February 19, 2005

Academic state of mind…

Jay Rosen’s discussion of Doug McGill’s Glocal Man is worth your time.

But I want to highlight something even more fascinating (to me, anyway) than Rosen’s “explanation” of McGill’s discussion of “truth frames” in regard to the Eason Jordan affair. Read the comments. As Rosen says, some of the commeters appear to equate “explanation” with “excuse.” Rosen writes:

By “explanation” I meant that… an attempt to explain how it happened that Jordan said what he said. That is something I still regard as a mystery, whereas many of you, I gather, do not. You have explanations that serve quite well. To me, none of them serve very well, Jordan’s least of all. So we need as many as we can get.

Anna, also a frequent commeter on Rhetorica, replies:

It’s biology. When people are in a reactive mode, they evaluate others in binary fashion (with us/against us) because it’s adaptive in a fight to be able to make a distinction and make it quickly. Whereas if we’re trying to learn and understand, the black-and-white approach is counterproductive.

I haven’t encountered very many stupid blog readers in nearly three years of writing Rhetorica (now there’s something that would get me to quit!). We certainly suffer our trolls (re: a recent comment here). I think the genre drives the stupid out of the blogosphere–eventually. The genre encourages, however, exactly the kind of thinking Anna identifies (although I’ll state it using some of my terms): adaptive, ideologically-driven, and willfully ignorant (which is not the same thing as stupidity).

There does exist an academic state of mind (an ideology adhered to imperfectly to be sure) that seeks to learn, to discover truth, to understand how things work beyond considerations of binary left-right (or party) politics. Bringing us difficult questions to answer is invigorating (Sisyphus knows how to ask a good question). Bringing us scorn because you think you detect nefarious political motives is tiresome.

4 Responses

  1. rgrafton 

    My opinion is that elite or mainstream media is G-rated and blogs are X-rated, and amateurs will always drift toward the extreme (left and right) blogs. Those of us who believe elite media do not deliver the goods will go to blogs to fill out the information void left by MSM. I don’t want to suggest that those who only use MSM are idiots. In my own house, my husband is a smart guy and a successful attorney, but he is satisfied with what he sees in our local paper and in snatches of local/national network news. This has never been enough for me. Those of us who have developed a sophisticated sense of the news and information will go to the blogs, everyone else will be happy with MSM.

  2. Anna 

    Thank you sir.

    Another factor encouraging us-vs-themism is a structural bias(?) that stems from our necessarily limited blogging resources. Borrowing from something Winston Smith at Philosoraptor ( philosoraptor.blogspot.com ) wrote a while back:

    Given the universe of possible postings/news to react to, we’re most likely to write about what we find most outrageous. So if 100 events occurred, we agree on 98 of them, on the 99th “your team” was wronged, and on the 100th “my team” was wronged, you and I are likely to post about events #99 and #100 respectively, which highlights our differences and hides our agreements. (In fact, we may even agree on events 99 and 100, just not on their relative importance.)

    I think the workaround is Friday Survey Blogging (find out where a blogger stands on the 99% of issues he didn’t post about) to replace Friday Cat Blogging, but we need someone with the requisite blogging authority to push it, in order to make it happen.

  3. rgrafton 

    The beauty of internet/blogs is that you can find your own niche. If the flamers, either left or right, don’t appeal to you, you don’t have to go there. For the most part I find the diversity and the amazing array of smart people blogging incredible. These people are giving their learned opinions for free! If you’re only going to Kos/Atrios or Right Wing News/Misha, of course it seems juvenile. Life (and blogs) is a cabaret, old chum!

  4. acline 

    R- I’m really dealing more with the comments here and the fact that some readers are unwilling (for whatever reasons) to accept that an academic state of mind exists. For these readers, EVERYTHING is part of some overtly partisan maneuver.