Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year. New Rules.

I made a vow just before Christmas that I was going to stop picking fights online.  It seems like every time there’s a terrorist attack or mass shooting or some calamity like a Presidential debate where there’s accusations and incriminations and blame is tossed all around, our national dialogue dissipates to the level of seven-year olds on a playground.

He: Did not!
She: Did so!
He: Uh-uh!
She: Fuck you!

And so on.  Amazingly, I was able to refrain from making comments, snarky or otherwise, all the way until New Year’s Day.  Then, I remembered that it’s an election year, with 11 months to go at that, and realized that there was no way I was going to stop from hitting the keyboard in response to something or other (especially once I saw the pix of the guy doing the skywriting above the Rose Bowl). 

So…to keep my frustration level and blood pressure low, I have decided to implement the following rules for online rhetoric.  I will play by these rules and I expect others I troll converse with to do likewise.  I’d rather continue discussions in a calm, rational manner, as I believe we all can learn from each other (even if the only thing you learn is that I am an opinionated old curmudgeon).

So here are the rules:

  1. No inflammatory statements.  Keep Calm and all that.  Reason and common sense should be the guidelines.
  2. No “ALL” inclusive statements.  All liberals, all Muslims, all Republicans…no, it’s NEVER everyone.  Avoid always and never, too (except when saying that’s it’s never always).
  3. No labels and no name calling.  Unless someone is self-labeling, don’t call them by something that could be construed as derogatory.  Lib-tard, Red-neck, etc. is kinda obvious, but Liberal and Conservative is subjective…really, it is.  Avoid it.
  4. You are not a mind reader and you cannot predict the future.  Talk about the action, not what someone is “going to do” unless it’s got a HR or S bill number attached to it.
  5. If you disagree, explain why.  Links to credible sources helps.  I said CREDIBLE.  News sources are OK (yeah, even Fox), but punditry is weak.  Left or right, thank you…consider ORIGINAL sources, not someone who comments on someone who comments on something someone else wrote.
  6. If you don’t think a proposed solution is viable, offer an alternative. We’re trying to progress the situation, and doing nothing (status quo) is an alternative, but rarely does someone say, “I like things the way they are.”  Usually they just argue as to how stupid your plan is, and don’t offer an alternative.  Ergo, the “alternative” is doing nothing.  And I will label you a “do-nothing-er” unless you provide an alternative solution.  And then we can argue about THAT.
  7. No false dichotomies.  Few things are rarely as simple as “either this or this.”  And sometimes doing both is the right thing.  Or neither.  Why can’t we fund this AND that?  Perhaps those are two separate debates?  Be prepared to explain.  Example: “We shouldn’t help the (a) immigrants, (b) low-income children, (c) homeless vets, (d) orphaned animals in shelters, (e) seniors.  Instead, we should help the (a) vets (b) kids (c) seniors, (d) refugees, or (e) dogs and cats.”  Also, explain why we’re not already doing the thing you think we should be doing.  Chances are the folks holding up that which you want are also the folks holding up the other one, too.  Surprise!
  8. If you’re going to cite “facts” be prepared to provide evidence.  Remember – the more outlandish the claim, the more unbiased/accurate/verified sources you’ll want to bring to the table.  If something has already been shown to be untrue, don’t rehash.  If something you call evidence is something that someone said someone said about a rumor that someone said once…bring something else to the table, huh?
I’m sure you might want to add to this list.  I welcome that.

Here’s an example of something I see all the time, and I will try to illustrate the right way and the wrong way to converse, given the original statement.  The “Obama is a Muslim” comment is certainly a common one to many political posts, and it violates many of the above numbered points, most specifically,
a)    It’s not true (if it is, he’s the world’s worst Muslim), and more importantly,
b)    It implicates that there is something wrong in being a Muslim.

A better comment would be: “I believe that Obama has created a policy that is favorable to Muslims.”  Not perfect, but it’s not name calling.  Of course, you’d also have to explain how, exactly, the program is favorable to Muslims to the exclusion of others, and, what, exactly, would be wrong with that.  Good luck – and be sure to cite your sources.

It’s gonna be a long year.

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