Thoughts about the League.


William Brafford

William Brafford grew up in North Carolina, home of the world's best barbecue, indie rock, and regional soft drinks. He just barely sustains a personal blog and "tweets" every now and then under the name @williamrandolph.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’m blogging to learn, not to win, and I like the idea that even if one of us starts off with a furious rant, we can move to a calmer discussion from there.

    On the one hand, I try to do this, and I am deeply disappointed whenever someone I respect accuses me of the opposite.

    On the other hand, blogging merely to learn seems a bit quietist in the face of genuine injustice. If I perceive an injustice, what am I supposed to do? Write about how it makes me think interesting thoughts? Voltaire and H. L. Mencken are two of my biggest personal heroes, and while both were intellectuals, neither one of them would have left things at that.

    I’m not trying to undercut your point, I don’t think, but only to ask about a kind of balance, I suppose. I wish I knew how to strike it myself.Report

    • No, you’re right. There have to be limits.

      Temperamentally, I’m not at all Menckenish. I’m pro-life, but I don’t write about it much, or ever, because I don’t know how. I don’t think another internet screed would do anything for the cause; on one level I think a vehement argument trivializes the real-life difficulties of the issue of abortion. I just stay quiet. But at the same time, I’m well-off enough to be totally uninvolved (also, I’m male). So I’m vulnerable to the accusation that my ideal of civility is a function of privelege, and I don’t really know what to do about that. The stakes are low for me when I write because the stakes are low for me everywhere.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        We ought to make a distinction between “trying to convince” and “trying to win”. These two ought to be the same way, but one can declare victory without doing anything but hardening everyone’s stance by making some forceful point that simply drives opponents out of the conversation. Or worse yet, they fail and the result is a rhetorical escalation.

        You can “win” a debate (or convince yourself you have) by calling your opponents a bunch of names or making accusations that can’t be refuted (How do I prove that I don’t hate black people, the United States of America, and so on)? But you rarely convince anybody that wasn’t already sympathetic to your point of view.Report

        • Well said. And if not to convince, at least to inform.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill says:

          “rarely” might not be the right word here. Depending on the point you’re making and the honesty (or consistency) with which you make it you can actually convince people by calling out your opponent.

          I guess I would restate my position to say that “winning” can often mean only convincing yourself you have won, which can be accomplished merely by cowing people into silence. Convincing, on the other hand, requires that you make arguments with consideration on how others will receive them rather than forcefully making point after point which requires assumptions not necessarily shared by anyone else in the conversation.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Unfortunately, that is sometimes necessary. If you visited Right-leaning sites more often, you would understand.
          Recently, there was a rant going on about the “Keynesianism” of QE2 and all of the socialist Obama cronies at the Fed, which should be abolished. I had to point out that this is a monetarist policy, and that the Fed is full of Bush appointees, because the Senate has blocked Obama appointees. And I still don’t see the connection with Marx/Engels.
          And it’s not limited to the Right.
          I’ve seen it on Leftist sites where denying minorities representation is openly advocated. Of course, you question such people about their principles, and they get angry.
          But as long as the participants are arguing from an honest position, I don’t think there is a problem. It’s more an issue of hackery, and I will have none of it.
          And that’s why I like to visit the League.Report

  2. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    The sort of intellectual combat that Helen Rittelmeyer calls for certainly has its place, and there are some very important works of philosophy that are also angry polemics against someone else’s position. But it’s not a virtue in itself; nor does it necessarily bring worthwile outcomes. I used to watch the real intellectual scrappers duking it out in our university’s Philosophy Club and wonder if they were looking for truth or just to win. The bloggers I find tedious are the same way- it’s all about proving everyone else wrong when many of the people they’re arguing with are really just thinking aloud instead of staking out positions in debate. After you reach a certain age, I think you naturally tire of the sort of people who want to win debates with people who didn’t know they were debating.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    As for the chuminess, I do notice that in the blogosophere. It’s not so much conviviality as a sense that many bloggers read nothing but blogs and the occasional editorial. So Andrew Sullivan posts that Sarah Palin wants to bomb Iran but he doesn’t want to see so many young men with beards get killed and every single blog I read will, within 24 hours, have posted something about Andrew Sullivan’s post. It’s not so much chummy- they do often criticize each other- but after a certain point, the blogosphere tends to resemble a small-town gossip network. I will say that part of the inspiration I had to blog about old books was just this sense that the blogopshere is often that part of the atmosphere with the least oxygen, and thus a defiant will to be much less “relevant”.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I dig the chumminess.

      I don’t see that as a function of how nice everybody is, but how we actually do a pretty decent job (even if I do say so myself) of realizing that everybody here is an individual who happens to have a particular viewpoint rather than an instantiation of a Platonic Viewpoint.

      While we do have a handful of “stereotypical Xies” (for values of X that include right, left, and so on), most of the folks who show up are nuanced enough to be impure in thought.

      Which is cool.

      Which makes firebreathing kinda… silly.

      Dude. We’re just talking here. We’re powerless people talking about the powerful.

      “Gossip” might be the perfect description of what we’re doing.Report

  4. Avatar MFarmer says:

    I’ve participated at many sites since 1995 when I started commenting on the internet — I’ve been in some knock-down drag-out battles, and I’ve been involved in many enlightening discussions. The old AOL boards could be vicious at times, but they could also be helpful in clarifying muddled thoughts. It appears the key has always been honesty, whether it was a vicious battle or a civil discussion. I’ve sought out places which attract people who love to learn, but aren’t afraid to take and defend a position. As long as the process isn’t meddled with too much, and as long as the site owners are good at knowing when to step in and add perspective when things get a little out of control, it all seems to take care of itself.Report

  5. Avatar RTod says:

    I want to comment on the “chumminess” issue, but I’m not sure what one exactly means by “chumminess.”

    Is it the ability to have civil discourse that’s respectful, allowing one to admit when the other side has a valid point? It sounds like I’m being sarcastic as I write this, but I’m not – the web is pretty chock full of folks that view these things as weakness. (I mean, other than him getting the annual bill for the URL name, what IS the difference between a Mark Levine and a Troll?)

    Or does chumminess mean that folks who post here often seem to genuinely like one another? Or that they don’t go for the jugular just to make themselves feel self-important, looking to make others so angry or embarrassed that they leave and never return?

    Whatever the case, “chumminess” seems like what the blogosphere needs more of these days, not less.Report

  6. Avatar dexter45 says:

    I have no idea if I would like anybody on this site in person. I do respect the attitude that most of the people exhibit toward each other. I am a little farther to the left than most of the people here, but I don’t think anybody here is stupid and needs to die. I respect many of the writer’s ability to put words together in an entertaining manner. I respect some of the writer’s depth of knowledge. And I respect this site’s ability to agree to disagree. I don’t want anybody to die a horrible death. I would like a few epiphanies, but one can’t always get what one wants. If the above is chumminess, then, the more the better.Report