Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

Check out this post from conservative Milwaukee-based blogger Jessica McBride. In it she writes: "The Liberal blogosphere is, in some corners, becoming a swamp of nastiness and namecalling that really exposes the fact the authors can't rest on the strength of their argumentation."

She obviously didn't catch that I and other liberals who support keeping the Milwaukee County parks public just yesterday were referred to as "dirty hippie types" by prominent conservative Wisconsin blogger Brian Fraley--in a post he felt important enough to send to WisOpinion to publish in its "Wisconsin Editorial Links" section, no less. I suppose since that probably constitutes the type of strong argumentation McBride enjoys, it most likely flew under her name-calling radar.

I've also been referred to as a "Democratic spinner" by McBride herself, which really isn't that bad of a name, but it did suggest she was using it to cover up for the fact that she really had no direct, factual way to respond to my argument. In fact, because of that I took her comment as a compliment--much in the same way I took Fraley's "dirty hippie types" comment as a compliment. The problem is, though, that name-calling often distracts people from the point. Then the person called the name might retort by calling the original name-caller a bad name, and then it goes back and forth for awhile until the original point is completely lost.

McBride takes her point about name-calling from Wisconsin-based moderate blogger and very smart political & legal analyst Ann Althouse, but since she only links to a conservative blogger who comments on the Althouse post, perhaps she missed Ann's update where she writes: "And I'm reminded that I should say, I don't think all the irrational blogging is on the left." And then Althouse mentions this: "I also want to add that the many lefties I live and work around in Madison are perfectly friendly to me. I get email saying, it must be terrible for you there, you must be the target of so much hostility. I always write back and say it's not like that at all."

The fact is that name-calling takes place on all areas of the political spectrum and that includes the center. It's unfortunate when it happens, but that's the price we pay for a medium that's as accessible as blogging. In the past people were forced to just curse at their newspaper, radio, or television screen. I and, I'm sure, many other bloggers--liberal and conservative--wish we could wave a magic wand and end it all, but that's just not possible.

Here's an idea, though. Some teachers I used to work with devised a system where students would raise one hand if they had something to contribute to the discussion and another hand if they wanted to do something like use the bathroom. Perhaps we could try to institute a system where blog posts and comments that involve name-calling could use a symbol that highlights for readers that they're to be considered for entertainment value only. Maybe with a smiley face like this:

Just a thought.


Blogger Dailytakes said...

Seth, For what it's worth, I have no idea if you are a dirty hippie, much less a dirty hippie type. I was referring to the central park throngs at the protests pre 1980s.

February 14, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I appreciate the comment, Brian. I didn't take it personally, anyway.

I will say I'm happy we had those dirty hippie types pre-1980s. They gave life a little color, if nothing else. We wouldn't have nearly the freedoms we have today without the sixties.

February 14, 2006  

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