Annoyed Librarian
Search ....
Subscribe to LJ
Inside Annoyed Librarian

On Semiliterate Rubes

Crazy things are happening this week. In a comment on my last post, it’s implied that the Annoyed Librarian is “on the Left” because I supposedly has an “argument by labeling.” Here’s part of the comment:

Well sure. A book like 1984 makes for an easy case. And it’s always easy to win an argument by labeling the opponent as a parent semiliterate rube. Argument by labeling is standard fair [sic] on the Left these days….

The opinion of the Librarian is not necessarily dispositive whether the Librarian thinks so or not. And those who disagree with the Librarian are not by definition “semiliterate rubes”.

That comment is crazy for at least two reasons. Is crazy the right word? Is that an “argument by labeling”? Never mind.

For one, you’d have to be obtuse to miss the fact that labeling other people and things is just what people do. It’s not “left” or “right,” just human.

To imply otherwise is to pretend that your side doesn’t do the thing you claim the other side does, and you always have a side if you make a comment like that.

If someone really believes that people “on the right” don’t have “arguments by labeling,” then that person is just plain ignorant.

See there, that’s a label: ignorant. But there’s an argument behind it. If there’s something you don’t know, you’re ignorant. That’s what the word means. And if you don’t know that people of all political persuasions label other people, then you’re ignorant, as in lacking knowledge.

If you make a comment signalling that ignorance, someone might draw attention to it with the appropriate label: ignorant.

On the other hand, the commenter might not be ignorant, just duplicitous, as in “deceptive in words or actions.” The commenter might know that people “on the Right” have “arguments by labeling,” but would like to pretend otherwise because it’s not convenient to acknowledge reality.

But let’s look at the label in hand, “semiliterate rube.” I never made the claim that anyone who disagreed with the librarian was a semiliterate rube. Actually, that column was about school curricula, but the same thing applies.

What I argued was that people who criticize the teaching of books based on a single passage are semiliterate rubes.

See how that works? The label isn’t the argument, because labels can never be arguments. Labels are where arguments go do die.

The argument is that the behavior is tantamount to being semiliterate and acting like a rube.

People who criticize novels based on a single passage don’t know how novels work. They don’t understand the simplest things about narrative or context.

They technically know how to read, because they would have to be able to read a few words to find the passage objectionable. So they’re literate, sort of.

But they don’t know how to read well, hence the “semi.” I illustrated that with some juicy quotes from the Bible, which the semiliterate rube probably wouldn’t object to as a book, at least in America.

Now for rube. Merriam-Webster’s defines “rube” as “1: an awkward unsophisticated person: rustic; 2: a naive or inexperienced person.”

I don’t know about awkward, but people who talk about literature but don’t know how literature works are unsophisticated, naive, and inexperienced. They probably don’t think of themselves that way because they don’t know any better.

If they would keep their mouths shut about things they don’t know about, nobody would make fun of them. But that’s the awkward thing, they sometimes insert themselves into conversations they don’t understand.

Complaining about a novel because of a few passages taken out of context is the kind of thing semiliterate rubes do. Other rubes might do other awkward things, but I won’t worry about them right now.

People like that aren’t wrong because they “disagree with the Librarian,” or even in this case the teachers.

People like that are wrong because they don’t know what they’re talking about. They think they don’t like “bad language” or “sex talk,” but in this country they probably don’t mind that kind of language if it’s in the Bible.

There’s a really good reason for that, besides the likelihood that they’re too ignorant to know there’s a passage in the Bible about pleasuring oneself with golden sex toys.

It’s because whatever the Bible means to people, it’s not about that, and that passage, in context, isn’t particularly relevant to the larger message of the book.

To acknowledge that about one book and then complain about others without acknowledging that is a silly thing to do. It’s the sort of thing unsophisticated, naive people who don’t understand how to read literature do. “By definition,” semiliterate rubes.



  1. so annoying for someone to say don’t get political, and then they get political
    But this is not even on topic
    So I’ll quit being annoying as we

  2. politically incorrect librarian says:

    Annoyed Librarian, you mention: “people who talk about literature but don’t know how literature works are unsophisticated, naive, and inexperienced. They probably don’t think of themselves that way because they don’t know any better.”

    Based on what you’ve written over the past several years, I would bet my life savings that you don’t know what you are talking about when you talk about the Bible. So take your own advice and keep your mouth shut!

  3. Ray Perez says:

    This reminds me how, when responding to comments or an article, you should think about what you write. It is known that others will read and possibly try to tear apart what you have written. I even wonder if my statement will be taken as attacking one side or another. I don’t have a side in this matter just thoughts.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind


Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE