Brian Micklethwaite — who, by the way, keeps an interesting blog — thinks the blogosphere is teaching members of the Conservative Party in Britain to be more polite to each other. He calls it the “Jane Austenification of Society, by the blogosphere”.
The raving lunatics… find that they are ignored, while the politer people, who phrase their complaints and criticisms more moderately, get attended to and responded to. And since tone of voice has been one of the basic Conservative problems over recent years, this is no small influence.
It’s happening here in the USA, too. I’m not sure if the same thing goes on in the blogospheric Left, since I prefer to take my preaching in the choir, and avoid most of the left-leaning sites. But it’s definitely true on the Right.
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When I’m reading a blog or forum, I find that as soon as the conversation devolves to insults involving bodily functions and orifices, my interest rapidly dissipates. Been there, done that. Oh, it can be amusing for thirty seconds or so, as I mentally cheer on one side or the other. But then I want to move on to a discussion with substance.
One of the attractions of Instapundit is the calm and measured tone he employs. He says, “I disagree” or “That argument doesn’t convince me” — no steaming piles of excrement. Wretchard can eviscerate an opposing argument without ever departing from gracious civility; it makes his blog an educational experience instead of a fist-shaking polemic.
Writing regularly in cyberspace tends to impose discipline. In addition to civility, there are a few things I’ve learned in the past two years that make a blog work well:
- Don’t assert something unless you’re pretty darned sure you’ve got your facts right.
- Correct any mistakes promptly and with good grace.
- Politely concede an opponent’s point when it is made reasonably and effectively.
- Cite a source for any idea not your own (assuming you can remember it — hah!).
I like it when our commenters remain civil and temperate. When they don’t, when the conversation devolves into a flame war, it kills the thread, which is always a shame.
Being a Conservative — i.e. a Tory — in Britain does not necessarily mean the same thing as being a conservative here in the USA. Both groups are intent on preservation, but they are not out to preserve the same things.
American conservatives want to preserve our ancient liberties, a position that would be called “liberal” if the meaning of the word — like that of “gay” or “propaganda” — hadn’t been corrupted past all redemption. We’re traditionalists, but our tradition is one of liberty.
The Tories also want to preserve a tradition, but one of the monarchy and the British Constitution. These are important and worth preserving, but their ideals are not so mindful of liberty.
The choice in Britain is between Aristocracy and Socialism, with no real liberal alternative. When I lived in England in the 1960s, the Liberal Party had declined to the point where it had become a joke, with two or three MPs and no significant program. Nowadays it has morphed into something I don’t even recognize.
What American conservatives and their British counterparts can agree on is fiscal policy, the bedrock of the success of both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Both groups are mindful of the Law of Unintended Consequences, and are prone to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
As opposed to Socialists, who want to break things really thoroughly so that they can then “fix” them.
American conservatism is unique in its effort to preserve a revolutionary liberty, a model that — despite its flaws — can still inspire people all over the world who live under the grinding heel of tyranny. During the East Bloc revolutions of 1989, the crowds in the public squares of Budapest or Sofia carried samizdat copies of the Declaration of Independence.
American conservatives seek the preservation of traditional freedom. I think it was Friedrich Hayek who first pointed this out. If I’m wrong, I invite correction in the comments.
But with civility, please.