So, What Are You Really Reading?

Something interesting happens when you write something online.

To be sure, I’m just some random crank on the Internet who occasionally writes screeds that a few people read. Sometimes the ‘bots crawl through WordPress and give what I write a meaningless “like.” Sometimes someone connects with it and offers a comment.

Blogging has always been about having a way for me to work things out that randomly come into my brain. I’m not so vain as to regard blogging as anything other than something fun to let off nerdy “steam” that’s built up. Despite constantly hurling my voice at the world through podcasting, sometimes I return to it.

I’m Just a Simple Blogger

“Who’s the more foolish, the blogger or the fool who podcasts?” as Obi-Wan might ask. I do both because they’re fun, and when people like it for some reason, it’s even more fun. The terrifying thing is that this blog has, in one form or another, been around since the Prequels.

Anyway, what fascinates me is that frequently what I write isn’t the thing to which people are reacting. This has been true since the days of “Tony” trolling the comments panel, but I’ll take a recent blog as an example.

Not to Belabor the Point

Recently I wrote something highly critical of the Star Wars story group. It had sprung forth from a discussion I’d had with a friend of mine who kept his head low while the storm of Internet Outrage and Virtue Signaling attacked me, this blog, and my social media accounts.

If you didn’t read the blog, the point was simply that the “Story Group” was not as powerful, nor as all-knowing, as had been portrayed. [2019 EDIT: And that came to be accepted fact well after I wrote it, but was highly contentious at the time.]

Mistakes happened and stories introduced inconsistencies. In the era of “It’s All Connected,” that’s supposed to be what story groups are invented to prevent. Details in Story A should not contradict details in Story B, and vice versa.

This little sentiment was greeted with comments online that “I don’t understand how Hollywood works” (patently false, and a marvelous case of overstatement with the intent to insult) and that the “story group hasn’t f*d it all up.” (I’ll also note that neither commented on the blog itself; it was relayed to me via screenshot since I was off Twitter at the time. But I did see the person who jokingly recommended ritual suicide as the only way to prove my sincerest apology, which garnered no reaction from the blue-checked account who was leading the assault.)

At no point did I say that the Story Group had “f*d it all up.” At no point did I betray some lack of understanding of the mythical “Hollywood machine.”

But that was what people “read.” They “read” some universal condemnation of the Star Wars Story Group, and rose to defend them as if they’re all friends and super tight because someone RT’d them once.

When I invited one of them to re-read the blog, they admitted they saw my point. I wrote about the fact that the Star Wars Story Group is not as authoritatively powerful, nor all-knowing, as has been touted. I talked about how Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath books were both underwritten (my opinion, how dare I!) and serve no point aside from conveying some bullet points none but the most die hard fans will learn. If we’re living in the time of the Connected Universe, that’s doubly unforgivable by the rules of that game.

So What Happened?

There’s a brilliant piece of dialogue from a bit that was cut before the release of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Mia Wallace asks Vincent Vega if he listens, or waits to talk.

Maybe that’s why we’re all in so many arguments online nowadays. Maybe that’s why friendships fray on Facebook. We go into every conversation with our minds already made up, paying half-attention, and skimming instead of reading. We’re not actually “listening” the way we should, and have no interest in understanding.

Certainly, that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s circumstance. But it’d be nice if people took a second to ask if they “got” what the author was trying to say, instead of attacking.

It’s called giving the benefit of the doubt, and it was, at one time, the default starting point.