Sunday, November 11, 2007

Politics, Anyone?

A kind reader, "Lass," has posted a comment way back at the introduction I wrote for this blog (click on "September" at the right, then scroll to the bottom), suggesting that I write a political blog in addition to this one.

Some aspects of that suggestion are attractive but for other aspects the woods are fraught with marauders, at least prospectively.

Here's what's running through my mind: For me, the major attraction would be that I enjoy reasoned argument. Those who take the position that "you can't change anyone's mind" in political discussions are simply mistaken. There are people whose minds you can't change about anything, but that's another story.

There is an internet forum in which I participate that is not inherently a political forum but on occasion becomes one temporarily. I have changed (to some extent) the minds of several people on various issues, and several people have done the same for me.

When people are actually thoughtful about disagreement, or even about agreement, they will sometimes call to your attention things you have not considered, or things you have considered and dismissed due to insufficient analysis, things you should reconsider if only because you now have more information.

Perhaps such a blog would make a small contribution by nudging the Republic back toward political sanity. But not, I hasten to add, by acquiring any influence beyond that effected on its readers, primarily by their own participation.

However . . .

  • Often, political debate is not reasoned at all, particularly on the internet. Many people throw out their positions with little or no justification for them and after that their contributions consist of name calling. Some skip the first step and go right for the name calling. Check any internet news item on a controversial political subject and see if the site allows reader comments. If it does then you will find a mixture of responses with fewer pearls cast than swine who have made their presence known.

    Now the internet did not create this problem. Watch the weekend political commentary television programs in which a few supposed adults representing opposite ends of the political spectrum address issues. In no time at all whole groups of people are arguing at each other, not with each other, at the tops of their voices, everyone talking, no one listening.

    When you see that happen, turn the program off and never watch it again. Once a philosopher, twice a pervert. - Voltaire

    But the internet does exacerbate the problem, due I suppose to the relative anonymity of the posters. It happens that I had already written a post for this blog on the very subject of such internet misbehavior, and I'll post that this coming Wednesday.

  • It would be annoying to see such posts on my political blog, and I would feel duty bound to censor them. Now it is my position that censorship has a bad name, and that it is appropriate in some circumstances. Not, for example, by your government in most instances, but in carefully defined cases.

    In any political conversation *eye* moderated, a comment such as "You're a freaking idiot" would be deleted as soon as I saw it, and the ID would be blocked from commenting in the future. But this is the beginning of a classic "slippery slope." What about a comment such as "You're a freaking idiot. You don't even consider yada yada yada." The first sentence is clearly not suitable for civilized discourse, but the remainder may well contribute something to the conversation. On balance, I think I would delete it. Anyone would be welcome to post any ideas, but incivility would not be welcomed.

  • Another category of commenter I'd want to block would be spammers - those who post only for the purpose of luring readers to some other site or introducing unrelated subjects in attempts to hijack threads for their own purposes. Being apolitical and generally unrelated to today's events, this blog - the one you're reading now - is not much of a target, but a political blog would be.


  • Now there are only two ways, at least on blogspot.com, to deprive the riff-raff of the ability to comment:

    1. Have each and every comment emailed to me in advance so that I can permit it to be posted, or refuse permission. No thanks. If the blog became popular I would be buried in emailed posts to approve or disapprove. This would be an inordinate amount of extra work and would, incidentally, deprive would-be posters of the instant gratification of seeing their comments become part of the dialogue. I suspect that deprivation would discourage some people from commenting, because who wants to write a comment today and have to wait until tomorrow to see if there are responses?

    2. Set up the blog so that only "approved" people could read it. Again, no thanks.

Blogspot.com would be a great help if it provided the ability to block specific ID's from commenting. Every ID would get one chance to post flamebait, and then it would be blocked from commenting and the troll would have to find someone else to plague.

UPDATE: I've done some research, and several other blog hosting sites do provide bloggers with the capability of blocking specific ID's from commenting. Naturally, the blog has to be set up so that only people with ID's can post comments, as otherwise any troll could keep posting anonymously. But this is a small price to pay, it seems to me.

So . . . Lass may get her wicked way and I might host a political blog. If so, however, it won't be immediately. I need to think about how the blog would work:

  • Where exactly will the topics come from? Probably current news, but there are other possibilities.

