Donna Rose

Uncontrolled Anger Corrupts Absolutely

Filed By Donna Rose | July 23, 2008 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: blogosphere, flame

I don't like to think of myself an an angry person. Certainly, I get angry from time to time. That's just part of having emotion and being human. But there is a huge difference between short-term, controlled, constructive anger and the kind of scorched-earth fury that sometimes passes for commenting on blogs these days. Unfortunately, recent posts here on Bilerico have highlighted this unfortunate phenomenon to a point where it cannot be dismissed. I don't know if the issue is about anger so much as it is about control. Either way - it has gotten way out of hand.

It's not often that I agree with Conservative columnist George Will, but I have learned from experience to never say never. In early 2007 he wrote an Op/Ed for the Washington Post titled "Anger is All the Rage". In it he says:

Today's anger is a coping device for everyday life. It also is the defining attribute of an increasingly common personality type: the person who "unless he is angry, feels he is nothing at all." That type, infatuated with anger, uses it to express identity. Anger as an expression of selfhood is its own vindication.

I'm not here to point fingers. You know who you are. People who read what you write know who you are. Those who turn comments on blogs into a mugging are little better than internet street-thugs bent on control, fear, and intimidation. These antics pollute, indeed they infect, blogs and otherwise healthy, vibrant discourse to the point that nothing healthy can live there any more. None of us can allow that to happen here.

The blogosphere is the Wild West of the internet. There are no laws. There are no credentials. There is nothing preventing anyone from saying anything they want and others accepting it as fact. It is a perfect outlet for expressing anger and, in fact, one blogger refers to it as "an electronic primal scream". That is the very reason why it exists.

However there a difference between constructively explaining an opinion that might be different from someone who has taken the time and energy to articulate their thoughts in a blog and personally attacking anyone who disagrees with you. These hoodlums hijack the conversation to wherever it is they want to take it, whether they have a clue about what they're talking about or not, leaving others exhasperated and frustrated at the mayhem it causes. Eventually the very voices that should be heard - the voices of reason, with fresh ideas, and different perspectives - refuse to share anymore for fear of being the next victim. That's more than a shame. It's tragic.

It is not coincidental that many of the posts inviting the most flame lately are those dealing with transgender issues or with ENDA. Both are very topical right now. Both are emotion-laden topics that invite strong and widely disparate opinions. Certainly, these are not the only hot-buttons but somehow to write on these topics is to invite the crazies to eat you alive. Unfortunately, this kind of irrational, angry, unnecessary trash-talk is an unfortunate reflection not only on a few individuals, but on an entire community. It's a mess.

It's unfortunate to have to write entries like this because of a few bad apples who continually feel the need to control the conversation with vitriol and fire. In fact, it just invites more of it. But just as the lawless nature of the blogosphere is what makes it such a powerful force these days, so too is the self-policing nature that must necessarily exist in order to keep some sort of balance. Nobody can stop people from saying anything they want. But if the broader community identifies these transgressors and holds them accountable, at least there is some way to re-take control.

My father told me never to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. From a young age I learned that if you don't have anything constructive to say, don't say anything. How many of us escape grade school without learning "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."? How is it that these fundamental concepts of treating one another with dignity, respect, and civility somehow get forgotten as soon as someone begins to type a comment on a blog?

It seems that something is missing in the process of seeing something you perhaps disagree with, typing a crazy response, and pressing "Enter". That something is taking a brief moment to not only think about what you're saying, but whether or not what you have to say even needs to be said. It seems that some people simply need to see their words in print to feel they have value.

Bilerico is not the only place infected by this disease. Anger is pandemic - it happens everywhere. However that doesn't make it right. And if not addressed, it can and will consume an environment ripe with promise. It's an environment where difference of opinion is valued, not prevented. It's a place where people of diverse backgrounds need to be able to express themselves without fear of being gang-attacked. It's a place where adults go, not a playground of childish tantrums and screaming where louder makes mightier. That, my friends, is anarchy.

George Will talks about the "politics of disdain" that "luxuriates in its own vehemence." He notes:

Today, many people preen about their anger as a badge of authenticity: I snarl, therefore I am. Such people make one's blood boil.

Yes. They do.


Recent Entries Filed under The Movement:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!

You are right on the spot on this, Donna. There is a huge difference between discussing an issue and screeching with insults.

Great post!!

Anger is an emotion that has various levels, like the emotion of love. You can love your children and that's one level of love. You can love your parents, love you best friend and love your SO and all of those are different levels, and different kinds of love.

