Quotes of the day, April 30 2014: An analogy showing what everyone’s ironic humor is really about

“Competent people do not fear corrections, because they know they’re getting things 90% right, and that’s all you can hope for in this world.

It’s the incompetents who are fearful that their next screw-up may mean their heads.”

– A blog post on the internet (see below for source) [1]

“What I love about [this] is its honesty. Most entertainment nowadays doesn’t allow itself to be sincere, to commit to its ideas with a straight face.

Our fascination with the ‘ironic’ has forced entertainment to grow entirely too self-conscious. Everything’s got to be done with a smug self-awareness, lest the public accuse it of taking itself too seriously, or otherwise mock the idea of a movie or book that believes its own silly contrivances.

We have a deep sense of shame in our culture now. In a world where privacy is less and less tangible, we’ve become too ashamed of our own personalities to share too much of them, afraid we’ll be made fun of or guilted in some way.”

– A video on the internet (see below for source) [2]

Irony is to narcissism what inferiority is to megalomania.

An inferiority complex and megalomania almost always go hand in hand, one hiding behind the other. The person who loudly talks about how they are better than everyone else secretly fears they are worse than everyone else, and the person who constantly mumbles about how inferior they are secretly believes they’re the most awesome thing around, most especially because of their amazing and awe-inspiring humility.

It wasn’t until I ran across the two quotes above — from wildly different sources — on the same day that I realized irony and narcissism have the same symbiotic relationship.

Irony is the “aw-heck-it’s-all-just-a-joke-you-didn’t-take-me-seriously-did-you” catch-all defense.

  • Did you say something that offended someone else? – It’s all just a joke, you didn’t mean it!
  • Have you offended someone else so often they are starting to avoid you? That’s just how friends get along, the other person doesn’t understand you didn’t mean it!
  • Said some things that in retrospect aren’t really reflective of who you are, or are logically incompatible with other statements you’ve made? Well, it’s other people’s fault for taking you so seriously, they should know better, you were just being ironic!

Underneath all the irony are some pretty unpleasant assumptions about things the speaker is entitled to. The speaker shouldn’t have to stand by their statements. They shouldn’t be expected to think about their statements or the intent or motives behind their statements before they open their mouth. They shouldn’t be held responsible for their statements or what happens when other people take them at their word after the statements are made. Because they didn’t mean anything they said and shouldn’t be held responsible for anything they do, they shouldn’t ever have to admit shame, guilt or remorse — unless they’re admitting their faults ironically, and then it’s okay because they don’t mean anything they say anyway.

And that gets back to the first quote: people who want to actually accomplish things try their best and are clear with other people about what they’re actually trying to do. And sometimes they fail. But sometimes they succeed too.

[1] Ace, Ace of Spades, “USAToday Stealth-Edits on the Ukraine Leaflets Story”, April 17 2014 (site last visited April 30 2014)

[2] Jim Sterling, Movie Defense Force (regular column), The Escapist Magazine (host site), “The Chronicles of Riddick”, January 9 2014 (site last visited April 30 2014)

I’m putting the citations for these at the end of this post. Mostly because the overall topics involved carry so many connotations with them I couldn’t think of a way to cite them above that wouldn’t (probably) distract the reader from the point I was trying to make with this blog post.

Very serious topics like anti-Semitism, honesty in media, and the current mess in the Ukraine and whether we should get involved or not are all things that tend to get people feeling very adamant emotions about very adamant opinions in a real hurry. And very unserious topics like the movie The Chronicles of Riddick tend to make people turn off their brain and not think serious thoughts at all, again in a real hurry.

Even though the two sources for these quotes were published weeks apart, I ran across them on the same day almost two weeks ago. I was really startled when I realized they were both saying the same thing.

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