07 February 2010

Chacun à son goût

This post was inspired by a couple of threads elsewhere about the etiquette of blogging and blog commenting.

One is here, by conservative blogger Pamela Hart, several of whose recent comment threads have become engulfed in name-calling and acrimony because she allowed liberal commenters to express their views there and some of her more hard-line right-wing regulars objected. Her current thread is to discuss this problem and to re-assert the more civil standards she insists on.

The other is here, already linked briefly yesterday, by liberal blogger Truth 101, who had been accused of over-use of insults and ridicule to attack right-wingers. He came under some fire from the left as well, for "giving other liberals a bad name". This was not mainly because of any comments he had written elsewhere, but because of things he'd written on his own blog, some of which a couple of rightists had copied and cited out of context elsewhere.

My take is this: Different people have different ways of expressing themselves. Not everyone can be or wants to be genteel, and not everyone is comfortable with an atmosphere of brawling and profanity. There's room on the internet for a wide range of styles and tones and ways of expressing oneself. And the only way that can work is if every blogger is able to set the tone they choose for their own blog and make it stick.

Some people are brawlers by nature and like a free-for-all. If they run their own comment sections that way, it's not a problem. If they go to another blog that has different standards and behave that way, it is a problem.

I get hateful and insulting comments on this blog every so often. Readers don't see them because of the comment moderation, but I do. If I were so thin-skinned that I let that kind of thing bother me, I'd have dropped out of the blogosphere years ago. I don't let such comments bother me, but I don't let them appear either, because that's not the kind of conversation I want to see here. I don't like it, but I just can't see getting terribly worked up about it.

And as for off-topic comments -- I call this "change-the-subject trolling" -- some people simply have an agenda of their own and will hijack any thread they can, anywhere, and try to turn it to a discussion of their own obsessions. This is hardly different from commercial spam and should be treated as such.

But all that is just how I do it. Pamela Hart and Truth 101 and all other bloggers have an absolute right to set their own standards on their own blogs, whether anybody else likes it or not. Any commenter who doesn't want to abide by a blog's standards, or is offended by its rhetorical style, is free to go read (and comment on) something else they find more congenial. Yes, Truth 101 sometimes uses more colorful language than I would, but again, I can't see getting terribly worked up over it. That's his style. The one thing we absolutely don't need is somebody declaring what the limits of correct forms of political expression should be and then running all over the internet trying to control everybody whose rhetorical style doesn't conform to what he has decided is appropriate.

As for efforts such as Pamela's to conduct a civil debate between the left and right, I find them admirable, but am convinced they can only succeed where there is a very firm hand to enforce that civility. There are some people on both sides who can debate politely and there are some who can't. For that matter, there are extremists on both sides who frankly don't deserve politeness or respect, from anyone.

It's in the nature of extremists that they don't just hate the other side. Even more, perhaps, they hate the people on their own side who aren't quite as ready to hate the other side. I see examples of this all over the place.

And it's to be expected that the arguments will sometimes get heated. The differences between the left and the right are real, and they matter. If you support gay marriage, strict church-state separation, and a broad social safety net (as I do), then the people who oppose those things are a force which has to be converted (unlikely) or defeated. There's no way around that.

The blogosphere should and will continue to be just what it is. Everyone will continue to do it their own way, and there will continue to be people who object to how other people do it. Everyone will have his or her own standards, and will be able to enforce those standards (fortunately) on his or her own blog, but (even more fortunately) not on anyone else's.


Blogger Karen said...

Great post, Infidel...agree with everything you said.

But I'm ROTFLMAO at things people were saying about Truth 101!! That's not the same Truth 101 who sent me a 'Friend request' on Facebook which I accepted months ago. I wish he was because I need him to help me fend off the nasty rethugs I encounter there... one being my hateful nasty faux-news loving rethug sister.

We got into a huge political brouhaha and I let her have it right there in Facebookland for all to see. After all, she was spewing her political right-leaning hate on my FB Wall and I told her if she didn't like what was being said, to get off my Wall!! She couldn't take it and removed me as a friend; so there you have it... HA!

