Plubius and Lumen at The Virginia Federalist shared some thoughts on the post-Primary dust-ups in the Virginia Blogosphere.
We just witnessed a primary election where the candidate who asked his bloggers to stop blogging for him, Hanger, beat the candidate who let his bloggers run rampant, Sayre. What does this say about the future of the blogosphere? If bloggers loose their credibility they have lost everything. If you have personally problems, fine, TAKE IT OUTSIDE. I don’t want to listen to you bicker about your personally issues.
There are some legitimate exceptions where fellow bloggers and the public as a whole need to know certain things, but this is a fine line. Be very careful before you cross it.
After the SWAC bloggers took great offense to Plubius’s assessment, Lumen came to his defense:
Publius didn’t give Hanger bloggers a pass – he referred to the “Sayre/Hanger blog wars,” implying two sides to the violence. He just pointed out that Hanger made an effort to pull his supporters off of the blog attacks, and (perhaps for that reason) Hanger won a close election. When the attacks start flying, it is hard for anyone to sort through the passion to find the truth, and so people just get fed up with everyone involved. The best thing anyone can do when the debate starts to get overly personal is often to remove oneself from the fight.
The situation is similar in the Kilo/Waldo dispute, where it is impossible to sort fact from fiction, and so everyone involved seems covered in mud. Maybe Waldo was wrong about who commented on his site and falsely impugned Kilo, but was it necessary to call Waldo a “liar” in the title of a post? Is there no amicable way for people involved to explain what they thought and did and then to publicly clear the air?
Publius did not propose any rules, just some self control. Bloggers discredit themselves and the blogosphere as a medium when they bring ad hominem attacks against each other into the political discourse. It is only fair that The Virginian Federalist criticize bloggers for the same gossip and personal attacks that we have previously condemned in the mainstream media news channels.
At a certain point some of these “debates” cross the line and become about something more than politics. They become personal and for all the wrong reasons. Instead of taking what is viewed as personal slights offsite and discussing the issues with the parties involved, some bloggers decide to go above and beyond and call out the other side, making very public what could be explained and handled in a private manner.
Waldo Jaquith changed the name of a commenter to Carl Kilo, who proceeded to call Mr. Jaquith a liar for such a move. Mr. Jaquith, in a follow-up, admitted the following:
Two days ago, another post was made from the same IP address, using the same e-mail address (an e-mail address that doesn’t show up in Google), this time under the unfortunate name of “Teddy’s Turds.” This was a moderately nasty comment, employing a tone that I try to discourage on my blogs. So I changed the comment’s author name to “Carl Kilo.”
So Carl again found himself caught in a lie, only this time publicly. He’s flailing the same as a year ago, rather than quietly admitting it was him or, better yet, saying nothing. (Or calling the police to alert them to the intruder in his home, using his e-mail address.)
This is why I should handle these things privately. It’s embarrassing to watch.
The Jaquith/Kilo issue is one man’s word against another with Mr. Jaquith’s evidence not being seriously questioned, merely who was truly behind the post from that computer. From the tone of this debate there is a sense of history between these two men.
In a somewhat similar situation, Ben Tribbett and Lowell Feld have called out George Burke, Democratic Chair of the 11th Congressional District, as posting in the past under the pseudonym “Thomas Paine Patriot”. Instead of simply stating the charge, Mr. Tribbett went so far as to post Mr. Burke’s IP address as proof of the connection, a step that Mr. Jaquith chose not to take for privacy’s sake. Again, from the tone of the debate one can see a history between all parties involved, but this history sounds more personal and destructive.
One large difference between these two instances is how far the accusers are going with their response. Mr. Jaquith “corrected” a comment and defended himself when called a liar by Mr. Kilo. Mr. Tribbett and Mr. Feld posted an IP address, claimed that Mr. Burke posted inflammatory statements under a false name, and then proceeded to heap abuse after abuse on the man without any further provocation. Mr. Jaquith made his statement, made his case, and left it at that.Mr. Tribbett and Mr. Feld made their statement, smelled blood, and went on the attack.
One may note a difference in that Mr. Tribbett and Mr. Feld are attacking a public official of sorts while Mr. Jaquith is merely taking issue with another blogger, so the actual impact and true meaning of what is happening is entirely different. Yet the approach does not need to differ that greatly. What Plubius has recommended is not too far fetched, that bloggers hesitate before going public with their issues and take their discussions off the web. If one finds themself offended or misrepresented there are plenty of ways to contact the offending party.
Blogging is a great tool in that it allows people to converse, not just on the blogs and through comments but through readily available and accessible authors. There are ways to express ones differences and issues that does not turn molehills into mountains.
But it takes an understanding that we are all human beings, that we are at our very core the same people with the same passions and same interests, albeit on different sides of the aisle. Yet we should all be striving for a civil tone that allows the issues to drive conversations, not personal issues and vendettas that get in the way of our delivering the messages we want to deliver.
It is not a matter of fighting fire with fire. People are smart and can see through the nonsense of aggressive blogging. It is the work of those who fight fire with water that win out in the end. And one hopes that the same can apply to all the Virginia blogosphere before we get too caught up in these personal fights and questionable ethics to turn back.