Friday, February 02, 2007

Modes of debate

A conflict is brewing within the Texas Democratic Party, with David Van Os (who recently ran for Attorney General) challenging progressive bloggers to publicly debate him about their disagreements with him. The Burnt Orange Report quotes him:

So far nobody has taken me up on my challenge to the Insiders to a debate over these issues. Come on out and debate me publicly. Don't content yourself with taking pot shots at me from behind blogger pseudonyms. Let's do it in public, in a format where we can challenge each other's assertions and question each other on the spot, in the open. Who will stand and debate me?

What really interests me about the exchange is the implication that oral debate is more honest and trustworthy than textual debate. Textual debate can give advantage to anonymity (as Van Os notes), but it also produces an archivable, searchable record and allows references (hyperlinks, if you're talking about bloggers); arguably, it allows people to keep each other honest through those mechanisms. Textual debate also favors those who have weak speaking skills or who don't think quickly on their feet.

Van Os is comfortable with oral debate, and (correctly, I think) deduces that he's going to be better at it than bloggers. So he frames it in terms of honesty and trustworthiness, and by implication frames textual debate as artificial and deceptive. I'm glad that academics aren't held to those standards, and I hope political discourse won't be.

Burnt Orange Report: Our Eyes Are Upon You, Texas.

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1 comment:

Alan Rudy said...

It seems to me, however, that there is a lot more than oral vs. text. The linkability and archivability of blogs is of great value... however, there is also an indeterminate time horizon involved and the need to regularly check back to see if corrections/exchanges emerge over time in a fair and honest fashion.

Despite it's problems, open, bounded, debate allows for an audience to focus and evaluate immediate calls, responses and claims in a manner potentially far more manageable that w/ a myriad of blogs.

However, one solution might be to engage in an ongoing debate within a single blog...