Anger also has various levels, and some people cannot understand those different level. Some people see even a heated civil discussion as a form of anger and cannot stand it. The truth is, anger is in the eyes of the beholder, like beauty. To paraphrase a famous line from the movies, "Some people cannot handle the truth."

People cannot define love and shouldn't try. Same with anger.

Monica, you disagreed with Donna calmly and politely.

That's really the object of the exercise. It's because your post was so rational, clear, and yet still passionate that you show that it can be done.

In my own case, there are two other ingredients I'd add to the mixture: which can be difficult when talking about issues where people have died, but you still should try.

The first is a big dollop of "Zoe, don't take yourself so goddarn seriously, you silly bint!"

The second is to add a smidgin of humour. Or humor if in the US.

You want the truth! You can't handle the truth! No truth handler you! Bah! I deride your truth handling abilities!

Zoe,
I cannot help but smile when I read some of your comments. If you throw another shrimp on the barbie, I may get down their in say . . . a decade or two.

Here's some quotes from the piece:

"Those who turn comments on blogs into a mugging are little better than internet street-thugs bent on control, fear, and intimidation. These antics pollute, indeed they infect, blogs . . . "

"These hoodlums hijack the conversation to wherever it is they want to take it, whether they have a clue about what they're talking about or not, leaving others exhasperated and frustrated at the mayhem it causes."

"Certainly, these are not the only hot-buttons but somehow to write on these topics is to invite the crazies to eat you alive. Unfortunately, this kind of irrational, angry, unnecessary trash-talk is an unfortunate reflection not only on a few individuals, but on an entire community."

Notice words like "internet street thugs, pollute, infect, hoodlums hijack, mayhem, crazies, trash-talk." Now, I'm not a psychologist and I don't play one on TS, but these comments could be construed as someone venting anger, which I don't have a problem with. It is necessary at times.

I point this out as an example of how anger can be in the eyes of the beholder based on what words someone selects for their sentences. Now, I would have said these sentences differently, but I don't wish to anger anyone with my suggestions.

I don't like to think of myself an an angry person. Certainly, I get angry from time to time. That's just part of having emotion and being human. But there is a huge difference between short-term, controlled, constructive anger and the kind of scorched-earth fury that sometimes passes for commenting on blogs these days. Unfortunately, recent posts here on Bilerico have highlighted this unfortunate phenomenon to a point where it cannot be dismissed. I don't know if the issue is about anger so much as it is about control. Either way - it has gotten way out of hand.

I find this entire post VERY elitist and frankly quite demeaning! Who decides what is a "crazy response" and what is a "short-term, controlled, constructive anger"?

I'm not here to point fingers. You know who you are. People who read what you write know who you are. Those who turn comments on blogs into a mugging are little better than internet street-thugs bent on control, fear, and intimidation. These antics pollute, indeed they infect, blogs and otherwise healthy, vibrant discourse to the point that nothing healthy can live there any more. None of us can allow that to happen here.

First of all, I was told long ago by Bil that we were not to post about other contribs blog posts on Bilerico. This post is in violation of that rule. Secondly, who decides what is vibrant discourse and what is an infector? Not naming names is hugely passive-aggressive. Bil has kicked people off the blog who violate comment TOS. We who post and comment here come with our big girl and boy pants on. I've been threatened and harassed by a poster to Bilerico that threatened me with physical violence in email. I say a lot of very stark, frank things and I know I'm going to piss a few people off.

These hoodlums hijack the conversation to wherever it is they want to take it, whether they have a clue about what they're talking about or not, leaving others exhasperated and frustrated at the mayhem it causes. Eventually the very voices that should be heard - the voices of reason, with fresh ideas, and different perspectives - refuse to share anymore for fear of being the next victim. That's more than a shame. It's tragic.

Welcome to the internet. It takes two to tango, and you don't have to respond to every comment. At times people don't make sense in a comment, I don't respond. Some times I do. But it's not up to me to decide what is constructive anger and what is "crazy." The only thing I can do is pick my battles.

It's an environment where difference of opinion is valued, not prevented. It's a place where people of diverse backgrounds need to be able to express themselves without fear of being gang-attacked. It's a place where adults go, not a playground of childish tantrums and screaming where louder makes mightier. That, my friends, is anarchy.

