In this small blog community and my WagnerWrites Facebook page, people have been unfailingly polite. But it seems that in our society overall, “civil discourse” as a public communication style has disappeared.
My friend, Lori Randall Stradtman, just posted a blog, Pigalle’s Gall: Eatery Commits Suicide on Facebook, about Boston restauranteur Marc Orfaly who repeatedly swore at and insulted a customer who complained about his establishment. Honest to God, I can’t even repeat a lot of what he said. Oh, yeah, the customer was rude, too, though not to the same extent. But did she deserve that treatment? No. No one does. Ever.
The irony of Lori’s discovery of this controversy is that her new book, Online Reputation Management for Dummies, has just been released by Amazon.com, and this is a textbook case of what she teaches us NOT to do.
By the way, you’re online right now. In fact, you’re probably online a lot. You need this book. Here’s a cheat sheet to give you an idea of the value of it. (End commercial – unpaid!)
How do you tell American society has a problem? When you Google the topic and find a host of new sites and institutes dedicated to righting the wrong. That’s what happened when I searched on the term “civil discourse,” which wikipedia defines as:
…engagement in discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding…it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences.
Wow. That pretty much negates all public discourse in the arena of politics, which seems to have taken a page out of the WWF’s official Trash Talking Handbook and just edited it “up” a few reading levels. It probably also disqualifies a lot of family dinner conversation, too.
First of all, we might learn from each other. Some of us might (gasp!) change our minds about issues once in a while. Eventually, even hatred might be diminished. How cool would that be?
Here are two organizations I found who are dedicated to promoting civility in communication. I wish them luck.
Also, if you’re interested in reading even more on the subject, here is an excellent article: 5 tips for creating civil discourse in an era of polarization.