Walk The Talk, People!
Recently, in response to the increased troll traffic on the comment posts, Blog Lord Steve Soto requested of our commenters that they not play into them and their comments. I still support that request, but, I also need to point out that it's possible to take things too far.
Case in point - Toby Petzold made the following comment in that thread:
Posted by Toby Petzold at July 6, 2004 08:19 PM
I would be surprised to learn that you can't see the value in engaging your opponents. It sharpens your arguments and acquaints you with whatever "talking points" they might have. Yes, it's obnoxious to be reminded of our own faults, but that is all in the way of refinement.
I responded with:
Posted by pessimist at July 7, 2004 03:55 AM Perfessor [That's the 'nickname' I've given Mr. Petzold in the spirit of George W. Bush]
When you are willing to discuss in rational terms as you (mostly) do here, then you deserve a response. Your statements about sharpening the arguments are well-taken. I believe that such discussion would be welcome here on The Left Coaster, and as you have moderated your ad hominems lately, you would be welcome to participate as well. I believe that you could actually add to the discussion, as you demonstrate from time to time, but to resort to euphemistic slandering and outright cussing instead of discussion - that's out. If we don't respond to you, then you slipped over the line into trolling.
On our part, if you are following the unwritten rules and contributing to the discussion and we slam into you just because of some of your past excesses, then we have slipped over the line. That is no more excusable than some of the commentary we have received from those we deem trolls.
Guess what, Left Coasters - one of you slipped over that line I drew.
When the Perfessor said: Mary, I think you need a higher resolution on that [Kerry-Edwards] banner. - Posted by Toby Petzold at July 7, 2004 06:13 AM when Mary opened the thread and mentioned our new Kerry-Edwards banner at the top of our right column, he got this in reply
don't feed the bigot trolls. - Posted by T2 at July 7, 2004 06:23 AM
I happen to agree with the Perfessor that a higher resolution on the Kerry-Edwards banner would be a good thing if we can arrange it, but I would like to point out that Toby's comment is in no way trollish. Nothing in Toby's comments since my posting of suggested ground rules can be construed as bigoted in any way.
T2, you went over the line. If muckdog or RightCoaster go trollish, then put out the reminder. But if (for some reason) they become conversational, they should be allowed the courtesy of being respected.
I want to point out that when I posted my 'unwritten' rules for discussion on The Left Coaster, I go this response from Toby:
If, in the spirit of the Founding Fathers - whose politics were every bit as divided as today - you (and anyone else with a divergence of view) [who] wishes to come to The Left Coaster and discuss a topic, then welcome! Otherwise, find somewhere else to play. - Posted by pessimist at July 7, 2004 03:55 AM
Roger that. - Posted by Toby Petzold at July 7, 2004 06:18 AM
NOTA BENE: "Roger that."
Dear readers, that answer constitutes an acceptance of a 'verbal' contract between me, representing all of us on The Left Coaster, and Toby Petzold, AKA The Perfessor. As I have cited here, all of his most recent comments, whether we agree with them or not, have been conversational and not the ad hominem attacks he earned his reputation using. We must live up to our end of the bargain. Not to do so opens us up to a legitimate charge of biased hypocrisy.
Read what our friends have to say before you fire away. If it's trollish, then we need not respond to them, as our Blog Lord requests. But if, as Toby has demonstrated, the comments are civil and discussionary, then respond to the comments as they inspire instead of the knee-jerk response that has become all-too-prevalent on both sides of today's political debate.
Toby is very correct with his comment about sharpening the arguments. Someone who doesn't necessarily agree with us would be the first to see the weak points or flaws in our points. The fact that he's willing to discuss these with us (provided he continues to abide by the 'verbal' contract), is actually a good thing. We then either justify the position through factual research, or it shows that this statement doesn't carry any weight.
We won't be getting such constructive criticism of the positions we take if we drive away those who don't agree with us, even when they are trying to be conversational. Toby has demonstrated to me that he's willing to try, and I hope he continues to do so. I also hope that all of you commenters will try as well, for the nation as a whole needs to remember how to conduct repectful discourse.
The alternatives would make the Balkans look like a Sunday picnic.