A recent blog regarding Judi Dench’s rather impassioned response to a negative review from Charles Spencer got me thinking about retaliation to bad press, or indeed retaliation to anything in written form and especially within the new found forum of internet blogging.
Any form of aggression on paper (or screen) seems to eventually belittle both sides (in this case Dench’s discomfort is obvious but Spencer also comes out in a bad light for revealing this letter). At the time of the initial burst of fury things can come out of one’s mouth in a diatribe of reasonable or not so reasonable abuse, whether it be in defense or attack. But the transiency of language means that all this hot air melts away, only to remain in peoples’ rather changeable memories. But when these angry phrases (Dench was supposed to have written that Spencer was ‘a shit’) are forever encased in ink, they suddenly become an embarrassing cloud that will hang around for a lot longer after.
Words written in the heat of the moment seems to be something that bloggers should recognise. Aiming to make the process of arts journalism a less formalised and more immediate act, bloggers write opinion pieces in short bite size chunks – hoping that deeper discussion of their point will be taken up by readers in the comment boxes below. The desired result is a documented discussion forum where ideas are presented and chewed over with the immediacy of speech and in some threads this is the case. But what seems to happen more often is that commenters use these moments to write aggressive attack or defense pieces on the original blog and so a gladiatorial lion pit emerges – you better be prepared to defend yourself or get out of the ring (for a particularly virulent example of this, see the scorn heaped on the poor well meaning Adopt A Playwright scheme).
If we are to create an arena for developing ideas, of learning through the sharing of others views, then this necessarily entails an understanding that your opinion is fallible and that you may be prompted to change it and herein lies the problem. It is very rare to see a person’s opinion change within these threads and so because people are not using this discussion forum to develop the whole process is somewhat nullified, becoming a backwards and forwards method of bear baiting and back biting.
The strangest thing is that bloggers still encourage comments, because they want to encourage debate (and because like at school – the more comments you have the more people you have, the more people you have the more popular you are). But like Dr Frankenstein all that they seem to have done is to create monsters in little comment size boxes.
Now is this a ridiculous thing for me to be blogging about? Surely this question is not lost on anyone who is reading this and thinking “she really wants me to comment on this” and it is true that I am as desperate to woo your comments as anyone else. But I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water and get rid of blogging altogether. Maybe we should fly in the face of tempting immediacy and write something in response to a blog, leave it for 10 minutes, come back to it, re read it and then post it. It’s not as glamorous, but it is possible that then there would be less retaliation on our blogs and more measured discussion.
By the way – I was going to send this to a friend who’d prompted this blog, to read over and give me his thoughts before I posted it. But then I realised that I wanted him to read it online with the rest of you and comment on it. Now that’s ironic.