Rules and Respect

There is, in the art of debate, a form known as the ‘”ad hominem fallacy.”

When you note someone making a statement you don’t agree with, you attack the speaker personally, and not the policy they are arguing for. For example, if someone says that trees cause climate change, instead of offering some statistics on how trees absorb carbon and express oxygen, you tell them they have a big nose. 

Sadly, this ‘ad hominem fallacy’ is a regular practice among some of the people who read and comment on this site. Several of them have had previous issues with this strategy, and the offending comments have been pulled, more than once. We are allowing the current thread to stand, on the not always proven theory that you can learn as much from a bad example as a good one. 

There is also the unhappily popular strategy known as “Whataboutism” that pulls two unequal or unrelated issues together for comparison – for example, when someone offers the thought that we spend a huge percentage of the municipal budget on police, countering by saying what about all the homeless encampments on the creek, and fire risk, and shouldn’t we be hiring more fire fighters? The original statement is not being refuted, the conversation is simply being moved in another direction. While this is recognized as a debate strategy, it’s also recognized as propaganda. 

While there are many issues being discussed and legislated at the local and state level that people are passionate about, it’s not a reason to treat people disrespectfully. 

And – respect is a difficult rule to enforce. 

The rules for comments – and letters to the editor – are that you must sign your real name, you do not use obscene or vulgar language, and you do not personally threaten anyone. When these rules were first laid down, they seemed to be pretty comprehensive. Additional rules like ‘don’t behave like a fourth grader picking a playground fight’ seem like editorial overreach – but perhaps they are not. 

Culver City Crossroads is here to be a place where people can express a considered idea; that is the time honored classic “letter to the editor.” That we have comments available below the posts where people can share their thoughts is beginning to look like a policy that no longer makes sense. Very rarely is any positive contribution offered on comments – it’s just a lot of mud being flung. 

And that’s social media, not local news. If you need to carp about something, take it to Facebook, take it to Twitter. Those places exist for sole purpose of mud being flung. If you have an idea that you can present respectfully and accept critique, (not personal taunts, not playground threats) it can be a good place to exchange points of view. 

Like any intersection, being mindful of the flow of traffic is important for the safety and well-being of all those involved. It can be (according to legend) a place of magic. But only if we can keep to the rules of the road. 

Judith Martin-Straw



The Actors' Gang

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.