That sounds VERY George Will. Anarchy is defined as:a state of lawlessness and disorder. The TOS are in place and work very well. The internet is free wheeling and anything goes. It's the marketplace of ideas. Not all of them are logical, nice, or friendly. You even said on your own blog:

Well, all I have to say about it is kiss my a$$. If you bring that crap over here we’re going to get personal.

If you want to clean up someone's house, you should start with your own.

Donna, I tend to agree with you that some readers have a tendency to fling poo in the comments section. But by and large, the majority of our readers are very considerate of the contributors and their fellow readers. I don't think it's fair to use such broad strokes.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 23, 2008 10:38 PM

Marti, I don't understand where your comments are coming from. I've missed a lot on Bilerico lately, what with looking for a job and not having a decent Internet connection and all. But I'm really surprised by the anger in your comments. And I have to say, I definitely would have never linked Donna's post to you or anything you've ever posted until now, after reading your response. And I still don't know what's behind it.

I read Donna's post as directed at the ugliness that breaks out on the Internet with appalling regularity, not as an indicment directed toward any Bilerico regulars.

Have I missed some crucial background?

And I have to say, I definitely would have never linked Donna's post to you or anything you've ever posted until now, after reading your response. And I still don't know what's behind it.

Actually, the post where all the vitriol was spewed was here. There was some ugliness, but that's what comes with being a blogger on any blog.

I read Donna's post as directed at the ugliness that breaks out on the Internet with appalling regularity, not as an indicment directed toward any Bilerico regulars.

Have I missed some crucial background?

I just find the entire post to be very classist and elitist. I'm not angry at all. I'm disappointed and saddened that someone I like would be so hypocritical.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 23, 2008 11:20 PM

Marti, I scanned through the comments you linked to. I think some of them did cross a line where they went from discussing the issues to getting personal. If I'd been on the other side of a couple of them, I would have been angry and hurt.

That said, I have also seen a lot worse on the Net. In general, though, I think it's always advisable to shy away from anger that jumps from issue-directed to personal. And that's more or less how I read the message of this post -- a general plea for controlling tempers and sticking to the issues.

I really don't read it as classist or elitist, and I'm working class.

I don't find it elitist and it didn't break any Bilerico rules. In fact, I encouraged Donna to post this after reading something similar on her own blog. While the post on Donna's blog referenced Marti's post directly, this one - I feel - was more robust and general.

Blog trolls are a common internet problem. We have our share of right wingers that stop by to lob bombs. All queer blogs get them - they're the driveby fruitings we're all used to. (You know, when a car goes by and someone shouts "Fag!" as they're driving off.)

The problem that I've seen with Bilerico's highjacked comment threads is that it's usually the trans posts that it happens on. If it any post mentions HRC there's an immediate bout of sniping and bitching. The post Marti brings up is a great example.

It's perfectly understandable to be angry at HRC. It's entirely idiotic to cut off your nose to spite your face though. Not everything that HRC has ever done is absolutely evil. Things are never black and white.

I think most realize I'm not a super big HRC fan. We've had our run ins in the past that have nothing to do with trans issues. (Ask me about it sometime - it's a funny story.) But I don't automatically ascribe ill intent to everything that they do. They don't wake up in the morning thinking, "How can I fuck over the trans community today?" There are a lot of hard working good people at HRC.

Yet no one ever wants to speak up and say, "For Christ's sake, ENOUGH." No one wants to jump in because as soon as anyone says something halfway positive about HRC, they get mobbed - usually by really angry, bitter comments. Over the top. (I get to say that it's over the top - owner's privelege!)

The point of the Project is to encourage discussion about all aspects of the community. By constantly presenting anger and bitterness by a few vocal commenters though, the larger community is visualizing the entire trans community as this hateful, narcissistic, angry mob. It's not. I know that. You know that. Donna knows it.

But it's not us that we need to win over is it?

And don't get me started on the whole HBS and bathroom bullshit that brings out the ugliness too. That's a whole different level of craziness and hateful bickering.

It's tiresome. It's off-putting. It's damaging to the community and the movement.

And it's not one person's fault. All too often, I've seen these comment threads dissolve into ridiculous "20 years ago, you said..." and "I knew you before..." and just personalization of both insults and intents. It's nuts.

It's the #1 thing I get e-mail complaints about on the site. "Those crazy trannies are fighting again" is the general intent of most of them. About half come from other transfolks - most of which don't comment because they say they don't want to be attacked by the maddening crowd. The other half is full of people saying things like, "Why should I fight for these hateful bitches? This is why I don't want to be associated with them."

