It Ain’t Beanbag

Bryan has sworn off of political posting until the election season is over because there’s a lot of idiocy on Daily Kos and “No minds are being changed by the crap that is being posted all over the blogosphere these days.” Steven Taylor sympathizes but will simply refrain from reading the most vitriolic sites, a policy I’ve more-or-less adopted as well.

Paul hits on something as well:

When I find the rare lefty that can argue their side without being delusional, I enjoy it. I spent 2 hours at a cocktail party last week arguing politics with a state Senator’s wife. We agreed on nothing but at the end we agreed to have lunch and argue some more. She gave me a kiss on the cheek on the way out.

Perhaps the internet makes the tone more harsh than it would be if we were standing around with drinks in our hands. Or perhaps it is the election drawing near that is putting people on edge. One of my pet theories is that it is the evolution of blogging.

The power of alcohol!

One of the things I’ve tried to do on OTB is remember that people who blog are actually, well, people. I’ve had opportunity of late to actually meet and, yes, consume alcoholic beverages, with a couple dozen bloggers of various persuasions and found everyone perfectly pleasant. We managed to have conversations on even very contentious issues without cursing one another or resorting to fisticuffs.

Even when the relationship remains virtual, blogging is, in many ways, a communitarian activity. Within blogging circles, or at least political blogging circles, Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Drum, Matthew Yglessias, Michele Catalano, Steven Den Beste, Stephen Green, Meryl Yourish and a dozen or so others are widely known and, indeed, there’s an amazing amount of cross-referencing amoung the group of bigger-name blogs. And the discourse between them is more-or-less civil. There are really only three or four even semi-major blogs that have gone the vitriolic route.

I pretty much avoid sites that take the constant position that the opposition is evil. If words like asshat, idiotarian, wingnut, Dimocrap, and “is Hitler” are the normal order of the day, it doesn’t take long for me to lose interest in the site and move on. It’s seldom even worth engaging in cross-blog discussion of what’s on those sites, frankly. If you honestly think George W. Bush or John Kerry are akin to Adolf Hitler, there’s not much point in trying to persuade you otherwise.

Aside from the civility issue, I’m not sure that we’re changing a lot of minds out here in the blogosphere, anyway. People tend to read mainly sites that agree with their preexisting notions and the type of folks who read political blogs are more likely than most to have strong political beliefs, anyway. We can, however, at least flesh out and clarify the debate.

Update: Dean Esmay has some thoughts as well.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Keith Taylor says:

    I’ve found that in my year or so of reading blogs I’ve gradually moved right from my previous left-wing position. This has been, I believe, mostly due to some excellent right wing opinions I’ve found in the blogosphere. My writing has moved on since the days of to the point at which I can admit that maybe George Bush isn’t the evil little monkey I always thought he was.

    He’s still an idiot, mind you. Just not evil.

  2. James Joyner says:


  3. Nice to see some progress. I stay away from the vitrol on both sides. I’m fairly conservative but I don’t read LGF anymore – the comments are too far over the top. I would rather read thought out arguments.

  4. Paul says:

    I’ve found that in my year or so of reading blogs I’ve gradually moved right from my previous left-wing position.

    Keith I surfed your blog. I assume you have heard that quote from Winston Churchill:

    “If you are not liberal when you are young you have no heart. If you are not conservative when you are old, then you have no brain.”

    You are 22 so you are liberal. But I can tell you have a brain… We’ll win. 😉


  5. legion says:

    Well, I’m (mostly) a lefty – I read Kos and Oliver W and a few other sites because I like the writing of those people. But I rarely look through the comments on those sites. Why? Because it’s boring to discuss issues with people who hold the same point of view as you.

    Oh sure, there are plenty of people on both sides who’re only interested in the mental masturbation of “me too!”, but I spend much more time looking through the comments at places like this and VodkaPundit precisely because they lean right (and I like a balanced diet of propaganda 🙂 and the posters are largely sane and civil (even if they’re wrong :-). Seriously though, like the quote from Paul, it’s just more interesting to discuss things with different people.

  6. mark says:

    Damn. I use “asshat” in my blog. But I find it very therapeutic after reading posts that borderline on insanity.

  7. akim says:

    I guess what actually changes minds is not so much political discourse as the reality of events – when a certain rherotical line deviates too much from observable reality (if you care to take a close look) those who were previously following that line, right or left, will shrink back a bit and start wondering what’s amiss.

    For instance, there is much complaint from every side about media bias. Yeah, well. The media, everywhere in this world, edit like hell – what’s good about some parts of the blogosphere (not all of it for sure) is that you can gain access to additional in-depth information and put it all together for yourself.

    So far I am finding that the most enlightening and hard-to-come-by infos are to be found not in major or even more or less known blogs, but with some recondite bloggers having access to things most people/media are quite simply not aware of. Big op-eds in big press are rather often based on amazingly superficial information – and heated debate that surrounds these op-eds thus appears somewhat hollow by contrast. I am certain that my picture of “current events” would be vastly different if I only had access to major western media – n.american and european (as I remember it being from before discovering those blogs).

    So my view is: the informational aspect of blogosphere is really much more important than its more “shockingly” visible political heat-field. It jumps at you when you first dip in but it’s not what makes it worthwhile in the end.

    Also, I think intemperate language and insult is ok when you don’t aim at attracting readers and ruling minds – when you do, it’s a liability and a fucking crime 🙂