30 September 2012

Incivility Cuts Both Ways

Two recent posts on academic related Civil War blogs caused me to chuckle to myself. The posts were related to the growing lack of civility among "audience members" and readers of blogs and online articles. Before I proceed, let me first say that I actually agree with many of the points both Kevin Levin and Professor Brooks Simpson raise. Discourse has become rather "uncivil" and all of us in the blogosphere have, to one degree or another, been drawn in down to the back and forth nastiness. I've also been in Civil War seminars, both as a speaker and as an audience member, and witnessed first hand questions and comments thrown out in very uncivil tones.

Actually, this situation isn't unique to "scholars" or the discussion of the Civil War. This kind of thing now permeates our society and is, in my opinion, related to the overall moral decline of our society and culture - what I refer to as the Mayberry vs. South Park phenomenon. And there are political and ideological reasons for a lot of this; much of it related to academia - but that's for another time.

What I found funny about both Levin and Simpson's complaint is that they both act as if this lack of civil discourse is only directed toward their particular class - professional historians, academics, and those on their side of historical interpretation.

They seem to forget that those who disagree with current orthodoxy on subject matter related to the WBTS - whether that happens to be causation, black Confederates, heritage or whatever - are frequently the targets of uncivil remarks. Those who oppose their views are often dismissed as "neo-Confederates", racists, Nazis, Rednecks, etc. And those very remarks have been made on my blog, as well as other prominent CW blogs. How's that for civility?

So, while I agree with their overall observations, their complaining about the current state of affairs rings a bit hollow with me. Simpson has publicly called me a "fraud" and Levin has publicly called me a "fool". I also had a public school teacher who maintains a CW blog use a bathroom vulgarity in referring to me. How's that for civility? Are "scholars" and "professional" historians the only ones due respect and civility in these matters?

Moreover, I think some of the sensitivity to this more pervasive nastiness is due to the fact that, prior to the internet, being challenged (rightly or wrongly) was likely not something to which many of these folks were accustomed. Challenging someone who has the power to pass or fail you in their class could certainly dampen a public challenge. Yeah, I know, they'll protest loudly at such a charge. Save it - I have children who have been in college in recent years, so I know better.

My bottom line is that the incivility being discussed by Levin and Simpson cuts more than one way. We all have beams in our eyes. Apparently, that is causing a major blind spot with these gentlemen.


13thBama said...

an old adage, that I have heard in various forms says "To have friends one must be a friend first". In other words, be nice to others and they will be nice to you.

I guess they never heard that before.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Proverbs 18:24: "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

Yes, and both sides can justifiably point fingers. I was just struck at their own assumption of innocence in the matter.

Brother Juniper said...

I'd be insulted to be called a neo-confederate. There is nothing neo- about my views.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

It's their way of dismissing dissent.