Blogging Has Its Virtues
Many thanks to Dave Schuler and Bernard Finel for their thought-provoking debate on U.S. engagement in the Middle East. Zenpundit’s Mark Safranski gives it high praise, with which I naturally concur:
This was a very enjoyable exchange both for it’s civility as well as the erudition of the debaters ( Pundita opines at length here on the discussion) Dave Schuler and Dr. Bernard Finel. The former may not seem remarkable but by contrast, HNN, a site with an audience that is heavy in professional and aspiring historians and social scientists, cannot run an article related to either Israel or Islam (or George W. Bush) without provoking outbursts of (at times) maniacal vituperation and flaming in the comments section.
Pundita, writing in mere anticipation of the discussion, observes,
I note that the best U.S. foreign/defense policy discussions are coming not from academic institutions but from the blogosphere, a phenomenon that has seen a rapid increase during the past four years and will only increase.
This doesn’t mean that academics are not contributing to the blogosphere discussions; indeed, many academics connected with the ‘soft’ disciplines are happily finding on the blogosphere rigorous challenges to their assumptions, which seems so lacking in the modern American university system.
The advantage of the blogosphere is that it can respond to events quickly and in language accessible to lay readers. Unfortunately, the academic system promotes writing for other academics — quite often on arcane minutia for which large datasets exist. The disadvantage of the blogosphere, as Safranski alludes to and Dave noted here at OTB recently, is that The Blogosphere Is Full Of Jerks. Not that academe isn’t, of course, but it manifests in less annoying ways.
Dave and Bernard demonstrated here, though, that it’s quite possible to rise above the fray and engage in serious, reasoned discussion.