  • Beyond the responsibilities of a hallway monitor, what should be my personal involvement?

    • Should I just post about a subject, possibly listing what I see as salient points, then sit back and let readers tear each other's throats out?

    • Should I stake out a personal position on each issue I introduce?

    • Should I participate in the give and take of the comments?

    • How does a topic "die?" When a new topic is introduced? When commenters run out of steam? After a predefined period of time?

    • How often should I post new subjects? Should there be a schedule, as there is with this blog? Should the timing of new posts simply be news-driven?


Anyone with suggestions or thoughts on these issues might consider expressing them in comments related to this post.

I'll be looking for you there, Lass. Ah ha ha ha ha ha.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes. Just name the time and place...
Lass

BrokenDownProgrammer said...

Ah ha ha ha ha ha.

Umm, I meant I'll be looking for you *here* in the comments, with suggestions regarding my questions and issues.

Anonymous said...

First, I must acknowledge that you had given the format much more thought than I had when I suggested it.

I think your idea to provide a format allowing each poster to feel free to join in the reasoned conversation is excellent. If they lack the ability to reasonably offer their ideas, out they go. Sounds like a plan to me.

Have you named your blog yet? Something like "Red State/Blue State" might be an idea. However, I'm sure you can do better without much thought. "Politics, Anyone" isn't bad....

As far as suggestions for content, I don't think any are really needed... pick a subject, any subject, all are controversial.

Immigration might be a good start - precisely because enforcement of existing immigration laws appears to be one of the only issues of import to citizens where there is a measure of agreement among the voters, liberal and conservative alike. Why are our elected officials, both liberals and conservatives, unwilling to embrace this rare opportunity to please the majority of it's constituency?

How strong of an influence can and will the internet have on this election? Does the internet redefine the voice of the average voter/activist?

How about contrasting the liberal enthusiasm for their presidential candidate roster to the lack of enthusiasm the conservatives feel for their candidate roster? Will the Republicans be reduced to an inevitable "anyone but Hillary" vote or will one of the candidates, yet, rally a majority Republicans on their own merit?

How about taking on the never-to-die "Bush Lied, People Died" myth? And myth it is, if we accept the premise that the act of lying involves knowing that what one is saying is untrue.

Some blogs allow polls, and prior to addressing some circular issues (Bush Lied/People Died) a poll might be interesting.

I'll look forward to other reader suggestions.

Lass

Anonymous said...

* Where exactly will the topics come from? Probably current news, but there are other possibilities. Perhaps lots of links will be needed. Orson Scott Card posted a recent opinion piece that any religion that promotes the murder of memberships over 18 who tries to leave that religion should lose all official acknowledgment as a religion in America. A link to that article and your opinion, plus a poll, might be a great catalyst for passionate debate?

o Should I just post about a subject, possibly listing what I see as salient points, then sit back and let readers tear each other's throats out?
No

o Should I stake out a personal position on each issue I introduce? If at all possible

o Should I participate in the give and take of the comments?
Darn right you should!

o How does a topic "die?" When a new topic is introduced? When commenters run out of steam? After a predefined period of time?
Any/all of the above....

o How often should I post new subjects? Should there be a schedule, as there is with this blog? Should the timing of new posts simply be news-driven?

any/all of the above...

Anonymous said...

Oh fer heaven's sake! Everyone is busy and it may take forever to receive the feedback you need. In the meantime, time's awasting. Just build the blog and they will come... :)

And delete all of these posts. It makes you look indecisive... ahahahaha.

Lass

Anonymous said...

Re:Anyone with suggestions or thoughts on these issues might consider expressing them in comments related to this post
Prolly "expressing" is being quickly read as "suppressing" . After all, I meant to suggest you delete these comments (not posts) and forge ahead.

Lass

BrokenDownProgrammer said...

I thank you both for your comments.

Lass, patience is a virtue, and this would be a good time for you to cultivate it. Ah ha ha ha ha ha.

It won't be until *at least* after Thanksgiving.

barney said...

Road trip!!!!!!!!!

barney said...

On another note -- if you want to see unmoderated discussion in action, you might try checking out the Polyfamilies group on Yahell...