Researchers speak of the “Least Publishable Unit” of their research. I’m borrowing that concept to coin a new term for blog commenting: the “Least Mockable Unit” or LMU. Here it is, defined:
“The LMU is whatever small snippet a commenter can find to
mock or sneer at in a blog post or previous comment.”
Carving an LMU out of some prior discussion is easy. It doesn’t require you to think about what the commenter before you was really trying to say. It doesn’t require you to deal with the whole course of an argument from one comment to the next, or even from the beginning to end of one comment. It absolves you of asking yourself, “Based on what I know about this person from other interactions, what did he or she really mean by this?”
It can be fun, too. Making jokes is entertaining, after all. Some people seem to think making their debate opponents look stupid is fun, too, and there’s nothing quite like an LMU to do that for you.
I think that’s why we see LMU blogging as often as we do. There aren’t many other good reasons. It’s certainly ungracious. It sets aside the fact that in the high-velocity, short-article form that blogging is by nature, not every thought is fully expressed in all of its nuance, nothing gets checked over by independent reviewers before it’s published, and as a result sometimes we need to go back and explain ourselves further. It happens to all of us.
And it doesn’t display much by way of thoughtful interaction with a discussion, either. By mocking an LMU, I can walk away feeling like I’ve knocked down my opponent’s whole argument. Usually, though, what it means is either that I haven’t noticed what the argument actually was, or that if I have noticed, I haven’t addressed it for what it was.
For those of you who think LMU blogging is pretty lame, here’s a better way to approach it. Don’t look for LMUs. Don’t even look for GMUs (Greatest Mockable Units). Look for the strengths of your opponent’s argument. If you can find something there to dispute, then you’re probably on to something worthwhile.