Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Signed, X

KBJ writes at The Anal Philosopher:
Imagine a world in which there were no anonymous utterances. It would force people to be civil, fair, and charitable; to be responsive to the facts; and to be logically consistent—for the absence of any of these things would constitute a black mark on one’s record. Anonymity all but ensures incivility, unfairness, uncharitableness, factual recklessness, and logical inconsistency. Perhaps we bloggers should do everything we can to prevent anonymous blogging, posting, and commenting. If we care about the long-term health and integrity of the blogosphere, we will.
It's a nice thought, with more than a little truth to back it up. In my short blogging experience, the level of debate in blogs is a lot higher than it ever was in Usenet newsgroups. I think a major reason for this is that most of us put our names to our thoughts. I know that makes me think carefully about my phrasing - sometimes quite a lot. Bloggers can also disallow anonymous comments and even delete comments they really take issue with (I try not to do this and can only recall one person I felt I had to do that to). So Jackson is right, there is a degree of accountability that comes with signing your name. If some blogs are volatile, it's because the people who go there like slinging mud. I think he takes this too far, however. If one blogger makes a good post and another takes him to task for it but does so in a sloppy, emotional manner, the odds are not too bad that someone out there will have the same emotive response and be willing to overlook the chopped logic or simply be unable to make a fair distinction based on merit. Man on the street interviews have a lot of that. "Sir, what do you think about so and so's speech in the house on topic X yesterday?" "He's a $#@!" Odds are pretty good someone will second that. Which means, incidentally, politicians have to sell ideas they think are right even when polls are against. Are you listening, Mr. Dithers? In the end I don't think there is any escape from poor blog comments, aside from deleting them or not allowing any comments, simply because not everyone is running at the same speed, thought wise, and it has to be given that some people are just emotional (in a way that most philosophers are not). In the end, when differences can't be reconciled, we have to find a way to agree to disagree. It's frustrating as all get out sometimes, but it's not always about winning the point. Sometimes it's about learning to get along. I like hearing from my readers. I gives me the illusion that I'm not operating in a huge echo chamber, and I need to be on my toes.

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