Sarcasm

I like sarcasm.

It can be funny, insightful, and powerful. But, often, if you’re trying to make a point, it should be followed-up by positive claims so that people can judge whether you have a reasonable alternative to what’s being criticized.

I thought about this when reading Lileks’ Bleat today. It’s clear that he doesn’t like Howard Stern’s style of entertainment and that he thinks there should be higher standards. But, his snarky tone makes it difficult to understand how he thinks his (and others’) taste preferences should be supported.

I listen to Howard Stern occasionally. I admit that much of his show is unappealing to me. But, many people enjoy more of his stuff than I do and I don’t think they should be denied access to it because it doesn’t meet somebody’s standard, or because children might hear it. And, once in a while, he does say some interesting things that most other broadcasters would be afraid to say. But, even if I didn’t think that this was so, the fact that that many people choose to listen to it is evidence enough for me that it offers something valuable, and that legal restrictions against it would be bad.

Getting back to sarcasm. I think that it’s a bit cowardly to limit your criticism to making a strawman argument look silly. If you want your opinion taken seriously by thoughtful people, you should be willing to make positive claims that can be considered, and criticized.

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