“Niceness Police”

I just found a great post addressing an issue that has bugged me for a long time:

I have long been a critic of the “niceness police” who regularly patrol online forums. Such figures are often hung up on “tone” to a pathological degree, dismissing arguments based on an overly harsh tone while completely ignoring objectively “mean” statements that are stated in a superficially more even-handed style — and of course, they always feel empowered to cast personal aspersions on the person supposedly guilty of “meanness.”

I agree with this blogger completely. I write passionately, honestly, intensely, and aggressively. On the one hand, this is something that really helps me because I can channel my aggression into my writing instead of letting it fester and eventually damage my health. On the other hand, I am absolutely convinced that one of the reasons why my blog has become so popular so fast is precisely that I don’t mince words and many people identify with my passion.

There are blogs whose authors are so dedicated to the goal of being as inoffensive and mild as possible that you have to get through several paragraphs full of apologies and disclaimers before you arrive at the point that the author is actually trying to make. It is perfectly fine to write this way and to prefer to read such blogs. If you identify with this “Excuse me for existing” position, that is your right. What is not OK, however, is to descend on the blogs of  people who write differently and try to police their styles of writing.

The funny thing about the enforcers of niceness is that they are just as aggressive as the passionate, angry writers like myself:

Of course, the highlight is the omnipresent concern-trolling, the patronizing recommendations that “you’ll attract more flies with honey,” etc. The entire strategy of the niceness police is a strategy of delegitimation, a performance that places the niceness police on the side of reason and moderation while the violator is an irrational, easily irritated crank.

The representatives of the niceness police are incapable of being honest and direct about their aggression. This is why they don’t challenge your opinions head on but, instead, try to shut you up by addressing the form of your utterances, rather than their content.

17 thoughts on ““Niceness Police””

  1. I think there’s a difference between saying something that is not positive and plain just being mean about it. I wouldn’t say you are mean. Of course what are honest and say what you want and those things might not always be positive but that’s just all a part of being a blogger and those who expect you to constantly shit roses will just have to get over it.

    When I think of people being mean on a forum, I think of the stuff I see which is “Omg look at her thunder thighs, she shouldn’t ever wear that!”

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  2. I’ve been criticized for my “harsh tone” many times, oddly enough usually when I’ve taken care to rein back my irritation and not use curse words, etc., because I really thought I had an important point to get across. I figure that when the “tone” argument is used against me in those cases I’ve struck a nerve and brought to light something the Nice Person didn’t want to deal with. I tend to leave such discussions, though, because it’s been my experience that the Nice Person is successful in distracting everyone else (because what I said made them uncomfortable) and the thread becomes a festival of defending everyone whose feelings I’ve supposedly hurt. Such discussions are useless because I always end up telling everyone I don’t care about their hurt feelings.

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  3. Boyyyy, do I ever identify with this.

    I can’t count how many times I’ve been accused of being “argumentative” and “harsh” and of “making people uncomfortable.” I’m sorry, but I don’t care about anyone’s “comfort.” If my writing makes you sad and you’re one of those people who needs to be happy all the damn time, don’t read it.

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      1. So, he got bullied by the niceness police into retracting the post?! If that’s what happened, I SO identify…

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    1. “I can’t count how many times I’ve been accused of being “argumentative” and “harsh” and of “making people uncomfortable.” I’m sorry, but I don’t care about anyone’s “comfort.” If my writing makes you sad and you’re one of those people who needs to be happy all the damn time, don’t read it.”

      – EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. I’d much rather argue straight out than navigate passive aggression clothed in “niceness,” and this is why I am not suited to be an academic.

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  5. Now I need to read Graeber’s book that set off the whole debate. If I am not reading the thread at CT incorrectly, apparently the book claims that the reason the US invaded Iraq in 2003 was…Argentina (???). Argentina defaulted in 2002 so the US, to scare the rest of the world not to follow the coubtry’s path, decided to invade Iraq. No, I don’t follow the logic either. Somebody is either misrepresenting the book, or the author is nuts (or I am too tired to understand what I am reading).

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    1. I have no idea who Graeber is or what the entire hullabaloo is about. 🙂 I just reacted to the topic of censoring bloggers which is near and dear to me. 🙂

      I’m very sick right now, so after I read the suggestion that the Us invaded Iraq because of Argentina, I decided to go take my temperature. 🙂

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