Sometimes I think I’m no better than the man who strays down the wrong street in Belfast and runs into an attack he should have seen coming a mile off. In which case, it’s probably all my fault for retaining Slugger’s open door policy. I’m refering to some of the off-the-wall abuse being thrown at public figures recently and in two threads in particular.On occasions there has been a whole scale abandonment of the one golden rule of the site – play the ball, not the man! More than once, in the last few days I’ve had it thrown back in my face with an accusation that the site is biased, as if somehow that would absolve them of the one requirement for posting on here – ie to be civil to your opponent.
This is not a take or leave it. You have to adhere to it, or your post will get wiped, or the thread will be closed, or if you persist, you’ll just get banned.
The apotheosis was Ruth Dudley Edwards thread. Now, through the running of this site over the last few years I’ve come to know Ruth, and I know she doesn’t mind a robust exchange. She can give it and take it by turns. But, as the editor of the site, I do mind.
Buried in that thread were some good points. But it was mostly buried in a hail of invective that hid them perfectly from public sight. When I went in to ask people to refrain from the ad hominem attacks, I was simply accused of being biased and (shock, horror) a Unionist.
To which I can only respond, so bloody what! Leaving aside the fact that I’ve never made it explicitly known what my politics are (though I’ve no problem with people speculating), at no point is anyone on Slugger asked to agree with anything blogged here. In fact we have always encouraged a people to advocate their own oppositional views.
However, that cannot be done without at least a modicum of civility!
Civility is not a political value. But it is a pre-requisite for people who diametrically oppose each to argue and reason over things they fundamentally disagree on. Without it the comments zone becomes a free for all with the loudest voices taking all prizes.
So, to be blunt, from now on be warned. I’m determined to keep this public dialogue space. But if anti-personal diatribes are more your thing and you wish to ignore the basic rule of the site, you may find yourself sharply back in cyberspace and looking for other lodgings!
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty