My name is Michael Gannon, and I’ve been reading and contributing to RedState since shortly after the 2004 election (my current user name is Icythus, and my old name and history, MichaelG, got lost in one of the switch-overs a few years back). I immediately fell in love with the website, and indeed the RedState community. Though for a good length of time I have been an infrequent poster, and a more infrequent diarist, this is due almost exclusively to my respect for the site; I’ve learned a great deal more by sitting back and reading than I ever did when I was regularly posting. For about the past eight months RedState has become my primary source, not only of political commentary, but of news in general.
With this context, I would like to bring up a concern that has been growing in me for some time, and that is what I perceive to be the increasing incivility by some of our posters and contributors. One of the things that has always drawn me to RedState has been the courtesy and presumption of intellectual honesty shown to all. Name-calling, profanities, and ad homenum attacks have never had a place here. The flip side has long been that, if a member violated these rules enough times, or proved themselves to be operating in bad faith (“trolling”), they were swiftly booted. I am beginning to fear that this is no longer the case.
Lately it seems to me like these formerly strict standards (with the exception of the profanity rule) have been relaxed to a discouraging extent. Name-calling seems to have become an acceptable weapon of discourse, even by some of the front-page contributors, who should know better. Some members have taken to regularly bringing up the length of time their critics have been members. At best, this is a simple case of hubris that comes from being an established member of the community. At worst, this is a thinly-veiled accusation of being a troll. As some of our more veteran members will remembers, in the past, only those about to be banned as trolls had their “length of service” called into question. Either ad homenum attacks have become more acceptable, or the criticisms are valid and RedState has been overrun by trolls. Whatever the case, we clearly have a problem. The moderators need to take charge of the site once more, and we all need to take ownership of the debate, and hold ourselves and others accountable.
Serious, constructive debate and commentary requires that we abide by the basic rules of civility and good faith. For years that has been one of the cornerstones of RedState’s greatness. If we let that go, we will end up discouraging and driving away the kind of members and we want, while encouraging and attracting the wrong kind of commentators. It will kill the site as we know it.