Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some Guidelines for Happy Enemy Blogging

A long-deceased friend wrote a fairly lengthy post several years ago that I think still holds value for those of us who have the audacity to persist in blogging from a left-wing perspective. Although I am going to offer a lengthy excerpt here, I'd strongly suggest reading the whole thing. His post offers some sage advice, well worth keeping in mind. As we get ready to enter yet another year in our "Great Recession" and many on the hard right continue to look for scapegoats, we would do well to speak freely but exercise caution. I wish I could say the Internet was a safe place, but the truth is it is not. I speak from experience. So without further ado, DuctapeFatwa's Guidelines for Happy Enemy Blogging:
And because the internet is a public place, no matter where you go, there will be people who are troubled, people who are participating under auspices other than their own, and people who are so very nice you are eager to get to know them offline and share your personal contact information.

And there is no guarantee that the categories above will not have some overlap, and a "robust" likelihood that they will, because once again, the Internet is a public place, so the precautions one would take in a public place are also prudent on the Internet.

It is not realistic to assume, hope, expect, or demand, that any internet site you visit will be free of people who disagree with you, people who are not fond of reading, people who are troubled, people whose values differ from yours, people who are not as smart as you, people who are smarter than you, or people for whom you are the Enemy.

So here are some guidelines for Happy Enemy Blogging:
  1. Understand that to some, your point of view is simply inconceivable. It is not that they disagree with it in the conventional sense, they simply cannot conceive of such notions.
  2. Do not expect that everyone who replies to you will have read what you wrote. Some folks just like reading better than others, reading comes easier to some folks than others, and if you are The Enemy, reading what you wrote might be against their values, or they may be simply responding to your existence as opposed to your words. You are, after all, the Enemy.
  3. Be compassionate. Don't continue to respond to people who are clearly troubled, or who do not have the capacity or the desire to understand what you said. There will always be someone you can talk to, even among those who do not agree with you, especially if you -
  4. Leave the door open. Even though you are the Enemy, the possibility exists that there may be people reading your words who are going through their process. Not because of anything you, or anybody else said, just because the time has come for them to do that, and so they are doing it. If someone responds to you in a civil, thoughtful way, talk to them. No need to try to persuade them of anything. That's what their own conscience is for.
  5. Be accessible. Try to put your thoughts into words and references that your audience can relate to. You may be more familiar with a different cultural context, but your readers may not be. Ditto on the vocabulary. Unless the intent of your message is to demonstrate that your vocabulary is extensive and you know lots of obscure words, try to express your thoughts as simply and straightforwardly as possible. Even the most complex, even abstract concepts can be put into simple, everyday words that almost all of your readers will be able to understand.
  6. Be brief (this is the rule I break most) Brevity is also a gift, and you may not be able to crystallize your thoughts into as few words as someone else. Do the best you can. Yours are not the only words your readers want to read, and they may have limited time.
  7. Be selective. Don't feel that you have to read each and every message from each and every poster on several dozen forums. If you are able to do so, and it will not be against your values, read everything that you do respond to.
  8. Be tolerant. Your interpretation of what someone said may be different from someone else's. For instance, someone may say "the sky is blue," and someone else may interpret that to mean "the sky is red." The conflict between the two of may not have so much to do with facts as with interpretation. Especially if the person who disagrees with you does not believe that sky color is a subject that should be discussed, or that should be discussed by people from or people outside, a particular group, or if the person who made the sky remark is the Enemy. You will have a better chance at a discussion of sky color with that person in a different setting.
  9. Be prudent. Most of the folks you will meet on internet forums are, like you, simply expressing their opinion because of a personal desire to express it. Others may be "ghost blogging" under other auspices. Neither assume this is the case, or rule out that it could possibly be the case. The internet is a public place. Keep offline contact info offline. Do not post photographs of yourself, your children, or of your home, or your street. Remember that the people whose presence you are aware of are not the only ones who will be able to see what you post. Would you go to the shopping mall or community festival with your address or phone number printed on your t-shirt?
  10. Enjoy yourself. Think of the young lady who accepted a date with a suitor she did not especially like, to attend a function in which she had no interest, all because of a family friendship. She moped about for a while, then suddenly had an Epiphany. When her somewhat sheepish and apologetic mother came to help her get ready, she was surprised to find the girl in a sprightly, smiling mood, and rather apologetically and sheepishly inquired into the reason for this. "Well," said the young lady, "I don't like X, and this function is about the last one I would want to attend. I can't expect to enjoy either his company or the boring lecture. But I figured something out. I can enjoy MYSELF."
Now go out there and have some fun doing some Enemy blogging. I know I will.

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