Comment 51786

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted November 17, 2010 at 15:57:06

Some considerations in this debate, since I too have tired of The Troll Who Shan't Be Named.

1) What is the point of the RTH comments section? If it is to inspire reasoned and genuine debate on topics of importance to the RTH community, then there are implications on how individual comments should be treated, as not all comments are equivalent. Concepts like censorship cease to be an overriding concern, and instead attention is paid to community standards. Posters, both orthodox-RTH and heretics alike should be bound by common agreements on the type of debating allowed (i.e. opinion vs. fact), number of comments tolerated (as spamming dilutes the power of the section to further productive debate), and the style of dialogue (acceptability of baiting, sarcasm, personal attacks, etc.).

If it is merely a public board meant to capture any and all comments on the issues, then comments by trolls are essentially equivalent to all others, and adherence to published posting guidelines is the only concern in evaluating a comment's acceptability.

2) What place do heretical views have in a progressive, if largely homogeneous, web community? Having been on the 'wrong' side of an RTH debate, I have some sympathy with those wishing to open up the echo chamber to opposing voices. However, constantly re-iterating heretical views is unlikely to accomplish this, only radicalize debaters on both sides, ultimately destroying any chance at productive deliberative discourse.

So, despite the well-intentioned wish for this to be a free space for ideas, it is possible that this orientation becomes counter-productive because the statement of heretical opinions or facts quickly derails genuine debate and re-focuses attention from the topic of debate to the process of debating (see: this thread).

Which is to say, if this space is indeed supposed to be governed by community standards instead of a laissez faire space dedicated to all free expression (which is the way it seems to be headed given the coordinated attacks against, and eventual ignoring of the Troll Who Shan't Be Named), then those community standards should be worked out, and vigorously enforced by removing comments found to not be in the spirit of genuine debate.

Whether or not genuine debate actually results will be a function of the maturity of the community, its tolerance for heretical views, and the willingness of heretics to meet community standards instead of railing against them.

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