The Playground of Ideas

A response that Newsmakers host Tim White made to me during the latest episode of his show (channel 12 at 5:30 a.m., channel 11 at 10:00 a.m., and online in two parts here and here) struck me as worthy of further discussion. Ian Donnis asked about the “vitriol” in blog comment sections, and I answered, in part:

One of the things I do like about the medium in general is you really can bring it back to a sort of basics of interpersonal relationships. What I mean by that is you ignore somebody who’s being snippy, and they’ll stop, if everybody starts to gang up on them, and if it gets really bad, you can ban them.

To which Tim White suggested:

That’s kind of a high school playground mentality. Is there any filter; do you read a contribution to your site before posting it, or is it raw?

The curious consequence of White’s formulation is that it casts learning to interact without hierarchical supervision as the juvenile method, and submitting to an official hand to “filter” discussion as the — I guess — mature and civilized route. Without extrapolating an extemporaneous statement to global ideological realities, it’s possible to see in this reversal the inclination to seek ever more central authority.
That’s a profound question: Is it a higher mode of being to mutually reinforce a set of abstract standards, or to rely upon a chosen group of human individuals to dictate behavior? Obviously, I’d argue for the former (and in a way that integrates with the Catholic Christianity to which I strive to adhere, if anybody wishes to take the discussion there), and I’d further suggest that what Tim characterizes as a “playground mentality” is actually the set of grown-up rules that we try to impose upon youthful interactions. Adults tell the kids to ignore the troublemaker or jointly express disapproval (and to accept him if contrite and cooperative), rather than allow them more primal means — such as throwing rocks to drive him off.
In a playground for adults, the need to have somebody on recess duty would ideally be minimal, and his role, in any case, ought to be to guide toward better behavior, not to censor and punish.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

It was a very interesting and informative discussion.You and Matt interacted in a constructive manner and I learned a few new things about the blogosphere.
Tim White’s(and I think highly of him in general)attitude was reflective of the mainstream media who like to “manage” public input.
I certainly spend a lot of time on talk radio,but I will be the first to admit it is really not a venue for free exchange of ideas.It is closely monitored and and subjected to topicality and agenda tests in real time.
Geoff Charles had maybe the only free form talk radio show in Rhode Island.Does that surprise you coming from me?Geoff didn’t have the “one call” rule and he took on all comers-he didn’t really seem to be stuck on any particular topic.I started off not liking him and went 180 degrees after a while when it became apparent he wasn’t afraid of being challenged and he wasn’t always hitting the dump button.
At age 62,I don’t feel the need for a nanny on a blog or in any other facet of my life.

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

“What I mean by that is you ignore somebody who’s being snippy, and they’ll stop, if everybody starts to gang up on them, and if it gets really bad, you can ban them.”
H’mm, doesn’t Justin list three actions there? Tim’s “playground” characterization may have been a reaction to the second and third: ganging up on someone or banning someone.
Certainly one of the more civilized (i.e., non-playground) reactions to an inappropriate or nonproductive comment is to ignore it.

Rabbit
Rabbit
12 years ago

Nice job on the show, Justin.
Since this is YOUR playground, you make the rules. You can do whatever you want. You can post whatever you want.
Actually, censoring idiots is part of the fun when writing a blog.

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