f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 31, 2005

open web, closed minds

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 8:46 pm

This evening, U. Wisconsin law Prof. Ann Althouse reveals her “sad experience” in weblogging (“Right and left: my sad experience,” Jan. 31, 2005):

“bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you’re evil/stupid/crazy, and don’t even seem to notice all the times you’ve written posts that take their side.” 

closed sm  Ann asks “Why is this happening?” and confesses “I find it terribly, terribly sad.”  My experience has been similar in many ways, and I share Ann’s feeling that this is all very distressing.  

Disclaimer:  The following are broad generalities used to try to explain a perceived general phenomenon — they do not apply to every editor of a weblog who identifies himself or herself as being on the Left or on the Right. 


Although they wage nasty internecine battles, I believe that many webloggers on the Right ignore disagreements from people they see as outside their ideology, because their conclusions are “faith-based” (including ideological “faiths”).  Therefore, while they are pleased to point out when outsiders agree on a point, disagreement from the Center or Left can be safely ignored, as neither facts nor reason are relevant to their conclusions.  They have a creed that supplies all answers.



Because I have always considered myself to be liberal (modifed the past couple decades with the adjective “practical”), I am much more distressed by the attitude of those on the Left towards anyone who disagrees with either their ends or means on a particular issue.  From my campus days in the Vietnam antiwar movement, and right through the Clinton Administration, to the present day, I have seen the Left instantly demonize and dehumanize their oponents, while demanding complete adherence to their orthodox tenets.   As I have said before at this weblog, this Leftist intolerance — often in the name of tolerance — seems to be based on a premise of moral and intellectual superiority, and a refusal to concede that those with opposing views are acting in good faith (as opposed to acting with a hidden agenda of increasing personal wealth or power).  Thus, once you have strayed from their litany of mandated positions, you are ostracized — your support is unwanted and your disagreements are worthy only of ridicule and contempt.


fragile glass  Webloggers on both political extremes often have more than enough IQ, but their EQ needs a lot of work.  Thinking that there is only one catechism worth reading, and that you possess it — whether it’s based on religion, ideology, philosophy, or political science — makes the world a lot uglier and solutions a lot harder to achieve.  Like, Prof. Althouse, I hope to see more open-mindedness and civility in weblog discourse, and hope that I can always live up to that goal. 


  • Please note that, as per my disclaimers, I know — and in fact revel — in the many exceptions that exist to the generalities I have made above.

update (Feb. 1, 2005):  At her The Other Side of the Ocean weblog, admitted “leftie” law professor Nina Camic takes a look at the issue’s raised by Prof. Althouse, in a post called “Hand me the mike, I have something to say! [or not.].”  After noting that she’s been “plenty slandered for [politcal commentary] on right-leaning blogs,” Prof. Camic says, in part:

But I do agree with one aspect of her post: I, too, am saddened by so much of what I read in blogs, and comment threads are even worse. . . . At first it seems funny and then it just seems sad, desperate, irresponsible.

The blog is a stage and unfortunately anyone can grab the mike. And I admit,  fr ventalone 

sometimes, in fascination, I log on and listen, mesmerized by the lack of restraint, a demonic pleasure derived from seeing someone so exposed, so childishly out of control. But the experience always leaves me feeling empty. Writing and ranting that is neither clever nor funny hardly qualifies as banter. And most often, it pushes the boundaries of meanness.

It’s not just the left or the right. Thoughtlessness and meanness are, unfortunately, universal. Though thankfully, I have come across far more kind posts and blogs than snarky ones.

Prof. Althouse adds her own, well-stated response in an update, here (my emphases):

I’m reminded that I should say, I don’t think all the irrational blogging is on the left. I’m just saying that I’m struck by the way the right perceives me as a potential ally and uses positive reinforcement and the left doesn’t see me as anything but an opponent — doesn’t even try to engage me with reasoned argument. Maybe the left feels beleagured these days, but how do they expect to make any progress if they don’t see the ways they can include the people in the middle? If you look around and only see opponents and curl up with your little group of insiders, you are putting your efforts into insuring that you remain a political minority.

“tinyredcheck”  I’m going to add other note-worthy links on this topic, below, as they arise:

(Feb. 1) Steven Taylor at PoliBlog adds his temperate thoughts, including that politics

is not a zero-sum football game and that “We should not caricature bloggers based on

whom it was they voted for in November, or whether they support the Iraq War or not.”


(Feb. 1): Prof. Althouse added a good line she received in an email:  “I’ve heard it said   

that the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics.”


