Thursday, February 15, 2007

Rethinking Leftist Blogging In Light Of The Continuing And Unfortunately Spreading Controversy
The reaction to the Edwards blog incident has really made me rethink a lot of assumptions I’d had about the capacity of political blogs to change things for the better. I don’t really care about blogs, as such. I care about better people getting into office and changing laws and appointing judges to make life better. If writing bubble gum comics showed more promise, that’s what I’d be doing. The blogs might turn into a tool to make positive change happen. Given the fact that the mass media are in the hands of the enemies of positive change they might be the best tool available. They are important only in so far as they can make that change happen. They won’t make it happen unless their standards are higher than they are now.

This incident and what preceded it have exposed some of the limits of some of the most widely visited blogs. I’d say most widely read but in some of those the comment threads seem to have very little to do with what the blog owners write. Not reading what is written or caring about it where the trouble begins. Most blogging consists of written words. Those can be either carefully considered words, just tossed off irresponsibly, or they can be good, harmless, fun. Some of the best fun can be sharp and pointed but it had better be based in truth if it is.

There is a great difference in the effect of those words. While the writers of them have an equal right to say what they do unthreatened by fascist thugs, not all of what they say is of equal value. If readers of blogs don’t care that reasoned arguments based in facts are a better reflection of reality than invective based in emotion then their judgement isn’t likely to produce good choices. If they don’t care that the invective, which might reflect their feelings, is based on something other than the truth then it is just about guaranteed to produce bad results.

The trend in some of the blogs towards a standard, acceptable, point of view, enforced by derision and dishonesty is exactly what made highschool such an ineffective way for people to learn and develop into healthy, responsible adults. I went to highschool a long, long time ago and hated every second of it, give or take my Biology class, French class and a couple of good English teachers. I’m not willing to spend any more time going against the ruling cliques on those kinds of highschool blogs at this time of life. I’m shut of that. But I’ll never get enough of an adult level of disagreement. I’m too selfish for that. Having my ideas corrected and sharpened by people showing me the errors of my ways is too edifying to give up.

Just as important as getting the facts is that the very foundation of progressive politics is the belief that people, their welfare, their inner lives are important. Being a leftist is about believing that people have a higher value than their physical bodies and their utility in games of power and commerce. Leftists have to appeal to what is best in people, not what is worst. The left can’t use people on the basis of pack sensibility or as a hoard to be swayed on the basis of prejudice and resentment. Unlike conservatism, the left isn’t there to use people in any way, it is there to serve them. It’s been just those on the left who have skimped on this foundation who are the most likely to turn apostate and end up in the Hitchens camp. I don’t trust them.

If the price to post comments on some blogs is enforced conformity then I’m not of that blogosphere. That isn’t just due to a lack of personal sympathy but, all importantly, because commenting on them is a waste of time better spent on trying to change things in real life.

I won’t stop writing for and reading blogs over this, why should I? Why should anyone? If saying what you think means fewer readers and more antagonism, that price isn’t unknown to history. If trying to follow reason and facts instead of entertaining and irresponsible, childish invective is the norm of some blogs trending left that isn’t any reason to suspect that adult level blogging is impossible. There are a number of blogs out there which consistently appeal to an adult level of discourse. My experience in politics leads me to think that it’s the adults who are more likely to actually get the vote out and write letters. Talking to them is worth the derision of other people.

My entrance into this dispute was through that one piece I wrote about why insulting religious believers would lead to unwanted electoral results for the left. It continued through answers to people who didn’t like what I said then. Looking back through the posts I’ve made on those subjects they have all been based in answers to people who read either distorted versions of what I was supposed to have said or who mis-read what I’d written. Some of those have been insulting. If I wasn’t an anonymous blogger I imagine some of them could be threatening. At least one did threaten outing, though I’m confident that was very unlikely. At the time I first answered them I joked that I’d really rather be reviving the idea of progressive taxation. Only, that wasn’t just a joke, it was true.

Note: The big winter storm caused me to delay my plans, I am still intending to take some time off in the next week.

So I love Atrios' blog, but hate the bullying and group think and in-group nature of his comments.

And Marcotte's blog is pure crap. She is a bully and she encourages groupthink and bullying in her comment section. I have seen many people go there with the best of intentions, many people that probably agree with 99.9% of feminist ideas and may even rightfully call themselves feminists, and by saying some comment of dissent and seeking out a conversation, they are just pilloried, bullied, made fun of, and even banned.

I don't know what the solution is. I absolutely do not think that Atrios should moderate his comments. Blogs with moderated comments are the worst.

Oddly enough, the "blog" that seems to have the most even keel in the comments is The comments there will have intelligent commentary and it will have bigoted and sexist comments. But it will almost never have the absolutely one-sided group think.
I appreciate your writing, and I thank you for it.

I grew cynical at an early age when I realized that Sturgeon had underestimated when making his law.

Ninety percent of everything is crap

Sadly that is true for the liberal blogosphere as well. The same old same old -- group think, identity politics, and stabs in the back.

I find it ironic that Amanda Marcotte's site bears more in resemblance to high school "queen bees and wanna bes" than it does to a group of enlightened feminist women. Though what I find most depressing is to see Berube and others playing along.

At the same time these enlightened women will tell you all about how wondrous they are and how victimized they have been, they will eagerly bash anyone that steps in their way. It really is like jr. high school and high school.

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