Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mean kids on the playground

Reason #417 why I can't get enough of Terry Teachout's blog:

I never cared for Johnny Carson as an entertainer, but the guy's gone now, so of course I expected that people would write about him. I avoided all of the obits, even the one my man Terry posted. So this morning as I sipped a cup of tea and skimmed my favorite blog I was a little (but only a little) surprised to find that Terry's taking some flak for not gushing about Johnny.

To those readers who didn’t like what I wrote about him,
I say: what’s it to you? Why do you care? I’m just a guy
with a blog. If you don’t like it, start one of your own.
That’s the wonderful thing about the blogosphere—it
puts all its participants on a potentially equal footing,

something that was never true of the mainstream media.
By all means feel free to get into the game. But let me give
you fair warning: blogging isn’t for the thin-skinned. If
you were offended by what I wrote about Carson,
wait till you start opening your e-mail.

Isn't he cute? Trust me, folks, he's a whole lot more than "just a guy with a blog". I'm only mildly interested in the arts scenes of New York and Chicago; I read Terry because he's a clever writer and he has the finest blog I've seen anywhere. (I'm not offering the above paragraph as an example of his best work -- check out a few of the About Last Night columns to get a taste of some stunningly elegant prose laced with subtle humor.)

So far, I haven't received any nasty e-mails about anything I've posted here on my blog. That's probably explained by the fact that my blog is barely a month old; I'm sure my time's running out. But last week I got hit hard after posting a comment over at someone else's blog. Mind you, I was well aware that I was the Lone Conservative in that particular forum, so I expected to get it from all sides. But I was hoping for a stimulating discussion; a thoughtful exchange of ideas.

Ha. Nobody addressed any of the points I brought up. They all just piled on, presenting emotional and poorly-reasoned arguments that could be summarized thusly: "Because I said so!" And they suggested that only an individual less mature than themselves could possibly hold such ridiculous, "narrow" views as mine.

Hey, I never asked them to agree with me. I just kind of thought, you know, that they might consider what someone who looks at the issue from my perspective might be thinking about it.

Right. Talk about howling at the moon.

Things really got out of hand after my second post, so I thanked the blog owner and backed out of there. Not because I'm thin-skinned, but because I wasn't getting anything out of the discussion. Nobody had presented an argument I could respect even while disagreeing with it. And as one of my friends used to say, there's no satisfaction to be had in engaging in a battle of wits with individuals who are unarmed.

This morning, Terry Teachout wrote:

Here's something I posted last year:

These three words, when used in the same
paragraph, automatically turn my ears off:

(1) Offended

(2) Demand

(3) Apologize

I'll stand by that.

Me, too, Terry. There are far too many fascinating conversations going on in the blogosphere to waste our time on people who aren't interested in thoughtful debates but only in winning arguments so they can feel superior.

Let the mean kids have the playground, I say. I'd rather go somewhere else, some place where people understand the value of listening to each other.

Even when they don't agree.

UPDATE: 7:00 p.m.

I guess I spoke too soon about not having received any vituperative e-mails about this blog: I just finished reading a lengthy rant left here in the "comments" section by the owner of the blog I was talking about above. As a result, I have disallowed the comments feature for today's post.

Note to vitriolic blog-owner: I did not mention your name or link to your blog in the post above because my audience is materially different from yours and I did not wish to import a Romance Writers of America discussion over here. My post was not meant as any oblique criticism of you or your blog; I was speaking in very general terms about online debates and what makes them stimulating or disappointing.

In the comment you left here this afternoon you asked me to respond to several challenges. Sorry, but I'm not going to do that. That's not what this blog is about. You may recall that I left a very nice note at your place when I bowed out of the discussion; I have no desire now to revisit the subject with you.

If you still need to blow off steam, you can always publish the rant you directed to me on your own blog. Except that it might drive traffic to my blog, and I'm guessing you're not in the mood to do me that kind of favor.

But that's entirely your call.

I'd like to extend my apologies to the other person who left a note here before I closed down the comments. There was nothing remotely offensive in your remarks, but I hope you will understand this is not a discussion I want to have on my blog. Thanks for visiting my site and for taking the time to post.