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December 27, 2004

on blogosphere manners

David Schmidtz: December 27, 2004

I have a slightly different take on the mud-slinging aspect that some of us have been lamenting. When I'm dealing with people I know, especially face to face, they're almost alway civil, supportive, encouraging, and so on. More to the point, they're discrete. In the blog universe, it's a different crowd and a different set of rules, so one gets an altogether different kind of feedback, in some cases altogether unguarded. And it's all voluntary. We talk only when we want, and people listen only when they want. Pretty cool, really.

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Comments

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Um, did you mean discreet?

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Dec 27, 2004 6:18:32 PM


Posted by: Reader

Beat me to it. But don't let their spelling errors make you think that they're a bunch of no-nothings not worthy of the dialog.

Posted by: Reader | Dec 27, 2004 6:43:55 PM


Posted by: Mark

The mask of the internet is a fascinating phenomenon. When Joe Lieberman was chosen as Al Gore's running mate, AOL surged with anti-Semitisc remarks and their complaints department was overwhelmed. A question to ask:
Is this the scary, deep repressed hatred that we really need to worry about? (I remember talking to Cass Sunstein when he came to my college and was putting out Republic.com, and he thought that this kind of incident was very disturbing.)
Or is it merely that the internet - blogging, chatrooms, whatnot, give us a place to just vent?
Should the Lieberman incident really make us think that
(a) America is incredibly more Anti-Semitic than previously thought; or,
(b) People in America today have a lot of stress, and have found a better way to vent than, say, fighting with their families, or beating on each other?

Posted by: Mark | Dec 27, 2004 7:01:42 PM


Posted by: schmidtz

Funk & Wagnall's

discreet: tactful and judicious, esp. in dealing with others.

discrete: adj. 1. distinct or separate. 2. Made up of distinct parts [Var. of discreet]

Not sure whether the last bit means 'discrete' is an acceptable spelling. (I meant the people in question are tactful and judicious, but I think I would have been on pretty strong ground in calling them distinct or separate.)

Posted by: schmidtz | Dec 27, 2004 7:09:47 PM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Indeed you would have been. In fact, I pondered whether you did and, if so, what I was failing to grasp. Being a bear of very little brain, failing to grasp someone else's point is a very common occurrence for me.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Dec 27, 2004 7:18:06 PM


Posted by: DonBoy

But don't let their spelling errors make you think that they're a bunch of no-nothings not worthy of the dialog.

*cough*

Posted by: DonBoy | Dec 27, 2004 8:00:40 PM


Posted by: Reader

[sotto voce] "Yo, DonBoy: Get hip to the left2right injokes; don't be a *makes L7 with fingers*. Peace out."

Posted by: Reader | Dec 28, 2004 1:44:27 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

It has often been lamented that people hide behind the anonymity of the internet to behave badly in public, in ways they never would face-to-face. There's an element of truth to it, but much exaggerated. I've been arguing online for nearly twenty years now (really!) and I've found people who have something to contribute generally do it with a minimum of animus. Profanity, low sarcasm or name-calling indicate someone frustrated with his own inability to define (or defend) his point of view.

Of course, you can make someone howlingly, eye-poppingly angry while maintaining perfect good manners. That is what one might call "the fun part."

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 28, 2004 8:27:45 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Arguing in the blogosphere rather puts me in mind of scenes from Pyramids and Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. In the nation of Ephebe on Discworld, philosophers are treated with great respect and have high status. They also do their arguing in bars, drink a lot, and get into brawls over their debates. They ain't genteel, and why should they be?

Archimedes wanted a place to stand so he could move the damn world; Athenians gave Socrates a hemlock cocktail because of what he wanted to do. Philosophers often want to get their hands on the levers of thought and power that move millions of people in their bodies, hearts, and minds. It is a historical peculiarity, I think, that they now attempt to do so nestled away in university departments where their greatest career worry is achieving tenure (instead of oh, staying alive until and after the revolution, or finding enough food to eat if their patron got bored with them.)

But it's still pretty fun in the blogosphere, which is why most of us do it. I think some of the writers of this blog thought they'd left their crazier bar-hopping days behind them. He he. Funny how things come full circle sometimes, eh? But welcome anyway, and if you see a bottle flying through the air toward your head, don't forget to duck.

(...when you can catch the bottle in mid-air and send it sailing back toward the assailant...oh, that's where it really gets fun.)

