Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 26th, 2008
Hi Blog. Every now and then (actually, practically every day) I get word that somebody is taking up an issue on another list/blog/what have you and debating something on Debito.org. Great. That’s exactly what I want.
But I rarely ever go on those blogs and answer the claims made (often erroneous — the product of people who either haven’t read what I said thoroughly, or think that nobody will follow up and actually read what I said in context). Even when they email me individually to say, “C’mon, we’re talking aboutcha.”
Thanks for the invites, but I have a very specific reason for not doing that. I as I wrote in my book, JAPANESE ONLY (pg 298-299), after our announcement that we were going to be suing Yunohana Onsen in Otaru for racial discrimination:
Olaf: “I’m being bombarded with emails. How about you?”
Debito: “As usual. A couple hundred per day. About two-thirds, actually, are supportive. The Account I opened for the lawsuit has already collected enough donations to pay for our legal fees, and then some. Very generous people out there.”
Olaf: “But how do we answer the critics?”
Debito: “That’s the thing. We don’t. There are lots of them and one of you. If you try to answer them all, or even try to engage in a debate on a list, you’ll find yourself tangled up in shouting matches with a Peanut Gallery that will never see things our way. They diss people like us for sport. Ultimately you get tired out from all the reading and writing, unable to concentrate on what really matters — keeping the message clear and focused. So sit back, let the critics weigh in, see what kinds of arguments are out there, and only answer the ones who are earnest or from people whose opinions personally matter to us.
“This is not an unusual strategy. Even the Reverend Martin Luther King used it. In his ‘Letter from Birmingham City Jail’ (April 16, 1963), where one of his protests was characterized as ‘unwise and untimely’ by local White liberal clergymen, he opened his letter with:
‘Seldom, if ever, do I ever pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas… But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.’
“I will issue a long answer over the Internet and on the website fairly soon. After that, let that be our statement on the case. Send queries and a link and don’t bother saying much more.”
That was a decision I came to back in 2001. Nowadays, given that there are whole groups of attack blogs (i.e. people united by a common interest of wasting potentially productive lives attacking me) out there who have no problem whatsoever with issuing outright lies (no longer even deliberate misquotes, not even misreadings due to sloth or political bent), I follow this policy even more so, I’m afraid. Thanks to the inverse proportion of anonymity and responsibility, the Internet has only gotten nastier over time.
And even when a particular BBS has a more balanced (and literate) readership who can be bothered to take on the dolts, the debate goes on in circles because the dolts can’t admit they’re wrong and inject sophistry, or else latecomers don’t bother to read all the previous posts in the debate and it goes around in circles. No thanks. I think everyone has a better use of their time.
Here’s an example. For an entertaining read and seriously good debate (my thanks to the posters who actually bother to read what I write), here is a recent one from Big Daikon on the Hokkaido Police racial profiling issue I brought up last month:
The point is that even when the debate is enjoyable, when earnestly confronted with errors and facts of the case, critics still would not acquiesce and instead obfuscated. Sorry, there’s no winning or truth-seeking on most online debate arenas. I like games that come to a conclusion, thanks. That’s why I basically confine my comments and thoughts to this blog and my Newsletters.
To those who bother to read and quote me accurately, my thanks. Arudou Debito in Sapporo