Slouching Towards Washington?
by Strummerson, Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 09:41:11 AM EST
"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Washington to be born?"
As we look forward to the inauguration of the first Democratic President of this century, we face numerous domestic crises recalling some of the starkest circumstances in our country's history, two wars, and various other international military and economic conflicts. I look to MyDD as a forum to discuss the policy initiatives of the incoming administration. That is not what I have encountered, for the most part in the past two weeks.
Instead, we have regular hit pieces. Some are as "fair and balanced" as the news service they resemble and as intellectually honest as the talk radio personality they emulate. One series is posted under the disingenuous heading of "Politics and Media Headlines" and has had at least one edition singled out for diary rescue. Of course, we should tolerate a wide range of viewpoints. But these come from someone who claims knowledge of what Obama is "really like," and challenges us to find a different and truly progressive candidate for 2012 weeks before Obama's inauguration. He hasn't taken office and he's been disqualified. Others are posting diaries that equate support for Obama, no matter how critical, nuanced, and qualified as both endorsement of patriarchy and encouragement of rape.
In addition, we have a small cadre of users who want only to cast aspersions on the president-elect through smears and rumors that lack any substantiation and accuse anyone who argues with them of being dupes, thugs, or mesmerized minions. I have encountered anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs, personal attacks on users' families, and the same anti-intellectualism that has been the currency of conservatives and republicans (which they have been spending to great and detrimental effect on our political culture and system for the past decades), and good will twisted into animosity. I have encountered other users with whom I have had highly productive interchanges, in the context of both agreements and disagreements, abandoning civility and engaging in the same destructive dynamics, though generally without employing the most pernicious of these slurs. The worst aspects of the primaries have returned like a recurring nightmare that haunts and fatigues us, and ultimately distracts from engaging reality in a productive manner.
My question here is how do we maintain this forum as a productive one? How should we respond and/or avoid the dynamics that impede diverse and considerate exchange of perspectives and information? How do we avoid a situation in which, to quote W.B. Yeats once more: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity."