‘Flame Wars’ Ignited By Tiny Sparks

My preceding post, ‘Plagiarism, Integrity, & Dialogue‘, was also a Joplin Globe editorial: ‘Jim Stone, guest columnist: Punditry bane to honest dialogue‘ {22Jul10}. It was prompted by my discovery of plagiarism in a guest editorial. That incident was significant both for its rarity (the Globe has controls for published content) and its egregious nature. The responses online and in a subsequent editorial included many heated or obtuse comments. Many of the comments were pristine examples of the poor dialogue decried in my editorial.

One misguided commenter suggested (repeatedly) that my use of a quote, with citation, was plagiarism! One critic of that commenter questioned his grade-school success. Another noted that he was building a coffin for the commenter. Both were fine sarcasm and poor dialogue.

Other folks displayed their insecurity openly by responding defensively: “is this just another condescending piece where we are told we don’t even know how to argue?!” (signed, ‘Is it me, or…..’) ‘Is it me’ does know how to argue, but that is not the same thing as dialogue.

Hot-button topics trigger some insecurities: I used the phrase “confiscate our guns” as an example of a falsehood, and an undiscerning commenter utterly confused “confiscate” with other forms of regulation which are, indeed, common. Local (and other) regulations of the possession and use of firearms are common. Joplin and most communities have such regulations. Confiscation is rare and limited, not impending or wholesale.

Derision “A piece like this should be read wearing tweed, smoking a pipe…” (signed, ‘Properly snoody’) is dandy argument. As with other polemics, it is not dialogue.

The most common anti-dialogue technique is to ignore facts, and repeat (or shout) discredited arguments. That gets us nowhere, and fast. Anson Burlingame’s Globe editorial, ‘Opinions not necessarily plagiarism‘, illustrates this.

Anson devotes much of his comments to ‘opinion‘. Opinions, simply as opinions, were not a subject of my editorial criticism. Anson wrote, “…don’t denounce his expression of his/her opinion. That I think is called freedom of speech.” In fact, my editorial had no such denunciation. I object to the uniformly, dismally low quality of opinions and to the resistance too many folks have to exchange their opinions in a productive manner.

The prior editorials regarding the Jones Act, and Anson’s citation of a Canadian news organization, provide my last example of poor dialogue. Commenters provided citations of fact (not mere ‘news reporting’) that have been ignored. I refer readers to Wikipedia’s ‘Merchant Marine Act of 1920‘, Factcheck.org’s ‘Oil Spill, Foreign Help and the Jones Act‘, and even to Openmarket.org’s ‘Readers Contest Factcheck.Org’s “Oil Spill, Foreign Help, and the Jones Act” ‘. The last source, which attempts to affirm Jones Act problems, actually cites a Voice of America article confirming that Anson is incorrect about delays in Dutch assistance being due to the Jones Act.

I definitely come down on the side of “letting anyone submit whatever they want” (Burlingame). I will also continue to note that opinions are similar (to you-know-what) – everyone has one. Who has a willingness to sort out values in a genuine dialogue?


1 Response to “‘Flame Wars’ Ignited By Tiny Sparks”

  1. 1 Jim
    July 31, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    You should also read a sample of Anson in a good dialogue:
    [ http://jwheeler59.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/washington-works/ ].
    Here (as Commenter), he is demonstrating the beauty of participation in a dialogue with two Jims who value and respect his pertinent comments. – Jim

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