Yesterday, while reading something that was, well, a bit of a storm in a teacup, it struck me what I like least about the blogosphere, about the whole mediasphere, in fact. It’s that we take sides.
I do this sort of thing a lot. I’ll read something that is limited to sphere “A”, and then sphere “B” opens like the clouds in the heavens. I’m a non-linear thinker; I think in huge patterns, which is really cool if you’re trying to see patterns, and it makes things really hard to express sometimes, such as when I write words, because I’m constantly trying to figure out how to draw in bits and pieces of the patterns in my head, instead of, like, telling a linear story or building a point so people can read it. I keep thinking hypertext is the answer, but people don’t read hypertext as if it were hypertext – they read it as if it’s a string of linear documents, which is fair, but golly, people, it makes my job hard. Stop it! Say, where was I?
It’s normal to take sides, really; almost everything you read presents a viewpoint, often with the intent to influence others into having the same viewpoint, in a sort of Darwinian survival instinct, except for ideas instead of genes.
Sometimes I think genetics is reality’s version of Star Wars’ midi-chlorians – a cheap and tawdry explanation for something that goes way beyond the limits of the expression itself. Sure, midi-chlorians and genetics explain something – survival and change of biological species in one case, and George Lucas’ limited imaginatio^W^W^W^Wthe presence of the mysterious Force in the other – but so many things seem to drive for survival without having DNA, it just seems insulting to limit the whole survival of species’ idea, driven by DNA propagation, to only the survival of species. Say, where was I?
I guess what upset me – and it really did – is that it’s so near the surface, almost as if the urge to propagate a viewpoint was red in tooth and claw, rather than wearing a nice tuxedo in a drawing room, sipping a bit of champagne while urging nuclear destruction of a fairly gentle idealogical opponent, who apart from politics is identical in nearly every other way.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of me prefers the tuxedo to the overt predator. Perhaps it’s because the stupidity is only potential, rather than actuality – it’s easy to be civilized while talking about bludgeoning someone else, but when you’re walking about with someone’s scalp on your blackjack, it’s a bit late for civilization. Say, where was I?
So, in this blog entry I was reading, it really stood out to me what had happened: the blogger in question had chosen sides and drawn a line in the sand. Was cheering for his team, as it were.
The problem with this is that ideas end up being seen as existing in a zero-sum universe. If my idea wins, well, yours lost, ha ha ha all over you.
But that’s not the way it really is. My idea can coexist with yours, really and truly, up to and often including the point where you and I decide that the ideas cannot coexist. You can think that open source is the only way decent software can ever be written, and I can think that maybe you’re wrong. There’s not a “clear winner” there, in my opinion (except secretly I know that you FSF people will soon be burning in hell when God smites you as you deserve, you chumbuckets!)
As a writer for a, uh, fairly large industry news site, I always have to be very careful about presenting views. I honestly try to be neutral, often presenting countering views for balance just out of a desperate sense of trying to make people consider things rather than rejecting or accepting an idea blindly. While I understand that not everyone has the same motivations for that that I do, and that blogs are often the escape valves for peoples’ more rabid points of view, it’s still the feature of blogs that I find least useful. Rabidity always serves as the weak point in the sphere.
And it’s everywhere. Like the midi-chlorians.
2011 – I really wish I’d included what the “storm in a teacup” was. I have an idea what it was, but I’d have to correlate dates and try really hard to remember for sure, and even then it’d be conjecture and not fact. Besides, chances are it really was a “storm in a teacup.”
But the problem remains. People are arrogant, including me, and our only saving grace is that sometimes we remember it and act accordingly (i.e., less arrogantly). Perception is everything; people who see themselves as having to play the power game constantly (which seems to include all consultants) are really hard to deal with because they’re so terrified that they won’t be seen as being better than you, even if they are.
Plus: I really hope you see the humor in all the blockquotes, rereading them made me laugh hard at myself. The joke’s on me, folks, and always was. 🙂