This week, more than a few on-line acquaintances in the writing and automotive forums I visit, mentioned how quickly discussions descend into chaotic flame wars of personal attacks. Tess Gerritsen’s blog, which is one of my favorites, was a victim of this a few weeks ago. Ms. Gerritsen made what I thought was a very funny remark, thereby innocently starting a multi-blog flame war. When a writer can invoke such reactions with words, I see it as a positive thing. Readers, who become enraged and offended by even the most level headed discourse should probably sit on their hands while blogging. :)
Have you ever noticed in commenting on a blog, how people ignore the literal words you so carefully typed, and substitute whatever happens to be clanging around in their own minds? If you disagree with a point of view, they see hatred, rather than an alternative viewpoint. The complexity of debate, in an area where no one viewpoint can be proven wrong with factual data, seems beyond the ability of many to enter into without rage. It is stirring to note how a simple paragraph can send readers into a paroxysm of anger. I don’t believe in trolling; but lately, I’ve begun to wonder how many real trolls are out here in the Ethernet. If expressing an unpopular opinion baits people into a flame war, who is at fault? Candy coated writing, inside a circle-jerk of like minded people seems boring to me; but when someone tries to host an exchange of ideas, the would be host usually ends up with a conflagration. I can certainly understand why the number of people brave enough to do this foolhardy act of hosting is dwindling rapidly.
Disagreement is not a profession of hatred. It is the natural order of things. Although I am often surprised at how people react to a comment in opposition to their opinion, I do find it humorous. They hone in on my words, translate them into something attacking them or expressing hatred, then fire off a flaming response, meaningless to the original topic. I always picture some poor soul, their faces contorted in rage, sweat beading on their foreheads, pounding on their keyboard in fury, all because of a few simple sentences. Man, that’s power. :)