Going short and going long in terms of blog traffic

By Razib Khan | November 25, 2012 11:59 am

Arnold Kling took a break from blogging, but is coming back. But under an explicit set of personal guidelines. About This Blog:

I decided to go with my own blog, rather than return to EconLog, because I want to have total control over the blog content. I want to model a very particular style of discourse, as indicated by the tag line “taking the most charitable view of those who disagree.” In June, I wrote

Suppose we look at writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can

(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author
(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author
(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author

So, think about it. Wouldn’t you classify most op-eds and blog posts as (c)? Isn’t that sort of pathetic?

My goal is to avoid (c). I will try to keep the posts here free of put-downs, snark, cheap shots, straw-man arguments, and taking the least charitable interpretation of what others say. So, if what you most enjoyed about my past blogging efforts were the put-downs, be prepared for disappointment with this incarnation.

I’ve been “around the block” for a long time in blog time. Around ~2002 and forward there was a naive initial moment when the fervor over the “War on Terror” resulted in some post-partisan good feeling, but that faded soon enough. Today the American Left and Right are rather insular when it comes to interaction and linking. Because most of the blogs I follow are science related, any political comments tend to be on the Left liberal end of the spectrum. To me the problem, if there is one, tends to be in the strawman/least charitable interpretation aspect that Kling mentions (aspects of raw and low style are easy to filter). As someone who is not liberal I find it curious when Left liberals fulminate against positions or motives which I don’t really even seen conservatives holding. It seems pointless over the long term, though it can result in greater in-group cohesion, and generate some psychic utils. A converse element are conservative bloggers who rage against ‘secular liberals,’ and routinely false positive me as liberal because I’m secular (the reality is outside of the internet most political liberals are not secular in their religious orientation in any case!).

An interesting issue here is that people who have a particular viewpoint don’t see their own viewpoints as viewpoints at all. Rather, their own viewpoints are positive descriptions of the world. So, for example, I once had an exchange with a reader who suggested that if I express any political viewpoints that would alienate readers, so I should avoid it. When I pointed out that most (though not all) science oriented weblogs seem to express conventional to radical Left liberal perspectives, he conceded the point. Because my own perspectives were at variance with the reader’s, the political posts were very salient, but on other science blogs they probably didn’t register as “political.”

In this vein I had dinner with a long time reader who told me that this weblog had helped shift his own political worldview over the past six years. It was interesting because my own political passions in the proximate sense (i.e., do I care if the president is a Republican or a Democrat?) are attenuated at best to a shadow of what they once were. I have opinions, but my interest in those opinions is rather marginal compared to science or historical topics. Nevertheless you can’t account for how you impact other people.

And that’s the sort of thing I suspect Arnold Kling is aiming for. Long term impact. The main skepticism I have is that are there even enough interlocutors in this domain? He’ll probably have to go solo and slowly accrue a following who shares his own philosophy.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Arnold Kling, Politics
  • ac

    Sadly – sadly – my mind was blown in college when a rhetoric professor lectured on the point that everyone thinks that their own political opinions are correct, and if only the people disagree me knew the things that I knew, surely they would have the same politics as me. No? Our problem is that we think that our opinions are formed based on our knowledge and if everyone had our knowledge then they would think the same things that we do. (If only the Gazans knew what the Israelis knew!)

    Does Arnold Kling think the same thing?

  • Dm

    If you strive to change minds, rather than “merely” to enjoy a civilized discussion between people who don’t agree with one another (already a tall order!), then you probably need to administer your medicines in homoeopathic doses.

    And “long term impact” may be a fallacy which hinges in an assumption that your own position doesn’t drift much closer to the mainstream camps as you grow older (which is a very likely scenario). So by the time you’d need to assess the long-term impact, your own mind might already change.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    Does Arnold Kling think the same thing?

    since he’s not a retard, probably not. your rhetoric professor told you something pretty trivial, and obvious if you move in diverse political circles (i have).

    (which is a very likely scenario).

    what do you base this likelihood on? might be testable with NLSY if you actually offer some specific position.

  • ac

    since he’s not a retard, probably not. your rhetoric professor told you something pretty trivial, and obvious if you move in diverse political circles (i have).

    Ah yes, it’s always nice to be reminded that to post here you need to put up with snotty self-congratulatory responses. Especially when you clearly missed the point I was trying to make; I guess I expected better than a surface reading of the comment from gnxp.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #4, i knew the intent. arnold kling has a strong enough background in psychology to know what you’re getting at. in any case, unlike many people he has had a political switch in adulthood (from liberalism to libertarianism). like i said, most non-stupid people who are aware of cognitive and social psych know this problem (natural scientists do not always). but like i said, you don’t need to be versed in the science. moving in diverse political and religious circles and you see clear the phenomenon at work.

    and readers know that they don’t have to deal snotty comments if they’re interesting.

  • marcel

    RZ: A converse element are conservative bloggers who rage against ‘secular liberals,’ and routinely false positive me as liberal because I’m secular (the reality is outside of the internet most political liberals are not secular in their religious orientation in any case!).

    I must be missing something: I don’t see the relevance of the parenthetical. I’d have thought the relevant point is whether most people who are secular in their religious orientation are political liberals, not whether most political liberals are (or are not) secular in their religious orientation.

    Aren’t they keying off your being secular to infer that you are politically liberal, not that they think that you are politically liberal to infer that you are secular?

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    I’d have thought the relevant point is whether most people who are secular in their religious orientation are political liberals, not whether most political liberals are (or are not) secular in their religious orientation.

    Aren’t they keying off your being secular to infer that you are politically liberal, not that they think that you are politically liberal to infer that you are secular?

    both! religious conservatives, from what i have seen, routinely overestimate the secularity of american liberals.* in fact, there is a tendency to think that non-christian ~liberal are the same set. of course, they do the inverse as well. christian ~ conservative.

    * secular liberals do to, but this isn’t a big issue with them, so it doesn’t crop up as a major talking point.

  • Dwight E. Howell

    While highly inconsistent the US used to have a strong thread of egalitarianism that I think the libertarians best support. I’m not sure everybody does ’cause and effect’ and I doubt that most people are pragmatic enough to think that some nice sounding idea like socialism that has failed to work the way advocates hoped time and again is something that should be avoided. I have noted that many local democrats are conservatives that are supporting a national party that craps all over their personal views as stated by them and they don’t see it. It’s as simple as grandpa supported FDR so they vote Democrat. That they are so partisan that they support an organization whose stated views they abhor and against candidates that share their stated views and they can’t even acknowledge what they are doing that blows me away.

    I wish the guy well on his new blog.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #8, bet less cryptic. i barely understand what you’re trying to get at.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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