In support of civilized discourse

October 6, 2013
Wall art created by Diana Baur in guest rm at Baur B&B in Acqui Termi, Italy

Wall art created by Diana Baur in guest rm at Baur B&B in Acqui Termi, Italy

There’s too little civilized discourse these days, and too much heated rhetoric. Any chance to understand people who hold different beliefs is overwhelmed by insults and comments meant to demean.  And social media have become the new vehicle for this kind of derision.

Perhaps this began with the example set by hot-talk media, and by “hot talk”  I don’t mean phone sex. Fox is the worst for this–that strident, negative, partisan and belittling commentary, and so is right-wing radio, which specializes in “Hot Talk.” The pretense is “debate” but debate is intellectual, logical and conducted with courtesy. Not so with today’s differences of opinion, which is all about vilification of those who hold opposing views. And once mainstream media outlets turned to the internet, comment sections became rife with invective, sometimes anonymous and sometimes not.

It’s nasty. Impolite. Uncivilized.

Now social media have become the newest outlet for this kind of derogation, with “friends” and “followers” feeling free to castigate others–even on those others’ “pages”.

I wear my politics and my opinions openly, and do my best to couch them respectfully.  I can’t think of a time I’ve ever insulted another’s opinion in a comment. There are times when I’ll make a strong statement about a political or social situation, usually because I believe it and sometimes because I am trying to provoke a discussion. Sometimes, both. But sometimes I’ve have regretted that provocation when I find that friends I respect hold opinions that simply do not face (my) test of logic. Or empathy. Or worse, they insult me or my opinions on my own social media account.

I do not make a habit of calling names, insulting or otherwise marginalizing those who hold opinions different from mine.  I can’t say that’s been true of people who make comments here or on my social media.

Last year I deleted a mean-spirited (toward me) social media comment from a very smart friend only to be accused of censorship. Made me laugh. Censorship? Not hardly!

Social media and blogs are not the “fourth estate” of journalism. There is no obligation to allow a free-for-all and certainly not insulting comments on privately owned pages. We own our own social media pages (and blogs)  and we decide what content we want to add or even retain.

Incredulous laughter is also the way I usually respond to people who say supercilious and belittling things like ” I thought you were smarter than that.”  Seriously? Get over yourself!  If you’re a friend of mine surprised at any opinion I hold, then clearly you don’t know me very well at all.

I’ve never had any problem with people holding opinions that differ from mine, but I come at it differently–from trying to understand these differences. I try my best to understand the attitude and where it might be coming from. I’d never purposely insult, marginalize or revile someone in public or private.

Disagreement is not license to insult or demean others. So if you’re going to post on my page, post with respect. Because I  delete anything on my page that I think is inappropriate.

Someone once threatened to de-friend me if I deleted their insulting comments on one of my posts.   Seriously? You post something mean-spirited and insulting on MY social media page and believe that it needs to remain?

Hey, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.



14 comments on “In support of civilized discourse
  1. Julie Phelps says:

    I could not have said any of it in any words more descriptive of my own feelings. The slamming doors you may hear should be sounds of joyful cleaning. Real friends respect their friends.

    My blog is not at all on par with yours but I still would not hesitate deleting comments akin to what you describe.

    High FIVES.

  2. Oriah says:

    Carol, I do not hesitate to delete inflammatory comments on my FB page. Unless the comment is blatantly abusive I try to give the person a chance to do something different. Once deleted a comment and put up one saying I would not allow name-calling on my page and the person who had made the comment posted another which clearly stated his viewpoint without the name-calling. One of the great things about social media is we are talking to folks all around the world- so sometimes an abrasive comment may be about English not being that person’s first language. On a couple of occasions I have messaged them re: what they meant to say, and in fact that process has uncovered either a language confusion or an attitude of hostility that I don’t want on my page. When a comment is blatantly and clearly intentionally and aggressively nasty I do not hesitate to delete it and ban the commenter (usually someone who has never commented before.) I treat the page as I would if I were facilitating a group conversation with a circle in a room- and abuse of others is not tolerated.

    • admin says:

      Oriah, you have some good ideas here, thank you! I just had some really hateful stuff posted in response to a comment a FB friend made to a post of mine and I immediately deleted it. The concept of treating it like a group conversations resonates for me. Thanks for giving me new ideas today, too.

  3. I’ve had my share of negativity, and name calling.
    I would get into a sweat, thinking it my fault I have upset people.
    I’ve learnt. You can’t please everyone.
    Now. I just push the delete button. For every negative comment there’s a hundred that are positive.
    Simple. I don’t get all worked up either.

    • admin says:

      Yes, I don’t really worry about negative blog comments, I’ve had a few and I delete them. But hateful and intolerant FB comments toward my firneds are over the top, and do cause me to remove the entire post or the responses. Fortunately, I haven’t had too much name calling, but “lunatic liberal” does have a certain alliteration when I see it.

  4. Brava, Carol. Brava. I could not agree more. Our blogs and our social media pages are not the place for people to air their differences in four-letter tirades. Alas, I’ve had family and friends get into full-out flame wars on my wall.

    I learned what you said above all too late, and ended up defriending several friends and discovering that I really don’t need to hang around certain members of my family pretty much ever again.

    I’m going to link this from my own wall on Facebook.

  5. Like you have before, you’ve echoed my feelings about a topic to which I’ve given thought, but not necessarily words. I like you that defend the act of deleting whatever you see as hurtful or negative without putting in in the same category as censorship. Thank you for articulating the standard: if you’re invited to the conversation, it doesn’t require you to be brilliant or profound. But it does require you to show class, civility and manners.

  6. I completely agree. I posted an open letter to my congressman today. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want vitriol. So far I have not received any vicious comments. I was conscious in writing a letter to someone who I disagree with politically to be polite and I tried to use a bit of humor to make a point. So far, so good.

    • admin says:

      There’s something about the internet that makes people feel it’s ok to flame and be rude–do things they probably wouldn’t do in real life. I get your nervousness. Heck, I have a bumper sticker for my car I’m afraid to put on for fear of being keyed. People seem to be so much more uncivilized these days.

  7. Sometimes you can edit a comment, too.

    I have not had major trolling or name-calling on any of my social media sites – yet. *crossing my fingers it stays that way*

    Sometimes I find it hard to hold back the snark. Earlier today someone posted on a common link, “If you believe [yammer yammer political point] and your taken in by this, then your an idiot.” I couldn’t help replying that anyone who doesn’t understand how to contract “you are” properly probably shouldn’t go around calling people idiots.

    Passionate disagreement is one thing. Name-calling is unnecessary – I’ve never been persuaded by someone calling me an idiot.

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