« profile & posts archive

This author has written 2362 posts for Larvatus Prodeo.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

30 responses to “Get your Twit on”

  1. Jacques Chester

    That’s all well and good, Mark. But apart from some well-worded hand-ringing, what are your specific proposals?

  2. Jacques Chester

    At the risk of being even more flippant than usual, was there ever such a climate of rationality in public discourse?

    I’d have thought pomo would prime you to the idea that humans are political animals; that while we can strive (and IMO should strive) for rationality, it’s all going to imbued with status games?

  3. dave

    The horse has bolted Mark besides the boundaries are muddied by the technological developments in a post modern era. Where are the boundaries of public discourse? Who is to arbitrate on on rationality?

    The lack of focus in the public domain must (almost necessarily) undermine any cohesive force that accrues to a unified public will. While there might be those who are happy to put this down to a convenient bi-product of human behaviour married to modern technology, there is an analysis that says look at who benefits, as clearly the breakdown of large scale social groups into smaller and smaller units (ultimately all as individuals) fits into the category of divide and rule.

  4. dave

    Mark, sure we can insist on rational discourse and do so by example but as you may have noticed given the topic, today’s public discourse doesn’t necessarily conform to rationality. Pop over to Catallaxy for a taste of their variety of “rational discourse” or sample the responses on the Herald Sun’s blogs.

    I accept the pessimism label but I don’t think I’m being overly pessimistic. Discourse is discourse, and calling rational is a judgement. For mine, the devolution of authority figures in the public domain dovetails with the idea that given everyone a voice (technologically) ultimately weakens the voice of the people.

  5. Mercurius

    But apart from some well-worded hand-ringing, what are your specific proposals?

    I’m sure the best way I can model more enlightened and rational discourse is to say less. About everything.

    And that goes for all of we 😉

  6. Mercurius

    Naaah, just kidding —

    I don’t see a surfeit of ‘rational discourse’ in much of the writing that has come down to us from antiquity. Among the jewels, there is plenty of dross.

    Besides, ‘rational discourse’ is over-rated as a means of getting to grips with an holistic appraisal of human experience.

    Now — civil discourse, that would be nice. But then, Miss Manners has set such arbitrary rules it’s hard to know where to begin.

    That said, Mark’s call for a generalised sense of restraint seems most apropos. Free speech is not a categorical imperative (i.e. just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should. And just because you’ve been prevented from saying something, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should’ve been allowed…)

    Finally, let’s not overlook the fact that there is a great deal of privilege embodied in the notion of ‘rational discourse’. It’s easy to be rational when you’ve had years to ponder one’s philosophical position. Less so when you’ve just got home from work at wage-slave levels and there are bills to pay…

  7. FDB

    The problem with a call to civility, or even to accuracy and rationality, is that people need to want to heed it.

    Thus for as long as bullshit has value, it will remain the currency.

  8. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Don’t write crap, don’t pay for crap. And maybe pay for media absent in crap.

    You got to start somewhere.

  9. GregA

    It’s Twitter, isn’t it? So how is it the bulk of what comes through not coming from twits?

    The internet is not a cure-all unless you’d like to buy some of this hair tonic I’ve formulated. Why, it doesn’t just restore what male-pattern baldness has reduced, but will boost virility more generally and add a centimeter per bottle to your height, even past the growing years.

    There are always going to be more jackasses than anyone actually worth listening to. Our own filters must be adapted to the task of finding the gold amidst the dross.

  10. dave


    a great deal of privilege embodied in the notion of ‘rational discourse

    indeed I had that in mind. As for manners, they too embody privilege but perhaps not so distinctly. But your first statement is more to the point 🙂

  11. Adrien

    It’s time, well past time, that citizens called time on the sort of rubbish that pervades the privatised sphere of the information industries.

    I’m not sure what you mean? Do you mean the privately owned media? Or was the ABC privatized recently? You mean the gutter press, actually; let’s face it we’re talking about ol’ Rupe. Oh yay. He’s taken the press downmarket somewhat. And we’ve all gone down with him.

    The public media isn’t as far above the muck as once it was. These days it also is quite guilty of lazy, ill-formed, blatantly partisan polemics.

    I’m not arguing for the abolition of the ABC, God knows we have little enough diversity as it is but still…

    Western discourse as devolved into a Shitfight of Liars. No-one is innocent.

  12. Lefty E

    I miss rationality in Australian public debate. I swear there used to be more of it when I was younger.

    Example: some dingbat on Q&A mentions “nanny state” and the next thing the whole debate about pre-committment was derailed into two clapping and hooting ideological camps – one banging on about threats the indivdual liberty, the other about addiciton.

    This was despite the fact that the whole point of pre-committment is that the individual in question decides – all by themself, no-one else – what their limit will be. They can choose 100% of money in their posession if they like. How the hell this is a threat of individual liberty beats me.

    But…not a word of that essential detail, lest it spoil the poo-flingng party between two groups of monkeys that we call “debate” these days.

  13. Russell

    Three practical things the government can do to encourage “enlightened and rational” discussion in the community:

    Appoint people who really care about quality journalism to the ABC board

    Raise the qualifications for teachers and then pay them really well

    Fund libraries to provide much more and better access to quality print and electronic sources of information. The state libraries in particular should have websites that have a reputation in the community as gateways to quality online information – kids would become familiar with them at school and then always know where to go for good information.

  14. adrian

    Yes, of all the words that are currently misused, “debate” would have to be one of the worst.
    There was once more rationality and definitely more civility and wit, was there not?

