I do like Blog Land, now that I have become a sort of junior-ranking member for about three months. There is a certain intimacy in the pieces here rarely seen in written media. The tendency toward irony and sarcasm are also embarrassingly enjoyable. The sarcasm seems more chummy than mean, since it seems to be encouraged rather disparaged. We all get it and “dish it out” in BL like a gang of teenage boys cruising some nether world mall. Not that individual “feelings” aren’t periodically trampled, but if you hang with the gang you have to take the heat like one of the gang, and of course give it back too. I just turned 51 and I feel like I’m 16 here in BL. That I like.
Still there is a troubling aspect of BL. Most bloggers remain anonymous and like to comment as if they have knowledge or insights we can only presume they have. We can all pretend to be anything we want to be here: Lawyers, Physicists, Professors, Musicians, Magi from distant lands. Who knows? It is exasperatingly difficult test the knowledge of any individual blogger. Since credentials are disdained here, some people really do know what they are talking about in particular areas and others don’t, and we can’t tell. Most important, expertise changes from field to field. I, for example, am a bone fide expert in the history of Western Philosophy, and not at all an expert in much of anything else. Certainly my views, even in my field, are quite quite fallible, but at least whoever reads what I say will be able to evaluate my ideas based on what they know about my frame of reference.
The problem with the pervasive anonymity of BL is that each piece written stands on its own independent of the writer. There no way to determine if the words are the ramblings of a wannabe or the words of an expert. And since it is virtually impossible to verify every single piece written, much of what readers accept must be based on the trust gleaned from the identity of the writer. If a psychologist or a lawyer tells us something about someone’s motivations it is taken quite differently than if a neurophysiologist or a socio-biologist tells us about those motivations. I only trust the hard scientists myself.
Blog Land is thus both the best and the worst of democracy. (Plato would have hated it!) If one were to say it matters less who you are than what you say the implications would be quite dire. For that is the same as saying it matters less what you know than how you say what you know. The implication is that content is less important than style in BL. If you can write well enough to sway people, even if you lack the expertise to know what you are talking about, you create false public truths. Certainly research will inevitably expose the falsity but often only after the harm has already been done in the public arena — somewhat like malicious gossip. So I think it entirely appropriate for Blog Landers periodically to request some additional background from our fellow “snarkers”, just so we can know whether or not a little quick fact checking on our own might be called for.Powered by Sidelines