Yours in dissension

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

JF Cates writes at Blog Sisters:

Do you expect to always have only positive feedback in your comments? Are you upset when someone disagrees with you, or questions your argument? Is blogging about patting those “just like us” on the back, and blocking those who aren’t? Is tolerance analogous to stupidity?

To demonstrate the premise behind her questions, JF links to a couple of what looks to be warbloggers who are having a vehement disagreement with each other about delinking and personal censorship.

I responded, in part, with the following:

As Jeneane will attest, I was ‘delinked’, if this is what we’re calling it now, several months ago and labeled a terrorist sympathizer at the same time. I didn’t care about the link, but wasn’t comfortable being labeled a terrorist sympathizer, considering the country’s mood at the time. I expressed my unhappiness and we had some interesting conversations here and there.

That was then, this is now. Now, if people want to delink me, say nasty things, I could care less. All I ask is that they use a little style. I’ll tolerate being slammed, but I really hate being bored.

Though my comment is rather flippant, the questions JF asks are good ones, and ones that have been on my mind recently. In these virtual communities we build, is there room for disagreement? And the only answer possible is: yes.

How bland to only read those we agree with, and how dull to spend our time only in exchanges of verbal kisses and hugs. Disagreement is, in its way, the ultimate compliment: the person was interested enough in what you’ve written to take the time and energy to write in disagreement. It takes little effort to say “I like what you wrote”, but a great deal to say, “I didn’t like what you wrote, and here’s why…”.

Of course, this presupposes that a person takes the time to write out a thoughtful, indepth, even passionate disagreement. Little effort, or wit or style or intelligence, is expended with comments such as “u sound gay” linked to a photo of feces (in comments made in response to a posting Jonathon wrote).

However, no matter how skilled the argument, it’s for naught if all disagreements are seen as personal attacks. A week ago, Mark Pilgrim listed out various “logical fallacies” that can creep into our discussions with each other, such as that old favorite, argument ad hominem: attacking the person rather than the argument itself. If you’ve been around weblogging for some time, chances are you’ve seen this phrase, as it is used quite loosely in many exchanges. Too loosely at times.

Lately it seems that the phrase argument ad hominen is being used when one person disagrees with another regardless of the argument — it is the fact that the person disagrees at all that is seen as an argument ad hominen, rather than the actual argument. Using this phrase in this context is just as limiting and censoring as more overt forms of weblogging censorship, such as IP blocking or delinking.

As for delinking: if we’re no longer interested in what a person says, generally, then we shouldn’t read them or link to them and no harm is done. But so-called ‘delinking ceremonies”, and making a huge production of removing people from a blogroll is, I think, a ludicrous act of virtual Godhood — as if removing the weblogger from one’s blogroll diminishes them.

(When I talk about public delinking, I’m not including the person, mentioned earlier, who publicly removed the link to my weblog from his blogroll months ago. I personally feel this weblogger has been beat about the head enough for his past action. Time to call the dogs home.)

Children go through a phase when they’re very young of believing that when the television is turned off, the broadcast and the story stops at the point. However, we grow up and realize that, except for a few, our actions have little impact outside of our immediate surroundings. Turning off the television doesn’t stop your neighbors from continuing to enjoy the show without your participation.

Removing a person from your blogroll does not result in a big *POOF* and resulting vacancy where the person previously stood or sat. If that were true, I’d be a cinder and you wouldn’t be reading this. No, the delinked will keep blogging right along, writing what they want, and you’ll most likely end up sneaking back again and again to see what you’re missing.

What’s been hardest for me when it comes to debate and disagreement, especially in weblogging, is knowing when to walk away. As important as disagreement is, there are times when one’s best course is to not reply, to not engage. We aren’t all going to connect with each other, or be able to convince each other of the rightness of our cause; sometimes the participants should agree to disagree and either move on to other topics, or learn to ignore each other and focus energies elsewhere. A mental delinking as it were.

Connecting Weblogging

Can anybody hear me?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Anil Dash wrote about the battles he’s had with depression and encouraged other webloggers to discuss their own battles. Pretty gutsy thing to do, and smart — making good and healthy use of the increased exposure he received after his recent difficulties with the Little Green Football cartel.

Dorothea responded about her own fights with depression — not necessarily an easy topic to write about and the effort deserves quiet and thoughtful respect. And today Jeneane pointed to Anil’s suggestion, agreeing with his assessment that blogging can be good therapy.

I agree that weblogging can be cathartic, can connect us with others, and can open previously closed doors, internally and externally. However, weblogging as therapy isn’t for everyone.

The cathartic experience of writing our fears and troubles to a weblog can be accompanied by an increased vulnerability as we feel the pressure of such public exposure. And the experience of sharing our thoughts can be offset by the sadness one experiences when one reads about others’ happiness, family gatherings, companionship. Especially in the upcoming holiday season.

Ultimately, there’s the existential question that can take a weblogger down, and I’m not talking about web pages:

If I write a weblog and no one reads it, do I exist?

If this invokes laughter, it’s hollow laughter indeed.


Good-bye Rick

Rick, I didn’t know you except through Chris, and I deeply regret that now I’ll never have a chance to know you, because you’re gone. You were only 39 years old.

My deepest sympathies to Rick Gleason’s family and friends for your incredible loss.

Someday I swear, we’ll find a way to stop these senseless deaths. Someday, we’ll find a way to not hurt each other.

Good-bye Rick. story
Sydney Morning Herald