September 8, 2002

I GOT A LOT OF MAIL on Sweden this weekend, but it was nothing to compare in vitriol with the reaction to my linkage of an interview with Nick Cook in The Atlantic Monthly, in which he talks about antigravity, reactionless propulsion, and allegedly secret government programs. I thought I expressed my skepticism pretty clearly (i.e., when I said “I’m skeptical”) but I got scads of nasty letters from outraged scientists, several of whom urged that I retract the link. Uh, yeah. Retract the link. You know that article that’s over there? It’s not. Well, it is, but. . . . Anyway, that’s just stupid. But I make a point of linking to people who point out errors, etc., and in that spirit, here’s a link to a piece by Robert Park saying that Cook is all wrong.

From this mail and various other complaints I’ve gotten from time to time, it seems to me that people read way too much into a link. If (as I did) I link to Richard Marius’s novel and say it’s great, then that means, yeah, I’ve read it and I think it’s great. But if I link to something and say: “this is interesting,” or “I’m skeptical,” or even “this seems right to me,” it conveys precisely that, and no more. I haven’t spent hours fact-checking the item. I don’t knowingly link to stuff that seems wrong to me without expressing my skepticism (like by saying, you know, that I’m skeptical), and in the case of a not-obviously-authentic link that says something bad about someone (like the mirrored article on Scott Ritter below) I’ll try to double check it to be sure it’s authentic, but I don’t spend hours fact-checking everything I link to. If I did, I’d link one thing a day, or just give up blogging and go back to having a life. Links are directions. They don’t come with warranties. And you’re supposed to be smart enough to decide for yourself about things: if you’re taking my link to an interview about antigravity as a command to believe whatever the interviewee says, well, then you really shouldn’t be reading things on the Web at all. Or off it.

I also notice that a lot of people who complain about links don’t say that the thing I linked to is false, exactly, but essentially say that if I agreed with them about some other underlying issue I’d view it differently. Uh, okay, but that doesn’t constitute negligence or dishonesty on my part — just a different set of preconceptions. It’s a blog — my blog, actually — and you get to see things through my viewpoint. If you don’t like this particular brand of free ice cream, there are plenty of others out there, and some of them at any given moment are moaning loudly that no one pays attention to them. But that’s a topic for another post.

UPDATE: I should have linked to this statement by Ginger Stampley, which states my views pretty well. Excerpts:

Purpose: . . . The blog is primarily a forum for my opinions. I do not guarantee that anything you read here will be pleasing to any reader or in agreement with anyone else’s views, including my husband’s or my mother’s. Or yours.

Posts: I edit myself for grammar, spelling, and clarity at my sole discretion without notice. I try to update and acknowledge factual corrections, but am under no obligation to do so. . . .

If I didn’t enjoy having readers and comments and mail, I wouldn’t have comments or an email address. On the other hand, I don’t feel obliged to supply a forum to rude, annoying twits simply because I have a weblog and a web site.

Read the whole thing.

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