  15. Lefty E

    Wit! Hell yes. When was the last time we had a politician with a dose of that?

  16. Patrickb

    “It’s time, well past time, that citizens called time on the sort of rubbish that pervades the privatised sphere of the information industries.”

    Indeed it is. When was the last time the media played a pivitol role in an important Western democracy? I’d plump for late 60s and early 70s USA, the Vietnam and Nixon era. Thing is, during those times there was considerable public disorder spurred on by disquiet over what the govt. was doing. The media was lead by the rejectionist spirit of the day that, although not dominant, was loud and proud. The 21st century is the age of “meh” and the media reflect that ennui.

    “What about France protesting about pension changes or Greeks bearing molotof cocktails?” I hear you ask. Well they’re just isolated spectacles reported with all the enthusiasm of the annual Crilly Island over 80s priests football match. I’m with some others here, the cult of “meh” has us all in it’s thrall.

  17. FDB

    I want to abandon the word ‘debate’ as a term for… i dunno… what I guess I’d now like to call an argument.

    ‘Debate’ sounds more civil, but most of us know from debating at school that it usually involves at least some of the participants arguing for positions they don’t genuinely believe in, but are adopting “for argument’s sake”. This is a great educational tool, but when adults in positions of public influence start doing it, for ideological reasons rather than educational ones, it’s a fucking disaster.

    Lets have arguments instead, where people actually believe what they’re saying.

  18. Zorronsky

    Cometh the hour..cometh the man. Maybe the paradigm has further to go and nothing will stop that motion until someone of substance, a world changer, rescues truth from the clutches of self interest , greed and hate.

  19. Mr Denmore

    It’s about the death of the MSM business model. Newspapers never had a culture of real-time news and analysis, so they’re appropriating what THEY THINK blogs and twitter do – opine mindlessly and with little reflection about public events – and usually in the absence of the facts.

    The new metric for success is page impressions and unique visitors. Just like commercial television has done for years, newspaper editors can now see what “rates” and shape their content to suit. It’s almost all about entertainment and diversion and not much to do with enlightenment or what I see as journalism.

    Another driver is supply. There is more and more white space and air time to fill and fewer and fewer people to do it. Media organisations have become the dark satantic mills of the 21st century, feeding an insatiable machine with fodder around the clock and in real-time.

    Throw in the loss of craft values in journalism, the absence of proper training and the mutation of old traditional media companies into entertainment conglomerates and you can see why this is happening.

    More noise, less signal.

  20. Kevin Rennie

    Rational debate surely involves structured, logical arguments supported by detailed analysis of the available evidence.

    It implies openness and honesty – genuine desire to seek the ‘truth’. It’s not self-interested, point scoring or sophistry.

    We can’t be talking about most of the mass media, though there are exceptions.

  21. Don Wigan

    At the risk of being even more flippant than usual, was there ever such a climate of rationality in public discourse?

    I fear it is so, Jacques. When I first scanned ‘climate’ in your post with rationality, I thought of the climate change debate (if it can be called that) in this country. It has distinctly lacked rationality. The same can be extended to many subjects. And Merc is right that the pearls of wisdom and reason are well hidden historically under reams of chaff.

    But I guess Mark’s point is the 24 hour news cycle, twitter and facebook are forcing a rush to judgment before all the facts are out.
    Our own Bolta was first out of the blocks here with the usual prejudices.

    And Beck has shown that even in the midst of an appalling atrocity, it is still possible to plunge greater depths of contempt and insensitivity.

  22. dave

    So (in a blatant piece of threadjacking) what would we do if the internet broke? What would happen? Is human life now predicated on a functioning internet?

  23. Link

    I think people think less. We used to have a great deal more time between communiques to think. Reflective thinking is an avenue to rational thinking.

    We are however emotional beings, as Eric Bernays so shrewdly exploited. Our underlying emotionality governs our behaviour. I’m all for one’s (or generally another’s) un-ego-affected, intuitive, first thought as an instant tap into a wiser unconscious or a more ‘real’ emotionality. Side stepping the ego is valuable because the ego is so full of it and because intuitive experience usually turns out to be correct. But you have to be very quick. Or give yourself time to cogitate and analyse with the understanding of inevitable bias and prejudices you yourself will bring.

    There was a time when the concept of emotional intelligence was gaining a bit of a foothold, but it seems to have been abandoned for an easier, less rigorous path of pandering to the frustrated rumblings of a largely ignored emotional self. We allow–we choose to allow our more lowly emotions to lead us a merry dance, silly suckers that we are in the main, while more powerful, more good, more true more poignant emotions lie idle and eventually die (pretty much).

    Mark I think hoping for rationality in public discourse is a noble but lost cause. If you can manage it in yourself that will make difference enough.

  24. Don Wigan

    Having tastelessly stuffed up on apportioning blame our lovable Bolt still can’t quit while he’s behind

    What a disgraceful excuse for a human being.

  25. Joe

    The rules of rational debate

    Doesn’t sound too hard… does it.

    A practical example would be the last election. Very little rational debate.

    Don’t get hung up on the rational, think more about the debate..

  26. Joe


    I have a sneaking suspicion that journalists like Bolt get great satisfaction from the number of clickthroughs etc. their pieces generate and that’s about it. They’re totally concentrated on getting the most page views.

    You also notice how the first paragraph, before the article has even begun there is a link to make a comment. An invitation if ever there was one, not to read the article.

    And this is the great failing of the free-market ideology. People/ individuals are unable to not take part in the type of baiting that Bolt or Jones do. See the current Alan Jones story about GetUp. It’s much like poker-machines, cigarettes etc.