We should therefore welcome opposition. If we can explain ourselves reasonably and with justification, we can demand the same of our opponents. Thus, we want an opposition that is reasonable, clear and uses justified arguments to defend themselves. Our purpose is to show why they’re wrong – or to accede and say their arguments are indeed better.
This is why I do not want to live in a world where everyone agrees with me. How would I know if I’m wrong, if I am not challenged in a coherent, logical way? Something does not become true or right just because everyone believes it: that’s an appeal to majority, not a justification. After all, in order to argue, you need some kind of overarching liberty to do so: in reality, a lack of dissent is a sign of conformity and subjugation, not universal agreement.
As a philosophical and political principle, this is indeed a noble one. Typically in practice, however:
Personally, the comments section can get very taxing for me. I don’t think a lot of the commenters understand that I am an actual human being just like them. The mean nasty hurtful stuff does actually hurt me sometimes. If I were Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern and I got paid big money to be the target of abuse by strangers, that would be a different matter. Or if I felt there was some way in which my being a punching bag helped the dharma somehow, that would also be different. Or even if I were just a guy who enjoys arguing with people… But I am none of these things. And other people get abused in there as well. It’s really sad. So the comments section as it stands now often devolves into a big, depressing energy suck that has no value at all for me. Sorry to say this. But it’s the truth.
It’s not always that way. In fact sometimes it’s really good and stimulating. But as it stands now it’s just too prone to running itself into spasms of stupidity.
My rule for reading websites with comment sections is generally the same one for crossing swaying rope bridges: don’t look down. I don’t know what the magic number is that indicates when intelligent discussion among individuals tips over into rabble babble, but I suspect it’s fewer than twenty. It’s really disheartening how even some of the best writers I know attract some of the worst commenters.
It was recently suggested to me that having my own domain instead of a free blog might increase my visibility and grow my audience. I repeated: I honestly, seriously would not want to be popular and widely-read. I get all the validation I need merely by the act of writing. The fact that a few people voluntarily read what I write is gratifying enough without having a comment box full of unimaginative sycophants, let alone trolls. So, to the lurkers, thanks for stopping by and reading quietly. To the regulars, thanks for providing intelligent remarks and honest opposition. Except for one of you. You know who you are. Yes, you. I’m talking to you. See, this is what I mean. You’re just not up to our standards. Work on that, wouldja? Jeez.