Thursday, March 20, 2008

Failure to Communicate

I’ve always enjoyed sparring with people over politics and since I started blogging I have sought out people who I could engage in debate over the political issues of the day.
But forming and maintaining such relationships - cordial yet adversarial - has proved difficult at times. A lot of bloggers simply don’t stick around for very long. Many of the rightwing bloggers I have engaged in debate over the years have simply shut down and tuned out. Sometimes the dialogues we’ve had have proved fruitful and informative on both sides. Other times they have simply reinforced stereotypes and animosities and have gone nowhere.
One recent effort of mine to strike up a discourse with a political adversary has just ended in dismal failure. The other day I was formally banned from commenting at the blog run by TexasFred. It didn’t take long. I think I was allotted three comments on the site before I was pitched out on my rear.
I should have known better. I was intrigued by TexasFred because he was one of the many rightwing bloggers to announce steadfast opposition to John McCain’s presidential candidacy. I was curious to see how long this would last before the prospect of a Democratic boogeyman getting in the White House would force a reversal of that position. Sure enough, once it became clear that Obama would be the nominee, TexasFred began to bitterly denounce him in tones that were both objectionable and over-the-top.
It should have been clear then that there was no opportunity for dialogue at that point. But I let my curiosity overrule my better judgment and I attempted to open a dialogue on his blog. This is always difficult because many people will assume that someone posting an adversarial comment on their site is a “troll” who is only seeking to pick a fight or make fun of them. So I tried to ease into the discussion by first noting an area where we are in agreement - he is adamantly opposed to the Iraq War in the same way that Pat Buchanan is. But, I wondered, how can he still consider supporting the Republican ticket in that case?
But my attempt to raise this issue backfired when he mistook one of my comments and lambasted me with his response. And then he made it clear that if I were a supporter of Obama he would have no interest in anything I have to say. I should have bailed at that point, but I then made the mistake of trying to lighten the mood by cracking a joke in my next comment only to find that TexasFred takes his politics very seriously and does not share my sense of humor. So I was banned and all my previous comments on the site were deleted and pitched down the memory hole.
So, as in the Cool Hand Luke clip above, I had failed to communicate and I walk away with the impression that there are some people that you just can’t reach.
But, honestly, I still don’t believe that. Not entirely.

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