Who's an advocate?

[Note: A different version of this grump could plausibly turn up as a Bibs & Blather piece in the next Cites & Insights. Or not.]

A recent post in this journal concerned a stupid mistake I made--attempting to comment on something in a blog I should never have even been visiting. (I checked on that site again; the discussion has proceeded nicely enough, sometimes about me, but without my participation. I'll leave it that way. I managed to wipe my shoes clean and don't wish to step in that again.)

Comments--from one person--on that journal post seemed to take me to task for not being simplistic enough (I'm paraphrasing, and if this isn't what the poster really meant, that's OK: I'm not naming the person anyway.) A later point was that you can be nuanced in intellectual discussion, but if you want change, you have to be an advocate, and to advocate, you have to [MY WORDS] "dumb it down."

While I disagree with that assertion--I'm trying to talk to reasonably intelligent adults, and I really hate it when people dumb things down for my consumption (since it always means, directly or indirectly, talking down to me), so I'm sure not about to insult other people by assuming they can't handle nuanced treatments (or semi-Proustian sentences like this one either)--I just realized that it involves a conclusion that is not in evidence.

Namely, that I'm particularly interested in advocacy. I don't think I am. To the extent that I wind up advocating certain positions, it's because I find them more coherent and more in line with my overall worldview than alternatives; to the extent that I argue against other positions, it's because I find them incoherent, inhumane, or sharply at odds with my underlying beliefs.

My columns at various magazines have generally been intended to describe, educate, and sometimes synthesize. I don't believe I've been trying to persuade, except to the extent that "If you believe in X, then maybe you ought to consider Y" could be considered persuasion.

Cites & Insights started out primarily as a way to note articles worth reading and developments in technology worth paying attention to. It's become much more than that (and in some ways less, as I don't cover PC-related stuff all that much) through a process of natural growth and continued analysis and synthesis.

Maybe my failure to act as an advocate is a problem--but I'm not sure it's my problem.

I am sure that the thought of hardening my positions on library-related issues and simplifying my arguments so that I can be more convincing does not appeal to me. If that means I'm less effective as a change agent, so be it: That was never my career goal. Even my first book was not an effort to get people to use MARC; it was an effort to make MARC understandable and explain its background.

Next posting (barring surprises): Something completely different!

Comments

I can only conclude that you're ....

a flip flopper. ;)

Simple "truths" ...

Often lead to disasterous results in libraries and in the world at large.Hardening library-related stances didn't serve ALA at all in the filtering debate. It just made Dr. Laura's work easier. A more nunanced approach of "We don't think filters work well, but we don't think young children should see every sex act on the Internet either. Let's try filters until we come up with something better" might have gotten a better response.Keep up the nuances. Leave the "instinctive truths" to people who are impervious to logic anyway. Like those who cannot distinguish between those who disagree with the President's security policies and folk I've NEVER met who think terror is no problem.Speaking of terrorism, next week I'm going to be a t a govdocs conference that will be two blocks from the US Capitol. I'd feel just as safe going there if there were no PATRIOT Act.

Oh please...Re:Simple "truths" ...

"Hardening library-related stances didn't serve ALA at all in the filtering debate. It just made Dr. Laura's work easier. A more nunanced approach of "We don't think filters work well, but we don't think young children should see every sex act on the Internet either. Let's try filters until we come up with something better" might have gotten a better response."

There is nothing nuanced about that. Adults should have free access to the internet. Children shouldn't. Hardly a complicated or complex arguement.

Copyright is an incredibly complex issue. Digital copyright even more so. To advocate is to bring an issue to the general public's attention but advocating copyright is like throwing a cement block at somebody. I gave Walt some advice, he was free to take it or leave it. Instead he misrepresented it. I clearly said that he didn't have to be an advocate, nobody does. But *he* is the one who went into advocacy waters and then quickly jumped out complaining that he was too 'nuanced'. Fine. Stay out of the water until you learn to swim, if you decide to learn. Either way my advice still stands.

Re:I can only conclude that you're ....

I can live with that. Or not. (I can't mod you up, since it's my discussion. But nice comment.)

Re:Oh please...Re:Simple "truths" ...

Speaking of misrepresentation!

I didn't "go into advocacy waters." I tried to do what I usually try to do.

"To advocate is to bring an issue to the general public's attention." Huh? I always thought advocacy was urging a specific position on an issue. I had the idea that journalism and commentary and essays were all ways of bringing an issue to the general public's attention (or to some segment of the general public--I don't deceive myself that I'm reaching much beyond librarians, library support staff, and some academics).

"Advocating copyright is like throwing a cement block at somebody." That makes no sense at all.

And, for what it's worth, I believe I did explicitly reject your advice, since I did say that I don't accept your assertions as to what's necessary for advocacy. Your advice certainly "still stands" in that I'm not suggesting you don't have the right to offer it.

Re:Oh please...Re:Simple "truths" ...

"Advocating copyright is like throwing a cement block at somebody." That makes no sense at all."

Alone, no it doesn't...

"Copyright is an incredibly complex issue. Digital copyright even more so. To advocate is to bring an issue to the general public's attention but advocating copyright is like throwing a cement block at somebody."

Translation: its a heavy issue.

Missed my nuance

"There is nothing nuanced about that. Adults should have free access to the internet. Children shouldn't. Hardly a complicated or complex arguement."Notice I said young children. I don't believe in default filtered access for high school students. By then their parents have either trained them well, or not. By the time kids are in their late teens, I think they're as capable of making informed judgements as many adults.I support the right of any parent to insist that a minor child of any age be allowed filtered access only, but it should be on an opt-in basis after 16 in recognition of their growing adulthood.It is ALA's "no filters for anybody at anytime" that I thought was counterproductive, just as I think Dr. Laura's "filters for everybody at all times" is.Also, bear in mind I haven't read your and Walt's exchange on copyright. I was commenting on "simple vs. nuanced" in general.

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