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?

Hotline On Call: Luntz Focus Groups The Dems....

Just released focus group findings provide important insights re the 2008 Dem Presidential hopefuls. According to well-respected but admittedly Republican pollster Frank Luntz, American Dems want an anti-bush who's not a "Bush-Basher". Hmm. The overview is available on Hotline, a National Journal blog:
Hotline On Call: Luntz Focus Groups The Dems....: "Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research presented its findings on the '08 Dem field this a.m. to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
Their focus groups tested Dem primary voters in NH and IA. We don't know the size/demographic balance, etc., so don't read too much into the conclusions. (And don't ever confuse focus groups with polls -- we'll let Mark Blumenthal elaborate, if he wants to.)

What do Dems want? Per The Luntz interpretation of said focus groups: 'When all is said and done, the Democratic nominee will be the person they believe has the best handle on the future and who can best bring about the change and reform they are desperately seeking.' And 'perhaps most importantly, they want the anti-Bush' who is not a 'Bush basher.' The Dems 'don't want a grouchy, accusatory, finger-pointing yeller. They want someone smart but with good common sense, a leader with new ideas who believes and practices accountability.' "