Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dial it down

I am sure that Dave Begel does not remember me, but I have a fond recollection of him. Back when I was but a young lawyer, I was a member of the defense trial team in the metropolitan Milwaukee school desegregation case (this was a case that wanted to extend some form of mandatory racial balancing throughout the metro area, not just in MPS). The case was of substantial public interest and Judge Curran decided to allow the press to sit in the jury box (there were so many lawyers - 12 to 27 on any given day - that the normal spectator section had to be removed).

I was cross examining (actually eviscerating, if I so say so myself) one of the experts (it was this guy) for MPS (who wanted the 4 county busing)and momentarily could not locate one of my exhibits. Begel handed it to me. A young lawyer appreciates that type of thing.

But I can't agree with the notion - advanced by Begel and others (and more civilly by him) - that last week's election marked some type of defeat for "angry" talk radio. It wasn't a good night for conservatives, but this stereotype of talk radio as "angry" and "divisive" and "against everything" is tired. Listen to Joel McNally's morning show (or read his Shepherd Express column) and tell me that he doesn't take the position - at least for public consumption - that his political opponents are moral or intellectual defectives. Try reading this guy's blog. You won't find that kind of vituperative self-righteousness in many other places.

I understand that Belling's schtick is outrage, but Sykes and Wagner are hardly breathing fire. We have embarrassments like G. Gordon Liddy and Michael Savage. The left has Randi Rhodes and Keith Olbermann.

It's one thing to claim victory. It's another to claim moral superiority.

50 comments:

3rd Way said...

Do you really want to get into right versus left tit for tat vitriol pissing contest?

The local vitriol from the right knows no equal on the left. You link to a blogger (texas hold 'em) who on election night wished for the deaths of Americans at the hands of terrorists and threatened the life of our president elect.

If a local lefty ever went there with Bush it surely would have been broadcast by radio talkers.

The right wing guy (McIlheran) at the local paper previously defended the same bloggers inexcusable over the line behavior and stated that he preferred the debate to be "caustic and pungent".

The vitriol from the prominent national right wing commentators knows no equal on the left. Randi Rhodes goes way over the line, but she isn't in the same league as Coulter and Liddy. Limbaugh is the most divisive character in the country. Who can you honestly claim is his equal on the left?

Anonymous said...

As an independent; my sense is that vitriol is about equally represented on both the Left and the Right; and is equally reprehensible in nature. Talk radio it seems to me is dominated by the Right; but the Left makes up for that in the blogosphere, and a Pox on Both Their Houses.

Our recent election did not render any particular verdict on talk radio nor the blogosphere; not IMHO. These are now "permanent" features of our culture; or at least as permanent as any cultural feature ever is. In the future, the current right-wing domination of talk radio may wane, but I am sure these bloviators will find employment and self-fulfillment somewhere else.

sean s.

3rd Way said...

Locally the rhetoric from the right side of the blogosphere is far more "caustic and pungent" than anything you will find from the left.

Can anyone honestly claim that the blogs "Right View Wisconsin", "Real Debate Wisconsin" or "Badger Blogger" have counterparts on the left that match their vitriol?

There certainly aren't local bands of lefty commenters willing and able to match the sort of vituperative self-righteous bile spewed by local righties on local righty blogs. It is common to see right leaning commenters discredit left leaners as morally and mentally deficient because they hold differing view points. That sort of villification of opposing view points comes directly from the Hannitys, Limbaughs, Coulters, Bellings and Sykes of the world.

Anonymous said...

3rd way;

Evaluations like "caustic and pungent" or “vituperative ... bile” or “villification” (sic) are pejorative, and reflect your disapproval. From my standpoint, there are plenty of liberal commentators who engage in the same bad behaviors; employing remarks that match your evaluations above. Bad behavior is a non-partisan, pan-ideological phenomena. No one is innocent; no ideology is innocent; no party is innocent.

sean s.

3rd Way said...

I am not saying anyone is innocent, but I don't agree with Rick's evaluation that both sides are equal.

