So RVC Bard posts, Thomas Garvey responds, J Holtham posts an angry denunciation of Thomas Garvey, and Guy Yedwab responds, then Isaac scolds Guy for talking to Garvey, and Guy explains what he was trying to do. There may be pieces of this conversation I am missing; if so I apologize. I'd like to look at the process of dialogue itself for just a second.
But suppose a troll lands a bomb at you and you decide to argue back -- after all, you can simply ignore them -- what is the point in arguing? What was the point of that furious post?Like my blogging friend Guy, I think debate has become too rancorous, too bi-partisan, too simplistic, too high volume. Like him, that is why I appreciate No-Drama-Obama. But at the same time, in this case and others like it, I think the overall blogging system worked. Here's why.
1. You want to convince Garvey to change his mind
2. You want to convince your blog-roll readers that Garvey is wrong
3. You want to have some sort of public catharsis by screaming at a wall
Isaac things I'm advocating option number one, but I'm not. I agree that it's pointless. But if your goal is number 2, I think you're much better served by a sharply written post that focuses the anger into tearing your opponent's argument apart, rather than just spewing anger. The spewing anger route might get an "amen" from your own choir, but like it or not there are going to be people on the fence who'll miss what you have to say because they're put off by the anger.
If you're going for option 3, then I probably have already spent too much time talking about the post and I'm tired.
This isn't just about 99 Seats. This is about how we debate major issues in this country. [ital mine]
At the center of this debate is J-99 Holtham's angry drubbing of Garvey, a rant of admirable intensity and Mametian vocabulary. Does this rant further the discussion of race in any way? Wouldn't we be better off trying to have a calm, rational discussion? If 99, RVC Bard and Garvey were the only ones talking, then I'd say there wasn't much point. But what makes the blogsphere a powerful instrument for social change is the wisdom of crowds.
What 99's explosion said to me, more than anything, was: "Ouch! I'm bleeding over here, and the pain is really, really bad. Did you know that, all you blog readers?" The other thing it said was: "You crossed a boundary, and I need to bare my teeth and let you know you can't get away with it." Those are really good messages. The first reminds us that we are talking about really deep, painful issues, not just intellectual concepts, and that there are human lives involved. The second reminds us that we can't expect the people who are in pain to just grin and bear it while we, who haven't experienced what they have, tromp all over their broken limbs-- sometimes, they will bite back.
But what happens next is what works in the blogosphere: the major players stake out their position in dramatic ways, perhaps even extreme ways, and then others come in and sort things out. They clean up the blood, examine the records, and try to understand what caused all the violence and bloodshed. Without the extreme expressions, there is no reason to do the work of moderation. It is a process, one that relies on everyone to participate and do their part. I don't happen to think that marginalizing Thomas Garvey is a particularly good idea, but I also don't happen to think that politeness is always a virtue. We in the theatrosphere have a tendency to lapse into a politeness sometimes that belies the severity of the situations we are discussing. I'm not encouraging gang warfare, what I am encouraging is the dialectic process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. We can't just jump to synthesis and skip the clash that makes it viable.