Can You Hear Me?

Is shutting off discussion the best way to encourage productive discussion? Can you have a debate without allowing debate? I ask these questions because I’m confused. This should come as no surprise to anyone, but I’m even more confused than usual.

On April 25, the ABA Journal website offered an item with this headline: “How you do you make meaningful social connections?”

Four days later, we were presented with this: “Why we chose to shut down commenting on ABAJournal.com.”

Apparently the answer to the first headline is you’re not going to make meaningful connections on our web page.

The two items, I suppose, aren’t really related but they illustrate a modern-day dilemma: How do you give everyone a megaphone and expect to hear anything?

The ABA Journal, you think, would be one of less likely places to be overrun by trolls and yet here they are shutting down discussion because “the tone of the comments has become rancorous and uncivil, with substantive commentary being drowned out by partisanship and name-calling that violate the ABA Code of Conduct.”

You’d think they were in court or something.

The Journal’s answer to this problem was to tell people to comment on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can be swamped by trolls there and it won’t be the ABA’s fault.

I guess you can avoid responsibility that way, but it doesn’t solve the underlying issue. Yes, you can stop looking at social media, but what if you want to say something? How do you get heard?

We’re always being told to write our representatives. How do they know what to take seriously?

Yeah, I know the answer is they check to see how much money you have, but that doesn’t help all of us who don’t have mountains of cash or clever bots.

I say we just give up. Artificial intelligence is taking over legal research and brief writing and, yes, even trolling. We might as well let computers argue amongst themselves while we relax.

They can vote for us too. I’m pretty sure a bunch of intelligent machines aren’t going to elect science-deniers.

Quote of the week: “With blinkers on, the world can’t be fully seen.”

It was Kentucky Derby week last week, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to see this in a ruling. The case is yet another small development in the other activity that has us obsessed these days — Trump administration litigation.

A federal judge in New York ruled that the government has to use better search terms to comply with Freedom of Information requests regarding the short-lived Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. In other words, no blinkers.

The judge also ruled that the plaintiffs could look at some private email accounts used by an assistant attorney general and a Department of Justice lawyer. There’s no end to irony.

Do you think blinkers might help when looking at social media?

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