Yesterday I saw this tweet:
Trash a person, an idea, an institution – how easy, how lazy. Nothing genius about being obnoxious, nor cool about bullying. Nothing gained except attention, a sport for truculents, a frenzy for trolls. All diminished. Hollow, shallow and nothing whatsoever to do with leadership.
— Paul Gilbert (@LBCWiseCounsel) February 18, 2020
I’ll now proceed to TRASH IT! No, relax, I’m joking. Instead, I wish to get a little more specific.
If by trashing something Paul means consigning it to the dustbin, that would be too broad. Public discourse is enhanced when we cull bad ideas from the herd—let’s call that “legitimate trashing.” But legitimate trashing requires that you meet three requirements.
First, you have to pick your target. When considering whether to take something on in a blog post, I consider various factors. Is the trash in question noxious or just laughable? How big a soapbox does the trash purveyor possess? Does the trash in question take liberties with my work? More often than not I end up ignoring trash.
Second, you have to be in the right, and you have to demonstrate to reasonable and open-minded readers that you’re in the right. No trashing if you’re dealing with shades of gray.
And third, you have to get the tone right. You don’t have to be dry-as-dust, at least for purposes of social media: the first responsibility of the blogger is to be interesting. Depending on the target, I might permit myself some levity. Or a measure of indignation. But for academic articles, I do my best to avoid anything resembling invective.
For one example of what I hope is legitimate trashing, see today’s post on endeavours provisions. For another, see this 2019 post in which I review Bryan Garner’s book on contract drafting.
I don’t take any of this lightly. It’s a necessary part of doing what I do.
2 thoughts on “On Trashing Stuff”
Ideally, argument is disagreeing without being disagreeable.
More theoretically, argument a process by which persons who share premises (axioms, postulates, first principles) but find themselves in disagreement go back and try together to derive their respective positions from their shared premises, and in the process find out where one side went wrong.
People who don’t share premises cannot, technically speaking, ‘argue’, but they can certainly exchange vituperation and spite, much to the entertainment of those who like such displays.
In scholarship, my view is that it’s best to ignore such stuff.
In marketing, how can a seller ignore slander? If someone says your wood glue doesn’t glue wood, you have to hit back or kiss your livelihood goodbye.
In the middle ground, where one like you, Ken, are marketing scholarship, I have no advice to give, not having been there myself. You have probably found the right balance. Good luck with it.
Thanks for chiming in.