Bad Comments Round #3: Criticising The Arts – In Defence Of Diane Coetzer

Recently, Diane Coetzer wrote a negative review of The Parlotone’s concert Dragonflies and Astronauts. Due to her criticisms, Eban Oliver of Catalyst Entertainment responded with unnecessary vitriol on Facebook. The whole incident is painting him in an ugly light, proceeding before lawyers and the courts, and could be the first such case in which South Africa considers defamation in terms of social media. Here, I’m looking at how criticism (of the arts works) and why it’s necessary for artists themselves. Oh, and why we need to be adults about criticism, on both sides.

There appears to be a problem with criticism. As I’ve previously explained elsewhere, labeling things ‘opinions’ and ‘feelings’ are unhelpful when we are critiquing or arguing for or against something. What matters is not that what we offer is an opinion – that’s a neutral term and, besides, everybody has one. What matters is whether it’s a good opinion. By good, I mean well-argued, reasoned, ideally with evidence and so on. This, note, can be given by experts or lay people like myself. It’s just that we expect experts to be consistently providing good arguments (mainly in their field but sometimes outside, too). This is the basis for scientific explanation and understanding. Using good arguments, with evidence and so on, the best approximation of what’s true and what is nonsense. Continue reading


Bad Comments Round #1

The Irish poet, WB Yeats, penned ‘The Second Coming‘ one of the most haunting poems ever conceived; in it, he says:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Nowhere more so than on our beloved Internet, of course, where ‘the worst’, often behind a soubriquet, are given a platform to display their ‘passionate intensity’. Yet, often, with passion comes a lack of precision. It seems no fault that often those filled with wrath leave grammar and spelling behind before pushing through into the public domain of commentating. No need to re-read sentences aloud. No! they think. This idiot must know my opinion. He must know why he is wrong! And I am better than he!

xkcd nails it

I get my fair share of comments: some spam, some compliments, the occasional convert on a particular topic, a lot of ad hominem attacks on my character (insensitive, cold, unfeeling, etc., which are not necessarily false, just not helpful to the argument), and then these one or two misspelled, grammatically annihilated paragraphs. I had to write about the latest since it has become my favourite – directed at me after all.

Some time ago, I wrote a review on Rhonda Byrne’s sequel to her best-selling waste of trees, The Secret. Entitled The Power, I proceeded to spend a lot of time and space – really, like, a lot – demolishing her claims, aiming to lay a charge of immorality against her on the grounds of preventing the development of critical, ethical faculties in her audience (which is huge).

It’s doubtful any one of those people even read my review. It’s doubtful even many people in general did! But that’s not the point: My review is there, should anyone wish for such a piece. Yet the last commentator, someone called ‘Brian’, has just posted this little gem about the review. I’m posting it as it’s written (currently):

The author of this naive review should have studied physics properly before writing such a stupid nonsense. You do not know anything about the fifth force which was discovered by scientists and which conrols gravity, don`t you.

I just love it! Read it aloud: “…before writing such a stupid nonsense” is probably my favourite sentence this month.

However, how can one answer the last challenge? I don’t know about the ‘fifth force’ which ‘conrols gravity’, don’t I?! Er, no. I mean yes. Wait… I mean… What?!

I’ve learnt to adore these sorts of comments instead of ignore or be irritated by them. This is thanks to the most important video of the last few months: ‘Dot Dot Dot’. To anyone who blogs or writes online, I demand you watch this beautiful, brilliant clip. You’ll thank me. All you’ll hear in future is the great voice actor, D-Mac Double, reading your commentator’s misspelled idiocies.

Have stranth! Beacuase bad comments, like the Internet, are not going to die any time soon.

Please leave some of your favourite “bad comments” in the, um, comments section below. I want to start collecting them.