices will go the same way, but maybe it is something to celebrate. Perhaps lying will meet the same fate.

Oh yeah? He sneered.


Anonymous said...

You are right. Sometimes I visit a blog and find the comment discourse goes against my prejudices or I feel lazy or liverish. 'Can't be arsed' and move quickly on.

As for lying - too useful an armament. A good lie backed up by one's mates and omerta is almost invincible and forms a bond of us and them. If you look carefully you can see traces of the lie in almost every place power (and its brother, advantage) is exercised. Too useful.

Demetrius said...

During the hay fever season should I try to sneer then all I do is sneeze. It is not the same at all.

A K Haart said...

Roger - lying is useful, but I'm not sure how many liars are aware that they are lying. It's an odd business.

Demetrius - I believe you can get tablets for one of them.