It is an old oft-repeated adage or an old oft-repeated aphorism or, maybe, neither. I am sure it can, at least, be called an old oft-repeated saying, perhaps aspiring to be an adage or aphorism.
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Oh sure, a fine bit of verbiage, a solid enough sentences as far as sentences go, I guess. The thought best suited for the slow-witted and consistently foolish who wish not to be spoken ill of and yet probably deserve it.
Yet, just think about how disastrous it would be if we all ran around not saying un-nice things. It’s 1860, “Those slaves down in the south? Well, if you can’t say anything nice...” Or how about 1935, “I say, that Hitler chap just invaded Poland. Well, if you can’t say...”
Extreme? Nevertheless, certainly valid. This is taking the thought to its logical conclusion. It is a sentiment that has permeated the magic world and editorialized as recently as a couple months ago in Magic Magazine. This kind of thought has helped keep magic in the dark ages for practically ever.
Nay, I say. Do speak ill. Don’t hide your distain.
There are signs of it changing. The internet has helped, Tim Ellis’ wonderful blog and Magic Fakers website for example. Honest and, in the face of the sniping magic world, brave writers like Jamy Ian Swiss are exerting influence in the magic world. Although too often, the criticized attack back with little reason and personal attacks.
To keep those who treasure truth over lies and pursue perfection over mediocrity in a safe zone, I offer up a correction to our insidious thought.
“If you can’t say anything nice, have evidence.”
Previously, I wrote about my dislike of a couple of big shots in the magic world. This was not just random name calling. I believe I had a reasonable argument. That is the most important point. It is not just enough to say some one sucks. There must be a why. Like Tim Ellis, it is not enough to say that some is a rip off artist, show where they stole from.
There are two other variations of this theme.
“If you can’t say anything constructive, don’t say anything at all.”
“If you have nothing to say, don’t say it.”
Both should be heeded by those denizens of the message boards. I have no vested interest in what people write. I lurk. I see how people treat and react to others. It is embarrassing.
Repeatedly I see people post honest questions only to be attacked:
“I am working on a new show. A complete mentalism show under the theme of Water.I am writing something very different and, in my opinion, interesting.All kinds of effects, will be presented, and I was wondering if you know of one effect that is done with water ...I would be interested in your opinions and ideas.”
Answer: “I think that this would have a limited appeal to an audience, and would seriously limit the scope of your performance options.”
Was that what the poster asked? What do you care? Answer the question.
I saw another response to a post, the answer to the poster’s request was, “I don’t know, ask someone else.”
What the fuck? I am too annoyed to write any more about it.
Another saying to remember is, “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." (Thank you, Mark Twain.) Alternatively, try this, “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to type online and remove all doubt."
So let us review the rules. Write them down, paste them above your computer, and before you type, review.
1) “If you can’t say anything nice, have evidence.”
2) “If you can’t say anything constructive, don’t say anything at all.”
3) “If you have nothing to say, don’t say it.”