Executive summary: Tze Ming Mok left recently, and left a few parting shots at the WMM commenters who populate the PA System comment threads. This was taken up by Deborah at In a Strange Land, disputed by Che Tibby at Object Dart and endorsed by Shea at New Freeland.
It all highlights a depressing radicaler-than-thou tendency on the left, not to mention the liberal leftist tendency to look at any creative activity that doesn't fit their personal prejudices regarding how the world should be, and start wondering how it could be forced into a box of dull, bureaucratic conformity. This depressing tendency had its apotheosis in the current discussion with Jolisa Gracewood suggesting a quota (tongue-in-cheek? Christ, I can only hope so...)
Fairly easy to see where I'm coming from on this - I'm white, male, around the same age as Russell Brown and have the same fond memories of bands of yesteryear, so the kind of online community existing at Public Address isn't one I'm likely to have a problem with. Younger, lefter, feministier people however, clearly do have a problem with it. Here's Deborah:
Tze Ming doesn’t feel welcome at Public Address. The crowd there can’t cope with difference, with views that provoke and challenge them to change their own thinking and behaviour. They are accustomed to thinking of themselves as the good guys, the liberals, the ones who are on the morally right side of issues. When Tze Ming comes along and jolts them out of their liberal complacency, the typical reaction is to howl complaint, and to refuse to recognize when their own behaviour embodies the very attitudes and behaviours they are decrying.
Well, that's one opinion. Mine would phrase it more like "When Tze Ming posts something they disagree with, they write in and say so, and say why." Life's tough, huh bud? I can't get to grips with this concept that radicals with a view held by a tiny minority of the population must be nurtured like a delicate flower, rather than told exactly why their ideas are minority ones. Over the long term, people who make you learn how to form an argument for your position and defend it are doing you a favour, not hurting you.
Deborah inadvertently explains exactly why the PA System threads mainly consist of WMM commenters:
I would love to get in there and be provocative, but I have been slapped down a couple of times, and I’m just not up for it again. A couple of weeks ago one regular commenter made a gratuitously sexist reference to women politicians… and I longed to post something pointing out exactly what the problem was with the phrasing, but I do not have the energy to do it, nor the emotional wherewithal to withstand the rebukes that would come my way.
In other words, "I disagreed but couldn't be arsed saying so, and anyway I got sick of people writing back arguing with me." If feminists can only comment when everyone else can be relied on to avoid disputing their opinions, is it any wonder they're in short supply on blog comments threads?
My impression of PA System is that the reason left-wing and right-wing extremists avoid commenting there is that their arguments would quickly be shredded by some very sharp intellects. I flatter myself I can put a reasonably good argument together, but I'm still damn careful about what I post on PA System. That may be very annoying for radicals, but there's only one real solution:
hone your writing skills on lesser blogs by actually debating people who disagree with you, rather than simply whinging about how unpleasant they are, and take your arguments to PA System when you've got the confidence you can defend them.
And for those who think a team blog has to be forced into some kind of United Nations representative model for it to have any credibility: go and make your own instead of trying to blather some other poor sod into providing it, why don't you?