WaPo blogger William M. Arkin created a little dust up in the virtual pages of WaPo this week. A little background: After watching an NBC Nightly News report that had troops bemoaning the lack of support at home Arkin posted that the soldiers should be grateful that we do respect them, even if we don't support the mission.
Well, I'm sure you can guess how well that went over with many. WaPo's editors had to close the comments after more than 900 made it through their filters, most not so nice in tone. Apparently the masochist, Arkin responded again.
1500 comments and another closed thread later, Arkin had been insulted in every possible way. Never one to back away from a fight, Arkin takes issue with the ad hominem used in lieu of debate:
I'm trying to make sense of the worldview of those who have responded. For the critics, I have become the enemy and have been demonized. In that process, I have ceased being a person, an individual, or a human being, all essential to justify the campaign to annihilate me. I'm not trying to offer myself up as victim here, nor do I expect the critics to change their view. I'm merely pointing out the process and the implications of the dehumanization.
So what do you think? Arkin's plea for civility (one I share--you commenters can be brutal and seem to forget that there are real people behind the words you're reading) suggests that a civilized exchange is a lost art. Is it the anonymity of the internet? Is it that certain topics are just too provocative to discuss calmly? Or have we collectively forgotten our manners?
This seems like a good opportunity to also give big props to our site monitors. I see the grumbling about edited posts, but I give them full credit for trying to encourage real debate and keep the trollage to a minimum.