Are Unauthorized Edits a Useful Approach to Debate?

When I saw Andrew Breitbart flag this piece at Big Hollywood as exemplary work, I thought about Fisking it to demonstrate why I think the conservative entertainment blog should aim higher. (Click through and give it a quick skim before reading on.)

Upon reflection, however, I decided on a different approach, and I wonder what everyone thinks of my experiment. The notion is that perhaps it would be easier to avoid talking past interlocutors in political debates if instead of criticizing their work as an adversary, you put on the hat of a skeptical editor. Thus I’ve annotated the Big Hollywood piece on Avatar in much the same way I would’ve done if the writer forwarded it to me as a first draft, flagging what I regard as problematic arguments and passages. Quite apart from whether I’ve executed this approach well, do folks think that it has its place in the blogosphere?

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4 Responses to “Are Unauthorized Edits a Useful Approach to Debate?”

  1. citifieddoug Says:

    I like the format, but I’m not sure why you’d answer that boilerplate. The only novelty I saw was the use of “avatar” as a film title.

  2. kanne Says:

    Bravo. It’s amazing what a little editing can do. I rarely read blogs or reviews due to cluttered writing. Clarity is not boring. Needless words are.

    The Elements of Style is still in print. When in doubt, skim the Contents section. It provides a useful checklist of basics for writing.

  3. silentbeep Says:

    Sorry don’t like the approach because I think the unasked for editing is slightly patronizing. You are not the editor, and there is a certain authority there when you have chosen to take on such a role, that isn’t warranted. Debating although can be adversarial, is more of a peer-to-peer approach. You can always make clear in any critique with your tone, that you don’t mean to be scathing.

    As far as having a place in the blogosphere: I don’t know really. My first thought is: why not just come out with the argument? It seems like a “soft” approach and what’s the point of that? Is it to be “nice”? Is it to be more engaging? Who are you trying to engage with this approach exactly? an argument or a fisking can be done in a way that isn’t so adversarial. There’s a way to do that, without this editing approach.

    As a reader I don’t find the “editing” approach to be that compelling to read. As a blogger, if you edited me in such a manner, I would probably appreciate the more conciliatory approach.

  4. Instapundit, Cont’d - Conor Friedersdorf - Metablog - True/Slant Says:

    […] Let me set the record straight: with the possible exception of Human Events, a publication that may betoo corrupt to be worth saving, I want every journalistic enterprise I critique to improve and succeed. When I criticize Mr. Breitbart, or his sites Big Hollywood, Big Government and Big Journalism, part of my project is pressuring them to do better work. In fact, I’d happily provide my counsel to anyone at those sites privately and free of charge, and I think that much of the critiques I’ve published thus far are constructive. […]

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