Politics Postman on Language
I don’t envy David Postman for having to police the language in the comment threads of his Seattle Times blog, Postman on Politics. But by cracking down on cuss-words and uncivil discourse, he’s creating an interesting experiment (in addition creating a lot of work for himself).
First, an example of all the extra work that policing comment threads creates: Yesterday, when a commenter called “skeptic” used the term “bullshitters” in a comment thread, Postman responded:
Watch the language please.
When someone, in the same comment thread, then used the phrase “you idiot,” Postman weighed in:
When we get to the “you idiot” level the comments have slipped beyond what I think readers have come to expect here. Please, all, think about what you’re writing and what it adds to the debate.
And then when the offending commenter protested that “you idiot” was more than justified given the context (and was really a “PG-version of what I should have said”), Postman clarified:
There’s nothing particularly offensive about the word “idiot.” Don’t think that’s on the banned list. I wish I had a good answer to your question, “what am I to do?” It seems this week in particular both sides are hyper-aggressive, as well as defensive, and in many threads the debate has turned like this. I’m open to any suggestions anyone has about how to keep comments civil.
Here’s the question that’s being testing by all this language policing over at Postman on Politics:
Is consistently high-minded and expletive-free discourse possible, or even desirable, on a political blog that’s open to anyone with an internet connection?
After all, political figures from George “Get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit” Bush to Dwight “Investigate those bastards” Pelz have had a hard time keeping coarse language out of their own political discourse. Should the average blog commenter be held to a higher standard? And what happens to political debate when you can’t even use the word bullshit — a staple of back room, bar room, and even lunch table discourse for most politically inclined people, from the president on down.
Over here at the Slog, we’re testing the reverse question: What happens when there are no off-limit words? Granted, we’re not politics-only over here, but here’s a sampling, from yesterday’s comment threads:
her mom is bat-shit fucking crazy
I call bullshit on the claim that airlines *always* lose luggage. I have lost luggage exactly once in all my travels, when I took the fucking train.
What a limp-dicked punk - the classic pussy would-be wife beater who feels inadequate around both women and other men.
The art community rejected him because that painting looks like a piece of shit. Seriously, that shit makes Bob Ross look like fucking Raphael.
And finally, from a post on the same topic as the one that sparked all the language angst over on Postman’s blog:
Reichert’s bullshit is insane, I don’t understand how you can get away with that
Coarse, yes. But to-the-point, no?