Uncivil Discourse

 

Back in the pre-digital days, when one wrote a column as I did for the local newspaper, there no were no immediate reactions to whatever opinions had been expressed, though I might encounter a neighbor or friend who might make a passing comment, usually affirmative but always civil.

A week or so later, a letter to the editor might appear, agreeing or disagreeing with the column, and while it might not pull any punches, it would again always be invariably civil.

I can state here, based on my experience writing this blog, that those halcyon days are mostly past, and will be looked upon by some of us as a sadly bygone era and by a younger generation as virtually impossible to imagine.

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon, if one writes strong opinion pieces as I generally do, to generate strong reactions. Of course, some writers agree with my views (always nice) and express themselves in positive terms. Others, however, do not concur, and often state their responses very differently. These generally fall into three categories.

Name Calling

This is an attempt to place the blogger into an ideological box so his opinions can be dismissed. By often combining that with an insulting name, it’s an attempt to provoke a response that could easily become a flurry of an increasingly combative and irrelevant exchange of e-mails.

I’ve been called a moron, an idiot, (more than once), a propagandist, a space cadet, a puppet of the Humane Society of the United States, a HSUS tool, a vegan, a radical vegan, an anti-hunting vegan, and (my personal favorite) an anti-democracy socialist.   I have been accused of being self-righteous, a sore loser, ignorant, displaying an irrational and insulting display of ignorance, writing drivel, bleeding heart opinions, as well as delusional rants. I have also been urged (no surprises there) to go back to wherever I came from (which, unfortunately, is no longer possible since the place and, indeed, the world of which it was a part no longer exists). I have also been told to “move to Hollywood where your money comes from” even though I’ve never been to Hollywood (though we all know where it is) and no one pays me.

Distractions

These are attempts to basically change the subject, often by use of reductio ad absurdum arguments that attempt to belittle the original topic.

For instance, if the blog is about cruelty to bears, someone can (and often does) post a question about another issue altogether in order to distract and divert relevant on-line comments. One recent example suggests that fishing with lures be illegal because it’s unfair to the fish. That may or may not be, but it’s another topic for another time. Another commenter asks to be shown the sport in shopping for meat in the local store.   Someone else might write about the time and labor involved in setting up bait sites for bears. All are attempts to draw attention away from the original subject instead of responding to it.

If You Haven’t Done It, You Don’t Know About It

This final category would have us believe that those without direct experience about a topic basically can’t have an informed opinion. This view severely limits the scope of the human thought process to only what we have personally perceived.

-For instance, we probably all agree that driving at a 100 miles per hour can be very dangerous, but we don’t actually have to do it to confirm that conclusion.

-Locking a child (or a pet) in a closed car on a hot day can be dangerous to either, but we don’t need to actually do that either (please don’t!) to recognize the hazards.

-Finally, the devastating attack on the Twin Towers on 911 resulted in a tragic loss of life, and we wish it hadn’t happened, but the vast majority of us weren’t there and did not experience this awful event directly. Then again, we didn’t have to.

You get the idea. Pushed to its extreme – and it doesn’t take much pushing – the concept of relying only on direct experience doesn’t make much sense, not to mention that it separates us from the past (anything we have not personally lived through) or the future which obviously hasn’t happened yet, meaning we can’t have any opinions about what it may hold.

Comments from these categories may not be new, but with the ease and speed of modern technology, it’s easier to post them. In previous times, they had to be hand-written (or typed on the old Corona) and then mailed, giving plenty of time to reconsider and even edit what was expressed. It’s too easy to engage in uncivil discourse now, and maybe that explains the difference.

Be that as it may, this blog will continue. For the record, I am not a spokesman for any organization, my opinions are my own, and I will not be moving to Hollywood any time soon.

 

 

Don Loprieno

About Don Loprieno

Don Loprieno is a student of history and a published author.