Righteous Rectitude Requires Retained Rationality

The nice thing about the Internet is that anyone can say anything about anything (generally) without censorship or moderation.

This is the obscene power of the web, but also its Achilles’ Heel, because although you get a lot of brilliance in that kind of crock pot, you also get a lot of, well, crock.

Incorrect ‘facts,’ misinformation, and outright lies are pervasive and given more prominence than they would be likely to get on any other platform. The evening news might skew the truth and the Times might get their information wrong, but you’re not not as likely to find the kind of wild yarns you’ll come across in the blogs and forums strewn around the net.

It’s due to this precarious balance that I’m uncertain how to feel about a series of links I’ve been sent over the past few weeks, links that lead mostly to blogs posts (but a few mainstream news articles, as well) that hold grains of truth but are composed mostly of hit-piece wording; the kind of stuff you’d find on TMZ, not The Economist.

One such piece started to make a strong argument about legitimacy in the online world, but then lost me with insults directed toward someone who feels differently about the subject.

The topic under the microscope in this case was that more and more people are offering consulting services despite the fact that the only strong work experience they have is writing a blog (and they consult on things non-blog related).

As someone who worked hard to build up a couple of traditional businesses before entering the blogging world (and who continues to do so now), I can definitely see the point being made here. Anyone with a Blogspot account and PayPal can position themselves as an expert these days and most folks won’t know the difference between a seasoned professional and a well-read blogger with a professional-looking theme.

To each their own, of course, and if the market will bear it, more power to them. But I’m glad someone is bringing it up.

The thing is, in this article especially, entwined with the legit arguments is an unhealthy amount of venom.

I know, it’s tempting to really tear apart ideas and people that you don’t like or agree with, but for the sake of healthy debate and the integrity of your own ideas, keep your wits about you and present your argument without a garnish of disdain.

Piling on that kind of unnecessary bias weakens your position and makes it impossible for anyone except for your close friends and shock-bloggers to support you without having their own image tarnished.

It doesn’t matter if you’re arguing that the sky is blue if you’re also saying that gays are evil and women are inferior to men. I’m going to question every single thing you say more carefully knowing about the inherent bias you bring to what should be a clean, rational debate.

I get why people bring the scorn: it’s easy, it’s satisfying, and it feels like the only way to take people with differing opinions down a notch.

But if you have an idea worth writing about, especially if it’s counter to another popular idea that’s being written about in the public forum, keep the moral high-ground and present your case rationally. With the coldest, calmest, rationality you possibly can, in fact.

Sure, from a marketing standpoint it makes more sense to appeal to emotions. But the people who will respond to that kind of call are not the sort that you want or need on your side.

Update: February 2, 2017

Another piece that was clearly a response to something that made sense in the moment, but I don’t recall the full context. Man, the blogosphere was sure an echo-chamber back then.

I still believe that cold, calm rationality is the best way to make a measured argument. Though I also recognize (and perhaps increasingly so) that the emotional element is often what makes something sticky and more likely to pull in attention to begin with. Being able to meld the two without resorting to tabloid-style “journalism” is tricky, but doable.