I know this shouldn't bother me, but it does. I enter into discussions on various forums (this, this, and this), usually in the "General Discussion" area (though one has a specific "Beekeepers" section, for inflammatory posts). I'm a pretty reasonable guy - I can agree when my opponent has a good point, and I expect them to do the same. I know that I don't have all the answers, and I hope that others can do the same.

After all, the Internet is, in theory, a perfect marketplace of ideas. It's the ultimate in free speech and a wonderful medium for exchanging ideas. But, why, oh why, does Godwin's Law (or some reasonable facsimile thereof) get invoked so often? I'm starting to not bother with the disussions. Consider:

On one board, there is a discussion on prisons and Operation FALCON. One guy has basically bowed out of the discussion, claiming that until we "stop imprisoning a disproportionately poor and brown segment of the population for trivial and non-violent offenses" he's not going to discuss it. I know that he has a point, albeit a minor one - the bigger determinant factor of prison time is actually gender. But, I also know, from experience, that the majority of people aren't going to want to read any evidence on that, because it doesn't fit with preconceived notions.

On another forum, there is an active discussion on the "Kill Bush" t-shirts (on Cafe Press). I have no problem saying that the shirts are way over the top - regardless of Bush, Kerry, Little Green Men from Alpha Centauri, it's still advocating the assassination of the POTUS. Heck, I denounced a parody - it's not as bad, but it's in the same continuum. How hard is it to admit that both sides have a point? One can disagree with one's political opponent, and still be friends with them.

I'm sure I could find more. There's probably three or four threads per day to which I actually feel compelled to contribute. Invariably, the volatile ones devolve into name-calling and bickering. What happened to the reasoned discussion we should be having? Would everyone act the same way if we were actually face-to-face?

I hope not. . . . but the cynic in me says otherwise.


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