Vanguard Commentary: Those Pesky Anonymous Commenters

Anonymous-commenterLast week, once again, we heard public complaints about the lack of civility in anonymous commenting.  This was raised for the second time with regard to the Nancy Peterson – Julie Crawford controversy.

As one commenter noted, “As a member of the Vanguard Editorial Board, I have heard from a number of people who read the Vanguard, but never post because of the perceived viciousness of some who choose to post anonymously.”

The commenter continued, “While I defend the right of all posters to comment in the manner that they see fit within the well established guidelines as currently monitored by Don Shor, I feel that a much richer conversation could be had if all members of the commenting community felt comfortable with the tone of comments on this site. Imagine the conversations that might ensue if all members of the community with their wealth of education, training and experience felt comfortable posting here.”

These comments followed those of Sheila Allen, who stated last week, “I’m very concerned about the tone and accusations that have occurred behind the façade of anonymous comments.  Let us be the models for our children of civil dialogue and working together to solve our community problems.”

The point of this is not to single out either the Vanguard board member or Sheila Allen, but rather to raise and discuss the issue at hand.

First of all, I feel that there has been the conflation between blogs, message boards, and social media sites.  Facebook is a social media site and probably the most used by far of all social media here in Davis.  While there are a few exceptions, I would say 99% of Facebook users post comments and status updates under their own name.

On the other hand, the Enterprise and Vanguard have comment sections where users can post comments.  Some choose to do so under their own name, some anonymously.

I guess we could attempt to analyze and quantify the comments, but in my view I do not see a lot of difference in the tone of comments made under their own names and comments made anonymously.

I have always stood up for the rights of people to express opinions either way.  When I got involved in local politics, we were in a situation where a lot of people would tell me that they agreed with my wife and my views on the Davis Police Department, but expressed reluctance to speak out due to fear of consequences.

The idea of the Vanguard at its inception was to create a place where people could speak out without fear of consequences, politically or professionally.

At the same time, we have taken the issue of tone very seriously.  We did not want conversations to devolve into name calling and viciousness, and for the most part between Don Shor’s work as moderator and other site features, we have avoided that to the point where Don Shor rarely if ever pulls a post these days.

In the next few weeks we are going to be working to codify rules of conduct, mostly because the site has grown so large and so well-used that we need to have more formalized rules.

So what I think here is this is a perception issue more than anything else.

It reminds me of a local politician a few years ago who spoke about the need for civility in public discourse.  It was ironic that this particular politician would bring up the need for civility, because, while this individual spoke in an even and measured tone, this individual was also often linked to particularly vicious political policies and tactics, as well as underhanded campaign tactics.

I have come to believe that, for the most part, the call for civil discourse in a situation is itself a code word.

There is an expression that attorneys use in their arguments.  When the facts are your side, pound on the facts.  When the law is on your side, pound on the law.  When you have neither on your side, pound on the table.

In other words, make an argument that distracts from the weakness of your position.  And in this case, people have taken to pounding on the blogs and social media, because they cannot stand by their own positions.

Robert Peterson, during his public comment on February 20, stated, “I’ve gotten to a point with this process where the distortions and the lies and the blogs and the newspaper articles that are uninformed are just intolerable at this point.  I don’t know how to get my side of the story out per se, because everything is restricted, everything is personnel issues, everything is confidentiality.”

“I’m at a point where the blogs as I related to the board previously …” he continued, after a brief interruption by Board President Daleiden.  “The previous coach is now blogging, putting links to a 14-year-old’s team to discredit the coach that was hired previously (Rob Cole), whose only interest is coaching volleyball.”  He added, “If he’s connected to me somehow that suggests that there’s some plan  I didn’t know anything about him interviewing or anything about his position.”

“My 13-year-old is linked on the Davis Hub website,” he said.  “My 13-year-old!  Who here is okay with this?  We’ve gone past just harassment to craziness.  I would appeal to the board to end this situation.”

This was a losing strategy.  It did not help, of course, that he missed the essential element here.  He wasn’t the victim here.

He started this mess by leaking the letter from Matt Best to the Davis Enterprise, but when he saw he had no ability to control the message once the information got out to the public, he attacked the very medium that offered him his best chance to change public perception.

