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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Civility Revisisted, a blog post in three acts

by folkbum

Prologue: Remember where we started?

Act I: An email from a reader who wished to remain anonymous:
I think the growth of strong liberal voices in the Cheddarsphere contributes to Owen's perception of a decline in civility, not because liberals are less civil but because they're more likely to challenge his ideas. I remember when the dominant voices in Wisconsin blogs were mostly conservative -- Badger Blog Alliance, Owen, Kevin Binversie, Sykes -- and that overall the conservative blogs outnumbered the liberal ones almost 2-to-1. For awhile there it seemed like it was pretty much just you and Xoff on the other side. Now the raw numbers are almost even and with the addition of Rowen, Soglin, Whallah, Cory Liebmann and the Mikes (Plaisted and Mathias) the blogosphere seems more balanced and Owen's probably more likely to get a decent rebuttal to his posts instead of just a pat on the back. I don't deny that there's some civility lacking, but I also think bloggers on both sides sometimes tend to interpret legitimate criticism as a personal attack, just because blogging by nature is such a personal endeavor.
All true, especially that last point. When you spend a long time crafting an important post--the research, the writing, the editing--you can take it personally when someone tries to tell you how you're wrong. I like to think I'm good at knowing the difference between criticism of ideas and criticism of me, and I know which to respond to and which to laugh off.

Act II: The uncivil defend themselves.
Hermes: I hope my readers understand that I sometimes require them to humor my own indignations, condescensions, angry outbursts, and even occasional naughty words. [. . .] That's part of my idiom, my shtick. This is not a family-friendly blog! I'm not here to make you feel nice. I assume I have a mature, educated adult audience. I write about controversial topics. I write purposely to fire people up - to get them mad enough to go out there and grapple with issues, engage me in debate, and actively learn about the world around them.

Plaisted: I think sharp language that keeps the focus on what people say and what they do to advance their own political agendas and those of others is fair comment. I say this knowing that I have been attacked for my own comments and characterizations. I try to challenge and engage people on the other side on their terms about what they are saying and doing on subjects they have chosen to engage in.
That's on the left. None of the uncivil on the right have offered a defense, and some, in fact, have offered massive dumps of irony instead.

Act III: Blogroll watch. Vague or specific promises in some quarters--notably, these quarters--to clean the uncivil from the blogrolls have, far as I can tell, produced no changes. At least this blogger was already off most of their lists ... but surely the line has been finally crossed with that post?

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