Friday, February 29, 2008

Bad commenter ... bad

This post was caused by the “a-ha” moment in turn caused by this NYTimes piece. In may in fact be closer to a “well, duh” kind of thing, but at least it is in keeping with the title of this blog.

There has been a little talk about Barack Obama elevating the level of political discourse. Of course we all know about the surrogates for campaigns (like the Swift Boaters) and conservative (and a few liberals on) talk radio. But Obama’s efforts also do not seem to have filtered down to the internet and blogs. There seem to me to be a fair number of posts created just to provoke a reaction, and other posts which while containing new information, contain provocative statements. And this happens even more in comments, with people just agreeing with a slanted and nasty post, or disagreeing in a disagreeable manner, which results in several disagreeable retaliatory comments.

As far as I can tell most of us (in this region of the country) are amateurs at this. We know what we know, we are as well educated and/or as smart as we are. BTW, I have always felt that education and intelligence are less directly related than they ought to logically be, and that a poorly worded comment could still be very insightful. But often enough comments with extreme positions, conservative or in support of orthodoxy, are poorly worded and not insightful and can be left to stand on their own.

I don’t know what can be done about nasty posts and comments. I try to respond to most comments on my own blog. If there are blanket statements like that all unions or even one particular union is greedy, I will try to challenge it, although I try to be respectful. I know it makes for more enjoyable blog reading when you totally trash some one or some group. However sinking to that level essentially robs you of any claim to intellectual creditability. The best you can hope for if you are Ann Coulter, for example, is to have a louder microphone.

Not to say I have not been guilty of this myself on occasion. After the mayoral election I was following links on Early Returns of what blogs around the city were saying, looking for some outside my usual circle. I can across one young woman’s blog, where she favored Ravenstahl over DeSantis, and said why (mostly the residency thing, plus the city appears to be doing well under Ravenstahl). I commented at length on her blog, and couldn’t help myself in taking a couple of cheap shots in terms of questioning how informed she was (and really her intelligence). She fired back a comment no nastier but quite shorter than mine. I ended up apologizing because I felt an apology was appropriate (the young woman was being sincere in her assessment, and DeSantis’ website was hard to navigate, yada yada topic for another post), but the point is that few of us are immune to the temptation to be nasty (few of us in politics, none of us overall). Still, the moment where I find myself saying “I am laughing at you stupid conservatives” has got to be the moment I hang it up.

I am reminded of an acronym (or initialism?) that I saw for the first time recently: WTFWJD.

If you don’t get it, I won’t be the one to tell you.

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