Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Welcome to the Midside" Addendum: The History of "Shut up, you're wrong."

Over the brief history of this blog, what has been called into question most often is my catchphrase. I now realize that I must explicate its origins and purpose a bit more. Initially, I thought it was clear in conjunction with my tone and style. However, it seems I made an error in calculation.

The origins of "Shut up, you're wrong" aren't concrete in my mind. I came up with it at some point in the latter half of my undergrad experience, most likely later in my third year or earlier in my fourth and final year. Through my observation of arguments, both in and outside of the classroom, I found that most people use one tactic: deny and repeat. I mean to say that they deny their opponent's claim and repeat their own, as if repetition equals validity or truth. Thus, I distilled their arguments down to their basic wording: "shut up, you're wrong." Essentially, both sides go back and forth spouting the phrase with different words each time, sputtering their tires, getting more mud on them than even Brad Paisley would like.

The purpose later evolved into satirical punctuation. Let me explain my use of each of those words separately:

Satire: Whereas the phrase first begin as nothing more than childish mockery, it has now taken on another meaning. It is not an ultimate argument, it is the ultimate argument, at least to those people who will be most offended by it. You see, as I learned more, I discovered that the dichotomy between the belief in objective truth and relative truth is not only the only dichotomy that really matters, but has a direct affect on the tactics of argument. If truth is relative, then it doesn't matter what you argue, just how you argue it. It's also, ironically, why the argument tactic I noticed has become common. As relativism is subsumed into our society more and more, the only thing that matters is your own opinion. Thus, since it is so obviously all that matters, if you deny the other person's opinion and repeat your own, you always win. "Shut up, you're wrong" is the best argument technique EVER, at least when dealing with relativists; yes, all relativists, as even the skilled ones basically say "Shut up, you're wrong" just really beautifully and politely, so as to seduce the other person. All relativist argument is seduction. "Shut up, you're wrong" exposes how crude, similar, and insulting their argument is. It also weeds out the relativists, as they'll be most offended by it.

(Yes, we could delve into a deep discussion about the nature of seduction and if it's as negative as I've assumed it is here. For now, I'll say it is probably possible to distinguish between positive seduction and negative seduction.)

Punctuation: Often, people most remember the last thing: the last act, the final song in a set/on an album, the final movie in a series, the finale episode of a series. Recently I even posted a blog about how the poor last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer affected my opinion of the entire series. Thus, as a writer, it is important for me to have a trademark memorable "last thing." In America, the most memorable part of any character tends to be his catchphrase, so I turned to some famous catchphrase rhetoricians. Rush Limbaugh is known for the catchphrase he creates and subsequently repeats endlessly. Consider "Shut up, you're wrong" in the same vein as "Talent on Loan from God." From a non-Christian perspective, "Talent on Loan from God" seems pretty arrogant, but from a Christian perspective, from Rush's perspective, all talent is necessarily on loan from God, so it's merely a statement of fact. Likewise, the meaning of my catchphrase changes based upon your perspective (yes Mr. Burke, terministic screens mean a lot changes based on perspective). Professional wrestlers are often known by their catchphrases, which punctuate their "promos." Stone Cold Steve Austin said, "And that's the bottom line 'cause Stone Cold said so." The Rock said, "If you smell what the Rock is cooking." Likewise, "Shut up, you're wrong" ends my promos and is an easy association with the name Jayemel.

There you have it. I hope the meaning of the phrase is more coherent now. Next time you're going to be offended by it, stop and think about what I've written here. And yes, I'm aware that it's a comma splice, but I made a rhetorical choice when choosing a comma over a period. Besides, language is malleable, and if you disagree with that, well then:

Shut up, you're wrong.

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