Snooty Elitist Kristine doesn’t think I should be writing this post, because I haven’t read enough books. I’m going to write it anyway.
Over at By Commoner Contempt, Kristine suggests that people need to shut up and stop blogging until they’ve read a few books. She writes,
You young whippersnappers need to stop reading blogs and read some books. Seriously. Itâ€™s fine to have an opinion, but you should probably keep it to yourself unless it is at least a minimally informed opinion. Hereâ€™s your summer reading listâ€“what I consider the absolute minimum preparation for reasonably well-informed discussion of Mormonism. Donâ€™t talk on blogs until youâ€™ve finished it.
This suggestion drew the wrath of various commenters, including fmhLisa. Lisa laments that her X key is missing, and that,
While I would never dream to write many of the deep and important and footnoted posts many of you all do so beautifully, I still feel like the process of blogging has been an important education for me, and that Iâ€™ve had valuable things to contribute, despite my (vast and limitless) ignorance.
Iâ€™m sure I would be a better blogger after having read more, but Iâ€™m a slow reader, and I have a very full life and these books represent years of reading yet to come. (and with so many other good options too) And also, I know how self-conscious and painfully e-posed I feel in my ignorance in your midst, there are so many topics that I feel unworthy to comment on, and embarrassed to ask questions about, or that I just donâ€™t understand at all.
So, who is right –Kristine or Lisa?
They both are.
Kristine is right that a lot of blogging is ignorance-generated noise. A lot of comments simply reflect lack of knowledge. For example, on essentially Every Single Thread About Polygamy to ever appear in the nacle, someone mentions polyandry. And at least half the time, some commenter suggests, wrongly, that Mormons never practiced polyandry.
Similarly, it seems like once every few months a Word of Wisdom conversation crops up, and commenters are always amazed to hear basic facts. (Joseph Smith drank wine. The modern view was not put in place until roughly the turn of the century.)
This kind of back-and-forth happens with a dozen other topics — Elijah Abel; justifications for polygamy; and so on.
Kristine is absolutely right that the number of “I didn’t know that” conversations would be drastically reduced if commenters actually went out and read a few basic sources. If everyone read Mormonism In Transition, no one would be shocked at Word of Wisdom changes.
Lisa is right, though, that blogging can serve valuable functions even without that degree of knowledge. In particular, blogging is a way to educate readers and commenters. When commenters make comments that show lack of knowledge on some topic, others can bring them up to speed.
Kristine might counter that this distracts from the main conversation. Indeed, it does. If conversants really want to talk about some issue in depth, it may be distracting to have to continually go over basic points from Mormonism in Transition.
But then, what exactly is the point of blogging? If I want to have an in-depth conversation about Heidegger or Commercial Law or peepstones, I can pick up the phone or the e-mail and talk to Nate or Jim or Stapley. Blogging is more interactive. Why talk about peepstones on a blog, rather than just in an e-mail to friends? Clearly, I’m seeking out others’ perspectives, and trying to engage in broader discussion.
If I want to limit the discussion to People Who Really Know Their [Redacted] About Heidegger, I can always do so via the magic of Gmail or Outlook Express. By putting it on a blog, though, I invite comment from others — even if they know less about Heidegger than me.
Blogging is a one-room classroom, then. Some readers are high-school students on a particular topic, and others are kindergarteners. The discussion is bound to be uneven. We’re all in the school together, though. And so we shouldn’t complain (too much) about our schoolmates. Of course we should all read more before we talk. Kristine’s list is a great starting point, and if everyone read it, the ensuing conversation would be great. But we’re human, busy, underread, and really, there’s room in this choir for all God’s critters. While some of us may be well-read on some topics, there’s always a topic we can learn more about, and always something more we can learn from our schoolmates.
Even if they don’t know who Heidegger is. And even if their keyboard is missing an X.