Social media and blogs can be scary for public officials who lack the insight into how to direct and control messages.  Once upon a time, a savvy media person could frame the one-way communications to the press and shape a story.

With blogs and social media, the public has the ability to counter that message in ways that clearly frighten those in power.

Moreover, we have seen three clear examples where media tactics have backfired on those attempting to control the message:  Robert Peterson’s leak to the press, Nancy Peterson’s Op-ed, and most recently Sheila Allen and Susan Lovenburg’s letter.

All this leads me to this inescapable conclusion that civility has become the code word for “I can’t control the message” and “I don’t want to be criticized.”

People say, “I don’t want to get into the fray.”  Why not?  You are in the fray.  You don’t respond in kind to negative attacks, what you do is address the underlying facts and gain appreciation from the public that you are not trying to do something underhanded.

My experience is, when you interact with the public in that manner – as we do every day on the Vanguard – that you gain respect even from those who disagree with you.

The bunker mentality in 2014 is a losing strategy.  Public engagement will win the day.

There are different ways to go about doing it.  Rob White, for example, has a weekly column but will also engage with the public even on other topics.  There was distrust early on, but as people got to know Rob White, they started to listen to him and his efforts and the result is that he probably has a very high level of trust.

Gina Daleiden is the board president, she never to my knowledge has posted on the Vanguard, but she has spent countless hours with myself and Bob Dunning, Jeff Hudson, Chris Saur and others explaining the process and trying to figure out how to get things right.

Two different ways to engage the public, but both in their own ways successful.

When the facts and the law are against you, it is easiest to blame the blogs and the social media.  What might be missed in all of this is that blogs and the social media are the public screaming out against what they see as a preposterous process and a great inequity.

Wise politicians do not fight public opinion.  They listen to what the public has to say and they engage with the public.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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58 Comments

  1. New Davisite

    “Wise politicians do not fight public opinion. They listen to what the public has to say and they engage with the public.” Outstanding observation. As a person in the public eye and a politician, they should be looking at the tenor and absorbing the community’s comments in a frame of “there seems to be community concern about the board’s management.”

    I haven’t seen the volume of comments anywhere like I’ve seen them here and in the Enterprise regarding V-gate. What does that mean? It seems to me, as a relative new comer, is that there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with our school board and school district management. Regardless of how people express themselves, our community leaders should be taking in the tenor and overall trend of the community’s comments and reviewing themselves to see if they can do a better job. Not telling us to “calm down”. I will never forget that and it will stick in my craw for a long time.

    I am a voter and tax payer in Davis. I can comment all I want and, thanks to the 1st amendment, have the right to do it. Even if you don’t like my tone!

    1. Biddlin

      Indeed, the first amendment grants you that right, but the owner of the blog doesn’t have to publish it! I push the envelope of civility, once in awhile and get the occasional missive from Don. I don’t always agre with the Vanguard’s owner and editorial staff, but I always feel that they give me a voice. Thank you for that, David. In a tough year, I made The Vanguard one of my small benevolent commitments. I would not abuse their benevolence in providing thiis resource and platform and humbly submit to their judgement when I’m called to account. Right now, many more people in the world are denied such access, by circumstance and government than are granted it.

  2. Growth Issue

    “All this leads me to this inescapable conclusion that civility has become the code word for “I can’t control the message” and “I don’t want to be criticized.”

    Exactly, and you can add “calm down” and “move on” to those code words.

  3. Rob White

    Thanks David for your nice compliment and the interesting views expressed in the article. As many of you know, I try my best, but I am not perfect. However, I am open to hearing other’s views and want to continually learn how to be better at my job, within the parameters that I have been given. My email is rwhite@cityofdavis.org if anyone ever has a question or concern.

    1. Michelle Millet

      Rob I really appreciate your contributions to the Vanguard, and your willingness to engage, answer question, and share information. I believe you doing so is an asset to the community and I thank you for time and effort.

  4. Fremontia

    I think its worse when the person complaining is an elected official. The first amendment specifically applies to elected official and begins with the word “Congress.” Its troubling when elected officials lash out at critics exercising their first amendment rights and in my opinion disqualifies them for public office .

