This is going a bit off-topic for this blog, perhaps, but I want to talk about something that has been on my mind and that is the current popularity of ‘hate culture’; all the people who think its OK to be deliberately offensive. I think this sort of behaviour is unacceptable, makes a lot of people unhappy and, quite frankly, I just don’t understand it…
If you are a sane, rational person, then you will have learned to avoid the dark and terrible ‘lower half of the internet’. If you’re scrolling down a page, you should always stop when you see the dreaded word ‘comments’, because this section is always full of people who give the human race a bad name. Beyond the first few idiots who all post the word ‘first’ and get immediately banned, you get into all the comments slagging the author off, saying that what he has just said is bad or wrong because they don’t agree or generally making rude, ignorant and offensive remarks.
And even if they are not trying to be offensive, some combination of the fact that meaning isn’t always clear in text and the fact that there are people out there who seem to be deliberately looking for offence and to start an argument over the slightest thing means that the comments section quickly escalates into angry and pointless arguments.
The thing that’s been bothering me recently is that it seems that this is not limited to the internet. I recently had a friend round and put some music on. As I did so, I mentioned that I had seen the band in question recently and that I had really enjoyed it. Clear signs that I really like the band, right? Yet her response was, basically, ‘pah, they’re sh*t’. Not in jest or to wind me up, she genuinely thought they were bad and that it was somehow acceptable to insult something that I clearly liked. It wasn’t just a passing statement either, she continued to argue the point when I, naturally, got defensive and tried to point out how offensive and silly her attitude was.
Tastes vs Quality
What it seems to boil down to is that people confuse their own personal tastes with some sort of absolute fact. Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t (automatically) make it bad. Its perfectly possible that someone else likes it, and why shouldn’t they be allowed to enjoy it just because it doesn’t fit your personal tastes? They are equally likely to dislike something that you love, but you wouldn’t like it if they slagged it off for no reason, would you? So why is it acceptable for you to do the same thing to them?
Another place where people get particularly rabid is with gaming. People tend to pick a side in the Sony vs Microsoft vs Nintendo battle, for example, and will defend their position aggressively rather than accepting that they all have strengths and weaknesses and that, again, it’s a matter of personal preference. In the last console generation, I was an Xbox 360 man. This was not out of some sort of blind loyalty to Microsoft, but purely due to the fact that I owned all three consoles and I preferred the Xbox experience. I have been known to tease PlayStation fans, but I accept that it is down to personal preference and I hope that it is obvious that those comments (which are infrequent) are made in jest.
While we’re on the subject, I feel I should put my hand up and admit to some part in this. I have, for example, slagged off the band Muse in the past. I don’t like them, but I accept that it is a matter of personal taste. They are not bad musicians, lots of people enjoy their music and there’s nothing wrong with that. I tease my friend about liking them, but I have explained that my issue is with the lead singer’s voice and my friend admits that it has a certain ‘Marmite’ love-it-or-hate-it quality. He realises that he likes it and I don’t, and because we have this understanding, it becomes OK to tease each other (and I make it clear that it is in jest). That, I think, is the key difference between this situation and the one I mentioned earlier.
Trying to be Clever
The argument is also possibly fuelled by the likes of Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw and other such public figures who rant and rage about things for comic effect. Ever since Zero Punctuation became popular it seems that everyone is trying to copy him; trying to be edgy, offensive, angry and ranty (no, that’s not a real word) because they think it is cool. I have enjoyed material from such people, but (for me!) they are at there best when what they say is, on some level, actually fair. The problem that I have with comedians like Frankie Boyle is that the mere act of being offensive and slagging off something you don’t like is not automatically funny!
For example, I like Zero Punctuation. For the most part, I don’t think he presents his personal opinion as fact; he doesn’t like JRPGs, but he has admitted that ‘they are not for him’ (as well as slagging them off), an indicator that he understands that it is a matter of taste. Even when he attacks a game that I really liked, he says things that I can (usually) concede are fair points. There are times when I disagree with him, but I accept that that is his opinion and not somehow a personal attack on me.
I also realise that part of the reason that I like Yahtzee is that I tend to have the same opinions and preferences as him. If you like the things he hates, then there’s bound to be some unpleasantness, but in that case, why not just stop watching his video and leave him alone, rather than being offensive at him just because you don’t agree?
I just think the world would be a better place if people just left other people to their personal preferences, rather than being rude and childishly attacking them for it. Everybody is different and has different tastes and this is a thing that should be celebrated. We certainly should be going around getting into such silly arguments about matters of personal taste. There’s not really much more to say.
If you want to leave a comment… well, you might find it difficult, as I have made it hard (but not impossible) to do so, mostly in an effort to discourage this sort of behaviour. If you disagree, then you could try to leave a sensible, reasoned argument or if you can’t do that, then why don’t you just leave this little corner of the internet rather than being rude or unreasonable and spreading the hate! If you agree with me, then why not pass on the message and spread the love! Peace!