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 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.

10 comments

  1. And here I thought the only comment I was going to have was “Who doesn’t love a good alliteration?”

    I see a lot of this disdain in the “real” world, and I wonder how much of that is coming from jealousy or envy – people who wish they were doing this stuff. I can’t say I really have an answer. That said, there is a certain amount of frustration on my part from seeing endless blogs that make money teaching you how to make money blogging. Not sure how many more of those we need.

  2. In my opinion, all the shock-blogs and so called “experts” will eventually fall by the wayside, while the experienced bloggers and ones passionate about the art and the verticals they blog about, will remain.

    I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to go to a blog and have it plastered with advertisements for their eBook, their consulting services, etc, when by reading the content and the site, they have blogs with less than 5 comments, as well as content that looks downright horrible. The site wreaks of an amateur, but if you read their headlines, they are “experts”

    I guess the parallel can be drawn to any startup and small business. Those with high moral values and ethics will be the ones that will succeed, while the flash in the pan start up might generate a lot of buzz, but will eventually falter and disappear.

  3. I think I agree with most of what you say here. But, even though I used to think the same way about consulting bloggers, I would now say that that position is debatable. As someone who has recently had some interesting consulting opportunities come his way, I think the only person the blogger should satisfy is the client, and if they can agree on the terms, then who are we to criticize them for offering those services to more people?

    See, I’m going with the subjectivity thing :P

    PS: Dude, how come I don’t have that photo? How many photos have you secretly taken of me? Cheers, and happy holidays, brother.

    • We shouldn’t forget that “all that crap” is why we actually love the internet. Anyone can post. Anyone can set up shop. That’s AMAZING!

      I could argue that you shouldn’t be allowed to play the role of a photo editor, or at least should learn to photoshop my wig somehow… but I’ll let you go :)

  4. I won’t lie. I found your blog a few months ago and haven’t visited again. Sometimes you just can’t get into a writer’s work, even if that writer is a good one.

    That being said, I followed a link here and kept reading even after I saw where it led. I’m glad I did. This is a truly great post and touches on a subject more bloggers should pay attention to. I’m not talking about the so-called consultants, but the underlying problem you have with those links and the tone of the articles.

    In any movement that bucks the mainstream (minimalism and the mobile lifestyle for example), the followers often feel like outcasts. They often revel in it. :P There’s nothing wrong with that. They only misstep when they attack and disparage those still living the mainstream life. In doing so, they often undermine their own efforts. What would be a very persuasive argument ends up being diminished by the fervor of self-righteous belief.

    I’ve seen it on quite a few blogs and it’s disheartening. There’s really no need for it. Kudos for addressing it here in such a well-written manner. Now I’m going to have to come back and keep reading… Damn you!

  5. Colin,

    There is a lot of crap out there indeed. David Foster Wallace talk about this at length in several of his long non-fiction essays. His theory was that sometime in the not-to-distant future—say 2015—there will be so much crap that we will no longer be able to filter it on our own, and thus we will beg for the big corporations (e.g., Viacom et al.) to take back control of the content (essentially turning the internet back into television, at least from a censorship perspective). While I don’t completely agree with that theory, it is an interesting one, as one wonders how we will continue to sift through the shit to find the tiny nuggets of gold on the internet.

    Take care,

    Josh
    http://theminimalists.com

  6. “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.”

    This I agree with, and much of it is not limited to the web as you said it goes to other mediums as well, particularly news outlets (such commentators on Fox News Channel or CNN). I never understood the bashing, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So much of what you posted here makes sense.

  7. Yes, there’s a lot of crap out there. And those of us with intelligence can discern that for ourselves. You’re right. That’s why I love the internet. I have a medium for my writing, and I can pick and choose what I want to absorb.

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