Well, it’s the middle of the night, I can’t sleep, and I don’t usually blog anymore. But I have a question and the outlet of a blog, and maybe one person in the world might find this interesting, so here goes:
Why do people read criticism into perfectly innocent, fact-based commentary?
I ran across some old Twitter criticism about an old WaPo article about Jane Austen. You know she was great, I know she was great, lots and lots of people know she was great, and it’s clear the WaPo contributor knows she’s great. There is no condescension of Austen in the article, and no derision of unmarried women, by the way.
There is simply fact: Jane Austen did not marry. Jane Austen wrote about love. It’s ironic and sad that Jane Austen did not marry if she had wished to, which maybe she did.
In fact, the WaPo writer, herself, underscored the main point of the article in its last line: “No doubt she caught the bitter irony that the only way for Austen to improve her own lot was to keep writing and never marry.”
But, according to this Mashable article, Twitterers – or whatever you call people who use Twitter – got all fired up complaining of a Tweet that teased the article by, really, just juxtaposing condensed facts to reveal an irony. They found the teasing Tweet below WaPo standards. (That’s what they choose to be offended by? There’s so much stuff to legitimately criticize in WaPo….but another time, maybe.) They, for some goofy, out-there, maybe-everyone-was-having-a-crappy-day reason, seemed to think that this poor WaPo writer was equating a lack of marriage experience with an amazement that Austen could write about its pursuit.
Unless I missed some revealing phrasing or words, nothing like that was implied, much less stated.
So, another question: Is it worth writing an article that praises and empathizes with someone when you will be attacked for writing something imagined in the heads of the readers? For no good reason, mind you. There was no ambiguous language. The words and implication simply were not there.
I didn’t write the article, but even I find it infuriating.
Then, there are the miserable comments. A petty criticism about writing style that seem to be fueled by the affront (remember, all imagined) to Austen, a criticism that actually proves the WaPo writer’s point, an accusation that marriage equaled fulfillment for women.
Do they teach the identification of main ideas in school anymore? Or implication?
Never mind that the author was stating facts. Never mind that she clearly felt a marriage vs. career conflict was cruel to women. Never mind that so many people have already made plenty of comments about the ironies in writers’ lives and their stories. (Oh, look at that adventure writer…You know he atually lived quite a sedate life!) Readers wanted to criticize and, dammit, they were going to do it.
Well, now I have, too. But, at least, there was something to, you know, actually complain about.
And, here’s a thought. Austen, with her dry look-at-life-screwing-us way, would – Dare I say it? – probably have had a criticism, too: Why is everyone so taken aback that yet another writer has acknowledged some facts?