It has come to my attention that there are some members of the various internet skeptical and secular communities, not to mention members of the greater internet “blogosphere”, who evidently do not know what “blogging” actually IS. I am obligated, therefore, to explain, because I happen to be a “blogger” on occasion myself. It behooves me that everyone understand exactly what it is I’m doing here.
See, “blogging” is an abbreviated form of “web logging”, or writing a more public diary. In this internet era, there is a great deal of content everywhere — some of it good, some of it bad. Some of this content, you will agree with, and some of it you will disagree with. Generally, people who call themselves “bloggers” will write about things they like, or dislike, or agree with, or disagree with. They will point their readership, if any such readership has accumulated over a blogger’s tenure, to these things, and comment on them. Some bloggers are very terse in commenting on things; some are verbose.
The ones who are too verbose often do not get an appreciable readership unless they are also exceptional authors, but those exceptional authors often put their works in book format so as to actually get paid for it rather than making a “Blogger’s Salary”, which, despite some reports to the contrary, is barely enough to keep the server up and running most times.
Some people seem to think that blogging is about drumming up drama in order to get hits in order to get money, meaning, I assume, disagreeing with things without having a valid reason for that disagreement. Since nobody’s ever offered any evidence to prove this hypothesis, either from the standpoint of the motivation of these bloggers (e.g. are they just inventing faux disagreement?) or from the standpoint that it’s an effective way of getting eyes on your post, the claims can be dismissed out of hand a la Hitchens. Nevertheless, there’s good evidence to the contrary — not that that evidence would prevent people from repeatedly proffering the meme.
People talking about “drama” and “rage blogging” are actually describing the act of blogging, in the generic — offering your opinions on the internet. That is the core of blogging. You have an opinion, you have an electronic medium on which you can quickly share that opinion, and people are thereafter free to disagree with you either in your comments if you allow them, or via their own blogs.
The actual “drama” and “rage” comes from the responses and the sur-responses, more often than from the original response. A very good example is going crazy viral right now over at Ophelia’s. What should have been a simple analysis of Elan Gale’s repeated escalation of an annoying situation on a plane into an outright tableau of bullying at its finest, has brought out the rage and drama in the comments as folks are brigading Ophelia’s blog to protest her horrible mistreatment of Gale — who was a Brave Hero just trying to put an uppity bitch in her place! They storm her blog to protest her evident diminishment of the term “bullying”, because apparently it’s watering the term down by applying it to someone with power who used it to exacerbate someone’s emotionally distraught state.
Someone being annoyingly selfish on a plane is an irritation to people around them. I completely understand that — I’ve seen a lot of annoyingly selfish people on the internet, who feel entitled to your platform and who cry foul when you don’t let them have it, for instance. I further completely understand why this annoying person’s stage-4 (e.g. metastasized, terminal) lung cancer does not excuse her being annoying and rude. What I don’t get is why people have to storm a post explaining the other person’s side of the argument in order to “fight the good fight” and defend repeated escalation and outright harassment, when done by someone famous, someone with all the power in the exchange, most of which was actually hidden from the other participant’s view. Someone who’s allowed his fans to egg him on in repeatedly poking the annoyed woman with a stick. You’re taking someone you know — KNOW — to be emotionally distraught, and you’re repeatedly and intentionally trying to hurt them, ratcheting up the response instead of trying to defuse it. That’s beyond cruel. On the internet, that tactic is known as “trolling”. In meatspace, it’s called “harassment” or “bullying”.
The interesting thing about this event is that it’s shown me exactly why some people are upset about “rage blogging” and claim that we who blog are the real bullies. Blogging about injustices and arguing against them actually serves to bring these injustices to light, and stirs “drama” when people thereafter try to defend these injustices. The actual “rage bloggers” are the commenters — the pushback against the original complaint is disproportionate. The complainants about “rage blogging” are therefore engaged in projection, or some sort of hamfisted attempt at judo. The actions of Elan Gale are disproportionate to the original offense — that of complaining about something that isn’t fair, like being stuck in a broken airplane when you have Thanksgiving plans, even if the complaint itself was rather selfishly framed — and the repeated demands that Elan’s unwanted actions stop were met with further escalation. So the people rushing to his defense are quick to suggest that the people saying “no, that behaviour is actually kinda shitty in and of itself”, are the real bullies and just drumming up drama.
The actual “drama” here is not that Ophelia has some measure of sympathy for the woman whose slightly annoying complaint actually has a backstory that makes her sympathetic, nor that she publicly shared that opinion on the internet. It is that people evidently can’t simply allow Ophelia to have a different opinion on an event that’s largely a matter of opinion; to have their moral compass point differently from the rest of the crowd. The term “drama” is used here as a diminutive to suggest that the opinions offered are not genuine, but in this case it’s about eliciting reactions and having some of them pass and some of them fail in the forum of public opinion. The actual dramatists here are defending the man with all the power who bullied a slightly annoying woman. There’s no valid reason to rush to this guy’s defense, no matter how annoying the woman’s original complaint was. Nobody’s even TRYING to make a valid reason, much less a spirited defense. They’re just piling on the abuse on the woman who complained selfishly, and throwing an extra helping on the person who tried to suggest that the woman involved might have a story that mitigates the annoying behaviour.
The really interesting thing is, the people complaining about “rage bloggers” and “drama” are doing the exact same thing as the bloggers they complain about, by pointing to things they disagree with and disagreeing with them. Publicly. Calling them out on things they disagree with, even while they themselves decry the “call-out culture” of disagreeing with people publicly.
The difference, though, is that WE aren’t storming THEIR spaces to demand access to their audience. WE aren’t crying “free speech!” when we’re blocked on Twitter or banned from blogs for disagreeing, even while they suggest that we’re doing the same when we block them for repeated escalation and outright abuse.
And we probably don’t do those things because WE understand what “blogging” is.
And I hope, with this post, you do too.