The vitriol coming from the rightside of the local blogosphere is unmatched on the left. Rick uses Plaisted as an example of over the top rhetoric, which it sometimes is, but Plaisted's style can be matched on at least a half dozen local righty sites. I don't know of any right wing bloggers that have had to moderate their comments because of disturbing hostile comments coming from the other side of the political spectrum.

Even if the vitriol from the left-leaning media was equal to the right-leaning media it hasn't boiled over into the left side of the political realm as it has on the right. Only at the campaign events of right leaning politicians this year was it common for members of the crowd to call out things such as "terrorist" "treason" or worse when their political opponents were mentioned. That disturbing phenomenon is directly related to the style of rhetoric found in right wing media.

Anonymous said...

Rick, as another example, you forgot to mention the Madison DJ Sly, who used racial slurs to describe the Secretary of State. And then there's the local blogger who used a nasty word to describe Jessica McBride. And Al Franken has been known to physically attack people he disagrees with. In any event, there are many more examples and there's plenty of bad behavior on both sides. I just think the left tends to complain about it more.

Anonymous said...

Look at the Hollywood far left (Chevy Chase, Sean Penn, Rosie O'Donnell, Alec Baldwin-the list is endless). I can't even repeat the names that they have called Bush. And their hate for the right is well vocalized.

Check out the comments in the HuffPo (she's cleaned it up) and the Daily Kos. I've read many a comment calling for the demise of Bush/Cheney.

Locally, the most disgusting commentary was when Jessica McBride was called "that word". As a woman, I can assure you that there is no word more hateful and hurtful.

Dad29 said...

Who can you honestly claim is his equal on the left

The President-elect, for one. Queen Nancy and Harry (takes both) for #2.

Dad29 said...

I just think the left tends to complain about it more

Well, from a group which thinks with its 'feeeeeeellllings,' what would you expect?

Rick Esenberg said...

You link to a blogger (texas hold 'em) who on election night wished for the deaths of Americans at the hands of terrorists and threatened the life of our president elect.

I also link to blogs that haven't existed for a year and a half. That list hasn't been touched for a long time and I don't read - and can't endorse - the contents of all the blogs listed. I didn't see the meltdown that you describe but I gather that it wasn't pretty.

Do you really want to get into right versus left tit for tat vitriol pissing contest?

No and that's my point. I fully admit that people who agree with me can be complete jerks. On the internet, we can always find some poor soul working out issues through politics. We can find others - like the ones I cited - who are entirely too enamored with their positions. I see no evidence that intemperance is more bountiful on the right than the left. I don't know why anyone would think Rhodes is less irresponsible than Coulter (I don't know what Liddy does) or why Limbaugh is more divisive than Colbert or Olberman or Maher.

I fully appreciate that discussions about race and immigration can regress into nativism. But discussions about evangelicals can regress into intolerance and about talking about wealth can descend into demagoguery.


If you really want to improve the quality of political dialogue, you need to practice it and spending all or most of your time questioning the morality or intelligence of the other side means that you will have said nothing to which anyone can respond.

Brew City Brawler said...

I understand that Belling's schtick is outrage, but Sykes and Wagner are hardly breathing fire.

Who is this Sykes you're talking about? The one who - at least twice - put on a tough guy voice to call Barack Obama a "sniveling snot-nosed community organizer"? Or the one who approvingly mentioned that Palinistas in Cedarburg were flipping off the media bus? Or the one who gave air-time to a wacko who suggested that, just maybe, George Soros and the Dems were manipulating the stock market in order to win in November (Sykes said he didn't like conspiracy theories ... but there was something about this one..)? Or the Sykes who gave airtime (apropos of the great Racine textbook scandal -- wherein students could read an excerpt from Dreams of My Father) to a guy who said Bill AYers and Barack Obama have learned that taking over education is more effective than using dynamite (I paraphrase)? I got it...you're thinking about the Sykes who repeatedly warned of a risk of "massive voter fraud" that could sway the election in Milwaukee? Or the guy who likened Jim Doyle to a segregationist?

"Angry" and "divisive" are perfect descriptors for Sykes. And the list goes on. There was a time when one could argue -- a bit desperately, perhaps -- that Sykes represented some sort of thoughtful alternative to Belling. That time has long since passed.

3rd Way said...

