In Other’s Words: Truth and Tone are often strange bedfellows.

When people are overly concerned with tone or are sensitive to the tone police, fewer people will be willing to speak hard truth. Joshua Gibbs examines the surge in accusations of “tone deafness”. You should really read the entire piece, Tone Deaf: Our Favorite New Pretentious Complaint. An  excerpt:

Modern men care very deeply about tone. Such concern goes hand-in-hand with our endless thirst for flattery.

In a prior age, “tone” was a minor concern of rhetoric teachers, but that’s it. No one grumbles about “tone” in the works of Homer or Virgil. No one carps about “tone” in the Divine Comedy. The writers of the Old Testament are curiously silent about tone— imagine Moses writing, “said God sullenly.”  Or, imagine Luther hearing out Eck’s arguments at Worms and opening his rebuttal with, “Well, I’m sure Mr. Eck made some fine points, but honestly, I couldn’t discern them due to the unfortunate shrillness of his tone,” at which point the Keystone Cops would show up in court, led by the fearless but foppish Capt. Winsome. Really, tone became an obsession when dilletantes took over, which is exactly why internet arguments cannot take two steps forward without someone clutching his pearls and making a scene about his opponent’s tone. If you would speak to the master while he sits on his social media throne, you must bow thrice before opening your mouth.

I am not suggesting that everyone who has ever been accused of tone deafness is innocent altogether, but I would say that tone deafness is a peevish, self-important thing with which to charge anyone. What we call “tone deaf” might be arrogance, hubris, or vanity— but if that’s what the tone deaf man is really guilty of, then we ought to have the guts to define his vice in more precise terms. Really, “tone deaf” just means “not zeitgeisty enough.” It means “not on the right side of history”— if we take “history” to mean nothing more than “how we have felt for the last 48 hours.” As sojourners on this earth and citizens of another World, Christianity is always going to be tone deaf.

What he said.

 

 

2 thoughts on “In Other’s Words: Truth and Tone are often strange bedfellows.

  1. smkoseki says:

    What we call “tone deaf” might be arrogance, hubris, or vanity— but if that’s what the tone deaf man is really guilty of, then we ought to have the guts to define his vice in more precise terms.

    I really disagree with this. We have the “guts” (virtue: courage) but we also are smart enough to avoid pointless squabbling. The real reason we take a powder on confrontation is a) immigration & b) religious plurality. We are no longer one people, especially Christians. What defines us as Americans is exactly disunity, so we must be careful about offending others, so the truth can no longer be told. No religion or political talk! Gibbs & his individualistic ilk have reaped their own whirlwind. Who wants another 30 year war?

    Really, “tone deaf” just means “not zeitgeisty enough.” It means “not on the right side of history”— if we take “history” to mean nothing more than “how we have felt for the last 48 hours.” As sojourners on this earth and citizens of another World, Christianity is always going to be tone deaf.

    Again, I disagree. All tone-deaf ever means is failing a verbal IQ test. And humans have been playing this game for many, many years. Gibbs is just upset he can’t have it both ways: he wants American 1950 back, when we shared a “core” set of Christian values. Well, get ready to pay the price for being a Christian because those days are gone forever. That’s what happens when you don’t replace your own population.

    But it was a good read & got me thinking. Note: you might change the intro sentence; it doesn’t flow well.

    Like

  2. Elspeth says:

    @ smk:

    Your objection to the first quote, I’ll offer some concession. Depending on the situation, it is often best to refrain from inciting fiery debate.

    As to the second quote, I strongly disagree with you. I think Gibbs is right that “tone deaf” is often an objection offered in the spirit of not being enough in agreement with or enough in touch with the culture’s current trends.

    Gibbs isn’t Protestant, by the way.

    Like

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