Reclaiming The Black Blogosphere: We Must Do Better

My friend over at The Critical Cleric had long since said that the black political blogosphere did nothing for him.

He went on to elaborate that many writers, he felt, didn’t give enough critical analysis of their own opinions and thoughts and generally just went off the cuff and went forward. At the time, about two years ago and some change when I first started blogging, I didn’t really agree with him, there were some blogs that I frequented enough and began reading and then I started to see just what he was talking about.

What I really began to take issue with, at least for me, was really the commenters.

We may assail the level of mean, evil and vile comments that get said over at the right wing blogs, but please believe let black folks get on the right (or maybe wrong) subject and it’s a wrap: we come out with teeth bared and chains and bats ready for an argument. And we write vile and mean comments to one another on the blog and it comes off as just outright and mean! What’s worse is that the authors of the various posts or blog sites let the commenters do it and get away with murder.

As any blogger who’s been around long enough knows that there is a common thread of commenters personalities. Just like a discussion in class; eventually you become adept at which commenters are going to chime in on certain posts and probably what their response is going to be.  That’s fine, great even, but what happens when a new face comes in and leaves a comment? Does the established commenting community welcome them with open arms or do they treat them like the new kid on the playground and begin bullying them? I daresay that the latter goes on too much in the black blogosphere.

I believe, as I see it that the primary issue facing this borderline cyber-bullying from fellow commenters and the level of just nasty and mean and rude posts that bloggers publish is the inability for the black community to embrace and dialogue with diversified intellectual thought.

I know as blacks we run around claiming that we’re not monolithic as a people, and yes that’s even more true than it was 40 years ago, but still there exists a spectrum in which some ideas and thoughts are not even tolerated within the black community.  For instance, the day I wrote this, there was a discussion in class concerning the ethics and morals of a case study for a class whereas a male professor was hitting on a female student who was his mentee. However, the professor had reasoned that because his life as he had known it was over because of two troubled children in and out of jail and a wife who had been stricken with hereditary early on-set Alzheimers he had not had sex in over a year.  Well, I made the mistake of arguing that the marriage was indeed over because she had “died” in her mind and that I really saw nothing wrong with him having sex.

That was the wrong statement.

I was left to defend my opinion and seriously I pushed the envelope a bit because one brother, who much like commenters and their personalities responded in much the same way he always does. I argued the relativity of truth and thankfully he intelligently debated me.  I still think I won that (lol) on the basis that I was not saying that the professor must push the boundaries of “marriage” as my opponent argued, but that if he so chose to, far be it for us to criticize him for “not being faithful.” My main argument toward him (and to whomever is reading this) was that I fully reject metanarratives that dictate that there is one main truth that superceedes any other truth. Truth is indeed contextual and relative to the situation.

I really wanted to go on and show him the pure fallacy of the argument just based on his life as a black male, living in the south, attending a United Methodist church etc etc, but alas, there wasn’t enough hours in the day.

So to black bloggers here’s some advice:

We can’t afford to do less than quality work. I’ve read some blog posts on some famous black blogs and the level of writing was absolute drivel. Sorry. It was subpar absolutely wretched. No, I’m not talking about black gossip websites like Concrete Loop or even other black bloggers who write on entertainment issues, but those of the self-professed political blogosphere. And no, I’m not talking about mere grammatical errors or even run-on sentences, but I’m talking about the hatred and violence that gets spewed not in the name of sarcasm and wit, but in the name of vitriols that are not words of love, but words of death.

When we write, we incite. Our words, particularly at those black blogs that have large followings and have comments in the 100+, we are influencing the consciousness of those readers. Our words carry weight and carry meaning. Many may sit back and say that we’re hiding behind a computer screen and we aren’t doing anything effective in our community, but please believe if anyone was so moved by what we read that they left a comment that means that our words have left such an imprint on their consciousness they felt compelled to respond. Which in turn probably means that what gets said is something they will integrate into their psyche and their behaviours.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentioned stories that I’ve read from either Average Bro, Citizen Ojo over at Desultory Life and Times, Negro Intellectual or The Black Snob just to name a few (as to not leave anyone out) whether I agreed or disagreed, but still even for me, they carried weight.

The comment section should not be used to abuse. And yes, I’m speaking from personal experience with a blogger from a famous blog (and you can check this link for background on that) decided to allow her commenters to berate me to no end.  Seriously, I could have posted that “Obama was great” over at the National Review and gotten comments of the same caliber.

What is more disturbing is that these commenters support the foolishness.

We, as black bloggers, complain about how dumb the American public is, but really it’s a “pot calling the kettle black” situation.  Black folks in barbershops and beautyshops can be just as daft and dense when it comes to politics.

And don’t mention Tavis Smiley around some black people.

The comment section should be used for discourse not destruction.  And to fellow commenters, we need to embrace opposing opinions.  Again, from personal experience, just because I sided with Tavis Smiley and his whole position on holding elected officials accountable, does not give commenters the right to lamb-baste me and it certainly doesn’t give a blogger the right to call me out just for a differences of opinions.

