On civility

This came in from a thoughtful reader:

Somewhere it is written that courtesy is the lubricant of civil discourse.  Apparently, that does not work in social media and other electronic forums.

Jason Gay, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, said, “Social media in 2016 is like stepping into a trash bag of angry bees. There’s disturbing, genuine hate, a sociopathic lack of empathy, and almost zero engagement with opposing opinions, unless it is to demonize or insult them ad hominem.” (From “Sixteen Thoughts on Colin Kaepernick,” Sept. 7, 2016, Wall Street Journal.)

The term for these angry bees is trolls.  Elpasospeak seems to have attracted a crew of regulars that have taken up residence under the metaphorical bridge and pounce on anything or anyone who ventures an opinion.   They yell in ALL CAPS, can find fault in anything, and manifest all the other characteristics described by Mr. Gay.   One wonders if they are waiting for the second coming with a box of Crucifixion Nails.

Wait.  That would require action – real action and commitment – and maybe personal risk.

In my youth, I heard the term slacktivism — “Engaging socially in activism that requires little or no effort as part of a lifestyle or self-identity. Slacktivism requires no personal investment and usually produces no appreciable results.”  With the advent of the internet and social media, slacktivism has morphed into clicktivism, re-postivism, liketivism, and blogging.  Same characteristics:  no personal commitment or risk (especially when posting anonymously), no effort, and no appreciable results.

When a person was standing on a soapbox, he or she at least had to go to the street corner or town square and face his or her audience.   It was hard to be a troll when you had a person in front of your instead of a computer screen.

Let us examine outrage.  An observer of the modern news media has commented that today’s news stories seek to evoke one of two reactions:1) you should be scared to death about this news, or 2) you should be outraged.

Lance Morrow, also of the Journal, calls outrage the signature emotion of American life; he labeled it an addiction.  In describing modern political discourse, he wrote, “The various tribes have broken off negotiations with all differing points of view. They excuse themselves from self-doubt and abandon the idea of anything so weak as compromise or, God forbid, ambivalence: No other perspective could possibly be valid. … People give themselves over to the pleasures of self-righteousness and self-importance that come with being wronged when you know you’re in the right. “

“Outrage presents itself as an assertion of conscience, but in practice it mostly bypasses conscience and judgment, and goes straight to self-righteous rage, ……But, like so much else today, it has gotten to be a racket. The coin of anger is debased. Indignation has become a meme—not an authentic political or moral reaction to facts in a serious world, but rather a reflex, a kind of irresponsible playacting, or worse, a mania. When everyone is outraged, then real grievances lose their meaning, and the endless indulgence of outrage becomes, objectively, immoral.”

It seems like we cannot be merely dissatisfied – we must be outraged.

19 Responses to On civility

  1. We deserve better says:

    We deserve better….


  2. de la Vega says:



  3. ANONYMOUS ! ! ! says:

    So this person is communicating their disgust of pissyness by typing a 37000 word pissy rant-filled dissertation about it. Mmmkay. Personally, l’m now at a place where l find it more amusing and entertaining than anything else. There have been a few times that when l get e-outraged at someone that l “outrtage” right back or go for a walk. Both options seem to work just fine. Although l’ve noticed lately that ‘changing the channel’ and raiding the fridge is even more pleasurable.


    • Thoughtful Reader says:

      Quod Erat Demonstrandum. ANONYMOUS!!!’s first sentence proves the point. Rather than respond to the idea, a discussion of civility, she denigrates the message by calling it a “37000 word pissy rant-filled dissertation.”

      And, let me be pedantic here: words and numbers are instruments of precision, they are not bludgeons. 37,000 is precisely one less than 37,001. The real word count of the piece was less than 600.

      Hyperbole and the use of figurative speech are more emotional than rational.

      Got to go, my fridge is calling.

      Liked by 1 person

      • JerryK says:

        It’s not limited to blogs, either. I thought a (former) friend was going to physically assault me when I voiced the fact that I felt torn between different points of view, that I’m a traditional Republican and that was I very concerned the political Left has shut down discourse on many college campuses. That’s all I said but I didn’t say I was in lockstep agreement with his liberal opinions. He went ballistic.

