Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A glorious cacophony for a monotone age

I came across this article today in a conservative online publication ("The American Thinker" - what a terrible name), called "Why Liberals Bleed". It's by a formerly-liberal psychotherapist in Berkeley, who's contemplating buying a gun. The article itself isn't particularly remarkable, nor is the subject (Guns good! Liberals weak! Berkeley silly!) What struck me were some of the comments, but really, they're not remarkable either.

One of the things I really don't like about the Internet is how easy it becomes to only hear what you want to hear. RSS feeds, personalized sections and selected individuals to follow on Twitter all contribute to an environment where only one set of perspectives gets filtered to each individual. What's great is that it can be a completely different set for everyone, but the problem is that we tend to pick only those voices that don't challenge us. (At least I do, but I don't think I'm alone.)

Which brings me back to the article above and its comments: nothing about either were well argued or well written, but reading such a chorus of similar opinions so vastly different from my own was a bit unsettling. It made me aware of how infrequently I hear from that side of the room.

It makes me realize that there's a real need for a publication, print or online, that brings together a sharp set of dissenting voices, and makes for compelling reading by people of widely divergent viewpoints. To be clear, I don't mean a publication that features lame watered-down forced moderation; I mean the exact opposite, with writers who loathe everything the other writers stand for, but can't stop reading each other because they're so good at what they do. I guess that could be accomplished with a good set of different RSS feeds, but I think there's a real place for an actual such publication.

(Disclaimer: I work on Google News, which aims to do something similar to what I described above - bring together voices from across the spectrum of whatever issue is under discussion.)