Ebert’s Law or Shut Your Pie Hole and Deal
There’s this idea of the cult of nice in this world. It seems that in a lot of ways we believe that equality means that nobody should ever be criticized for anything, mistakes shouldn’t be pointed out. Are we not human? Do we not all make mistakes? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
It’s a scenario I ran into in a lot of workshops and writing classes, especially early on in college. Nobody wanted to say anything critical about anyone else’s work because when your turn to have your work evaluated came, somebody might have the audacity to point out that it wasn’t perfect. We want to believe that just trying our hardest is enough, that results don’t really matter so long as you put your heart into something.
And I really, really hate to say that’s not true. But it’s NOT.
As a junior in college I took an entry level poetry class as an elective. Mr. Bulletproofheeb was also in this class and it was actually because of this class that we are now such good friends. Also, there was this guy named Arthur who may or may not have been gay, and I so TOTALLY would have hit that given the chance. But I digress.
Many of the students in this class were freshmen, as is typical of entry level writing classes. Many of them were coming from situations where they were exceptional writers in high school and received a lot of praise from fellow students and teachers. And hey, in high school that’s great, I was in that situation myself.
Unfortunately, these people were not used to being criticized. At all. Ever.
During our first group workshop, myself and another student made the mistake of pointing out that the imagery in one girl’s poem was not really specific enough. We both figured this was important because the assignment was an imagery exercise. We both commended the poem, but said that there were a few points where she could have been more specific.
And we were both attacked by the two boys flanking the poet, who told us we were wrong and couldn’t criticize her poetry because it comes from your SOUL and what did we know?
The point of that little walk down memory lane is simple: most people don’t know how to take being told that despite trying their hardest they didn’t do well enough. It leads to an idea of entitlement. You tried, you deserve something. And yeah, you do deserve to be proud that you tried and tried your hardest, but the world doesn’t run on your good intentions.
This leads us to Ebert’s Law:
When you ask somebody to try their own hand at something before criticizing your efforts, you have violated Ebert’s Law and lost the argument. Roger Ebert is not a filmmaker, but he knows what he likes and doesn’t, and has every right to say so. Similarly, people don’t need to be chefs to recognize a good restaurant, or musicians to appreciate a symphony.
Person 1: Your story is rubbish! Person 2: I bet you couldn’t do better!
Person 2 has violated Ebert’s Law
Why does this come up? Because in a recent poll, there was an outcry of “HEY! YOU CAN’T CRITICIZE BONO IF YOU DON’T DO HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS YOURSELF!!1!!1”
Hate to point it out, but nobody was condemning him for his work. What Bono has done for the world and social activism is a hell of a lot more than most people in his position. And you know what? I think he’s sincere. I really believe he believes in everything he says. I also believe this of Fall Out Boy, who were nominated, and I think Kanye West had a hell of a lot of guts to say what was on a lot of people’s minds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: if the people in danger had been rich white people, then the current administration would have done everything to protect them.
That being said, I think sometimes Bono can be too pushy with his views. I think sometimes Fall Out Boy DOES seem insincere, especially a few scenes from the “I’m Like a Lawyer” video (where the Ugandans are watching the video for “Dance, Dance” mostly). I also think Kanye has taken to blaming racial discrimination for too much recently (you can’t claim you didn’t get an MTV Video Award because of your race when the Video of the Year award went to a BLACK FEMALE ARTIST, NUMBNUTS).
Does this in anyway change what they have done? No. They are still trying to make people aware of very real social issues. In many cases, they are reaching out to people who wouldn’t normally know about these situations, using their fame to enlighten them. I know many of you feel it’s sad that a lot of people wouldn’t care about the Burma situation if it weren’t for Pete Wentz, but you don’t think he knows that? He uses his public face to get word out to a group of people who wouldn’t normally know or care about something, and if in the end the people of Burma are helped by it why does it MATTER? The reason these people push social change is because they want to see it happen, because they know if they don’t speak out then maybe nobody else will. They understand the power they have in the media and if they want to use it to encourage AIDS research, support for the people of a troubled nation, equality, better education, mental health or whatever their topic of choice may be GOOD FOR THEM.
But it doesn’t make them exempt from us pointing out their flaws.
This rant got a little out of hand. My point in general is: every Saint has a past, every Sinner has a future. We’re both and neither at the same time. Sucks to be us, we are awesome.