This is stupid.Posted: April 12, 2011
What is it about Twitter that makes smart people embarrass themselves publicly?
Ayelet Waldman, the wife of Michael Chabon, an author in her own right and the writer of such controversial articles as this one, with its one, oft-quoted line: “I love my husband more than I love my children” went on a random Twitter rampage about another
white lady controversial author, Katie Roiphe. Apparently Roiphe wrote an article two years ago that mentions a Chabon book. Note, I said ‘mentions’. For the article is not concerned with Chabon, in fact, it’s commenting, rather broadly, on changes in male authors’ depictions of sex over time.
For whatever reason, Waldman decided to go crazy on Twitter this morning:
I am so BORED with Katie Roiphe’s ‘I like the sexist drunk writers’ bull****. She happily trashes my husband, but guess what b****? … He not only writes rings and rings and rings around you, but the same rings around your drunken literary love objects … Really Roiphe? You seek ‘slightly greater obsession w/ the sublime sentence.’ My husband’s sentences are INFINITELY more sublime than yours.
Waldman is responding to this civil quote from Roiphe:
This generation of writers is suspicious of what Michael Chabon, in “Wonder Boys,” calls “the artificial hopefulness of sex.” They are good guys, sensitive guys, and if their writing is denuded of a certain carnality, if it lacks a sense of possibility, of expansiveness, of the bewildering, transporting effects of physical love, it is because of a certain cultural shutting down, a deep, almost puritanical disapproval of their literary forebears and the shenanigans they lived through.
Why so much hostility, Ms. Waldman?
These Twitter battles are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and (worse) people that are supposedly above this sort of sophomoric name-calling are getting themselves involved with the fray. So unnecessary. So unwarranted. It’s like James Franco freaking out over Oscar telecast writer Bruce Vilanch ‘s joke about Franco’s Oscar hosting performance. Who ends up looking uber-sensitive? Well it ain’t Bruce Vilanch.
Whenever public figures decide to dip their toes in the proverbial water, so to speak, and respond to a professional or personal affront, they almost always wind up looking silly. Responding to mean-spirited (or in Roiphe’s case, perfectly civil) statements in a histrionic fashion doesn’t reflect your words of wit. It makes you look like a thin-skinned 13 year-old. Case in point, I was reading Paris Review’s culture diaries, and one anonymous Internet commentator made some ludicrous statement about how awful the piece was. The writer decided to respond by insulting said commentator (albeit very cleverly). A subsequent online argument ensued.
Is it worth it? These are questions I ask myself, whenever I decide to comment on an article (which is not often). If someone makes a glaring fallacy, something so absurd or trenchantly wrong, then I feel compelled to reply. But always, I try to respond civilly, to not incite unnecessary vitriol, to think carefully and thoughtfully of my words. But others decide to type in a furor. You see this all the time on YouTube.
Basically, the Internet is a frightening entity. Suddenly, people I’ve admired from a distance can dampen my respect with an ill-worded Tweet or hastily typed comment. No one is safe.
So maybe what I really mean to say is, we’re all a little stupid.