September 21, 2010
The Perils of Blogging
Posted by Christine Hurt

As some may know, friend of the Glom Todd Henderson has been on the receiving end of some spectacularly personal attacks following a post last week at Truth on the Market on how taxing families who make over $250k is not the same as taxing the "super rich."  (The posts are gone, so no links are necessary).  The controversy was picked up by established bloggers and even professional journalist-bloggers, who capitalized on the passions incited instead of calming them with objective reason.  The end result is that Todd has decided not to blog any more, which is surely a loss for the blogosphere.

As an observer to this blog controversy, I am reminded of many similar incidents over the past six years of my blogging.  I can certainly remember posts that I authored that (1) were taken the wrong way; (2) really upset folks in an unpredictable way or to an unpredictable degree; and/or (3) prompted personal and quite vindictive attacks.  I remember the awful way I would feel for a day or two, afraid to even look at my email for fear of comments that felt like knives being thrown my way.  The feeling (let's call it "bloghorror") is hard to describe.  First, bloghorror is in part just a reaction to being attacked, but it's also a shame at having hurt someone else, even unintentionally, and it's also an anger at the completely unfair nature of the response.  But most of all it's this feeling of being misunderstood.  And unfortunately, there's no way to cure this.  In 2005, my first reaction would be to explain myself, so that the blog audience would say, "Ah, I understand now."  It took me a year or two to learn that once your audience has concluded that you are the devil saying devil things, any effort to explain will just add to the arsenal of the ammunition that will be hurled back at you.

In the wild west of the early blawgosphere, Gordon and I occasionally went off-brief and blogged about controversial topics that got us into trouble.  Of course, knowing what will be a barn-burner is not easy to predict.  The one regrettable post I remember was about how I got scammed into buying a subscription of Entertainment Weekly at the Best Buy.  (Here's the post, go have fun.)  My point was that if a fairly educated and savvy consumer could get scammed, the the scheme is probably trapping a lot of people.  Man, did commenters want to tell me how stupid I was!  (I even got a call from a network television show wanting me to be on the air telling America how stupid I was.  I declined.)  I laugh now, but at the time I was pretty upset with bloghorror.  Maybe Gordon can remind me of other times when I was horsewhipped by the blawgosphere -- I think I've blocked out some of the pain.  In addition, I think most long-time bloggers I know can think of a time when they wished they had just stepped away from the keyboard.

I think the one thing that strikes me as strange about Todd's ordeal is how other bloggers, established bloggers, went for the low-hanging fruit there.  What has changed?  Has the blogosphere become so saturated that bloggers are pandering for heavy traffic?  I think that is what disappoints me.  Bloggers are supposed to link to and disagree with one another, but hopefully in a non-tabloid manner where we give people the benefit of the doubt.

I'm leaving comments open because our readers are reasonable and well-meaning.

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