There have been a lot of comments about Thapa’s piece that he’s put out concerning the problems with the selling of narratives in MMA. Many of those comments aren’t about the actual content of the piece, but rather whether the piece is “too long.” I’d like to do my own analysis of these complaints, which I believe fall into three different categories and then give my opinion about the validity of each.
First off, I’ll note that I’m not hugging Thapa’s balls here. The stuff about The Reem was probably haphazardly thrown in (distracting from the main point but still interesting, even if I don’t agree with every word of that section), formatting could be better to break up sections, and maybe some points could be made more succinctly without losing any of the conveyed information. However, my critique of the criticism has a larger purpose and is meant to defend the general idea of complex long-form pieces as part of Bloody Elbow by discrediting the jab of “TL;DR.”
There are three types of complaints that I’m seeing.
(1) That the length is indicative of actual flaws in the attempt to communicate such as (a) confusion of issues/irrelevant discussions; (b) superfluous words/sections (so that a reduction in length could happen without actually losing any complexity/nuance/content); (c) too much background material which all of the audience already knows; or (d) given the length, some sort of sub-headings or other formatting in necessary in order to increase readability.
(2) The pragmatic criticism which admits that there are, in fact, people who read this site who are too busy/lazy/stupid/etc to read a longer piece and that it would have been better to reduce the length of the piece (even at the cost of reducing complexity/information/nuance/etc) so that more people would have absorbed a lesser amount of information rather than have fewer people absorb more information.
(3) The criticism that solely because the complainant personally is too busy/lazy/ADD/stupid/etc to read this longer piece the reader has the right to demand (and the on the flip side the author has a duty to make) the piece be shorter so that it will be intelligible to the complainant.
Type (1) criticisms seem to me to be completely reasonable. While there can be disagreement about whether a written piece contains type (1) errors, the fact that if such an error exists it should be criticized is undeniably reasonable.
Type (2) complaints boil down to having a different weighing of the cost-benefit analysis regarding the point of the written piece. A complaint on this level is implicitly arguing that it would be in the author’s best interest to spread less information more widely than more information to a curtailed audience. Such a complaint is relevant and helpful only insofar as the author has misjudged the actual outcome of his intended actions.
Type (3) complaints are the ones that I don’t understand at all. What is the unstated premise here? That your lack of time/attention/intelligence imposes an active duty upon another party not to write a longer piece? The only possible justification for this I can think of is the idea that it’s just “unfair” that there is in existence information that one is incapable of understanding and that to preserve the complainant’s feelings we should make sure to keep the discourse at a level that everyone is able to understand at the expense of actually communicating more complex information.
As an aside, if one says “well, what I’m really saying is that to keep the Bloody Elbow community cohesive and discourse lively it would be better to have pieces that everyone is able to understand.” That’s really a type 2 criticism. One would be saying that it is actually in the writer’s best interest to dumb down the piece. I’m not targeting those that are saying this.
Instead, I’m saying that type 3 complaints are the equivalent of yelling NERD! to make yourself feel better about your intellectual inferiority. Are you slaves that need to redefine characterizations of conduct and personality traits so that your own personal characteristics are considered good while those of the others are called evil? (Yes, I just made a Nietzsche reference). While such behavior might protect your feelings and produce trial solidarity, they end up reducing the actual amount of information available in the world.
Somewhere, someone must go through the hard process of thinking up and supporting complex thoughts with complex arguments in order for those ideas to eventually trickle down to those with less capacity to understand. To take an example, do you think the idea of “rights” just popped out of nowhere? Heck no. There has been an over 2000 year long tradition (which I’ll skim over briefly and lose some accuracy here in doing so) from the pre-socratics to Plato, to Aristotle, to Cicero, to Marcus Aurelius, to Aquinas, to Hobbs, to Hume, to Locke, to Kant, and so on and so on which was required to hammer out exactly what might be meant by this idea of “rights” that you go along so blissfully possessing that you think nothing of trying to shame someone into dumbing things down by throwing the internet equivalent of rotten fruit: TL;DR.
If the reason for your complaint about this piece is anything other than a Type 1 or 2 complaint just shut up. You don’t have a right to demand that information only be communicated in ways that you can understand. There’s no duty or prohibition on others to keep their level of discourse at low. Attempts to do so only contribute to the downfall of our once great civilization.
I am sure that I’ll get my own catcalls about TL;DR and ad hominem attacks that I’m an elitist or that this is just MMA why am I taking it so serious, etc. If that’s all you have to say just don’t bother. I love MMA, I love to talk about it, but a large part of why I love to talk about it and love to think about it is that visceral sports like MMA can teach us a lot about ourselves and our society outside of just turning off one’s brain and enjoying the pleasurable sensation of an adopted tribe member (our favorite fighters) acting as proxies for ourselves as they attempt to defeat adopted members of the opposite tribe (our hated fighters). A defense of attempts of long-form journalism about MMA is needed.
The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.