I was hesitant about explaining my analogy at the end of the article (writer E. B. White famously remarked that “analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies”, and I think the same can be said for figures of speech), but since you took the time to offer a thoughtful reaction to my words, I thought it fair to return the favor.
You’re correct in that I’m not comparing the impact of Twitter mobs and lynch mobs, as they are worlds and eras apart, which you thoroughly articulated in your historical description.
In that final statement, I was using the literary device of hyperbole to drive home an emotional point, and not an intellectual one. It can be used to great effect, as in this example from a Hunter S. Thompson article in which he describes Chicago:
“this vicious, stinking zoo, this mean-grinning, Mace-smelling boneyard of a city; an elegant rock pile monument to everything cruel and stupid and corrupt in the human spirit.”
Obviously, this isn’t a literal description of the city, nor is it intended to be one, but it’s used to describe the author’s subjective reaction to something that disgusts him, which is more or less what I was going for.
Another literary device I employed in that analogy was that of irony, or at least some sort of weird highbrow sarcasm. Of COURSE lynch mobs weren’t “sensitive” or “patient” — that should be clear from the fact that I negatively compared them to another (though far less dangerous) movement, that of angry Twitter mobs. Here’s the use of a similar type of irony from Albert Camus in his speech, “Create Dangerously”:
“Perhaps there is no peace for an artist other than the peace found in the heat of battle.”
“Peace” and “the heat of battle” are opposites of each other, and their marriage of contrast here creates a more powerful effect, I think, than if he were to simply say “Perhaps there is no peace for an artist, as they are always embroiled in the heat of battle.”
It works, but it lacks the poetic punch of the former.
At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I think you fundamentally misunderstood the meaning of that final analogy. If you were to criticize my attempts at word art or the point I was making, then it would be up to me to decide whether I should learn from you constructive criticism or wallow in my close-minded arrogance. But I won’t have the opportunity to learn anything from your reaction if you’re merely going to ascribe to me the second-to-worst intention, or simply call my words “obscene” or “venal”.
I was being intentionally artful and fanciful with my words in that ultimate statement to, like I said earlier, drive home an emotional point and not an intellectual one. I let my (hopefully) careful and detailed analysis that constituted the majority of the article do the bulk of the intellectual heavy lifting, and wanted to sign off with something that was straight from the gut.
Perhaps it was a bad approach, but my intentions were pure.
As an aspiring artist myself, I fear for the future of our creative class when it seems that every time an artist with a large audience says something objectionable, they’re faced with extreme and brutal reputational damage (and in many cases death threats) with no path to redemption, no opportunity for forgiveness.
That’s troubling to me, and it troubles me further that so many people are so dismissive of the harm that cancel culture has caused, and will continue to cause if left unchecked.
I want my words to reflect my fears, and believe me, nothing would make me happier to look back on my anti-woke articles and laugh at how alarmist I was.
But until audiences learn to accept that they can live peaceably with ideas and individuals they disagree with, I’m going to continue sounding the alarm.
Thank you for your thoughts.