A liberal spirit: Passion, partisanship, and the blogging of truth
Joe's post is here.
Wil's piece is here.
Wil's blog is here.
You can find more on Wil here.
Wil addresses the so-called "War on Christmas," including a seemingly unpleasant incident with his father regarding the death penalty, but, as Joe puts it so well:
The point here is NOT the death penalty or specific issues. The point here is people gathering their own information, processing it through themselves, then reaching their own conclusions versus what we see all too often these days: people deciding that they will believe what a talk show host (or blogger) says just because he says it and they're on his "team" and therefore it must be so and they must believe it too. And if someone disagrees, you don't just differ with them you get personally angry at them.
It's certainly true of talk radio and it's certainly true of certain parts of the blogosphere, the echo-chambers of left and right, where cults of personality and ideological purity overwhelm and indeed destroy the disinterested pursuit of the truth. I trust that neither The Reaction nor The Moderate Voice is such a blog, but I've certainly been on the receiving end of the kind of personal anger that Wil and Joe describe, both as a blogger, where I've been attacked for being all sorts of nasty things (just look at some of the unfavourable comments here!), and in my daily life as a political junkie. (I've even had some rather heated arguments with my own father on issues that at the time seemed like they were matters of life and death.)
Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not saying that politics, and political rhetoric or dialectic, should be without passion. Nor am I saying that it's wrong or otherwise inappropriate to take a stand and to express one's beliefs with conviction and determination. Those of you who have read my writing here at The Reaction -- or at The Moderate Voice, or at Centerfield, or perhaps even at TPM Cafe or Daily Kos, where I maintain a reader blog and diary, respectively, or anywhere else I've blogged or been quoted -- know that my own disinterested pursuit of the truth, if I may put it in such a Socratic way, is very much tied to rather strongly-held political opinions that I'm not exactly shy of publicizing openly and widely.
A personal riff:
I am moderate in temperament, as befits an Arnoldian, but I am liberal in spirit and conviction, a liberal who defends liberalism, including American liberalism, against its various and varied discontents -- and there are many of them these days. However, I am not, I think, a thoughtless partisan. I think about what I think, that is, I think through even my most strongly held opinions. If the unexamined life is not worth living, then, in this sense, the unexamined opinion in not worth much at all and is better kept to oneself. In the end, it is important not to back down from one's convictions, but it is possible, I think, to do so without succumbing to the temptation of ideological purity.
Wil and Joe are absolutely right. There is far too much anger out there, both in public and in private, with the public fueling the private. It's important for all of us, bloggers and non-bloggers alike, to try to elevate the tone, even at our most passionate.
Are we up to that challenge?