In 20 years as a newspaper columnist it has never ceased to amaze me how many people think they are applying logic to a given subject when they don’t even get within rock throwing distance of logical thinking.
Most of the rhetoric generated by what I write has nothing to do with my actual words, but are rants about something readers have assumed I believe about something that may or may not be remotely connected.
Example: I recently commented on an uproar over a Planned Parenthood website listed on material handed out during a class on sex education. More specifically, it was a video geared towards young people about the dangers of unprotected sex that upset so many people.
My column was aimed at the dangers of leaving young people in the dark about protecting themselves against disease and pregnancy.
The video was not shown at school but was available on the Planned Parenthood’s website. In order to see it, students had to look it up on their own time. In Tennessee, there is a standard curriculum for sex education, no matter who teaches it, so I suggested it was Planned Parenthood’s association with abortion, not the video that had upset so many parents.
I did not state a position on abortion and was upfront about the fact that the video was almost guaranteed to offend parents. I pointed out that it was not geared towards parents but towards the most savvy generation of young people in our history. Then I emphasized that the video was not shown at school.
Most of the e-mail that came to me was favorable, but less so on the electronic version of the newspaper. The readers proceeded to say that I had endorsed abortion, was teaching a liberal slant on education and that I was an “aging hipster” trying to hold on to my youth.
None of the criticism addressed my subject matter. Instead they attacked abortion, which proved my point. In all likelihood, most who sent nasty comments never watched the video, at all.
If you push the “up” button on an elevator, it goes up and if you press the “down” button it goes down. I guarantee that a column expressing this opinion would result in letters attacking elevator companies for jerky rides or building owners for not keeping the elevators cleaner – with the occasional criticism that elevators sometimes fall, even when the “up” button is pushed.
Logic is a position that many people never discover. Instead, they use the comments section as an excuse to call names and release venom.