Wars of the words

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Wars of the words

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Online critics began to surface during the 1990s under the auspices of political and Internet freedom. The emergence of PC communication and the Internet brought forth a gush of long-suppressed social comments, giving birth to the first generation of Internet polemics.

These commentators differed from high-brow intellectuals such as professors and experts who depended mainly on the traditional media such as newspapers to voice their opinions. Their logic and writing skills, not academic background, were sufficient qualification for their Web fans. Their approach was arguing aggressively without giving heed to good manners.

As new Internet media emerged and Web-dependent elections flourished, wave after wave of online critics came and went. Some popular critics from traditional, often print-based media shifted to the Web space. From the mid-2000s, Web users helped to create star online thinkers and writer and shape public opinion.

More recently in line with the vogue for user-created content came the so-called Digital Homo Narrans, or narrating man, referring to the Web-familiar generation that communicates primarily in cyberspace.

Tirades by these Internet commentators are often overheated and controversial. Kang Joon-mann, professor of mass communications at Chonbuk University, observed that “argumentative comments by Internet critics fail to present options and solutions and only serve to provide psychological catharsis for their fans.”

What he suggests is that their contentious comments are mostly devoted to drawing supporters instead of attempting to find common ground. As result they distort the true meaning of communication and dispute.

Recently several critics have caught the public’s attention. An expert on economy using the online ID Minerva, the Greek goddess of wisdom, has made news with impressive predictions about the financial crisis. One conservative military critic caused controversy by labeling the work of popular young actress Moon Geun-Young as partisan propaganda material for leftists after her donation to a North Korea aid group. Outspoken critic Chin Jung-kwon, a professor of German at Chung-Ang University, said these malicious comments were like those of a schoolboy in the 1970s at the height of anti-communist paranoia.

Words are to critics as swords are to warriors. If the sword of logic isn’t sharp enough, no debate can take place and the so-called critics might as well yield their titles.


The writer is a deputy culture and sports editor of JoongAng Ilbo

By Yang Sung-hee [shyang@joongang.co.kr]
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