If you really want to improve the quality of political dialogue, you need to practice it and spending all or most of your time questioning the morality or intelligence of the other side means that you will have said nothing to which anyone can respond.

The key to improving the quality of political dialogue is self policing your compatriots when they step out of line.

Where was the disapproval for Tex's transgression from fellow bloggers?

When a local lefty made a hitler comparison (to prove a point- he wasn't actually comparing) he was instantly admonished by like minded bloggers and ridiculed by the opposition. But when a local righty made an actual Hitler comparison there wasn't a peep from anyone on the right and actual defense of the comparison from some like minded commenters.

A civil society starts at home. There isn't a father figure in the local house of right wing blogs or radio talkers to straighten out the bad actors. Until they do straighten out their act the GOP is going to be increasingly seen as the house of angry old white men. If they keep up the "vituperative self-righteousness" angry old white men are going to be the only ones left in the increasingly small tent off in the wilderness.

Anonymous said...

BCB

Angry and divisive? Go look in the mirror. Sykes is no worse than Maher; Olberman is just hateful. Why is that OK?

krshorewood said...

You can of course come up with an outburst here and a slur there from the left. All of us who post could be accused.

But these guys do it as a matter of commerce day after day. Whether you agree with Michael Plaistad or not he hardly has the readership vs. the Sykes, Belling or Limbaugh listenership. That argument is extremely weak.

The Milwaukee JS op-ed page is McIlheran all day every day. The paper has no one doing a column to match the oceans of ink spilled for this guy.

Still, on Michael's worst days he pales compares with those on the right. Michael Savage literally needs a straightjacket and tranquilizer darts.

Every poisonous strain in Milwaukee politics and political discussion has been promoted on these programs. For example and just one example, Sykes' over the top attack on Marcus White was reprehensible.

My biggest beef is that anything that has a whiff of progress in Milwaukee gets shouted down by these bullies and gets picked up by their minions. That's not to say that people can disagree, but their tone goes beyond the bounds of civil.

Rick, only the deepest partisan on the right or someone who has not power of evaluation would agree with you. Everyone else will trust their lying ears.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks the right doesn't like the competition, i.e. Olbermann and Maher. Finally, the left is getting a voice! The righties need to back off. They are simply getting a taste of their own medicine.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that all this back-and-forth "You're bad." "You're worse!" "No you are." "NO YOU ARE!" "YOU ARE!!" ...
(ad nauseum) demonstrates the problem clearly. Vitriol is used to justify vitriol; the verbal cycle of violence spins on and on.

This is why I am an independent. Both Sides Act Like Asses.

Jeez ...

sean s.

krshorewood said...

"Both Sides Act Like Asses."

That reflects a measure of equanimity but not a level of perception.

3rd Way said...

As an independent Sean do us all a favor and conduct an experiment.

It is going to be impossible to compare local left wing talk radio to right (because there is no equivalent), it is impossible to compare McIlheran to his lefty counterpart in the most widely read daily in the state (because he has no equivalent). But we can compare the blogs.

I mentioned above three rightwing blogs above where over the top partisan vitriol reigns. Take a look at the content on those websites and the tone and content from the commenters and then try and find three lefty blogs that are comparable. You can't. That brand of vitriolic blog doesn't exist on the left and the types of commenters that hang out on those blogs far out number their counterparts on the left.

There is evidence that the local right is far more "caustic and pungent" than the local left. Ignoring that evidence is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Until the shepherds outnumber the sharks the GOP is going to find itself in the wilderness.

Anonymous said...

Rick's original point stands, and is actually supported by the comments. There is plenty of bad behavior by some on both the right and the left. The issue is which side more consistently ignores the examples of bad behavior by its own members and tries to claim the moral high ground.

krshorewood said...

The assertion that there is as much vitrol on the left as there is on the right is as lame as the "advice" that Obama should emulate Bush's public speaking style -- http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2008/11/022038.php.

But what can I say. Your perception is your reality and I believe you believe it.

Always nice to visit the alternative universe.

3rd Way said...

The issue is which side more consistently ignores the examples of bad behavior by its own members and tries to claim the moral high ground

The answer to that is obvious to anyone willing to conduct a fair evaluation.

