We all remember those famous first words spoken by an astronaut on the surface of Mars: “That’s one small step fo- HOLY SHIT LOOK OUT IT’S GOT SOME KIND OF DRILL! Get back to the … [unintelligible] … [signal lost]” (x)
xkcd namechecking two linguistic effects: the Stroop effect (which is very well-attested) and the Sapir-Whorf effect (which is not, except in its weakest form and in very specific domains).
The tonal parts aren’t related to a specifically linguistic effect but rather refer to the Doppler effect in physics, whereby a sound that moves sounds like it changes pitch. Naturally, in a tonal language, a change in pitch equals a change in tone, which would make it harder to understand.
Given the role they play in every process in my body, really, they deserve this award more than me. Just gotta figure out how to give it to them. Maybe I can cut it into pieces to make it easier to swallow …
1. It assumes that the only reasons for someone being boycotted, censored, or banned is because they’re being assholes, objectively “wrong”, or spouting bullshit. Just because someone’s position goes against popular wisdom or opinion, that doesn’t automatically mean that they’re factually or provably incorrect. (Of course, it doesn’t mean that they’re right either.)
2. It assumes that the people doing the boycotting, censoring, or banning are always benevolent in nature and fails to take into consideration that they may simply be trying to dominate the conversation, silence dissent, promote their own ideological or political goals, discredit someone through character assassination, trying to hide evidence of their own wrongdoing, indulging their egos or authoritarian bent by going on a power trip, or being assholes themselves.
You don’t need to look any further than the vigilante/outrage culture being promoted by social and mainstream media outlets today to see how utterly wrong this comic is. For some transgression, real or perceived, someone is very loudly and publicly branded an “asshole” and they’re metaphorically “shown the door” by an angry mob by being socially vilified, ostracized, or shamed. And on those occasions where the original allegations are proven completely false, there’re never any apologies or mea culpas. Oh, no. Everyone just coughs awkwardly, shrugs their shoulders, and uses the old go-to line “Well, at least we raised awareness about an important issue.” even if the issue in question may have been vastly exaggerated in its prevalence, if not downright manufactured, in the first place. And that’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario has them continuing to perpetuate misinformation or lies until the evidence to the contrary makes them look like fools or they’re legally forced to cease and desist. But, at that point, the damaged to the unjustly condemned is done the false accuser gets off scot free.
Bottom line: I’m sick and tired of how this comic keeps getting trotted out everywhere as if it were some kind of incontrovertible truth when it’s really on the fast track to becoming a thought-terminating cliché.