I'm a long-time lurker and part of what I imagine to be the quiet majority of Kossacks, in that I'm mostly here for the front page. I'm just more average than you guys, less tapped in, but I still care about progressivism, good governance, and social justice.
Anyway, I read this diary today burning up the front page, mostly b/c I'd already read Krugman. And then I looked into the comments. And I felt dismay, disgust and depression.
I'm calling on you to make a specific pledge right here to recommit to civility, whatever side of the Obama Debate you're on. Details below fold.
I'm a long-time lurker and part of what I imagine to be the quiet majority of Kossacks, in that I'm mostly here for the front page. I read a few non-front diaries a week and hardly ever leave comments. I'm not intending a superior attitude - the activists who make the community here by participating better than me are, in fact, better than me. I'm just more average.
Anyway, I read this dairy today burning up the front page, mostly b/c I'd already read Krugman. And then I looked into the comments. And I felt such a sense of loss, disgust, and depression that I was moved to make about my fifth diary in five years. It kills me to watch you guys learn to treat your fellow activists as the enemy because you don't agree about a single politician. It kills me to see you guys imitate the internal divisions that flat out killed the liberals in Weimar Germany, that killed the French Revolution, that just crippled a 60% liberal majority in Britain. And I'm NOT shaming you for your opinion on Barack Obama. I'm shaming you for your hostility and ungenerosity towards your fellow man first, and to this community that makes up the 1% of America that is closest to your beliefs, second.
I don't really need to (and might be breaking the rules if I was to) be specific. Just open the linked diary and read the first hundred comments. The comment base of Dailykos is at war with itself. I'm not calling you people out as unique, either, or unusual. It's just one example of an all-too common phenomenon.
And the sad thing is that there is so much common ground. On the one hand, is there anyone out there who disagrees that Barack Obama has done some dissapointing things, whatever the reasons - or even, sometimes outright abandoned our cause without being forced to (civil liberties)? On the other hand, is anyone willing to deny that he has not only done good things for his country, but that he's struggled to push progressive ideas (even if not as progressive as they should be in details) over both the opposition of both the other team and his own guys (see John Cohn on HCR) who have tried to scale him back? That he wants to do what he believes is the right thing for everyone?
I'm sure that there are many, many folks here who don't agree with one of those statements, although, like everyone, I secretly think that I'm one of the tiny few who really "get it" and everyone else is dumb or a tool.
... well, I'm being overly self-deprecating. I'm not that bad. But sometimes I do think that about people. But on dailykos, where we're all pushing towards similar goals, I just wouldn't say it. because my thoughts reflect my base urges towards intolerance, arrogance, close-mindedness, a quickness to anger, a tendency to grade disagreement as treason. It's my Bush-Cheney side. We all have it.
I won't pretend to be neutral or above the fray: I'm pretty sympathetic to Barack Obama. I'm dissapointed a lot, and in a few specific areas I'm genuinely worried. But I think he's doing okay, and I'm pretty sure that if he's replaced early, it won't be by something better. I'm not accusing you, supporters or critcism-focused people, of working to bring the Republican Party back into power on purpose, but I'm just saying that your actions aren't serving your own goals. In both cases! For example - critics want to criticize Obama and hold him accountable, pressure him and use their own clout to make him follow through on his promises. And that's unquestionably a good thing.
But when you flame people who support him, even through "rose-colored glasses" or whatever, you are undermining your goals. Frankly, you need the solid Obama defenders if you're ever going to dent his high approval ratings among Democrats in a manner that might lead to real pressure. You can't afford to be jerks.
Similarly, Obama defenders, you're going to need the activists who have become criticism-focused. They're more willing than 99% of the world to give their time doing the ground work that won Barack Obama the election. I absolutely believe that when enough of the base loses heart, the Democrats - and thus progressivism in this country - will sink like a stone, and I believe that, despite high approval ratings among democrats, the heart losses are heavy.
Frankly, we all need each other. We're pretty vastly outgunned as it is. The front-pagers and most of the people out there actually running blogs and websites know that we need each other. At least, the smart ones. If either one of our two sad camps quits on the other, both camps are going to lose in 2012, and 2010. Even if there's no "big quit" moment, we drive a lot of people away with our unkind behavior to each other. And as bad as you may think things have been so far, you're going to see it get a little worse for every Republican senator that wins in 2010. Small differences matter. Maybe the financial reform was great, maybe it was crap, maybe somewhere in between, but every incremental improvement might keep a few hundred million, billion, ten billion, dollars out of a giant hole in the US federal budget that will in the end, as likely as not, be paid for by someone's child support subsidy. Incremental differences matter to real people affected by them.
