Monday, June 1, 2009

Why Pester Hucksters, Dolts, and Crazies?

Partly because "elevating the discourse" lends itself to at least a few definitions, and none of these candidates necessarily merits the top of the responsible blogger's priority list, I think there's something important missed in Mark's post at Pseudo-Polymath about the sorry state of the left-liberal blogosphere. As he sees it:

If you want to raise the level of discourse this is the course you need to take. If you think discussion and intercourse between the sides of the aisle and between the various divisions in our society is of value, the only way to do that is to find the best of the other side and engage that. As fun as it might be, the sarcasm, humor, belittling and lampooning only serves to widen the divide and lower the tenor of the debate. It is counterproductive.
For starters, there's a bit of a straw man at work here. Plenty of blogs are very plainspoken about what they're out to do and why: they exist, in whole or in part, to call attention to the nonsense and shoddy reasoning they see. Period. This precious, precious blog participates in that mission. We assume -- I think I speak for quite a few blogs here -- that if we see it, it is sufficiently "out there," visible, and prominent enough to be worth countering.

Whether or not a given target of criticism represents the very best presentation of an opposing view, there may yet be good reasons to take it on simply because ideas move through the world for reasons that go beyond their straight argumentative cogency and analytical acumen.

Thus it is with politics, religion, the arts, and everything else that touches the human condition. We may stand back and tsk-tsk at the shallowness and shoddy reasoning of [pick your target], but the shallowness and shoddy reasoning will get very far and do plenty of damage if people who know better just turn their noses up and pretend it's beneath their precious time.

The point of calling attention to idiocy is to show people how to see past the slick presentation and see idiocy for what it is. It's also a statement to its purveyors that they are not fooling everyone.


Brian Moon said...

Mark's post appears to me to be nothing more than the Courtier's Reply, but given a slight judo spin move. "Oh, noes," he seems to be saying, "people are just pointing out the low end of the discussions! All the high-minded and well-reasoned discussions are going unnoticed!"

My cynical nature suspects that the high-minded and well-reasoned discussions are Mark's, and that he's simply feeling terribly lonely. But I haven't read his blog prior to today with this one post of his being the lone exception, and in the meantime, there's all the rest of the internet to read. I must prioritize.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Why is it always the responsiblity of the BS-callers to "raise the discourse" when it was the BS'ers fault that it went so far down to begin with?

If you can't take the quality of the BS, don't join the conversation.

We can't just demand that everyone make everything pretty for us. LIfe is full of warts. Many of them create blogs and post comments.

Of course there is some value to having a reasoned, calm discussion about some things. I'm sure such salons exist. But it's not anyone's responsiblity to lead one to them.