Tuesday, August 31, 2010

June 14, 2010 - How did a bully become a "joyous voice of dissent"?

I can't comment too specifically on this issue, because it involves individuals. In our board's online forum spaces, there's some heated discussion, often on the topic of the social web. One particular person takes a rather extremist and contrary viewpoint, but that is not my beef with the person - it is the way this person responds in derogatory, rude and insulting ways. The moderators have reminded everyone to permit dissent but write in a respectful fashion, and this has led a couple of people to post that they did not consider certain people to be crossing the line. It puzzles me how this lack of kindness is dismissed by some people. I asked my husband about it and he said there's a mistaken belief that dissent in of itself is praiseworthy and that some think a gadfly is good, regardless of the basis of their claims. I do like examining some of my strongly held opinions, but I don't like putting people down to do it.

It reminded me of a session offered at the Canadian Library Association's conference in Edmonton last week, in which an author spoke about Freedom of Speech vs Cultural Sensitivity. Her speech was written and delivered after the political cartoon of the prophet Mohammed was published in a right-wing newspaper and the uproar it caused. I agreed with some of the things she said and I disagreed with some of the things she said. The audience's reactions (and her reaction to the audience's questions) were very intriguing. It wasn't quite as clear-cut as some might've believed, but there was no name-calling or insults.

I guess when it comes to this particular person and their brand of "debate", that I need to remember Dr. Ross Todd's words - "don't water the rocks".

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