5 Dismissive Arguments That You Only Use When You're Wrong
Have you ever realized in the first 10 seconds of a conversation that the person you're talking to is a complete moron? Maybe you're a nice person who politely wraps it up as best you can and then makes fun of them to your friends later. Or maybe you're an asshole who looks them dead in the eyes and says, "Oh. You're one of those. I'm going to stop talking to you now and go set my brain on fire."
That snap judgment is a filtering mechanism, one that saves a ton of time and effort by immediately deciding the person in front of us has nothing to offer. Everybody has that mechanism, and everybody needs it. The problem is that it's really easy to develop a hair trigger on the "Shut the Fuck Up" button. So you hear yourself saying things like ...
"Get a Life!"
How It Manifests:
You're in an online game of Shootface Corpsefucker, and you're just flat-out cleaning house. Some of the players aren't that great, and every time you nail one of them, they let loose with a geyser of homophobic slurs that would make Perez Hilton denounce penis. As the game ends, you notice that the guy with the lowest kills is going off in the chat window. (The following has been translated into human.)
"I can't believe you're calling that a win, using that cheapass shit."
You figure you'll put him in his place, because that always works: "You should stop crying and learn to play the game, pussy."
"By the way, I can touch boobs any damn time I want."
Surprisingly, he doesn't immediately apologize for his outburst and inappropriate comments. "Fuck you, [homophobic slur]. At least I have a life, you stupid [racial slur]. Of course you're going to win when all you do all day long is sit in your parents' basement, play this game and [graphic homophobic and racial combo insult]."
Before you can finish vomiting and retort with something that will really get him, he logs out and is gone forever.
"I'm like a ninja that throws racism!"
Why We Do It:
Even in a setting where we're all playing a video game, this is one of the world's great go-to insults: "You're a loser who spends all of your time on frivolous things!" Get into an argument on the Internet and it's "At least I don't spend all day on this stupid message board, like you!" If I'm arguing with someone while shirtless, it's "Go work on your abs some more, Captain Six-Pack! Maybe you should spend a little time READING instead of polishing that clearly visible erection!" Everything I might say is rendered invalid on the premise of "You have no experience, because you clearly spend all of your time on bullshit instead of what's important."
And no, I'm not going to be a hypocrite here -- I still do this. Pull up any of my articles where I'm talking about a teenager having no experience yet and you'll see me doing it on a more subtle level. The rare few hate mails I've responded to have seen it in full force.
It's always wrong, of course. Even my gamer example up there is assuming that skill is directly tied to the amount of time invested. "I've played this game six hours a day since it came out, and I'm able to average 15 kills per game. This guy just got 30 kills, so he must play 12 hours a day. What a loser." And even if that were true, there's the further assumption that the time played was all spent at the cost of a career or meaningful relationship -- that's why they throw in the "you live in your parents' basement" line. Even though I've never actually met a person who lives in their parents' basement and does nothing but play video games.
Now, the bathroom, on the other hand ...
But of course, the truth isn't important -- it's just a means to dismiss them so you don't have to think about them any more.
"You Need to Get Your Priorities Straight!"
How It Manifests:
A son comes home from school and asks his dad if he can borrow the car and a hundred bucks. The dad adjusts his expression from "just closed a porn window as you were walking in" to "how do I tell him to fuck off politely" and asks why. The son has a date this weekend, and he wants to go somewhere besides McDonald's and the Walmart parking lot. He'll need money for gas and food and a movie -- and before he can finish presenting his case, he's interrupted.
"I don't think a 17-year-old needs that much money. In fact, I don't think you really need to be going anywhere this weekend. You're barely pulling a C in algebra, and you need to get that up if you're going to get into a good college. You need to get your priorities straight, starting with that grade. Girls can wait."
The son throws his bandanna on the floor and adjusts his Blind Melon T-shirt, because this story is in the '90s, and protests, "This is bullpoop! I'm sick of you trying to hunch up my life! You are not a very nice person, father!"
"Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go call my girlfriend on my giant cellphone."
He storms into his room to write a poem about it, and the conversation is over.
