Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Here's why I'm starting this [Rogers Park] blog

Rogers Park is a cool and vibrant community. It also has a lot of active bloggers. This is awesome, and I love it. The problem is, there's a subset of bloggers who post weird, abusive and over-the-top things to try to get a rise out of their neighbors.

I've felt deceived a few different times now. Sucked into reading an interesting neighborhood blog. Learning about the politics of the neighborhood, what's going on, who's who, etc. Then, out of nowhere, a blogger posts something offensive or insulting, to make it very clear that THEY'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT and everybody else is ABSOLUTELY WRONG AND SHOULD BE PUNCHED IN THE FACE. I think a blog's credibility is damaged when this happens. I think smart people usually act (and write) in a reasoned and restrained manner. When a blogger is doing the opposite, it give me pause. I think that when I don't know a lot about a given situation, that misplaced vitriol, hatred and screaming on a blog are stumbling blocks to understanding. In short, it doesn't help, and it doesn't sway.

I'm not sure where I'm going to go with this, but here's where I'm going to start, by sharing a couple of the crazy things that I've seen lately on local blogs that I thought were just, well, lame.

Tom at Rogers Park Bench posted this loving tribute to North Korea and tyranny in general, entitled "The Left's Historical Support for Tyranny." He seems to have thought better of it and yanked the post back. It had already been pushed out via RSS, so I was able to screen shot it from my Google Reader feed. Gee. Thanks for implying that everybody with even slightly differing politics than your own must obviously be supporters of communism and tyranny.

In a disappointing display of "do as I say, not as I do," Tom documents an instance of this happening on Thomas Westgard's Rogers Park Rake. In this case, Westgard tried to subtly sneak in a Nazi slam against Don Gordon, according to what I saw on my RSS feed. He also had a change of heart, and pulled it back, but not before it was seen by multiple readers. In the post, he compares Don Gordon to Vidkun Quisling. A Nazi reference (even 'subtle' or indirect) is something that I consider to be an argument of last resort. It says that one has no more words, no more brain power, no more ability to actually deconstruct somebody, or their argument, through intelligence. It's the online discussion equivalent of an eight-year old flipping out and throwing rocks on the playground, mad because he can't get his way and doesn't have the words to explain why.

I've been on the internet long enough to already be familiar with Godwin's Law. Apparently not everybody else is.

Comments from the Original Post:

Thomas Westgard said...
I'm familiar with Godwin's Law as well. In fact, if you go back on the Wikipedia post on Godwin's law far enough, you'll find the Westgard's Law analog I put up there several years ago (since removed). The Quisling post was a deliberate reference to Godwin's Law. Part of the point was that the epithets being thrown elsewhere had reached the point of absurdity, and by putting up a post that invoked Godwin's Law, it would point out exactly what you saw. Thank you for noticing, although you didn't carry the point over to the other blogs. Oh, well, can't get everything.

I'm mystified by your perception that the criticism of Gordon in the Vidkun Quisling post was either subtle, or quickly drawn back. It was about as unsubtle as a criticism could be (in fact, isn't that the point of Godwin's Law?), and it stayed up for days. First you think I'm Godwin-level wild, then I'm subtle. Which is it? Perceiving Godwin's Law was good, but Al - your only accomplishment was to read what I wrote! (albeit incompletely) By assuming that only you knew of Godwin's Law, you relieved yourself of the necessity of further thinking why I might deliberately transgress it. By using your own timeframe for how long a post "should" stay up, you set yourself up to see what you wanted to see.

Okay, fine. I'm looking at the future now anyway, which is why I took the Quisling post down (along with the rest of it). Unlike certain other people, I'm not interested in having these discussions follow people around on the web for all eternity. If Don Gordon wants to retire from politics, I suppose I'll let him, although his silly lawsuit needs to die before he can claim retirement.

I'm curious, though, if you can defend your analysis of the Quisling post from where we sit today. You described it as the (forgive the paraphrase) argument of last resort, when the mind fails and the words become the functional equivalent of foaming at the mouth and undermining whatever rational argument may have gone before. The irony of you calling me stupid, then claiming the intended meaning of my post as your own invention, within the same sentence is an irony I've wallowed in a bit too much already, perhaps.

But looking forward - do you perceive that Craig and Mannis have themselves not gone into a Godwin-like foaming zone, most recently e.g. pursuing the operator of a laundromat with righteous indignance, or taking the time to reveal to the world that I sometimes possess drywall?

And more importantly, the things that you truly can control, namely your own blog: If the other blogs are "bad," however you choose to define that, what have you written in your blog that overcomes or outpaces them/us? Whether I, or Craig, or Mannis, have fallen into a pit of blogger foolishness that you alone are able to perceive... Unless there's an irony in this post that I myself am failing to perceive, you started this blog and put up this post with grand intentions of setting it all straight with the writings of Al Iverson.

How's it going?

From the looks of your blog, I would say not very well. There are thousands of people who do nothing, who don't even try, but most of them refrain from passing judgment on others, at least publicly. It's easy enough for you to snipe from the sidelines and pass judgment on the qualities of others, without putting out the work, or taking the chances. But I hope you don't feel yourself to be greatly elevated by the accomplishment of attending no meetings and producing no work. The dead fish stuck to my aquarium filter is accomplishing that much, and it smells better than the logic of your arguments.

Come to think of it, the fish does attend the meetings that occur in my office. The fish also keeps its blogging commitments, which in its case are none. The fish passes judgment on no one, and thus is never wrong. Now, that's worth thinking about.

May 22, 2007 12:09 AM
Al Iverson said...
I love how this turns into a debate about Craig and Tom Mannis, like I secretly must be some stooge of theirs because I take you to task.

As far as taking down old posts, doing so denies a new reader the opportunity to get a sense of history. Regardless of what you wish it would say about you, it very strongly suggests that you're unwilling to stand by what you write. If you're so sure that it needs to be taken down to move forward, get past the anger, "you've made your point," etc., then I would suggest that it wasn't appropriate to begin with.

I patently reject any sort of 'how dare I question you' because I supposedly have yet to do anything that outshines you. When you're the yardstick of how I should be measured, I'll care. Until then, I don't.

Actually, that reminds me. Could you let me know when you do something that outshines me? I'd hate to miss it when/if it finally happens.

May 22, 2007 9:45 AM
Kate Harding said...
Also, you should probably remove that dead fish from your aquarium.

May 22, 2007 9:51 AM
Jocelyn said...
I think your take on the use of Nazi rhetoric is spot on.

Also, I was not familiar with Godwin's law so thanks I just learned something new.

June 13, 2007 9:42 PM
Fargo said...
Welcome to the neighborhood! I hope that you don't think all the verbal nastiness represents the 'hood as a whole. There are lots of good people and cool places to eat and hang out. That's why it's one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city.

C'mon over to
http://fargocats.blogspot.com/2007/08/on-blogging-and-civility.html

Your $0.02?

August 4, 2007 4:40 PM

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