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« Rise of the machines | Main | Heads in the sand »

Jul 26, 2009

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liv

I really like the column Ed. Think it does a good deal of respect to the genre and where it stands. Great read, thanks.

Reggie Greene / The Logistician

I'll tell you this Ed. I've been blogging for roughly 16 months. I went into it with idealistic notions about civil discourse, and the free exchange of ideas and collaboration, and respect for the views of others.

What I have found primarily instead is that many use it as a soapbox to rant and rave, and express their anger. I may be wrong, and I have not established a "representative sampling" using empirical standards perhaps acceptable in the industry, but it strikes me that there is more venom than not in the blogosphere.

My theory is that political correctness has come back to haunt us. There are lots of angry, disillusioned people in our country whose views and attitudes have been heretofore "suppressed," either voluntarily or because of other factors, for a variety of reasons.

Because of recent events, and significantly because of the economic situation, they aren't going to take it anymore, and thus the blogosphere provides an outlet for expression, with some degree of anonymity and distance.

Over the last 3 days, I've read perhaps over 1000 blog articles and comments regarding the Harvard Professor arrest. It is amazing that the facts upon which one can legitimately base or form a conclusion are relatively few, but that people have supplied their own facts to support their conclusions, and to address what they consider to be problems in society at large. The anger is unbelievable, and more importantly, the angry people have framed and defined the world that suits their purposes.

Ed Cone

Lots of not-angry blogging out there, too, Reggie. And plenty of anger and ignorance in the pre-blogging days, just less opportunity to wallow in it.

Blogging may exaggerate the hostility index, because many people who are aren't caught up in arguments are out doing something else, and because one blog comment -- angry or conciliatory, measured or less so -- looks exactly like another one.

But, yeah, all of our pathologies came online with us.

Steve Harrison

I think your observations about the "local level" effect are spot on, Ed.

I had been authoring threads and commenting on others at a large writer's website for a few years before a pal there (fellow North Carolinian) invited me to BlueNC to learn about (and subsequently write about) local/state issues and politics.

My initial feeling was, "I've got fellow writers in New Zealand, Cameroon, Wales, India, and God knows how many other places reading my short stories and life observations, so getting involved with something 'back home' would be sort of a regression."

Of course, I was wrong. That "back home" thing has been much more challenging than I thought it would be, and much more rewarding, as well. You get drawn into things, and sometimes become part of the story instead of just the teller. It's like...I don't know, playing a sport instead of watching it. It forces you to be more aware of the people and things that are happening around you, which is a good thing.

Jimmy J.

Blogging is pure democracy. It illustrates how difficult it is to make pure democracy work. Everyone gets their say and there is usually little consensus. For government to work conclusions have to be reached and policies drawn so life can proceed.

My first experience of a blogosphere-like atmosphere was in the homeowners meetings of a planned unit development. Fifty howmeowners present usually meant at least thirty different opinions. The result: No consensus and no policy to guide the association forward. Just lots of infighting and attempts to overpower adversaries. Theoretically, representative democracy works somewhat better. (Not that one could discern that from what is going on in Washington D.C. these days.) Instead of 300 million opinions the field is narrowed to 455 people who, presumably, can make compromises and work toward the best result for all.

However, the rough and tumble of blogosphere discourse is a good reminder of the value of unlimited free speech. Out of myriads of opinions and ideas we occasionally receive pearls of wisdom and sometimes reach a consensus that people can act on. Yes, it has its occasional pearls of wisdom but, even more so, allows us to vent in a sort of humungous group therapy. The benefits to our mental health are unverifiable, but certainly worthwhile.

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