Thursday, April 19, 2007

"The Tawdry Culture"

By Mitchell

Last night in Indy. Tomorrow at this time I'll be somewhere between here and Minneapolis. But in the meantime, I wanted to empty my inbasket and pass along this thought. Stella Borealis Ray (formerly Hadleyblogger Ray) forwards us this terrific piece from Tony Long (The Luddite) at Wired, entitled "The Blogosphere, Where a Tawdry Culture Goes to Die."

Long makes many points similar to those you've read here in the past:

Before you can expect a bunch of utterly spoiled, self-indulgent bloggers (i.e. the kind who indulge in their online mudslinging) to practice civility, you might try restoring a bit of it to what passes for civilization these days.

Civility is all about self-restraint. It's not about being told by someone else to say "no," but finding the inner resolve to say it to yourself. Call it self-discipline. Call it having a little class. Whatever name you give it, it's almost completely absent from modern society.

And in a culture where idolatry of the crass and vulgar encourages the mantra of instant gratification and me-so-important, what the hell do you expect?

He dismisses as unlikely Tim O'Reilly's call for a code of conduct in the blogosphere. As Long says, "you can't just pass a bunch of rules to make incivility go away." Nonetheless, I think members of the blogosphere - especially the Catholic blogosphere - have an obligation to give it a try. The way some of us carry on while we're online, we should be spending most of our time in the Confessional.

One of the harsh lessons learned from almost 25 years in organized politics is that you can't change the world by passing laws. You can do it only by converting hearts, and that's the kind of think that usually happens only one at a time. It starts with your family, your friends, your loved ones; your neighbors, your co-workers, people you come in contact with. It's not only the standard to which you hold yourself, it's that which you use as an example for others. And trust me, that kind of witness does not go unnoticed.

As our friend Cathy of Alex has noted, we have leaned heavily on this issue at this blog. While we speak of it mostly in terms of the blogosphere, it is a problem that extends to society as well, for it is from that society, that culture (or lack of it) that the problem occurs in the first place. But while we may be a champion of blog civility, we by no means seek to corner the market on it.

And so that's why I want to address this to our friends in the blogosphere, again especially in the Catholic sector. We have an obligation to rise above pettiness and common cruelty, to truly serve as witnesses to our faith. Too many of us fail that obligation, especially in the blogosphere, where our failures may not only be more obvious but may affect more people. So if you agree with us on this, please speak up. You don't have to link to this article; post one of your own. But pass the message along - in your blogs, via email, to those who share your feeling. As responsible bloggers, we need to start a serious conversation on it, rather than simply complain about it. It won't change the entire blogosphere, but it may change one corner of it. Even if it's only your own corner - because trust me, it won't stop there.

And if we don't - the consequences won't stop there, either.


  1. "Formerly Hadley-Blogger Ray?"

    Kicked off without even having had the chance to utilize the "Secret Password?" I suppose that has been changed too?

    How 'bout the "Secret Handshake?" Can I still use that?

  2. No no, you misunderstand me. Before you became "Stella Borealis Ray," you were "Hadleyblogger Ray." But I can hardly call you that anymore, since you've got your own gig now. It's kinda like seeing the kids leave the roost, you know.

    The Secret Handshake, of course, remains in effect. As does the Secret Code.


  3. My goodness. I had forgotten that all that I am in St Blog's Parish I owe to my Hadleyblogger internship. Unpaid.

    So much has happened in that year. And we are still waiting for a Coadjutor, the Motu Proprio, the updated English translation of the N.O. Mass and the retirement of a goodly number of shepherds.

  4. Unpaid it dollars, perhaps - but your rewards are so much greater in other ways... :)

    And so is everyone else's, thanks to your good work!


  5. Hadleybloggers: You know I'm on board with this. I've really been dismayed by the comboxes and posts on many blogs this week after the VT shootings. Are we Christians or not? Are we civil or not? Even the Geico cavemen is more civil than we are!

  6. Cathy,

    You've been on board from day one. It's time for us to take this to the streets, so to speak. Send it out to all the blogs you read.

    We should know better. In his new book "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents," David Pietrusza dedicates the book to "The folly of man, and the mercy of God."

    We know the folly - it's us. We can only hope for the mercy.


  7. I've actually avoided the comboxes on those types of blogs and posts, because of what you state here.

    In my own blog in which I was reacting to the ridiculous focus on tools and not reality, I was actually very surprised about the high calibre (no pun intended) of the commeters who visited me. Of course, I think all of them are regular commenters, but it seemed that even after an emotionally charged event, they held to their Catholic standard and engaged in discussion - and they kept it on topic. Let's remember to thank and encourage those who do continue to remember civility while they are online.

    That said, I do think it's mainly the blogs that discuss news issues that get the vitriol.

  8. Ironic,
    Thanks for the compliment. And that's not ironic! :-)

    I agree - you have a very high quality of comment. And I think you're right on your analysis - your blog deals mostly with the contemplative and devotional life, which means that most of your grief probably comes from trolls. (Of course, the quality of your writing probably counts for something!)

    But there are too many blogs out there who purport to be Catholic, but instead provide a shameful display of what Catholicism is really about. And it's about time they get called on it.



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