    1. PhilColeman

      Having had some experience being in the public eye, and having been criticized fairly and unfairly, maybe I can add just a touch to when, if, and how public officials should respond to public criticism.

      Not every public official follows this path, but when they don’t, they usually live to regret it. First, people have the right to speak (basic premise). Second, public officials have no other option in responding to criticism except by using the same venue, the media. In other words, lawsuits are reserved for private citizens only.

      Third, public officials replying to criticism via the media is sordid. The preferred action to a public criticism is to do nothing–even if the criticism is false, distorted, or predicated on a foundation of gross ignorance (often the case). Public officials must never be seen as reactionary to all forms of criticism, even if its mean-spirited and intended to provoke.

      The one, and very huge, exception to keeping silent to criticism is when a public official’s integrity is falsely portrayed. Note the word, falsely. When that happens, a public official has to reply and forcefully. To not respond is seen as affirmation.

      The guiding light for people in the public eye is that the overwhelming majority of the masses are right-minded and fair and balanced. They have the ability to see what is right and what is wrong.

      1. Tia Will

        Phil

        I largely agree with your points. I would however add that not all reasonable people will agree on what is “right” and what is “wrong”. This implies a far more “black and white” view of the world where many of us see shades of gray. It is this “black and white” view that tends to come across in short posts.

        1. Frankly

          Interesting point Tia. So then we get to that argument of how we inventory and codify our morality.

          I assume that you, based on your own ideological admissions, would recoil from any demand that we, for example, base our morality on the teachings of Christianity. Let’s just forget for the moment that much of our system of laws and governance is Christian-based (or at least based on monotheism in general)… your point about there being so many gray areas to assess in the determination of “right” or “wrong”. I agree with that… only if we lack a global basis for measuring right and wrong. And I think we continue down a path where we more and more lack this global basis.

          Without that global basis, right and wrong become an individual assessment that is more often connected to individual opinion. And when it comes to individual opinion there is a saying “opinions are like rear ends, everyone has one.”

          One idea to establish a code of ethics and some enforcement.

          But then we run into problems where there is weak enforcement and nobody pays attention. And example of this is the journalistic code of ethics. The media pretty much ignores it.

          Then those responsible for the enforcement require some basis of morality if they are to be fair in how they execute enforcement. And look at the IRS scandal at the federal government level. Here is a prime example of people exploiting their code enforcement power… basically making up their own moral code on the fly.

          Is there a natural law that we humans subscribe to? For example, do we really know right from wrong? Can we separate our own selfish needs and wants from our behavior and our decisions process?

          In his writings “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis, in attempting to help his fellow British countrymen come to terms with the coming devastation of a second world war within a generation, explained that the normal actions of man were enough evidence of the existence of God and evil. Two men transacting business will both naturally understand a price-value equilibrium. They will know when they are being taken advantage of, and when they are taking advantage of the other. This “knowledge” appears to be universal. Some point to natural law morality. C.S. Lewis attributed it to evidence of God. But then, even knowing this feeling of right or wrong (negotiating in good faith or taking advantage), some would take advantage. And under an individual code of ethics, they could make the case that it is right for them to take advantage. To cause material harm to others only for their gain. Is that acceptable?

          I think not. As the Senate committee IRS investigation continues it is becoming more and more clear that Lois Lerner significantly abused the power of her voice to unfairly target conservative nonprofits while ignoring those that benefited Democrats. I’m sure Ms. Lerner slept well at night believing she was doing the right things. The end justified her means.

          What is my point?

          I think we are either united in a basis of morality or we are destined to have accept a much harsher world of anonymous posters and abusers of political power.

          I cannot see us gaining traction for the former, and so I think we are going to all have to grow thicker skin for the latter.

          1. Tia Will

            Frankly

            “I think we are either united in a basis of morality or we are destined to have accept a much harsher world of anonymous posters and abusers of political power.

            I cannot see us gaining traction for the former, and so I think we are going to all have to grow thicker skin for the latter.”