(To which my answer, of course, is that Jeffrey Dahmer wasn't a drag queen or higher on the trans scale. Just gay. Maybe I shouldn't want to be associated with gay men.)

It's dragging the trans community down. It doesn't just happen here or on Pam's. But it is the face you're putting to the online queer community sometimes - which drags all of us down.

We can be angry. We can't be blind in our anger. That's something we all need to work on, I think. I know I'm guilty of that just as often as most of us. It's human nature.

So now let's treat each other as fellow humans. A little grace, a little bit of compassion and a touch of respect.

Marti, I scanned through the comments you linked to. I think some of them did cross a line where they went from discussing the issues to getting personal. If I'd been on the other side of a couple of them, I would have been angry and hurt.

I get mad at actions, not words... and I surely don't decide which comments/blog posts are civil and which ones are out of bounds. Again, there's a TOS to give me an idea of what is out of bounds, and what is not.

That said, I have also seen a lot worse on the Net. In general, though, I think it's always advisable to shy away from anger that jumps from issue-directed to personal. And that's more or less how I read the message of this post -- a general plea for controlling tempers and sticking to the issues.

Says who? Based on what criteria? I think it's exactly that which makes it classist and elitist. It's judging some speech to be more acceptable than others.

And honestly, I posted something from her own blog that decries the very thing she's complaining about... the lack of civility.

(And I think, Marti, that I've given you plenty to quote from in your response. *grins*)

I don't find it elitist and it didn't break any Bilerico rules. In fact, I encouraged Donna to post this after reading something similar on her own blog. While the post on Donna's blog referenced Marti's post directly, this one - I feel - was more robust and general.

Did you not tell me that it was against the rules to post about another blog? You told me that. You told me that if I had a complaint about a blog post, that I complain about it in the comments.

Blog trolls are a common internet problem. We have our share of right wingers that stop by to lob bombs. All queer blogs get them - they're the driveby fruitings we're all used to. (You know, when a car goes by and someone shouts "Fag!" as they're driving off.)

Do you run them down, and shoot them in the face? No.

The problem that I've seen with Bilerico's highjacked comment threads is that it's usually the trans posts that it happens on. If it any post mentions HRC there's an immediate bout of sniping and bitching. The post Marti brings up is a great example.

It's perfectly understandable to be angry at HRC. It's entirely idiotic to cut off your nose to spite your face though. Not everything that HRC has ever done is absolutely evil. Things are never black and white.

I've seen quite a few gay trolls on other posts. Hell, you even have gay trolls that bitch about HRC.

Yet no one ever wants to speak up and say, "For Christ's sake, ENOUGH." No one wants to jump in because as soon as anyone says something halfway positive about HRC, they get mobbed - usually by really angry, bitter comments. Over the top. (I get to say that it's over the top - owner's privelege!)

Then make a "no HRC bashing" rule. But to complain about the lack of civility when no TOS violations have occurred isn't fair, and smacks of elitism or favoritism. Comment threads only get hijacked if two people play the game.

The point of the Project is to encourage discussion about all aspects of the community. By constantly presenting anger and bitterness by a few vocal commenters though, the larger community is visualizing the entire trans community as this hateful, narcissistic, angry mob. It's not. I know that. You know that. Donna knows it.

Yet Donna participates in the very thing she decries, in her own blog?!?!

And don't get me started on the whole HBS and bathroom bullshit that brings out the ugliness too. That's a whole different level of craziness and hateful bickering.

Shall I do a post about older white gay men and pedophilla and see how much craziness will insue? There are just some topics that will fire people up.

It's tiresome. It's off-putting. It's damaging to the community and the movement.

What is tiresome and damaging to ANY movement, is the silencing of a person's voice that's following the rules dictated by the admin. Silencing a voice that you find annoying or off putting, is still censorship.

"It's the #1 thing I get e-mail complaints about on the site. "Those crazy trannies are fighting again" is the general intent of most of them. About half come from other transfolks - most of which don't comment because they say they don't want to be attacked by the maddening crowd. The other half is full of people saying things like, "Why should I fight for these hateful bitches? This is why I don't want to be associated with them."

First of all, the word trannie is dehumanizing. Are you worried about someone that would call us something that's the equivelent of nigger or faggot? Would you give anyone the time of day or worry about someone that said "I'm tired of those drama queen faggots!"

It's dragging the trans community down. It doesn't just happen here or on Pam's. But it is the face you're putting to the online queer community sometimes - which drags all of us down.

