On the Jonathan Chait p.c. discussion

I joked that when this article by Jonathan Chait came out, I would wait three days, and then comment. My joke being that in three days the whole story would have blown over and there would be nothing left to comment on.

I was clearly wrong here, and instead it has gone on for some time. If you click on this: chait political correct – Google Search, you’ll see what I mean. Given this, I feel I should say something. 🙂

I don’t have much to add to the content of the argument going back and forth, and there are much smarter people than I who have commented on the topic: if you go through some of the results of the search, you can find them.

However reading the various pieces, instead of the content, I had some thought on the format and structure of the pieces. Specifically, I had four impressions:

  1. The first impression was that many writers do not like Jonathan Chait. Even a number of writers defending what he had to say would start off by saying disparaging things about him. I found it odd they had to say that, as if supporting the argument wasn’t enough. They needed to show somehow they were on the side solely of the argument and not of Chait.
  2. The second impression is how much of the evidence one way or another was anecdotal and not data or statistical driven. I don’t doubt the anecdotes and examples given: I just didn’t seen any hard data in the pieces that I read. Maybe it is some and I just missed it. Examples are relevant, but data is better to me.
  3. The third impression I had was how in arguments the people arguing often did not agree on the terms of argument. I realize the writers are not philosophers, but I felt sometimes that the definitions used were twisted to suit the argument of the writer.
  4. The fourth impression I had was how much invective was pulled into the pieces for or against Chait. It wasn’t enough that the authors had to disagree with Chait: they had to disparage him.

It’s important to stress these are impressions. I read roughly 6-10 pieces, including the original one by Chait. I’d be happy to be corrected on these.

The things about the impressions is that while I didn’t find the argument that Chait made had merit, but it wasn’t because of the pieces critical of him. If anything, it was just the opposite. Maybe I should dislike him, but even if I did, if he had a good argument I should listen to it, and if he doesn’t have a good argument, then it should be enough to dismantle it to discredit him or his supporters. This may be naive, but it is what I look for when someone is making an argument for or against something. If anything,  name calling and invective towards someone tends to persuade me to go in support of that person. In this case, perhaps I am not the audience, and the writers do not care if I am persuaded or not.

This had me thinking about a bigger thing that I have been thinking about for some time. And that is the topics of influence and attention. I think influence and attention are the key attributes writers want to have associated with their work on the Internet.

This idea of the importance of influence and attention  requires more thought though. For now, I wanted to jot this down, to get it off my mind, if anything.

Thanks for your attention. I hope this influenced you in a positive way.


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