The Internet Argument I Didn't Even Deserve To Win

Finally I got a return email. I was halfway to an adrenaline buzz as I opened it. But, instead of an attack that I was intentionally trying to draw out of her, I found this.

Mar 9, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

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On and off for a couple of years now, I have written for this thing you might have heard of called the internet. If you are a squiggley red line, you might know it as "the Internet" with a capital "I."

The first thing I learned about writing for the Internet was that comment sections can be disaster zones largely populated with the words "fag" and "meh." What tended to get to me were, instead, the more lengthy, pointed criticisms that only made sense if someone had misinterpreted what was written.  For example, I once facetiously credited "Of Mice And Men" to "F. Scott Shakespeare." As you can imagine, some people did not process this a joke and took to the comment section to explain the many reasons why I was an "ass hat."

From time to time, I would respond to these comments in an attempt to defend myself. I quickly learned, however, that this never ever works. You can't win. So, for the most part (though, not always) I now refrain from responding to negative comments, and just to stay consistent, I largely abstain from responding to complimentary comments as well. [That explains why you've been ignoring my advances ]

But, every once in a while, somebody puts forth the effort to find my email address and send directly to me a scathing paragraph or two about why I'm a piece of shit. Even then, I am not likely to respond. One time, though, I was caught in a particularly grumpy mood, and I was unable to restrain myself.

I'd been writing for the Best Week Ever blog, mostly about pop culture and viral videos. On days I worked, I was responsible for about 5 posts a day, and, after a year, I was in a bit of a burned-out phase. Admittedly, I had become somewhat robotic in my writing. I would mindlessly find some video that was moderately amusing, write a stream-of-conscious paragraph about it, and post.

During said period, I would sometimes Google random phrases with the hope of finding new "funny" videos. One day, I Googled "Grown Man Crying."

In retrospect, that seems like an oddly poignant projection of how I was feeling at the time. I came across a video taken from a local news story about a library closing. In the story, a correspondent interviewed a man who was crying. And... The guy crying was funny to me. He had a high pitched cry, and I laughed at it. Here's the video.



So I posted that video along with some snarky, un-clever commentary including the line, "Somebody should do a dissertation about the the following irony: Libraries are closing and being replaced by theInternet because the Internet can provide all the information in a library plus the entertainment of a guy crying about a library being closed." It wasn't my best Internet writing moment.

Later that day, I realized that traffic to that particular post was way above average. I did some Internet searching and found that the Huffington Post Book section had reposted the video and credited Best Week Ever for finding it.

They had failed to mention, however, that we were a comedy site.

Both the Huffington Post and Best Week Ever comment sections began to fill with people calling me, among other things, "a piece of Hitler shit." Shortly after that, I received an email from a woman to my personal account that included the following critisism:

I am writing in regards to your comment on the video of the grown man crying at a library closing.  While I found the entire article related to the video to be offensive for a variety of reasons, I am writing to you specifically about this line: "Libraries are closing and being replaced by the internet because the internet can provide all the information in a library plus the entertainment of a guy crying about a library being closed."

To put it simply, the internet cannot replace all the information in a library. [...] Libraries have so much more to offer than what they are being touted as--sad book warehouses full of stuffy old ladies. Instead of belittling them and the people who love them, why don't you take advantage of all of the free and amazing resources at your disposal?

Thank you for your time.

As far as Internet criticism goes, this was actually well done, articulate and reasonable. It wasn't even harsh or particularly derogatory. But, in my weird burned-out grumpiness, I became FURIOUS. I was so mad that somebody could read what I had written and take it seriously. After all, I was writing for a comedy blog. In my irrational anger, I responded with the following words and a concluding video. (The video is very important.)

Hi,

Libraries are great! There should be more of them and they should be well funded. What I do for a for a living, however, is make jokes about things. And sometimes, in a joke, I will express an opinion that is not a serious representation of what I actually think. In fact, there is a whole genre of comedy based on that method called satire. Interesting note: in college I once did a paper on satire for which my research was done in a very nice public library. Nuts, right?

If you'll notice, I also said in the article that I think somebody should write a dissertation about the man crying over a library. That is another statement that is not representative of how I feel about the world. For the record, I do not think it is a good idea for a PhD candidate to chose the subject of a man crying over a library closing as his or her research topic.


As for being offended and not thinking my writing was funny, that is obviously a resonable criticism. On a normal blogging day, I write about 5-6 posts. I'm not going to knock it out of the park every time. I post what I find funny and hope for the best. I happen to think that man cried in a funny way and that, while a shame, a library closing should illicit some response shy of hysterical crying. To you, the crying might have just seemed appropriate and upsetting. Fair enough.

I apologize for upsetting you, but I hope you can recognize that what I'm doing is writing silly things about silly stuff and not making subversive and tacit approvals of library closings.

I hope you are having a wonderful day, and, if you are not, I recommend you watch this YouTube video that I'm think we can both agree is uplifting:




So, yeah. That's what I sent to her. I wrote what seemed to be a genuine apology only to include a video at the end to deliberately provoke her. You know, like a dick! I sat like a gargoyle on my couch waiting for a response. I was sure she was going to call me all types of Hitler/shit type names. In addition, I realized after I sent the email that I had made it seem as though I thought my original post was satire. I hadn't meant that what I wrote was satire, only that satire is another genre of writing that requires statements the author doesn't believe to be true.

So, I was also getting ready to be attacked for that and preparing scathing responses in my head. "Yeah, accuse me of not knowing what satire is. DO IT, ASSHOLE!" I yelled at my Macbook. Finally I got a return email. I was halfway to an adrenaline buzz as I opened it. But, instead of an attack that I was intentionally trying to draw out of her, I found this.

Hello Noah,

I have, amazingly enough, heard of satire. I would like to tell you
that I am a recent college graduate. I imagine you can probably guess
what my degree was in. If you guessed library sciences, then you are
 correct. Other guesses that might be applicable at this time: eating
crow and overreacting.

The thing is, making fun of a man for crying about the library doesn't
bother me. Even I, a stuffy librarian, can see the humor in that. 
However, taken out of context (as that line was) the humor was lost on 
me and all I saw was a man being a jerk about libraries. So I reacted,
instead of seeing the humor.

And so I apologize.

Thank you, I will have a wonderful day.

Somehow, I had just won an Internet argument. That never happens. It's unprecedented.  But, I couldn't even enjoy the moment because I didn't deserve it. I posted snarky comments about a grown man's tears, attacked an innocent library science major and then somehow got an apology in return. I'm guessing she didn't get a chance to watch the library demolition video.