I have long had a fear of blogging, because I’ve always made the error of regarding it in the same light as opinion writing, and, sadly quite a lot of rubbish is written in the guise of “opinion”. Don’t think I don’t see the danger and the irony in making this statement in a blog, but there you have it. I felt it was necessary to make this point, both by way of a disclaimer and as an excuse for why I have been for so long so reluctant to blog.
I am fully cognisant of the fact that the term blog derives from “web log” and means, in effect, an online journal or diary. It is not by any means necessarily supposed to be a forum for debate or the equivalent of an opinion column or leading article. Yet the simple fact remains that many blogs do constitute precisely this. They are often used as an informal means of addressing contemporary critical debate and, all too often, the flimsiness of their academic foundations are immediately evident.
Having pursued research to a post-doctoral level, it is difficult to be sympathetic to arguments (which, frankly, is what opinions essentially are) that lack the same depth of academic credibility. It does not mean they ought to be dismissed, but they do rather reek of agenda as opposed to impartiality.
But isn’t the whole point about opinion partiality, I hear you cry? Yes, it is, but that thought doesn’t make me feel any more comfortable when reading poorly constructed arguments. It goes without saying that the construction of any argument will always be a highly selective process, yet at least within the academic world this process is, ideally, achieved through consideration and demonstration of knowledge of the available evidence and literature on the subject.
Clearly it is impossible to be an expert on everything before forming an opinion on something, just as it is also possible for people to form relatively accurate assessments with only a relatively limited amount of information. I guess I’ve always thought it was a little presumptuous or even arrogant to seek to influence people with opinions that were based on relatively little research. More often than not, these arguments are constructed purely for the sake of a political, economic or social agenda. So why should anyone trust such hastily composed, poorly researched blabber as often can be found in blogs?
So what the hell am I banging on about?
Opinion is also very much of the moment. In commenting on recent events it is impractical to expect any writer to have at their disposal the full spectrum of academic and non-academic research and analysis in order to pass authoritative judgement – a judgement which might, through proper review, turn out to be flawed in its conclusions.
So who do we trust? And how can one be so bold as to make a statement of their own? This has long been my principal objection to blogging. I have no desire to see statements restricted to people with the appropriate qualifications, though this might quell a great deal of unnecessary hysteria and prevent many of the worst consequences of populism, my objections have essentially rested with the arrogance of many commentators who were clearly unqualified to pass judgement on anything. In such a light, how could I possibly justify making my own contributions to the world of opinion writing? Is it arrogant of me to comment on politics, when there are so many established, better qualified political commentators? Could I write about psychological issues, when my doctorate is in history and not psychology? Am I qualified to comment on society as a whole when not a sociologist who has conducted research into precisely the social phenomenon upon which I am commenting? Can I have any confidence that my opinion will not be misleading, and thereby, dangerous, as so many other misleading and patently incorrect opinions can be? And, let’s face it, I’m a really opinionated sonofabitch.
I’d like to think that it was a deficit of arrogance that has kept me from blogging al this time; an academic distrust of opinion and argument that lacked the depth and the checks and balances of academic work. Perhaps it is as much timidity as anything else. After all, as Yossarian said in Catch 22 in response to the question – “But what if everyone thought like that?” – “Then I’d be a damn fool to think otherwise.”
Wtf, I’m blogging now, so to hell with it all.
Yours truly, Herr Professor Dr. Rollmops.