Commentators on The Soapbox are generally a well-behaved lot, however Ms Soapbox has noticed an uptick in off the wall comments lately and would like to review why some Soapbox comments are published and others die on the wrong side of the firewall.
The Soapbox has never had rules telling commentators what to say or not say. Instead Ms Soapbox hoped that commentators would pick up the tone of the blog and frame their comments accordingly.
Here’s a short quiz to determine if this approach was successful.
Question 1: Comments that echo a politician’s talking points (eg “take back Alberta” and “restore the Alberta Advantage”) will NOT be posted because:
- They are devoid of meaning
- They are not supported by evidence
- They are slogans
- All of the above
Answer: (4) If a commentator wants to engage in dialogue about a political position they should raise the point and provide facts and thoughtful argument to support their position, without this they’re simply partisan cheerleaders.
Question 2: A “squirrelly” comment is one that:
- Is tangentially related to the topic
- Directly on point (or in lawyer-speak “on all fours” with the topic)
- Speculates about Ms Soapbox’s ideological leanings and suggests her time would be better spent gardening.
Answer: (3) Posts are intended to encourage conversation about the main theme and tangentially related issues; comments about Ms Soapbox’s purpose in life or her political affiliation are as helpful as a squirrel running across a dog’s path. The dog shouldn’t chase the squirrel, and neither should we.
Question 3: An “ad hominem” comment will NOT be published because:
- It doesn’t discredit the argument
- It is irrelevant
- It’s the last resort of someone who doesn’t have a decent counterargument
- All of the above
Answer: (4). Ad hominem comments are a waste of everyone’s time.
Question 4: Racist, anti-semitic, homophobic, misogynist, or Islamophobic comments will be published:
Answer: (2). Such comments will not be published even if you swear on a stack of bibles you are pure of heart because your comment indicates otherwise. Think of it as the “Todd Beasley UCP candidate test”.
Question 5: The Soapbox is a kumbaya blog, contrary opinions are not welcome:
Answer: (2) The political spectrum is broad, no one has all the answers, and reasonable people disagree. Readers who respectfully disagree with Ms Soapbox and each other and back up their positions with facts and rational argument will be published.
Question 6: Every comment should be published as a matter of free speech:
Answer: (2) FALSE, FALSE, FALSE!!! The free speech argument has been misused on social and main stream media to justify the publication of misinformation and hate speech. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but they don’t have the right to force Ms Soapbox to publish their opinion on her blog. If your opinion is that important to you start your own blog.
Question 7: Conspiracy theories will NOT be published because:
- They are red herrings that distract readers from the main point
- They add nothing meaningful to the conversation
- They cannot be addressed rationally
- All of the above
Answer: (4) Conspiracy theories are popular with people who are frightened by economic and social change. It is impossible to refute a conspiracy theory with evidence (an example would be paranoia around the NDP’s modernization of the school curriculum) and there’s no point trying. Comments based on conspiracy theories will not be published (why fuel someone’s deluded fantasy).
Question 8: Fear mongering comments like “what is the NDP hiding?” or “why is the NDP pushing through legislation that will destroy our way of life?” will NOT be published because:
- They belong in Question Period
- They are unsupported by facts
- They add nothing to the debate
- All of the above, except (1)
Answer: (4) Fear mongering comments are annoying and unproductive. Ms Soapbox can’t keep them out of Question Period, but she can keep them off The Soapbox.
Question 9: Is it OK for commentators to attack each other?
- Maybe, depending on how ridiculous the comment is.
- No, life is too short to waste on silly stuff
Answer: (3) Ms Soapbox tries to nip nasty comments in the bud but sometimes her readers get ahead of her (don’t you guys ever sleep?) and an antagonistic comment and snarky reply will show up on The Soapbox. In this case, Ms Soapbox will remove both comments. Let’s not get personal.
Bonus Question: The optimum length of a comment is:
- Twice as long as the original post
- The same length as the original post
- Half the length of the original post
- I don’t know
Answer: (4) Generally speaking a comment shouldn’t be longer than the original post because everyone, including Ms Soapbox, will lose interest, but there are exceptions. Bottom line: if the comment is interesting and informative it will be published, but there’s no guarantee it will be read.
Do we need Blog Rules?
Albertans will go to the polls in 2019. The run-up to the election will be intense. Politicians and their supporters will be tempted to engage in behaviors that create what author Michiko Kakutani calls “the new nihilism”, a feeling of loss—loss of faith in our institutions, loss of respect for the rule of law, and the loss of respectful debate with people who don’t think like us.
A blog can’t fix everything in our new post truth political environment, but Ms Soapbox believes that by asking readers to treat each other respectfully, especially we disagree, we will preserve our ability to engage in civil discourse.