A NY Times magazine article about the blog Little Green Footballs has this bit of insight (among others):
... hypothetical speech exists on the Internet in exactly the same way whether it was delivered in 2007 or 1997. The speaker will never put it behind him. ... Not only can the past never really be erased; it co-exists, in cyberspace, with the present, and an important type of context is destroyed. This is one reason that intellectual inflexibility has become such a hallmark of modern political discourse, and why, so often, no distinction is recognized between hypocrisy and changing your mind.
Emphasis mine. This is made even worse by the fact that true progress cannot happen without shedding some viewpoints and embracing others, and that this happens doubly as much on the individual level as it does the collective one.
I sometimes think the more "political" a person is (in the crass, overbearing, Glenn Beck sense of the word), the more they admire someone who stands their ground and doesn't break rank — another way of saying they never change their mind even when confronted with plenty of evidence for doing so. Consistency is seen as more important than maturation, which tells me the other person is being idealized for a quality that is more akin to a parent than a peer — and that a fundamental kind of immaturity is at work, the kind where what's most important about the world is that you have it your way and that it never ever does anything unexpected.
Now what to do about this sort of thing on the 'Net itself? Well, for one, put back in the context that all too often gets deleted. An extremely minor example: I wasn't a fan of Vampire Hunter D when I started reading it, but I became one, and I try to own up to that fact so it doesn't seem like I'm contradicting myself.
But if we contradict ourselves? Very well, we contradict ourselves. We are large, we contain multitudes. And we're all grownups here; we can handle it.