Should there be a general, civil code of online commentary? Can there ever be a shared perspective on what constitutes "civil" exchanges? The bloggyworld is presently wrestling with these and related questions, which were given prominent play in this morning's New York Times. Fortunately for the Son, none of this applies to me. It's like watching a bunch of Speech Club wonks drafting constitutions that only apply or appeal to their little circles, while bloggers like me are off to the side draining beers and chuckling at the ruckus.
Actually, it's incorrect to label the Son a blog. I'm not part of any online tribe, party apparatus, ideological clique, or cool kids club. I'm always happy when someone links to one of my posts or blogrolls me. It's nice to be appreciated. But what is considered the blogosphere has very little effect on what I write. Age has a lot to do with this; temperament, too. While I love the widespread, direct access the Web provides, which truly is a revolution in human communication, I see no point in erecting structures that essentially limit what one can say to another based on political affiliation or outlook, which is really what these proposed "civil" codes are all about. Abusive, even threatening, comments or blogposts are being used to help harden ideological boundaries, for there are those who believe that sharp political disagreement with a certain host's stated views is a form of abuse, which in turn generates genuine abuse and nastiness, and soon becomes a flame war.
We've all seen this. Goes on all the time. Before I started the Son, and a few months into the project, I visited some of the more popular liberal sites and commented under a pseudonym just to get a feel for the crowd. The political statements I made were pretty much my own, with a few theatrical embellishments here and there, but nothing false or outlandish. Needless to say I was swamped with hostility from a given blog's regulars, especially if I said anything critical about the Holy Clintons or President-In-Exile Al Gore. I would try to reason with some of these people, but usually it was a lost cause. The Dems are the final word in human decency, and if one critiques the final word in human decency, then that person is indecent and worthy of abuse. If you doubt this is the general tone, take some of my arguments and post them at Daily Kos, Atrios, or Firedoglake, and see what you get in return.
This is why I don't have comments at the Son. I have no interest, much less the time, to oversee and referee those looking to burn down a thread with whatever is sizzling in their brains. If people wish to react to something I've written, pro or con, they are free to email me and I'll usually respond (though with my readership climbing, it takes me a few days to get through my mail), depending on the intelligence of the reader or the relevance of his or her comment. I've had some pretty stupid people email me with all manner of bait, and by not having a comment thread, their idiocy doesn't muck up the Son's home page. Only I see it, and trust me, I'm doing you all a favor by keeping it off the main stage. There's room for only one raving nut at the Son, and that's me.