Monday, July 28, 2008

The value of blogging ...

Reading the comments appended to this post of mine On Anger, I realize that blogging can offer something on the order of peer review: You put your thoughts out there, others comment, and you find yourself with grounds for reconsideration.
I think I should have made it clearer that I understand perfectly well that anger happens and that sometimes it is justified. I once saw a woman seriously whipping her child on the sidewalk and I got instantaneously pissed and told her so in so many quite blunt words. She then got pissed at me - but she stopped hitting the kid. (I think this is the sort of thing Ed is referring to.)
But spontaneous anger over something obviously and immediately outrageous is one thing. So is the little outburst when your computer glitches on you. But the phenomenon one encounters in the blogosphere of "righteous" outbursts over all sorts of things from politics to religion to literary criticism is a blight on discourse. If the people who so routinely express themselves in that manner really do get angry that much over so much then they need to get help. If it is just a rhetorical pose, then they need to get some manners. They may also need to take a couple of remedial courses in logic and rhetoric, if only to learn that the latter is not a substitute for the former. There are certainly times when one has cause to be indignant and ought to express that indignation openly and bluntly. But it isn't all the time.
I agree with Bill that anger can be a form displacement, but I think Art is also right in adding that it can be born of frustration and is often a "guy" thing. I'm not sure about the connection with fear, but that may be because I have a fairly high fear threshold and tend to feel scared after being in danger, not while. Cogito's reminder of the connection between anger and depression is quite useful, though again it is something I can't say much about, since I am little inclined to depression. (Nige's remark about reasoning my way out of anger is worth a gloss: I do that sort of thing all the time - must be my Jesuit training. I see no reason for continuing to do something that seems unreasonable to me. The hardest one for me to walk away from was drinking to excess, which I loved. And I resisted reason's blandishments in that regard far longer than was, well, reasonable. It took a grim moment - a waking blackout - to alert me that the law of diminishing returns was starting to go to work.)

Thanks to Nige, Bill, the Incomparable Cogito, Art and Ed for their contributions. What you said prompted me to clarify things a bit - at least I hope I clarified them.


  1. Anonymous2:28 PM

    Well, thanks for clarifying things a bit here, Frank. But I'd say that how one chooses to be angry and express this indignation is up to the individual. Some people are more rational, some are more emotional, and others straddle the fence. I do agree that propinquity and applicability are probably what justifies anger to some extent. That's the Aristotlean relationship to reason that Nige was alluding to in the previous thread.

    Speaking personally, I simply don't possess the temperament in which I can ALWAYS be rational about a situation. I acknowledge this as both a strength and a flaw. But if one maintains a relative sense of control, proportion, faith in humankind, and humility, along with an ability to explain where one is coming from, I don't see a good rant about some piece of minutaie as a sign that one needs to get help. (Anger all the time? Oh sure. You've probably got problems, pal.)

    Anger in this context seems very much like swearing, and is afforded an undue societal stigma. (This line causes me to remember Alan Alda's odd claim in the 1970s -- in Ms. Magazine, as I recall -- that testosterone was somehow poisonous.) As I mentioned in the other thread, anger can be therapeutic and can cause one to maintain a fairly solid head -- indeed, a faith in others. Of course, in expressing anger, one can often look foolish. But I don't see an occasional anger about, say, politics or literary criticism to be necessarily symptomatic of a DSM-IV classification.

  2. Anonymous2:35 PM

    To offer a corollary on how this translates into verbal and written expression, I find it more difficult to accept someone like, say, Lee Siegel, who has almost nothing good to say about the Internet as he is condemning it, or Harriet Klausner, who has nothing critical to say about all the books she purports to love. Ultimately, and correct me if I'm wrong, I think what you may be asking for here, Frank, is a reasonable balance between good and bad, emotional and reasonable, et al.

  3. Hi Ed,
    As I said, sometimes you have to call people out in no uncertain terms. What I was reacting to was people whose every response to anything they disagree with is expressed angrily - the how-dare-you-even-suggest-such-a-thing-you fool approach.It's worth noting, too, that a lot of my mellowness is a product of growing old and tired. I don't have many regrets, but the injured joints and limbs do.

  4. Anonymous6:08 PM

    Bicyclists anger me when I'm driving my car; autoists anger me when I'm riding my bicycle. The mere sight of a Segway rider or a "personal watercraft" darkens my mood for the remainder of the day. And the amphibious landing vehicles filled with quacking tourists that clog the streets of Old City Philadelphia drive me into sputtering rage. As long as I don't attept to travel beyond pedestrian range, I'm a very mellow guy.

