How to deliver a message

Bloggers are an odd bunch. Some are “serious journalists”, some glorified editorialists, but most are just folks with access to a computer. This was the genesis of the blogosphere—individuals writing whatever they wanted, not knowing (but hoping) that maybe a few others might read their work.

As it turns out, there are some excellent writers out there that we might never have read were it not for the internet. But most still maintain an independence of spirit and of thought. Yes, there are “corporate” bloggers out there. For instance, one of the local hospitals has an internal blog by some corporate type. It’s very different from the blogs most of us are used to reading. It’s, um, very positive. And commenting requires entry of an employee ID number. It’s not exactly designed for the free flow of ideas.

But most of the blogosphere isn’t designed for anything. It’s an emergent phenomenon, fueled by individuality.

If your purpose as a writer is to influence large numbers of people, blogging probably isn’t your best choice. Op-ed columns, books, almost any medium gets a larger readership.

And since bloggers are individuals, beholden to no one, they have no duties as such. They can write whatever they wish.

Rarely, a blogger is read nearly as widely as a journalist, and PZ Myers is one of the few. Dr. Myers is a professor, and teaches at a University. In this capacity, his duties to transmit information are a bit more clear, and he has made it known on many occasions that his classroom is not a bully pulpit for atheism.

A biologist can use the classroom to teach biology, but as a blogger, he can deliver any message he wishes.

In my work, I have to frame messages in a certain way. I am communicating to individual patients, and I need to persuade them on the most intimate level that what I am telling them is the course they should follow. If they are futzing around with altie remedies, I can’t be overtly dismissive, or I’ll lose them immediately.

But in delivering a message to a somewhat larger audience, I use a different tone, one of compassionate snarkiness, for example. I do this not only because it suits me, but because I feel that on some level it is effective.

Scientists always have a duty to deliver the truth about their fields. The tone in which it is delivered depends greatly upon the medium and the audience. But most of all, it depends on the writer. Most bloggers of science have a fierce attachment to the truth which cannot be compromised for any reason, and if it happens to piss people off, so be it.

I’m sure that a creationist student in a biology class might be uncomfortable, but since it is a classroom, they must learn the material to succeed. Our readers have no such obligation. Therefore, we have no obligation to kiss anyone’s tukhes.