Monday, May 11, 2009


Arguing With Idiots

One thing about writing in the Korean media that's different from all my previous exposure is that you can pretty well count on a reply to what you publish. In response to my review of Tom Friedman's latest opus, I received the following from one David Blum, with the charming subject of "Are you a complete moron?"

To Rob York,

Okay, so you don't like Tom Friedman. I don't either. But instead of harping on his admittedly annoying writing style, address his arguments. They're poor, and easily refuted (save for the stuff on global warming), but if you have a problem with green alarmism, address with the facts and logic, not rhetorical slights.

And the bit about the trees cut down for his book was truly the ultimate in hack.

For some reason some Korean barely literate in English gave your sorry ass a column. Make arguments, or stop. If you have a problem with my comments, email me and I will tell you exactly where you can meet me.

David Blum
Cheong-ju, South Korea

Responses such as these are truly discouraging, but not for the reasons our good Mr. Blum would probably like them to be. In one sense, you can measure your stature as a writer based on who your critics are and how they critique you. Friedman, loathe as I am to admit it, is doing pretty well for himself based on the fact that he's got someone like Matt Taibbi writing masterful pieces dedicated to shredding his work.

Ayn Rand probably didn't appreciate it at the time, but she inspired one of Whittaker Chambers' best reviews when she wrote Atlas Shrugged.

Me? The only ones who deign to criticize me can't do so without employing schoolyard insults and threats of physical confrontation.

Now, I could've explained my reasons for writing the review the way I did. For one thing, it's a bad idea to argue with someone whose ideas are plainly illogical. Friedman's ideas are, as he says, easily countered, so why waste time doing that when it's a much more salient point to ask, as I do, why Friedman should be allowed to write this book (or any other) at all?

All thinking people should make it a rule not to argue with idiots, lest someone see us and fail to tell us apart. Unfortunately, in trying to explain that rule to poor Mr. Blum, I'd in effect be breaking it.

As mentioned on your BB, we argue for our limitations while we debate from strength.
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