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A Public Service Announcement -- Harrison | Main | Online Gambling Law
July 30, 2006

A Sunday Plea for Civility [Jack M.]

Dear Internet Friends, Readers, Commenters, and Blogospheric Warriors:

Today is Sunday, a day that is traditionally reserved for rest, religious observances, or simple quiet contemplation. It is in that spirit that I come to you today to ask for your indulgence.

For you see, I am concerned about the amount of bitterness and bile that seemingly has become much more prevalent in recent days. We have already seen it begin to take its toll. For example, our host at this site has announced that, in the lag time between all of his future posts, he has quit blogging altogether. Can we afford to let good people be driven out of the game by such an acrimonious atmosphere? If you are like me, you can answer this question in only one way; with a resounding "No!".

Now, I know what you are thinking. "Jack M.", you are saying to yourselves, "what can we possibly do to clean up the atmosphere on the Intertubes?"

The answer my friends is simple: rather than focus on the negative, spend your time dwelling on the positive! After all you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. At least I think that's how that gay thing my Grandmother used to say goes.

OK. See, how pervasive this whole "attack dog" mood in the blogosphere has become? I just did it myself. I took a perfectly nice platitude and demeaned it as "gay" for no apparent reason. As you can tell, I need to start taking my own advice. So I will. Change that last sentence to "At least I think that's how that thing my Grandmother used to say goes, not that there is anything wrong with that." See, much better. Much more civil.

Now, as proven by my personal example, withdrawing from the bitter pools of snark and bile may not be easy. That is why I come to you with some starter tips. Consider the information presented after the jump to be your starting point for dealing with bloggers or commenters who get under your skin. Just remember, the goal is to focus on the positive.

Blog Annoyances and A Civil Response:

1. Sockpuppetry:

Some bloggers engage in an inherently dishonest act labelled "sockpuppetry" in which they assume multiple "aliases" in comment threads in an attempt to support their own arguments with over the top praise.

Yes, this is an annoying. However, rather than labeling those who are practictioners of this art as "emotionally insecure, ego-driven, petty tyrants with inherently weak cognitive abilities and incredibly shallow arguments" you should instead take the high road and compliment them on their ability to "simultaneously compartmentalize multiple personalities while bravely attempting to engage in real-time discourse on complex current events." See how much more civil that is?

2. Single Issue Bloggers:

Almost as annoying as the sockpuppeteers are the "single-issue bloggers" who view every political discussion through the prism of their own private crusade. Hypothethically, an example of this might be found in, oh, I don't know, certain bloggers who support "gay marriage". Hypothetically.

Rather than posting a rash comment or sending a harsh e-mail to these folks bemoaning their "inability to see the world except through the prism of their own sexual gratification", compliment them instead for having "the moral clarity that comes from possessing minds unburdened by excess thought."

3. Illogical Bloggers:

Some bloggers/commentors choose to engage in an annoying debating trick in which any argument they disagree with is simply dismissed by said blogger as being "illogical" regardless of the actual merits of the statement presented. This is an especially annoying tactic, as time has shown that the more logical and the more devastating your argument is to a blogger's beliefs, the more likely it is that it will be branded as "illogical" and swept under the rug.

For example, suppose I were to get in an argument about math with Paul McCartney. Or Paul Simon. Or Paulie Shore. Really, for purposes of this example, any Paul will do. And the argument went as follows:

Jack M.: 2+2=4.
Paul: 2+2=5.
Jack M.: No it doesn't. It equals 4.
Paul: It equals 5 for exceedingly large values of 2.
Jack M. No, it doesnt. 2 = 2.
Paul: What is 2.5 +2.5?
Jack M.: 5.
Paul: See? 2+2=5.
Jack M. That makes no sense. 2.5 isn't the same as 2.
Paul: It doesn't have to be, it just has to be an exceedingly large value for 2 as I stated before. Are you too dense to understand this? It's logic. For 2+2 = 5 just keep increasing the value for 2. Tool.
Jack M.: You are comparing apples and oranges.
Paul: And you don't understand logic. This argument is over.
Paul: Deletes Jack's Comments.
Paul: Deletes Jack's Comments.

