The hostile web

I was just reading through a post on Marginal Revolution when I had something of an epiphany which is, in retrospect, completely obvious.

We talk of the internet as some sort of large global community, but I find it very interesting how there’s so little true interaction or assimiliation of viewpoints on the web. Ideally, when one can easily communicate with those on “the other side” of any given ideological divide, one expects some sort of “softening”-not necessarily a complimentary term, perhaps- of stances, some little move towards a mutual understanding. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be working all that well.

Case in point: this post on MR summing up, from a libertarian point of view, an intelligent and reasoned explanation of progressivism, and this post from Matt Yglesias’s blog doing the reverse i.e. an intelligent, reasoned explanation of libertarianism from a progressive point of view. The posts are quite reasonable, so you’ll have to scroll down a bit and check the comments to see what I’m talking about. To be fair, the commenters on MR are easily the most civilized I’ve seen on any blog, and somewhat less ideologically blinkered. Yglesias’s blog, on the other hand… not so much.

1. Luke Says:
August 8th, 2009 at 8:29 am
On it!
My Libertarian Manifesto:
I got mine!
2. RalphF Says:
August 8th, 2009 at 8:37 am
@Luke – I think that’s more the definition of Conservatism.
Libertarianism is “I want to make all the rules”.
3. fostert Says:
August 8th, 2009 at 8:42 am
“Why not simply join forces with the wealthy and powerful so as to create a political coalition that’s plausibly capable of overwhelming xenophobia and creating borders that are relatively open to the flow of goods and labor?”
Because many of the wealthy and powerful got that way by exploiting xenophobia. It’s the classic divide and conquer strategy. If you get people to fight each other, they do most of the conquering work for you. And what better way to get people fighting each other than xenophobia? Supply weapons to whichever side offers you the best oil contracts, and they’ll be your puppet if they win. The wealthy and powerful didn’t get that way by being fair.
4. David Says:
August 8th, 2009 at 8:45 am
My summation: free-markets, free love, and the underpants gnomes will take care of the poor.
5. Petey Says:
August 8th, 2009 at 8:53 am
“What Is Libertarianism?”
An infantile disorder.
The New Yorker this week has a pretty interesting piece this week on the origins of Libertarianism.
6. Cranky Observer Says:
August 8th, 2009 at 8:58 am
Libertarianism is Republicans who want to date liberal women.
7. Flo Says:
August 8th, 2009 at 9:01 am
Thanks for clearing that up. I thought Libertarians were old conservatives who didn’t want to be associated with Bush anymore.

I mean, yes, very funny. On the other hand, hardly demonstrative of a willingness to just listen to the other side. Bear in mind that this is on a post that is explicitly written to encourage some sort of constructive debate. And this is nothing compared to what you can find on, say Paul Krugman’s blog.

PS: This isn’t an attempt to dump on progressives, whom I have a fair bit in common with anyway. It’s just a good illustration of the broader principle that I wanted to convey… I couldn’t find any really egregious comments on MR from the libertarian side, and I was too lazy to do any more research.


One thought on “The hostile web

  1. Pingback: Online Discourse Part 2: Pareto Ideologies. « The Ego Chronicles

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