Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why We Blog

A couple of months ago, there was a lot of blogging about blogging -- why we blog, the political clout of the netroots, all that. The blogosphere has been busier than ever this week, with most bloggers posting 9/11 tributes or memories or reflections on how far we've come since then. It showed the intensely personal side of the huge anonymous internet and the almost therapeutic power of being able to join so many others in expressing our feelings.

I found it unutterably depressing, then, that some saw fit to denigrate the writings of others in the name of "honouring the memory" of 9/11. The author of a blog that's one of my regular reads had crafted an exceptionally beautiful and moving post, detailing his own memories of time spent in NYC and thoughts about the 9/11 anniversary. It was a personal story with some almost artistic elements, which made it unique among most of the 9/11 posts I'd read. Unfortunately, some either couldn't or wouldn't understand what the author was saying, took offense, and launched a barrage of personal attacks that got so bad he was forced to remove the post to stem the tide of abuse. Why the attacks? Because he dared to make points that some disagreed with, so his voice had to be stifled. I'm sure the people responsible feel smugly satisfied that they were able to squelch a dissenting view.

What is this? Is this why we blog? For circular reinforcement of our own beliefs and opinions? To an extent, maybe. Apart from Andrew Sullivan, you won't find any conservative blogs on my blogroll (although I do keep a couple bookmarked for reference). Not that I don't want to read conservative viewpoints; I enjoy reading Andrew Sullivan because I'm genuinely interested in what they think and AS is a "reasonable" conservative. I occasionally disagree with him -- I was baffled by his support for the invasion of Iraq -- but I'd never even think of attacking him in a personal way because of that. When people feel justified in making ad hominem attacks on others just because their opinions differ, we're on a slippery slope that ends in Taliban territory. How can we sort out the world's troubles if we can't even tolerate the sound of different voices?

There are elements of society that I feel deserve to be roundly ridiculed and I do so with great gusto on my own blog. But I don't go to their blogs and post personal insults. If I felt moved to post a message on a blog that expressed ideas I disagreed with, it would be for the purpose of debate: "I respectfully disagree" etc., and post a rebuttal. Such debates can be a rich learning experience for everyone involved. Diversity of opinion shouldn't only be tolerated, it should be encouraged and respectfully heard out. But when all someone can bring to the table is an insulting, inflammatory attack, maybe they need to re-evaluate the validity of their own opinions and whether they truly feel they're worth debating.

UPDATE: Funny thing about the smug satisfaction of squelching, it can be very short-lived. Go Bruce.