Why I Don’t Comment on Everything
As most of you know, I comment here not infrequently about social and political issues, and from time to time I even make stands on things, a good recent example of this being my convention harassment policy pledge. As a result, people will often send me (via e-mail and social media) updates on social/political things they believe are of interest to me. This is generally appreciated, since there are things I will miss. There are only so many hours of the day.
In addition to this, some folks will also occasionally suggest to me (in varying degrees of urgency and/or politeness) that I should make a public statement about the things the bring to my attention, because they believe my voice carries. In the last 24 hours alone, for example, these things have included Barilla pasta, a rather less-than-perfect convention harassment policy, literature professor David Gilmour stuffing both feet into his mouth, and Orson Scott Card. Some of these topics have been noted to me more than once. Not all of the people pointing them out are suggesting I leap to the keyboard, but some of them strongly hint in that direction.
A couple of thoughts here. The big one is to let people know I’m actually kind of not good at being a proxy for whatever things you are concerned about. One obvious reason is that I might not feel as strongly about the subject as you do, or indeed might not agree with you about it. Another, less obvious reason: I do try to know at least a little about the things I might want to write about, which means me making at least a token effort at research, which will take time — time I might not have if, say, I’m in the middle of writing a book.
Beyond this, other factors come into play. Sometimes I’ll decide I don’t have anything useful to say on a subject, and so won’t. Sometimes I will see other people saying things about it better than I would, in a way that is already getting (or has gotten) substantial play, so I’ll either just point to that other commentary or assume the people who visit here will have already seen it. Sometimes I’m fatigued regarding the particular subject and won’t feel like talking about it for a while. Sometimes I’m tired and don’t want to write a blog post. Sometimes I may just be cranky and not in the mood to acquiesce to the suggestion I make a fuss over whatever particular topic people want me to make a fuss about.
Sometimes I will decide that me butting into a particular discussion will look more like me wanting to get attention for being on the right side of the subject than me actually wanting to be on the right side of the discussion (this correlates highly with things I am unfamiliar with and which don’t directly involve my own personal interests). Sometimes I’ll decide that I’ve expended on other things the attention capital I’ve accrued, and that it’s time for me to be quiet for a bit so that the next time I have something that I want to say, it’ll have more of an impact. Sometimes there will be other reasons, not touched on here, for me not to make the fuss someone else wants me to. Sometimes I just don’t wanna.
The short version of this is that while I really do appreciate it when folks bring things to my attention, I can’t (and shouldn’t) be expected to comment on every thing, even when you think it’s something that’s right up my alley — and even when, from time to time, I’d agree that it is. I have only so much bandwidth, both in time and attention.
I realize that this is bound to be disappointing to some folks, and may make me seem unreliable or mercurial or such. This assessment is both reasonable and accurate — fact is, that only thing that can be relied on with regard to me making comment on political or social topics is that I will do it when I think it’s right for me to do it, independent of what anyone else thinks on the matter.
In a larger sense, I don’t think this should be too surprising. I’ve never been coy about the fact that this site is about what I want to write about, when I want to. But I do think it’s worth reminding people: Just because you think I should write about something you think is important, doesn’t mean I will. It doesn’t mean you were wrong to bring that thing to my attention, merely that I keep my own counsel regarding the topics I write about. I do hope you understand. But even if you don’t, it’s how it works.