Commentary | Dear anonymous

An open letter to people that read open letters

Do people only read The Daily to hate it? From the internet alone, it would seem an irrefutable proposition.

Oh look, another article about The Daily! I’m tired of them as well: the self-referential debates, the mock-heroic struggles made public, the name-calling, the inside jokes: it’s like Rape of the Lock but without wit. But here we are, you and I, reader and writer. We do not know one another, and we likely never will. All that unites us is the text, this text, printed on pulp paper, or loaded on HTML.

Among the many enigmatic aphorisms of French philosopher (sigh) Jacques Derrida, the most famous is: “There is nothing outside the text.” Whatever Derrida originally meant, we can take it that if we reconstruct meaning within a text, we cannot account for what is outside the text, namely the audience, context, and author. I italicize ‘author,’ for it is the most uncertain of all three outside-text criteria and the focus of the article.

Dear Daily-dissenters: enough with the hateful, bilious ad hominem remarks. Stop attacking the author.

I wonder why, considering I’ve been around the internet for nearly a decade now (in the most explicit, nihilistic territories, mind), I was so surprised to read the comments leveled at the article, “Dear Boot-Licking Apologists” (Commentary, November 8, page 8) and its author ‘Ethan Feldman.’ I use the scare quotes because I’ve never met the individual using that screen name, and therefore can pass no judgement on them. Even if I had met them, what kind of sanctimonious prick would I be to insult (or vouch for) them on a public forum, and why would that even be pertinent to a published article in a paper that prides itself on aspiring professionalism?

Our reactions should be based on the text alone; if we’re already on a witch-hunt, we lose the message.

Now, I wouldn’t claim to have some kind of godlike authorial voice on criticism, advocating any type of critical thinking over another, but the ‘nothing-outside-text’ approach prevents cheap shots like this one: “‘U5’ Philosophy student. On the Van Wilder Plan I see. This is a sad cry for attention.” Or my two other favourites: “YOU’RE A MORON, HOW DOES THIS GET PUBLISHED?????” and “Besides, it’s not like you can EVER get a job anyways. Goodbye and kindly fuck yourself.” Even the more restrained comments like, “Your poor logic and the insanity of this piece perfectly explains why you haven’t managed to graduate in 5 years,” are devoid of textual support, as if it were an absolute truth.

Of course, this is an utterly futile effort. To improve the quality of the internet is like shooting a water pistol at an oncoming tsunami. The internet always seems to me to be divided like the Biblical Red Sea: on one shore Wikipedia, and the other, 4chan.

However, I cannot stand to see such utter disrespect leveled against any fellow student, and their entire faculties of study. It was sad moment to see Feldman respond in the comments section with, “A lot of negativity came from this article and it’s nice to be addressed as a human being.” The problem is, going back to Derrida, that even the insults were intended to a human face, and not the arguments themselves. It may seem inhuman to remove authors from criticisms of their work, but ultimately I think it preserves their dignity as human beings.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the article (maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised) was the fact that these were McGill students, and that their skills in critical thinking didn’t seem to extend outside class.

Perhaps we at McGill should live up to our own myth of entitled privilege – the myth that we are better than everyone else – in class and out.

Marcello Ferrara is a U1 student in English and Geography. He can be reached at marcello.ferrara@mail.mcgill.ca. Come at me, bro. 


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