There really isn't much you can do here. My advice? Just refrain from engaging in debate. Avoid eye contact at all costs, and just keep walking right on by.

4. Traffic Santa Bloggers:

Some bloggers are known as "traffic santa's" as a single link from their widely read blog to your lesser known blog can bring in a virtual avalanche of new readers. Unfortunately, these bloggers know about their standing and seem petty about when, and to whom, they will give the gift of linkage.

As the 'sphere is all about gathering traffic, this can, inevitably, lead to tensions erupting into the open. Rather than complain that "I have to write 150 posts on razor blades and nanotechnology before some hick from East Tennessee will link me", take a deep breath and remember: civility.

Instead, you should take a few moments and write a complimentary e-mail introducing yourself, your blog, and what you think this particular "Traffic Santa" might be interested in reading. It wouldn't hurt to add a line complimenting his ability to distill your 7,500 word post into a single word like "Heh", either. Perhaps you should say he "perfectly captured the essence of the point being made, and reframed the argument in a way that illuminated it for all to see."

5. Bloggers who support different Presidential candidates than you do:

This is another annoyance that really gets magnified in group blogs where the writers involved support competing individuals. As you can imagine, the rivalry between the competing candidate's camps gets fierce, and, worst of all, you often don't even have a team to root for as your preferred candidate may not be one of the one's constantly being touted.

For example, suppose one commenter on a group blog is a Female who is taken in with a certain Governor of a small, New England state. And another is a Man who is enamored with a former Mayor of a Major Metropolitan Area. But you support a completely different candidate, and are frustrated that he/she gets no love from the same blog. What do you do?

Remember, civility first! When writing the 1st blogger, let her know that "it's rare in this day in age to see someone as passionately engaged in a nascent Presidential campaign as you. In fact, I haven't seen such feminine devotion to a stranger since David Cassidy went on tour in 1977. Thanks for reinvigorating today's politics with the youthful vigor and estrogen derived energy missing since the Partridge Family graced the cover of Tiger Beat Magazine". After all, increasing women's participation in all aspects of politics is a good thing, is it not?

As for the second blogger? A simple missive complementing him on the "the obvious confidence he has in his own sexuality, as evidenced by his very public 'Man-Crush' on the Mayor" should be sufficient to bolster his ego and get your point across.

6. Hack bloggers:

Then there are the bloggers who, generally speaking, contribute virtually nothing of value and yet they inexplicably end up on the payroll of media "watchdog" organizations like, say, "Media Matters".

These bloggers make, in more ways than one, a compelling target. Their posts are usually poorly written. They are often quick to accuse perceived opponents as "racists" or "sexists" or "Nazis" or "fascists" over something as simple as a disagreement over whether McDonalds or Wendy's serves better french fries.

Further, these bloggers are often quick to make disparaging personal attacks on such things as another bloggers appearance. When the God's honest truth is that their bathroom mirrors aren't exactly reflecting an image of Michelangelinean artistry either, this is just a tad hypocritical, and, accordingly, serves as fertile ground in which incivility may bloom.

So do you write back and say "Hey lard ass, get your head out of that bucket of Crisco because it isn't polite to type with your mouth full?" Of course you don't. Not if you've read this far. Because now you know that it is all about civility now.

Instead, compliment this blogger. He isn't a "hack", he's just a "diamond in the rough". And he isn't a consumer of filet of fish sandwiches in Walrus-ian proportions. Instead, he is a man "with a hunger for experiencing what the world has to offer". Also, the chronic misspellings that plague his posts? These are not evidence of a weak or lackadaisical mind. Far from it. Instead congratulate him for getting "so many of the other letters in their correct positions!". This is also a chance to show off your empathy and understanding of his personal troubles. After all, typing when your fingers are the size of tree trunks has to be an arduous and demanding task. Make sure your note his "personal struggle" to "speak truthiness to power."

And that wraps up the first installment of my guide to making the blogosphere a friendlier place. I hope you find it helpful.

And if you don't? What the hell do I care? I don't know any of you morons anyway.

Have a great, and civil, afternoon!

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posted by Ace at 10:27 AM

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