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.