The World Of Unreason In The Blogosphere

David Selbourne of The Spectator warns of a world of unreason:

There is a world, increasingly driven by unreason, in which voices in the wilderness denounce each other as ‘traitors’, cry out that ‘all I want is no more Islam near me’, or allege that Prince Charles is ‘waiting in the wings to declare the UK a Muslim country the minute QEII dies’.

It is the world of the American blogosphere of the ‘left’ and ‘right’; the world not of the lunatic fringe, though it may often seem so, but of vox pop. It is a world of which the ‘MSM’, or ‘mainstream media’, knows too little. Yet blog-site contributors’ opinions, threats and predictions — expressed in large volume on such sites as jihadwatch, littlegreenfootballs or Daily Kos — merit increasing attention for what they reveal of the temper of our times.

There is some truth but also considerable over-generalization to Selbourne’s views of the blogoshere. To a degree the blogosphere does reflect the worst of the polarization of this country. Any person, regardless of how radical their views, can post. The anominity of the internet makes it easier to express one’s most extreme viewpoints while showing little respect for the views of others. Paranoid ideas about the other side thrive without a responsible editor to demand that a writer look at both sides objectively.

However that is just one aspect of the blogosphere. Not all conservatives share the attributes of Little Green Footballs and I’ve had some rather cordial discussions with conservative bloggers. On the left, I’ve both agreed wth Daily Kos at times and have also been quite critical of them at other times. Similarly I’ve posted on disagreements with some liberal blogs, while there are also many liberal blogs which avoid the shrill hatred commonly associated with Daily Kos and LGF.

The relationship to the mainstream media is also more complex. The media has many biases and faults which have nothing to do with left versus right bias, which leads to frustrations on both sides. Desite its faults, the mainstream media remains our best source for information, and MSM reports become the basis of many blog posts, left and right. There is also a difference between the typical discussion of the mainstream media in the left and right. Critics on the right are more likely to attempt to discredit the whole mainstream media in the hopes of replacing it with their right wing media. Some on the left express distrust for everything and anything published by the minstream media, but they are a minority even in the left blogosphere. More often liberal bloggers, possibly due to lacking an alternative media as strong as that on the right, are more likely to be pushing for improvements in the quality of coverage by the mainstream media. The goal on the left is not to abolish the media but to get it to stop pandering to the conservative freak show and be more aggressive in their reporting of government claims.

Selbourne writes that, “In this war of words as well as of worlds, reason is under pressure on all sides.” While reason is under pressure, there are many of us on both the left and right who support reason over the hatred described by Selbourne. It would be useful for bloggers to keep Selbourne’s crticism in mind as we try to avoid the unreason he describes. Moving to Liberal Values was one move I took in this direction when the last blog I wrote for, The Democratic Daily, increasingly left the reality based community, increasingly substituting personal attacks and Michelle Mailkin-type activity for consideration of facts and reasonable arguments. The first signs that I should move on came with their defense of Deepak Chopra’s attacks on evolution and science. This was followed by their support for astrology, ghosts, absolutely any claim of election fraud regardless of the evidence, and ultimately their defense of Mel Gibson which caused me to leave.

Still, for every site on the left where irrationality rules there are many which calmly discuss policy matters without resorting to hatred and unreasoned attacks. Similarly there are far too many conservative sites which mindlessly repeat the same talking points without regards to their lack of validity, but there are also some which express an honest and reasoned support for conservative principles.

To some degree those sites which support reason might be rewarded with more readers, but we also know that sensationalism often wins where ratings are concerned. The blogosphere isn’t that much different from the mainstream media in that regard.

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7 Comments

  1. 1
    Probus says:

    Excellent point. You raise many great points.

  2. 2
    Christopher says:

    The blogoshere is akin to the wild west. I like its vitality and unpredictability. Most of all, I like and I embrace the absence of Federal control. My opinion is just that — my opinion and agree or disagree with me, until the Bush junta shuts down the nation’s servers, I will continue expressing my POV.

  3. 3
    Todd Mitchell says:

    What a richly ironic post. First you write that “there are many [blogs] which calmly discuss policy matters without resorting to hatred and unreasoned attacks”, which one assumes is a reference to your own blog here. Then you launch into another round of personal attacks and ad hominem arguments against the Dem Daily, dredging up debates you lost and beating horses long dead regarding issues you were found to be in error on.