Posted by: slarrow | Dec 28, 2004 9:53:37 AM


Posted by: Bob Flynn

This is a rather limited topic: Some people are rude when they argue on the internet. Agreed.

Solution: Those who believe in good manners -- use them. And, remember, use them more judiciously at the heated moments when you are tempted to discard them.

Posted by: Bob Flynn | Dec 28, 2004 12:51:48 PM


Posted by: Daniel M.

Manners?!

Another Mandevillian solution?

Posted by: Daniel M. | Dec 28, 2004 1:50:01 PM


Posted by: Josh Jasper

Patrick and Theresa Neilsen Hayden have a fairly diverse readership, well mannered debates, and a broad range of political opinions. There have only been a few "trolls" there, and they were swiftly vanquished by the forces of civility. You can see the blogs here. Elecrolite and Making Light.

Posted by: Josh Jasper | Dec 28, 2004 3:12:28 PM


Posted by: T Cook

Exactly so!

Posted by: T Cook | Dec 28, 2004 6:12:31 PM


Posted by: J Darcy

The idea that making someone "howlingly, eye-poppingly angry" by any means whatsoever is "the fun part" is IMO very much part of the problem David Schmitz was trying to address. Would you, S. Weasel, feel safe engaging in the same sort of "fun" in real life? I suspect it might lose its appeal somewhat after the first or second time some "howlingly, eye-poppingly angry" person demonstrated some of the methods available in meatspace to discourage trolling - which remains trolling even when it's done with a thin veneer of manners BTW. I've been online for over twenty years myself, and learned that lesson somewhere around year two.

For me, the fun part is seeing people come to a new realization about the nature of the world they live in. Anger from people who'd rather not see the truth is an unfortunately necessary part of the process, not the goal.

Posted by: J Darcy | Dec 30, 2004 2:17:53 PM


Posted by: PLN

I find both amusing and depressing the extent to which some blog-readers' preconceived frames affect how they interpret the posts here and therefore the substance of the comments. A reader coming to L2R itching for a fight with the arrogant liberal professors sees Schmidtz' post and thinks it must be a Trojan horse for a Marxist road to serfdom; libertarian Will Wilkinson, knowing that Schmidtz is in fact one of the most distinguished libertarian-minded philosophers in the country, looks at the same post and sees nothing of the sort.

If people read blogs in order to take seriously the possibility that they could be wrong, they might be better served by pretending every post was written by their intellectual hero, be it Rand, Mises, Rawls, or Marx. But I suppose that would take away what S. Weasel calls "the fun part." So much for Habermasian public spheres!

Posted by: PLN | Dec 30, 2004 5:16:51 PM


Posted by: stubbs

If everyone had to sign his comments with his real name and address, 99% of the nastiness would disappear. Neighbors do not behave like anonymous posters.

You can behave like a jackass with impunity in a large city where almost no one knows you and you don't hand out your name. Try that in a town of 500, where evryone knows you.

Posted by: stubbs | Dec 31, 2004 12:36:40 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Would you, S. Weasel, feel safe engaging in the same sort of "fun" in real life?

Certainly. My memory of school days is just that: a series of howling arguments between the unlike-minded. But they were substantive arguments, none the less. And I came online in those dim Usenet days when you did sign your posts with your true name, address and (yes, even) phone number.

This is what an intellectually hegemonous environment will do for you: rob you of the ability to harness your temper and marshal your arguments in the heat of the moment, when all your monkey instincts are telling you to shout "ROAAAAHH!" and fling things. It is a learned skill, and hard won.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Jan 1, 2005 8:59:00 AM


Posted by: mynym

" It is a learned skill, and hard won."

I've found that ultimately, still keeping your wits about you in similar sense, satire is best. If you are going to fling something, fling it hard and on target.

Besides, the more bitter your words are to eat, the less mistakes you will make next time.

You need fire to refine and define an idea.

Posted by: mynym | Jan 2, 2005 12:05:44 PM


Posted by: Deb

The ratio of women/men in the header is very low, compared to the base rate of women in academia. The ratio of posts by women/posts by men is much lower than that.