So wait, you're castigating an entire community because of certain people that YOU DO NOT BAN, but continue to complain about as a group? If anyone judges an entire community based on one person or website, I know what I'd call them (it begins with dumb and ends with ass).

We can be angry. We can't be blind in our anger. That's something we all need to work on, I think. I know I'm guilty of that just as often as most of us. It's human nature.

So now let's treat each other as fellow humans. A little grace, a little bit of compassion and a touch of respect.

Now will everyone take out their hymnal and turn to page 159, as we sing ABSENT FROM FLESH! O BLISSFUL THOUGHT!

Angela Brightfeather | July 24, 2008 1:26 AM

Here is where I am coming from regarding your article Donna.

What it would appear that you would like to see happen in our community, is to have a civil discourse on the issues facing us and that affect our lives.

I will dismiss all other statements about rights of speech, the nature of blogging (which I am still trying to fathom in my own mind as has any worthiness) and lastly any bad words that might mean anger, frustration or displesure in any way.

All that being taken out, we are left with my original statment. I hope Donna, that we agree on that.


The very valid point that is being forwared most commonly is that there are different degrees of anger. I see nothing wrong with either points of view.

Anyone who has not seen the latest hearings about DADT that occurred today, should see that to understand what Donna is saying about discussion and debate about our issues.

Anyone who agrees on different degress of anger needing to be justifiably stated without reservation or being stipulated also needs to look at he debate in that hearing today. Of course you can't expect Bloggers to carry on that discourse over these matters the same way that Congress people do in front of a CNN camera crew either.

One only has to see Donna's post about SF Pride to understand that so much anger is prevelant today about ENDA that it explodes on the landscape in public displys of queerness and naked agression towards one in particular organization with the initials of HRC.

My point is that we are remarkable people in the Trans community and we can chew gum and walk together at the same time. If you don't beleive that, then ask yourself how we've gotten this far.

Some issues can be debated the way Donna would like and I concurr 100%. Other issues are still so charged with anger that they are not suited for the confines of thoughtful debate. ENDA and HRC's position on it, is one of those topics right now. That may change in time and with future developments, but for now, expect more debate and anger than just debate.

"Anger does not have to be mean or wrong, so long as at it's core is justice, zeal, enthusiasm and committment to a worthy and humanitarian outcome." qoute, Angela Brigthfeather

p.s. Take that George Will!!!!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 24, 2008 3:34 AM

Donna, Thank you very much. I have read a number of your postings and have not frequently commented. You are courageous to open this topic.

First I think the world of Monica(s)and we share a number of the same values, particularly as it regards our flag.

I have found myself skipping blog postings on trans gender issues because by the time I get to them (your day being my night) there can be so much that is off putting that I spare myself the drama. On one of my comments on one of Monica's postings I began with a statement and immediately added: "but I know so little about this" and asked for more information and was not pilloried for doing so. I learn less about others if I don't read the posting so that is hardly a good thing.

If the three or four letter abbreviations are obscure to me I try to find out what they are separately. English is the only language that is so in love with acronyms that it so frequently obscures the topic or leads to guesswork. I say this too because the first time reader may not have the slightest idea what you are talking about. That young person might be exactly who you are trying to reach to counsel and they can't understand you.

I have made sharp comments, regretted them, and apologized for them.

I have been told that I "blame the victim" when I encourage caution. Encouraging caution is only a way of saying: "Be careful, I care, don't be a victim."

I have disagreed with people about guns for self protection because of their danger and been called, "unrealistic," let's say, for doing so.
"Be careful, I care, don't be a victim."

I have encouraged anyone and everyone to become the best person they can be and I have been dismissed as spouting "psychobabble."

That's OK, because I learned long ago that you learn best when you are dissatisfied. It gives you a reason to learn and if you channel the anger into appropriate actions it takes you through, but don't live there, the anger poisons you and spouting it alone does not make your point. The best argument of a point of view is when you focus on reasoned discussion.

Marti can tell you that her and I have had our incidents of "heated discussions," and there have been "words" back and forth. On some issues, we agreed to disagree. Others, we approach differently, but the goal is the same. And yet, we actually agree many times. Through all of it, I still call her my friend.

"Comparmentalization." For those who don't know, it is the ability to place various issues in different compartments, acting upon them only in those compartments and not affecting the other issues. A prime person who understands this well and just commented, Angela, is a master at this. Her and I have gone around and around on different issues, especially with TAVA, and yet, we joke, laugh and have a great time when we get together. I call her one of my best friends.

