Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dissent at Your Own Risk

I wrote this post a few days ago for Renee at Womanist Musings. Now that a few days have passed I'll put it up here:

When you read someone else's blog what do you expect? Do you expect a regurgitation of what you already know, think, feel, believe, etc? Do you expect to hear/read/get someone else's perspective on an issue? I think it may be worth it to visit this seemingly innocuous topic.

The reason for the visit is because I think that whether we realize it or not what we expect from a blog has an effect on what input a reader offers as well the reaction a reader offers to someone else's input.

When a user goes to a blog expecting to get a different perspective on a situation it is perfectly understandable and anticipated that there will be differences of opinion and said user will more than likely be a voice of dissent. Despite what many people may think being a dissenting voice does not automatically make one the enemy. However time and time again the dissenting opinion is often treated like a virus that must be eradicated. I find this to be a problem but the problem does not always lie with the dissenting voice.

Of course there are times when a dissenting voice comes onto a blog with the purpose of causing disruption however there times when the resulting disruption is not caused by the dissenter him/herself.

If people go to a blog to get a different perspective and hear a dissenting voice why is there the desire to respond to that dissenter as if they are not welcome? I mean if they are really there to get a different angle on the topic why do they react to the dissenter with great hostility in an effort to run them off of the blog?

I'm sure a person that does this is doing so under the justification of trying to stop the dissenter from stifling the conversation. So you have someone doing exactly what they don't want to happen to him/herself in order to prevent it from happening to him/herself. Unless the dissenter is truly trying to stop the conversation (and I'm sorry but the owner/moderator of the blog in question is the only one that can decide who can determine who is being disruptive) or turn it in a certain direction is it really fair to try to shut them out of the discussion? If someone responds with great vengeance and furious anger at the slightest hint of dissent, who is the one that is really stifling the conversation?

The reason I bring attention to this is because responding to any and all dissenting voices with unprovoked hostility can have very dangerous consequences. First and foremost if a blog suddenly begins to shut out anyone that does not agree with the crowd it will turn into an echo chamber. And by echo chamber I mean that the only voices that are heard are always saying the same thing. It's difficult to have open dialogue, much less incite change, when only certain dialogue is welcome isn't?