If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

 Image from a Pennsylvania Ballet production of  Romeo and Juliet .

Image from a Pennsylvania Ballet production of Romeo and Juliet.

I've seen a lot of that on Twitter over the last couple of days.

And, no. I'm not going to go into the Andrew Smith thing.

I've been following it, for sure.

(For those of you who've somehow missed all of this, I'm linking to Chuck Wendig here, as he links to the original interview as well as a few others.)

I have opinions and thoughts and yes, feelings about it, but right now, my frustration is with the idea that criticism—especially criticism that comes from more than one corner, and in more than one voice—is somehow the same thing as being mean, as being a bully

Do I think that there were moments in which people took conversation from the impersonal—conversation about a specific statement and a specific oeuvre, yes, but not about the individual who made the statement, who created the art—to the personal? Well, this is the internet. So, yes. I have no doubt that there was some of that.

And no, that's not cool. It's not particularly conducive to measured debate, either, or to an open, honest dialogue.

But again, this is the internet. That sort of thing is not pleasant, but it's also certainly not unexpected.

What I see as far less cool, as far more unexpected—especially coming from a community that is supposedly BUILT around words and ideas and thoughtful discussion—is the all-or-nothing, black-or-white, us-versus-them mentality that is driving so much of the commentary surrounding the issue.

The idea that anyone who has anything critical or questioning to say about that statement or that oeuvre—or anything, really—is automatically labelled a bully or a hater or just part of some bandwagon mob?

The idea that a reader can't appreciate a book for some elements and take issue with others?

The idea that a reader can't enjoy a story but also find it problematic? 

The idea that a work of art has to be either ALL GOOD or ALL BAD?

The idea that a person is either NICE or NOT NICE, full stop? 

Do we really think people—and ideas and issues and culture—are that two-dimensional? 

Do we really think that our heroes, people with talent, artists and writers and thinkers, are incapable of being flawed? Do we think that the words of our heroes, people with talent, artists and writers and thinkers, shouldn't be questioned?

That isn't love. That isn't communication or friendship or interaction with people, with ideas, or with words. That's just unthinking, unquestioning devotion.

Do we really think that we shouldn't question, we shouldn't discuss, that conversation should only be nice?

Every time we question the status quo, someone's feelings are going to get hurt.

Hurting someone's feelings is NOT NICE.

So, by that rule of thumb, we should never question the status quo.

But if we never question anything, nothing will ever change. The status quo will be the status quo, forever and ever and ever. Which I guess would be great for a privileged few... but criminy, is that really what we want?