MORE ON "THE IC AND THE BLOGOSPHERE" AND THE BLOGGER'S DILEMMA
The noted blogger Shrinkwrapped
was kind enough to contact me the other day after my blogosphere-related posts
to let me know that had written several of his own ( more on that in a bit). Shrinkwrapped is a psychoanalyst by profession which opened up some intriguing analytical possibilities.
Long time readers here know that this blog periodically deals with matters of intelligence, both the cloak and dagger kind as well as issues of cognition. I approach these subjects from the analytical perspective of historical methodology as well as the experience gained from years of working as an educator, particularly with gifted children. Shrinkwrapped's Freudian background is interesting to me partly because OSS
psychoanalysts like Dr. Walter C. Langer
- author of the classic psychological profile of Adolf Hitler
- were some of the pioneers of the exceptionally difficult art of predictive intelligence analysis ( any fool can write a news summary; accurately assessing probable reactions of a key decision maker to hypothetical events is hard - even Hitler did not make his decisions in a social vacumn).
Shrinkwrapped offers up "The Blogger's Dilemma Part I.
" and "Part II
." which I would like to excerpt and then offer a few comments, though I strongly encourage you to read them in their entirety. First, "Blogger's Dilemma Part I
""Once a Blogger has an audience the desire to keep or expand his/her audience begins to influence their blogging in ways that often lead to problems. For example, recognizing that our behavior is the compromise of multiple, primarily unconscious, determinants suggests we should maintain our modesty about our conclusions, yet a Blog that surrounds all of its arguments with qualifiers is likely to be a rather dull read. (I read enough "sophisticated" Psychoanalytic literature to know that the best way to lose the reader's attention is to eschew declarative sentences.) Simple and sharp delineations are favored; furthermore, oversimplified terms, like "liberal" and "neo-conservative", loaded as they are with the great weight of our projections, become bandied about with reckless abandon and are then over-interpreted by readers and writers alike. Yet without such terms, the act of writing a Blog post would require redefining specifics at every occasion. Aside from being unwieldy, it would also rather quickly grow exhausting for all. "
I think Shrinkwrapped is correct. To an extent, I've eschewed writing inflammatory posts about politics because of the loaded simplification the commonly used terms imply, often make it difficult to have a civil dialogue. I'm sure that costs me a considerable amount of potential traffic but I don't much care. The trade-off is that I get to spend my limited amount of blogging time on esoteric subjects that I find more interesting and I've made some outstanding connections with thinkers I greatly respect, a few of which in the case of Dave Schuler
and Lexington Green
have evolved into real world friendships. Call it the "Jimmy Stewart/It's A Wonderful Life Strategy of Blogging" - I'm the richest man in town. ;o)
"Democracy works essentially by summing the irrationalities of its citizenry in ways which tend to cancel out the most extreme manifestations. When it works well, both parties move to the center and try to appeal to the broad, more rational middle. This depends on a number of important factors, one of which is relatively unbiased information.
In my humble opinion, the Blogosphere has the potential to assist in both the process of "summing our irrationalities" and increasing the availability of unbiased information (derived from summing the biased information that is all we can ever have access to.)
Very astute. Sort of a market of psychologies. Long before The Wisdom of Crowds
was published, the late supply-side guru Jude Wanniski
was writing about this effect, which led me to exchange views with him a few times back in the late 90's but I never made the jump from economics to thinking about it in strictly psychological terms. Odd, because our individual decisions in the market hinge on our psychology to a large degree.
Now for " Blogger's Dilemma Part II
":"I wrote this thinking that it was clear that both sides of the equation clearly feel that they are correct and wondering how it is that two such completely incompatible views of the same data can be explained. The most likely explanation is that even those of us who are most certain of their position cannot possibly have a complete grasp of reality or a monopoly on "truth." Because Dr. X misunderstood this (or I did a particularly poor job of explaining what I meant; obviously I think my view is more correct about the Iraq War than the anti-War position and I'm sure that comes through in the post) he made a second Blogger's error. He adopted a tone of dismissive snarkiness which would serve to reinforce the prejudices of his readers who agree with him but would tend to discourage those who agree with me from reading further. He loses the opportunity to raise doubts and questions. If the point of our posts is to "preach to the choir" this is of no consequence but if we want to start or continue a discussion/argument, we need to be cognizant of why we resort to snark because what gets thoroughly lost in the post is how best to address our differences of opinion and viewpoint. For a reader, dismissing a post because the author descends into snark (and snark has a definite appeal at times!) can be unfortunate; it sometimes pays to ignore the insults and see if there are any points to be gleaned. "
In all fairness to bloggers everywhere, their flaming matches are no less petty, nasty, one-sided and ridiculous than what often occurs in academia. Or in departments of the executive branch.
Ideological conformity is very strong in the blogosphere and that tendency is inherently distorting of the OODA loop because the effect of only reading people who agree with you is extremely seductive. Like hypothermia of the mind, you just want to flop down in the fluffy, soft snow that is the text and drift off to sleep. One of my mentors, an old Social Democratic Marxist historian, used to regularly caution his grad students (mostly Leftists) not to read only the things that made them feel good and that's some advice I continue to pass along to my own students.
The IC is reading ( or rather "collecting" and doing meta-analysis) the blogosphere. So is the " other side" ( the Islamist jihad theorists are big fans of William Lind, reportedly). While the blogosphere tends to overestimate it's actual importance by several orders of magnitude it isn't irrelevant. In the aggregate at least, what bloggers write, matters.
We should really do a better job of it.