Sunday, January 09, 2011

Blog Standards For The Maven

Yesterday’s horrible shootings in Arizona have caused me to reevaluate what I do here. This maven is quite aware that in the past I have engaged in personal attacks against public figures. There was even one time that I apologized to the public figure for going too far and once I decided to remove one of my postings because it was an attack that questioned a politician’s motives.

We who attempt to mold public opinion have a great responsibility. Even if we are small-time bloggers whose words reach only a few people, we need to keep in mind that words can be very dangerous. If we attack a person’s character, or portray a person as evil, or un-American, or dangerous or anything like that, we need to know that there are people out there who might use our words as a license to physically attack the person we are writing about. We need to use our words carefully. We need to point out that it is a person’s actions or words to which we object, not the person him or herself.

Reader, after more than six decades it is unlikely that this maven is going to change his basic political philosophy. I am basically a social liberal who is also a fiscal conservative. So, I will look at the world through those glasses. I will support those who agree with me and oppose those who disagree with me.

But, starting today I will do my best to avoid personal attacks on people no matter how much I object to their behavior or speech or ideas. I will accuse no one of being a traitor or engaging in treason. I will accuse no one of being un-American. I will not describe any person or group of people as being evil. I will not cast aspersions on a person’s intelligence although I reserve the right to point out that something they have said or done is pretty stupid.

I challenge everyone out there who tries to sway the opinions of others to join me in this pledge of civility in public discourse. Let’s be vigorous in our public debate but agree to never attack someone personally. There is, unfortunately, a tendency toward violence in our national history. We who choose to exercise our right of free speech must assume the responsibility of controlling how we use it.

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