Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Note on the Perils of Blogging About Politics.

We are now more than a full week past Sarah Palin's convention speech, and the rhetoric is continuing to fly. One would think that the choice of a VP running mate would fade into the background, but it certainly hasn't in this case. Palin's supporters seem just as fanatical as they were last week, and her critics are as stridently determined to bring her down as they have been. Much has been made of the poll numbers being released from every source engaging in the practice of annoying people in their homes. I quit believing in these political surveys years ago. I have absolutely no faith that they reflect what people are truly thinking, nor do I believe that they are accurate predictors of future behavior. I learned of their essentially flawed nature in 2000.

So although conventional wisdom tends to suggest that "Palin-mania" will die off, it shows no signs of abating. Meanwhile people I've known for several years are starting to act in very odd ways. One person who I've known for awhile has resorted to personal attacks in the process of arguing with me. Apparently the outcome of this race means so much to him that he has decided to bring unrelated aspects of my life into the discussion. He knows I value the separation between my online presence and my actual life, and at first I thought that he didn't realize what he was doing. But even after I tried to address the issue privately, the attacks continued.

Why someone would jeopardize an otherwise amiable association with someone just to make a political point on a blog is beyond me. Especially considering that the poster-in-question valued his own privacy enough to insist on commenting anonymously. I have never considered revealing his true identity to other readers of the blog. I know that he'd rather not have his political ramblings interfere with his personal and professional life. In fact he has said as much in the past. That's why it's so surprising that he refuses to extend that same courtesy and respect toward me. I fully expect strangers to unload on this blog without concern for feelings or consequences. That's fair game. But to use insight gathered through "non-virtual" interactions in an online argument should be considered out-of-bounds.

Because of this occurrence, I have been compelled to switch to the "comment moderation" mode. I will now be reviewing all responses left on this blog. It's a real shame that it's come to this. I am adamantly against censorship, and would ordinarily never engage in deleting or refusing comments. As anyone who has read Serendipity for any length of time realizes, I tolerate and even seek out divergent opinions. I make every effort not to personalize my responses. And it's a very rare occasion when I ignore a comment. I enjoy getting in the muck now and again, and hashing things out. But I make consistent efforts to make sure my focus is on the issues, rather than the person.

I fear that the "politics of personal destruction" are creeping into our lives. I'm seeing less and less acceptance of disagreement when it comes to values and philosophy. Respect for others as participants in a "democracy" seems to be eroded continuously. It is still possible to share a goal without establishing agreement regarding process or justification; not everyone needs to be an idealogue. Perhaps we'll reach a point in our society when we can no longer debate the issues without personalizing them. I hope not, but during periods like this it's easy to imagine that time is nigh. There's a certain chilling effect when people insist on "exposing you" for the sins that they project, based on preconceptions of who "you are".

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Steve said...

It seems to be a bit of art imitating life. I think our political process has degraded from the open forum of exchanging ideas and presenting opposing viewpoints to a contest of who can dig up the most personal "dirt" on their opponent. And I think this is equally present on both sides of the political spectrum. Now you can't even talk politics without people resorting to personal attacks (and I know I'm just as big of a sinner as anyone else). Sometimes you just gotta admit that you've said something wrong (which I've done), and commit to not slinging so much mud going forward (which I've also done).

11:29 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Steve,

Well said. Thanks for expressing that.

12:49 PM  

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