Biting fair

Sheila has been linking to and writing about some wonderful stuff lately. For instance, she links to this article about a story that implodes the myth that American IT workers are so much more costly than using offshore workers. I wonder how many other companies are offshoring their work without even once taking a glance around to see the hungry workers in this country.

Just because CEOs are overpaid, doesn’t mean the rest of us are.

But there was another article earlier, Words that cut that really caught my attention. It’s about the story that rock critic Jim Washburn wrote expressing his regrets at taking a cheap shot at Steve Goodman. Sheila wrote:

It may have sounded bright and clever at the time, but for the rest of his life Washburn will wince at the memory of his cheap putdown of a man who mattered.

Doc also talked about this , and his early days as a fresh young journalist covering accidents. But he believes that’s why things are different in weblogging:

What strikes me about Washburn’s piece, however, is that there is still a sense of distance – one that’s very different than the one we sense here on the Net, where what we write is syndicated immediately into countless news aggregators, where every reader is an email or an instant message away, and where a high percentage of readers are also writers. There may be a sense of physical distance, but that’s about the only kind. There’s immediacy here. It’s personal, even if we only know the blogger as, say, Brian at bmoeasy. With a few notable exceptions, this sense of proximity, of sharing an almost (though not quite) social space, has an effect on manners. That’s why I believe, on the whole, that we’re a bit more civil here.

Doc is a remarkably positive person, and I do admire his ability to always see the glass half full when it comes to weblogging. However, spending any time out among the political weblogs quickly demonstrates that civility can, at times, be more scarce than women techs working with RSS or Atom.

I agree with both Sheila and Doc that being biting wit can just as easily bite the source as the target. But I’m not sure that there isn’t a time and a place for sarcasm, satire, or superciliousness. I think the key is to use such verbal techniques deliberately, and to always aim high.

When talking about his actions in slagging Steve Goodman, Washburn wrote:

People can drop dead at any time, and that’s no reason to gild their talents. But it should make us more cognizant of what we write, and whether we do it to be truthful or because being snide might make you look cool

Good advice, but more than that, though, is I think you have to exercise a sense of fairness. Just as we were taught in school not to pick on people smaller than us, we shouldn’t exercise our own biting wit at the expense of people who have less clout then ourselves.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email