Radical ideas are usually extreme and generally hard for the majority of the population to agree with (based on its definition, of course). I’ve found that many common reactions to a radical idea include shock and/or a bombardment of insults to the author. Of course, not to say all radical ideas are ludicrous, but I will be focusing in particular on the radical arguments that are absurd and full of logical fallacies. Something so badly written that it does, in fact, call into suspicion the legitimacy and the intellect of the author.
Recently, one of these radical arguments showed up on my Facebook feed. It was from a radical feminist (Obligatory link: http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/its-the-trauma-bonding-talking/). The Facebook post was followed by a series of comments generally making fun of grammar mistakes in the link (dear heavens, people who don’t capitalize their “i”s are extremely difficult to take seriously) and the amount of horrendous over-generalizations the author made. I agreed that the author was making an extremely absurd case – it gave me many facepalm moments. Overall I disagreed with its case, as did many commenters on this post.
Then came someone who dared to suggest that perhaps the link wasn’t all bad, that perhaps it did raise some interesting points.
Wait… what? Horrible writing and cruel over-generalizations may offer some potential idea to take note of? It must be an absurd idea in itself! Right?
To spare you the major Facebook gore-filled details, a series of arguments broke out attacking the sole defender of the author. Names were called, fingers were pointed, horrible and down-right disrespectful insults were passive-aggressively thrown around. Alliances were formed and an all-out Facebook comment war broke out for an afternoon with no clear resolution.
Firstly, this is inspiring me to list down ways of successfully having an actual deep and insightful argument without feelings being hurt. Because people can be very mean for no good reason.
Secondly, reading past the insults and craziness really got me thinking about my role as a reader.
Reading a poorly written radical argument can be a mind-numbing experience. And truly, my first response was to call it out on all its misconceptions and absurdities, then carry on with my life. After all, its radical posts like this one that distract from the actual issue at hand. But perhaps the defender of the post was onto something.
I think it would be rare for me to find a person who agrees with the author of that link; indeed, I feel like that author may have undergone a traumatic experience in the past. Certainly I am in no position to call her up to see if she is sound of mind, but the article in general feels rather unsound to me. But should I really just laugh and carry on with my life?
Take the extreme case of a psychopath, rambling on about his/her own hatred of the world, I don’t feel it right to simply wave off the ramblings of even psychopaths by saying, “well, they’re clearly crazy”. Shouldn’t we instead consider how our society manages to create this malady in certain persons?
Regarding that link again, perhaps instead of focusing on the obvious flaws in her argument, we should look deeper and determine why she holds such an extreme view. Indeed, the fact that these extreme views exist may point to a very real issue in our society that requires attention. And instead of being distracted by the radical, we as readers can choose to zero in on the fact that the actual issue at hand is so prominent that it caused such a extreme idea to exist.
I wouldn’t say you should read radical ideas as satire, because they probably weren’t meant to be satirical, but I think the same basis should be used. Yes, we can identify many flaws in a sample of writing, but would we not be equally at fault for not bothering to still identify the real issue of the writing when we have that intellectual capacity to do so? Should we just wave off extreme ideas as laughable for being so extreme? Or should we rather take some time to understand from where such an idea came? And if indeed it stems from some societal issue, can we not then take the added steps of reflecting on how that issue manifests itself in our own lives?
There must be reasons behind the absurd after all, and perhaps they can give the absurdity some sense.