October 3, 2012

Attack Blogging

Shark attackWe've all seen it. Some of us have been victims, and a few us of may have even done it ourselves. What I am going to label attack blogging because I'm not feel especially creative right now is nothing new. It has been around as long as people have been blogging and trying to come up with content for their blogs. As I mean it here, it involves writing a post (in some cases even an entire blog) focused on attacking an individual. It is distinct from criticism or rational disagreement in both content and tone, but I find that tone is not nearly as good a marker as content.

It seems like this style of blogging happens more often these days in the atheist community than I remember. But my perception is likely skewed and could easily be false. After all, I've sought some of this stuff out in an attempt to understand why some issues in our community seem to be as contentious as they are.

From what I have observed, the content characteristic of attack blogging in the atheist community (i.e., from atheist-to-atheist) involves things like:
  • Ad hominem insults
  • Lots of selecting quoting combined with gross misinterpretation of the quoted material
  • Attempts to use the target's words against him or her, often by digging up content that may have been written several years ago or taken out of context (I've even seen this celebrated as if it was a great accomplishment)
  • Irrational thinking (e.g., overgeneralizing, dichotomous thinking, mind reading, drawing unwarranted conclusions)
  • Revisiting the same target over-and-over to the point of appearing somewhat obsessed

The tone varies, but it is virtually never respectful. It often involves a sense of righteous indignation. Actually, the single best descriptor I can think of right now would have to be smug.

I suspect there's an audience out there for nearly every form of blogging. And efforts to stir up controversy has long been a successful strategy for boosting blog traffic. Still, I don't particularly enjoy this form of blogging, and I'd like to see less of it happening between atheists on different sides of various issues. It seems like it is getting in the way of what could be productive discussion. But since I'm unlikely to get everything I want, I can opt out of reading those who regularly traffic in this style when I find myself getting bored with it.

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