Two points of view dominate the potential contributor to the open discourse of the blog.
Here is the first view:
Most of you can be described thusly: (tiny, frightened voice) “I don’t want to bore anyone…I have nothing to say…God forbid, I should write something from the heart and a stranger rebukes me…”
Or, from a completely different perspective, the second view:
(Loud, stern voice) “My thoughts are not cheap…I’m not just going to put my opinions on a blog for the rabble to peruse, or, worse, for someone to steal…My thoughts are worthy of being published, of selling; they are not for free!”
Both of these views conspire to stifle open dialogue…
A private club would unblock these inhibitions.
The public nature of a blog, ironically, quells public discourse.
This is the great paradox of cultural exchange.
Yet, as Silliman’s blog entry today demonstrates, poets give public readings all over the place.
What’s to prevent someone at a public reading from stealing a poet’s thought? Nothing. There’s danger here, too.
But here’s the attraction: Poets, in this case, are reading from their published books, and the poet believes their ideas are safe in a published book.
Secondly, the poetry reading reflects a hierarchy flattering to the poet:
I, the poet, am reading my poems to listeners who have come to hear me, the poet.
The listeners worship in a proper position of respect which the democratic blog can never hope to replicate.
The published book is the nucleus of the atom and the electrons of public obeisance revolve around this nucleus, comprising an orderly structure of stability and peace.
The blog which admits comments, on the other hand, permits not only electrons to jump around, but the atoms themselves to be suddenly created, and reactions and fusions to take place with great velocity and force.
This is perhaps good news, for in the above scenario we see that the book is still vital to intellectual life.
However, if the exchange of views and ideas is suppressed and not stimulated by books—as the passive reading replaces the Socratic argument—and books, instead, become mere receptacles of vanity and received opinion in a conservative manner, the complaint we are so bold in making here is perhaps a just one.
Let us, by all means, have the respected author, basking in the respect due the published author, but we should also encourage questions and conversations in which that very same respect is put aside, in a public fashion, for the truth.
Does it matter, finally, where an idea resides? Published in a book, or unpublished, in a brain? The former is where we’d always prefer it to be, perhaps, but should we be anxious to have legitimate ideas only reside there, simply in order to preserve the existence of a publishing status quo?
Let the truth itself matter most, at last.
So, to our experts, fearing to give up trade secrets, we say: perhaps these secrets are not as important as you think they are, as secrets, and to our timid folk: perhaps your secrets are more important than you think.