            I know this is your opinion from multiple previous posts. It is one I do not share. This is one glass that I perceive as more half full ,where you seem to take the half empty side. Your argument seems to boil down to, since not everyone will agree on the ethics of a situation, the stronger, or more assertive you are, the better. An extreme example of this was when the recently deceased founder of the Westboro Baptist Church called Mr. Rogers a wuss and enabler of wusses and declaring that Mr. Rogers was in hell.. I believe that there would be much less hostility, bullying, aggression and possibly even fewer wars if more people were to emulate Mr. Rogers than those who spread hostility. This is something that is up to us as individuals. We can teach our children that “yes, there is hostility and bullying and aggression in the world, but that they do not have to follow that path. It is our decision what the future looks like.

          2. Frankly

            I think you conveniently leave out passive aggressiveness. The kind of thing we see from “progressives” on a regular basis. The kind that gets justified by the media-drive informal rules of “political correctness”. The kind that allows our Senate Majority leader to directly attack two America citizen brothers from the dais. Well he didn’t really attack them did he? And since these are people not of any protected group, then it is moral and ethical for him to do so, correct?

            You see, if we are not going to demand a global basis for morality, then each individual or group can justify their behavior even as they demand others play by higher rules of hyper-sensitivity.

            And while you can come up with quotes from these obscure Baptist preachers to make your point while you excuse the behavior of political leaders that tend to support your ideology, you absolutely prove that your moral compass is self-serving.

            My point is that a society that shuns a basis for morality will become more combative and decisive. So get used to it.

            I am really tired of thin-skinned politicians demanding a return to civility while they demonstrate a much more damaging passive aggressiveness. If they want civility, then they need to lead by behaving in an absolute moral and ethical way.

  5. Tia Will

    David

    “All this leads me to this inescapable conclusion that civility has become the code word for “I can’t control the message” and “I don’t want to be criticized.

    People say, I don’t want to get into the fray. Why not? You are in the fray. You don’t respond in kind to negative attacks, what you do is address the underlying facts and gain appreciation from the public that you are not trying to do something underhanded.”

    I think that your conclusion is anything but “inescapable”. While you are correct that there has been confusion, or at least poor word choice in the failure to distinguish between blogs and social media, I feel that you are failing to distinguish between the motives of those in public office and those who are not currently, and have no aspiration to public office.

    People have different degrees of sensitivity and tolerance for perceived hostility during disagreements. My partner and I can serve as an example. I love to debate. I see an opinion different from mine, even if defended vigorously, as an opportunity to explore and understand how someone might feel differently from me even about passionately held viewpoints. My partner however, often sees a defense of a vigorously held belief different from his, as a personal attack or affront. Over years, we have been learning how to negotiate our debating styles, or even at times whether the debate is worthwhile. This gets me to my point.

    For those potential posters who are not of the “rough and tumble” variety, and are not public officials or aspirants, avoidance of what they view as hostility is not a “code word” but rather their way of being in the world. My point is not to allow current and potential public figures to hide behind a “front” of civility, but rather to encourage true civility in both speech and action.

    Also, I do not think that anonymity is the critical issue. I would promote civility of speech and action whether the author of the words or acts uses a pseudonym or their own name. One can make one’s point forcefully without ever resorting to putting someone else down or name calling. We have an excellent example of that ability in Rob White. He frequently manages to express views that are not in complete alignment with my own in a clear, logical and respectful manner without the kind of nastiness and insistence on the inferiority of others often seen in the posts of others.

    I also think that you may be failing to make another connection in an area much broader than the Crawford/ Peterson controversy.. We have recently noted two trends on the Vanguard. There has been a dramatic increase in readership and some increase in commenters. There has also been as you have previously noted a decline in vitriolic comments. I will be the first to admit that there may be no causal relationship, but I cannot wonder if there may not be some who give higher credibility and willingness to participate to a blog in which commenters are thoughtful and present ideas rather than demeaning others.

    Or to use your analogy of the lawyers, when the facts are on yours side pound the facts, when the facts are not on your side, pound on the intelligence, motives or integrity of your opponents.

