Friday, June 09, 2006

Comment Type #24


It is virtually impossible to be truly original - "there is nothing new under the sun" a wise man once said. Any idea that we have is one formed, suggested, and informed by previous learning and ideas we've been exposed to. One of the great advantages of learning and reading great books is that this exposure is more profound, significant, and wise, leading to greater discernment and understanding. Because of this, it is unreasonable to complain that someone is restating ideas previously stated elsewhere simply on the basis of unoriginality.

There is, however, a type of comment that takes unoriginality and lack of thought to new levels. The Party Line comment is one in which the poster simply repeats something they've learned - often verbatim - from another source. This can be a religious leader, a political teacher, a professor on a topic, a book, etc. The key to the Party Line comment is a lack of original thought and often even comprehension of the subject. Rather than a personal analysis, the Party Line merely repeats talking points on the topic.

Above, I have used a quote from Ecclesiastes:
That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
-Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 (New King James)
Now quoting wise, famous, important, or simply fun things said in the past is good - I do it every weekday on this blog. But if that's all you do, then you've ceased to have a broad education and simply become a machine that repeats quotes. The Ecclesiastes quote above is not left by its self or the only kind of post made, it's part of a broader point.

The result can be so predictable and pat that it is as if there is no person at the computer, but rather a program that simply has given output for any input. Global Warming, Evolution, Gay Marriage, Abortion, Infant Baptism, the Designated Hitter, whatever the hot topic, the Party Line comment has a premade response prepared and even can appear like a cut & paste from other sources. Sometimes it is.

In this, the Party Line is similar to the Autorant Bot, but rather than being a lunatic and barely coherent spewing of various catch-phrases and talking points, the Party Line is more on topic and specific to the given theme of the comment thread. A Party Line comment is usually fairly well written and cogent, and would probably be fine, if it were not so obviously a copy of someone else's thoughts.

Simply repeating what you've been told is of no benefit to any blog or message board, unless you can in some way make it your own or add your own opinions, ideas, and discernment to the mix. Just repeating Rush Limbaugh might be fine as a clear quote but offering it up as your personal thoughts or simply regurgitating them is not so fine. IBM ran an ad in the 1980s describing chatting on the computer as "telepathy" because it involves the exchange of ideas without words or even effort once they are put into the internet. This is only beneficial if there's an actual exchange of ideas rather than a mindless repetition of other peoples'.
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