The discussion yesterday about James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me got me thinking about the issue of reading things one disagrees with.
In recent years, I've found myself paring back the extent to which I read people I strongly disagree with. This sounds narrow-minded, and it's difficult for me to write. It doesn't fit well with the image I have of myself as someone who is open to engaging with those with whom I disagree.
Part of the issue was that I found myself spending far too much time arguing -- either actually doing so in the comment boxes of other sites or mentally doing so in the way that I can't help rehearsing in the back of my mind when I've run into an argument that strikes me as wrong or ill-informed. However, a lot of it was that I found that reading overly ignorant or angry people who disagreed with me (I'd stopped reading those type among those with whom I agreed long ago) simply tended to make me more partisan and more angry at those who disagreed with me.
In a sense, there's a dark satisfaction in reading those who disagree with you when they do so badly -- either with ignorance of the topic or just with hate. It allows you to think that everyone who disagrees with you is like that.
However, it's certainly not the case that I don't read anyone I disagree with -- some bloggers I routinely disagree with one some or even nearly all issues remain near the top of my reader, and one of the books I just finished reading (and very much enjoyed) was Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, a book written shortly after Orwell got back from fighting for the Republicans in Spain, in which one of his main complaints against the increasingly Stalinist-dominated Republicans is that they are not far enough left.
I'm having difficulty thinking exactly what it is that separates the opposing writers that I enjoy from the ones I don't bother with. One division I think is whether they are primarily writing invective -- reading about how pro-lifers want to force women to have babies or about how banksters want to create an economic order specifically designed to keep the ordinary people down is not only unilluminating but also tedious. On the other hand, I tend to enjoy people who thoughtfully write about their experiences or who attempt to lay out clearly the way they think things ought to work, with some seeming regard for reality.