  5. Interesting discussion gentlemen. Thank you. I like the distinction made between reason and rhetoric:I'll often read florid commentary full of well turned phrases which tends, after a time not to make a point, or, even more often, when challenged, to degenerate quickly into insult. Typically looking like this: what you are saying is stupid; you're dumb; you're too dumb to understand my brilliant argument.

    Now if there is one thing that is guaranteed to raise anger, it's being called stupid. Problem is, often, I don't usually care enough to continue to engage in considered debate when this happens; I don't want to waste my time on a jerk who is disrespectful...I just want to tell him/her to f off...

    Where there is basic civility and respect, the exchange of thoughts and ideas on blogs can be really entertaining and enlightening... unfortunately,these basics are often lacking.

  6. Anonymous11:24 PM

    Well said, Nigel; and, the thing with finding oneself ensnaggled with a peacock? The discussion deteriorates into a pissing contest (which brings us back to ideas of testosterone and Art's idea that the expression and man/ifestation of anger is often gender-biased).

    (Incidentally — which was McLuhan's favourite word, BTW — I began to wonder if homosexual men burst into tears more easily than hetero ones. In my experience, among my friends, I know, at a funeral I recently attended, het men were far more stoic and my queer pal was openly weeping; but, that's too small a sample to extrapolate anything.)

    Thinking about it, I know when I become indignant over a disparity in the workplace, e.g., which happened once — when I discovered I was being paid three-hunnert bux a week less for what was a better column on a similar topic in one of our major papers; I eventually won an award for that column; the guy did not is why I can brag a swaggadocio — I was hurt and I did burst into tears of frustration (which was acceptable; and, dare I say it, almost expected? Prolly. I do admit it).

    I thought, at the time, if a guy had expressed his outrage, it would have been taken in stride; but, as a dame, I was considered hysterical or shrewish or yadda-yadda-yawn . . . It was a labour-board issue, though; and, I eventually won the battle but lost the love of what I was doing and left, not as a kiss-my-ass class gesture; but, I felt it was a Phyrric victory; and, I didn't wanna work with a bunch of "enlightened" scribes and editors who didn't see the writing on the wail.

    Anyway, that's why I love Frank's Bloggadocia and Co(mmentarians) so much (and why I left another one); I am not attacked nor ridiculed nor snide-swiped when I am being open and trying (not in the Eliotic sense of "for us, there is only the trying") to engage and learn and delight in the process.

    In all my years of online existence (anybuddy remember BBS?), I have never met the quality of mind and mindfulness that I serendipitously discovered here with Frank, et. ilk. :).

    OMGulp, I just had a flashblack: I started on an Osborne 64 (and, curiously, its creator, Adam Osborne, died at the age of 64 — see? You learn something new here all the time); but, egawds, I started with WordStar and anger and agreeing with you, Nigel, and wanted to say it's nice to hear from you always and especially here; and, on that note, I shall zip a tip and cease singing the blues because it's all good news for the tried, terrific, trusted, and trues. (Oooh, I out-semi-coloned U know who [*grin*].)

  7. There's another psychological factor here I haven't seen directly mentioned, although it's been known and talked about for a very long time:

    People online let out their darker natures (ids, shadows, etc.—pick you terminology) a lot more than they'd ever do face to face, because the relative anonymity of the internet invites it.

    The blogosphere, like chatrooms, is a skewed context: people will let themselves be uninhibited and say things "out loud" that they only think inside in real life.

    Frank, I think the anger that you're talking about in the bologsphere a lot of the time is not actually anger, it's something else: it's the lack of social editing that plays out online. It's like someone who takes a few drinks and suddenly says anything they'd never say when sober. (Sorry for the drink analogy; it's the best I could think of at the moment.)

    Part of it is that these people have for the first time in their pitiful small lives been given an effective soapbox, and their egos have exploded.

    Part of it is also that the political climate and social atmosphere are very charged. And I hate to say it, and I'll probably take heat for this, but I noticed as soon as the current Bush administration took over the White House, there were many elements in right-wing culture who suddenly felt more empowered than ever before to spout their rhetoric. There was a real change in the overall rhetoric in all the media, and a real swing towards the fringe element having that soapbox more strongly than ever before. This is still going on—and some of the anger is shouting back from all directions.