The beaten-to-death case of the rare transgression by Illy-T is the perfect example. He made one stupid comment, was admonished by like minded peers, apologized for it and yet the poor guy still gets trodden out as the quintessential example of the "hate left". Meanwhile a prominent blogger (Texas hold em) has a long history of utterly reprehensible conduct yet still enjoyed links by all the righty bloggers and was publicly defended by one of the most prominent right wing commenters in the state (McIlheran). When that prominent blogger jumps way, way, way over the line on election night there isn't a peep from anyone on the right. He is even rewarded by other prominent bloggers with links to a new website without any recognition of his appalling transgression.

Anonymous said...

3rd way;

I cannot carry out the experiment you suggest if there is no way to properly evaluate the results; worse is that the results would have no meaning to others without some agreement as to how to make that evaluation.

What is the metric by which a neutral person would compare tone? Since liberal and conservatives tend to use different epithets; by what objective standard would a neutral person determine which content were more vitriolic? Is calling one a “fascist” worse than “socialist”? The other way around? Equal?

You say that the number of commentators on right-wing vitriolic blogs “far out number their counterparts on the left”; do you claim this as an objective fact or just your perception? How many distinct persons are we talking about? 0.0003% of the population on one side and 0.0002% on the other? Or should we consider the viewership? 10 commentators followed by a million people might be more influential than 1000 followed by 10 people. Do you have numbers to support a conclusion one way or the other? I don’t; so all I have are my own experiences; which tell me both sides are equally obnoxious.

You say, “ There is evidence that the local right is far more ‘caustic and pungent’ than the local left.” Evidence is not the same as proof; and there is evidence to the contrary according to some observers. Pray tell how a reasonable neutral decides which is right. As before, how do you measure ‘caustic’ or ‘pungent’. One man’s trenchant remark is another man’s hate-speech.

You say, “ Ignoring that evidence (above) is part of the problem and not part of the solution.” Ignoring evidence that the problem is systemic and not limited to one ideology/party stands in the way of a solution. The problem will not go away if only one side must chill out.

To me, the problem is like trying to decide which of two barrels of rotten apples are worse; 100 pounds of rotten Macintosh apples or 100 pounds of rotten Red Delicious. There may be some esoteric way of deciding which is more rotten, but who cares? Both are rotten. I see no value in the determination. Get rid of them both.

Another unaddressed complication is that the behavior of both sides waxes and wanes. Currently the left is happier and more relaxed while the right is unhappy and stressed. Three or four years ago it was the opposite. Valid comparisons must be made over time because even good people have bad days or years. If (and only if) the left is CURRENTLY more bucolic; well ... don’t get used to it; it won’t last.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

The left thinks that they should be allowed to do anything they want without challenge or their failures exposed.

This obnoxious arrogance has no problem censuring those that disagree with them. However, I think the election is going to motivate the conservative population more then ever and people like Begel are simply trying to head it off.

3rd Way said...

Choose any metric you wish Sean. I can't choose one for you. If you perceive me as biased my metric would reflect that bias.

You don't even have to compare three local lefty blogs. Just pick the worst offender you can find and compare it to any of those three. I would be willing to bet that every charge of "fascist" you can find will be matched with at least 10 charges of "socialist".

Any fair vitrol-meter you wish to employ will reveal that the local right is far more "unhinged" than the local left.

tom paine said...

Rick,

I was giving you the benefit of the doubt until you said you "don't know why anyone would think...Limbaugh is more divisive than Colbert"

If you truly believe that Stephan Colbert is as divisive as Rush Limbaugh then you may need to seek help.

Goggle "comedy" and "far right radical" and then get back to us.

Anonymous said...

What I am seeing in this ridiculous back and forth, nanny-nanny-boo-boo argument is more like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 3rd Way and Keith think that the conservatives (Peter, Fred, Patrick on the local level) are far worse because they don't agree with them. Rick points out Plaistaid (I would add Kane, Keith himself, and Soglin for the left for comparison) because he doesn't agree with them. Sean says everybody sucks. I would agree with Sean that on any given day either side would be correct in their assessment.

That folks is why the "fairness doctrine" is a BAD idea. It shouldn't be up to either side to determine what is fit for the general public to hear.

