Sense and Nonsense: Observations on Running a Blog Site
Caveat lector: The following is a bit of a rant. I came into blogging as a complete novice, and have had to learn as I went along. Having opened this blog site as, well, at the risk of sounding noble, a public service, I simply thought that it would be interesting for me, and perhaps interesting for readers too, to post about/from my own research and scholarship (now, nearly 40 yrs in academic positions in the field). One of the surprises (remember, I said I was a novice) was the experience of a few (a very few) people who seem to comment (1) far more often than the rest of the commenters put together, and (2) typically have some “hobby horse” idea that is . . . well, shall we say, eccentric (to put it kindly).
I’ve tended to approach comments and questions assuming (unless there was immediate/obvious indication otherwise) that they were sincere. So, from other scholars, you get agreement, disagreement, other suggestions, corrections, etc. Great. From the “general public” you get questions, observations that may well be under/misinformed, but clearly offered with a view to learning something.
But from a few (I’d say over the 3.5 years of operating this site, about three/four) fall clearly into the puzzling type I’ve mentioned above. This sort typically has developed some pet idea, not something small, mind you, but a “big idea” that fundamentally skews their view of the whole subject. Among them, on this site, e.g., that Paul was a totally fictional character (yes, you heard that right). The noisy folk who likewise are convinced (I guess they really mean it and aren’t putting us all on) that Jesus of Nazareth is a fictional character are another such category. And on this site we’ve got a frequent commenter who, among his pet notions, has the curious idea that, e.g., references to “circumcision” in the NT are actually references to sacrifice.
These folk (in my experience) hardly ever have any of the training, skills and knowledge of the field requisite for forming a critical view of things, no proven record of publishing work in scholarly venues, no work that has been reviewed by those competent to do so. But they have some kind of prophet-like sense that they’re onto something that has eluded all those with the requisite skills and training in the field.
And I repeat, these people aren’t interested in finding out that their views have no basis, or have been soundly debunked decades ago, or are just plain bonkers. So, no matter how often you patiently answer specific questions (often coy, baited ones), or offer reasons and evidence for why their view is baseless, they persevere with impressive determination. If you tell them that their view has no standing among scholars in the field, this has no effect, and they might then allege some sort of conspiracy among scholars to suppress what they know is the real truth!
They also seem to look for any opportunity to try to draw off the conversation into the orbit of their particular fancy. Repeatedly, I’ve had to tell a few commenters that their line was not only misinformed but also irrelevant to the posting to which they were supposedly commenting.
I find this all rather tiresome. I certainly don’t want to offend or scare off the many readers (now over 1500 subscribers), for whom (I hope) this blog site is interesting, informative, maybe even stimulating. Anyone from time to time can propose some collateral issue, and I don’t mind the occasional accidental drift off into some issue that is suggested by a posting.
But the very few dogged (and, I have to say, apparently insincere) commenters (they aren’t content to read; their real purpose is likely self-validation via blog comments) whose main/sole purpose seems to be to try to inflict their curious views at every opportunity–these I find a pain in the posterior. So, frankly, I wouldn’t mind at all if they (and, I think you know who you are) either refrained from this annoying activity, or just went off and unsubscribed.