Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Debaters and Instigators...

This space, in a very brief period of time, has come to mean an awful lot to me. Obviously it is not the binary bits of data that represent the characters that form the words to create the sentences and so on. It is not even so much the translation of those symbols into thoughts and ideas. It is the human interaction – the meeting of the minds in a medium so new that it barely registers on the radar of human history. The relationships, the concurrence and dissention, indeed even the friendships can be just as real as if a physical interaction were present.

In some respects, it is an even purer medium than other forms of communication. It is based in the clarity of words and words alone. The ancillary distractions of gender, appearance, ethnicity, religion, nationality, even tone of voice are secondary to the written words. In fact, it is most often the case that these other characteristics can only be known through what is written, if at all. Although my challenge is to convey some kind of tone or attitude clearly through only words, when successful there is little doubt as to what I am actually saying.

The other side of that coin, and all to often a very ugly side, is that many will use the anonymity of the black-and-white to hide their agenda. Their true intentions can be hidden by lying about certain key characteristics such as age and gender to take advantage of the innocent, the na├»ve or the vulnerable. Sexual predators exploit children, the elderly are taken in by con artists and most everyone runs the risk of identity theft. The medium, however, does not create these people – these people exploit the medium as they would anything else.

My affection for the blogosphere has not been tarnished by these ne’re-do-wells . Sure they do drift into this little corner of cyber space with irregular frequency, but they don’t stick around long. Perhaps they are outclassed by this and other blogs in the neighborhood; blogs that have owners who don’t react in the knee-jerk manner that so many under-informed members of the human race do. Maybe the unflappable opinions only appear static to those who can’t present a cogent argument. Could it be that for some it doesn’t matter how the game is played, that it is only winning that counts?

I am attracted to reason. The blogs I read and visit regularly are written by those who possess a couple of qualities that I was beginning to think had gone the way of the dinosaur. Being of a particular religion or ideology are not among the requirements. In fact, I would be hard pressed to label – consistently - anyone of them. They all have respect for other's opinions and they all are civil. Even when debating a position in which the participants are diametrically opposed to one another, there is no animosity when it’s over. There are no winners. There are no losers. What there is 99% of the time is the respect earned through measured, reasoned and responsible debate.


Lady Prism said...

blogging for two years now..I've had quite memorable experiences...

i've learned to be really careful..when using this medium..when in cyber, so to speak...

most are nice...but there are those that spew hate..

there was once a moment when i revealed more than needed...It wasn't a bad experience...but I've learned about the importance of privacy...and how there is a need to protect it..

Bar L. said...

Mike, excellent observations. My experience has been a lot like yours (except don't go looking for too many intellecutal conversations on my blog!)

You are a huge asset to the blogosphere.

awareness said...

And to think that there was a fear of people not reading or writing as much when computers and the internet came into being!

Since my intro into the world of blogging, I have read and written more than I have in years. Not only that, my range of interests,ideas and perspective has broadened due in part to my own writing, but mostly to what other bloggers have shared. This ever expanding "world" is the best learning tool, don't you think? Like you, my time writing on my blog quickly became an important part of my daily life.
The whole process of blogging quite amazing. You're right on when you point out that it is a level playing field, with little or no thought to demographics.

Thank you for providing some food for thought tonight. Enjoy your day!

Michael K. Althouse said...

lux ~ Although I am very public about my identity - that is my real first and last name and town - there are some details that I don't let just anyone know. However, I have no real secrets either - if someone wanted to know, it would be realtively easy to find out. I've got pretty tough skin... if a logging truck couldn't take me out, no one in cyberspace can either.

barb ~ you have got to be kidding! Some of my most inspirational and intellectual conversations have been with you - surely you know that?

awareness ~ I couldn't agree more. If I had predicted what this would mean to me six months ago, I would have sold myself way short. It is a huge relief that there are still thinkers and writers among us.

Ellen said...

