Friday, November 24, 2006

Dumb Blogosphere

I've just been cruising around the internets a bit, taking a break from grading...


Well, there really is some good stuff on some blogs out there...but...does it worry anybody but me how godawful terrible so much of it is? Comments in particular tend to be the realm of rampant stupidity and groupthink. It's really kinda spooky.

What's truly alarming is how little even semi-autonomous reasoning there is out there, especially when coupled with the high degree of vituperation. I've seen people attacked mercilessly for peccadillos so obscure and inconsequential that they're barely even discernable. Heck, much of the time I can't even figure out what the target of the group hate did wrong. An iota in the wrong place or something...hard to tell.

Is it the anonymity of the internet that's responsible?

Is it some kind of SUV effect, in which the normally meek and weak suddenly feel empowered to release their inner bully?

Is it the result of cyberbalkanization/groupthink?

All of the above?

What the heck is going on?

Cripes, it's like Lord of the Flies in some places...enough to make you sorely worried about the true nature of humanity. Are people really this dumb, vicious, and tribal?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

As they say, first look to the beam in your own eye before attending to the motes in others.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

The dangers of knowing only one quote...

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting...I've got to check out more blogs just out of a kind of morbid curiosity. The few blogs I do read--and not very often--haven't been too bad. And every now and then I find a blog interesting. One thing I'm curious about is whether blogs are increasing civic participation and interest in politics. It certainly seems better for people to be able to have political discussions with others who are interested in politics in a forum like this. My concern is that blogs are too often echo-chambers where people only encounter positions that they already agree with and are never challenged to reconsider their own positions. And then there's the nastiness problem. Anonymity must have a lot to do with that. If people had to face their interlocutors and say the kinds of things people sometimes say on blogs, the world would be a much more violent place than it already is.

Maybe I'm just uninformed, but I'm somewhat optimistic about blogs being a potentially useful tool for people to discuss issues and become more informed. It beats the old media. At the very least, people (however few their number) are able to actively discuss issues instead of listen to the pundits tell us what we should think. But maybe the people who participate in blogs are already the people who would talk about politics. Damn, nevermind...

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The internet is the world's largest bathroom wall.

1:08 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

It's interesting how much stock WS puts in comments. Personally, I avoid the comments on blogs that get large numbers of comments (over 30 or 40 is more than enough).

Mind you, I am happy to read the blog entries at (e.g.) Atrios, Firedoglake, Hullabaloo. But I ignore the comments, for the comments (unlike the posts) are not edited.

It is only worth following the comments (I find) on blogs where posts attract modest numbers of comments (e.g., Why Now, Philospraptor, Nitpicker, and the exceptions of Brad Delong and Making Light (the Neilsen-Haydens's).

Why do large numbers of commentators make discourse go to hell? It seems that where the comments are being posted fast and furious, most people, stop worrying about what they are trying to day and start worrying about not being noticed.

So, WS, I am curious: What you think of the blogosphere is you only read comment threads that were short?

For example, would you try (in addition to Philosraptor);
and the comment-free
and let us know if they are any better (or worse) than you describe in your post.


4:36 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I've found the righty blogs (on the whole, of course) more interested in convincing than condemning the dissenters in the comments.

I think it has something to do with the underlying philosophy of individualism vs. collectivism.

Of course, I could be wrong. I have only my observation and experience (not in small part here) to judge by. I see the "not ganging up" convention more faithfully observed on the right, where dissenters are addressed one-on-one rather than say, dehumanizing them by referring to them in the third person, a neat trick where the echo attempts to speak only to his fellow echoes.

I do hate these "my side is better than yours" arguments, but I offer this only as opinion, not an assertion of fact. And the occasions where we do fall into good discussion here make me consider this blog an oasis in a sea of incivility.

(I have previously expressed an agreement with Jim's point that there is a "right-sizing" of comments sections that permits good discussion to occur at all.)

And yes, WS, anonymity, as evidenced by rioting mobs in real life, certainly does contribute to the phenomenon. There have been numerous times I've de-escalated rather than indulged my thumos (thymoticness?) because I sign my real name. Civility, even the clenching-your-teeth kind, is an act of will or perhaps even eros and not a function of temperament, make no mistake.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much to respond to, so little time. Instead, I'll keep my boiling oil fresh and hot in my thumos.

4:48 PM  

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