Look, it's a simple set of rules.
#1. Don't use adjectives to describe other posters. Keep them to descriptions of a comment, or a logic.
#2. When you do #1, use adjectives that get the important part of the point across, rather the satisfying part. If you call an argument a name, you've accomplished very little. It may or may not be stupid or cynical or zombie-like, but no one who doesn't already agree with you will care. Focus on the fact that it's wrong.
#3. Recognize that opinions like "I think Obama's doing a bad job" or "I think that Obama doesn't care about progressivism" or "I think people who think the first two things are kneejerk haters who always defect on Democratic candidates" CANNOT EVER BE "RIGHT" OR WRONG". The last two comments probably shouldn't be said at all, but they will be said anyway, and they are non-falsifiable statements (okay, maybe "always" can be disproved, but you're missing the point). If you don't agree, instead of tearing down the person who said it, make a case for the opposing point of view. Politely!
#4. Treat everyone in Dkos like an undecided voter at a phone bank.
#5. Stop complaining about past behavior, whatever it was. History is dead. Don't use threads to point out other people's behavior patterns as a disqualifier. Take the argument in front of you on its own terms.
It's enough that the argument is wrong, no matter who it is coming from The habits of the argumentor aren't your job.
#6. Instead of whining about a TR, try even harder to be polite next time you say what you said again. If you must argue, avoid discussing the TR-er's motivations, period. If you have the power to use a TR, please don't delete polite comments, no matter how ideologically wrong they seem to you. And try to give people the benefit of the doubt on "polite" as well.
#7. Make an effort to disengage and de-personalize. Try hard to point out parts of someone else's POV that is correct, even if other parts are not.
Try to keep a sense of perspective about how this person probably agrees with you a lot on a lot of things.
I'd like to recognize democracy inaction for keeping a lot of his arguments in the kind of vein I'm talking about. In the random comments I looked at. In that one diary off the Krugman column linked above. I bet he would take this pledge.
I suggest the pledge should be signaled by changing your signature to reflect something along the lines of "Okay, I think you're wrong, but if you're on daily kos, you're trying to be right, and I'm trying harder to respect you".
This pledge and my seven points aren't perfect, I'm sure. But do they have to be? Isn't it enough that they'd be an improvement? Seeing some sort of trend towards adding this signature in the next month or so would really make me feel good about this place again, not that enough people will ever see this diary to achieve that.
In conclusion and as a leading example, I think some people, if they ever saw this diary, would denounce, maybe angrily or maybe politely, the idea that they would or should ever do what they will see as self-censorship for the sake of some unimportant set of good feelings. They'll reinforce that the people who don't agree with them are leading our movement in a direction that just won't work, and that they can't afford to be nice while changing that.
I'm not here to condemn you folks, whoever you turn out to be. I know you've got a sense of urgency that compels you. I know that beside your anger is a sense of righteousness and pride. And nobody owes anyone the discarding of those feelings. Personally, I think you'll do better at your own goals heeding this advice, but I'm - like the point of this diary - fundamentally not here on Dkos to judge you. Maybe I'm doing that a little here, maybe it's necessary to judge in order to urge communal cooperation, but as little as possible. I won't be commenting or arguing or posting follow-up diaries. I'm staying focused on Republicans and Blanche Lincoln. I see no good, either pragmatically or really even ethically, in continuing to hound you. I hope you listen, and if not, inshallah, and I hope someone else does.
Paul Krugman has put aside some of his beefs with BO in this column today. I hope to see progressives here following his example towards each other.
UPDATE-Mayhem!: I'm very much heartened by all the support, agreement, and actual examples of civility in the discussion below. Good work, community! Don't be frustrated by the fact that not everyone, including in this thread, has managed to avoid anger. People will come to this movement when they're ready, not before. Instead - the difference that all you polite people can make bunched together - you can imitate that all spread out.
The next time I watch a flamewar, I'm going to do my best to divert the discussion towards civility / common ground / the reasonable foundations of the debate instead of wanking about it in a meta diary ;-)