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Old 01-28-2010, 07:45 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Okay, finally, in response to the actual diavlog itself ...

... here are some thoughts that occurred to me, especially in reaction to some of what Bobby G was saying at the end of the diavlog.

Thinking about this from my own perspective, there are a number of reasons why my tone can be as it is ("uncivil"). Sometimes, admittedly, it's just simple human failing -- loss of temper, letting a troll get under my skin, etc. Most often, though, it is purposeful and though I'm not going to claim to be proud of every last word I've ever posted, generally, being something other than civil (whatever that might mean) is not something I look back on with regret. I am of the various views that:

(1) Some ideas and/or people are contemptible and so should be treated with contempt.

(2) While some people are trolls who thrive on irritated attention, others can in fact be silenced by use of mockery, harshness, or other less than pleasant tones. This can also apply to people who are just honestly mistaken about what the boundaries are, and it may be the quickest way to get them back onto the right path.

(3) I tend to give what I get. Maybe my ideological opponents who most strenuously rail against me and my tone don't realize how their words come across, but while not at all claiming perfection here, I do think I'm pretty good at responding in kind, and I can, do, and like to have civil exchanges with someone with whom I strongly disagree about a worthwhile idea.

(4) As far as my perspective vis-a-vis the rest of the world goes, on political and politically-tinged matters, I will never be dissuaded of this: the coarsening of discourse writ large is almost entirely due to (a) the right-wing noise machine's scorched-earth, pull-no-punches, easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission approach, and (b) the reluctance of most prominent voices on the left and in the center to stand up to the bullies. So, maybe I'm deluded in estimating the contribution I can make, or maybe I'm tilting at windmills, but I see a requirement to fight fire with fire, and to get down and roll around in the mud with the pigs, even if some of them enjoy it. The taking of this stance has to start somewhere; in fact, it has to be made in many places. I'm a foot-soldier in the bray-gun revolution, if you like, and no one will ever convince me otherwise that many complaints about me come from people who plain don't like the taste of their own medicine. (Granted, sometimes I dish out two spoonfuls in response to getting one.) [Added: see also.]

(5) Snarking, or what used to be called "playing the dozens," is just plain fun. Being clever at someone else's expense -- going for the oh, snap! -- is entertaining, to do and to watch.

These are more or less independent motivations, on a case-by-case basis.


As far as this forum goes, and as far as Internet-hosted political arguments in general go, I want to say two things.

First, I largely agree with Jeff, and disagree with Leiter (as presented by Bobby G -- haven't clicked those links yet) in that there is some hope of persuasion when arguing politics. You might win over the person with whom you're engaged; you might also, as Jeff says, sway others who are following the discussion. (After all, why do we all watch diavlogs, and why do people do them?) You're probably not going to flip someone by any one exchange, no matter how telling, but it's a process -- you keep presenting and refining your point of view, and hope to get people moving in your direction over time.

Second, for better or for worse, the tone of discussion is one that has been arrived at by an evolving process of consensus. Most of us just accept that we play a little rougher on this site than we might in some other setting. I think of it this way: when you're playing pick-up basketball, it is understood that there is a slightly different set of rules than exist when you're playing organized ball, in a league, with referees. For example, you can call "gimme that" when someone whacks your arm while you're shooting a jump shot, and by and large, people respect your call (if they're interested in keeping the game going). But you do not try to take a charge, or gripe about most of the banging that happens when going after a rebound. No one else wants to hear that, and if you try to make those calls, you are invited to find another game elsewhere.

Last edited by bjkeefe; 01-31-2010 at 02:46 PM..
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