That pesky constitution. Free speech is a bitch ain't it? The right has to put up with NAMBLA, the left has to put up with Rush Limbaugh.

JJ

3rd Way said...

These comparisons you guys are coming up with are absolutely crazy.

What do NAMBLA, Barack Obama and Stephen Colbert have in common? They are the equivalent to Rush Limbaugh. Ha ha ha.

Anonymous said...

3rd way;

Since you can suggest nothing in the way of an objective metric, then I cannot proceed with your experiment. Since I’ve been around the blogosphere, I have seen a fair bit; and have concluded that the quality of opinion and discourse is equally good and bad regardless of ideology. Sorry if you don’t agree; that disagreement does not prove that either one of us is wrong.

C’est la vie.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

3rd Way -

The point was that free speech is free speech. You can't decide who gets it based on whether or not you like it. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you reside on.

I thought that was fairly obvious in my "free speech is a bitch" statement. Otherwise we can throw names, comments, blogsites, TV shows, radio shows, dead tree media back and forth all day long: Colbert -> Hannity, Savage -> Rhodes, NY Times -> NY Post, MSNBC -> Fox, McIlheran -> Kane, Dorwin -> Plaistaid, Malkin -> HuffPo

There is no moral equivalency on this one. Free speech is a bitch.

Anonymous said...

JJ;

A minor correction; I do not think everyone sucks; certainly every ideological position is equally championed by people who do suck. If I have failed to make myself clear, then I need to correct that: there are people who try to be reasonable; and they are as likely to speak from the left or right, or as independents.

Unfortunately, they do tend to be drowned out in the sleazy cacophony that dominates discourse.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Sean -

My bad - I was trying (not very well) to point out that you had pointed out that both sides have their warts. A point which I vigorously agree with.

JJ

3rd Way said...

All right Sean.

Go through all the commentary on the worst lefty blog you can find from the week of October 26th (the week prior to the election) and score one point for every use of an invective by a lefty and for every use by a righty. Divide the scores by the number of words within posts and comments then do the same for one of the righty blogs I mentioned. (Copying and pasting into MS Word and using the word counter shouldn't make this too tough of a project).

Those numbers should give you an idea of the ratio of vitriol to content.

If the righty bloggers and commenters don't come in with a score at least 10% higher than that of their lefty counterparts I will make a donation to the charity of your choice. Deal?

tom paine said...

dad29,

So you think that Obama is in the same vein as Rush Limbaugh?

Draft dodger Rush called Colin Powell a racist. Actually, to pump up his low IQ audience, Rush actually yelled and screamed it.

This is an admitted drug abuser who used a boil on his ass to avoid serving his nation and HE calls Colin Powell names?

Wake up.

krshorewood said...

Rightwingers have this psychological problem, at least one -- perspective.

We all let loose from time to time. My personal philosophy is you need to treat the right like dogs, which is show no fear or kumbayaness.

But come on, lets face it. That occasional stridency pales in comparison to the hours of screaming, snarkiness, invective, thinly veiled racism, smearing, divisiveness, etc that pours into the ears of Milwaukee from the am, not to mention the 12 free hours of in kind donation every day from Clear Channel and Journal Broadcasting. In fact read the article in this month's Milwaukee magazine.

Let's face it and own up. You wouldn't be listening to these insane asylums of the air unless those elements where there.

You compare the two sides and only the mentally impaired would regard the vitrol as equal.

So far this thread has been like a car wreck or the Sarah Palin campaign. You want to look away but you can't.

Anonymous said...

3rd way;

How long do I have to cash in? Got homework to do to. It's not like I have nothing else to do.

And how big will your donation be?

Oh yeah; and who the hell are you?

sean s.

Anonymous said...

"A liberal is a man who will give away everything he doesn't own."

----Frank Dane

3rd Way said...

Take your time Sean. School comes first.

When the experiment is complete you can e-mail the Word files to me at erikandersjohnson at hotmail dot com. My e-mail address gives a pretty good clue about my identity. I am just some guy that wastes too much time commenting on blogs and fretting over the state of our union.

