Some time ago, I complained about Alan Jacobs' complaint about blogs. He suggested that the structure of the "post and comment" system yielded half-baked propositions and a series of recursive comments that gravitated toward the inane.
He used the words "black hole" and "ADD" in a stunning juxtaposition.
I rebutted his argument with my usual populistic, quasi-GK appeal to the common man in the pub, suggesting that the proverbial common man (who probably does not exist) needs some sort of venue for collegiality.
I'm close to taking all that back.
I still think that there is room for essay blogs, like this one (of course I'm biased -- some of you who know me know just how too biased I really am).
But I'm ready to curse the "community forum" type of blog, which seems to revel in comments of the neural flatulent sort, and derivatives thereof.
I am a convert to Alan Jacobs' thinking, mainly because I have two friends who have been destroyed by a community forum blog.
Just to give you a little background: one of these two bears responsibility for a significant wrong, and has made reparations as required by a disciplinary procedure. Despite his compliance, he cannot be called the most debonair, and he is sunk in a mini-culture that delights in the event-horizon of self-regard and complaint. His brashness makes for a poor match, to say the least, for a society (one of many) that is modeled on a union hall by a shut-down mill, where the kids have moved off to this year's better jobs, and where no one understands the land except as an occasional interruption of indoor stints.
It should have stopped there. But my friend didn't do the mea culpa convincingly, or cathartically, enough. The bill was paid, but there was insufficient blood-letting, so the audience has indicated its desire for more gore, pollice verso. Shylock has bellowed for his full pound.
And this is a Shylock world. Not that there is a miscarriage of justice where the innocent are prosecuted, because we are all guilty of one (or many) thing(s) or another. But rather, the injustice rankles when some of the guilty are caught and hauled up before the magistrate, and sent to the wheel so that all the other offenders may look on and jeer, perhaps in an ironic denunciation of their own shame.
So my friend now and his wife are on the web, quite indeliberately. They are the subject of community forum posts on a site thrown up by a self-anointed reformer of an entire county (a Limbaugh-loving "recovering Catholic," it appears, with a revivalist preacher somewhere in the family -- helping out, I'm sure, with the theological side of the barrage).
The posts on this symposium follow the usual pattern of degeneration: the post itself is of a sodden quality, which is responded to in a series of comments that become increasingly feeble and shrill.
Today, after a few months of revealing dialectic, now that the famous gossip-phone game has circumnavigated that circle of intellects not a few times, my friend has become guilty not only of a single act, but is now adjudicated as a felon from his mother's womb. His wife, my other friend, is now convicted as an accomplice, who must have been guilty of other unknown offenses. No one knows what these are, but, as is customary, the unknown is perceptible only to higher IQs.
Judge Roy Bean couldn't have done it better. Shylock is well-pleased. There's more, much more, than a pound of flesh carved away. A career is destroyed, maybe two, perhaps even a marriage. Children are involved, of course -- an added dimension (or bonus, depending on one's p.o.v.): they are, understandably, given to blue.
The Internet is powerful. Mere keystrokes on a screen of white have this day produced a cold appointment in a bureaucrat's office, an appointment that might have issued a pink slip to an innocent young woman.
In cyberspace, the killer clowns have played their harlequin court, and my guilty friends have been denounced by an entire town.
I worry about my friends, and I try to convert these worries into prayer. I am less worried about the audience. As is His wont, God will prevent the full measure of what the guilty deserve: unforgiveness -- more than any other impiety -- is the invocation of all wrath, and every curse.
It still happens, His mercy notwithstanding, that an unforgiving group of people will wither as a group. Parishes who embrace the curse will shrivel. Families who rehearse their Sunday dinner diptychs of dudgeon will end up erasing their own name: even the granite carvings will erode in the rain. Corporations will file for one protection or another. Individuals will lapse into codes on Axis I, or even Axis II, or Medicaid.
All this on a blog, or a mail-list, or a list-serve (I am thinking, here, of about every Orthodox Internet list known to man).
My, how powerful we've become.
I would think, what with all the jihadists running around, and China looming in the east, and the waters rising, that we would become all the more faithful to the old faith, and forgiving to the fellow guilty.
I guess not. Because we are, after all, so smart and deserving, and life is just so unfair.