Well, that isn’t what Ezra Klein titled his post about blogospheric venom, but he should have. Klein writes (italics mine):
…part of the problem with blogospheric civility is that bloggers aren’t addressing their posts to folks like Hiatt. They’re writing for an imagined audience composed mainly of liberals who are shut-out of Washington Post editorial meetings but appalled by what emerges from them. The tone such an audience demands is not terrifically genteel. That said, these posts get back to — or are sought out by — their ostensible targets, who confuse a critique written for them with a critique written about them. And thus they get deeply offended by the tone.
This has actually worked out rather well for the blogosphere, as harsh, public critiques register more effectively than polite, private ones. Writing for audiences of liberals but being disproportionately read by serious media types has probably done quite a bit to enhance their efficacy. That’s not to say a string of curse words and racial slurs is effective, but a bit of rhetorical punch that might have been excised had you been writing a direct e-mail to the offending columnist is worthwhile. The media folks are upset about the venom because it hurts them. And whether they realize it or not, people try to avoid things that hurt them. And so insofar as the blogosphere would like mainstream pundits to write less offensive, wrongheaded columns, this has all worked in their favor. Media complaints about the venom are, in some ways, the proof.
When I ripped into George Gilder, I wasn’t trying to convince Gilder or his fanatics; for the most part, they’re a lost cause. What I’m trying to do is reinforce the idea that they lack any legitimate ethos.
Well, as a long-time atheist, science supporter, blah, blah, blah, I have no use for the “fucking idiot,” “stupid assholes,” “off your meds again?” school of critique. Speaking only for myself (there’s already far too much “speaking for others” abroad in the land), it does nothing but coarsen the debate. It doesn’t help one iota is supporting the argument.
Quite the contrary, in fact; it puts me in mind of the fine old anecdote about the minister reviewing his Sunday sermon on Saturday and making a marginal note, “This point is weak. Pound pulpit.”