Within the Word file please highlight the statements you qualify as "invective" \in-ˈvek-tiv\ Function: adjective Etymology: from Latin invectivus,: of, relating to, or characterized by insult or abuse.

I will post the results at Folkbum.

It doesn't really matter what I vow to donate to charity. There is no way you can find an equal amount of venom on a lefty blog as you will find on the three righty blogs I listed. But if I am wrong I will donate at least the equivalent of a case of Schlitz to whatever charity you wish, unless your fridge desperately needs a case of the beer that made milwaukee famous.

krshorewood said...

On the other hand, who the hell is Frank Dane?

Anonymous said...

Busy day ahead of me so I'll keep this brief; I'm probably going to decline your offer; more details on why later, but I think you will find all the reasons already in my prior posts.

Regarding Frank Dane, he was a comedian/writer in the early 20th century; dunno if he's still alive or not but if he is, he's REALLY old.

more later.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Sean -- You're right to decline 3rd Way's offer. He asserts that bad behavior by right wing commentators far outnumbers such behavior on the left, so it's up to him to support his assertion with statistics. Like most liberals, he simply doesn't want to do the work himself. Further, you can be confident that he'd welch out on his bet if you did the work that proved him wrong.

3rd Way said...

Thanks anyway Sean.

I was franky suprised that you were willing to entertain the idea of doing the study in the first place. I suggested that you do it because having a self proclaimed independent collect the data, determine the methodology and pick the subjects would reduce the chances of the results being viewed as biased.

Maybe I will go ahead and start to work on it myself. I would use Plaisted as one study subject since "You won't find that kind of vituperative self-righteousness in many other place", and "Blue Racine" as the other liberal representative since one of the righty study subjects I would use has qualified it as "a particularly vile and vulgar site".

Does anyone have suggestions for a better methodology or better test subjects?

John Foust said...

Has there been a link to Begel's original post? He seems to say that people voted for Obama's positive message, then links this to the notion that hate radio doesn't win.

I'm surprised y'all fell for the discussion about which side is better-behaved. I would've gone after the claim of "moral superiority" and the Professor's simultaneous assertions that he doesn't read a bunch of conservative blogs, yet has an adequate grasp of the range and median of their recent pungency, yet found a post-worthy nugget in the blog of guy he doesn't agree with. Don't link to the guy you're talking about, do link to a past rival you want to diss, do link to the blogger on the left you really don't like, but wave your hand in the air when it comes to the outliers on the right.

3rd Way and Sean... wasn't there a statistical claim a year or so ago at the national level from the right that left-wing blogs swore more often than others? If you want to include the weeks before the 2008 election in the data set, I think it would only be fair to include the weeks after the 2004 election just to be fair.

tom paine said...

anonymous blubbered: "Like most liberals, he simply doesn't want to do the work himself." So maybe this will help him out.

It came from an independent tracking group. Enjoy anonymous:


"Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.

Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.

A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago."

Anonymous said...

Um, thanks, I guess, for the stats, Tom Paine, but I think everyone would stipulate that there is more conservative than "progressive" (i.e., liberal) talk radio. That's not the issue.

tom paine said...

Well anon, what exactly is the "issue" you mention?

My guess is that if conservative radio has 9 times the program hours compared to the libs that the number of "invective" type comments probably reflect a similar number. Unless you believe that 90% of the right wingers would not put out more "invective" than 10% of the lefties.

That was the "issue" I thought.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9:47 AM;

The possibility that 3rd way might “welch on his bet” does not concern me. First of all, it’s not a bet. I’ve not offered to pay anything if he’s right. Second; I am willing to trust his word. You might not, but that says nothing about 3rd way and volumes about you. I know many liberals, and I know they are willing to do their work, as above: your petty snipe says more about you than about anyone else.


The reasons for not taking up 3rd way’s offer are several, and none of them unstated before; except that the offer of a case of Schlitz or its equivalent is new. I am not sure when I last had a Schlitz, but I think Nixon was still President. Oy. I’m more a Leinenkugel’s kind’o’guy. Guinness or Bass works too.

But back to the point.

