A heckler stuck himself to my blog page the other day like a bored kid's spitball. He was someone who, despite a large number of egregious opinions, just couldn't be wrong. But with each new post, he made his position more fantastic digging a deeper and deeper hole. Unfortunately, he was someone who thrived on bad attention. He wouldn't let go.
Maybe you've met someone like him in a sports bar. He confronts newcomers trying to embarrass them, to make them step back; he's also the guy who pushes ordinary disagreement into genuine conflict. A bit of a bully. Trouble. After you noticed, you'd sit far away from him.
My spitball guy was actually a slightly better version of the guy in the sports bar, because he was only looking for a verbal fight. He likes cyberspace where he can hide behind one or more pseudonyms. Anonymity protects him from the consequences of his words which are often as wildly untrue as the opinions of a holocaust denier. Facts don't matter, and there's no arguing with him.
Well, I'm a strange guy to be a blogger. Writing for me is a way of getting it right. It's the place where I work on my identity and integrity (seriously), and for this reason when I'm in cyberspace I use my real name so that I'm accountable. When I write, whatever I write, I'm trying to work out what I truly think and feel at the deepest level of my being. I'm after who I really am and if I get there, I present a fully-formed opinion, one that's been researched and hashed over. Then I sit back and watch for whatever I missed or mistook. I don't think very well on my feet and I hate to be wrong, so I take my time writing and rewriting. The last book took me four years. It's zippy and reads pretty well, but if you ever see me on CNN or hear me on NPR, I'll be the one going "Hmm, umm, hmmm."
Blogging, on the other hand, is talking off the top of your head. Whatever comes to mind first is good blogging. Gut reactions. Impulse writing. Feelings instead of facts. Blogs are riddled with errors, spelling mistakes and false starts: farts, I like to call them. Blogging, like the marketplace, is full of farts. It's lively, but it's not for the squeamish.
Now, if you're a writer, the blogosphere can be incredibly liberating. You can use the form to loosen your style, streamline your thinking and anticipate people's objections or misunderstandings. You can also use it to locate your own blind spots, and for this reason an intelligent blogger who criticizes you is worth his weight in gold. The op-ed form that's basic to HuffPo blogs is a tight little American invention that most resembles a tomahawk. If you balance it and throw it right, there's no defense. So if you trained as an academic like I did, blogging will help you get back in touch with your heart. You can dance like Zorba in a blog provided, like Zorba, you maintain your integrity.
Integrity is really the key. I am unadorned and unhidden here in cyberspace. I don't use a moniker or an avatar. I write my mind and, although I joke whenever I can, I don't bullshit and I listen to all comers and respond to them respectfully whenever they give me something real. No news organization organization pays my mortgage so no one can make me twist my own words. I won't say something is good when I think its bad. I won't lie, and I won't disrespect anyone who is sincere.
It's probably unreasonable of me, but I expect the same of my readers. This is democracy in action, after all, and it's a noble pursuit. So hold the f****g spitballs, okay guys?
Over to you...