As a semi-unsuccessful singer/songwriter and Member Emeritus of Slouches Anonymous, I have enough time on my hands to read several on-line news sites daily. Thus, I stay up-to-date and hip. Many of these news sites encourage reader response, especially if the site includes op-ed pieces. I’m fascinated by these responses in the same way that it’s fascinating to see a major NASCAR wreck; you want to avert your eyes, but you just can’t.
Readers respond to what the original writer has posited but they also respond to each other. These “strings” of responses often make for some seriously depressing reading.
While some of the responses are thoughtful, informed, nicely reasoned and well written, the same cannot be said of most of the others. Personal attacks, unfounded accusations and truthiness fly. Virtually all of these noxious responses come from people who haven’t the courage nor the courtesy to identify themselves. Clearly, anonymity breeds bad manners.
In a representative democracy, which we love to think that we have in the U.S.–although there is a good case to be made for admitting that what we actually have is a Plutocracy–the give and take of competing ideas within the arena of the public forum is a necessary ingredient. When the discussion is coarsened to the point that the remarks are about the speaker and not the speaker’s ideas, not much of value gets accomplished.
Admittedly, some observations of a personal nature may be cogent to a discussed issue. For instance, if Representative Michele Bachman proposed a law that would restrict voting to only those who could pass a comprehensive American history exam, she would be fair game for a barrage of snide personal comments.
The overarching point is simple: when Town Hall meetings descend into shrieking mob chaos, when on-line discussions turn into poisonous personal attacks having nothing to do with the issue and when facts are trumped by unfounded and ill-delivered opinion, the American public sets a tone that likely encourages some elected officials to trod the same crooked road, and many do (see M. Bachman above).
If Americans really want cooperation and comity among their chosen officials, the first place we should start is with the person we see in the mirror when we apply our eyeliner of a morning (I prefer L’Oreal but Maybelline is better if I plan to cry a lot).
Observoid of the Day: The Law of the Jungle does not require lawyers of the jungle.