Some black women bloggers need to be okay with black male bloggers being men. Personally, I’m tired of hearing the beefs that happen between black male and female bloggers. Every time I look up someone is falling out with a black female blogger.  Even myself, a few months back last fall, fell out with a well respected female blogger (who is still on my blogroll though) over the whole Chris Brown and Rihanna incident.  And two other male bloggers have told me of their recent falling out with other female bloggers.

Speaking for myself, I got the impression that somehow their femininity or maybe their womanness superceded my male perspective and opinion.  Well, is that not the same reverse hegemony that you’re accusing me of practicing? And for myself, I can clearly say that my opinion was not a result of male chauvinism or anything of the like, but yes, I speak as a male. And let me be perfectly clear, I unapologetically and unashamedly speak from a male perspective.  But, just because I speak from my man-ness does not give black woman bloggers the right to berate me as such because they wouldn’t want me to do the same to them. Feel free to disagree, that’s how both of us are stretched, but don’t go on some childish rant and tell me about how all black men are fools and are dogs and of the like…no wonder some of y’all are single.

Yes. I said it. And I meant it.

At the risk of sounding cliched, these above instances are just some of what we can all do to help keep the black blogosphere a powerhouse. As always, we must, let me repeat myself, we must produce quality and intelligent work, particularly those who consider themselves a part of the black political blogosphere.  When we produce foolishness, it will follow us and I’m sure that’s no one’s intent when they began blogging. This means stop the personal attacks. Your beef should be with the persons ideas, not their being. When you call someone else “fat and nasty” or outright “stupid” then we’ve crossed the line and made character assassinations. And since there is no context in text, we can’t afford to do that.

We’ve got to do better.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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18 responses to “Reclaiming The Black Blogosphere: We Must Do Better

  1. Alright man, just go ahead and dog out my blog, why don’t you (lol). I seriously get where you’re coming from – we do have a responsibility as supposed black bloggers to do a better job of communicating. That my friend has always been my position when it comes to exchanges here in the virtual world. In some regards I have to agree with the idea that the anonymity the internet affords can be dangerous, or detrimental in conveying thoughts and ideas.

  2. Hey there I am a new blogger but I frequent sites like citizen ojo’s and soulbrotherv2 often. I agree that comments are often nasty, and hateful in some places. Not really on the two blogs I mentioned. But I have frequented a blog that allowed nonsense to go on. I was reading a blog about gospel musicians having thier music played on raio that was not gospel and in the clubs. My argument was if they are truly praising GOD, and the masses take to thier sound what is the problem. If you dont like it, dont listen. I should have known better. Black folks love them some traditional, non changing, without logic church. I was attacked by at least 3 different people including the blogger herself. The end result was me being told that I needed to be saved, I need to pray and ask for forgiveness, blah blah etc. I had to ignore all their responses and stop responding. I think they enjoyed berating, and putting me down. I say all that to say that I believe the comment type are attracted to the blogger. If the blogger does not know how to communicate, they will let thier comments section run wild, and they will encourage it and probably participate. If the blogger is trying to drum up intelligent conversation and solution the comment section will not be a free for all beat down section. This was a good post and your blogroll looks great I will be checking them out. Have a nice day.

  3. This was a great post. There really needs to be some civility in our online discourse. There is way too much venom back and forth.

  4. I’ve been in the “black blogosphere” since ’07. Much what you say is true but my blog has generally been on the fringes because I often hold unpopular political opinions in the eyes of many Black bloggers, and because I don’t really have a “join our club” mentality, at least when it comes to blogging. Check out my Blog and let me know what you think.

    Thought Merchant
    http://www.thoughtmerchant.ney
    Dessalines’ Children
    http://www.dessalineschildren.com

  5. Right here is where you lost me:

    Speaking for myself, I got the impression that somehow their femininity or maybe their womanness superceded my male perspective and opinion. Well, is that not the same reverse hegemony that you’re accusing me of practicing?

    So you want everyone else to mind their p’s and q’s but if get called out on your sexism or patriarchal privielge that is simply unacceptable? There is no such thing as reverse hegemony in this case and your argument makes as much sense as a White person complaining about reverse racism. Your so-called male privilege is encoded with bias because like every other man you grew in a culture that marginalizes and oppresses women. So if you cannot rightfully own your own privileges and biases, I don’t see why any woman should accept the legitimacy of your thoughts.

    • @ Renee

      In the blogosphere, it’s equal footing. We’re on the same playing field: you have a writing platform from which to speak, so do I, privilege does not exist on either side.

      However, to pull that one line negates all of which I said before: everything is relative to me. I don’t have a problem with women speaking from a womanist or a feminist point of view, but i DO have a problem when one believes that the womanist or a feminist point of view supercedes that of any other vantage point. But I say that to anyone, not just female philosophical points of departure.

