Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hatebait and the Cupcake Wars, or How To Rankle For Fun And Profit

A few weeks back, someone blogged about how much it annoyed her to have to keep celebratory food out of the classroom because of food allergies. It's not a necessarily uncommon sentiment, but it was written in a particularly incendiary way, so HuffPo picked it up. Then it was everywhere. And it worked. Members of the food-allergy community were properly incensed. Responses were crafted, graphics were drawn, a pithy name was given to the faux conflict: The Cupcake Wars. 

Now, my son won't be able to eat any random cupcakes in class. So, by simple fact of demography, I'd be in with the food-allergy folks. And I *was* pissed, but not for the sentiment expressed. 

I was pissed because I knew that none of the responses, no matter how eloquent and heartfelt, would change the writer's mind. Not because of how strongly she holds her beliefs, but because I would bet a large amount of money that she doesn't even believe them at all. And I'm tired of that nonsense. Don't waste my time if you're not even going to be sincere. If you're already relatively anonymous (and I would argue that signing just your name -- even if it's real -- in a country of 313 million is still relatively anonymous), why not tell the truth?

I mean, I know why. Bloggers need the clicks. And they'll prey on the pervasive fear of the unknown (ie: other people! and their scary possible viewpoints! aiee!) to get them.

It's the same with blog posts with perfectly illustrative narratives. Parenting blogs are teeming with them. But you know what hardly ever happens in real life? Perfectly illustrative narratives. Oh, a nameless man at my son's sports practice said something mean! And I had such a comeback! The blogger always happens to be the hero of such parables. And you know? Even if I agree with the basic sentiment, I just don't believe them. If your argument is strong enough, let it stand on its own merits. Don't try to sell me some magical story.

Now, I get it. I'm making this very point on an ostensibly anonymous blog. But I would bet that both readers of this blog know me, and would say, yeah, this sounds just like her. 

Look, I like stories. I tell stories. But if you're going to tell ones that both involve you and aren't true, call them what they are: your own personal fan fiction. Just don't try to James Frey me.

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