Ron Rosenbaum

Word to the Blogosphere: On Not Preaching to the Choir

Preaching to the choir: that’s what so many bloggers in the increasingly stultified, conformist, Crips-and-Bloods gang war atmosphere of liberal and conservative blogs do. As someone who reads both liberal and conservative blogs, I find the comments a sad echo chamber that often does little more than mouth the pieties of each position with little more than smug bile to add, thus reaffirming the blogger’s own self-satisfied, inside-the-box predictability for fear of the lynch mob mentality with which any dissent from the accepted position is punished.

As the only consistently liberal voice (well, pro-Obama voice; I would accept Roger L. Simon’s assertion that he is still standing up for classical liberal values that have been left behind by all too many contemporary liberals–freedom of speech, for instance) it’s sometimes lonely on a mainly conservative blog aggregator. But I’m grateful for the freedom–not available on any liberal blogs I know of–not to preach to the choir, but rather to piss off the choir, often enraging both conservatives and those liberals whose limited understanding of dissent and free speech doesn’t extend to the idea that a blog website should have more than one point of view. How dare a liberal write for a conservative oriented blog, these sad cases (who really aren’t liberal at all, but totalitarian enforcers) fume. Their rigidly intolerant view of the iron rules of dissent (liberal views must only be expressed on liberal blog sites) is pathetic and blinkered and demonstrates they lack any understanding of liberalism in the larger sense of open discourse.

And when I dissent from liberal orthodoxy (as I often do) they become apoplectic. But apoplexy seems to be the constant state of conservative commenters who seem so frightened that their views can’t stand up to criticism that they often seem to want to abolish the expression of any ideas that challenge them. In their frightful, diminished view, dissent is legitimate only if they agree with it. They have much in common with the totalitarian liberal enforcers of the Rule of Dissent.

They ought to take a look at the recent warning from staunch conservative Tony Blankley, that hysterical intolerance of other points of view has increasingly become the norm on both sides of the blogosphere to the detriment of the value of debate itself.

While everyone likes being praised for their views, I’ve come to enjoy not preaching to the choir, indeed pissing off the choir, exposing them to views other than those they encounter in their little hermetic worlds of self-congratulation in which they whip themselves up into a mob frenzy of often inarticulate rage at views they don’t agree with. Many seem to want to narrow, rather than widen their world so they only read views exactly like their own. I think it’s healthy for them to see (in the comments) just how conformist, Pavlovian and thoughtless their responses can be. A useful mirror in which they can witness how ugly they become when their prejudices are challenged. I exempt from this portrait intelligent conservatives who are confident enough in their views that they can tolerate and debate opposition with articulate civility. But frankly, I don’t think some lynch mob commenter types are doing the conservative cause any service in the way they represent it.

But I think liberal blog sites ought to provide the same service–a dissenting blogger–so the preachers to the choir there can experience dissent rather than the back patting, ass kissing they seem to revel in.

The whole blogosphere would be healthier for it.