Alex’s Guide to a More Civil Online Political Discourse

Everyone has a list of people they can do without in this world – like those people who hit the “Door Close” button immediately after someone gets off the elevator. What, you can’t wait seven whole seconds to see if anyone is coming, as a courtesy? There’s a term for that, and it’s called unwarranted self-importance.

Quite frankly, I could do without many, many people, particularly the people who decide that the presence of a comment box on a news article means that they can just toss civility and common sense out the window and vomit up stupidity onto the keyboard. Especially people who tYpE lIkE tHiS. The door is that way, please do not let it impact your hindquarters as you exit, alt-Capsers. So in the interest of furthering public education and fostering constructive dialogue in the new year, I have some internet-use PROTIPS for those wayward commenters.

One: You are not funny. You may think that a carefully-chosen reference to Monica Lewinsky or that wacky George W. Bush will make your supporters laugh and infuriate people who disagree with you, resulting in a double-win and glory to your username for all time. You are incorrect. All it does is make you look stupid. Here’s a quick test to see if your online satire is worth putting on a public forum: Is your name François-Marie Arouet? Well, first of all, congratulations on learning the internet, Voltaire! Second, you might want to look out for any zombie hunters who come to your house.

Two: Changing someone’s name is not funny. Here’s one that takes me right back to middle school and being called Alex Vanillawafer. I see this one all the time. “Sarah Palin more like Sarah FAILIN LOL I AM SO CLEVER”, “Rachel Madcow is a communist ho, get it, madcow, ’cause she’s insane”, etc., etc. Billy Shakespeare could do puns, okay, and these could only by great charity be called such. It’s not original. If you’re going to insult someone – and remember, this is a guide to civil discourse, so I’m telling you not to, but whatever floats your biscuit – but if you really feel the need to knock someone down with your devastating wit, for God’s sake be original about it. Additionally, gratuitous cursing is not funny and makes you sound like a thirteen-year-old playing Call of Duty on Xbox Live – sure to get you ignored.

"I hate everything! And I comment on Huffington Post!"

Three: Refrain from lumping everyone who disagrees with you into one “evil” group. This is another common one. “u must b a socialist cus u dont like glenn beck you commie turd”, “shut up hater you just hate obama cus he’s black you racist pig lol”, and so on ad nauseam. This only serves to further split the online community into ever-splintering factions, and renders each shrinking group ever more insular as everyone claps their hands over their ears and screams “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”. Rule two comes into play as well whenever people are identified as the following: libtards, conservatards, lieberals, repuglicans, liebertarians, and whatever other “clever” nicknames you might have for the opposition. Also, “teabagger”. Stop it.

Four: Respect people who disagree with you as having valid viewpoints and concerns. I talk about politics with one of my best friends a lot. She’s a Constitutionalist who votes Republican because of her strong views about abortion, and I’m a liberal who votes Democrat because I closely identify with many of the party’s principles. We don’t fight about it. She calls herself a rabid crazy wingnut, I call myself a hippie communist moonbat, we laugh about it, and then we go hang out. And we have very interesting conversations about politics when we do choose to talk seriously about it. Our differing views don’t end our friendship, nor should they. Being surrounded by too many people who agree with everything you think walls you into an echo chamber. At the very least, recognize that the person you are commenting to is a human being with a heart and a mind, and while you may privately think that they guzzle down whatever swill partisan-network-of-choice feeds them, treat them as you would treat a co-worker with whom you disagree about the meaning of LOST. You’re probably not going to throttle the guy at the water cooler who says it’s purgatory instead of just a crazy doom island, and if you would do that, please seek help.

Five: Nobody likes the Grammar Gestapo. Yeah, typos are annoying as hell. So is when people type only in lowercase and use AIM abbreviations. But really, when someone is making a valid point that you happen to disagree with, and they happen to use the wrong form of “there/their/they’re”, that’s no indication that their comment is suddenly worthless, and it also makes you an irredeemable douche if you focus on that to the exclusion of the otherwise meticulously-researched and constructed comment….especially if you regularly make typos yourself.

Six: Don’t be a dick. Ah, the unwritten rule of the internet that nobody follows. Ever. I like to credit Penny Arcade for coming up with John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, which, in essence, reads that a normal person, when presented with both anonymity and an audience, will proceed to act like a total douche. Don’t do that. Don’t be that guy. For a retro trip back to kindergarten, how’s about “treat others the way you would like to be treated”? See, it makes sense, and even little kids know the rule (even if they don’t follow it).

Okay, that should about cover most of my major grievances with the state of the intertubes at this moment. Some days, though, figuring out something like the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back looks like a really good idea. I’m getting really tired of this crap, so kindly knock it off. Thank you.

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2 Comments

  1. Your rules dovetail nicely with this: http://ike4.me/4arg

  2. Ha! I love it. Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep…yep, I see that waaaay too often. Faved for truth.


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