The PJ Tatler

Arguing blind online: is this stupid person I'm arguing with REALLY a kid?

As I was going through my email today responding to readers inquiring about my “Hollywood Revolt” series at Big Hollywood a thought occurred to me: I have no idea who any of these people actually are.

And that’s really unfortunate. How often do we actually think about how the same set of ideas coming from one person would warrant a different response if it came from someone else?

When one gets an irate, idiotic response, attacking your integrity and your arguments should one respond exactly the same if the correspondence is from a 17-year-old who doesn’t know any better or a 45-year-old professional? The teenage Chomskyite who’s only seen “Manufacturing Consent” is hardly as guilty as the middle-aged, long-time Z Magazine subscriber.

When we’re attacked in the online, intellectual realm it’s natural to want to defend and then counterattack. But that’s really only the proper response when dealing with the malevolent, not the ignorant. To strike at the ignorant — rather than persuade them — only ends up driving them further into the arms of the malevolent.

In the world of today’s internet it’s become much more difficult — dare I say even impossible — to distinguish the two. And that’s a serious problem for those who care about trying to spread the good ideas and constitutional values that have so enriched our nation and our lives.