    1. Tia Will

      I am a firm believer in decision making based on facts. In order to do this however, one needs to consider all of the “facts”. When one chooses to make a decision based on limited facts, regardless of the reason one does not have all the facts, one may be coming to a false conclusion even though it may seem to be “obvious” basis of the limited facts presented.

      If I, as a doctor, make a prescription decision based on 5 articles supporting a given treatment, regardless of how well the research was done and how factual the information is, but miss the recent article documenting a serious side effect, I will have acted “in accordance with the facts” but will not have done my patient any favors if they are harmed. I simply do not believe that any uninvolved member of the public has all the facts at this point in time and thus is choosing to make their judgement on limited information.

      1. Growth Issue

        “I simply do not believe that any uninvolved member of the public has all the facts at this point in time and thus is choosing to make their judgement on limited information.”

        And that is their right. Every election you have voters who make decisions without fully vetting the candidates, but that’s also their right.

        1. Tia Will

          GI

          Of course it is their right. But that says nothing about whether or not sound decisions are arrived at by choosing that route.

          For example, do you think that sound decision making was in effect a number of years ago when the voters responded to a number of strapping, young, friendly protectors of the public who turned out in force pouring funds and time and energy into stumping for favorable candidates by electing said candidates. It was the absolute right of the voters to vote as they did. But did it get us the best outcome ?

          I think many would say “no” resoundingly.

      2. SouthofDavis

        Tia wrote:

        > I simply do not believe that any uninvolved member of the
        > public has all the facts at this point in time and thus is choosing
        > to make their judgement on limited information.

        We never have ALL the facts, and if someone wants to post the fact that someone is using their position of power to give special treatment to their kids I don’t see that they also need to post the persons CV (or let everyone know how many years they have been working in the schools)…

    1. David Greenwald

      And it’s worse than that. It’s we must make our judgments and politicians don’t trust us to do so, so they intentionally limit what we are allowed to know.

      1. Tia Will

        Well that is one side of it. What you neglected to mention is that “we” apparently don’t trust our elected officials either. So the sentiment is mutual. Does that actually get us anywhere, or would it perhaps not be better overall to take the stand that Gina Daleiden took saying that reasonable people can disagree and that she genuinely felt that all members of the board were acting in what they felt was in the best interest of our community ?

        Does anyone here honestly believe that any one class of people whether in private or public life are superior to another class ? If so, as a private citizen and therefore above reproach, I have a lovely bridge to sell you.

        And for anyone who feels the inclination to trot out the “power corrupts……” line, I will quote GI “Every election you have voters who make decisions without fully vetting the candidates, but that’s also their right.” I happen to agree that the voters have the ultimate power to decide who the decision makers are. Does that mean that all voters are corrupt since we have ultimate say over the politicians ?

        1. Growth Issue

          “reasonable people can disagree and that she genuinely felt that all members of the board were acting in what they felt was in the best interest of our community?”

          But doesn’t the community also have the right to speak up if they felt that the decision wasn’t in their best interests? Are you saying that because the board felt that they were doing the right thing then that’s it, everyone must just accept it and not question it anymore, just move on, let the community heal, there’s nothing more to see here?

          1. Tia Will

            “But doesn’t the community also have the right to speak up if they felt that the decision wasn’t in their best interests? Are you saying that because the board felt that they were doing the right thing then that’s it, everyone must just accept it and not question it anymore, just move on, let the community heal, there’s nothing more to see here?”

            Of course I am not saying that. I have stated repeatedly that I will defend anyone’s right to express their opinion. I am sure since you have been following this issue that you have seen me post my belief in the right to free speech over and over again.

            This does not mean that I cannot express my preference for discourse based on evidence and ideas rather than name calling and saber rattling.

            And as to your last sentence, I do not see “we will be examining the processes and making needed changes ” as synonymous with
            “there is nothing more to see here.” If you do see those two statements as synonymous, I will disagree, but strongly defend your right to say so.

  6. TrueBlueDevil

    I think most of the folks gnashing teeth have been involved in weak or bone-headed decisions the past 2-3 years. The community has seen numerous injustices, and they’re fed up. Last I checked, some of the professional administrators involved are handsomely paid for less than a year’s worth of work, which adds salt to the wound.

