Inerrancy and Consistency

One of the peculiarities about writing a blog is its immediacy. An interesting thought comes into my head, I develop it for a short time, and I publish it. Sometimes I take more time to research and develop the idea; sometimes, not so much. There are no rules about what to write, there is no editor, there is no fact-checker, there is no filter. The reader gets the raw work product of the author.

The result is a mix of ideas and information, on a variety of subjects. For that reason, I don’t pretend this is a one-subject blog. If a person only thought about one subject, that person would be a little bit creepy. Now, you might only write about one subject, which is a different thing. But this is not my desire. My desire is to showcase ideas, let you try them on for size, and see what you think of them. Maybe those ideas are about movies or cooking or life in general, not just about politics or Constitutional interpretation — because despite whatever impression you get from here, I don’t spend all day thinking about Big Ideas.

The the way a blog is written, with its short gap between ideation and publication, is also a less-than-perfect degree of consistency. Nor do I claim to always be consistent. A completely black-and-white issue is usually not that much fun to think about and not that much fun to write about. “Cold-blooded murder is morally offensive” is not a statement that is of particular interest to a lot of people. Of course it is. “Euthanasia is morally permissible” is a much more interesting proposition. I hope that, over time, a general trend and opinion and way of looking at things emerges that is more or less consistent. But no one is 100% consistent in their thoughts and opinions at all times. I’m certainly not.

Finally, especially when I either do not or cannot take the time to research things, there may be some facts wrong. The comments function allows you the Reader to give immediate feedback if you believe I’ve erred in a fact. I do try to get it right and I’m pretty confident that within my areas of experience and expertise, I do. But on the other hand, my memory is as falliable as anyone’s; and particularly when I’m writing off the cuff, some details can get messed up. This is, I think, inevitable for any writer.

So those are some advantages and disadvantages to the blog format, and as with any kind of format, you take the bitter with the sweet both as an author and as a Reader.

Now, you have the ability to leave a comment on anything written here, or at most blogs, in which to point these things out or to express an alternative point of view. You’re welcome to do so as far as I’m concerned. Here’s what I ask when you do that — 1) read what I’ve written and make some effort to understand my point before flying off the handle at me, and 2) remember that tone is important.

Compare two possible comments, both pointing out the same factual error. First: “Hah! The third sentence of your 2,000 word post about something to do with interstate highways stated that I-40 goes from Johnson City, Tennessee to Memphis — and it doesn’t, it doesn’t it doesn’t! It turns south into North Carolina instead, you galactically ignorant boob. You are a moron who lacks all intellectual credibility!” Second: “I do understand what you’re saying about the need to balance adequate highway maintenance with keeping government spending under control; but actually, I-40 doesn’t go through Johnson City; you’d take I-40 to I-81 and then I-26 to get to Johnson City from Knoxville.

One of those comments looks like it was written by a grownup and reflects well on the commenter, and its correction of the mistake would be welcomed by and greeted with thanks. It is intended to clarify and improve and to help the discussion be more accurate. The other, although making the same factual point, demonstrates a very different sort of intent. Bear in mind that there is no cash prize for winning an argument on the internet, so investing a lot of emotion in a quibble, particularly one that doesn’t really affect the point of what I was writing about in the first place, is a ridiculous venture.

And, maybe you disagree with my larger point rather than any particular fact. Reasonable, well-intentioned people can and often do look at the same set of facts and reach different conclusions. (For example: “The government shouldn’t be in the business of maintaining public roads if it can’t afford to do that; we’d be better off converting it to a toll road than blowing our budget trying to maintain it the way you suggest.“) Disagreement and debate along these lines are encouraged here in this, my little boutique within the massive marketplace of ideas that is the blogosphere.

So if you think I blew it, that’s cool. Maybe I did. But I strongly encourage you to give at least a moment’s thought to the way in which you express yourself — if only to make your own point come across better. And you may want to consider exporting that guideline to other places where you leave comment and critique, as well.

POSTSCRIPT: The inspiration for this post occurred on another blog, not here. Most Commenters here behave themselves very well — thank you for that!

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.