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The Barbarian Bloggers Dr. Zahl is right... and wrong
Greg Griffith, Stand Firm, 6/08/2008

Over at TitusOneNine, Dr. Paul Zahl complains about the "libelous" nature of Anglican blogs, on both the right and the left, as the debate heats up heading into next week's General Convention.

Dr. Zahl is of course correct that both sides in this debate could do with a little tempering of their rhetoric, but it's important to think of this debate as an extremely slow-motion version of a spat between two people who were once very close: We are only now making the transition from the initial bursts of anger, to that period of "yes you did, no I didn't" that characterizes many arguments. It's likely we'll emerge from this phase into one where the rhetoric is indeed toned down, and uncivil discussions are conspicuous aberrations. The difference between what happens between two people and what's happening among Episcopalians, is that in the former, these phases are measures in minutes, perhaps hours. In the case of the latter, these phases are measure in months, and sometimes years.

Another thing to remember is that until the blogosphere reached its current state of ubiquity and ease of use, discussion was so limited as to seem now as though it wasn't happening at all. Add to that the persistent efforts of the powers that be to prevent open dialogue, and you have the frustration that is now being unleashed across the blogosphere. Like all releases of pressure that's built up over a long time, this too shall pass.

Dr. Zahl's proposal that blog posters be required to identify themselves, though, is pie-in-the-sky. Yes, this discussion has been going on at some length in the blogosphere - especially behind the scenes among those of us who run the most highly-trafficked sites - but the fact is that the same technology that makes the Internet such an open and immediate communications medium also prevents any practical implementation of identity authentication. Short of site administrators limiting comments to those people whose identities and email addresses they know personally, it is simply not possible to prevent those who want to be anonymous from remaining so. The choices are to leave your comment sections wide-open and hope for the best; require registration and make it inconvenient for people to set up bogus accounts; or to stop accepting comments altogether, in which case we may as well go back to getting all our information from ENS.

I am sometimes one of the offenders to whom Dr. Zahl refers, and I'm certainly not going to suggest a laissez-faire approach to uncivil conduct; but I believe that when you look at the nature of the crisis, the amount of discussion that happens on line, and the number of truly inappropriate posts, you find a raucous place where a lot of elbows are thrown, but you hardly find the hotbed of libel Dr. Zahl describes.

The best thing for all of us - myself included at the top of the list - to do is remember these little guidelines:

1. If you think your post sounds hostile, it does. Save it to a file in your word processor and come back to it later.

2. Don't post anything you wouldn't want your mother reading.

3. Remember that the Internet never forgets. Once you click that "Submit" button, your post may as well be carved into a mountainside, for all the world to see from now 'til doomsday.

4. Above all, ask yourself what Jesus would say if he read your post. As Kendall has to counsel me from time to time, when my mouse is hovering over that "Submit" button: Take it to the foot of the cross.

1 posted on 06/08/2006 5:47:38 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; meandog; gogeo; Lord Washbourne; Calabash; axegrinder; AnalogReigns; Uriah_lost; ...
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 06/08/2006 5:48:21 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi | SONY: 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0urs)
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To: sionnsar

It seems to me particularly interesting that Dr. Zahl's answer to his concerns is clamping down, removal of anonymity, and REGULATION (libel laws). One question for him: "Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Isn't that sort of control by a very few, answerable to no authority but themselves, what got the Episcopal Church USA into this mess in the first place?

3 posted on 06/08/2006 6:06:34 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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