    Of the few places I have ever made online comments, this is by far one of the more civil sites. On other sites, I’ve seen online disagreements escalate to where people are called vicious names, personal information is posted, along with full contact information, and threats of physical harm were subsequently delivered. That is the dark side of online forums.

    Specifically, we’ve seen the Peterson’s referred to with terms such as entitled, power hungry, Helicopter parents, and Ivy League carpet-baggers. Are any of these out of line?

    A national comment from Yahoo Sports linked to a maxpreps high school page page which contradicted the Peterson’s case. Is that off limits? Further proof of the community at Vanguard being rational, is that we don’t post the name of the daughter, even though she may be a protagonist, she may be an adult, and she has been named elsewhere repeatedly. Facts concerning two outstanding freshmen were referenced, with names redacted. Again, the community showed maximum self-restraint. And to me, the revelation of these two outstanding freshmen players provided overwhelming evidence that the coach made the correct, non-biased decision.

    The one item I found unpleasant was two contributors snipping back and forth over how much water you could fit on the head of a needle, which got old, fast.

    1. Tia Will

      “referred to with terms such as entitled, power hungry, Helicopter parents, and Ivy League carpet-baggers. Are any of these out of line?”

      Well that depends on where you draw your line doesn’t it ? In comparison with “raccoons” or “stupid” or liar, all of which we have seen on various threads, I suppose these don’t rank very highly. But, my question is how are they of any benefit in moving the conversation along. What purpose does name calling serve other than to vent, perhaps get meaningless cheers from those of a similar mind a the cost of decreasing one’s credibility in the eyes of those who see things differently ?

    2. PhilColeman

      “Specifically, we’ve seen the Peterson’s referred to with terms such as entitled, power hungry, Helicopter parents, and Ivy League carpet-baggers. Are any of these out of line?”

      Standard fare. It’s called “labeling,” to negatively characterize a person or group. It’s intent is to de-humanize the person/group being attacked and turn them from a fellow human being into a catch-phrase and a non-entity.

      Regardless of the issue or how I feel about it, when I see anybody use this shameful device, I want to call them “pond scum.” But I guess that labeling as well, so I refrain.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I believe “entitled” is a rather tame adjective given the multi-year drama we have witnessed over relatively insignificant issues. Indeed, if we told a high school coach in 1975 that we were writing a book, and we described the details of what we have gone through, I think that coach would say that we were either crazy, or the story isn’t believable.

        When a BOE member tries to fire a Coach of the Year within weeks of her appointment to the board, and then makes 2 more attempts, I’d also say “power hungry” is a rather tame analysis. After all, we aren’t writing for the AP, this is a community dialog. I guess my use of the term “drama” is also labeling.

        “Helicopter parents” usefully describes in short form the new parenting style adopted by some modern-day parents. Sure, a staff writer for The Enterprise can’t use it, but a columnist could. (Dunning referred to this disagreement as V-Gate, Peterson Place, etc., and has also called it a “pissing match”.)

        “Affluenza” is also a new term injected into our society by legal beagles.

        1. Matt Williams

          … over relatively insignificant issues.

          Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What you see as relatively insignificant issues, others see as existential core issues.

          Chocolate and Vanilla.

  7. TrueBlueDevil

    I’d like to know when we first hired a full-time AD.

    I’d also like to know the yearly salary, and work days for the year, for the: Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent / HR Director, Principal, and Athletic Director.

  8. wdf1

    TBD: I’d like to know when we first hired a full-time AD.

    I’d also like to know the yearly salary, and work days for the year, for the: Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent / HR Director, Principal, and Athletic Director.

    I don’t know about the AD or Principals, but you can find posted contract info on top administrators at the school board agenda site if you figure out the right key words. I have business to do for the next hour or so, otherwise I’d take a stab at it. If I remember right from earlier research, our superintendent is compensated at roughly an equivalent level to other superintendents for a district our size.

  9. Matt Williams

    As a member of the Vanguard Editorial Board, I have heard from a number of people who read the Vanguard, but never post because of the perceived viciousness of some who choose to post anonymously.

