Posted by: Chris | September 29, 2010

Chris Armstrong Watch and the Death of Ridicule

Since the Lure beat the LSM to the punch on discovering CAW, it only makes sense that we preempt their inevitable “big picture” articles set to come out next week.

The surprising aspect of the coverage thus far has been the mixture of hushed seriousness and sturm und drang with which most commentators have approached the proceedings.  Shirvell’s website has been called, amongst other things, “below the belt and beyond the pale”, a “Disgusting Cyber-Bullying Campaign” and “the worst kind of “smear the queer” campaign”, as well as engendering all manner of handwringing about homophobia and legal issues.  Not to be outdone, Armstrong himself decided to go Churchillian in response:

“I will not back down. I will not flinch. I will not falter. I will not succumb to any unwarranted attacks. What I will do is I will carry on with the utmost pride and vindication”

What ever happened to responding to the utterly ridiculous with, well, ridicule?  Andrew Shirvell is a grown man and a legitimate member of the Michigan state government, who has taken to the Internet to make molehills into all kinds of mountain ranges and plastered his website with some of the most outlandish, baseless, and petty rants imaginable, all directed at a college student body president and his acquaintances.  He is definitionally pathetic and illegitimate, and the only proper response is to laugh in his face.  Instead, our culture of perpetual outrage has decided to treat Shirvell’s paranoid output with a tone of breathless unction and supercilious moral disapproval.  Instead of “You are a sad sack of crap,” the collective response has oscillated between “You are pure evil!” and “How dare you?”  The only commentator I have come across to even inch toward ridicule has been Anderson Cooper, who still feels obligated to backpedal into “How dare you?” territory.  Even more inexplicably, those mocking Shirvell are seen as somehow allying themselves with his cause, as if anyone who does not look upon the dreck of CAW with crossed arms and a frown might secretly be rooting for the guy.

The problem with outrage, as Andrew Sullivan very correctly noted a couple of years back with respect to the freakouts that regularly accompany OBL videos,* is it grants the objects of our opprobrium an undeserved legitimacy.  Getting angry and offended at the Shirvells only grants them the attention and their causes the consideration they seek.  It is a completely counterproductive response, a sensitivity born out of a fusion of PC liberalism, excessive litigiousness, and the indefatigable zero tolerance movement, all of which demand we treat any offense with the utmost seriousness and outrage.  It only gives a wider platform to those who would be long forgotten (or never even considered notable) had derision been the norm.  This is why Ann Coulter is able slink around the cable circuit into perpetuity, fanning the flames of her latest buffoonery, despite being a fantastically terrible writer whose claim to relevance stems from a bit part in the Lewinsky scandal.  This is why reality television “stars” earn themselves millions of dollars, despite being nothing but human garbage.  And this is why Andrew Shirvell and his nonsense have flitted across the Internet and television news, despite their blatant stupidity.  These people are undeserving of your loathing; it gives them too much credit.  We must learn to point and laugh.

A challenge for the readership: though this post is largely serious, it does contain some ridicule.  See if you are mature enough to tell the difference.

*I searched for this post, to no avail.  It has an excerpt from South Park on Osama, just so you know if you’ve found it, and is decidedly not this post, no matter what Google says.



  1. […] I enjoyed CF’s interesting (if cheeky) devil’s advocate response to my original post on the subject.  Using the words and wisdom of Martin Luther King, he argues that our opposition […]

  2. […] Jones takes the right approach to the whole Andrew Shirvell/Chris Armstrong business.  Its also incredibly funny to […]

  3. […] to them for this much: no matter how unbelievably ridiculous their message, egregious their grammar, or counterproductive their tactics, they know how to […]

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