Friday, July 02, 2004

What Being on the Right Implies and the Definition of 'Weblog'

A couple of excerpts from an irate correspondent whose ire seems to have gotten the better of his intellect:

In fact, a man of reason, such as yourself, should be wary of calling himself a "Man of the Right" because it implies an unwillingness to be critical of the Right when Right is Wrong.

There is simply no such implication. If one describes oneself as Right, Left, Center, or in any other way, there is no implication that a person so described is unwilling or unable to criticize his own position.

You may be making a mistake another fellow made, namely, the mistake of thinking that one cannot be both an independent thinker and one who arrives at definite conclusions. An independent thinker is one who arrives at conclusions by a process of independent inquiry (as opposed to someone who espouses a party line in order to keep a job, or to advance himself, or to avoid trouble with the powers that be). An independent thinker is not one who suspends judgment and asserts no theses. Now suppose a thinker who tries his level best to think
independently arrives at a set of economic, political, and social conclusions. Then that set of conclusions will be classifiable, more or less accurately, as Right, Left, Center, or in some more nuanced way. Clearly, the independent thinker’s adherence to these conclusions can be critical and tentative – and ought to be.

There is a related confusion in the vicinity. That is the idea that if a process of critical inquiry brings one to a set of conclusions that one then tentatively affirms, one has thereby become a partisan. That’s nonsense. A precondition of being a partisan is that one have joined a party. But to affirm set of conclusions after a process of inquiry is not to join anything. Keith Burgess-Jackson has an excellent post touching on this question.

The mistake being made here is to think that any economic, social, or political conclusions must needs be ideological, and thus cannot be either true or rationally justified. Note that those who hold this view would have to hold that the positions of leftists and liberals are as idelogical as those of conservatives – assuming that they wanted to be consistent.

Also don't call your website a BLOG when it is a PSEUDO-BLOG. I see no way to post directly on your "blog" -- it is NOT a blog.

Your remark is quite obtuse. ‘Blog’ is elliptical for ‘weblog.’ A weblog is defined as “...a page that is frequently updated with entries placed in reverse chronological order, with links to the online material you cite.” (Rebecca Blood, The Weblog Handbook, Perseus, 2002, p. 39. See also Doctorow, et al., Essential Blogging, O’Reilly 2002, p. 1) There is nothing in this standard definition that requires that a weblog have a feature that allows readers to post responses. I did not activate the response feature on my blog precisely to reduce the amount of invective and thoughtless tripe I would have to read, of the sort contained in your e-mail message (but not reproduced here to save you the embarrassment).

Some weblogs accommodate readers’ responses. Others do not. Some weblogs are published by individuals, others by groups. Some are what Blood calls “filters”: they consist mainly of lists of links with brief commentary. Others are lean on links but rich on content. Most blogs feature permalinked entries. Some do not. None of these different types of blogs are pseudo. What makes a blog a blog is specified in the definition cited.

After all, you're the one with such an insistence on respect for the meaning of words -- to the point of tremendous hair-splitting.

Ah yes, hairsplitting. This is the term applied by those who cannot see distinctions to those who make them. Consider the distinctions I have just made. If your intellect cannot discern them, then it is a dull tool indeed. The definition of ‘weblog’ cited above is not my invention. It captures the lexical meaning of the term as currently used. It is not a stipulative definition. Of course, the lexical/stipulative distinction may be another instance of what you call hairsplitting. The irony here is that you accuse me of misusing ‘weblog’ when you yourself do not understand what the word means.

If your aim is to reinforce me in my view that liberals and leftists cannot think clearly, then you are succeeding.