In a comment to a post that was uncontroversial to experienced criminal defense lawyers, but less so to others, Charles Morrison wrote:
You are about to read something you are (probably) unused to seeing here: you are right. You have convinced me that a regulatory scheme that differentiates between attorneys is a bad idea. I’m willing to admit that my initial inclination is wrong after having considered arguments.
I don’t know who Charles Morrison is. I knew a Charles Morrison thirty years ago, who dabbled in criminal defense in New York City without much success, but I don’t think it’s the same fellow. I assume he’s a lawyer, though the content of his comments leaves considerable doubt. It’s one of those names that’s fairly common, so it’s hard to pin down.
He seems like a nice enough fellow, though his comments tend to be more an opportunity for him to tell his war stories or ruminate down paths he finds interesting than to discuss the things I write about. That’s a fairly common thing, around here. He’s not one of the commenters I find particularly interesting or amusing. I like amusing comments a lot, by the way.
But Charles Morrison’s comment gave me a laugh. “You are about to read something you are (probably) unused to seeing here: you are right.” Well, it’s true that some people don’t agree with me, but it’s not that uncommon for people to think I’m right about something. It happens.
Yet, that’s really not what he’s addressing. Whoever Charles Morrison is, he’s talking about our personal relationship. You see, he’s looking at SJ from his screen, and from his screen, what he sees centers around him. To the extent SJ exists, it’s at his sufferance. And when he chooses to read, to comment, he is having a personal conversation with me. And when I write, I am having a personal conversation with him. The rest of you don’t exist on Charles Morrison’s screen.
Yeah, this brings meta navel-gazing to a new low for this blawg, but as new people show and comment here, it occurs to me that the world as it appears to blawgers isn’t at all like the blawgosphere readers see. Since it’s a snowy Sunday morning, why not waste a few minutes letting you in on the view from the other screen.
To some extent, I read every comment left here. Some are painfully long and boring, and I may stop after the first few sentences or paragraph, seeing nothing patently offensive and so I allow the comment to post. With unfortunate regularity, comments are offered that reflect points already addressed, usually with greater thoughtfulness. You see, others don’t bother to read the comments and so they repeat things already discussed.
An issue for some commenters is their need to speak their piece. They need the catharsis, even if it’s neither new nor particularly illuminating. When I refer to SJ being my soapbox, not yours, this is what I’m talking about. You need a catharsis? Cool. Create a special place just for you, but this is mine.
An issue for other commenters is that they are the center of their universe, and so approach comments here as if they are entitled to my complete attention and devotion. They may see themselves as important lawyers in real life, and so their importance follows them through their screen, through the tubes and onto my screen. I should respect their worth, even though it never occurs to them that I have no clue who they are, whether they’re even a lawyer, or why they feel so entitled.
Should I not show them the respect to which they feel entitled, they can become angry, even enraged, at my lack of appreciation. Sometimes, it’s only about their general importance. Sometimes, it’s about the brilliance of their comment and my failure to completely change my view because they’ve disagreed with me.
While some comments have caused me to change, or perhaps soften, my views, it doesn’t happen too often. On the one hand, not all comments are as persuasive or communicative as their writers think. On the other hand, the reason I wrote in the first place is that I hold a particular view. That someone disagrees really doesn’t bother me, even though the person who disagrees thinks it should.
When a new person comes here, there is often a tacit assumption that SJ, being a blawg and all, is just a bunch of noise that some cockamamie lawyer from New York writes for kicks and, perhaps, the chance to score the occasional case. In other words, it’s just us here. Maybe a couple other readers who stumble into the place from a stray link, but it’s not like thousands of people read this crap. Amirite?
Often, I read comments and either have no clue what the person is talking about, or find the comment to be, well, worthless. If it’s inoffensive, I post it regardless, as someone took the time to write it and even though I didn’t find it worthwhile, maybe someone else will. You never know. But then, commenters get angry at me for not responding to their comments, or not answering the questions in their comments, as if I’m under some duty to do so. I’m not. Every comment isn’t necessarily interesting to me, and while it’s not trashworthy, it’s also not response worthy. Sorry if that hurts your feelings, but that’s how it goes.
Actually, you might be surprised to learn that there are a good many readers, coming from a surprising variety of places. Not a “big leaguer,” as Mike Masnick pointed out to me, nor a Radley Balko or Ken White level pundit, but the room here is rarely empty. If one reader has a problem with me, it’s not a big deal. There are others.
But Charles (I hope he doesn’t mind my familiarity) thinks that SJ is here to persuade him personally to come to my point of view. I regret to say that’s not the case. While it was nice of him to let me know that he agreed with me, if only partially, the value of his agreement is very different on his screen than mine. Frankly, I don’t give a shit.
What I write here is what I think. Your mileage may vary. If you agree, great. If not, that’s fine too. It doesn’t change anything on my screen.