    While I defend the right of all posters to comment in the manner that they see fit within the well established guidelines as currently monitored by Don Shor, I feel that a much richer conversation could be had if all members of the commenting community felt comfortable with the tone of comments on this site. Imagine the conversations that might ensue if all members of the community with their wealth of education, training and experience felt comfortable posting here.

    As long as people have feelings there is always going to be a certain amount of ambient discomfort somewhere in the system. If we could simply turn off those “pesky” feelings, that would solve the problem.

    As long as people have opinions and other people disagree with those opinions there is always going to be a certain amount of ambient discomfort somewhere in the system. If we could all just agree to agree on everything then that would solve the problem.

    Some people perceive Frankly as vicious. Other people perceive Frankly as a sane voice in the wilderness. Some people perceive Growth issue as vicious. Other people perceive Growth Issue as practical. In order to achieve a state where “all members of the community with their wealth of education, training and experience felt comfortable posting here” both Frankly and Growth Issue would either have to be banned from the site or placed under Joseph McCarthy style censorship. If that happened, I can just imagine the conversations that might ensue.

    JMHO

  10. Growth Issue

    Matt, it speaks volumes that your examples are two of the conservative posters on this site. Most of the posters on here are liberal so if they perceive Frankly or my posts as viscious it’s only because they don’t agree with us, not so much that anything we stated was viscious. But the fact that you only pointed out conservative posters shows some of the bias on this site. There are liberal posters on here that are far more viscious than Frankly and I. I see it often that Frankly and I are attacked by some of the left leaning posters. I make it a point of never personally attacking anyone unless they get snarky or attack me first, then I will defend myself. I’ve had some moderation issues in the past, it seems as if the conservative posters are more highly policed than liberal posters. Heck, if Frankly or I bring up Obama’s name you can bet there’s a good chance it gets deleted. But I will see Bush and Nixon posts on here all the time that remain up. Why’s that? All I’m asking for is a level playing field for all, leave out any biases.

    1. Frankly

      I agree with GI. And I also appreciate what Matt has to say above.

      Growing up, around my family dinner table there was often heated debate about local and world events. My poor mother would end up with some anxiety over the conflicts that would ensue.

      Walking downtown yesterday with some friends my wife and I got into a debate about some topic. One of the couples that did not know us as well started to step in for mediation. The other couple that knows us very well just laughed and noted that we had been married for 31 years and often do that type of thing in between holding hands.

      My observation of the behavior of people around conflict is that there are some skills to be learned.

      One skill is the art of intelligent and non-emotional debate. Now, that does not mean debate without passion… but when the heat rises a good debater has to recognize it and control it. A person will lose the ability to effectively debate if he cannot control his emotions. Some people seem to be wired for greater sensitivity. That was my mother. She eventually got used to the dinner table debates and started to join in.

      Nothing kills interesting dialog greater than hypersensitivity. Hyper-sensitive people have some work to do, IMO. Otherwise they will find themselves more lonely or more apt to only hang with other hyper-sensitive people. I have heard people claim that they don’t feel safe putting their opinions out there on a blog. Certainly words can sting, but letting them cause so much anxiety is a sign that personal improvement exercises are warranted and beneficial.

      The corresponding skill is sensitivity. When a more sensitive person becomes anxious over words, they tend to stop listening and start getting defensive. In their defense they can get personal… because they actually feel that they are being attacked personally. They need to develop skills to manage this tendency, but their debating opponent can help by pulling back a bit and not be so aggressive in how they phrase the points. This is an area that I need to improve my skills on.

      But I think GI nails it here. There are many more people on this blog and probably reading this blog that tend to be more sensitive to the impact of words, and prone to taking things personal that really should not be taken personal. And because more of them are left-leaning, they would more often feel attacked by those posting right-leaning opinions.

      I think the Vanguard posts are very high quality and there are very few justified reasons for censorship.

      If you want to see how a real nasty blog works, spend some time on the Huffington Post. That blog is the most vile major blog on the Internet. And the posters are 80% left-leaning.

      1. Don Shor

        I have heard people claim that they don’t feel safe putting their opinions out there on a blog.

        Yes, perhaps for the same reasons that you post under a pseudonym.

