Twenty-four hours worth of travel time gives one a lot of time for thinking, even with a new Nintendo DS Lite (sent to me, weirdly, as a free gift by Comcast). A lot of what I thought about was this blog, and the occasionally wearying job of political debate. The night before I left, I had a conversation with a friend about the practice of calling people closet cases, which he mildly defended by asserting that excessive protestations against homosexuality are often a way to bolster one's masculinity.
My point, which I stand by, is that calling someone a [censored] does not, in fact, advance the debate. I can think of no circumstances under which someone who is concerned about appearing too feminine will be moved to change his views because you called him a big, fat nancy-boy. Even if it were true, the effect of insulting someone on this level is never to cause them to reexamine their position; instead, it energizes them to seek out reasons that you're wrong, and moreover, a huge jerk whose other ideas are probably equally moronic.
In general, you don't imply that someone's gay because you think it might lead to a change of heart; you imply that they're gay because it's fun to tweak people with whom you disagree so vehemently. Indulging in this form of name calling feels good, but it's ultimately counterproductive--firstly, because in this case, it does help sustain the notion that calling someone "gay" is some kind of insult; and second, because it just makes everyone angrier. And anger is something that we're currently a bit oversupplied with.
Remember that scene in Conan the Barbarian* where he is asked about the purpose of life, and he responds
To destroy your enemies, raze their villages and hear the lamentations of their women.
There you have too much of the blogosphere in a nutshell. It is perhaps cathartic, but it doesn't particularly serve the ostensible point of all of this, which is the free exchange of ideas. If all I wanted to do was insult people, I could just spend the day riding mass transit, which offers an equally rich source of targets without the risk of carpal tunnel.
* Of course you do
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.