Usually any posts or articles I write more or less run in line with Ron Popeil’s famous line of “Set it and forget it.” However this last post had me thinking later in the evening.
One of the site’s I contribute on a regular basis (SlopeofHope.com) posted my article “Uncle Warren” later that evening. The host of the site Tim Knight of Prophet® charts fame who also owns, and runs the renowned Slope of Hope financial blog (which by the way is one of the webs best financial blog communities to be found on the web anywhere) recently made a statement he personally was no longer writing any articles of disagreement that were ad hominem in nature. The more I though about the article; the more irked I became at myself. Almost as much as I was when writing about the subject matter. Which bugged me even more.
The more I thought about it the more I felt maybe I should follow his example. Although I have nothing to apologize for, it’s the idea that; was I taking a shot intentionally at someone just for the sake of an article?
Actually I wasn’t. It was the idea of people not thinking and following lockstep with people because the media puts them out front in a venue that far too many feel uncomfortable questioning the motives or reason behind the actions because of celebrity. i.e., “Vote for this candidate because this rock star says so.”
As I said in the article I respect Mr. Buffett, and what he has accomplished, but just like a rock star saying “vote for this candidate,” I get annoyed by the chorus that somehow screams out to validate their points and intellectually tries to intimidate anyone who questions their reasoning.
It can drive me crazy at times because I know far too many, and talked to even more about disastrous decisions they’ve made based on what they thought was “advice” given from some touted celebrity. (Not for nothing but I actually have personal friends that are actual rock stars with 4 Grammy nominations. To me they’re just guy’s I grew up with, but to others forgettaboutit! So on that subject I know a little more than most on how celebrity changes peoples view.)
So what I did was send Mr. Knight an email saying I had forgotten his pledge, and although I didn’t need to apologize I thought it was only right to try mirroring his pledge because if I was even thinking about it, then he must have a point. And I’m always up for self-improvement especially if maybe I’m the one who could use a little. (We all can. Only the arrogant think they never do.)
So with having some free time I decided to read the comments under my article. Well let’s just say a few things caught my eye. First off someone correctly pointed out I spelled Mr. Buffett’s name wrong. When I looked it wasn’t just once but multiple times throughout the article. (No excuse, that was sloppy of me.)
As many of you know I have a hard time spelling kat without spell checker to bring it to my attention. But writing an article is about success, in other words actually getting it written rather than perfection of grammar or spelling. It’s the ideas that count and I don’t doubt for a minute readers don’t understand that.
Usually when I meet someone and they say “Do you know you had 3 typos? As if they’re the elected grammar police. I normally reply, “Actually there were 5.” That usually ends the conversation right there.
But as I continued reading there was one who seemed intent on throwing cold water over my article. I have pretty thick skin, and you need to have it in my line of work. 10% of any room I enter to speak automatically has decided I know nothing and are intent to prove it any chance they get before they’ve heard me speak or read my work. That’s why those “smile sheets” speakers ask to be filled out are worthless.
What I noticed as I read the comments was they were actually proving my point on what I try to express. (i.e., not understanding the real issue or implications) Here’s an example: Remember the Bruce Willis and Apple® article I posted a while back? Supposedly Mr. Willis was suing Apple over his iTunes® collection. At the time this story was being reported everywhere, and it brought up a point I stated could change the relationship with Apple’s iTunes and customers in detrimental ways. It seems the story as originally reported may not be correct. Mr. Willis may or may not actually sue, however the reason for his outrage has not been settled and still stands. Who owns your iTunes collection? You? Or Apple? Whether Mr. Willis sues or not the crux of my argument is still at hand and not answered. Yet this person wants to pass it off as my “fact checking” is in need of repair. Again my article and points made still stand. Only thing known currently is Mr. Willis is not suing. The question remains. And one should be able to answer it. But as of today – you can’t.
Another point made was my reference to Mr.Chanos not making blanket statements on “just raise my taxes” in the fashion Mr. Buffett does. He posted statements, and sources to show how I was off base and don’t check facts. It’s understandable how one could think that way, however if you read the article, I thought I was making it quite clear that yes Mr. Chanos makes the arguments on raising taxes. However he details very thoroughly when he makes his arguments, what, where, why, and by how much he feels would be fair. He argues point for point why interest carried this way or that way is unfair. Why a fireman or teacher shouldn’t have to pay this or that, and just because of loopholes someone pays near zero as opposed to a middle class worker paying 30, 40, 50 or even more.
However what I was trying to get across was the absolute empirical difference between the two: One hasn’t already sheltered ALL their wealth from taxes, while currently fighting a BILLION dollar tax litigation fight as he’s touted and being cheered across the media with blanket statements like “my secretary pays more than I do.” as some defense of credibility.
Understanding the difference between the two is what is critical to critical thinking. The statements posted if said identically by both men have a different weight in their validity of argument. I thought that was self evident in my article. But I guess it wasn’t as clear as I thought.
So as we go into this holiday period I feel gladdened I actually wrote the article the way I did in the first place because it did two things: Made me try to live up to a higher standard unknowingly impressed on me by others I respect. (Tim Knight) While at the same time even if someone wants to cut my reasoning, or arguments apart I don’t mind. Because if I can’t repeat, or restate what I said or why I said it. I’d have no credibility with anyone. And it would show, as it should.
I respect you the reader far too much to ever just say something and not live by it or mean it. Like others I might write about. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
And just one final note. When I first emailed Mr. Knight explaining my decision to follow his standard with trying not to write using ad hominem references when possible he graciously replied back. Also noting I spelled ad hominem – ad homonym. Doh!
© 2012 Mark St.Cyr