How The Internet Enforces Rigidity


In a sprawling piece on the right-wing backlash against Charles Johnson, Jonathan Dee observes:

Not only can the past never really be erased; it co-exists, in cyberspace, with the present, and an important type of context is destroyed. This is one reason that intellectual inflexibility has become such a hallmark of modern political discourse, and why, so often, no distinction is recognized between hypocrisy and changing your mind.

Ackerman adds:

None of us can ever absorb, process and remember the sheer volume of information that even the worst search engine algorithm can acquire in instants. That’s why those of us who write on the internet have to be hyper-aware of what we’ve said in the past, an ever-pressing challenge as we age. (I have a really terrible memory and always have.) Tagging helps. But if we change our minds or evolve our perspective about certain things, we need to acknowledge it as it happens. Otherwise it looks to a reader fairly! like the sort of hypocrisy Times writer Jonathan Dee describes.

I find the pixel-trail one of the benefits of online writing. You really are accountable for your shifts, and you have a constant opportunity to confess or examine them. But what I find odd is how relatively few people seem to have evolved or shifted their political alliances or views over the past ten years I've been blogging. Obviously, I had a severe case of whiplash as the Bush and Cheney administration exploded the debt, jacked up entitlements, embraced torture, bungled two wars, and demonized gays. But the events of recent times, one might imagine, would have affected worldviews all over.

And yet I perceive not a jot of a change in, say, Glenn Reynolds or Mickey Kaus, two of my early blogging peers whose worldviews remain unaltered. Ditto the vast majority of neocons who seem to have found all their setbacks more proof of their original ideas. On the left, one finds the same kind of rigidity - how has Moulitsas evolved over the years - or Greenwald? I hoped the web would find a way to loosen writers up, jostle them a little out of their patterns of thought. But, for the most part, I was wrong, wasn't I? The same idiocy that counts all political adjustments to new facts or new circumstances as "flip-flopping" also penalizes those who dare to change their mind in the face of a changing world online.

Tant pis.

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