Ridicule has over-saturated the marketplace of ideas. It’s frightened off potential investors: authors, poets, and screenwriters. They bury their spark in their portfolios, when the market could be nurturing it. Investors see an abundance of taunts, and a scarcity of discourse. They horde their assets, because they know what happens to the people that share them.
Inspiration is taken apart by market analysts. They are not creators themselves. They lack the language for artistic analysis, but they fake it all the same.
Every one of them has a harsh word on the tip of their tongues, and a scathing review on the tips of their fingers. Every one of them is entitled to their opinion, and they treat their opinions like facts.
The problem is: when everyone is a critic, criticism loses its value. With the bar set this low, there is no more room for growth.
The demand for ridicule has been inflated, by a handful of traders with nothing but put-downs in their portfolio. Their sole product is their ability to defame. To ride the uptick of an artist’s epiphany, just to crash it on the way down. To pump it and dump it. To treat inspiration like a toxic asset.
How do you exchange ideas when you deal in mockery? Do you spoof a spoof of a spoof? How do you trade insults, when all you have on your target is that they insult people too? Do you critique their ability to critique? When we talk shit about people who talk shit, talk gets cheap. Scorn loses value.
We put our surplus contempt on every message board. No one is buying what we’re selling. They all have junk bonds of their own, angry tirades they need unload. Now there’s blog after blog where no one creates anything, they just hate on those who do.
We attack famous works, in the hopes that some of that fame will rub off on us. We take their authors down a peg, in the hopes that this will elevate us. We reduce magnum opuses into bullet points. Then we list them in our hall of shame.
We stir up conflict and set it out as click-bait. We use trigger warnings as selling points. We make appeals to fear and anger because they are easy won emotions. We gobble up all the shares we can, never mind that they’re just penny stocks, worth less than the thought balloons they’re printed on.
Ours is a world without oversight. Our anonymity knows no regulation. Our fraud is so rampant, we’re not even sure when we’re being sarcastic.
If you are just entering into this marketplace of ideas, I want you to think about your contribution. Do the words you’re putting down reflect the thoughts in your head, or have they taken on a cynical tone on their way to the page? Does it seem like snark will yield a higher return than sincerity? Do insults seem like they’re a safer investment?
Consider this. Ridicule is not an emerging market. Trolling is not an original business strategy. Not every cyber-bully will get a piece of the pie. That market is cornered.
There are warehouses full of gay jokes and racial slurs. There are comments about sandwiches and kitchens, black eyes and staircases, stacked up to the ceiling. There are pallets full of fat jokes that will never be unwrapped, boxes full of retard jokes buckling from their own weight, Jew jokes covered in cobwebs. There are cabinets full of harassment campaigns that will never get green lit, sacks full of “Kill yourself” messages that no one will receive.
Shock value has been devalued.
Everyday another meme goes into storage to collect dust. The manufacturer overestimated consumer desire. Now these units will never move.
The bubble is about to burst. Do you really want to be trapped inside it when it does?
I say, it’s time to bet against the marketplace of ideas. It’s time for a disruptive innovation, a new market built on candor. There’s an unaddressed demographic that’s hungry for truth. Judgement doesn’t resonate with them like humility does.
They want to share in the author’s experience. They want to see themselves on the page. They want someone to admit the things that they’re scared to. They want someone to defy the world’s constant shaming by humiliating themselves first.
When everyone is afraid to look vulnerable, admitting you are is a sign of strength.
Emote to strangers with no mind for ridicule. Share something personal without worrying what employers, family members, and ex-lovers might read into it. Put your secrets in lights. Etch your history into stone for future generations to see.
Ridicule is the Blackberry in the marketplace of ideas. Be the smartphone that knocks it off its throne. Ridicule is the Hair-Metal band that rules the airwaves. Be the Grunge Rock that comes along to eat its lunch. Ridicule is the social network that’s swarming with spam. Be the exclusive one that everyone wants an invite to.
Challenge ridicule’s monopoly by playing a different game.
You can be the killer application that attracts early adopters. The solution to a problem no one realized they had. The charming alternative no one knew existed.
You don’t need a spiked helmet to show your face. You don’t need a megaphone to share your voice. You don’t need to be clever at someone else’s expense. You can be honest instead, and watch the market swing in your favor. You can kill them with kindness.
Ridicule is dead. Long live candor.
11 thoughts on “Ridicule is a Bad Investment”
I like this article, Drew. Here’s why: when people read books, we have no control of how they interpret our writing. I’ve received 1-stars on the same day I’ve received 5-stars. Did they read the same book? one has to wonder. What you suggest is a change in that paradigm, if I’m understanding you. Not to expect all 5-stars, but to be kind with criticism. Is that possible?
My business side says: ‘But hey, that’s art, baby. We put ourselves out there — we should expect people to hate us, right?’ while my artistic side hesitates to click on that new review — what if they hate it? It’s our job as writers (or artists) to pursue our voice and style, to trust our vision, no matter what people say.
Any artistic pursuit requires a building up of a tough skin, particularly in this age of the Internet. Some will hate us simply because they can — there’s a false bravado in anonymity — and that’s the hard truth. We can learn from it — sometimes there’s good truth in the vitriol. It’s the wading through it that makes life tough for many.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting!
I agree with your point. Artists should develop a thick skin so that they can put themselves out their without fear of being stung by criticism. Critics should give honest feedback. Qualified critics know the medium they’re analyzing. They know the language of the art form and can pinpoint exactly what does and doesn’t work. Under-qualified critics speak from a place of emotion. They are reactive and petty. It’s up to us as artists to know the difference.
I’m also advocating a tonal shift in what we as artists create. Full disclosure: when I first started blogging way back in the day, my tone was harsh. I tore apart celebrities and made sweeping generalizations about belief systems. I always rounded up my opinion to sound like a tell-off. I did this, not because it was what I felt, but because that’s what I thought the internet expected of me. I had succumb to an invisible form of peer pressure.
This post speaks to me on so many levels. Thanks for sharing, and for taking a step in a great direction.
Thanks for reading it. It may not be the longest thing I’ve ever posted, but it’s longer than most folks.
You made your point. In my opinion, that’s the most important thing any post I read needs to do. I read anything from micro stories to Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth novels. The longer works aren’t necessarily better or worse, they just needed more room to breathe. I have a hard time staying with one thing long enough to write longer posts. I draft, find my point while editing, do a little rewriting and more editing before posting, and move on quickly. I have a great deal of respect for those like you and Rachael who can write a lengthy, detailed piece, but I enjoy the short ones just as much. It’s the writer and their message, and the story itself, that counts.
Ridicule is easy – but who does it serve? I would much prefer to sleep at night by making sure I come from a place of building up rather than tearing down. May we all stop and think before we speak/comment so we honor the vulnerability it took that writer/artist to put their work out their for us to experience (whether we actually liked it or not).
Great post! This is my first time reading your blog, and I am grateful to read this one today. Very inspiring words that I hope millions of people will read and implement into their daily lives.
I am an aspiring film reviewer who shares about the films I find. I don’t want to crush the filmmaker’s vision or try and grab the elusive snippet or blurb used from my reviews. Sharing the good with the word is far more fun, enlightening and gratifying than pounding down someone’s artistic vision. (Sure there are films I don’t give glowing recommendations but I am usually kind and try and find something worth sharing because I know it’s just my opinion. Others have different tastes.)
Anyway, thanks for sharing this. I hope it does the world some good.
This is thought-provoking…like a splash of cold water on the face. Sharing…
Great post! Many cyber bullying situations I’ve had the misfortune to observe arose out of someone being jealous of what another was creating for themselves online.