Hi! Care to explain in what sense I "lack common civility"? You said it here.Please do me the courtesy, sir, of an explanation and an opportunity for rebuttal.Thank you.My blog, curse words and all, can be accessed through my Blogger profile.
Or at metacomments.blogspot.com.
It is, of course, a matter of perception, but I think it would not be unreasonable for someone who read your comments on this post, Investigating the leak … and reporting about it in the NYT, and compared them with others on the same post, to regard your choice of language and tone as uncivil. These are just a few of your comments: "Very interesting, but stupid ... Grow up. ... Are you such an abject coward and fool ... meathead ...You're a sorry excuse for an American."Here's another, attached to another post: "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were mentally ill." "Would you like a carrot?"And another, referring to "the number of Ann's defenders who come from a Small Midwestern Internet and are shocked at just how partisan things can be in the Big Bloggy City. It's true. Maybe John Lott can come and help them out in their sore distress." (For those who may not know it, John Lott is an opponent of gun control.)I'm sure, Thersites, that you think your style is snarky, that you just tell it like it is in the way it ought to be said. Perhaps you even think it demonstrates the passion of your beliefs. In my book, it's rude, unnecessary, and weakens any argument. That is how I see it, that is how it strikes me. You evidently are not pleased that I see it that way, but as Robert Burns put it:"O wad some Power the giftie gie usTo see oursels as ithers see us!"Rest assured, by the way, that any comments you may post here that indulge in unduly coarse language will be deleted. Such language, I have always found, is most authentic when employed face-to-face.
By the way, Thersites, I clicked on your Blogger Profile, but could not gain access. I also visited your blog, but could find no email address. Otherwise I would have alerted you to my response. Ciao!
You're kidding. That's it? How into Althouse are you? As a matter of trivia, she once deleted a post I left her quoting exactly that Burns poem. Has it ever occured to you that "civility" can be actively dangerous? How much civilty ought one to extend to someone making a monstrous argument? How much civility ought one to extend to someone making a wilfully dishonest argument? There are not two sides to every question. I submit that truth is a higher virtue than civility. Or maybe Swift went too far with that baby-eating stuff, which in my book was awfully rude. Cannibalism! How shocking.Anyway, thank you for responding. Please understand that there are times for civil debate, and there are times for using plain English. This is a time for plain English. As you may have noticed, these times are dangerous. John Lott, by the way, is a discredited proponent of gun control whose extremely odd behavior online (Google "Mary Rosh" if you don't know) makes anything I do seem like French toast.
HiI am with Frank on this one. I believe "plain English" and "civil debate" to be one and the same. And I believe use of slang and insult to be something else.I have been an editor on a major publication for many years, and subject to many, many rude emails, letters, messages, etc, usually because a contribution does not meet publication criteria and I've been the person who has had to convey that. I've also received many intemperate submissions for publication. In my long experience, one can be apt, punchy, readable and pertinent without needing insult or slang. Incidentally, I've also had my share of nice letters from disappointed contributors, saying they regret not being published but they appreciated having the reasons explained to them in a courteous manner.In short, I don't think the choice of language is relevant to the strength of argument. You don't need bad language to make your argument stronger.Sorry for the too-long comment.PS I too find it mildly annoying when people leave comments on one's blog but don't allow one to see their email address on their profile.
Thank you, Thersites, for your temperate response. I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on this issue. But I do think, if you read through the link to Ann's post that I cited (and I am only an occasional visitor to Ann's site), you cannot help but notice that your comments stand out from the others by virtue of their tone and that this is noticed by others commenting as well. Like Maxine, I simply don't see how an argument - understood as a coherent presentation of propositions starting from a premise and proceeding to a conclusion - is at all helped by the inclusion of personal invective. As for Swift, the tone of "A Modest Proposal" is eminently reasonable and even-tempered. That is why the piece is considered one of the premier examples of sustained irony in English - and also why it is so effective. Swift employs no vulgar language, no personal insults.