07 February, 2010 10:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a conservative and I agree with you completey (probably the first and last time, so let's pause to bask in the warmth...)

I don't like slobbery righwing attacks any more than leftwing ones.

I don't use a lot of bad language and just trash people on my blog, but I love to read other such rants if they are artfully done.

Here is my personal rule on ad homimem: I will call people and groups of people names in my blog posts as part of my argumentation (it adds color), but I will never call someone a name in a thread.

I try to conduct myself as if I were face-to-face with my interlocutor.

I was recently accused by a liberal reader of talking out of both sides of my mouth: I blast libs in my blog posts, but when I visit liberal blogs I use more conciliatory language.

My answer: Well, duh! I say things in my own house that I would never just barge into your house and say.

I am a frequent troll at various liberal blogs because I enjoy the give and take and I like to see how the other half lives.

If I were a foaming at the mouth insulter I would expect to be launched into the void. To the credit of the lib blogs I visit, I have always been given a voice, even when some other liberal readers complained.

07 February, 2010 11:08  
Blogger Sue said...

Infidel I am proud to say I am one who gives silverfiddle a voice. He is correct, he is ALWAYS polite and gives his opinion, and I hope he says I am polite back to him.

I used to visit just conservative blogs, back a year or 2 ago. I didn't know of any leftie blogs and was thrilled to find them! I think I found you at papamoka? I forget, anyway you have been a loyal friend even if my posts are way more "colorful" then you are used to, lol. I'm just tryin' to keep it real, and have fun too! :-)

07 February, 2010 11:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Karen: Interestingly enough, the latest comment on Truth 101's post is from Pamela, who said something similar to what you do here.

Your own blog style is certainly unique -- a series of Rorschach pictures for commenters to react to! I don't comment on every one, but I follow it closely.

Having an ideologically-hostile person in the family can be a strain. I think the only way to deal with it is to avoid controversial topics when dealing with the individual in question.

Silverfiddle: I actually don't regard you as a troll because you don't do the kinds of things trolls do. A troll would be someone like the "Anonymous" a week ago whose comment (not posted) read, in full, "Once a prick, always a prick, and that goes for both you and Obama." Feeble enough, as insults go, but completely pointless.

I've always differentiated between the rational conservatives and what I consider the crazies (and yes, we have crazies on the left too).

07 February, 2010 11:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sue: Well, there you are, there's a big difference between Silverfiddle and the ever-addled Lisa.

I can't remember how I originally found most of the blogs I read, but I always read yours (and Leslie's and quite a few others) -- I wouldn't want to read only people who have exactly the same writing style as I do! We're a community, and a very variegated one -- not a homogenous cult.

07 February, 2010 11:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Infidel. And I can vouch that Sue is indeed polite and is woman enough to let conservatives comment at her blog (I've seen others there besides me.)

We can disagree without being disagreeable. I don't even think someone must walk on eggshells, but just avoid the slobbery stupid stuff like Infidel mentioned.

BTW, Sue burned down the barn over the Palin speech! Damn!

07 February, 2010 11:59  
Blogger Karen said...

Just read Pamela's post, and I echo her words... Truth 101 is exactly how she described him. I've seen family pics of him on Facebook; he's a nice family man.

You see, I'm a nice person, also, until someone tries to stuff their political/religious beliefs down my throat... then look out because I come out with my gloves on! :o)

07 February, 2010 12:10  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Referring to whole groups and philosophies in a disparaging or malicious manner is one thing. But, as you say Silverfiddle, attacking individuals personally is not too cool, gets everyone's' tempers flaring and detracts from the topic under discussion and has destroyed more than one blog.

I like and respect Pam enormously. I think she's bright as hell but she needs to take control and moderate and then, as Infidel suggests, nobody even sees the ugly or who gets deleted. This deters the escalation.

Obviously threatening and cajoling doesn't work.

The comment I left last night will be the last one until the situation changes. This argument has been going on for far too long.

07 February, 2010 12:11  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Silverfiddle: What you do is called lurking, which us a-okay. You are in no way a troll.