This is the reason why I have the links I do. The people I interact with are intelligent with well thought out comments that don't demean themselves to stomp all over your opinions because they don't agree with them. They offer sympathy, friendship and shared experiences... a great lesson in how to treat your fellow man.

A while back my nephew did a post about a sexual predator he had worked with. I commented on his blog and ended up being a target of hate by the defenders of the predator. They couldn't come up with rational arguements why we should feel sorry for these sickos in the world... but had no problems calling me names that would have earned them a trip to the woodshed for if their mommas heard them. The "C"-word was one such name I was called. I never resorted to swear back or even wish them harm, and I never backed down either. I was not offended by the language they used so much as the way they used it as a platform for their opinions without basis for truth. It was then that I realized it was better to steer away from these idiots, for they would never have any real basis to argue a point intelligently anyway.

I am glad and grateful to know the people I do through this medium as it has opened my mind and opinions further, as well as opened up the world in my little corner of it.
And... I thank everyday that I ran across your blog as well as my links, as I've met the most interesting people to talk with.

Michael K. Althouse said...

ellen ~ All they are looking for is a fight. Once engage, you're on their home turf. I prefer to keep the home field advantage. I like what you said:

I never resorted to swear back or even wish them harm, and I never backed down either.

It's the only way to deal with these idiots. Not only is it the only means that has any chance of being effective (remote at that), but it allows me to come through the other side with self-respect and dignity. No one can take that without my consent.

Thanks for your considered thoughts.


Jinsane said...

Great post! You nailed it all right on the head! I have had a run-in or two with some low-lifes, but I have never let them deter me from what I started my blog for - an outlet for MY life.

I have formed so many great friendships that, as awful as it sounds, some mean more to me than the "real" people in my life. I am so proud of my little "online posse", and I greatly anticipate and appreciate their advice.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Jen ~ I'm with you... especially about what you said about the friendships.

And those idiots are at least a little easier to ignore electronically.


Mayden' s Voyage said...

Well said mr althouse...well said. I have only been doing this since mid-January and have already made friends that I think I will carry way into the future.
Lovely blog...I have enjoyed my vist here!
-Cora :)

blair said...

Hi Mike,
I truly enjoyed reading this post. I love the way you express yourself with words. Somehow it always makes me feel nostalgic when I read your posts. I can totally identify with what you are saying. For the most part, I think blogging started out as an intellectual medium, it has not spanned out from that and there will always be some posers and some evil people out there that we have to watch out for.

Blogging has become a part of my life. Reading, writing.

I am a blogger!

blair said...

oops! I meant, "It has NOW spanned out from that"


BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I can so identify with what you write.

To me, words are like weapons, shields and knives, they have so much power, and I put my ultimate faith in them. I am a word person, and have always been, which is why like yourself, blogging is such an immensly satisfying activity.

Now, when you start falling in love with yourself from reading what your write, that is intoxicating. (in a good,non-alcoholic sense, that is!)

mckay said...

all that, and a bag of chips, mikey.

i've never encountered any online bad guys, perhaps my hits are low and i'm under the radar. i'm glad i've been encased in the fog bound protection of such wonderful bloggers such as JD and yourself..

i enjoy the inky sparrring, i do. keep up the good work ;-)

Michael K. Althouse said...

mayden ~ thank you and thanks for stoping by. I like your blog too.

blair ~ I agree. I think that as long as there are those striving to communicate via this medium, writing and reading have to be getting better - and that's always good.

bfc ~ said:

Now, when you start falling in love with yourself from reading what your write, that is intoxicating.

I get that, I really do.

mckay ~ if you do encounter any bad guys - you know who to call


Biker Betty said...


Well said!!! I'm pretty new to blogging, and I always hope that all of the people I'm talking with are real and genuine. I really enjoy talking with others through out the world and cyberspace offers that. I actually enjoy the writing process, something I hated in school. I find myself actually doing some research on places I visit and having fun in the process. Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading it.