It's almost 100% white men posting. It would be easy to show a running tally (maybe by month) of post:

white male: 73
white female: 7
non-white male: 2
non-white female: 0

I wonder what the ratio will be (500:50? 1000:90? 2000: 170?) before the regulars say, "Gee, we're supposed to be the good, lefty guys and look how happy we are to have Left2Right all to ourselves. That's kind of scary. We should DO something about it."

If you guys are the good, enlightened, non-sexist, non-racist guys, the situation is even worse than I thought.

The blogosphere really is depressing sometimes.

Posted by: Deb | Jan 3, 2005 2:54:38 PM


Posted by: rtr

I suppose we'll just have to take solace in the fact that we are all human beings (I think I recall only one post claiming to have been written by a dog). Maybe there's some merit to the idea that sex and race don't matter except to sexists and racists (and of course those affected by sexists and racists).

It wouldn't be the first time I've heard arguments claiming black people cannot be racists because of the fact of their skin color being black nor women sexists because of the fact of their sex being female. Maybe we could relabel male mefale. It's a new year so comprosmising moods might still be high.

Posted by: rtr | Jan 3, 2005 3:33:54 PM


Posted by: Terrier

Deb, most of the people who post here in reply to the started threads are not liberal! Most text you see on this site is written by conservatives and libertarians.

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 3, 2005 3:36:11 PM


Posted by: Deb

To rtr: I figured someone would say something like no dogs or artichokes or one-legged, jewish armenians have posted to try to minimize the fact that left2right is even more dominated by white men than its membership (which is already very biased, relative to the base rates in academic social science). Thanks for confirming my hypothesis.

To Terrier: My perception is that the white men who dominate this list think of themselves as leftwing, Democratic, liberal, etc.

Posted by: Deb | Jan 3, 2005 4:09:49 PM


Posted by: Terrier

Do you read Deb? I AM left-wing, Democratic, Liberal and so it goes and the vast majority of posts here are from the OTHER side. The educators that introduce the topics admit their mostly liberal bias but if you have any experience at all on the net you should know that if you ask for an opinion you're sure to find ten libertarians responding before anyone else (and yeah, in my experience, most libertarians are men - I think the black-and-whiteness and the great-dead-white-man-whose-opinions-I-can-ape that is the nature of that belief appeals mostly to men.)

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 3, 2005 4:30:25 PM


Posted by: Deb

Still don't understand what we disagree about, yappy dog.

I think we agree that the people who post on Left2Right (as opposed to comment) are liberal, white, male, academics.

I do not have a sense of the ratio of Left2Right among the commenters. I think you are saying that you are a lefty, but most commenters are righties. You might be right, I don't know. You're a lefty, I'm a lefty...but it might could be that most of the folks pissing and jousting here in the comments of left2right are libertarians and conservatives. I just dunno.

Posted by: Deb | Jan 3, 2005 4:47:02 PM


Posted by: arbitrary aardvark

Anonymity is one of the best and worst things about the net. http://majors.blogspot.com goes into some detail about the legal status of online anonymous advocacy. said the aardvark.

Posted by: arbitrary aardvark | Jan 3, 2005 7:43:30 PM


Posted by: Deborah Frisch

I am about as unanonymous as they get, aardvark.

My name is Deborah Frisch. I live in Tucson, Arizona. I teach in the psychology department at the YOUkneeversity of AIRYzona.

You want to come find me, see that I'm real, hold a .357 magnum in my face, i say:

BRING IT ON.

Posted by: Deborah Frisch | Jan 3, 2005 8:02:40 PM


Posted by: DF

One day, some cheeky blogger is going to be offed by a psychopathic blogger. Will it be a scuffle@left2right? idunno.

i hope to hell it ain't me, i gotta tell ya.

but i feel kind of guilty for not blowing myself up on the steps of the lincoln memorial when i lived in d.c. while i was doing out pork for sam..so in a way, i WANT some futhermucker A-hole to off me because i pissed him off in the blogosphere.

BRING IT ON, FUTHERMUCKERS!!!!!!!!


Posted by: DF | Jan 3, 2005 8:06:43 PM


Posted by: Jim Hu

So, Dr. Frisch,

Do your students get full marks when they spell that way on your SIGH-COLLAR-JEE 290 exams?

Posted by: Jim Hu | Jan 3, 2005 8:22:48 PM


Posted by: DF

I don't ask questions about hay soos, Jim who. But thanx for asking.

Posted by: DF | Jan 3, 2005 8:39:00 PM


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