Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On Negative Feedback

I started selling toys on eBay last year, and I found out an interesting thing: negative feedback is approximately 50 times more important than positive feedback. A buyer or seller can get twenty, thirty, forty or more positives from people who enjoyed their transactions to the point that they wrote things like "I will start a church around this person" or "I would let him get atop my daughter," but you get one negative feedback, and that all doesn't matter.

Nobody cares to look at your positives. They only want to watch out for your negatives. I worked with a guy who said he wouldn't buy an item from someone with less than 99.8% positive, regardless of how many thousands of positives the guy has earned. And I've dealt with people who, dissatisfied with our transaction, send blackmail emails threatening a negative feedback unless I refund their money or appease them in some other way.

I got a couple of hate letters yesterday regarding the website I run with my friend tyranist. I don't know what to say about this. Maybe it's better to just let it go and move on, since you don't write somebody to tell them they're stupid without hoping to provoke some kind of reaction.

You know, my website could be better, yes. It could look a hell of a lot more professional, and have links and art and ads and such, but that's not what we're about. We're just two guys who love Horror, and we try to watch a couple of films a month and review them. In our spare time.

But the letters bothered me anyway. And maybe that's something I should work on. Maybe I need a ton of emails telling me that I suck and have no business running a website, maintaining a blog, or continuing to take up space and oxygen on the planet. That might give me a thicker skin, and the calcium I need to develop more of a backbone. Then again, I'm a depressed unhappy soul as it is.

Okay, never mind. Send only positive feedback, please!

Damn. I have other things I'd like to write about, such as INDIANA JONES IV, and my experiences at grindhouses, and the recent rush of Horror films, but this topic just keeps coming up.

Take the biggest non-news story in the news this last week: radio host Don Imus referring to the Rutgers University Womens Basketball Team as "nappy-headed hos." An ancient, irrelevant, East Coast shock jock says something attempting to be funny (or derogative, or critical, take your pick how to interpret the statement), and the world comes to a screeching halt. People are up in arms. Racism! Hatemongering! Misogyny! A new Civil War is upon us!

So, it's everywhere, on every news station, on every infotainment program, on every radio show. The complaints, the threats, the boycotts, the namecalling. The man was taken to task, then forced to apologise, then suspended for two weeks, then his television show was taken off the air, and then (they just announced it) he was fired. Ain't America great?*

So I was talking to tyranist about this last night. He and I have different political views, for some reason, and different opinions on a lot of topics, even though we usually think along the same lines. Once we get talking, though, the words start to flow like, I don't know, like a bad chimichanga.

I grew up in a society where people absolutely LOVE to get offended. It's bigger than bowling, chess, soccer, and Candyland COMBINED. Nothing gets the blood pumping in the people of my birthplace more than the opportunity to show offense at something, then through that offense, show how great and honourable one of God's chosen they are. By pointing a finger at something that offended your sensibilities, your bluster can point a finger at how great and pious you are. I've seen it again and again, from when I was a little boy and certain movies, songs, TV shows, and books were Evil to the 21st Century and Janet Jackson's breast, "South Park" making fun of fill-in-the-blank, and Wal-Mart putting up a sign that says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Somebody should get in trouble, somebody should be fired, somebody should pay me money.

It's called righteous indignation, boys and girls, and it's been around since Moses's time. But wow, it's everywhere now. There's a lot to get offended about, since there's more media available than ever before. 95% of what airs on VH1 today makes me want to defenestrate myself, let alone MTV.

The point I'm trying to make is this: Hip Hop music should be banned. All of the CDs should be destroyed, the rappers and producers who create it should be jailed, and everyone who listens to it should be put behind bars, because only criminals and lowlifes listen to it.

Okay, maybe that was too easy. Maybe I should have said video games, or pornography, or copies of the Koran, or better yet, Horror movies (since that's a subject near and dear to this little heart of mine). But the point I'm (badly) making is that nobody has the right to say stuff like that. Who am I to condemn ANYTHING or label it evil, because your Evil is, frankly, my Good. You have as much right to listen to Rap music as I do to listen to John Denver.

But if somebody feels that way (or writes it in their blog), they should have the freedom to do so, even if it pisses me, or you, or Jesse Jackson off when they say it. The three of us should have enough level-headedness to simply shrug it off, and recognise that there are crazy people out there, more every day. A free society means you can love Tom Green movies, keep your Star Wars guys in their original packaging, and grandma porn. I hope it's okay that I create cartoons about The Young Hitler Chronicles ("It's not mein fault!") and Passion of the Christ 2: Jesus's Revenge ("They crossed the wrong man!").

I listen to talk radio every single day. What keeps me listening is a combination of soul-crushing loneliness and an endless variety of interesting things being said by interesting people. And to be interesting, people will invariably step on somebody's feelings, or political/religious/relationship/familial/societal opinon. I can't count the times I've heard somebody get on the radio and argue or complain or bitch at the DJs/personalities, telling them they're seriously outraged and will never listen again. And yet, they sat on hold for Buddha knows how long, then take up even more of their time appearing on the radio show to complain, in essence, contributing entertainment to the regular listeners out there who aren't going to agree with what they're saying, otherwise . . .

. . . otherwise they'd turn it off.

And that's really all I want to say on this subject. This country is a melting pot. There are different views, different cultures, different takes on every topic under the sun. Everything that you find funny (or noteworthy or thought-provoking or shocking or moving) is going to be offensive to somebody in some section of the world somewhere, and everything that I like someone else is not going to like. That doesn't make either one of us right. If you've got a modicum of social consciousness, you know that not everything is for you, and that the world is never going to be perfect, and that you have to learn to turn a blind eye from time to time, turn off the station every once in a while, or simply walk away.

Wow, I've really gotten off on a tangent here. I intended to just say one or two little things about how the Imus thing shouldn't be any more newsworthy than "a woman I know heard something she didn't like, so she turned it off," and it spiraled onto another road.

People have said some really great things to me in the past, but I tend to remember the three or four really bad things that were said a lot more often. I don't know why, as human beings, we focus so much more on the negative than the positive. It could be in our genetic makeup, that we strive to better ourselves and are programmed to always look at our surroundings and see what doesn't work, what could be better, what makes us angry. Maybe if we focused on the positive, we'd be content with life as it is, and just sit and take it all in.

And that would really piss me off.

Rish "Tomorrow I Will Talk About Buffy" Outfield

*But don't get me wrong, America is still great. Even if we've got real problems with free speech right now, and many overloud minority members of our nation shrieking about how you shouldn't be permitted to raise your voice. There's irony there, but I can never correctly identify when something is or isn't ironic.

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