February 10, 2005

Holden Caulfield on Bloggers

“…everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques. The guys that are on the basketball team stick together, the Catholics stick together, the goddam intellectuals stick together, the guys that play bridge stick together. Even the guys that belong to the goddam Book-of-the-Month Club stick together.”

Sounds like us, doesn’t it? I haven’t checked out the bridge blogs, but I’m sure they exist, as do basketball blogs, Catholic blogs, book readers’ blogs, and every conceivable subspecies of intellectual blogs. Personally I’m thrilled to have found an online clique of my own to hang out with in the two months I’ve been doing this.

That’s natural to an extent, of course, but I worry that blogs tend to echo and amplify—and thus rigidify—the views of the participants, because they spend so much time communicating only with those who belong to their own group. Conservatives read conservative blogs and liberals read liberal blogs. For the most part they acknowledge each other only to rail and nitpick at each other. It’s a vast international point-counterpoint session with thousands of blogging heads screaming invective back and forth. When are minds changed? When are middle ways found? When does rhetoric give way to genuine reason?

Chance has favored me in trying to provide a contrast: I got my blogging start with the help of people who were politically to the right of me, so I’ve encountered a lot of conservative opinions that I otherwise wouldn’t have listened to, and in most cases I’ve come to respect the intelligence and integrity of the people voicing those opinions. I keep reading Christian blogs though I’m not a Christian, and conservative blogs though I’m not a conservative, because each time I do, I can feel my mind broadening as I encounter ideas, and even whole fields of study, I haven’t before. I tend not to check the liberal blogs as frequently, because there I encounter things I already think and most of the people around me already think. I don’t need, as so many people today seem to, to constantly have my views confirmed. Nor do I have any desire to go around in a constant state of outrage at the views of those who disagree with me.

I keep thinking of Les Barker's line in his comedy routine “The Church of the Undecided” (on his new album THE WAR ON TERRIER). In the voice of a TV evangelist, he declaims, “Brothers and sisters, I want to hear you say, ‘The infidel just may have a point.’”

That’s the church I belong to. (Or at least I think I do—I’m not sure.)

Another blogger who’s apparently concerned about the narrowness of many bloggers’ spectra, or spectrums for that matter, is my former jousting opponent and all–around ex, Ann Althouse, who has an excellent post on the topic, with readers’ contributions, dated Tuesday, Feb. 8. (For some reason whenever I try to link to a specific post of hers, rather than her whole blog, the link disappears.)