Ask Tosomitu About Tumblr Drama

For the purposes of this article I will be using Tumblr drama to mean roughly “publicly calling out some entity’s ethical transgression (and ensuing discussions)”.

Starting with the obvious: not all Tumblr drama is created equal. In determining whether a particular contribution to the Tumblrdramasphere is positive or negative, I am concerned primarily with three classes of affected people and two classes of effects.

The first class of affected people is you (“the speaker”). What will the consequences of speaking be? How will speaking make you feel, and how would different possible responses (including hate speech and harassment) make you feel? You may or may not have the most at stake, but in either case you are a human being and how you feel matters. Consider doing a back-of-the-envelope expected personal utility calculation. (But if you do, throw it away immediately. It’s not accurate.)

Also consider how speaking will change you. Acts become habits.

The second class of affected people is the person you are calling out or criticizing (“the victim”). What feelings will you be invoking in the victim? What responses are they likely to make? (This part is why you don’t tell people to kill themselves.)

Also consider how you are trying to change the victim. Are you proposing solutions? Will those solutions work? In what way is your reaction different from hitting a disobedient dog with a newspaper? If you know this person in real life, would hitting them with a newspaper help?

The third class of affected people is your audience. Will your audience get anything out of reading your post? How are they likely to feel? How likely are people to pile on, and in what numbers?

Also consider how you are trying to change your audience. What modes of discourse are you normalizing and modeling for your peers? What are the broader ethical principles underlying your critique? Whatever your argument, at some point it will be employed against an innocent person, are you okay with that?

I won’t tell you how to weigh these factors, but they deserve your consideration.

The Only Source Of Morality In The Universe delights in answering your real or hypothetical ethical dilemmas. Direct inquiries to asktosomitu@gmail.com.

8 thoughts on “Ask Tosomitu About Tumblr Drama”

  1. “Also consider how you are trying to change the victim. Are you proposing solutions? Will those solutions work? In what way is your reaction different from hitting a disobedient dog with a newspaper? If you know this person in real life, would hitting them with a newspaper help?”

    I think that people who try to argue “logically” and “respectfully” are just trying to cheese their way into high status (esp. on the internet). They want juxtapose themselves against all the inflammatory adolescents, to prove that they’re good for the community, safe to play with, etc.

    Cheap signaling of white knights aside, it’s usually incorrect to assume that the typical person responds to constructive criticism. People don’t choose their beliefs because they’ve sat down and tried to make an honest crack at a correct ethic or worldview. They believe all sorts of crazy stuff because it feels good, and they can’t let go because it’s the foundation of their identity and status. Politics, religion, economics, sociology, even relationships.

    There would be no drama if everyone approached these issues from the standpoint of just wanting to be objectively right. But instead there’s outright hysteria because people feel (and want to feel) threatened by evil outgroups. All the most popular issues (like the minimum wage!) are rigged to create drama, and then the whole meta-discussion of drama is just another way to blame the outgroup all over again.

    I don’t personally feel the need to smack people with newspaper, but I still think most of them deserve it.

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    1. I think that people who try to argue “logically” and “respectfully” are just trying to cheese their way into high status…

      I think that every time anybody talks to anyone about anything, status signalling games are going on. That’s just how humans hume. One should not use “you’re signalling!” selectively as a conversation stopper.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. just how humans hume
        humans hume

        That’s so clever, and cute, and original! It’s not nauseatingly twee at all. Please kill yourself.

        (User was banned for this comment.)

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  2. Hmm. I would like to think I don’t play signaling games in “real” conversations but I suppose my ego is always kind of on the line. Even if I go in with the mindset that I don’t care if I wind up wrong, I still prefer to be right 😀

    Then let’s revise it. I think most people’s primary purpose is signaling when they form and discuss beliefs. Some people are capable of putting signaling in the back seat, and it is possible to have reasonable discussions with them.

    I also agree that it’s not a complete conversation stopper, but I think it changes how you want the conversation to play out. It’s better for these people to get hit with a newspaper than to validate their little “arguing” game that they use to cover up their social tourettes.

    I would never in my entire life (going forward) think it’s a good idea to argue with a feminist about the veracity of rape statistics. Just. No. Pandora’s box would empty. Much prefer a sideways approach that proves I’m way above that level of thinking/signaling.

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    1. Much prefer a sideways approach that proves I’m way above that level of thinking/signaling.

      Is that actually any different from signaling that you’re above it all?

      a la:

      I think that people who try to argue “logically” and “respectfully” are just trying to cheese their way into high status (esp. on the internet).

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      1. The way in which it’s different is that you’re not trying to cheese somewhere that you don’t belong.

        Ex: Someone who is very low status (read: low achievement, low energy, low happiness, etc), trying to be king-of-the-hill by arguing about how Christians are stupid on the internet.

        There’s also something to be said about the degree to which you try to signal. You can signal very loudly and strongly like a nouveau riche, or you can be subtle and still your status be very clear. SJWs tend to be loud and trigger-happy. So maybe it’s not just “signaling”, but signaling in a way that comes from scarcity or insecurity.

        I think this confusion arose because the term “signaling” connotes a certain level of disingenuity I was taking for granted.

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        1. What do achievement, energy, and happiness have to do with status? I have none of these and I’m obviously not at the bottom of the totem pole.

          Signaling is frequently not conscious and so I’m not sure what it means to call it disingenuous.

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  3. The way in which it’s different is that you’re not trying to cheese somewhere that you don’t belong.

    What, is there some Status Prime which determines whether your status is “deserved”?

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