So. I’ve been bad at blogging lately, for a variety of reasons–allergies have totally knocked me out, I’m now the sole owner of my NetFlix account and bumped up to four movies at a time, and I’m back to 35 hours at work. I assume my modest readership isn’t too put out.
I have been reading a lot lately, though, so expect something about Nobody Passes and Whipping Girl soon.
In the meantime, though, I’ve been thinking about blog civility. After wading through ridiculous reviews of The Feminist Mystique for a paper, the Sig Fig asked me how I can handle reading comments on the various blogs I frequent. It’s a fair question; internet anonymity really lets loose the hounds of hell, and a lot of them seem to share my taste in blogs. But just as I was able to stomach conservative talk radio in high school, somehow I can stomach even the worst of blog commenters. (Although I don’t spend as much time yelling “YOU IDIOT! SHUT THE &%$# UP!” at my computer as I did at my radio.) Sometimes you just want to get really riled up. I truly believe that getting really, really angry can actually help clarify one’s own beliefs.
On the other hand, it does really bother me that so many people seem perfectly willing to be rude, threatening, and downright abusive online when they would probably never consider saying the same things face to face. I don’t want to say that these people are overwhelmingly conservative, because I mostly read progressive blogs; I’m sure there are some outstandingly rude liberals who frequent conservative blogs. Regardless, here are three of my least favorite commenter tactics:
1. “You misplaced a comma/used the wrong homonym/misspelled a word. Learn to fucking read, asshole.” Now, I admit that occasionally I run across a comment that is so poorly written as to be nearly indecipherable. But the bulk of comments that get criticized for grammatical or syntactical errors are usually full of pretty common mistakes, and it’s really rude to accuse someone of illiteracy just because s/he uses the wrong “their”or something. (Not to mention insensitive to the issue of actual literacy and learning issues.) And if a comment is generally understandable but has a few typos or whatever, responding only as the Grammar Police rather than to substantive points (or a lack thereof) stagnates discussion.
2. “You’re a total asshole, so I’m not even going to listen to you. Asshole.” Now, really, what does this accomplish, Mr. Pot? I absolutely think we should call people out for being racist, homophobic, misogynist, and on and on–but resorting to name-calling, rather than clearly spelling out why certain views are despicable, really only adds fuel to the fire. If someone already hates on women, for instance, having a woman call him an asshole is only going to confirm his belief that women are bitchy. I’m not trying to be a prude or anything, but insults without substantive criticisms attached are pretty useless.
3. “Apparently you ladies have learned nothing from the Duke lacrosse case.” This just happens to be the most salient example, but I see people pull this all the time with other incidents. “Ohmigod! I have this friend who really loves gangbangs. How can you say porn is demeaning and unrealistic?” “Ohmigod! I read an article about a Jewish country club. Racism is totally dead!” “Ohmigod! Giraffes! Bananas.” The third one I haven’t actually seen anywhere, but the first two seem pretty common. It’s a simple equation: Irrelevant or exceptional example + smug superiority = stop talking about this thing, because it makes me uncomfortable. Also, it’s just really annoying to keep bringing up Duke Lacrosse as some kind of shining example.