Sunday, September 13, 2015

On the Quip

I’ve never been good at the quip or the one-liner. I have many Facebook friends who are masters of the form, and there are at least a few on Twitter who brilliantly meet the challenge presented by the 140-character limit. I could never get a job at a comedy show. I wouldn’t have lasted 2 minutes in the Simpsons or Onion bullpens.
I’m a bit late to the party in saying this – by about a thousand years -- but I don’t always understand the appeal of the quip in honest debate. Unless someone is expressing an idea so awful that it absolutely must to be destroyed as quickly as possible, why bother coming up with a vicious answer. Unless you are a genius with language, why bother engaging in the exercise. If someone has developed an argument that has some points you might disagree with and others you don’t, what is the joy in ripping it apart in a sentence and then walking away. I have written a few essays online and been met with some good, honest disagreements, but I have also suffered the wrath of Twitterers that betray a wilful misreading of at least a few of my points. Those retorts are often clever and they’re often funny but they lack intelligence. 
I understand brilliant satirists who engage in this behavior. It’s their job to be confident in their ideas, to seek out the laughter of an audience and indulge in the joys of the twists and turns language can take in just a few short syllables. And quite a few can be clever and intelligent. And I’m hardly beyond raging full forward with my own ideas on at least a few topics that I don’t think are up for debate. (See below) But most ideas are up for debate. I don’t understand journalists and academics who behave this way on Twitter or Facebook and in most of their work. Did you get into this game because you knew everything to begin with and you just want the world to know that you know everything? If you only see ideas that are so stupid you need only respond with a sentence, shouldn’t you be engaging with more interesting thinkers?  I mean, isn't that your job.

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