Here is an article by my friend Mark Shea in which he apologizes for being nasty to people.
I appreciate Mark’s public contrition. However, I’m not sure it’s necessary. Here’s why: plenty of us like the argumentative style. We appreciate the heat under Mark’s collar, and the passion with which he argues. His blog has juice and he has guts.
Furthermore, readers should understand that, to a certain extent, the writer develops a style and a tone that is a “voice” he assumes to make his point. A good writer blusters. So what? Readers should not take it all so personally.
I find that I have a reputation for being “a courageous priest” because of the content and tone of what I write. I am uncompromising and shoot straight. However, people who know me realize that Dwight the man and Fr Dwight the priest and Dwight Longenecker the blogger, writer, speaker are not always consistently the same person. Me courageous? Not when I look in the mirror, and probably not to my parishioners, friends and family. Writers are often like actors. We play a part.
Mark Shea’s part is that of the Hilaire Belloc de nos jours. He is a controversialist. He stirs things up on purpose. He takes extreme views to make a point. He argues passionately and wades in to defend the truth. Okay, sometimes he’s like a bull in a china shop. Who cares about china? Use Tupperware if you don’t like it.
In saying that, Mark admits that some of his attacks ended up not being against error, hypocrisy and sin, but against individuals. He’s admitted it and said “Sorry.” That’s big of him. Real Big, and maybe he could use a dash more of Chesterton’s robust and cheerful optimism to balance his bellicose Bellocian tendencies.
Finally, this problem is one of the joys and difficulties of the new media. In times past a writer and his work were more distant from the readership. It was easier to maintain the useful fiction of the writer assuming a voice to make his point. Now we have Facebook and Twitter and Instant Messaging and com boxes. The writer can interact with his audience. He’s not so far away. The audience can see him more clearly warts and all.
Writers should remember this and be sensitive.
Readers should remember this and either be a bit more thick skinned or tootle off and read the Disney blog.