From the NY Times “A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs“:
Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?
The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.
Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.
Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship. [emphasis mine.]
Let me see, what was I saying last week? Oh, yeah – I delete comments I don’t like on my site, and have for years. Thank goodness Tim O’Reilly has finally given my permission to do so; I was sweating bullets over that one.
I think the thing that exasperates me most about this article is something that I’ve railed about in an offhand way several times before (if I were diligent, I’d track down all the instances, but I’m not) – the Times seems to be blaming the medium, and not the messenger. The incivility is not the fault of the technology, it’s the fault of the people using it. Incivility in public discourse in general is horrendous – case in point; this recent argument between Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera. Or, just listen to any Limbaugh show in the last 10 years.
Given that the level of civility in public discourse from pundits in the media is so rotted and toxic, it’s bizarre to think that that same incivility wouldn’t also exist on the internet. So why are we just calling for civility on the internet – among the masses, the hoi polloi – and not on the damned TV set, or on the radio? I think we’re washing out the wrong stables first, here.