This Portal is Under Attack: Why NowPublic Needs to Shield Itself
A while ago, a massive flocking in of neoconservative viewpoints apparently commenced at NowPublic. On one hand, it is a welcome fact, because we see that very apparently infulential groups see it as a necessity to state their opinions on this portal.
So far for the good news. The bad news, of course, is that any cyber community, and I would count NowPublic.com amongst them, is what you could call a delicate ecology. So long as contributions are voluntary and the name of the game is encouragement over hard moderation by punishment, the very thin tissue holding the community together is that of mutual respect.
Now, respect comes in a bunch of different falvors:
- It is the respect that pays reverence to the assumption that on the other end of this virtual red thread joining me to the world and the other members of this community, intelligent human beings are to be found. Ground rule number one therefore should be a certain stringency in argumentation, logical de- or induction, or at least quoting a source for what is not own first-hand experience.
- On the other hand, respect is shown in taking the other's argumentation seriously, stopping to think for a moment over her argumentation and then laying out one's reasons for disagreeing, if applicable.
Recent threads about Speaker Pelosi's visit to the Middle East, in the meantime, have shown strong violations of these principles. Everything began when a number of posters and postings demanded Mrs. Pelosi be jailed upon return to the United States for overstepping some obscure law, obviously banning private US-citizens from implementing their own foreign policy, speaking on behalf of the USA.
When I came across this posting, that appeared an outcry against ground rule number one. It seemed to me a complete contempt for the intelligence of readers on the other end of the red therad.
If such agrumentation had the merit of giving me an insightful picture of the mindset of a rat-catcher, I found it deplorable that the techniques used here (i.e. simplification of facts as a basis for a call for drastic and excessive action with the side effect of making the target of such propaganda worthy of contempt) resemble that which has been the techniques of former communist regimes and the mechanics as it is being used as we speak in neo-communist parties in Germany to choke all streams of free thought that slightly differ from the ones indoctrinated on behalf of the top-down chain of command. In fact, it is the aim of such activity to kill the opponent, stopping short only of physical and biological destruction (which is reserved for foreigners at the receiving end of unfriendly fire abroad).
Members of the NowPublic community daring to point out the violation of ground rule number one will become the target of personal insult, such as being the alleged bearars of an ill mind who cannot be helped by reason. Now, one might say that such behavior is quickly going to disqualify itself, and the community will just continue to go about its own (news-) business.
Unfortunately, this is only half the truth. As this kind of crossfire persists, those at the triggers will find it increasingly easy to unnerve the targets of their inobjective criticism. Understandably so, since personal insult is meant to provoke reaction and drag the quality level of debate of the host medium lower, ultimately obliterating it. Regardless of whether the persistance of such attacks comes of conviction (albeit simplistic) or a good financial funding for cyberguerilla warfare in the Internet, it is dangerous, and can ultimately tip the carefully built balance that has respect as its cohesive.
It is times like these that the moderators of NowPublic.com will have their finest hour or defeat right before their eyes: In any case, they will have to use their judgement in a lucid way, and sometimes will have to keep the white doves locked away to present a sharp blade. Appeasement in the face of determination is not always an option if such determination is in contempt of mutual respect.
In this light, one can only wish that the right mixture of plain good old luck and sensitivity will help our community to survive the Pelosi-crisis, and the ones to come as some of us count down the days until January 20, 2009.