for whom the bell trolls



N.B.: in the following rant, i purposefully maintain the (admittedly idiosyncratic) use of capitalization that as an artist i normally reserve for my more personal communication,  for reasons that i hope will become apparent.

the following rant grew out of my response to a comment that appeared on Alexander Higgins' Blog.  One Xavier saw fit to take aim at the indefatigable Alexander with the following forceful, if blunt, ad hominem attack because of...  a typo:

Xavier says...

“For those who think some random serious of events led up to this situation…”

“Serious of events” (?)
 
How illiterate are you?

How can you expect anyone to believe what you’ve written when you’re obviously dumb as a stump? 

1. newsflash: standardized spelling was not even considered desirable until relatively recentlyat the earliest, it began to be considered important in the middle of the 16th century.  

2.  this view was not held by most people until the beginning of the 20th century.  even then, the spellings themselves were not likely to be ones with which modern readers would be familiar or comfortable — notwithstanding the fact that they were the very same spelling variations upon which the most learned academic minds of the age agreed.  an example, from the same excellent Wikipedia article: 

By the 1870s, the philological societies of Great Britain and America chose to consider the matter.  After the "International Convention for the Amendment of English Orthography" that was held in Philadelphia in August 1876, societies were founded such as the English Spelling Reform Association and American Spelling Reform Association.... That year, the American Philological Society adopted a list of eleven reformed spellings for immediate use.  These were: arear, givegiv, havehav, liveliv, thoughtho, throughthru, guardgard, cataloguecatalog, (in)definite(in)definit, wishedwisht...  In 1883, the American Philological Society and American Philological Association worked together to produce 24 spelling reform rules, which were published that year.  In 1898, the American National Education Association adopted its own list of 12 words to be used in all writings.  These were: tho, altho, thoro, thorofare, thru, thruout, catalog, decalog, demagog, pedagog, prolog, program.


3.  before that time, there existed many variations, all equally right in the minds of honest, intelligent, believable individuals who settled upon these standards by use of the democratic process.  we assume they enjoyed the respect of their peers.  they did not come to this conclusion by some inborn instinctual apprehension of the Good, the True, and the Right.

4.  This respect was given and received for the content of written communications, not the outward form — an assumption that persists even today.  quaint though it may be, i think it one that is both civilized and correct (as perhaps you may gather from my own deliberate use herein of variant orthographical standards).  

5.  it is assumed that typographical errors are not errors of substance, but only of form.  the writing process takes on many forms, many means to the finished product, not one of which is better than another.  otherwise the use of a spellcheck would be a form of cheating or misrepresentation of oneself.  it is not.  this is why, before the advent of the personal computer, the final copy or 'proof' was 'read' by someone other than the author: to catch such errors.  this is why there is a spellcheck function included with most word processing programs today.  then as now: perfection would be unlikely even given reasonable effort. a civilized response would therefore be one tolerant of minor discrepancies.

6.  the word happened to be a correctly spelled word in its own right: "serious."  thus the matter over which a supposedly superior judgement took such umbrage was not, in fact, one for which an alert would be triggered by any modern spellcheck, and easily could have escaped a more traditional editorial methodology. 

7.  the most diligent of modern citizen publishers could therefore have made the same mistake.  to judge the worth of intellect based upon a mere typo, based upon an accident (and one as likely to befall even the best of bloggers posting today), is itself illiterate.  

8.  taken to their logical conclusion, hypotheses such as these do nothing to elevate the global conversation or hasten the evolution of critical thought.  these are the ends, so desperately needed now, the achievement of which has inspired so many of us global citizensthis is why more and more of us, journalists, bloggers, videographers, and so forth, seek to make our voices heard upon the modern miracle that is the World Wide Web.   
9.  the Web is so miraculous precisely because it is forgiving and reasonably easy to use.  it follows that typos such as that above are necessarily forgiven by the unspoken agreement of all those intelligent enough to see that the error itself could have happened to anyone, that judgement based upon such an arbitrary event would be unfair, and that to have somehow escaped such a fate is by no means an indication of intellectual prowess or strength of character.  the skills required to transmit the matter of one's ideas faithfully are not ones of which only a few of us are capable.  once put thusly into perspective, once considered against the backdrop of the political matter (Obama Invokes NDAA Declaring Threat From Iran A National Emergency) that was the original subject of the post, such a typographical accident is so trivial as to be almost meaningless.  

10.  "almost meaningless" — because — it serves as an allegorical parallel to the bigoted, intolerant, small-minded, violent criminal stupidity, from which cloth, with a mature and technological expertise, the Magick of Modern Propaganda has fashioned the ludicrous distraction known as the "Global War on Terror." that such a comment was proffered upon evidence so slender is certainly fitting, poetically just, and illustrative of the prevailing mindset that is perhaps the only real enemy we as a species have.  this is why i saw fit even to grace such a remark with a reply. 

in conclusion, let me address the author of the comment directly: 

considering with what we as modern humans are faced, if such comments are all of which you are capable, your power has been diverted, processed, used, and will likely be used up and disposed of without ever once being relevant, much like a tree felled for junk mail never once read.  if you demand nothing more of yourself, it is you, sir, who will never be believed; it is you who are "dumb as a stump."