HP review

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jul 4 11:34:06 EDT 2003

Anna responded to Hallie:

(Quick aside: I have read neither HP nor the articles in question, so this
is a response to general points not to the particular.)

>> Well, yes, except that the HP books already *are* being burned.
>> That's why I felt this was unfair.
>But also,
>more generally I think that ridicule is a very good weapon to use against
>fear. And the greater and more present the danger the more we need it!

Alas, though, in general the very people whom one is trying to show how
absurd they are being are the ones who don't understand laughter, can't see
that they are being shown as ridiculous, and if the notion does penetrate
their skulls by some astounding miracle just get very angry indeed that
anyone should not take seriously what is to them no laughing matter, and
are hardened in their views rather than softened.

>I think
>that if we allow book burners to intimidate us, to make us bow before
>their rage, and take their demands more seriously because otherwise
>they'll get out the firelighters and marshmallows,

Oh, well *played*, ma'am!  Love the phrase, may I quote it?

>then they've already
>won part of the battle. In my ideal world book-burners would merely be
>seen as very sad people with an expensive taste in bonfires and so I am
>not minded to take them seriously.

The only trouble with not taking them seriously is that they may be
encouraged, by a lack of opposition they see as being worthy of their
consideration at all, into thinking that only the incurably frivolous and
silly don't agree with them.  I do very much agree with you that in an
ideal world they would be seen as pathetic, but presumably that isn't how
they see themselves...  (It isn't a mindset I find very easy to get into,
so I can't say that with any authority, but surely they can't or they
wouldn't *be* that way?)

>I think it falls into the category of exaggeration for humourous
>effect, and also serves as a warning and reminder that it's just as easy
>to reach fascist territory by walking to the extreme left as it is
>to get there by walking to the extreme right.

"Isms are wasms".  Likewise, extreme positions are always on the brink of
the Abyss and those holding them may at any moment fall off the edge and
start to rave.   Or at least to adopt tactics that are stark raving mad by
ordinary standards...

I can't help feeling that this article demonstrates, by the ease with which
it can be debated as meaning this that and t'other thing, that it is very
difficult indeed to criticise by mockery and find *nobody* who will take
what you have written -- meaning it to be exaggeration and satire -- as
absolutely straight and serious advocation of the course you've been trying
to show up as extreme and absurd.  In my experience there seems to be *no*
solution to any problem so daft, extreme or absurd that *nobody* will
advocate it and be dead serious in their view that it would work.

Incidentally, I have found that one can often detect the
not-tongue-in-cheek by their use of one key phrase at the end of their
argument.  They state the problem ("Litter is the scourge of our era and no
action so far taken has been able to prevent this dangerous and antisocial
ect ect ect..."), and then say "If in order to prevent people from throwing
litter we must cut the right hand from every person convicted of this
offence as a visible deterent, *then so be it*."

"Then so be it" is a dead giveaway.

For future reference, if *I* use it I am doing so because I am informed by
this observation of mine over the past many years, and I am deliberately
confusing you.  :-)


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