Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Obnoxiousness is Bravery Fallacy

It always strikes me as odd when someone says or writes something that is obnoxious that you have people saying things like "At least he's brave enough to put it out there and tell it like it like he really sees it," or something along those lines.

No. It isn't brave. It's just obnoxious plain and simple. What would be brave is to listen to and engage those with whom you disagree, treating them with respect and courtesy. You see, that makes you vulnerable.

That this is true is evident by those who defend the loudmouths. They hurl ad hominems at those who demand common decency and respect--"you're just weak" or "spineless" or "brainless" or worse. They seem to imagine that pretending you can't be wrong and blustering your way through, insulting, and using coarse language shows that you are strong. It's all a fa├žade, though, to cover up the reality. It's a lie. Lying isn't a sign of courage or strength; it is cowardly and weak.

Honesty is brave, the kind of honesty that exposes your own doubts, that doesn't hide or ignore the weaknesses in your arguments, that shows you know that you are fallible and that, all other things being equal, the other person is just as likely to be right as you. Showing that honesty but still respectfully engaging with people of contrary opinions, that is brave. Courage doesn't mean you have no fears; it is having fears and yet confronting them with wide eyes, head on.

The honesty I'm talking about is not the "honesty" that uses "the truth" to bludgeon other people and attempts to intimidate them into silence. It's not the "honesty" that readily sacrifices the dignity of others to win an argument; it's not the "honesty" that holds courtesy in contempt and considers mutual respect as a byword for the weak. It's not the "honesty" that deceptively inflates the certainty of one's position. That is not honesty; it is false honesty. It is an abuse of the truth.

That's not to say that obnoxiousness is never an effective rhetorical device. But it's not brave. It may win an argument; it may effectively make a point, but it is fighting dirty. And that's not something to be admired.