  6. I don’t read very many blogs, and even fewer black blogs. But based on a perception of the level of discourse on the Internet in general, it’s hard to imagine that the venom you talk about is unique to the black blogosphere. (It’s not just the right wing sites. You can find the same junk on Amazon.com, for God’s sake. And virtually all comments sections on news sites. And YouTube, of course, is one of the most depressing places on earth.)

    The still-infant ability to pontificate while hiding in comfortable anonymity behind a computer screen has unleashed something very nasty and hateful in society. I’ve heard it suggested that humanity was not “ready” for television. If that’s true, it’s a thousand times truer of the Internet. We are not mature enough for this privilege.

    • @ marbles

      Only reason I called out black bloggers because of the institution of black blogs and what many said they began writing for. To that end, I think the black blogosphere has gone off the deep end. And seeing as how I really don’t read anything BUT black blogs, particularly due to me keeping up with many on twitter, I spoke about what I knew

    • If there ever comes a day when the anonymity of the Internet is mandated away via government fiat, this will be the reason.

      Of course, there has yet to be an effective way of doing just that, aside from forcing everyone to comment using their real names, verified with their driver’s licenses or Social Security numbers. IP tracking comes close, but it doesn’t do much and it does nothing for someone hiding behind proxies.

  7. I wanted to mention one thing—

    “Truth is indeed contextual and relative to the situation.”

    I disagree with this as an absolute.**
    The thing that drives me insane about our often incoherent national dialogue is that there is no longer any such thing as a shared baseline reality. For a rational debate to take place, the participants have to be in sync on a certain set of established, empirical facts. A common foundation from which all personal perceptions are built. But increasingly, there’s no such thing.
    For example, say I walked up to you and tapped you on the shoulder. How would this be related by witnesses? You’d get several different versions: One might say I “tapped” you. Another might say I “hit” you. Another might say I “slapped” you. One might even say I “punched” you. But whatever the particulars, all would agree on one fundamental fact—-that I made physical contact with you in SOME way.
    But no. That’s not how things work anymore. What you have instead are people ferociously tearing each other apart in nutso “debates” over whether I even touched you at all. Heck, debates over whether I was even in the same county as you that day. Or perhaps over whether I was even capable of touching you in the first place, as newly revealed documents prove that I had my hands amputated.

    The result is complete dysfunction in discourse, and splintered realities that are irreconcilable.

    Don’t get me wrong—-I completely understand what you mean about truth being contextual and relative. But that’s only so if a baseline shared reality is factored in, and I find that to increasingly not be the case.

    **Though actually, that very statement seems to declare that there are no absolutes, including itself. XD

    • @ Marbles

      Yes–truth is contextual and relative to the situation–asterisks duly noted, lol.

      However, just as a push back, who’s to say they all would agree that physical contact was made? We agree on that because in our context, empirical evidence reigns and that’s what makes “sense” to us in this modern age. However, I disagree that the result is complete dysfunction–and that’s one of the arguments against postmodern thought. Please believe those who ascribe postmodern philosophy pay taxes, pay bills and continue life as any other “normal” citizen would, but from what I gather, they just reject metanarratives, as I said earlier. That there must be some sort of “absolute” or as you said “baseline” from which to judge all rhetoric and thought.

      And I couldn’t agree more.

  8. loved this piece and great advice for me, being an upcoming Blogger.

    so much people don’t respect opinion or even fear what you have to say. I just know working hard has always paid off and I’m going in with that same mentality here with developing my idea. keep motivating “us” people!

  9. This is a great post and I hope the thoughts here will spread.

    Yes, I’ve noticed attacks on Tavis Smiley, Tyler Perry, Monique, John McWhorter and a number of other public figures that have little to do with their ideas . . . just personal attacks and some times nasty attacks. But this is the internet.

    Keep it uppity.

  10. Your term “reverse hegemony”, like “reverse racism”, is a term pulled by insecure, entitled people when, for once in their life, they must face the fact that they are not superior to those they believed themselves to be superior to; that they can’t always have their way; and that those they deem “beneath” themselves actually can and will stand up and assert themselves. It works in race relations as well as gender relations.

    Only an insecure whiner, angry that a woman (particularly a Black woman) actually spoke up to him and shattered his belief of his superiority – and her inferiority – would pull the old, worn out, and tired “reverse” terminology.

    “no wonder some of y’all are single.” No wonder you get berated.

    The real reason for your post comes out – the old Black male racist-towards-his-own and sexist rears his ugly head. And if Black women are single, Black men are too. I know you want to believe the Hollywood fiction that Black men are desired by everyone, but that’s far from true and Black men have the highest unmarried rate of all men as well – statistically extremely close to Black women.

    So get off your arrogant high horse.

    And you wonder why people are rude. How about trying to write with some intelligence and civility yourself, to get the same in return? Like begets like.

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