February 19, 2003

Divided by a common language

Sometimes I wonder what we mean by "dialogue." I keep reading that "we need to have a dialogue!" concerning this possible war with Iraq, but I am not sure why. Everyone seems to have already made up their mind; I know I have. "Dialogue" seems to result instead in frustrating exchanges like the one in the comments to one of my posts. I have come to the attentions of one Colin Roald, who has his own blog, though it seems to be down right now (it was up earlier this afternoon).

Anyway, I found the exchange exasperating. Mr. Roald seems to be coming from an isolationist, or perhaps defeatist (in the "since we can't go/aren't going after all the evils in the world all at once, we shouldn't do anything" mode) position. Now I say "seems to be," because he became put out when I made a statement on what I thought he believed about something based on what he wrote in my comments. Now, I do not know Mr. Roald, nor can I get onto his webpage to scan it until I find a statement of his beliefs -- and in any case, what is the use of writing and engaging in "dialogue" if it is not to showcase one's beliefs? But he did not become snippy because I got his beliefs wrong, he was upset that I had attempted to say anything whatsoever about his beliefs. If he didn't want me to try to figure out what he believed, then what was all that writing for, a typing exercise?

Here is an example of what I mean: in one of the comments here, Mr. Roald says: "[...]things are maybe not so cheery in Afghanistan as you assume " (emphasis mine) and quotes from a news report from this Afghan-focused (and perhaps produced, though I can't find a masthead) website to emphasize, I guess, his own gloomy prognosis for that area. Now I would like to know just how he assumes I or my commenters have decided that things in Afghanistan are "cheery." One of the commenters merely said something to the effect that predictions of a Vietnam-like quagmire for US forces in that country have not come to pass. No one tried to pass off the situation in Afghanistan as "cheery" or anything else.

But this is why it is frustrating to have a dialogue with any of these antiwar people. When you point out to them that things they were certain would happen have not come to pass, they change the subject. When you expose their beliefs, they accuse you of abstract wrongs rather than explaining themselves further. And most frustrating of all, they keep writing the same thing over and over, using slightly different arrangements of sentences each time, the new internet version of "shouting" which has replaced all caps. You know, if I disagree with you on something, and you keep repeating it, I'm not going to slip up and say, "You're right," as if we were playing some demented version of "Simon Says."

Posted by Andrea Harris at February 19, 2003 10:12 PM