I've been online for a while and frankly never heard of the rule that you need to leave an email to comment on someone's blog. The need for such a rule escapes me; anonymity is permissible online, of course. Not that I care much, but frankly such a lapse of courtesy would strike me as akin to calling someone out on the main page of his blog as behaving badly -- indeed as an exemplar of something especially bad about the internets -- but without providing a direct link to the actual thread or behavior in question, so the person so denounced can reply. Or even so a disinterested reader can make up her own mind as to the fairness of the charge. At any rate you both seem to be speaking rather dogmatically. In judging the validity of aapparently n argument what matters most is not the actual strength of the argument but whether a referee can throw an "incivility" flag. In the thread Mr Wilson cites, I was replying to perfectly ridiculous arguments with ridicule. Moreover, it is perfectly possible for someone to be perfectly "civil" and yet at the same time dishonest, mendacious, insinuating, and irresponsible. Professor Althouse specializes in this line -- as I can demonstrate, if you're curious, though at the moment it's beside the point. You prefer the sizzle; fair enough. Try the steak.
Swift may not have cursed, but that hardly makes the piece less "incivil." The appropriateness of tone varies according to situation and context. If you like I could furnish you with some Swftian savage indignation that is less nice. Or point to plenty of writers who did not at all shy from personal insult and invective. Pope comes to mind. Or Joyce. And these insults hardly detract from their reputations or that of their work.Blog comments sections are not beanbag. And there was context in that thread you referenced that you understandably missed if you saw it in isolation. But whatever, again.Regards.
I think it's you, Thersites, who prefers the sizzle. I just want to gorge in peace.Many years ago, when I wasmuch younger and exhibited much less impulse control, I was fired from a job for conduct unbecoming an executive. It's the only job I was ever fired from. A colleague had insulted me gratutitously and I explained to him in no uncertain terms that if he ever spoke like that to me again I would push his head through the nearest wall. I was quite serious and he understood that perfectly. So he went to our superiors and complained and I got canned. Deservedly so, since I had in fact made a threat. But in those days. like Captain Ahab, I would have struck the sun if it insulted me. I don't regret doing as I did. Among other things it exposed my colleague as the bully he in fact was. But if I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now - as they say - I would probably handle it differently. But note that I did not initiate this conflict. It was the other fellow who thought he could insult me and get away with it. He was actually lucky that I just warned him never to do that again. A few years earlier I wouldn't have bothered. I would have just pushed his head through the nearest wall.
Frank Wilson,I was just curious if you knew the context in which Thersites began commenting on Ann Althouse's blog?You do know that she explicitly criticized several commenters on Atrios, calling them anti-feminists? Afterwards a long argument began, which started with civility, and ended in great frustration, in which commenters explained their comments on Atrios.Anyways, I didn't know if you knew the backstory.
No, I can't say I did, and thanks for filling me in. I just happened upon that post, looked at a few others and was struck by Thersites' remarks and tossed out my comment (which may have been rash and a tad rude itself - so I suppose I should apoligize: as Lord Chesterfield advised, never insult a man unintentionally).Like Maxine, I have on occasion been deluged with extremely virtiolic correspondence. I happen to have no affect with regard to that sort of thing (I have no idea why) and I just answer each and every one of them as matter of factly as possible. The result usually is that the writers become more temperate or stop writing. The only exception I can recall is one atheist who just would not let me continue believing as I did, but was hell bent on proving me wrong and, I guess, converting me.One of the reasons I think civility is important in blogging is that it is so easy, when a person is God knows how many miles away, to say things you'd never dare say to their face. We are gifted with reason in order to shed light on subjects, not incinerate them with heat.
Frank, I appreciate your backstory as well, and see your point. I am also grateful for your concessions. I will concede in turn that I was being a bit of a jerk in theat thread, in retrospect. I am interested in the idea of civility as potentially oppressive, though. More on this in your response at my place.Best.