Having officially achieved curmudgeonly status, at least in age, and just ask the kids, I thought I'd start modestly with five perennial blogospheric annoyances that call aloud for irritable comment. So here goes, in no particular order.
- Bloggers who don't allow comments. You read a really provocative piece, left, right, centre, it doesn't matter, and then you look for the comment button, and it isn't there. The blogger in question has committed the unspeakable sin of trolling you and then taping your mouth shut. Be it known that this qualifies as torture under the UN Convention. Aren't bloggers supposed to foster controversy? Then why the gag?
I know that some people have good reason, or say they do. Kathy Shaidle sees comboxes as "occasions for sin," and, lacking her theological knowledge, how can I presume to argue? (I am assuming that she is referring to her own possible fall from grace, not that of her visitors, but I could be mistaken.) She has been known to venture out into the combox world herself, though, especially when trolled.
But at least Kathy has offered us an explanation. Others simply post, and you can take it or leave it, but there will be no discussion unless you want to go somewhere else. That's dirty pool. It's censorship! It's a violation of the right of freedom of speech! At least, I'm sure I know people who would make that argument. Personally, I think it's just party-pooping, not a Charter violation. But it's irritating.
- Bloggers who ban commenters. Now, I think I'm a nice enough sort of fellow, not a troll, at least not all the time, but yesterday I managed to get banned from two blogsites. The word "echo-chamber" leaps to mind, but that's too simple. I think we have here a pathology, manifesting itself in various stages. Remember that I'm not talking about lumpen purveyors of abuse, profanity, all of those egregious violations of the rules of hospitality that call for immediate banishment. I had a couple of those once, and sent them packing. I'm talking about--wait for it--disagreement.
I will forebear to name the two individuals involved. That would be rude, but, more important, pointless. In one case, I simply became an unperson: all posts of mine, innocuous as at least some of them were, vanished into the outer darkness. I would call that Stage Two, Stage One being the elimination of specific posts--a cyber-slap, rather than blogocide.
Stage Three consists of the elimination of your own posts, but not of the posts that attack you. A visitor to the site might be put in mind of Osip Mandelstam's line about "just enough people for half a dialogue." There are accusations and rough commentary about someone or other, but the target has simply been removed, able to listen but not rebut. Perhaps out of my unfailing generosity of spirit, I insist on regarding this cyber-cowardice as a sickness, not a crime. It's just too obvious for there to be intelligent planning behind it.
- Blogrolls that fuss about their identity. I need to tread lightly here. Every blogroll has a theme, a commonality, a reason for affiliation. If it doesn't, then it's not really a blogroll, but an agora, and that's what the political blogosphere already is, isn't it? We don't really need mini-versions when we have all outdoors. So I don't expect to see Warren Kinsella trying to join the Blogging Tories, at least yet (joke, Warren, no writs please), or Stephen Taylor getting listed as a Blogging Dipper...well, you get my drift. And on Progressive Bloggers, whatever the heck a "progressive" is, I don't expect to find white supremacists, "men's rights" types, or people who complain about the Chinese moving in next door.
But what to do if one of these surfaces right here at home? Being the good progressives that we are, we agonize about it. Blogging Tories, on the other hand, just kick people out. If I was ever critical of them for this (and I don't recall being so), I take it all back. There's something to be said for expediency on occasion. We could learn from them.
- One-trick ponies. Do you ever come across bloggers--I know you have--who really only have one issue, and beat it to death for post after post? The "Muslims are a danger to us all" crowd, for example, or "Jack Layton's moustache sucks," or "Onward to victory in Afghanistan," or "Androgenic global warming is a socialist hoax," or (my current favourite) "the Left are a bunch of anti-Semites." I mean, get a life! There are so many uncleared, untilled fields just waiting for ideological seeding. Kate McMillan runs a blog that really does cover the waterfront. It's interesting, damn it, even if it puts a progressive's teeth on edge. Ditto, closer to home, with Robert McClelland. (What is it with these Scots, anyway?) Incidentally, I'm just picking two sort of equal-but-opposite folks here as examples, so no one should feel left out. There are plenty of interesting blogs out there, right across the political spectrum.
- Shills. Again, naming no names, I am weary of blogsites that pop up like mushrooms whenever there's a political convention of some sort. They are so transparent, just a obvious way of avoiding campaign spending limits, and they're boring. Get yourself a real blogsite, like my friend Cerberus, and plug away by all means, but show a bit of imagination. And staying power. (Speaking of which--are you still there, Ted?)
Well, that's about it for me at the moment. Feel free to add your own items to the list. Such as--the propensity for bloggers to make lists?
UPDATE/CORRECTION: (February 9) It should be noted that Robert McClelland co-blogs with the excellent Paladiea. I apologize for having to be prompted on this.