People often lament the low tone and bad manners of the blogosphere. For them, it’s like something out of the Wild Wild West.
And, indeed, I’m reminded of the difference between a duel and a free-for-all. A duel was a teddibly civilized and classy way of murdering people. A way for “gentlemen” to receive “satisfaction” for injuries to their honor.
It had elaborate rules. For example:
The Degrees Of Insult, And How Compromised
The Person Insulted, Before Challenge Sent
Second's Duty Before Challenge Sent
The Party Receiving A Note Before Challenge
Second's Duty Of The Party Receiving A Note Before Challenge Sent
Duty Of Challengee And His Second Before Fighting
Duty Of Challengee And Second After Challenge Sent
Duties Of Principals And Seconds On The Ground
The usual distance is from ten to twenty paces, as may be agreed on, and the seconds in measuring the ground usually step three feet.
The arms used should be smoothbore pistols, not exceeding nine inches in length, with flint and steel. Percussion pistols may be mutually used if agreed on, but to object on that account is lawful.
The principals are to be respectful in meeting, and neither by look nor expression irritate each other. They are to be wholly passive, being entirely under the guidance of the seconds.
Any number of friends that the seconds agree on may be present, provided they do not come within the degrees of consanguinity mentioned in the seventh rule of Chapter I.
A duel is like a referred journal. By contrast, the blogosphere is more often like one of those fistfights that got started in the saloon, usually over a woman, and spilled out into the muddy streets. Lots of broken bottles, shattered windows, and splintered furniture—with the piano player ducking for cover. All teddibly uncouth and undignified.
The blogosphere is to a John Ford Western what a refereed journal is to Masterpiece Theater. John Wayne v. Alistair Cooke.
Publications like Faith & Philosophy or The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society serve a very important niche in Christian scholarship.
At the same time, there’s an honesty to the blogosphere that’s often concealed by the artificial etiquette of a refereed journal.
A while back, some explicative-laden email between Michael Ruse and Daniel Dennett surfaced and quickly spread the Internet. It was a rare moment of candor behind the manicured façade of academe.
It’s not so much that the blogosphere brings out the worst in people. Rather, it exposes what was there all along. There’s no point attacking the medium. The medium is just a window.
In that respect, there’s something refreshing about the blogosphere. It may frequently put us in touch with an ugly reality, but at least we know what we’re dealing with. We may not always like what we see behind the mask, but the mask is just a pretty illusion.