Laura over at Apt. 11D, has a post on the meaning of blogging (especially argumentative blogs), that I don't entirely agree with.
I have been thinking about the concepts of conversation, and framing metaphor, and leaving defensiveness behind. This contretemps brings it into one kind of focus.
But when bloggers personally attack others, who are not public officials or celebrities just private citizens trying to go about their work, this undemocratic creation is deeply troubling. Especially since there is no opportunity to satisfactorily respond. Perhaps if I had a more important blog, I could respond in kind (and provide a link to his blog), but I don’t. My co-author doesn’t have even a little blog like mine, so she has no voice whatsoever.
Another nasty side effect of blogging is that hit counts can go to your head. Occasionally, hit counts can inflate egos creating not only the so-called pundits, but a hundred little bullies. Blogs are not soap boxes for speaking your mind, because bloggers don’t have to respond to hecklers in the audience. Blog readers don’t have the opportunity to hear responses to posts and weigh differing points of view. The heckler has been effectively silenced.
What prompted this is that a man wrote a post critical of Laura's approach to a survey she is conducting, impugning her scholarly abilities.
The post was unfair, insulting, uninformed, and arrogant.
To be accused of laziness and lack of ability stings....but does it matter? That is to say, why do we care when someone we don't even know personally has a negative response? In the life of the university, academia, the situation Laura describes must be attended to and resolved. But here in the land of the electrons, it really needen't be attended to and resolved. It will be buried under the next thing, and the next, and the next.
Laura says that there was "no opportunity to satisfactorily respond." "Satisfactorily" is the hinge. It is our nature to want to say, "But that's not what I meant!" "You are misrepesenting me!" (or in other situations, not this) "But I would never [be that way] [do such a thing] [have such a thought]" The other's accusations are an injury to our sense of ourselves, and it so stings we can't think.
I can think of at least three ways to respond, all of which may be satisfactory:
One, "masterly inactivity." Walk away. Ignore that person (or blog). The satisfaction is not getting in a name-calling war.
Two, "rebuttal": cut and paste the offensive verbiage and explain in detail why you did what you did. I am not saying to justify yourself, but to outline your reasons. In this case, the rationale behind the survey construction.
Three, "aikido"--using the momentum of the other to move the conversation where you wanted to go in the first place.
And then Laura says, "Blogs are not soap boxes for speaking your mind".
I disagree very strongly. Blogs that are set up to be conversations (and some are), should be that. But other blogs are not meant to be conversations, they are meant to be exactly that, a soap box, meaning someone That is exactly what they can be. There's no committee, no referee, that who controls what I say here. It is not a democracy nor it should be. And in some settings, even the rules of civility need not apply.