Difficult Subjects

DIFFICULT SUBJECTS….Commenting on a couple of essays about the future of Israel, Matt Yglesias makes one very brief remark and then stops short:

I could say more on this, but like many bloggers I’ve come to feel that discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I feel his pain. But of course, that’s the whole problem, isn’t it? Too many of us with non-fanatical views on the subject have simply decided that it’s not worth engaging with something that routinely attracts near-insane levels of vituperation from partisans on both sides. As a result, the debate is left primarily in the hands of the fanatics.

There are other difficult subjects that have ended up ghettoized the same way in the blogosphere. I’d say that race and feminism, for example, are largely ignored by all but dedicated partisans because a lot of bloggers have decided it’s just not worth the grief. Ev psych and the whole issue of biological/cultural differences probably falls in this category as well.

That’s a shame, because if there’s anything the blogosphere ought to be good at, it’s encouraging people to talk about the things that niggle at the backs of their minds but that they’re afraid to air in more formal forums. Unfortunately, it really hasn’t worked out that way. The problem, as Dahlia Lithwick put it last year, is that people are often terrified to open their mouths on difficult subjects “because the inquiry is so fraught with the possibility of career-terminating levels of politically correct blowback.” (She was specifically addressing the topic of women on the op-ed pages, and via private emails I know that several prominent male bloggers feel the same way. They figure that saying nothing is better than the risk of getting crucified for saying something wrong.)

But guess what? The fact that we shut up about these things doesn’t mean we don’t still think about them. It just means we don’t explore them. There’s obviously no simple fix for this, but a little less venting and a little more empathy might help make conversations on difficult subjects more widespread in the blogosphere, something that would do this medium a world of good. After all, if you miss ranting, there’s always Fox News.