We all know that the folks who comment on web sites are not a random selection of humanity. They tend to have stronger views than the general public and on sites that have intense political views they are commonly nasty towards their political opponents. An anonymous conservative author who writes under the pseudonym Leften Wright about being oppressed by liberals has just authored an article pitching his book. The article claims that liberals are (uniquely) rude to conservatives. Conservatives and liberals periodically write this article demonizing their opponents for the alleged crime of demonizing their opponents. As befits the genre, the anonymous author relies on innuendo and ad hominem attacks that generalize to his/her political opponents based on slights to the author. None of these personal slights can be tested given the author’s anonymity.
What lifts the author’s attacks on liberals from the usual clichés for this kind of piece is not contained in the article. The delight emerged from the comments it generated on the first conservative web site I viewed.
There could be no more convincing refutation of the author’s thesis than the responses on the conservative web site to his thesis. The commenters are conservatives and they raise the needle measuring rudeness off the chart. At the time I write this column only one comment on the site is not strikingly rude towards liberals (and that comment was attacked by several commenters for its failure to be rude to liberals). The reader can decide for himself or herself whether the commenters’ zest for rudeness demonstrates any creative flair, but it is unquestionable that rudeness is not unique to liberals. Hypocrisy flourishes among the conservatives on this site.
Let me be clear in my thesis. My thesis is that there is nothing unique about this conservative web site. If a liberal author posted his version of the same column on a liberal web site the comments of liberals on the site on the column would likely be dominated by rudeness. No one has a monopoly on rudeness. I understand the dangers of accepting false equivalences. The one thing I can safely say is that an article that purports to complain about rudeness should not be written in a manner calculated to be a one-sided attack on one’s political opponents and designed to generate greater rudeness.