    One of the hallmarks of reason and the “reality-based community” is being able to accept when one has been proven wrong on an issue or point. Your ongoing bleating regarding the Dem Daily aptly proves the title of your post: a “world of unreason” indeed.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Excuse me Todd, but it is you who repeatedly preceded your “rebuttals” with statements that anything which disagrees with you is ridiculous or idiotic while totally ignoring any facts which contradict you and showing absolutely no regard for whether your arguments in any way support your premises. Any comparison of my work to yours would show the difference between my arguments based upon facts and your reliance on personal attacks and your lack of concern for facts.

    Ok, in your mind I lost the arguments at Dem Daily. That would mean that intelligent design and not evolution explains the development of complex species, that astrology describes the universe, that ghosts exist, that Republicans can steal any election at the push of a button (which mysteriously didn’t work in those close races this year), and that I was wrong for criticizing Mel Gibson and holocaust denial.

    Maybe in the world of Dem Daily I was “proven wrong” but that just shows how divorced you are from the reality-based community.

  5. 5
    Todd Mitchell says:

    Ron writes: “Any comparison of my work to yours would show the difference between my arguments based upon facts and your reliance on personal attacks and your lack of concern for facts.”

    Yet another example wherein you label what is nothing more than your opinion of an issue as “fact”, and thereby everyone who disagrees with you disagrees with “fact”. That was shown time and again to be wrong.

    “Ok, in your mind I lost the arguments at Dem Daily. That would mean that intelligent design and not evolution explains the development of complex species, that astrology describes the universe, that ghosts exist, that Republicans can steal any election at the push of a button (which mysteriously didn’t work in those close races this year), and that I was wrong for criticizing Mel Gibson and holocaust denial.”

    On the latter two, you were shown to be factually incorrect. The evidence concerning election fraud was overwhelming (and yes, was still a concern last month), and your allegations that the Dem Daily “supported anti-semitism” were also shown to be wrong.

    I have no idea what your allegations are concerning “ghosts” although I’m rather sure no one who writes there believes in “ghosts”. And I’ve never seen anything regarding intel design over evolution either.

    “Maybe in the world of Dem Daily I was “proven wrong” but that just shows how divorced you are from the reality-based community.”

    My, my, so now I’m “divorced from reality” as well. Let’s put it this way, Ron, if your version of “reality” is reality, I’m happy to exist out here on Fantasy Island.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Todd,

    The fact that you hurled a bunch of insults against me without offering a shred of evidence does not mean I was “shown to be factually incorrect” on anything. Your insults are in no way responses to the facts which have backed me in every instance.
    “On the latter two, you were shown to be factually incorrect.” Not at all. I presented considerable evidence against the most extreme, off the wall charges of voter fraud which I disputed at Democratic Daily and here. I was repeatedly told I was wrong as would be proven when the Republicans stole the Congressional elections and Democrats never again won an election. Doesn’t seem to have turned out that way.

    How dare you include my criticism of Mel Gibson and holocaust denial in your examples where I was found to be “factually incorrect.” What the hell is factually incorrect about my condemnation of Mel Gibson and Holocaust denial which was opposed at the Democratic Daily? I really don’t think I even need to bother to justify why the defense of Mel Gibson and discounting of Holocaust denial at Democratic Daily caused me to leave.

    Arguments over evolution, astrology, and ghosts were among the most heated disagreements at Democratic Daily. I was “informed” that my lack of belief in ghosts was like Bush’s lack of belief in global warming! That’s the type of Fantasy Land you are hanging out in at Democratic Daily.

    I have been subjected to repeated personal attacks from you and others at The Democratic Daily when the facts proved me right but you preferred to stick to your biases, ignore the facts, and claim I was just intolerant of the views of others. Damn right I didn’t go along with the established views at The Democratic Daily. If my not believing in ghosts, astrology, Chopra’s views on intelligent design, conspiracy theories ranging from election fraud to 9/11 conspiracies, or that Mel Gibson is just a misunderstood closet liberal (comment 6) are signs of intolerance on my part, then I’ll stick with this form of “intolerance” rather than accepting these views where I faced disagreement with writers at The Democratic Daily.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    Todd,

    I almost left out your other frequent dishonest debate tactics which shows your lack of regard for the facts: to misquote my statements to attempt to make your off the wall attacks appear more reasonable. I have called you on this previously when you resorted to misquoting me to respond.

    This is seen again by your placing “supported anti-semitism” in quotes. My criticism has always been specific and not the vague generalization you invent. The criticism has been for the defense of Mel Gibson, the attempts to prevent me from posting my criticism of Gibson, the attacks on me at The Democatic Daily for my criticism of Mel Gibson, and the trivialization of Holocaust denial. If you object to my complaints against the Democratic Daily I take it that you support the decision to prevent me from criticizing Gibson, support the attacks on me for my criticism of Mel Gibson, and disagree with me on the signficance of holocaust denial.

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