(Feb. 2) John Hawkins at Right Wing News quotes Charles Krauthammer that “To

understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental

law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”  And

adds: I’d probably replace “stupid” with “hopelessly naive” or “let their emotions cloud

their judgement.” . . . “On many issues, most liberals don’t look at deviations from the

holy scripture of liberalism as differences of opinion, they view them as moral failings.

You aren’t just wrong, you are as Ann’s reader puts it: a “heretic.” . . . There are a few

conservatives who look at things the same way, but for the most part, if conservatives

disagree with you, they tend to think you’re a bonehead on that issue.” 

Ed. Note: Why the difference?  Perhaps because many of the leading 

Liberals fought their first politcal wars over civil rights, the Vietnam War and

Watergate issues that could realistically be painted in terms of good and

evil.  On the other hand, many on the Right, have been fighting high taxes and

big government — issues that have more to do with intellect than morality.  That

set the stage for how each side saw their adversaries.


Of course, the New Right — the religious Right — does tend to see disputes

as battles between good and evil.  That sort of self-rigtheousness is ugly

and unlikely to lead to positive discourse, no matter its source.

(Feb. 2, 2005) Baseball Crank offers additional causes: (1) Liberals see their fight as against

the evil of bigotry, with opponents as bigots; (2) Many liberals have not had the “formative

experience of having had to reconcile themselves to political disagreements with people

they otherwise like or respect, and it shows.”


tired of listening
the man walks away…
cicada on a branch


                         Issa, translated by D.G. Lanoue



  • Web gossip: Ann has been swept off her feet by the dashing SilvioSilvioAlthouse


  1. Good post. This will take some thinking about.

    In Hugh Hewitt’s recent book about the blogosphere, he pretty ignores the left side of the blogging spectrum. Does this fit into your analysis? If someone from the left wrote a similar book, he or she might be similarly myopic.

    For the reasons you mention, I don’t read too many overtly political weblogs. It’s largely a waste of time, in my opinion.

    Comment by Evan — February 1, 2005 @ 7:48 am

  2. Thanks for writing, Evan.   You have shifted the focus from the micro-level of linking or reacting to particular posts on particular issues to the interesting macro-level of the weblog world.  There is no doubt that the web manifests society’s continued fragmentation into information niches, where most people seem to live in an intellectual or political echo-chamber, and seek out opinions like there own for reinforcement and shelter.   Of course, another facet is the pure information overload, making selectivity important in order to fit input into a finite amount of time and memory.   So, it’s not surprising that Hewitt or someone writing a similar book would have a natural tilt toward weblogs with that include their ideological comrades and soulmates.  
    I have always enjoyed watching a close sports game, preferring it to a rout, even when my alma mater is involved — so, I really loved the “heart attack Hoyas”, who pulled out last-second victories back in their glory days.  Perhaps that’s why I also enjoy a forum that has differing views to those where people have the same political perspective — and invective.   Piling on is neither challenging nor interesting.   Like you, I try to avoid politically-charged weblogs that offer little useful information or argument, and create far more agita than light.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 1, 2005 @ 11:23 am

  3. hi, interesting problem, talking about the left in particular and the difference in left/rt reactions politics. I have a longish post on this problem of the breakdown of common discourse here. Unfortunately I don’t offer too many solutions!

    Comment by mackinaw — February 1, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

  4. Leftist Intolerance…

    I was walking through fascist America yesterday, beautiful weather by the way, compared with today, and I noticed the heavy, grey weight on everyone’s faces….

    Comment by planck's constant — October 25, 2007 @ 1:24 am

  5. When I was a child I was taught that America was the best culture and political system, which of course, is true. Unfortunately many young minds are now exposed to the falsehood that all cultures are equally good, except for our own which is evil.

    When you see liberals shouting down all discourse, you begin to understand that it’s not just that that they have mistaken beliefs, but that those beliefs have taken on a fervent, religious nature of the kind from centuries ago that allowed for no other opinion.

    Comment by bernie — October 25, 2007 @ 1:29 am

  6. Just FYI, I linked to your article from Leftist Intolerance

    Comment by bernie — October 25, 2007 @ 1:32 am

  7. Bernie, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. However, I want to make it clear (subject, of course, to my usual disclaimers that there are exceptions to every stereotype and generality) that I am taking on the Left as a matter of “in-house constructive criticism” — wanting “my own” and my allies to live up to my own standards — and not because I believe their intolerance is more prevalent or virulent than the intolerance on the Right.

    If anything, the people espousing perspectives from the Right are more likely to believe that they possess the “one catechism worth reading” and preaching (the one with all the answers ) — based on religion, ideology, philosophy, or political science – and therefore are more prone to the type of intolerance that I decry in this posting.

    Comment by David Giacalone — October 25, 2007 @ 8:41 am

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