Monday, November 01, 2004

Operation: No Gloating
Anger and Immediate Response on the Internet

Several months ago (I'm too lazy to go look it up), I made a suggestion. I'm going to make it again now:

If we win, no gloating.

There'll be reason to celebrate, but there'll be no reason to gloat, and plenty of reason not to. Polarization has become a problem so serious that it's interfering with our democracy and our leaders' ability to govern. Gloating after a win is one of the surest ways to alienate the opposition even more.

It's probably too much to ask the losing side to avoid a spasm of grief and outrage. But it's surely not too much to ask the winners to be gracious.

Here's my prediction: this will be an extremely vicious post-election period, even if there're no legal challenges. The internet has given people the ability to express their anger immediately and in a relatively impersonal way. It's going to be really, really nasty in the 'Sphere for awhile after the election. It'll be worse if Bush loses, but it'll be bad either way.

I predict this because I've noticed a relatively new phenomenon associated with teaching: occasionally instructors now get extremely inappropriate and sometimes disrespectful e-mails from a student after he or she gets a lower-that-expected grade on a paper or exam. I've had to take several students to task about this. The problem, I think, is that e-mail gives them an opportunity to respond immediately, before they've had a chance to cool down, and allows them to respond with a degree of vehemence and lack of self-control that they'd never display were they speaking to me in person.

Me, I might just avoid the Blogosphere entirely for a couple of months after tomorrow...


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