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Publisher’s Platform: Can We All Get Along?

Can we all get along?

When police-beaten Rodney King uttered those words nearly two decades ago, I am not so sure that many took much notice — even with the 24-hour cable news chatter.

Since then, as the Internet has allowed everyone to communicate with everyone, and our politics have become so very polarized, common courtesy has at times been kicked to the curb much like Mr. King was.

Comments on the Internet so often have taken on the tenor of the town hall meetings surrounding the health care debate. Comments have become vicious, facts and arguments are damned, and personal attacks are the weapon of choice.

Comments on Food Safety News, as well as on other sites we are sure, tend to be made by people who disagree with a point made. Our bet is that you seldom hear from people who agree (although it has been known to happen).  On Food Safety News, our policy has been to accept all comments, but we fear that some commentators stifle meaningful debate on the facts by “going personal.”

A person who comments frequently here sent me an email this past week suggesting that Food Safety News consider a new comment policy. He may well have a point. He also pointed us to the Grist website (disclosure – we are a Grist donor) and Grist’s posting rules, which we not only think make sense, but will adopt in full:

1.  Don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes jerks.

2.  Don’t use profanity. The English language is vast and magnificent.

3.  Don’t be a troll. (Troll: Commenter who makes outrageous or provocative statements purely in order to derail discussion.) You know who you are.

4.  No spam, no solicitation, no links to porn, no Internet detritus of similar ilk. Sell us on your point of view, not your Super-Slanket!

5.  No personal attacks at the author or fellow commenter. Substance, people. Substance.

6.  Seriously, don’t be a jerk.

We are going to see how this works before we delete any comments or try a different policy.

Maybe, we all can take it down a notch.

© Food Safety News
  • jmunsell

    I agree with Mr. Marler’s comments. One reason why so many voters are now independents is that the staunch Republicans and staunch Democrats dedicate so much time to merely deriding the opposition, circumventing the need to tackle delicate issues which require aggressive & uncomfortable decisions.
    At the same time, adherents of one belief system cannot cry “foul” when others tactfully reveal the problems inherent in their belief system. One beauty of Democracy is free speech, which should not be stifled merely to protect one’s personal beliefs. If we are to make progress to resolve today’s problems, we must demand rigorous debate, allowing all relevant points to be thoroughly aired. When decision time comes, the majority rules.
    Mike Mansfield, a Democrat, and Gerald Ford, a Republican, proactively worked both sides of the aisle forging cross-aisle coalitions in the absence of rancorous personal attacks. They were effective, and given prominent positions by their peers. We should emulate their behavior. When their positions were rejected, they swallowed humble pie, and forcefully continued their efforts to maintain civil debate, regardless of who won each issue.
    Our contemporary American civilization needs to jettison our highly inflammatory, childish behavior, which is an affront to any civilized populace. We must also tactfully but boldly speak what we consider to be truthful, and reject all attempts by those in power to control our rights to challenge the powers that be.
    A perfect example is the USDA’s current method of deregulated meat non-inspection. When anyone reveals problems in this deregulated system (which has spawned ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls), USDA always falls back on its default position, which is to claim that the current system is “science based”. Therefore, anyone who criticizes this system is portrayed as being opposed to “science”, and lives in the dark ages. USDA doesn’t want to debate the issues, but instead impugns the IQ of its critics with calumnious criticism.
    A related issue is accountability. Those in power must be held accountable, at least in a Democracy. Many folks in power perceive themselves to be above accountability, and overtly attempt to chill free speech rights of their critics. Shades of Mubarrek, Nixon, Clinton, etc. We must expose their misdeeds, but stop short of calling them names.
    Therefore, let’s continue to rigorously debate, but limit the conversation to factual truth, and let the cards fall where they may.
    John Munsell

  • Thank you for your new policy! Seems like some people forget that with the right for free speech is the responsibility that goes with it. Like you said, our responsibility is to not be a jerk!

  • John Munsell

    I agree with Mr. Marler’s comments. One reason why so many voters are now independents is that the staunch Republicans and staunch Democrats dedicate so much time to merely deriding the opposition, circumventing the need to tackle delicate issues which require aggressive & uncomfortable decisions.
    At the same time, adherents of one belief system cannot cry “foul” when others tactfully reveal the problems inherent in their belief system. One beauty of Democracy is free speech, which should not be stifled merely to protect one’s personal beliefs. If we are to make progress to resolve today’s problems, we must demand rigorous debate, allowing all relevant points to be thoroughly aired. When decision time comes, the majority rules.
    Mike Mansfield, a Democrat, and Gerald Ford, a Republican, proactively worked both sides of the aisle forging cross-aisle coalitions in the absence of rancorous personal attacks. They were effective, and given prominent positions by their peers. We should emulate their behavior. When their positions were rejected, they swallowed humble pie, and forcefully continued their efforts to maintain civil debate, regardless of who won each issue.
    Our contemporary American civilization needs to jettison our highly inflammatory, childish behavior, which is an affront to any civilized populace. We must also tactfully but boldly speak what we consider to be truthful, and reject all attempts by those in power to control our rights to challenge the powers that be.
    A perfect example is the USDA’s current method of deregulated meat non-inspection. When anyone reveals problems in this deregulated system (which has spawned ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls), USDA always falls back on its default position, which is to claim that the current system is “science based”. Therefore, anyone who criticizes this system is portrayed as being opposed to “science”, and lives in the dark ages. USDA doesn’t want to debate the issues, but instead impugns the IQ of its critics with calumnious criticism.
    A related issue is accountability. Those in power must be held accountable, at least in a Democracy. Many folks in power perceive themselves to be above accountability, and overtly attempt to chill free speech rights of their critics. Shades of Mubarrek, Nixon, Clinton, etc. We must expose their misdeeds, but stop short of calling them names.
    Therefore, let’s continue to rigorously debate, but limit the conversation to factual truth, and let the cards fall where they may.
    John Munsell

  • Thanks, Bill, for the new policy.
    It is clear to me, Bill, that the answer to the query in your title is, “No, because some of us don’t want to get along.”
    Fortunately, I have no question that those who don’t want to get along are VERY few. And, of course, FSN has the power to stop those few from disrupting the rest of us who want genuine discussion of the important information and issues FSN regularly brings forward.
    I, also, hope that you, Bill, and FSN will model appropriate, even-handed behavior by walking your talk and then transparently enforce this new policy. I hope y’all will because it would provide the first opportunity for a genuine debate on these important issues in my experience.

  • Thanks, Bill, for the new policy.
    It is clear to me, Bill, that the answer to the query in your title is, “No, because some of us don’t want to get along.”
    Fortunately, I have no question that those who don’t want to get along are VERY few. And, of course, FSN has the power to stop those few from disrupting the rest of us who want genuine discussion of the important information and issues FSN regularly brings forward.
    I, also, hope that you, Bill, and FSN will model appropriate, even-handed behavior by walking your talk and then transparently enforce this new policy. I hope y’all will because it would provide the first opportunity for a genuine debate on these important issues in my experience.