Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dilbert Update / Weasel Debate Tactics

The Dilbert censorship debate appears to have resolved itself. On Friday, the paper published this letter, to which I've added snarky comments in brackets making fun of the particularly stupid parts:

Making light of sacred

I think that Dilbert is the best comic strip since The Far Side. Its wit and satire make me laugh on a regular basis. I do realize, however, that Dilbert is a comic strip and is only good for a laugh. [Assumption: Comic strips are not an acceptable venue for "real" issues or commentary.][This is not to imply that the Dilbert strips censored were anything but frivolous throwaway jokes.]

Thanks to The Daily Universe for not printing comics that produce laughs at the expense of making light of sacred things. [Wait - I could take issue at your cliche assumption, but I'd rather get offended by the implication that it was funny.]

I am sure that some people share the views expressed in the letter "Dilbert Censorship" published March 12. I don't think, however, that those of us that find "sacrilege" [Sacrilege? Maybe a little irreverent, but sacrilegious?] more "distasteful" than "censorship" (if you can call it that. It's not news or information; it is just a comic strip!) are in the minority at BYU. [Comic strips cannot inform or deal with current issues.]

There is something terribly wrong with a society that believes that compromising standards is a fair price to pay for entertainment. "It was such a good movie, you just have to see it" is not a good reason to see a movie with questionable material. I don't really have to see it. I will be just fine if I don't see it, but I might be worse off if I do.

Call it "hypersensitivity," but The Daily Universe represents our school, and our school does not believe in making the Savior the object of jokes.

[Name Removed - It's a guy I know from an adjacent town]

The assumptions are many and varied. The author makes the following airtight argument:

1) The strip was offensive and sacrilegious. Such things have no place in comic strips, which are frivolous entertainment (like knock-knock jokes or rubber chickens) and incapable of anything else.

2) There. I've proven that the strip was offensive by stating so. Therefore, by opposing the censorship you are supporting offensive and sacrilegious things. Therefore, you are wrong. The world is going down the tubes and it's all because of people like you.

3) Stop being so wrong. Gosh!

Interestingly enough, an official editorial published by the paper on Monday made the exact same points, calling the comic "needlessly offensive" and "inappropriate."

In a fit of indignation at their refusal to include a real rebuttal to my argument, I sent the author the following letter yesterday. This wasn't a letter intended for publication, but to register my disapproval of their journalistic practices:

Your editorial this morning shares some important attributes with Friday's rebuttal to my original letter concerning the pulling of a week of "Dilbert". Most notably, it makes some major assumptions regarding the original content:

1) The content was "inappropriate".
2) The content was "needlessly offensive".

By neglecting the necessary proof that the original material was offensive and attempting only to prove that censorship is sometimes necessary - a point that nearly everyone agrees with - the letter successfully demonizes its opponents but fails to address the argument. There is a school of thought in Utah culture that a reference, however indirect, to something automatically puts the original subject in a negative light, or, worse, constitutes outright mockery. This is simply not the case.

Most of us read the cartoon not as an offensive reference to our Savior, but as exactly what is intended - a quirky character whose pattern of behavior represented something Biblical. If a mention in a humorous setting automatically denigrates the subject, then the creators of those awful LDS comedies will have a lot of explaining to do on the other side.

To reiterate: a rebuttal requires a refutation of the original argument, not just a mantra of a talking point.

It's a small issue, but weasel debate tactics dismay me. The issue is not that people got offended by the strip (certainly it would be a reasonable position, though I choose to disagree), but that their self-righteousness does not allow for any outside opinions on the topic.

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