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From the Wire: How to Write Negative Criticism

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire January 10, 2013 at 4:15PM

With Oscar nominations come Oscar reactions, where people tell you what movies were unfairly overlooked or foolishly overrated and why. People take these awards very seriously, and they can engender some strong feelings. If you see something today that drives you crazy -- whether it's a defense of "Zero Dark Thirty" or an assault on "Argo" -- and you want to respond to it, you may first want to read the new blog post by Vadim Rizov, a how-to guide to writing "fiery negative" criticism, specifically in reaction to other people's bogus arguments.
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"Network."
"Network."

With Oscar nominations come Oscar reactions, where people tell you what movies were unfairly overlooked or foolishly overrated and why. People take these awards very seriously, and they can engender some strong feelings. If you see something today that drives you crazy -- whether it's a defense of "Zero Dark Thirty" or an assault on "Argo" -- and you want to respond to it, you may first want to read the new blog post by Vadim Rizov, a how-to guide to writing "fiery negative" criticism, specifically in reaction to other people's bogus arguments.

His suggestions include eleven bullet points with sensible yet commonly ignored tips like "Don't go ad hominem," Think about the positive argument first," and "Be civil and email the person you're attacking." I confess that last one is something I've never thought to do -- email the person I'm attacking, I mean; hopefully I'm fairly civil (except to people who take shots at Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shall receive no quarter) -- but it's actually a nice, smart gesture. I may adopt that myself.

Meanwhile I've got the opposite problem with this tip:

"Minimize the apologetics
You're making an argument. You believe in it. Don't spend 13 paragraphs qualifying your argument or presenting devil's advocate statements against yourself. You know how annoying it is when someone apologizes to you orally at such length that they're not apologizing at all, just trying to get out of trouble? Perhaps you've been that person yourself. Don't be that person in print, which is even more tedious. Succinctly present your respect for the person you're attacking and get on with it."

As critics go, I'm not really much of a bomb thrower. It's just not in my nature. I like to see things from all sides, and I probably qualify or discount my arguments too much. I definitely could stand to spend less of those 13 paragraphs talking against myself.

I mean, look at what I'm doing right now: apologizing for apologizing. Clearly it's a problem. I'll work on it.

Read more of "How To Issue Fiery Negative Rhetoric on the Internet."

This article is related to: Vadim Rizov, From the Wire


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