The blues of black and white

Dichotomize! That seems to be an even more common cry than Plagiarize–but Tom Lehrer never wrote nearly as amusing a song on dichotomies. (Or if he did, I missed it.)

Silly me. I thought the black-and-white crowd was declining a little, but maybe I’m wrong.

Latest instance? The specifics aren’t terribly important, but had to do with Twitter. The person writing said that people writing about Twitter fall neatly into two groups:

  1. Those who haven’t used it and fear it.
  2. Those have tried it and use it regularly.

Woopsy. Here comes one of quite a few members of the excluded middle to say, It just ain’t so.

I’m not the only liblogger who’s tried Twitter and found–not that “it’s awful” or that “it’s useless” but that it doesn’t work well for me for now.

But, you know, it makes a much stronger case for Twitter as a universally wonderful thing if you simply assert that the only people who don’t like Twitter are people who have never tried Twitter.

I’m trying to think of anything for which that statement would be true: That is,

The only people who don’t like X are those who have never tried X.

Oxygen in breathable concentrations, I suppose. Food as a general thing. Beyond that…not so much.

I’m similarly amused by things for which it is proclaimed that you’ll either love it or hate it. Particularly since, for most of those things, my reaction is somewhere between Meh and It’s OK.

(And a quick shoutout to Randy Travis–and Wayland Holyfield and Verlon Thompson, who wrote the song, albeit “in” not “of”)

Quick update: Since I didn’t link to the particular instance, this isn’t really necessary–but the dichotomizer in question admitted it was an overstated dichotomy. The point this person was really trying to make: Those who actively dislike and fear Twitter haven’t tried it. I’m not sure that’s true either, but it’s at least a narrower dichotomy.

9 Responses to “The blues of black and white”

  1. Doug says:

    There are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who think The Wire is the greatest tv show ever, and the ones who’ve never seen The Wire.

  2. The same thing is said of me and gaming. Since I’ve never tried it (not really true, but they think it is), then that is the reason why I don’t like it. Pretty small thinking, IMO

  3. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think there are only two kinds of people in the world, and those who know better.


  4. Steve Lawson says:

    Hunh. I tried Twitter; used Twitter so much that it was interfering with my normal thought patterns so I deleted my account; found that I really missed the ability to reach a lot of friends and contacts with one brief Twitter message so I re-started my account; grew irritated with Twitter’s outages and other poor reliability and more-or-less stopped using Twitter for FriendFeed; at present am posting to Twitter an average of a couple of times a day, usually from a FriendFeed Greasemonkey script because the site continues to irritate me.

    So I suppose I’m firmly in camp #2 as outlined above, but that isn’t really the whole story, is it?

  5. walt says:

    Further proof: Other than birth, weddings, and new jobs, you can never predict which posts will draw comments… This one was a fast, Sunday afternoon, still recuperating from a fall, mini-grouch…. There’s a related but more substantive post that I really should write soon. Anyway: We start with a non sequitur followed by three very different takes. Good stuff.

    I’ve been through this before–I argued that most of life was in the grays, and got this persistent line of argument from one right-wing commenter that everything was black-and-white as long as I really understood it or took it down to sufficiently narrow levels. That was a little different, albeit equally nonsensical.

  6. Laura says:

    I would never assume that someone saying, “There are only two kinds of people in the world . . .” is being remotely serious. They’re engaging in rhetorical excess, yes, but there’s a long proud history of that. Are you going to say that Samuel Johnson was a black and white thinker for saying that the man who is tired of London is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford?

  7. walt says:


    You’re probably right in many cases–but I’ve certainly seen cases where the dichotomizer appeared to be dead serious. (The one noted on my previous comment was one such case.)

    And, to be honest, unless someone writes as well as Samuel Johnson, I usually find false dichotomies to be annoying even as rhetorical excess–they stand in the way of real discussion.

  8. Steve Lawson says:

    If the statement in question were “Twitter is something you have to experience to really understand why people like it,” I’d fully agree. It looks idiotic from the outside, but from inside it can be quite compelling.

  9. walt says:

    Actually, Steve, while I’m much more sympathetic to your statement, I’m not sure I agree 100%, although the “really” qualifier might do it.

    Before I ever tried Twitter, I could understand why people liked it based on what people had to say and how it worked.

    There are lots of things I haven’t experienced–and in some cases have no desire to–where I believe I understand why other people like them.