        1. Frankly

          I don’t believe I have changed my tone and style at all since I started posted under a pseudonym after posting with my real name. And I think you know why I stopped posting with my real name.

          But I think your point is valid here in that there is a genuine risk of reprisal from politicians, groups and individuals that would prefer to stifle free speech that harms their agenda.

          So, I favor the use of pseudonyms.

      2. Don Shor

        spend some time on the Huffington Post. That blog is the most vile major blog on the Internet

        That is precisely the kind of comment tone that we wish to avoid on the Vanguard. By the way, Tea Party Nation is equally bad, and the SacBee is pretty awful as well. Internet nastiness isn’t a left-right phenomenon.

        1. Frankly

          You are comparing the Huffington Post to the Tea Party Nation? That is telling… that you see them being comparable… i.e., two blogs serving their ideological followers. The difference is that HuffPost was purchased by AOL and advertises itself as a new media news source.

          It is also interesting that you exhibit sensitivity to criticism of a new media source and blog. Do blogs have feelings?

          I agree that the Sacramento Bee blog can be partisan and nasty, but that paper has had a history of liberal bias.

          1. Don Shor

            You are comparing the Huffington Post to the Tea Party Nation? That is telling… that you see them being comparable… i.e., two blogs serving their ideological followers.

            I’ve never had any illusions about what Arianna Huffington was doing as she built her news aggregator.

            It is also interesting that you exhibit sensitivity to criticism of a new media source and blog.

            How so? I don’t follow you.

          2. Frankly

            “That is precisely the kind of comment tone that we wish to avoid on the Vanguard.”

            Reading your post again, I think there is a possibility that you were making a point that we did want the VG to be like HuffPost and not criticizing me for claiming that HuffPost had vile blogging.

            Maybe I am becoming too hypersensitive!

          3. Don Shor

            Yes, that was my point. Thanks. I’m pretty appalled by some of the stuff I’m seeing in the comments over on the other news site in Davis on this topic right now as well.
            I do look at Huffington Post every day, just as I look at Drudge Report. Both are good as aggregators, finding interesting stories everywhere. I’m pretty clear about the bias each of those sites has. I mostly ignore the comments at HuffPost and don’t read the bloggers there.

          4. TrueBlueDevil

            Quite ironic that the Bee and SF Chronicle lean far left, yet many of their posters are independent, Reagan Democrats, or conservatives.

      3. Matt Williams

        My observation of the behavior of people around conflict is that there are some skills to be learned.

        One skill is the art of intelligent and non-emotional debate. Now, that does not mean debate without passion… but when the heat rises a good debater has to recognize it and control it. A person will lose the ability to effectively debate if he cannot control his emotions. Some people seem to be wired for greater sensitivity. That was my mother. She eventually got used to the dinner table debates and started to join in.

        I wholeheartedly agree Frankly. You and Tia do a very good job of passionately debating without allowing personal emotions to overwhelm your exchanges. The recent back and forth about “total compensation” was pretty much the antithesis of a Tia/Frankly exchange, with all parties in that heated dialogue contributing to a situation where passion was overwhelmed by either sensitivity or emotion or both.

        1. Frankly

          I agree. I think Political Correctness and speech codes have three origins/drivers:

          1. As a part of our civil rights march to prevent material harm to people belonging to groups that can genuinely be calculated as being disadvantaged.

          2. For political and ideological power… shutting down speech that conflicts with a political or ideological agenda.

          3. For protection of the hypersensitive… “I feel, therefor it is real” and if you make me feel bad with your words I want to make you stop so I can stop feeling bad.

          Only #1 should be honored.

          1. TrueBlueDevil

            Good points. Dr. Ben Carson, internationally acclaimed neo-natal surgeon, has championed fighting Politically Correct dogma and restricting free speech. (Dr. Carson rose to political fame when he delivered a speech which is directly opposite our sitting President .. with the President ten feet away! I’d think our Founding Fathers would have enjoyed that… but I know the President’s handlers didn’t.)

          2. Michelle Millet

            “I feel, therefor it is real” and if you make me feel bad with your words I want to make you stop so I can stop feeling bad.

            This comment makes me feel bad and hurts my sensitive feelings. I’m never blogging with you again.

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