Ability to talkbalk to online content "dismal failure" of civil discourse

I know exactly what he means.

From Alan Abbey, a seasoned journalist who has worked in the U.S., Washington and Israel, via Poynter Online:

In all of the hundreds of talkbacks we reviewed at Ynetnews, and which I still read today on all the Israeli media sites, I can’t say I ever saw someone write, “You know, you’re right. Your comments make a lot of sense. I think I am going to have to revise my thinking on this matter.”

Instead, I see people digging in their heels, taking the most extreme positions, and defending sometimes indefensible positions on both sides of the so-called security barrier (or fence, or wall).

From a business perspective, from a “viral marketing” perspective, and from a Web 2.0 citizen journalism perspective, talkbacks — which are still not as widespread in American media as one might think — make a lot of sense.

However, from a civil discourse perspective (at least so far in Israeli media) I think they have been a dismal failure.

Recently, I had a face-to-face talkbalk moment (lengthy moment no less) about my position on Israel, the Palestinians and Hezbollah with someone who is very firm and very opposite in approach from mine (not necessarily that hard to be, but even so, firm and opposite). And, much as Abbey describes, it wasn’t so much uncomfortable personally but rather intractable, from the other person’s treatment of the discourse.

The other person did not waiver, and posed good questions to get me thinking. However, I was receptive to doing so – to thinking that is. This person, on the other hand, although asking me questions, seemed to do so in hopes that I’d tie myself up in my words, rather than because the person wanted to actually think about what I was thinking and how I thought and consider if there was some merit to it. That’s the way I felt anyway.

So – I have to say, based on what I’ve seen around the blogosphere, I would tend to agree with Abbey’s thoughts on talkback value.

What do you think?

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