07 February, 2010 12:42  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

SF: That was a barn overdue for burning:-)

Karen: Proselytizing is a pain! But I think we both know one person who will never "come out with gloves on" -- she wouldn't be able to read her notes.....:-)

TNL: I've noticed that more and more blogs are activating moderation these days. Trolling is becoming something of an industry (as is spam -- if I didn't moderate, half the comments here would be viagra ads) and it's becoming a necessity. Pamela is at least a diligent deleter, when people cross the line.

07 February, 2010 12:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the ad-bots are way more of a threat to blogs that angry trolls.

I hate those damn things! Especially when they start with an innocuous statement like "Good point," followed up by "you can spice up your sex life..."

The people who do this should be gutted and hanged by their own entrails along with the spammers!

07 February, 2010 13:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

What I don't get is why so many of them think that this blog is a good place to advertise viagra in Spanish.....

07 February, 2010 14:18  
Blogger Sue said...

I keep getting a comment from some far off land on my Weiner post. I think it's for viagra!

07 February, 2010 18:18  
Blogger dotlizard said...

Spamments are why I use WordPress - the Akismet plugin is astonishingly accurate at keeping me from never seeing a spam - similar to Gmail's ability.

Anyway trolls. I haven't had one in so long (not since the old blogging days), but as I recall I am a little think-skinned -- one of the worst is when a conservative attacks some liberal views of mine by calling me a crackhead welfare queen or something equally horrible. I don't deal with it well, first it feels like I've been punched in the gut, then I have to struggle not to fall into being defensive. It makes me want to prove them wrong, even though doing so means they've got me.

I don't know how I'll handle my first trolls at the new blog, will I let them call me hurtful names just to prove I allow "free speech" (in my own house, where I don't have to)? And who knows, maybe I've gotten tougher over the years?

07 February, 2010 21:29  
Blogger Prash said...

the title of this post explains it all :-)

07 February, 2010 23:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sue: I keep getting spam with porn links in Japanese on a posting so old I doubt anyone has even looked at it in months. Those bots still aren't too bright.

God Lizard: I went through a phase like that myself. Some trolls are quite skilled at saying things that are hurtful and unfair, in an effort to either goad you into reacting or discourage you from continuing to blog. It used to get to me, too. But over time it does bother you less and less, or at least that's what I've found. Eventually it just becomes background noise, like the viagra spam.

It probably helps that I reject all troll comments. I don't let them appear and hijack my comment threads into arguments with/about them instead of responses to the post. I never argue with them or explain, I never let them draw me into head games about the exact wording of the comments policy or anything like that. That's their goal -- distract, distract, distract.

As for the free-speech issue, yes, they have that right -- on their blogs, not on yours. I have a right to put my favored candidate's bumper sticker on my car. I don't have the right to put it on your car. See the difference?

Prash: C'est le mot juste, n'est-ce pas?

08 February, 2010 04:55  
Anonymous rita said...

Since I don't engage in political debates on my blog, I don't have to deal with bigotry & hatred, hardly ever.

Maybe there is a correlation?

08 February, 2010 06:46  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Quite possible, although religion (another of my favored topics) can sometimes get people even more riled up than politics. Still, my blog is less dominated by politics now than in the past -- maybe the trolling will decrease -- not that I've ever had it as bad as some people do.

08 February, 2010 07:48  
Anonymous rita said...

not that I've ever had it as bad as some people do.
That's because you don't put up with it. It's no fun to troll someone that won't engage.

08 February, 2010 22:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Never engaged, never enraged.....That's true -- like playground bullies, what they mainly want is a reaction, and I won't givethem one.

09 February, 2010 04:03  
Blogger Prash said...

Oui Oui, c'est correct ! :-)

09 February, 2010 06:22  
Blogger Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

You guys should have seen me before I dropped "The Oracle Speaks" for my original "Truth 101" moniker."

I had ten times the traffic and all I did was beat up righties. They in turn pounded me. Things got too out of hand so it came to an end. Plus other reasons.

I consider myself positively well behaved now.

09 February, 2010 12:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I consider myself positively well behaved now.

Well, you must be doing something right -- so far from being uniquely offensive to rational conservatives, you seem to have a larger number of them reading and commenting on your blog than most of us do.

10 February, 2010 04:50  

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