Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the bloggers that seem to so support Shinn's work, is it? Ah well. One can't ignore the internet completely, try as one might.
I got a very fair e-mail from Christopher Shinn, explaining that while he stood by his statements that live experiences, real life and "deep reading" are far more valuable to discourse than is the internet; he was thinking more about political blogs than theatre blogging, and meant no disrespect to bloggers that support (and don't support) his work. He was intending to speak more to "electronic media" than the day-to-day discourse we may find here.
I appreciate his explanation. It's more than I deserve, to be honest. He didn't ask for an apology, bu I owe him one. My first instinct, upon waking up this morning, was to remove this post.
On second thought, I'd like to explain a little bit about why I think this posting was wrong-headed and maybe, instead of "deleting" or getting defensive, act like a grown-up about why I was just acting like a child.
What's unique about this medium is its immediacy. If I read something, I can speak to it. I can interact with it. I can interact with other bloggers, and the news media, and my artistic work. There's no substantive process that takes place between my typing this and you reading it. The only thing that controls what I say and when I say it and how I say it is...me. Purely. I play this game alone, and other people get to watch, and we, as a community, sort of self-regulate. What's good about me can be carefully presented and constructed, and used to promote my ideas and my work. What's bad about me, what is careless, thoughtless or self-aggrandizing, can be highlighted and distributed pretty quickly too.
What I just did to Christopher Shinn, therefore, was irresponsible for a few reasons. First of all, it's precisely the sort of limited conversation he's criticizing. It's shrill, it's glib, and it lacks substance or context. It doesn't actually respond to what he's saying. If I disagree, or I don't understand his statement, I think it's perfectly acceptable to use public space for it. Just to give him heat, though, is school yard silliness.
Second of all, it's bullying. Christopher Shinn writes something I disagree with, and I use my forum to force him to explain himself. Why should he feel it necessary to send me an explanation? I don't personally know the man, and my statement was unfair. I demanded (in a roundabout way) some sort of response. Bullying, in a sense, as opposed to public discourse.
The essential question that should be asked, when using spaces like this is...what am I hoping to accomplish? Will this further discussion? Will this alienate, needlessly, another artist? Will this create debate, or just create a sense of snippy superiority. "Here," I say, "I think Shinn misspoke and I'm not going to let him get away with it!"
If I were to act this way to him in person, it wouldn't be any better. The fact that I'm doing it from the safety of my office, or the computer I use it work, makes it worse. It assumes a moral authority that is granted to me by...whom? Blogger.com?
In short... I don't think that all posting needs to be carefully constructed, or an essay, or a news article. Part of the fun of blogs can be the glib humor and the quick jabs and the playfulness. But the jab I just took at Christopher Shinn was unneccessary, inaccurate and pretty much confirms the worst part of the immediacy of the medium. Instead of deleting it, I'd rather leave this up as reminder to check in with myself before criticizing someone else publically.
Is it really that big a deal? On the surface, no. It is to me, I think, because my own behavior is one of the few things I can control. If I want to see gentility and fairness, the first thing I can do is act with gentility and fairness. If I'd like to see, for example, another blogger or commenter occasionally say "My mistake" I should be willing to do so myself.
So...I apologize for using this space to give Christopher a hard time. I certainly hope to be a bit more careful about it in the future.