Inchoate Ascendant™

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February 4, 2011

Causal Disclaimers and Inferences

I wanted today to talk about "The White-Trash King", an entry that I posted at R.G. Male’s Dark Corners. At the last moment before posting it I added a disclaimer. With that title and the likely content, wouldn’t you put one in there? There are things that you write in fiction that are accepted because you are portraying it, but when you analyse it, you lay it bare, and step into the kind of territory where people take offence. This isn't to say you can't just let people think ill of you, or rather that you are thinking ill of certain people. There's always that assumption that if you focus only on the negative qualities of any group of people you are ignoring what makes them worthy of being treated equal to everyone else--which just makes you look bad. This is especially the case when the group you are looking at it is often identified by a second factor--beyond whatever undesirable penchants they have--that is beyond their control such as their economic status. The readers will assume some sort of causal link that you do not intend.

Causality or a causal link is when one thing is the result of another. Take the example of lighting a pile of papers on fire that has the consequence of setting the room on fire. There is a causal link between the burning papers and the burning room. If however the papers burn out quickly but the fire does not spread, yet faulty wiring in the room causes the room to burn then there is no link between the two fires. Say then, there is little investigation and the assumption is made that the burning papers led to the room fire. Someone has made a false link because it seems to be the most likely chain of consequences, if the matter isn't looked at deeper, or in our case a disclaimer is made.

There was a second matter regarding this blog's entry about which I wanted to ruminate. I raised the question of why someone might have such a solid grasp of the lifestyle and the proclivities of a much looked down upon group. The obvious answer is that the person belongs to that demographic. However is this a false causality being implied? What if it is, and the person belongs to a completely different group? What if it is a group that only shares some of the same qualities making for only tangential inferences? Finally, what do you make of my professed lack of grasp on such characters? I certainly wouldn't want to provide only the most derogatory stereotypical broad strokes, because this is not what it is a matter of in the first place, but creating full nuanced fictional examples of these people.

P.S. In two weeks look forward to an entry by special guest blogger, Neil Colquhoun.

Music: Feel the Pain by Quiet Riot.

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Robert G. Male
Name: Robert G. Male
Location: Ontario, Canada
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