It’s insufficient for writers merely to cobble together electronic countermeasures to security breaches in our software; we are culpable for serving as municipal “coal mine canaries,” for thinking about, and for responding to, vaster issues of well-being, including principled communication, or the growing lack thereof. Meaning, for wordsmiths, personal surety needs to be less of a concern than does society’s scarcity of critical and creative thinking. We can’t let duplicitous, bleeding hearts and moral vagabonds spur our population to action. We ought not to allow caitiffs to rouse humanity. Rather, we folks possessed of some amount of rhetorical dexterity are compelled to insure that for every existent false claim, there’s at least an equal measure of expressed truth.
See, most denizens are disinterested in in-depth studies of institutional forces or of data which bring to light civilization’s follies. In humanity’s paramagnetic substrate, aka in “our collective,” the cancellation of atomic spins is incomplete to the degree that sociopolitical missiles employing ideological toxins remain fast acting. In other words, modern sociopolitical muck is thick and plentiful and it’s partially up to word slingers to provide solvents capable of dissipating it.
To wit, ideally, we journalists and our professional kin would address the dearth of veracity, all the while publically demonstrating that mephitic matters miff us. We would operate as cultural vanguards, accordingly emancipating everyone else from current pools of analytical meekness (we might even aspire to avoid clichés and mixed metaphors, but we’d be information superheroes whether or not we shed our garish verbal costumes.)
More exactly, we scripters must return to radical explorations of, and to radical utterances about, civic accountability. We necessarily have to reify our calling and necessarily have to tolerate dissonance born from the language of and the topics within discourse if we are to better enlighten our associates. Furthermore, at least at some level, it behooves us to wean ourselves from any comfortable dependencies, which we have, on others’ opinions of ourselves.
Unfortunately, plentiful anecdotes suggest that we fashioners of manuscripts are enlarging the frenzy of social senselessness, not diminishing it. We’ve become morally silent, dead, and blind. As Frederick Bruce Bird writes in The Muted Conscience: Moral Silence and the Practice of Ethics in Business, “moral silence, moral deafness, and moral blindness…represent three different but interrelated deficiencies with respect to the corresponding moral virtues of speaking up for moral concerns; attentively being ready to respond to moral issues; and being able to perceive, recognize and acknowledge moral realities.”1
Not only are we creators of assemblages of words failing to advocate for the disempowered, but we are correspondingly, albeit figuratively, stepping on each other’s faces to elevate ourselves among social strata. As well, not only do we shy from opposing dishonorable provocations, but, over and again, we tender excuses when we yield ground. What’s more, not only have we writers become lazy about searching out and defeating axiological inappropriateness, but we have separately become used to advertising the benefits of minimalizing, denying, and rationalizing the evil of those obstructions.
First, we designers of texts abandon our communal duties by making illegal use of others’ work.2 Plus, we use fake facts in our work. Not only do we fail to champion magnanimity, we defy it! There are numerous stories of authors, some of whom maintain their popularity, who plagiarize. Likewise and equally disastrous, there are plenty of “writers” who either fabricate data, i.e. the world’s Janet Cookes, or who fabricate their professional standing. One of the most bizarre examples of the latter is persons who assert that their books have been “Pulitzer Prize nominated,” when, in fact, those authors paid a submission fee to the Pulitzer Prize organization, yet never had their “opuses” read, let alone recommended. 3 Beyond contributing to the present-day moral morass, rather than speaking against it, creatives make shared matters worse. We ought to be urging the populace toward, not away from, decency.
Weigh that writers’ depravity is evidenced in both our words and our deeds. Best-selling novelist Curtis Sittenfeld reminds us in The Atlantic’s “The Perils of Literary Success” that not all composers “feel certain that what they do is meaningful and important[,]” yet, subsequently, those feelings bring about a misperception that their lack of professional indemnity is advantageous4 as it “excuses” culpability.