Why We Do It:
The lesson here is not "Teenagers should always be given any amount of money they request at any time." I use the father/son example because that's one case where it is incredibly easy to completely dismiss the concept that someone else may have different priorities from you. Not because they're stupid, but because they're in a completely different phase of their life. The priorities of that teenager are to get through school and maybe touch a few boobs along the way. When the opportunity for nipples presents itself, it quickly jumps to the top of the list -- priorititties? The dad's priorities are based around work, taking care of the family and squeezing in a few nipples of his own via a 56k modem. Because it's the '90s.
The modern version of rock and chisel.
So he doesn't want a long and complicated argument during which he might realize that, in fact, learning how to socialize and date and have relationships is part of what a teenage boy goes to school for. The dad wants it to be simple -- his son is a student, and a student is all he is, and those grades are all that matters. Anything else is a frivolous waste. End of conversation.
And you can carry that "Why doesn't this person live their life exactly like ME?" judgment with you your whole life. It's why your great-grandmother can still be a horrible racist after all these years while you have narrowed yours down to just French Canadians.
"Shhhh. You'll alert the Mexicans to our presence."
It's a way of saying "What you're saying doesn't matter because on my list of things to worry about, there are seven other topics that take precedence. When we take care of those, then we can talk about your thing." Knowing full well that those top seven will never be completed. Boom, another conversation successfully buried.
"If You've Got Time to Lean, You've Got Time to Clean!"
How It Manifests:
You underestimated your budget this month. We've all done it, and yes, you have every right to feel embarrassed about it. Especially since right before your checking account went into overdraft mode, you bought the stupidest thing ever created, or ever will be created, for any medium in the entire history of all forms of entertainment: Star Wars Kinect, featuring a mode where you have to enroll Han Solo in a dance-off.
Now you're screwed on rent, so you call your mom and ask her for a few hundred bucks until your next paycheck. And she gets pissed. "Why don't you have rent money? What did you spend yours on? I know you're not broke because you called me, crying, just two nights ago about that Star Wars game. If you've got money to spend on video games, you've got money to pay your rent."
Seriously, did they have to make the word "Great" shoot out of his crotch like that?
Whether she helps you or not, you end up feeling pretty stupid, and as a result, you never bring it up again. The next time you get in a bind, you find that she's moved down a few places on your list of people to call for help.
"Honey, have you tried stripping? I hear they make very good money if you grind a little extra on the lap dances."
Why We Do It:
Deep down, she knows you didn't look at that game and say, "Know what? Fuck rent. I have to dance. I'm Han Solo." She also understands that people make financial mistakes, so she's not secretly thinking, "What a colossal, ignorant pile of shit my son turned out to be." If she is that type of person, stop talking to her. Forever. That shit ain't normal.
See, I don't think you're quite understanding just how bad it is.
This is one of those forms of dismissal that's rarely done out of malicious intent. In fact, it's usually done with the opposite in mind. They're subconsciously trying to shame you into learning a lesson, and it's not quite the same as "get your priorities straight." In this version, they're holding your actions up to their schedule and budget and saying, "I could make this work. Why can't you? It's not like you have a Jabba to answer to." They're dismissing your excuse in order to avoid hearing a rationalization for your ordeal.
"OK, I'll help you out, but just know that I wiped my ass with that bill."
It's the reason it's so easy to withhold sympathy from rich people. We look at how we're living, and think, "Man, if I had that kind of money, I wouldn't have another problem for the rest of my life." And that's simply not true. You're assuming your living style would remain exactly the same as it is right now, only with more money. You're putting their problems into your life formula, and it just doesn't fit. "He's in debt? Bullshit, look at the house he's living in." I still do that -- it's such a hard habit to break.
And it's the same with time. "I gave you two weeks to complete a 20-page assignment. Why is it only 18 pages? I noticed you've had time for football games. You've got time for that, but not for my class? Maybe I should have a talk with the coach about your participation level." They're completely ignoring literally everything else that's going on in the student's life because it's so much easier to dismiss the excuses than to confront them.
"Now if you want this extra credit, you get up here and let me whip you in the balls until you pass out."
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 3
"The Motorized Cart Is for the Handicapped, You Fatass!"
