Among his remarks in accepting the gavel yesterday, incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner said, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” Predictably, the blogosphere immediately erupted with criticism and ridicule. On the Huffington Post and elsewhere, commentators chose to ignore this advice in favor of being disagreeable to a very high degree.
This is nothing new, of course. The anonymity of the Internet gives people the courage to say things they would never say in polite company and both sides of the political divide engage in the same behavior. A glance at the comments section of any online publication or Facebook news feed provides ample evidence of this. Conservatives regularly delight in calling the opposition “libtards” or “demoncraps.” A progressive friend of mine regularly refers to my fellow travelers as “misanthropes” or “wackos.” He is quick to point out that he is not talking about me in these diatribes – just anyone who holds the views that I do.
Some of the strongest vitriol is reserved for those on the same side who stray from the standard orthodoxy. When I wrote an article questioning the credentials of an ideologically correct but ethically challenged Republican candidate, the most negative comments came from fellow conservatives. I was blasted with a nonstop tirade of scatological insults that would have made a longshoreman blush from one especially irate reader who seemed to be intent on typing 24 hours a day. Since I am paid, in part, by how many views and comments my articles receive, I was happy for the attention even as I deleted the offending remarks.
To quote our frequently opaque president, let me be clear. I am completely in favor of spirited debate and expressions of disagreement. I love when a reader calls me out on a fact or an opinion, if only because it gives me the opportunity to clarify my point and set him straight. In the not infrequent instances where I have been wrong, I will admit it because doing so increases my credibility. Calling a political opponent a [email protected]#$ does not.
In the spirit, then, of lifting the level of our political discourse in the coming year let me offer a few guidelines for the kinds of commentary that will not be acceptable here. Hopefully, they can set an example for behavior on other online media as well. These have been established by the powers that be at glowbass.com, and while all discussions and comments are ultimately moderated by them, all Examiners have the right and ability to delete comments falling into the following categories at their discretion:
Spam, or Unsolicited Advertising: If regardless of what topic my article is about, your response is a link to a site offering weight-loss products, get-rich-quick schemes, mortgage refinancing or breast/penis augmentation, it will be deleted.
Obscene, Violent, or Profane: This should be obvious but apparently is not. Think of glowbass.com as a backyard barbecue where you can share opinions and ideas with your hosts. You may not know everyone there (or even like them), but you have been invited in and a certain level of decorum is expected. Besides, my mother reads this column. And my wife. And my kids. Don’t embarrass yourself (or me) in front of them.
Low-quality: I put a lot of time and effort into writing here. If you cannot make a cogent point without including misspellings and grammatical errors (and believe me, you can’t), your comment will likely be deleted.
Unwanted, Taunting, or Off-topic: Admittedly, this is something of a catch-all but the bottom line is make your arguments persuasive and factual, not personal. If your comment cannot stand on its own without reference to the size of my posterior (too large) or that of my intellect (too small), it will be deleted despite the potential accuracy of those references.
One final word is in order. Anonymous comments lack credibility. Using cute pen names and aliases or assuming the names of literary characters/historical figures does nothing to add weight to your comments. If you have something to say, have the courage of your convictions, use your real name, and say it. I do with every article.
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