Friday, March 31, 2006

It's a Wild, Wild World on the WWW

Salon catches mean world syndrome? Today's War Room column on Salon.com casts a disapproving eye on the blogosphere.
"The Internet can be a vicious place. Shortly after leaving the paper-print world for Salon, I wrote a story that said something nice about Sen. John McCain's lobbying reform proposal. One reader quickly wrote a letter calling me a 'shill' who peddles 'loathsome,' 'contemptable tripe.' 'This poor excuse for a reporter is Salon's Washington Correspondent?' the reader asked, before telling me to quit.
I didn't quit my job, but the reader made a good point. Rhetorical, over-the-top character assassination and verbal warmongering are lots of fun online. With this in mind, I now present my favorite fights from the past week in the political
blogosphere. "

My response is a qualified yes, but... I think it's also important to note that while the anonymous nature of the blogsphere does seem to encourage bad behavior like no other medium (save perhaps Sunday Morning Gladiator talk shows), its inclusive nature sometimes does quite the opposite, allowing for fuller, more meaningful dialogue. Sometimes good does come from bad. In one of the examples discussed, the exchange on whether blogging constitutes advocacy and should be regulated as such that takes place between Franke-Ruta of TAP and Stoller of MyDD, many of the reader comments that follow are both civil and substantive. One reader, Eligere, strengthens Stoller's arguments significantly by clarifying the distinctions between political speech and PAC-style advocacy. Most important, the comments contains real information that's both factually correct and essential to any real discussion of the issue.
My question is, without 24/7 moderating (policing), how does anyone ensure that a blog stays provocative and inclusive but civil?

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