Thursday, March 22, 2012

Things That Have Annoyed Me Lately

I won't bother to point you to the specific article, but I recently came across a retraction article that was actually just a retraction blog post. It was on this blog (that I would normally never read), because I was lured there by a Facebook post that claimed the retraction resulted from the author learning of new relevant facts that altered his opinion. The subject of the retracted post is of some interest to me, so I was eager to find out what new information had been uncovered.

Unfortunately it was all a lie. Well, not exactly, but it was a complete mis-characterization. The author had not been presented with any new facts; he was merely changing his opinion regarding the original facts due to subsequent discussion and thought. He wasn't even changing his opinion that substantially. In my opinion, it wasn't even enough of a change to warrant a new post/retraction. A comment, or an edit to the original article, sure, but a big retraction statement is overkill.

So I'm already annoyed by this retraction that wasn't really a retraction and that gave me no useful data whatsoever, when I realize that the Facebook post that lead me to waste my time had heaped praise on this author for having the integrity and courage to change his opinion when presented with further information and to state so publicly.

Now truly that action deserves praise, however that's not what happened here. What actually happened is that the author neither read nor thought carefully before penning and publishing the original post. His work was sloppy and ill-conceived. Not horrendously so (I assume out of courtesy, although I did not read the original post), but still. There's the level of bravery where you change your mind due to new knowledge, and then there's the level where you admit you already had all of the relevant data and just did the wrong thing with it.

In a sense, the Facebook post didn't praise him enough. It's way more embarrassing to admit that your reading comprehension is poor than that you were missing key information. In another sense, it smells of ass-covering (you can guess what that smells like*) when you take into account that the praise-giver is the publisher of the retracted post. It might not be too good for business to admit that your published articles might be retracted the next day because "Oh, sorry, I didn't really think that through before clicking 'Send.'" In a third sense, this is all self-important bollocks, because no one cares about this blog anyway.

The point is, "I sort of changed my mind a little bit," is not a tune-change worthy of a whole big retraction post with an accompanying Facebook advertising campaign. The other point is that don't try to paint it like it's not your fault that you can't read good.

I'm also really, really annoyed by all this Hunger Games hullabaloo. No, I haven't read the books, and I do actually intend to at some point, but you know what? I'm pretty sure I'm going to learn that they are fucking bullshit. What the hell kind of populace-suppression model is "train the children to be superlative fighters and make some of them fight to the death on TV?" You couldn't come up with a better recipe for rebellion (and losing to said rebellion, since these will be highly trained rebels you taught yourself) if you tried. The Bene Gesserit would have a fit over this concept. Or actually, no, they wouldn't, because they are super-calm, controlled master manipulators who would just sit back and casually watch that idiotic civilization fall into ruin while plucking out the best genetic material that will totally come in handy in 15,000 years.

Authors like to use this contrived bullshit to pedal their moral and political agendas, because exploring universal themes in a meaningful, believable way is really hard, you guys. Why bother with a rich world that naturally illuminates the fundamental nature of humanity through the careful, patient application of the writer's craft (read: plotting), when you could just design a universe that fits your pedantic designs perfectly from the outset? Who needs Atlas Shrugged when you have Demolition Man? Or alternatively, who needs Les Miserable when you have "Starvin' Marvin"?

I do, that's who, and as long as I still have real books to read (especially real books about the exact same thing, but with a more coherent premise cough Battle Royale cough cough), this young adult fiction can take a fucking back seat.

Until next time,

S. Misanthrope

*If you guessed "ass," you're right.

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