Monday, November 14, 2005

On Being Provocative

In the previous post, I wrote parenthetically: "(And Isaac, thanks for introducing your new readers to the "Stop Attacking Artists" post in response to one of my tirades. Hey, any publicity is good publicity!)"

Isaac responded: "And hey, if you didn't post provocative stuff worth arguing with, there'd be no point in blogging, now would there?"

This reponse has put me to thinking -- probably along a well-worn path trod by many before me -- but... I have a counter on this site, and I've noticed that the hit count skyrockets whenever we seem to be arguing about something. In fact, the more abusive we seem to get, the faster the hits multiply. I have also noticed that when I post something that is beautiful or thoughtful, but not necessarily provocative (say, Barry Lopez's quoting of the Inuit definition of "storyteller"), rarely does anybody comment.

And it makes me wonder whether, by being "provocative," we are actually participating in thought-as-bloodpsport that we see exemplified on the Sunday morning political shows like "Firing Line," where people simply yell at and over each other for 60 minutes. Is there any room for thoughtfulness and reflectiveness in our culture?

What got me to thinking about his was George's post over at "Superfluities," "What a Playwright Reads." I wonder if anyone has responded to this reflectiveness...

9 comments:

Freeman said...

"And it makes me wonder whether, by being "provocative," we are actually participating in thought-as-bloodpsport that we see exemplified on the Sunday morning political shows like "Firing Line," where people simply yell at and over each other for 60 minutes. Is there any room for thoughtfulness and reflectiveness in our culture? "

Scott, I'd say that provocativeness is the coin of the realm in the land of chatter. And your statement above leaves quite a bit of room in the middle. There is obviously room for thoughtfulness, but I don't necessarily feel the need to comment on the more reflective or humorous moments. But when someone makes a provocative statement or asks an open-ended question, we're all inclined to and invited to throw in our two cents.

I didn't personally have much to say about what other people read. I was reading a comic book the other day; I could write about it, but I don't really expect that Isaac or George would have much to say about it.

If I write: "Theatre should be done only in the nude" I fully expect a fair number of responses.

That doesn't mean reflection isn't en vogue. It just means that it's a internal thing and this is an externalizing forum.

Joshua said...

Yeah, the secret of Hannity's success - constant arguing.

Many feel, of course, that conflict is at the heart of drama, which is why folks get drawn into an argument - I have differing positions on this, but there's no doubt that a really good fight draws an audience.

George Hunka said...

Buckley's Firing Line was an Oxbridge tutorial compared to what you find most Sunday mornings.

It's true that controversialists tend to have higher hit counts, and that it's harder to respond to a contemplative posting than a provocative one. But in a way that's part of the conflict-smog that keeps arts blogging from reaching its potential. All too often, somebody makes an outrageous suggestion--"Theatre should only be done in the nude," say--then is vociferously responded to in kind; the first blogger backtracks, or admits that they were only trying to introduce a more subtle issue, but wanted to do so by citing an extreme ... and an issue burns bright and hot for a day or two, then dissolves. At least for a few months, when the whole thing starts up again.

I certainly understand Matt's feeling that he doesn't have anything to say to my posts. These days, I'm avoiding more confrontational debates myself because I feel it detracts from my work as a writer. I'm just getting tired of it. Far from navel-gazing, I do post these things to get some kind of response, though I know that, because they're quiet, that response is unlikely to be as loud as those more provocative posts found on other blogs.

I don't care for fights any more. I'm too old for it, and tired, and very few of them have had any positive outcome for anyone.

Dorothy said...

For me... it's like this...
If the fighting is productive and challenging and interesting ideas come out of it , then I pay attention.
If the fighting is gratuitous and it gets personal, I begin to lose interest. I guess I am the same way in the theatre...

Just my two cents.
I still think all of you are great. So don't take it personally yo !
:)

Freeman said...

I actually love reading George's posts, I just rarely have much to say about them because he puts complete and elegant thoughts up on his blog, and I often think "that's interesting" or check out what he's linking to, or what have you. But I often don't feel compelled to add to the thoughts, because they're often very complete in and of themselves.

All things have their purpose and we respond to them our own way. I'm sure George gets a fair amount of responses to what he posts, and for good reason. They're well put together, mature, introspective essays, more often than not.

Then there will be postings (on this forum) that will challenge people to defend a view ("Can't we do better than this?") and it inspires people to write in and comment and throw up their hands.

It's all in good fun, either way.

George said...

Matt's right; ultimately it's a personal response, and far be it from me to detract from fun! Little enough in this life as it is. Chalk it up to temperament, I suppose.

Actually I get dispiritingly few responses, but there you are.

Joshua said...

You also don't have easy to click comments on your site - George, which does make a slight difference.

Anonymous said...

yes - george - please, comments. if you put word verification there shoudl be less spam.

George Hunka said...

Ask and ye shall receive ...