One thing I noticed this campaign season is the lack of civility in political conversation, mostly as it is carried out on the web, but in person as well.
We have lost some sort of governing mechanism that allows us to make our points in a reasonable and rational manner without taking the other person out by any means possible. Further, we seem to have lost the ability to debate without debasement and pursue every semantical slip with reckless abandonment of good manners.
To quote my favorite politician, we have lost the ability to “disagree without being disagreeable.”
Over on Huffington Post an off-hand comment about being about to block a certain poster’s stupid remarks made me think about a great addition to the social networking paradigm on all the blogs – Self-Censored Comments.
No one has to imagine seeing the same idiotic drivel from the same idiotic screen-names with no recourse. We all know who these clowns are. The high-jack threads. They take the conversation into the gutter.
Imagine if you could simply choose not to see that person’s comments at all. Ever. They go to your personal Black List and you can enjoy having conversation with those who share at least a sense of civility if not a sense of purpose.
I bet within a couple of weeks, the Trolls and Malcontents would simply be shouting into the ether, wondering why nobody was listening or responding. As quick as they change names, the rest of us get sick of reading it and opt-out.
This seems the easiest solution to moderating our own spaces for maximum productivity. We waste an awful lot of time responding to twits. Why? Because most of us are way too optimistic and think that this one piece of information should be able to finally break through. It doesn’t, but we keep trying.
Self-censored comments would allow each of us to find a tone and tenor that speaks to our better natures and leaves the haters screaming silently in a windowless room while the adults talk about solutions.
I have a hard time using the ignore function on forums where it’s an option. In the political world, it’s nice to know what the opposition is thinking. But, even more than that, I think everyone deserves a voice and people are far too prone to blocking people who simply disagree.
As Robert Frost said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
I am not talking simple disagreements. I have long discussions with many people who disagree with me. Sometimes passionately. I love having reasonable conversations with people who disagree with me or who give me new information that makes me change my mind about something.
What I am sick of seeing is foul language and sarcasm and intentionally missing an easy-to-see point in order to create controversy. People who are referred to as Trolls by most people.
I actually think this sub-group is quite small and would eventually change the way they converse in order to be heard or simply go away. Either solution is fine by me.
I rarely lose my temper with these folks but I do get tired of the rants and the raving. It does very little to move the conversation forward.
I think (I hope) many of us are doing just what you advise.
Oh, that’s so tempting. However, one of the reasons that we have become so divided is that we aren’t talking to each other. Of course, that’s not true of all of us, but by and large it is.
WE don’t all get our news from Walter Cronkite anymore. We have narrowcast our news resources. Some get just from Fox and Newsmax, some just from the Nation and Daily Kos (as if there were any leftwing equivalent of Fox and so on.
We narrow our internet networks, searching for the more agreeable and we end up talking only to ourselves and our likeminded allies….and then we cannot connect with others.
Seriously, how often have most of you talked with a bricklayer or someone who works in a cannery or some other working class, blue collar job? or with a farmer? and on a regular basis?
For me, it’s easy since I work organizing low-income folks. They aren’t professional class. and you know some have been partially limbaughtomized, but if you talk about what really affects their lives, their pocketbooks, they listen and they share their hopes and that’s where persuasion happens.
So, yes, your ideas is tempting — tempting and self-defeating.
I am speaking purely about on-line communications and some people who choose to debase the conversation with meaningless distraction or simply bad manners.
I agree that it is imperative that we listen to all the stories that make up the American experience and incorporate those views into our possible policy solutions, but those aren’t the kinds of communications I speak of.
I think if we can clear out the insensible, the intractable and the just plain insane, then the rest of us might have a chance at a real conversation.
I don’t find anything self-defeating about self-control.
Please email Andrew or Josh with the this suggestion. It is a feature TPM used to have. It is also helpful if downrating hides hateful comments from Google bots. We sometimes would get fake Democrats that would say outrageous, over-the-top stuff that they must have hoped would show up on searches, to discredit the site.
“We have lost some sort of governing mechanism that allows us to make our points in a reasonable and rational manner without taking the other person out by any means possible.”
A bit off topic here, but I dispute the above premise.
Nasty political discourse is as old as the republic. The Federalists and Democrats often engaged in diatribe and Lincoln’s opponents insisted if elected he would force Caucasian women to marry “niggers”. More recently we had McCarthy destroying folks’ lives for political gain, and the whispering campaigns in which Rove specializes.
As for you suggestion, I would like to see a negative rating system. Maybe we could have categories such as “redundant”, “insipid”, “pointless”, and etc.
However, I think the best approach to ignore and to definitely not respond to the provocateurs and nitwits.
Perhaps I should have said this has never been a trait we have enjoyed in this country – polite political discourse. Maybe we have never been able to control our more acerbic “wits” in this country.
However, I think we can certainly use technology to make our own lives more pleasant. I would love to ability to permanently ignore these Trolls and let the more pertinent comments show up more easily.
It’s really a matter of clearing out the garbage so the rest of us can enjoy ourselves.
If you ignore the trolls, you’ll still get replies to them — out of context.
For me it would mean that the Troll and every reply to the Troll would be gone from my world. It would be as if he didn’t exist, meaning any and all conversations that person would cease to exist as well.
It is quite easy from a programming and relational database perspective. The resulting decrease in the hateful and hurtful rhetoric would be priceless, though.
So what happens when someone else, who you have chosen not to block, responds to a comment by a user you have blocked? Does the block affect the whole sub-thread, or merely any comment by blocked individuals?
It it is the former, you are potentially blinding yourself to comments that you might find both appropriate and informative.
If it is the later, the thread display will have ghosts in it, breaking the continuity.
A quick glance at the coding of this page causes me to think that a routine flowing something like this would work: