“New technologies,” Sunstein has suggested, “including the internet, make it easier for people to hear the opinions of like-minded but otherwise isolated others.”
This from another whingeing journo complaining about the Internet poisoning public debate – this time Peter Beaumont in the Observer. I don’t see Sunstien’s observation as a problem, although the creatures over at the Groan clearly do.
Anyway, as far as teh interwebs is concerned, they are all at it this week:
It’s a subject that was broached last week by the author Patrick Ness at the Edinburgh world writers’ conference. There, Ness asked whether “instead of bringing us all together in an omnipresent, multifaceted discussion, the internet instead has made sectarianism an almost default position”.
It has not only been Ness. Two journalists from opposing sides of the political spectrum – Suzanne Moore and Peter Hitchens – were next to weigh in. They asked whether social media sites such as Twitter, far from encouraging debate, in fact did the opposite and acted as an “echo chamber” confirming our views.
To which I would answer; “so what?” or is it that the journos really don’t want the great unwashed actually discussing things among themselves – fruity language an’ all? Is it really that their preferred option is that they control the debate and preferably without ordinary folk having the temerity to not only disagree, but to pour scorn on their logical fallacies and factual inaccuracies, right there in black and white pixels for all the world to see?
Journalists are disingenuous and unreliable. I would sooner trust an unknown expert in their field discussing something openly and responding to their critics – amending their arguments in the face of an error being pointed out, than trust a journalist. My default position with a journalist is to presume they are lying or plagiarising until I see some supporting evidence to the contrary. They are almost as disreputable as the politicians on whom they rely for their feed.
So, when I see a strap line such as this:
The blogosphere, increasingly fuelled by toxic language, is hindering honest engagement rather than encouraging it
I know the bastards are on the run. The blogosphere (dreadful word) is a vibrant and interesting place where people – ordinary people – discuss anything and everything without an editor deciding what may or may not be said. And, yes, there is swearing. So what? And, yes, sometimes we have to stamp on the odd troll. So what?
As Yochai Benkler and Aaron Shaw of Harvard University discovered in a survey of 155 US political blogs, rightwing blogs were more likely to be hierarchical and individualistic, shorter and less likely to link to other sources, with only about 13% encouraging participation. Conversely, on the left, 40% of blogs had “adopted platforms with enhanced user participation features”.
From my experience, I’m not even sure that this is true. But, even so, so what? This place (like mine) is neither left nor right, so how does that fit? Pretty much every blog I have ever visited allows comment, so I’m not sure where Benkler and Shaw were conducting their research. Frankly, I’m inclined to conclude that their research is deeply flawed. Given the statistically insignificant sample size, that’s a given, anyway.
That would require dealing with a host of difficult issues, including the value of anonymity and how to “moderate” online conversation.
Y’know, Peter, if that really is a big problem for you, I have to conclude that not only are you a disingenuous journalist, you are a bit thick. The rest of us manage it okay. But, then, it is always a good thing to get a dig in about anonymity, eh? Sow the seeds and all that. Hopefully those political vermin at whose feet you cling for the odd crumb will outlaw it and give you back the control over the debate that you so desire.