Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 29, 2009

Couldn’t agree more

You won’t find a stronger advocate of free speech than me, however, let’s remember that free speech prohibits government censorship of speech, not societal pressure for good behavior. That’s why I agree with every word of the op-ed that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and CiviliNation founder Andrea Weckerle co-wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Key quotes:

The comments sections of online gossip sites, as well as some national media outlets, often reflect semi-literate, vitriolic remarks that appear to serve no purpose besides disparaging their intended target. Some sites exist solely as a place for mean-spirited individuals to congregate and spew their venomous verbiage. …

We need to create an online culture in which every person can participate in an open and rational exchange of ideas and information without fear of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment or lies. Everyone who is online should have a sense of accountability and responsibility. …

Individuals appalled at the degeneration of online civility need to speak out, to show that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated. …

The Internet is bringing about a revolution in human knowledge and communication, and we have an unprecedented opportunity to make the global conversation more reasonable and productive. But we can only do so if we prevent the worst among us from silencing the best among us with hostility and incivility.

There’s nothing wrong with argument — debating points of view based on facts and using fallacy-free lines of reason — even passionate argument, but when argument degrades into quarreling — using falsehoods and fallacies to try to support a point — or worse, insult-fests that don’t even address the points of a debate, we are all cheapened.

I know that when some online bully calls me a “mouthy bitch” or “ugly” or speculates about my sex life (all of which, and more, has happened to me) in response to a position I’ve taken, it just reflects that they have no valid points to make themselves, and likely not even the skills to formulate and express a thoughtful argument, but I also know that this abusive behavior chills debate and discourages less courageous people from even participating.

Let’s call out folks — whether they’re agreeing or disagreeing with your particular point of view — who violate standards of decency, whether they’re engaged to face-to-face abusiveness or cyber bullying.



  1. Thanks for helping get the word out so that we can, together, make a needed improvement in online discourse in order to encourage passionate, rational-based discourse.

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