“Just another needless belch in the swirling online guffstorm”

I picked up my dog-eared copy of Charlie Brooker’s “Dawn Of The Dumb” (a collection of some of his articles for The Guardian) this evening, opened it at random, and lo and behold, I ended up on p.164 and started reading this article. I was struck by just how relevant it is to my previous blog post so thought it worth posting. In the book it’s titled “The Great Online Dick Fight” but online it has the rather more prosaic title of “Supposing…There’s Only One Thing Worth Debating Online“.

The paragraphs below, in particular, resonate with me with a high quality factor. (Practically a Dirac-delta-like resonance)…

There’s no point debating anything online. You might as well hurl shoes in the air to knock clouds from the sky. The internet’s perfect for all manner of things, but productive discussion ain’t one of them. It provides scant room for debate and infinite opportunities for fruitless point-scoring: the heady combination of perceived anonymity, gestated responses, random heckling and a notional “live audience” quickly conspire to create a “perfect storm” of perpetual bickering.

Stumble in, take umbrage with someone, trade a few blows, and within about two or three exchanges, the subject itself goes out the window. Suddenly you’re simply arguing about arguing. Eventually, one side gets bored, comes to its senses, or dies, and the row fizzles out: just another needless belch in the swirling online guffstorm.

Read the rest here.


Author: Philip Moriarty

Physicist. Rush fan. Father of three. (Not Rush fans. Yet.) Rants not restricted to the key of E minor...

2 thoughts on ““Just another needless belch in the swirling online guffstorm””

  1. The real question is whether a debate in real life is of any more value than a debate online. I wonder if people who are inclined to debate are really inclined to recognize a new idea and to consider it seriously.

    We tend to debate those things that resonate with us. Those things that have become part of our identity. It is a rare debate that comes to conclusion other than both parties feeling more strongly about their original position.

    And I find this fact so very sad and more than a bit scary in the current world. I wonder if we wouldn’t better off asking questions with the intention of learning rather than espousing our opposing positions. But that is not our nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ” I wonder if we wouldn’t better off asking questions with the intention of learning rather than espousing our opposing positions”

      What a brilliant suggestion!

      Very occasionally I’ll debate with someone who has an opposing view and come away with a new perspective and truly have learned something (or at least thought about it in a different way). One example is mentioned in the post I refer to above — a fairly heated debate led directly to a grant application and research which has been the focus of our group for the last seven years. Even when it comes to the Tim Hunt furore, there have been some with whom I’ve debated that have led me to revise my thinking.

      So, sometimes debate can work well. But it requires a respect for your “opponent”. And my respect goes out of the door when my opponent is dishonest.

      Liked by 1 person

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