A place of politics, culture (!!) & random subjects from Airstrip One. Noel hopes it will be of interest and/or use to all sorts of voyagers in cyberspace!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Most "debate" on the Net is a waste of time

Well my few words on the Euston Manifesto got a response from Paulie who said I hadn't read it at the time of posting (v.true- I haven't read the Koran cover to cover either, but does that invalidate criticisms I may make of Islam?) and called me a "donkey". I wasn't happy about this and said a few choice things back in reply.

I'm still waiting for Paulie to return with some devastating Oscar Wildeish wit, the sort it is obvious he is so good at. I've also read the Euston Manifesto several times since then, and my initial thoughts are:

(i) It doesn't mention the C-word "capitalism". For a bunch who seem to feature quite a few ex-Marxists and people who have made their names as critics of Actual Existing Capitalism, this is quite an omission.

(ii) it doesn't mention another C-word: China. Let's not beat around the bush here, China is the biggest and worst totalitarian regime on the planet. It has Weapons of Mass Destruction on a scale Saddam Hussein could only dream of; it pursues ethnic cleansing in Tibet and elsewhere on a scale Slobodan Milosevic could only dream of; and allows no democracy, free trade unions or freedom of speech worthy of the name. However, does anyone call for "regime change" for China? Does anyone think that the 2008 Beijing Olympics should be boycotted? (BTW I'm opposed to all cultural/sporting/academic/artistic boycotts of anywhere full stop.) If, as the Euston Manifesto argues, we should confront totalitarian regimes and tendencies everywhere [do I understand that right, Paulie? See, I'm such a donkey...], surely we must start with the worst of the lot ie China? Of course, without China's booming economy, global capitalism would quite possibly be going down with all hands on deck by now, but as the Eustonies seem to deny the existence of capitalism the (very profitable) "constructive engagement" the West pursues with China is a bit of a problem for them to explain.

(iii) the whole style of the document reminds me of the awful stuff the "Marxism Today" faction in the old Communist Party of Great Britain published at the end of the 1980s (anyone remember "Face/Facing the Future?" or "Manifesto for New Times"?). Considering how the CPGB ended up (i.e. dissolved at the end of 1991) it hardly bodes well for the Eustonies.

Anyway, I doubt anything I say will influence the Thoughts of Chairman Paulie much. Conversely I doubt whether anything he may add to this blog will change my opinions one iota. This is where this post starts to make some connection with the title at the top of it. I don't think the Net does change people's opinions much. What it is good at is providing information to strengthen and refine people's existing opinions, and to be frank, prejudices. I'm come across a fair few blogs and websites which have contained material which I've thought, "ah, that interesting- just as I've been thinking". However, if it is a place in cyberspace whose opinions I totally disagree with I tend to move onto something more palatable (after all, you only have much time in your life to go on the Net).

I think the Net is good for propagating things like the Euston Manifesto. It is a very good place for giving your version of the world as you see it. To quote Nye Bevan (and Manic Street Preachers Album title) the comment "This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours" could be the best description of most "political" blogs/websites on the Net. If you like what some or all of what I post on my blog fine; if not, start your own!

BTW I did see a factoid recently which said that most bloggers give up after 3 months. If you a reading this and reaching the 3 month point- keep going! If your creative juices are slow at this point return when you feel like it. I did so little in the first few months of my blog ie early 2005 but I eventually got back to doing it. I do have a life outside of my blog so there are times I just can't do anything on it at all. However, there are short bursts of activity (like this one). Blogging is a creative act and like all creative acts it is not something you can shoehorn into neat Mon to Fri 9 to 5 spaces.

Anyhow, if I change anyone's opinions one iota on anything with this blog it will be a bonus. As for arguing ad nauseum with people on the Net (I've seen on the Net plenty of instances of people going hammer and tongs at each other in arguments for weeks at a time if they are allowed to. If anyone does that on my blog I will say "Get each other's e-mail addresses and communicate with each other directly, you intellectual poseurs!") it is really a waste of time. I find that people who keep arguments going don't really want to change opinions, but to get a semi-sexual satisfaction in getting one over someone else at whatever cost. That is, to get the last word in and, as Karl Marx said to his housekeeper on his deathbed, "Last words are for fools who haven't said enough."

I saw the piece below by the generally great Charlie Brooker the other day which sort of sums up my attitude towards arguing ad infinitum on the Net. If you don't agree with it, I can't be asked to argue with you!

Supposing ... There's only one thing worth debating online
Charlie Brooker, The Guardian, Friday June 2, 2006

Last week I wrote a load of nonsense about flags and idiocy; as well as appearing in print, it also turned up on the Guardian's "Comment is Free" blog-o-site, where passersby are encouraged to scrawl their own responses beneath the original article.
Some people disagreed with the piece, some agreed; some found it funny, some didn't. For half a nanosecond I was tempted to join in the discussion. And then I remembered that all internet debates, without exception, are entirely futile. So I didn't.

There's no point debating anything online. You might as well hurl shoes in the air to knock clouds from the sky. The internet's perfect for all manner of things, but productive discussion ain't one of them. It provides scant room for debate and infinite opportunities for fruitless point-scoring: the heady combination of perceived anonymity, gestated responses, random heckling and a notional "live audience" quickly conspire to create a "perfect storm" of perpetual bickering.
Stumble in, take umbrage with someone, trade a few blows, and within about two or three exchanges, the subject itself goes out the window. Suddenly you're simply arguing about arguing. Eventually, one side gets bored, comes to its senses, or dies, and the row fizzles out: just another needless belch in the swirling online guffstorm.

But not for long, because online quarrelling is also addictive, in precisely the same way Tetris is addictive. It appeals to the "lab rat" part of your brain; the annoying, irrepressible part that adores repetitive pointlessness and would gleefully make you pop bubblewrap till Doomsday if it ever got its way. An unfortunate few, hooked on the futile thrill of online debate, devote their lives to its cause. They roam the internet, actively seeking out viewpoints they disagree with, or squat on messageboards, whining, needling, sneering, over-analysing each new proclamation - joylessly fiddling, like unhappy gorillas doomed to pick lice from one another's fur for all eternity.

Still, it's not all moan moan moan in NetLand. There's also the occasional puerile splutter to liven things up.

In the debate sparked by my gibberish outpouring, it wasn't long before rival posters began speculating about the size of their opponent's dicks. It led me to wonder - has the world of science ever investigated a casual link between penis size and male political leaning?

I'd theorise that, on the whole, rightwing penises are short and stubby, hence their owners' constant fury. Lefties, on the other hand, are spoiled for length, yet boast no girth whatsoever - which explains their pained confusion. I flit from one camp to the other, of course, which is why mine's so massive it's got a full-size human knee in the middle. And a back. A big man's back.

Anyway, if we must debate things online, we might as well debate that. It's not like we'll ever resolve any of that other bullshit, is it?

Click. Mine's bigger than yours. Click. No it isn't. Click. Yes it is. Click. Refresh, repost, repeat to fade.


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