It seems, my dear readers out there in Radioland, I might become a columnist. Of course, it’s just to answer my parents. Here’s what my mom sent me the other day:
Did you catch OpEd piece on Thurs. 12 A14–The Rebirth of Civility? Here’s hoping that the internet blogging can help up us bring civility so that freedom of expression means more than just being able to say whatever you want, without having to be obnoxious just to be heard. If the shouters could only learn that by being civil they might actually be listened to, not just heard. I loved the one quote–“Free speech is enhance by civility.”
And of course that brings us the the radio personality. It looks like the Web Sites and Bloggers had a lot do with him getting canned. What do you think of that kind of revolution. You have always said that the Web would be the forum of our future. Interesting proof of its power, if indeed that is what made the networks act.
I read the column as well (once she mentioned it). And there was a little buzz around the blogosphere (still for lack of a better word) as well. There has actually been a rough reaction to the idea of making a written ‘Code of Conduct’, which is understandable. The internet is a true haven for free speech and is populist by nature. We of this realm prefer to keep things as libertarian as possible, and any attempts to directly govern, well, any of it, is fought tooth and nail.
I definitely fall into this camp, on the principle of free speech. Having a dictated regulation, even if in good spirit, creates restriction in what people say, and so the essence of being able to speak one’s mind is lost. We should all viscously defend against any path towards an Orwellian Nightmare.
However, as I have mentioned before, humans are naturally social creatures, and we do not live in this world alone. Our interactions define our very lives. So, while external regulations on speech should be fought against, reasonable internal regulations are a necessity. And there is a natural regulation as well. Anyone may speak however they wish, but they certainly must be prepared for the repercussions thereof (hence Imus.)
If one wishes their voice to be not only heard, but listened to and possibly even heeded, those words cannot offend those listening. As a regular reader of blogs and message boards, I regularly come across those one-lined, misspelled, oft profane sorts of retorts that do not amount to anything. They are merely pests, much like flies, that may momentarily take your focus, but do nothing to change the actual debate taking place. And in this realm of written words on the internet, it becomes an easy habit to simply ignore them.
So essentially, if you want to be heard, you have to be pleasant and respectful. Of course it also helps to also speak and write well. Even when being utterly opposed for a multitude of reasons to another person’s position, that minimum requirement of civility (for that’s the magic word here) has to be there for a debate to even take place. The opinion column points this out, just as rules of the road mean everyone actually gets to travel with reasonable ease, even with following rules. Daniel Henniger, who wrote the opinion, brings up how regardless of situation, Congress members must refer to each other by the gentleman or -woman. I think an even more pointed example, considering how tame and toothless Congress often appears to be, would be the British House of Commons. They can spew utter vile at one another, but always with rules according to manners and how to address one another. It’s amazing to watch; check out Prime Minister’s Questions time (something I think we should have here.)
Bottom line, the natural forces of balance that rule us all do still apply to the cyber world as well. If you open up a debate, one has to be prepared for the dissenters and the flies buzzing around occasionally. However, only those who reply in respect and with dignity will be heard and be considered as having any clout. And should someone say something totally out of line, they will most certainly hear about it.
This brings us to Imus getting fired from the radio (for now, radio’s hurting for personalities. Also on that note, I am an inexperienced fool who barely keeps abreast of facts in this world, and am up for hire.) Rather than sending letters to the station, it is email. Instead of spreading rumor and bad news to those within earshot, it can spread faster over much greater distances in the blogging realm (I like this term better). The cry rang out, and the people were heard. Vox Populi, Vox Dei. (“The Voice of the People is the Voice of God.”) Instead of protesting in the streets, people (relatively) directly voice their opinions in the blogging realm.
Most things on human interaction still seem to return to that ancient golden rule. Probably because it’s such a reasonable idea.