I have often wondered why the viewpoint of the ChainLink is so very skewed. But the forum has once again come to the rescue with a definitive answer. Today a thread was begun regarding the Comprehensive State Plan for Bicycling here in Illinois. The original poster wrote the following:
First comprehensive bike plan for the state. Yay!
“IDOT gearing up for statewide bike path study,” by Kurt Erickson.
ChainLinkers do not like to read things with which they might not agree. So the next respondent wrote:
Reply by Lisa Curcio 3 hours ago
As usual, best to skip the comments!
I assume this is what the RFP posted earlier this week was referring to.
An explanation of their bias regarding comments was then provided:
Reply by Cameron Puetz 1 hour ago
I have never seen a general interest publication where the comments are anything better than terrible, regardless of what the article is about. In fact I’ve found the wider the audience, the worse the comments, until you reach the practical limit of how bad comments can get demonstrated by YouTube.
In all fairness comments whether they come from True Believers or Doubters are usually biased. It just depends which side you are on when you begin to interpret the meaning of the comments. But the next response was the one which caught my eye:
Reply by Zoetrope 1 hour ago
That’s the beauty of the chainlink. With over 7000 members, and only the same 50 or less people posting day in and day out, we get to read the same awesome thoughts forever.
Now what is even more worrisome is that people who should be looking for a wide variety of views on cycling are coming to the ChainLink Forum to bathe in the glow of the True Believers:
Reply by Melissa 1 hour ago
Plus, the team from IDOT’s Bicycling program has recently joined The Chainlink. Check out the inaugural discussion here:
No wonder politics is such an incestuous business. People gravitate to blogs and forums where they hear what reinforces their biases and that makes them feel better. It is the online equivalent of a Critical Mass Ride.
We humans find it stressful to be in situations where others who suffer the same sorts of stresses present us with options that defy what we have heard from our leadership. Whether it is a religious fracas or having to do with cycling infrastructure we all prefer to hear what soothes us. I know that I do. But is that what is best for me?
Tonight the candidates for the Presidential Race 2012 will square off after many hours of preparation. Do you suppose that what they faced during their trial debates were questions framed in the language that they already know and love? Or do you suppose that they are tossed into the mock debate with questions framed the way their opponents might like? I am guessing the latter.
If ChainLinkers are expecting to have their forum be the cycling equivalent of the Drudge Report then fine. That will of course mean that anything put forward by the trained seals who haunt this particular wharf will gladden their hearts. But they will seldom if ever get an opposing view and with that the chance to engage in real debate.
I think the trained seals have won out. Jim Jones would be proud of this development. It would mean that nothing that is threatening to the urban cyclists view of life is likely to take hold and cause the Faithful to stray.
We usually smile knowingly when we hear the Religious Right spin their tales about the sins of abortion or same sex marriage and roll our eyes in mock derision. But like it or not they have a purpose in challenging our views. And we have a role in challenging theirs. It is when we all stop listening to the other side that things get dicey.
The guys in the Middle East who decide to kill and destroy because they cannot sustain criticisms of the Prophet Mohammed are much like the Evangelicals and Catholics who try and maintain that they too are under siege by our government when they are required to offer medical insurance for purposes they find objectionable. Everyone has a right to their beliefs but should also have to defend them in the usual manner with reasoned debate.
I fear that the Taliban-like mentality has descended upon the cycling community and not for the better. When the percentage of people who routinely comment and get involved on the ChainLink Forum is 50 out of a totality of some 7,000 that works out to less than one percent! To be precise it is 0.714285714286%.
That is hardly a representative sampling of the ChainLink community and of the urban cycling community in general. The need to silence folks who disagree with the trained seals is appalling. But if that is what we expect of ourselves then so be it. I am only one person. But I will never yield my right to be critical of a movement which I believe has a good purpose. To do anything less would be to welcome the rule of Big Brother in our very midst.