How It Manifests:
You're at the store, and you hear an electrical whir behind you. You turn around to find someone with an extreme weight problem waiting for you to sidestep so they can get by and -- shop faster? I don't know, I just always picture them ramping things once they're out of my sight. Depending on your douchebag level, reactions vary. Nice, understanding people won't have any reaction at all. They'll get out of the way and continue their inner debate on ham- or pizza-flavored Hot Pockets. True cocksuckers will film it and put it on YouTube:
And we allow it because fat people are the targets of the last true universally accepted bigotry. They're the one group we can laugh at and not feel like we've done anything wrong.
Why We Do It:
Whether the disabled want it or not, when we see them, most of us feel sympathy. It's a natural reaction, and it can't be helped any more than you can prevent feeling anger and humiliation when you find yourself having to dance in the middle of a fucking Star Wars game. But we only have room for so much sympathy, and when we see someone who's overweight on our precious motorized carts meant for real handicapped people, we get pissed.
Hell yeah, Grandma. You earned that cart. Do a wheelie on that bitch.
In making fun of them, or the opposite of getting mad at them, we're dismissing the fact that they have an actual, real world disability because in our minds their handicap is easily curable. We see their problem solely as one of willpower -- and let's face it, that idea is not totally without merit. The most common cause of obesity is overeating combined with physical inactivity. So when we see them in the store, that assuming side of us is what causes our heart to skip a beat and makes us sprint to the Twinkie section before they get there. And what caused me to write that joke.
We don't see the other factors, like hypothyroidism, Cushing's, depression, poverty ... we just see them as a punchline, because the humor dismisses anything that could make us possibly feel any empathy for them. It's just easier to throw them all into the pot of "lazy, undisciplined eat machines." Hey, if it's their fault, it's not on our conscience.
Look at that piece of shit. Don't you just want to chop off his face?
How It Manifests:
You're at a party, and some genius decides that the best way to entertain a group of people is to start talking about religion or politics. It always starts out the same way: with people explaining their beliefs and ideas in calm, rational voices. But if left unchecked, it quickly devolves into name calling, and before you know it, people are shitting directly into their palms and launching it at each other, screaming, "DIE, INFIDEL!"
Those who resist the urge to join the battle, or simply didn't have enough fiber in their diet, generally end the debate with a condescending "You actually believe that? Huh. That's cute." That one response has successfully blown off every word that anyone has said to them on the subject and lets everyone in the room know "I'm no longer listening to anything you're saying. Right now, while you're speaking, all I hear is the Han Solo song."
Look at him. He's so happy the carbonite is gone.
Why We Do It:
Beliefs aren't just knowledge. They're the software that manages our entire motherboard. Every action, reaction, decision, judgment, plan -- everything we do is determined by that set of rules. It takes decades to program something that complex, and your brain does not like it one bit when someone introduces an idea that tries to rewrite those rules. To your mind, that's like someone trying to hack your operating system to only play videos of Han Solo effeminately dance-battling Lando Calrissian.
I truly think this is how George Lucas originally envisioned Star Wars.
The best defense the human brain has against this is to completely dismiss those external ideas by deeming them too stupid to even allow inside. I am as guilty of this as any person who has ever lived.
It's why we look at powerful or famous people and slap that label on them when they do something we just flat-out don't agree with. George W. Bush is a perfect example of that. Regardless of whether or not you disagree with his politics, just blowing him off as "dumb" is about the worst way to debate his worth. Yep, he couldn't speak in public for shit, but he did something most of us couldn't do: graduate Yale, get a business degree from Harvard and become president. Dismissing him as just stupid closes the door on actual conversation about what made him such a huge disappointment in the eyes of the average American.
We do it with everything that's locked inside that core belief system. My atheist friends constantly insult the intellect of my religious friends and vice versa. Liberals and conservatives. Anti-abortion and pro-choice. Pro gay marriage and people who are all like, "Ew, those people touch each others' matching genitals."
I'm just sayin'.
We've been utilizing these dismissals for so long that I think we've lost sight as to what it actually is and what it does to those we use them on. I'd like to say that we should all stop doing it, but I'm not entirely sure that's possible. But at the very least we can catch ourselves doing it, right? Keep your eyes open and see how many times you do it in a week. I think you'd be surprised.
For more Cheese, check out 5 Ways to Avoid Your Terrible Parents' Mistakes and 5 Ways We Ruined the Occupy Wall Street Generation.