The reasons why I choose not to go forward with the experiment suggested by 3rd way, beyond simple lack of time, are that:

1—there is no objective standard by which to weigh the offensiveness of any particular blog-post, even by people of the same ideological persuasion. Low-brows may swear a lot, but counting mere vulgarities is not enough; there are slick extremists who can be vicious without ever lapsing into vulgarity. It takes some skill, but very painful invective can be crafted without any obscenity.

2—If I did carry out the experiment; it is foreseeable that we might get into an unresolvable dispute over which comments belong in the vitriolic or non-vitriolic categories. I say this is likely not because of any distrust of 3rd way but because deciding how to categorize these comments is intrinsically subjective. How I perceive comments is unlikely to match how any other person perceives them. Expecting agreement is unreasonable because no agreement on an objective standard is likely. Since the purpose of the experiment is to resolve a question, and I am convinced it won’t resolve the question, the experiment is futile.

3—ideological vehemence is unstable, waxing and waning depending on events of the time. Currently the right has much to be unhappy about and the left much to be optimistic about. Go back to the run-up to the Surge, and the situation was reversed. A comparison within one recent week is not going to be meaningful. A comparison over several years would be an enormous undertaking.

4—comparisons between any pair of conservative and liberal bloggers is meaningless to the general state of political discourse. There are always bad apples.

5—this experiment does not weigh the prominence (or lack of) of any particular blog. Some minor blog no one reads might be especially noxious, and contribute significantly to the outcome of any “measurement”, but have so few readers that including it distorts the true situation. One jerk, off by himself spewing venom does not fairly taint an entire ideological pool.

6—sometimes one particularly nasty blog-post or media ad ignites a fire-storm of unchoreographed criticism on other sites. How should one weight the inciting blog vs. the provoked responses? Think of Rush Limbaugh comments, or things coming out of MoveOn.org. If someone says something particularly nasty, an uncoordinated backlash is expected; a backlash of unchoreographed comments that would out-number the original nasty comment. Why blame the aggregate of individual, independent comments more than the nasty commentator who provoked the whole thing?

7—How do we properly include internecine commentary? Such as is going on recently within the right as “true” conservatives blast “moderate” conservatives? or in the past when “true” liberals blasted “triangulators”?

At the end of the day, the reason I choose to pass on this is that the results would be so compromised by the issues above that the results could be challenged on many legitimate grounds.

I assume 3rd way is well-intentioned and honorable; I just believe the experiment he proposes is futile. I see 3rd way is considering undertaking the task. May the force be with you! Until there are verifiable and reproducible results, we all have no choice but to go with our personal impressions. Mine are that whatever differences there are between the right and the left, they are equally in need of chilling out.

sean s.

Curt said...

I'll have to agree with Sean that the "experiment" is not possible. The vitriol from both sides ebbs and flows depending on the relative positions of the two parties, and the topic most in the news at the time. In addition, the difference in the nubmer of outlets and the relative size of those outlets create an even bigger problem. Add to that the inherent testing bias. 3rd way, while a fairly reasonable representative of the left of the aisle, will be found lacking as an arbiter by anyone to his right, and perhaps by many to his left.

I do like his point best being how the ability to judge what comments are more mean spirited. I personally find Plaisted to be of the most mean spirited local bloggers, although you need a thesaurus to understand most of his insults. (and copious amounts of drugs to hope to follow any of his arguments) Are his tongue twisting insults any less offensive than simple swearing? Neither advance an argument or civil discourse. The best we can do is to banish the offensive from both sides from our blog rolls and our reading lists, and hope they all wither away.

Sean, thanks for putting both sides in the proper light. And lets try hard to ignore the nuts on the far sides of both aisles, for in the end their rhetoric, is meaningless. The idiots on both sides (this texas hold em's or the plaisted's of the world, are much more a pox on their own house than the other.) Locally there are lots of great bloggers on both sides, and it is a darn shame we all just wasted all this time talking about someone none of us should even bother reading.

John McAdams said...

You are being too even-handed, Rick.

This very threat shows that out of control hatred and venom are more typical of the left.

3rd Way said...

This very threat shows that out of control hatred and venom are more typical of the left.

If there is such a thing as a "freudian slip", is there such a thing as a "freudian typo"?

What threats are you referring to professor? The only threats I know of have come from the right.

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