A baseball bat is never an acceptable debate tactic

Check this one off on the list of internet firsts for me – I had a complete stranger state he’d like to “challenge me” with a baseball bat to my head because he didn’t like my opinion on Wayne LaPierre being a horrible person. (Well, actually, he didn’t like a straw man of my opinion about gun control, but that is a subject for a different time.)

Straw man or no, why does the initial reaction involve talking about perpetrating blunt force trauma on a complete stranger and not a I think you [optional: you moronare totally wrong and this is why?

This should go without saying, but it’s not okay to engage in a public violent fantasy just because you disagree with someone. And immediately trying to excuse it by adding something to the effect of, “but I totally wouldn’t because I’m not actually a violent person” doesn’t make it any better. You still said it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube or unring the bell, pick your metaphor. Someone taking about baseball bats in one sentences and being a totally nonviolent person hahaha in the next is really not something that inspires me to trust the latter of the two opposing statements; it’s smarter to assume the worst because otherwise you could potentially, I don’t know, get hit in the head with a baseball bat.

If you didn’t mean it, why the hell did you say it?

Frankly, at that point it just feels like a pathetic little fig leaf. Maybe it should be followed up with a “wow you’re humorless can’t you take a joke?” since that’s classic. I can almost see that as something you’d joke about with people you know. I’ve “threatened” to punch a friend or two of mine in the cock, for example, and it was all good because everyone involved knew it was a joke. Because we’re all friends.

I am under no illusions that this person would actually take a baseball bat to me. To begin with, they don’t know me, let alone know where I live. And frankly, talk is incredibly cheap, particularly on the internet where you can say shit like that and never have to look the other person in the eye. That said, it still upset me. It made me angry enough that my hands shook. “Joking” or “speaking metaphorically” about hurting someone else isn’t a way to engage them in reasoned discourse salted with facts or even hyperbolic posturing. Bullshit talk about violence feels incredibly personal because things like that happen to real people, and it reads as an attempt at intimidation. It adds nothing to discussion. It cuts discussion off with an opening position that is hostile and devoid of reason.

So no. It’s not okay. It’s never okay.

This is the most damning thing, I think. I haven’t done it recently, but I’m 99.9% certain in the past I have said things along that vein, most likely related to wishing I could punch a politician or two in the face. I’ve now come to the conclusion that if I have made even vaguely threatening statements before, that was wrong, and I deeply regret it.

Joking with your friends is not the same as showing your ass on the internet and talking about a complete stranger that may some day soon read your statement. Words have meaning. I’ve committed to not saying things I don’t mean.

And I’m going to grow the fuck up.

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