Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Internet squabbling: it’s older than you think

Many of us have had one of those discussions on the internet where most of the time is spent reiterating what you’ve already said because the other person keeps changing what you said and then arguing against that.

Well, I was idly reading volume 8 of The Gentleman’s Magazine from 1738, when I saw the opening paragraph of a letter which appeared to be the latest in a long line of exchanges. It began:

A Third Letter to J.H. about Tythes.

As I am no great Lover of Controversy, so there is nothing in Controversy which I hate more, than to be obliged continually to be pointing out the Inconsistences, and clearing myself from the Misrepresentations of the Person I am engaged with.

It continued for three pages of small type (I’ll be honest, I didn’t read it) and at the end of this lengthy passage, the editor adds in italics:

N.B. We are afraid the main Argument not having been kept to, will make this Dispute tedious, and therefore insert this Reply so soon, that the Disputants may either leave the Matter to the Reader as it lies, or bring it to a short Issue; since, when the Debates come on, we shall be freighten’d for Room.

I believe these days that’d be called “locking the thread.”

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