How The Principle Of Charity Feels From The Inside

  1. Read something that sucks. It’s super bad, and it’s about something important to you. Your blood pressure goes through the roof, you can’t wait to show all your friends how fucking stupid this moron who doesn’t even understand the in-group is!
  2. Start composing devastating takedowns in your head. Maybe draft a tweet or even a blog post. Really nail ’em to the wall. Twist their words around, placeholders in your mind to zillions of links full of counterevidence, etc.
    1. Start collecting those links for your epic rebuttal. Notice that a few of them maybe aren’t quite as devastating as you thought in this context. They’re still pretty good, but you’ll have to be careful to word your response in such a way that they land properly.
    2. Start writing the witty rebukes. Notice that they depend on a lot of assumptions, and you wouldn’t be happy if someone reinterpreted what you said so sloppily. You’ve still got some material, but it’ll take more work to really hammer it home.
  3. Commit to writing a longer, more thought-out takedown. You can still do it, but it’ll be a little less concise. Notice that your initial response wasn’t responding to quite what the original piece said, because you felt some connotations that made you angry. Track down evidence that your victim actually does mean all the really bad stuff, so you can still be angry.
    1. Turns out they aren’t quite as bad as you thought. They’re still wrong on this point, but they’re only wrong wrong, not like burn-at-the-stake wrong.
    2. Clean your piece up so that it is responding to the actual points of discussion, and not railing about what anybody “secretly means” or what other people who agree with them on this point might believe.
  4. Notice that your “devastating takedown” is no longer either; it’s now a pretty level headed response to a bunch of points that you disagree with and that you’re pretty sure you’re correct about.
  5. Realize that nobody cares about a 3000 word rebuttal to what turns out to be fairly minor points of actual disagreement just because you have different conclusions in the end.
  6. Accept that this is no way to win the culture war, but at least you’re not one of those assholes who shoots from the hip and ends up saying a bunch of dumb false stuff that only signals group affiliation and has no basis in actual truth.
  7. Hit “save draft,” sigh, and move on.
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