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‘Respect’, don’t ‘Like’ on Kiwiblog

  • October 2nd, 2014

David Farrar acknowledged on Morning Report this morning that he may be putting Kiwiblog at risk by signing up with the Online Media Standards Authority. PC and stupid people could steal his time with partisan complaints. They do not accept the tolerance and skin thickness required for free speech.

It would be a shame if David’s experiment does not work, and he has to withdraw from the OMSA. WhaleOil will be waiting for the experiment to fail. David’s blog is the best political digest by a long shot, but Cam’s courage and extreme risk tolerance is probably essential to lead in breaking stories. It would be unlikely to suit OMSA.

David’s hopes for rationality in political debate may run against human nature, according to an article by Brian Resnick in the National Journal. It surveys recent brain research on the effects of partisanship on reasoning and perceptions. it should be read by all who want to prescribe how politics should be conducted.

There is a practical suggestion David might adopt now. He might improve  civility in the comments on his posts by changing the invitation to ‘Like’ a comment or a post, to an opportunity to note ‘Respect’. For the reasons, read the whole Resnick article.

But first, lets look at DPF’s recently updated Comments Policy. In my opinion the policy is superbly expressed and balanced. With one change I’d adopt it as my own.

Take the Personal Abuse section, for example:

“Personal Abuse I want arguments attacked, not people. As an example it will be unacceptable to call someone a moron, but it will be acceptable to say their argument is moronic. That may seem a fine distinction, but an important one.

However don’t try and push the distinction to breaking point. If you say that someone’s argument has the integrity of a syphilitic pygmy  (for example), then that would find you with a warning or strike.

There is greater latitude when it comes to public figures such as MPs. They can and should be criticised, but not to a degree when it is just nasty abuse.

Gratitious references to attributes people have no control over People can not choose their gender, race, skin colour or sexual orientation. There will be times when those attributes about a public figure can be a legitimate discussion in relation to an political event. For example the media have quoted Grant Robertson on whether his sexual orientation may be a factor in the leadership election. But slagging off an MP, or non MP, on the basis of something they can’t control will get a strike or a warning.

Likewise grossly offensive generalisations are not acceptable either. Treat people as individuals.

This is not to say one can’t discuss group characteristics (such as why certain races are over-represented in crime statistics), but it should be done in a way which is not derogatory of the entire group.

In terms of humour, I have a wide tolerance for humour which makes fun of generalisations, so long as the intent is to be humourous, not to be nasty. If you are not sure of the difference, then don’t do it. And generally keep that stuff to the general debate.

I do not want Kiwiblog to be a politically correct blog, but I do want it to be a place where people wouldn’t say anything in the comments, they wouldn’t say to someone’s face”

The humour excepti0n I’d make a small exception. Extremely clever and funny personal abuse, like the worst kind of Australian sledging, would earn exemption on the grounds that exceptional humour draws a sting, even if in fact it makes it more piercing.

Reducing government safer But lets come back to the intriguing and depressing findings reported in Brian Resnick’s National Journal article.

Essentially it reinforces the power of what Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow as ’confirmation bias’. People warp their perceptions, and their reasoning to avoid letting their biases and pre-conceptions be disturbed by inconvenient facts.

Interestingly the bias is much more associated with team loyalty (in turn perhaps steered by genetic brain differences?) than with real differences in personal interests.

So people who get monetary reward for rational non-partisan thinking can put it aside for small payments. It seems to me to be a strong argument for removing as much of our decision-making as possible from politics, and placing it with commerce, where people are encouraged to decide on the basis of wealth maximising considerations, not whose team or party will ‘win’ or ‘lose’ from the adoption of a policy.

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