As you read this, you are (fairly) anonymous. You might feel free to comment and tell me just how right or wrong I got things. Chances are I won't have a clue who the hell you are, and so you can feel free to call me a genius (exceptionally rare) or a first class retarded asshat (admittedly more common). For my own part I can come on here and spout just about anything, say that flogging cats against trees under a full moon will prevent warts (thanks crazy cat lady), or I could come on here bring up serious topics for debate, that I feel should be talked about, say the current unsustainablility of our public spending plans.
Regardless of what I say this illustrated a couple of the major advantages, and conversely the drawbacks of Blogs, Forums, and the Internet in general. While the pseudo-anonymity (trust me if they want to find out who you are, they can) gives you a level of protection it also strips a level of civility from every debate. You can literally say anything and no one will be any bit the wiser. If you're a gossip in "real" life word WILL get back to those your gossiping about. Just go read the Democratic Underground sometime. People go on there and say all sorts of things that I doubt highly they'd say (assuming they are in somewhat respectable society).
This anonymity, once stripped away opens a flood gate for all sorts of abuse. I'm a nobody now. I mean literally no one knows who the hell I am. Google my name you'll see an obituary (my fathers) a professor of something, hell I don't think I've ever seen anything online that points directly to me. But imagine I weren't a nobody that nobody cares about? Say I posted my address, then spouted on an issue, say "the post-racial" America is more racist than ever (or at least incredibly sensitive about non-issues). How long do you think before my mailbox (the actual Snail Mailbox) would be full of letters telling me I'm an ignorant boob, or calling me all sorts of things. It would probably be even worse because I like to challenge people's perceptions ("challenge your perceptions or they will challenge you").
Another problem also clearly illustrated is "how the hell do I separate the Wheat from the Chaff?" That there is one of the biggest and most disturbing questions about the Internet as a whole. To be certain people will always cluster around people that think (generally) like them. It raises some very difficult questions. To be clear no one is going behind to clean up or delete old material. Once it's out there it's out there forever. How do I find something recent on a topic? You may be stuck going through pages and pages of BS to find one stink nugget that doesn't smell as bad as half the stuff you just read. There in lies the problem. There is literally SO MUCH OUT THERE that you could spend several lifetimes reading the material published in say the last 30 days. So you have to cluster on Blogs or Forums that think like you. The lone voice out there, will be lost like a drop of water in the sea.
The clustering presents yet another problem. When everyone agrees with you, you start to think your shit don't stink, as they say here in Dub V. I mean I personally get very worried when everyone agrees with what I say. I am always watching out for intellectual arrogance, but what happens when an individual, blogger or commenter, does not have my rather ruthless sense of introspection? I write assuming everything I write is horse manure, and I am pleasantly surprised (and slightly suspicious) when said writings are praised. I do this partially from my self confidence issues from childhood, but in a larger perspective the second you start to believe your infallible, you're setting yourself up for the worst kind of failure. You go surf these blogs and you'll notice one thing, very few have actual debates. You'll have people who *generally* agree with you, and people that think you're a baby Hitler/Stalin (depending on your political leanings). Indeed the Troll problem is so bad that these antics have become legendary, and also tend to (spectacularily) back fire.
It is my ascertain that in the end you can not have a "discussion" on the Internet. Do attempt to do so is a losing proposition. One has only to watch the Huffington Post and what happens to their detractors comments (they and the threads they start get deleted) to know that you're unbelievably lucky to actually have any form of debate. Rather one must come on here (or really any forum or Blog) and speak in an "open letter" to the ether in the hopes that it gets noticed. I doubt I'll get the notoriety others like John Lilyea or Blackfive, or RightChange get. Even so I'll keep doing what I'm doing because really the alternative is to be silent. Boys with ADD are not good with silent