The Tangent Tantrum


I’ve decided that a certain species of Internet comment needs its own name. I think it’d be considered a subspecies of strawman argument, but I’ve decided to dub it “tangent tantrum.” Here’s how it works:

A blogger, for instance, posts a brief thought on some discrete subject. A commenter comes along, reads the post, makes in his mind some tenuous connection between the subject and some tangential one, usually a personal hobbyhorse, and spews out a rant, often accusing the original author of various crimes against humanity.

Here’s a case in point. The original post is about one specific aspect of employment: what a worker’s attitude ought to be toward his employer and his job. But a significant portion of the comments fly off the handle about various injustices that have been or might be perpetrated by employers, complete with accusations that the blog author is at least complicit in, if not a direct perpetrator of, such heinous misdeeds.

I poked fun at a milder version of the tangent tantrum in this post. While that sort of thing is fairly innocuous in effect, it displays the same sort of character flaw: a refusal to listen and an insistence that every conversation should be about me, me, me–my interests, my issues, my injuries.

If you catch yourself doing this, knock it off. If you catch others doing it, it may be helpful to tell them to knock it off, but it’s often better not to give trolls the attention they want, as it only encourages them to come back for more.


3 responses »

  1. I noticed this yesterday too. There was a great article on the Gospel Coalition about a Christian’s response towards food, exercise, how we should treat others regarding food, etc. There were many commenters on there saying we should be eating a plant based diet, etc. These tangent tantrum commenters usually seem as though they did not fully read the blog post.

    Great insights.

  2. But remember, “he’s not bitter!” I’d throw in that if you catch yourself doing this, it’s time to do a heart-check on the bitterness thing, because being triggered to bring up a grievance when you are reading about something else entirely can indicate something festering. In line with the original post where this came up, no, that does not mean that everyone who expresses an out of context grievance because a button is pushed is harboring bitterness — I’m pretty sure I’ve done this myself too many times in a more Pavlovian way, not because I was seething the whole time. But it’s one of those “worth considering for the good of your own soul” things.

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