A leading academic in the human sciences writes:
Steve, I am putting together a syllabus for my course next semester. I plan to use blogs a lot. I am writing to ask if you have a recommendation for a blog like yours from the other side of the fence. There are a number I have found that are full of snark and nastiness, and I want to avoid such.
Good question. I'd love to read a blog like mine from the other side of the fence.
My impression is that what usually happens among smart bloggers interested in topics like mine is either:
A. They come to publicly agree with me. After all, I am a knowledgable and reasonable person, with a certain gift for reductionist insight, and I've thought longer and harder about some important topics than almost any other pundit out there, so it's not surprising that bright, honest people often come to realize over time that my way of looking at the world makes a lot of sense.
B. Or they drop the subjects almost entirely. The world is full of people who long ago thought they were going to solve the Mystery of The Gap or whatever, and have now, chastened, moved on to totally other things — Nicolas Lemann, for example. Or they at least give up blogging, a format in which their readers can easily answer back — the ignominious collapse of Malcolm Gladwell's blog is an amusing example. Jared Diamond's strategy of issuing the occasional magisterial book and avoiding all public debates is a more dignified strategy than poor Malcolm's assumption that he could wade into debate with me and come out victorious.
C. A third alternative is that I become the Dark Matter of the public intellectual sphere, He Who Must Not Be Named. This pattern seems to be increasing over time, with some obvious examples of prominent figures either rephrasing my arguments in a less reductionist and thus more broadly acceptable manner, or racking their brains to answer my arguments without quoting them.