386: Duty Calls

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Duty Calls
What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!
Title text: What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!


Cueball, and many people everywhere, feel an irrepressible urge to correct people on the Internet, and often get intensely invested in arguments over mundane or insignificant topics. In this comic, Cueball is presented as an exaggerated example of one such arguer. His statement that "This is important" shows his excessive investment in whatever (unnamed) topic he is arguing about. Additionally, Cueball's interpretation of the argument as "someone is wrong, I need to correct them" rather than "someone disagrees with me, I should learn from them" parodies Internet arguers' insistence in the obvious, objective superiority of their viewpoint. The phrase "Duty Calls" used in the title is traditionally used in much more dramatic contexts (say, by a police officer, firefighter, doctor, etc. when talking about their job), so applying it to the job of arguing on the Internet is a humorous mismatch that puts Cueball's disproportionate investment into perspective. In 955: Neutrinos another incarnation of Cueball is cured of a similar disease. A much later comic is simply called 1731: Wrong, but here it is not the other people who are wrong! A callback to this comic was made in 2051: Bad Opinions.

The title text reinforces the absurd nature of his emotional investment in this argument. His reasoning that "they'll keep being wrong!" if he leaves suggests that the only solution he sees is to continue to argue until everyone on the Internet has agreed with him on all issues–a ridiculously impossible plan. By taking this satire to its logical conclusion–an eternity of arguing on the Internet with no time for pleasure in real life–Randall reminds the reader that getting emotionally involved in Internet arguments at the expense of real life is a terrible, terrible idea.

Alternative interpretation[edit]

There are a lot of people in the Internet.[citation needed] Some percentage of those people are objectively wrong about known things. In consequence, there are a lot of wrong people in the Internet. So, correcting those people is a never ending task. Also, some of those people are wrong because they are cranks, and won't accept even a clear demonstration of their error. But the people posting corrections can self-justify their effort because they are helping the lurkers who otherwise could be led astray by the errors published.


[Cueball is typing on a computer.]
Voice outside frame: Are you coming to bed?
Cueball: I can't. This is important.
Voice: What?
Cueball: Someone is WRONG on the Internet.


This comic used to be available as a signed print in the xkcd store before it was shut down.

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Doesn't look like anyone's touched this during its spotlight as the Incomplete Article of the Day. But really, what else can we say? 03:06, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

Maybe how deeply compelling the "need" to fix something wrong on the Internet is? It's not just a plain correction.... it gnaws at you... 03:17, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

Tried to flesh out/improve the analysis. Still needs some editing for clarity [I'm not sure how formal the tone of this wiki is supposed to be?] but hopefully it's an improvement on the previous edit. 17:47, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

I think its good. Hits on all the points, unless anyone sees differently I think it adequately explains the comic. I think all the editing from here is flow and stylistic stuff. And that's minimal. --Lackadaisical (talk) 20:22, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

It's a Cunningham's law reference, guys, that's it. (talk) 11:38, 26 February 2015 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The title "Duty Calls" has a double meaning. One that Cueball needs to go "fix" the internet and that he needs to "be" with his S/O. 21:04, 26 August 2015 (UTC) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think this explanation misses the case when someone is factually wrong on the internet, and doesn't just have a different opinion. For example, when someone on Facebook "discovers" that the Mercator map projection is "wrong" and that the "true" one is Gall-Peters (true story), I believe even Randall would feel the need to say something. But of course, the border between factual errors and arguing is very thin... 09:50, 8 June 2017 (UTC)

I just added an "alternative interpretation" for just this case. Rps (talk) 13:11, 14 March 2024 (UTC)

What about when you are legitimately trying to help someone? (talk) 19:09, 12 November 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Oh dear, Cueball represents me here. Beanie (talk) 11:52, 23 March 2021 (UTC)

See Cunningham's Law (talk) 19:10, 13 March 2022 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)