So, we’ve had some recent departures of users from the site — some self-imposed, some imposed by your editors. They are temporary. In response, I think upon reflection that we will not go dark until January as JimC has suggested.
The tone of much of the debate on the site has been sometimes nasty and personal, with (as someone once said) “an intensity usually reserved for condo board meetings.” This is in total opposition to the intent of this site. We’re supposed to be better than a “comments section” of a newspaper, say. We’re supposed to be smarter, nicer, more substantive, and more patient. At times we’ve lived up to that; at times we’ve enjoyed a reputation for informed commentary that actually has given us influence in the public debate: We get picked up in newspapers, noticed by folks in power.
I want to refresh everyone’s memory of the rules here. They’ve been in place for a long time.
The purpose of Blue Mass. Group is to develop ideas that will invigorate progressive leadership in Massachusetts and the nation. Robust debate is an important means to that end. We welcome bold, constructive observations. To us, this means commentary typical of thoughtful discussion between acquaintances who may hold differing views on important issues, but who debate those issues in a respectful manner. Insults, personal attacks, rudeness, and blanket unsupported statements reduce the level of discourse, interfere with our basic objective, and are not permitted.
… I might add that taking unnecessary offense also interferes with our basic objective. You don’t have to take the bait; you don’t have to respond to a perceived insult. It doesn’t diminish you in the least to ignore a slight.
That being said, we give our commenters a long leash. I can’t possibly get through all the comment threads myself, so I have to rely on people to, well, behave themselves. I am not your dad. And as a volunteer, I really don’t have the time or energy to send nastygrams to violators, suspend people, etc. while still create content and maintain the back end.
On this site in the last twelve months we have had considerable challenges on the technical, personnel, and indeed political fronts on this site. But the site is still unique in Massachusetts; and it is yours. I am asking for your help.
This is what it needs:
- More and better posts for the front page. Informed, researched, smartly-written, informative commentary. Blogging still matters: We have Twitter for 280 characters or less, but if your thoughts are more complex than that (and they should be), this is a platform for that. And your teachers know that one learns through the process of writing (and rewriting), itself. In the process of writing you may well change your mind! As a dispenser of confirmation-bias dopamine hits, Twitter won’t do that for you. Be you a wonk or a philosopher by temperament, writing is good for your head. As historian Timothy Snyder says, “Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying.” (If you haven’t, read Snyder’s whole “20 lessons for how to survive in Trump’s America”.)A guideline of one or two paragraphs is a good start. It doesn’t have to be genius, or perfect, or your definitive statement; as Josh Marshall says, blogging is iterative, not definitive. But it will be your own.
- More contributors and participation, including more women, more people of color. It has not escaped my attention over the years that our reader/writership skews heavily male and (I’m guessing) white. This … is not a majority. We could reach out to our personal/political networks, invite people in, and make this site more representative of the Commonwealth. I’m asking for that. We need new voices.
- Dignity … always dignity. Right now we need places where left and center-left can hash things out in good humor and good faith. BMG should be a place that expressly does not follow the narrative of implacable intra-left hostility. Here we remember that we depend on each other as citizens and that we hang together or hang separately. Every last comment we leave here ought to reflect that conscience. And remember who’s reading. You are not trying to convince your immediate interlocutor; you are trying to convince people looking in on your conversation. BMG is still read by the local media, and in the offices of the State House. Every well-informed, smart take reinforces our influence — and every intemperate ad-hominem take diminishes it. Remember this post from over the summer by longtime BMG’er AmberPaw, on paying lawyers for the indigent? It got picked up by the Globe, and got results in the State House. That’s as clear a line of causality I’ve ever seen on this site. The blog’s the thing to catch the conscience of a … state rep. It happens!
Again, this is your site — and it represents a combination of the possibilities of slightly longer-form writing and analysis (unlike Twitter), in a public forum not limited to the networks of your family and friends (like Facebook). Please use it! But use it wisely.