The paradox of nerve-hitting

When one reacts in a strongly negative manner to someone’s comment in internet discussion forums, that person will sometimes take that as evidence that he or she has “hit a nerve.” The logic behind such statements appears to be as follows: “given that you have disagreed so stridently, you must be harboring an unconscious, barely repressed intimation that my argument is correct — indeed, my argument must have triggered deep personal insecurities, which is the only explanation for your overreaction.”

Such reasoning is obviously stupid. In fact, I would venture to say that in 99% of cases, nerve-hitting is misdiagnosed: the putative nerve-hitter has misread the situation, misinterpreted the responder’s intended tone, or is simply a smug moron.

And this brings me to the paradox — claiming to have “hit a nerve” itself hits a nerve. Regardless of the concrete claims at issue, basically everyone reacts negatively when their contributions to a discussion are dismissed as reflections of a tragically flawed psychological state.

14 thoughts on “The paradox of nerve-hitting

  1. Adam,

    I feel that you have been deeply harboring some ill-will about me and this post proves it. I am deeply offended. I will now go sulk, pout, and spam comments (no change there).

    Seriously, though, ya might want to stick to more professional topics on the web.

  2. This is also evident when one passionately critiques a system in which one was raised. In conversation, people analyze such strident rejections as somehow betraying some deep displaced psychological hatred that disqualifies that individual from having a ‘reasonable’ opinion on the matter. I’ve never understood this reasoning. Wouldn’t being raised in a system of thought actually provide one with the best perspective to properly critique said system?

  3. It’s an example of producing the response you’re diagnosing in the first place. Like calling someone defensive or hysterical – that’s an easy way to make them defensive.

  4. I am not hysterical. I have been accosted by Adam and his pretentiousness. The nerve of asking me to raise my nose and drop all the “yas” and “yalls.” Next he’ll insist on “thou” and “m’lord.”

  5. I am a crazy troll and i will always hunt you down and eat your soul every time. I hate people with PhDs. I know just as much as they do. I read all the books they do. That’s why i publish my articles on my blog. Philosophers make me sick!

  6. It’s a neat trick when you can accost someone, and your pretentiousness can also, separately, accost that person.

    Sometimes I and three or even four of my personality traits gang up on some poor fool.

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