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Old 03-16-2010, 07:17 PM
listener listener is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Amurka
Posts: 1,107
Default The BHTV community: an appreciation

I'm a relative newcomer to BHTV, having been a member for the past several months. A few days ago I was chatting with a friend about my experience here. After writing to her about some of the things that have been valuable to me about being a member of this community, it occurred to me that those thoughts might be worth sharing here:

What first attracted me to the Bloggingheads community is that it seemed an oasis of civility in a depressingly divisive cultural landscape. Unfortunately, what passes for discourse on the Web and elsewhere is often just people yelling past each other. I found that in the BH forums, despite there being a fair amount of the usual internet-style ad hominem back-and-forth sniping, there are also people of different political stripes who are actually trying to engage with, and even learn from, one another. I really hadn't seen that anywhere else on the internet, or just about any other forum where people discuss politics, for that matter.

Since I've had a lot of time on my hands lately, I've been able to use the Bloggingheads forums as a way of learning how to more clearly define my own ideas and values -- often, the very act of putting my thoughts into writing has led me to greater clarity. And sometimes knowing that I am trying to communicate with another who may disagree with me, and imagining how they might respond to my words, has forced me to really think through my opinions and become more precise in my expression. Sometimes this process has even led me to question my own assumptions. Therefore I owe an especial debt of gratitude to the BHTV members with whom I hold differing viewpoints.

Of course, the forums exist primarily so that people can comment on the webcam conversations that are the heart of Bloggingheads. Many (though by no means all) of the participants in the videos are deep thinkers whose insightful conversations go far beyond the usual oversimplified or downright misleading shouting points that one is used to hearing in the daily political discourse. And a lot of the commenters who contribute to the Bloggingheads forums are also really smart, insightful and way more informed than I am, so I've been learning a lot from them too. It's also been encouraging to receive positive feedback on some of my posts from some of the other forum members whose depth of political knowledge I've found intimidating at times.

When I first began posting, I found that I sometimes tried to emulate the snarky tone that I saw in some others' posts, but soon realized that (1) it was only momentarily satisfying, and (2) there are a lot of people out there who are a WHOLE lot better at snark than I am! So I decided that I would see what would happen if I made it my discipline to do the opposite -- to refuse to be anything other than respectful to those with whom I am engaged in conversation, and to never attack or question their character or motives. And believe me, it hasn't always been easy, but it has been a very instructive practice for me. And it has yielded some fruitful results as well.

Online, where everyone is anonymous and no one is face to face, it is so easy to give in to the temptation/impulse to toss off a dismissive, condescending and even downright nasty reply to the person with whom you disagree. So it's been a kind of spiritual exercise for me to engage with people I strongly disagree with in a way that emphasizes our common humanity and hopefully encourages them to do the same.

(But I can't guarantee that some day I won't snap and you will see a comment from me that reads, "GET A CLUE, YOU F*&KING RETARD!!!!")*


*Intentionally transgressive use of the "R" word

Last edited by listener; 03-17-2010 at 01:47 AM.. Reason: word choice
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