Sunday, January 4, 2009
So as many of you know, I've been a long-time commenter on D Magazine's Frontburner. In the halcyon days when I first began commenting, it was fun. There was some good-natured ribbing here and there, but it was a pleasant read, and I was genuinely excited about taking part in some small way in the conversation when the ability to comment was added. But nowadays, it's turned into a mean-spirited, modern-day Roman arena, where the object is more often than not to tear down and destroy, not engage in civil conversation. Take, for instance, Wick Allison's post about Rawlins Gilliland's latest KERA commentary for the New Year. What was meant - I hope - to be an acknowledgement of an entertaining and endearing commentary became a full-on assault on Rawlins' credibility and his reputation. It was vitriolic for no reason, insulting to the point of obnoxiousness, and a discouraging example of what commenting has become. That being said, I don't believe in wholesale censorship, as I've said before. However, in this case, we're talking libelous untruths, and I do feel that someone could've stepped in to address it. I hope - I do - that the purpose of Wick's original post was not to set Rawlins up for a full-on assault. I guess what I really wish is not for policing, but for a return to civility, which doesn't have to be boring. The debate can be spirited without having to affix the word "mean" before it. And until people figure that out and can behave as they would if they were in the room with that person, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a reason to continue participating in the conversation that I used to enjoy.