Who are you writing for?

Andrew Anthony, having a healthy online debate with Sunny Hundal:

Your post reminds me of Conor Foley’s first posting, insofar as they both seem primarily interested in proving their nuanced credentials

One feature of online discourse is that very little is taken for granted. A blogger (especially one on a highly trafficked site like Comment is Free) has to cater for all persuasions.
In practice, this means you have to add more information than is strictly necessary to advance your message. Either that, or risk getting lost in the minutae of a debate that distracts from the new and interesting point you were trying to make. I don’t think Sunny was trying to prove anything by citing his ‘credentials’. He was merely citing certain previous examples of his writing, in order to head off fairly the obvious counter-arguments.
By contrast, I think print newspaper columnists and authors have a general idea of who their audience might be, and write accordingly. If you can be sure that your readers all share certain values, and accept certain arguments, then you feel confident about jumping into the debate several conceptual steps down the line. This confidence is shattered when you enter a world where responses are immediate and unfiltered by a Letters Editor. Authors are left with the impression that the readers are impolite, uncouth and agressive.
I actually think a great deal of ‘fisking’ is redundant for the same reason. Since the blogger does not share the same world-view as the columnist the target, a line by line rebuttal never seems as effective as a stand-alone composition.
There is a well known phenomena of bloggers suffering ennui with the medium, eighteen months or so after they begin. I am just emerging from just such an affliction now (although since I post at a relatively low frequency I doubt either of my readers would have noticed). I think much of this frustration is a result of never getting to the nub of the argument, never quite managing to debate the subtle point one wishes to make. Instead, the discussion is dominated by the clarification and vocalising of preconceptions and core values.
This worry passes, of course, since the core values are either reinforced or abandoned by the scrutiny. Blogging is a process of clarification as much as anything else.

4 Replies to “Who are you writing for?”

  1. Ah, but you miss a crucial point: Sunny Hundal is a strong contender for the stupidest and most over-rated person on t’interweb. Nothing he says has credance because he believes in nothing: nothing that he writes is of any value because he is never able to back it up.

  2. the stupidest and most over-rated person on t’interweb
    Heh, poor DK. He reminds me of Amir. That guy did his best to disrupt my blog for months before we banned him for spouting some homophobic stuff. Then, everytime I was mentioned on a blog somewhere, he’d turn up and declare I was among one of the biggest threats to humanity etc. It was all quite amusing, he did that on Timmy’s blog and even DK’s.
    Except poor DK, with nothing better to do, has taken up the mantle. I love it.

  3. Yes, at risk of detracting from the fine thrust of your argument, ‘bert, I do have to wonder how much time DK spends compiling his lists of contenders for the “stupidest and most over-rated” accolade. Don’t tell me Polly Toynbee has been superceded? At any rate, he certainly spends more time on his hatred than he does on his spelling…

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