WHAT IS THIS BLOG ABOUT?
This blog is partly a writing exercise, partly a sharpening of my rhetorical skills, and partly a nascent attempt to "find my voice" while fleshing out some ideas into books. A brief glance at my list of topics will indicate that my primary subjects are politics, current affairs, media criticism, and an occasional foray into the arts.
I avoid discussing mundane issues such as: what kind of day I had, where I'm vacationing, or what meal I've just eaten. There will be no spouse/pet/child photographs, because this blog is not about me or my family except in the most tangential fashion. Rather, it is about ideas. Accordingly, I often write about books and magazine articles in addition to discussing other blogs.
WHO ARE YOU?
Although neither a historian nor a political philosopher by trade, I am a voracious reader of those subjects (as well as current affairs, privacy issues, and church/state matters). I am an iconoclast who believes that sacred cows make the best hamburgers, and who examines the conventional wisdom from a critical perspective.
Again, my writing is not about myself; the ideas I express should be sufficient to stand by themselves, assuming clarity of expression on my part and reading comprehension skills on yours. I generally avoid disclosing personal information, as it can be both distracting and irrelevant to the subjects I discuss. (Attempting to reduce ad hominem attacks is also a consideration.) For example, I have removed personally identifying information from several early posts; I will do the same with comments if the need arises.
WHAT ARE YOUR QUALIFICATIONS?
Aside from being reasonably intelligent and articulate, I have little to offer except observation, analysis, and an eye for hypocrisy. I strive to present my opinions in at least a tolerably well-written manner, and I endeavor to be erudite without being pedantic.
WHY ARE YOU SO OPINIONATED? ARE YOU AN EXPERT?
Opinions can be either informed or uninformed; I strive for the former. I do not claim to be an expert in many of the subject areas about which I write. I completely agree--for instance--that my having read a dozen books on Marxism does not make me a go-to authority on non-capitalist economics. However, it makes me infinitely more well-versed on the subject than bloggers or commentators who feel qualified to denigrate Marx without having read anything he's ever written. (In a previous life at design school, a drawing professor once told my class that, realizing we would never draw as well as Michelangelo, his goal for us was to be able to draw "better than the bus driver." A similar analogy can be made here as well.)
WHY ARE YOU SO ARGUMENTATIVE/BIASED/ANTI-RELIGIOUS?
I am certainly "argumentative" in the sense of using logic and rhetoric to present facts and opinions; I am not so in the sense of being blindly contrarian. I am not blindly iconoclastic, and agree with the status quo when it teaches wisdom rather than merely dictates rules.
I freely admit to being "biased" in favor of the facts. On many of the issues I care about, the facts do not favor the status quo. Thus, I may be perceived as being unfair to those who believe that there are two opinions on each issue, deserving of equal respect. Perception, however, is not reality. Errors deserve to be examined and learned from, not given breathlessly respectful media coverage.
There is a substantial difference between being non-religious (which I am) and anti-religious (which I am not). This distinction, unnoticed by many theists, nonetheless needs to be drawn. While I recognize as valid many critiques of religion in general and various faiths in particular, I do not condemn theism as a whole except insofar as it represents a tendency to restrict critical thinking about subjects of the utmost importance.
WHAT DOES "COGNITIVE DISSIDENT" MEAN?
I have long admired those who dissented from the status quo: from Paine and Jefferson through Mill's On Liberty, Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, and on to modern-day firebrands. It is to these cognitive dissidents, those who thought differently, that my efforts are dedicated.
Accordingly, a grammatically correct rendering of the old Apple Computer slogan ("Think Different") seemed an appropriate when posed as a pun on psychologist Leon Festinger's concept of cognitive dissonance. (It was only after settling on this name that I discovered that the phrase "cognitive dissident" had been used for a Mother Jones article about the EFF's John Perry Barlow.)
HOW CAN I SUBMIT A CORRECTION?
Although this blog has no editor and no ombudsman, accuracy is nonetheless of paramount importance. I strive to attribute every quotation and verify every statement of fact. I am always amenable to correction either through the comment feature in individual posts, or by emailing me:
[cd] at [cognitivedissident] dot [org]