Today, thanks to the many-to-many communications that are possible in this Web 2.0 world of blogs and social networking, it's very easy for schlock marketing — and as such, the products it pushes — to gain an air of legitimacy. How? Easy: Just start a discussion. By engaging in the debate on a particular subject, both sides in the debate implicitly acknowledge that the subject is worthy of debate; and when one side of a controversy is the side that might ordinarily live on the fringes, the debate works to the advantage of that side regardless of the outcome. That's because all of a sudden, the fringe side of the debate — the voices and positions that had once rightly been relegated to the periphery — gain mainstream recognition. (This particular condition has been observed in the case of the whole "Intelligent Design vs. Evolution" matter, where evolutionary scientists are concerned that engaging in scientific debate with creationists dignifies the creationist position as something worthy of being argued about.)
Further, it's very easy for the purveyors of schlock-marketed products to change the character of the discussion for the worse. Instead of a reasoned back-and-forth which brings out the best of what our socially networked world offers, there frequently results a shouting match, in which he who yells the loudest wins, and in which anyone with a viewpoint at odds with that most loudly expressed is branded a hater, or is labeled as having an agenda, or both.
This quote is about software marketing. But it might as well be about the entire pulbic debate at this point. Particularly politics, but any civic debate, really.
I've noticed that the comments, especially the comments at newspapers and other widely read sites, tend to devolve into the worst wing-nuttery. And I think there is a feeling by some that we need to engage these nuts in a debate. Even if these folks aren't either thank tank operatives or are just kool-aid drinking dittoheads. It doesn't matter. The purpose isn't to reason, it's to stear the debate off course so that people forget what the original topic is and a new meme is introduced into the discourse in general.