Videlicet, nowadays, many inventors of documents have less-than-stellar publishing aims - fame and fortune rank high on lots of wannabe originators’ lists of motivations. Worse, innumerable contemporary, inept scribes pay to have their notions printed rather than accept the observations offered to them by big publishing house and indie presses; the refuse to embrace that their writing is awful per content, execution, or both. More specifically, the majority of the consequent glut of independently produced artifacts adds to, not decreases, social confusion. Robert Bevan writes in Caverns and Creatures, that “[a] lot of self-published writing is [*&^%]. Not even the high-fiber, solid, corn-studded kind either. I'm talking …cheap whisky and ramen noodles.” 5
Regrettably, the corrupt results of verbal architects’ actions are not limited to moral silence or to moral deafness, but extend, also, to moral blindness. Consider that after proffering half-baked efforts, many of today’s makers pose excuses for their incompetence. Professor Pat Thomson, who “specializes in questions of creative and socially just learning and change,”6 writes that the “real problem is that [writers] with the nothing-written-on-my-topic question ha[ve] drawn the boundary around their topic[s] too tightly. They haven’t thought about the kinds of literatures that might be relevant, even if they are not written on exactly the same question.”7 That is, the hue and cry, which they direct to writing’s producers and consumers, often consists of little more than overused, poorly realized defense mechanisms.
Essentially, it’s clear to anyone with even a tiny amount of sagacity that countless writers: have copped out, are aware that they have copped out, and are more than willing to make excuses for their copping out. Trucker Max points out in “Desire for Fame and Wealth are Really Bad Reasons for Writing a Book,” that many aspiring authors are only producing works “for ego reasons, and nothing else.” 8
Those writers, identical to children who believe, or act as though they believe, that they are “safely hidden” if not directly confronted, “judge that hiding …is an appropriate thing to do and that [their] error is not rooted in problems with understanding.”9 In short, those writers are not cleaving to the here and now and are not aiding others in doing so.
Authors, who embrace moral silence, moral deafness, moral blindness, or some combination thereof, hardly meet the moral obligations with which our social station is charged. While virtue is insufficient for being a writer of good repute, it is necessary. People of letters are uniquely positioned to promote social integrity and, as such, ought to do so.
1. Frederick Bruce Bird. The Muted Conscience: Moral Silence and the Practice of Ethics in Business, Praeger (2002), 123.
2. Jonathan Bailey. “5 Great People Who Plagiarized.” Plagiarism Today. 10 Feb. 2015.https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2015/02/10/5-great-people-who-plagiarized/. Retrieved Jan. 30, 2018.
3. Steve Lehto. “The Pulitzer Scam." The Huffington Post. 13 July 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-lehto/the-pulitzer-scam_b_897320.html. Retrieved 8 Dec. 2017.
4. Curtis Sittenfeld. “The Perils of Literary Success.” The Atlantic. Fiction Issue 2005. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/08/the-perils-of-literary-success/304132/. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2018.
5. Robert Bevan. “Self-Publishing for the wrong reasons (is still better than getting traditionally published).” [sic]. Caverns and Creatures. 8 May 2015. http://www.caverns-and-creatures.com/blog/2015/4/24/self-publishing-for-the-wrong-reasons-is-still-better-than-getting-traditionally-published. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2018.
6. “Pat Thomson.” University of Nottingham. n.d. https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/education/people/patricia.thomson. Retrieved Jan. 30, 2018.
7. Professor Pat Thomson. “I can’t find anything written on my topic …really?” [sic]. Patter. 6 Apr. 2015. https://patthomson.net/2015/04/06/i-cant-find-anything-written-on-my-topic/. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2018.
8. Trucker Max. ” Desire for Fame and Wealth are Really Bad Reasons for Writing a Book.” Entrepreneur. 1 Apr. 2016. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/273112. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2018.
9. J. Russell, B. Gee, and C. Bullard. “Why Do Children Hide by Closing Their Eyes? Self-Visibility and the Developing Concept of Self.” Journal of Cognition and Development. 21 Dec. 2011. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15248372.2011.594826. Retrieved Jan. 30, 2018.