        I have never since the Vietnam war seen such political hatred in the country. It’s as if there are two different Americas – Red and Blue -and they are not communicating.


      • Curious says:

        Why did you conclude that Anonymous!!! is a “she”?


      • ANONYMOUS ! ! ! says:

        My, oh my. lt appears someone has a bug up their ass the size of a Chico’s Taco. l was pointing out your hypocracy – whining about people whining. lt’s funny that you bring up the use of hyperbole and figurative speech as being more emotional than rational since l can find a few examples of it in your 3700…err, l mean 600 word rant. Quite the drama queen you truly are. l’m sorry if my mere e-presence offends you, my majesty. BTW- l am a male and can provide an elevator full of dissatisfied ex girlfriends to prove it!


    • mariaxg@sisd.edu says:

      The essay / opinion was not a “rant filled dissertation” but rather a well written opinion with several interesting quotes. On the other hand, you Anonymous!!! prove his / her very point by your reply. The opinion piece of the day expresses the reason I rarely log in to this blog or others, for that matter. It is no longer useful…simply a spot for people to vent or worse, spew hate. I don’t need any more negativity. I get plenty of it from the national media.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ANONYMOUS ! ! ! says:

        Well, it appears that l just made another friend. BTW- this is a wonderful blog that l’ve enjoyed reading for at least a dozen years. l’ve even responded to many of the daily topics a zillion times (using different e-names, but were all equally just as idiotic and ridiculous as the current one l’m using, no doubt). Maria, if you don’t like the comments on this blog, then….don’t read them. ls it just me or does that solution seem really simple to figure out? Don’t worry everyone, l’m done responding for the day. lt’s Friday and it’s time to have some fun, dammit.


  4. John Dungan says:

    Your reader is not only thoughtful, but erudite as well. Too much of online commentary and reaction to others’ comments is, like a thing called Disqus, nothing but a magnet for bots and trolls, few of whom have the courage of their [expresse] convictions.


  5. Anonymous says:

    The writer seems to have forgotten that anonymous news sheets and pamphlets like Common Sense helped lay the groundwork for the American Revolution. We no longer have newspapers here or a strong political opposition shedding light on the many areas of corruption in this city. Many of your blog posts and reader responses do. Yes, some express outrage and ramble. But others do provide specific information not discussed in news media. Conversely, today’s critical post from a thoughtful reader has no real purpose except to attempt to shut down that discussion by criticizing your commenters and implying that those who post do nothing else. It ignores the fact that information sharing in any medium helps educate folks who otherwise lack access to that information and attempts to promote censorship in the name of civility. It isn’t all good, El Paso and our citizens don’t deserve the tax and spend fiscal irresponsibility the REIT investors and progressives have saddled us with. The discussions here help counter their propaganda and promote better informed voting.


  6. chico for the chicos says:

    The writer assumes that el paso speak posters do nothing for this community … “that would require real action.” Sounds like classic deputy dawg arrogance. You don’t know who we are, or what we do. Many of us volunteer with and influence EPISD in subtle ways. We use every ounce of influence that we have. We are frustrated because the fundamental problem (executive incompetence) has not been solved. This blog offers a civic value … a place to share our frustration.

    Funny thing about the dawg … and this author (who may be the dawg), they have the choice to go elsewhere. Yet, they can’t let it go. Why is that?

    Their real problem is that this world has people in it who don’t agree with them. This school of modern liberalism cannot understand how others could possibly disagree with their grand thinking.

    When you disagree with Mr. Holt, you’re a troll. You couldn’t possibly be thoughtful dissent.

    We do deserve better.


  7. To Bee or Not to Bee says:

    I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch the name of the writer.


  8. Culture of Contempt says:


  9. Properly viewed, the fact that we are so different and various is a testament to our success. https://petersironwood.com/2018/08/03/the-myths-of-the-veritas-the-forgotten-field/


Leave a Reply -- you do not have to enter your email address

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: