Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Plea for Civility

Events of the past several weeks have compelled me to issue a plea to my fellow lefty blogospherites to please be nice to the right-wing bloggers and media personnel behind the protective bubble. They're not used to being challenged, and quite frankly, don't deserve it.

I'm glad that Michael Berube has stepped forward to accept responsibility for his snarking of David Horowitz. That's a start. Michael should know that just because David made a harmless, unconfirmed report about some professor showing the movie Fahrenheit 911, which apparently never happened, to one of his classes, that that's no reason to suspect that David does not have the best interests of America's college students and America's universities at heart. Sure, sure, he gets a little carried away sometimes on his website and in his books, mocking free thought and calling for a McCarthite purge of the academic ranks, but really, let's cut the guy some slack. It's not like he's calling for affirmative action for conservative would-be professors who are too greedy to accept the profession's long hours and modest pay, and too anti-intellectual to put up with the profession's rigor and insufferable working conditions just to go through the exercise of getting advanced degrees.

But just as Michael was apologizing, Glenn Greenwald goes and makes things worse. Mr. Greenwald should know that the perfessor, Glenn Reynolds, also known as Instapundit, is a very busy man, so busy in fact that he can't put the time in to allowing comments on his blog*. So Greenwald shouldn't have troubled Perfessor Reynolds by asking readers to email the perfessor asking him to comment on or refute the "raghead" comments of fellow CPAC speaker Ann Coulter.

Mr. Reynolds, who shouldn't have to put up with this stuff, because really, he's just too busy, didn't care for the slew of emails that came his way. Why did Greenwald feel it necessary to rouse Perfessor Reynolds? Glenn Reynolds has long said that he just "ignores" Ann, why shouldn't we? It is true, as Greenwald says, that Reynolds has reached out to Democrats and lefty bloggers hoping to get them to repudiate the comments of someone like Ward Churchill, who just happens to be the chairperson of the Colorado Democratic Party, and speaks on behalf of all Democrats, when he says something outlandish. And it is true that Coulter is routinely on TV parrotting the Republican Party line, has called for Democratic party officials and liberal leaning justices to be assassinated, has several best sellers, is rabidly promoted by right wing blogs and news sites, and is the headline act at conservative conferences, but she really doesn't have anything to do with the Republican Party, so Greenwald should just butt out. Besides, Glenn had to contend with all these emails from "lefties" filling his mail box, and as has hopefully been made abundantly clear, he's just too busy for this kind of stuff.

Finally, I have to object to the way that poor wallflower of an editor, Jim Brady, has been treated by my brother and sister bloggers. I know, I know. Wasn't this matter over and done with, after the online "conference" (also attended by perfessor Reynolds despite his many time demands) where Jane sat before the inquisitors and faced their accusations of uncivility on the Internets? So, yes, I was surprised that Mr. Brady felt compelled to write yet again about the matter this past week, but that just shows how upset we've made him.

So, please, everybody, don't upset The Man. Moreover, let's take the Republicans' advice and cut our ties with any and all Democratic elected officials so that our bad odor won't rub off on them, causing them, the Democrats, to lose control of Congress and the presidency.

We can do it, if everyone will do their part.

*Washington, D.C.: Hi, my question is for Glenn and then maybe Jane would like to comment.

Why is it that most of the high traffic right-wing blogs don't take comments, while most of the left-wing blogs do?

From my perspective, it looks like the conservatives can dish it out, but can't take it, that they are uncomfortable subjecting their ideas to scrutiny on their own Web sites.

Jeff Jarvis: Heh.

Glenn Reynolds: I think that one reason has to do with media treatment. Charles Johnson, for example -- who does have comments -- has repeatedly faced media stories about his site in which comments made by his readers are directly attributed to him, as if he had written them. I certainly worry about that sort of thing, too. I think that lefty sites expect, and get, less of that kind of mistreatment.

I've never had comments. I get about 1000 emails a day, and I don't have time to look at those, post on my blog, AND moderate comments. And unmoderated comments raise a risk of the kind of thing I mention above, as well as possible libel and copyright issues. I've actually considered bringing someone in to do that, but that seems too impersonal.

Jeff Jarvis: But, Glenn, isn't it also true that your audience misses out on the wisdom your audience brings to you? Just as I'd tell the Post, the Times, the Guardian, et al, that they should take advantage of -- that is, enable and share -- the wisdom of their crowds, I think your public would be as interesting to read as you are. Of course, I grant that there is a cost that comes with this if you do moderate at your level of traffic v. mine. But I would love to see you find some way to be more interactive. Nick Denton and Gawker Media made that -- appropriate for them -- into a velvet-rope club where you have to be invited in. I wouldn't say that would work for you -- accusations of an echo chamber would follow. But I wonder whether isn't some way to increase your interactivity. But then the question is: Do you want to?

Glenn Reynolds: I don't know. My blog is a spare-time activity for me, and the sort of thing you describe would be another commitment of time. The Washington Post can have editors for their comments; I'd have to do it myself, or hire someone.

I am annoyed, though, by the sense of entitlement that some people bring to this discussion. The barriers to entry in blogging are very low. You want to get your ideas out? You can start a blog in 15 minutes. So why do you feel entitled -- and that's not too strong a word for what I hear sometimes -- to put your comments on someone else's site?

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