When British nationalists invoke truisms such as “Islam is not a race” in response to accusations of racism, their political detractors immediately roll their eyes, despite the obvious logical integrity of that statement. When antifeminists and men’s-rights activists point out the higher rates of homelessness and workplace death/injury among males to counter the idea of absolute male privilege, their opponents write them off as mere woman-haters. The same goes for anybody trying to point out black-on-white crime rates in an argument about race. As Stewart Lee once quipped, “Well, you can prove anything with facts.”
The problem with any kind of political debate, especially ones that take place on the Internet, is that the speed at which rhetoric is created and exchanged gives any argument—once repeated often enough—a kind of ominous symbolic quality which the other side can use as an early identifier of their opponent’s train of thought, thus allowing them to anticipate and deconstruct it before the fact while giving it the air of predictability and undermining it in the process. The engine of this tactic is strictly illusory: “Oh, you people have been saying that for years. If it was really valid then everybody would have accepted it by now.” It sounds good on paper but is as resolutely full of shit as the people who employ it within discussion.
It’s ironic that progressives—who in my experience embrace snarky early dismissal of historical talking points more than anybody—do so given the fact that they so often feel that everything they’ve been banging on about for years should be taken as gospel. WHY is it so hard to accept the idea of gender equality? WHY am I still having to explain intersectionality to you people? WHY is this even still being debated? The answer is simple: because ideas, like anything else, are subject to the law of entropy. They lose their structural integrity every time they are expressed and absorbed, and like the starting phrase in a game of Chinese whispers, they become increasingly distorted as they travel through human minds and mouths. In this age of accelerated information, ideas become clichés as soon as they are conceived.
So do we stop having discussions/debates/arguments? What fun would that be? None, obviously. I love a good intellectual pissing match as much as the next guy, and my proposed solution to the problem of conceptual entropy is not to abandon discourse altogether. It’s to stop with the fucking buzzwords and phrases—at least as a start.
The Internet condenses our language into a trite and vulgar patchwork of neologisms that are discarded as soon as they are coined. “Ragequitting” is probably the most recent offender I can think of. What exactly is wrong with saying “Quitting out of anger?” Is that too many characters for your precious little fingers to type? Tough shit, I say—just because technology is perpetually speeding up does not mean that you have to convey every other idea in some garish, pseudo-cutesy universal slang to save time. Besides, if you actually see words such as “ragequit” as an acceptable way to communicate your thoughts, your time probably isn’t worth shit to begin with.
In the same way, phrases such as “check your privilege” quickly become laughable because—fundamental meanings aside—they are regurgitated so frequently that they become impossible to take seriously. It’s kind of like when you’re in school and a teacher makes you write “I will not call Ms. Fetchingdale a bitch” a thousand times during detention, and by the time you’re down to line forty or fifty you’re staring at these meaningless words as you write them on autopilot while thinking, “What the fuck does ‘will’ even mean anymore? My mind is unraveling!”
If people on any side of an argument actually want be heard and not have their words filtered through the recipient’s bullshit filter for no other reason than they’ve heard it all before, they should switch their styles up. Islam is not a race, sure, but find a new way of putting it. In its present form it’s so old that it belongs on a bumper sticker.
Find new ways to express yourself and stop relying on some bastardized lexicon to say what you have to say. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when people take you for an idiot without actually going to the trouble of confirming that you actually are.