I hope this doesn’t catch on
So, define “civil” behavior in blog writing and commenting. Yeah, and then ask another blogger to define them, and then ask a couple of readers, and the next thing you know I can’t say “Children should be seen and not heard.”
Some writer at the New York Times wants us to add badges to our blogs indicating we meet his definition of civility, a blogger’s code of conduct. Isn’t part of having a blog not conforming with the norms of the Mainstream Media? (Oops, is that term offensive now?)
I write a column for the Waukesha Freeman, and it’s understood (but not explicitly defined) that there are some things I can get away with here that I can’t quite get away with there. It’s just the way it is, and I don’t need the editor Bill Yorth sending me memos reminding me where the line is (so far).
On the other hand, there is a self-correcting nature to blogging that I enjoy. If I make an error, some commenter will usually let me know, or some other blogger, and my mistake and the correction are usually transparent. On a less factual but often more meaningful level there is what Mickey Kaus called “the asymptotic search for the truth”: Bloggers addressing a particular topic each adding their own thoughts and arguments until we approach something close to the truth on an argument.
As for blogs that don’t engage in a little self-correction or don’t want to seem to engage in a dialog, well, they have their markets, too. I also see the “Darth Doyle” and the “Bushhitler” comments as having little marginal utility, and they have little market reach beyond a very selective audience. But the nice part is that the audience for those blogs, or any blog, is self-selecting, and the reader can quickly decide whether a blog is worth bookmarking.
A self-selecting blog badge would merely indicate that the author of the blog believes themself to be civil in the blog writing and the policing of the comments, but the reality may be that the author is the most uncivil bastard with an educated vocabulary but lacking in a knowledge of what constitutes libel.
No, if there are to be blog badges, let them be for something useful. Perhaps a badge indicating that the author is prone to believe in conspiracy theories, or contributes money to the Libertarians, or even a badge for those believing in astrology or phrenology. Upon seeing those badges the reader can congratulate themselves on a narrow escape from someone else’s escapism.
In the meantime, the rest of us can escape the badges of self-congratulation.