The whole point of my comment is that anger doesn't denote hate, or disrespect. Robert seems to understand, but I am getting the impression that Bil and Donna don't. "We must show respect." How do you two know we don't? Both of you are making assumptions about how people think by just a handful of words on a computer screen. Is that showing us respect?

I would think respect works both ways. Donna's comments on her blog attacked me, as much as Marti. I've known her longer than anyone in the community, and I have yet to see her show me any respect, but I have praised her many times. I've also given her crap many times. Compartmentalization. It's a skill that everyone needs to learn. Ask Angela. She'll teach anyone on that.

I have nothing but respect for Donna Rose, however this post struck me as yet another call for political correctness in an arena that is and always will be an acrimonious bloodsport, - politics and the discussion of the issues therein.

Anger is the byproduct of frustration, and as a self-defined connoisseur of sarcastic snark, it seems to me there is more than adequate frustration to qualify for a level of constructive anger.

The collateral damage of issues of such fundamental importance, will most certainly lead to a bit of hyperbolic vitriol, and it would seem safe to say that everyone has their moments.

Lest of course we shall prefer a community of individuals on conversational Prozac?

Sure you can spend time begging the aristocrats to bestow equality upon our community, but how long do you remain politely requesting justice.

A little verbal tar and feathering never killed anyone. More oft than not it has helped rally those sitting on the sidelines to action.

Lest we forget, sticks and stones....


J Hastings | July 24, 2008 9:55 AM

Monica,
Respect is EARNED, not given!

“Anger is a great force. If you control it, it can be transmuted into a power which can move the whole world.”

William Shenstone

Anger over the senseless killing of 14 year old Emmitt Till jump started the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Anger over continued police harassment led to the Stonewall Rebellion that jump started the GLBT rights movement.

Anger over the 1961 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa jumpstarted the anti-apartheid movement.

and anger over the BS transgender people face, if it is channeled into positive sustained and coordinated action will lead to us gaining our civil rights.

Yes! Marti is the one person who has named this what it is – elitist. Her first comment really gets at the heart of the problem:

Who decides what is a "crazy response" and what is a "short-term, controlled, constructive anger"?

And of course, the unspoken answer is that those with privilege and access to power make that decision.

It’s kind of appalling to see Donna speak about anger here without placing the conversation in any historical context. There is no discussion of how the label "angry" has been applied to blacks, transfolk, feminists, lesbians, and thousands of other marginalized people throughout history as a way of discrediting and silencing their voices.

I mean, this shit is happening right now to Michelle Obama! And its perpetrators are intentionally building on a legacy of labeling those associated with the black power movement (note the comparison between Michelle Obama and Angela Davis) as irrationally angry. This kind of rhetoric turns attention away from the targets of our anger and refocuses it on the emotion itself. I say no, motherfuckers, anger isn’t the problem! The problem is systemic oppression and institutionalized violence and those who promote and profit from it.

But where is that analysis in this discussion? You can’t ignore the history here. And like Monica Helms hit on in her first comment, you can’t define what qualifies as legitimate anger and what doesn’t. The very idea of legitimacy is elitist, privileged, and inherently violent. It mimics the battle over which relationships are legitimate, or over who is a legitimate woman, a legitimate citizen, a legitimate victim of violence. And part of my identity as a queer means challenging the systems of privilege that allow some people to define the legitimacy of others.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 24, 2008 12:46 PM

humans. A little grace, a little bit of compassion and a touch of respect.

Civility is good and so is anger, if it's political anger and if it used to energize and mobilize it can be a powerful tool. We all use it on a regular basis.

Our most important weapon in the battle for our rights is our ability to use democratic and open discussions to share ideas, perspectives and above all information. Nothing should be done that inhibits democratic free speech.

There are no spies here, no organized effort to dissemble and confuse. That's a baseless threat. There are occasional bruised egos but politics is a rough and tumble contact sport. It comes with the territory. What we have instead is robust debate on the best road for the movement to take. It got very heated about ENDA because the blatant and ugly betrayal of our program caused a lot of bitterness among many who hoped and worked hard for something better.

If the discussion is tempered with minimal guidelines discouraging personal attacks that’s all to the good. Nothing is more important than open democratic exchanges of ideas. Nothing. If we lose that we might as well give up, because we’ve lost the battle.

And of course, the unspoken answer is that those with privilege and access to power make that decision.

Thank you Nick! I thought for a minute that I wasn't getting my point across. You've said it better than I could. Thanks for that.

It's interesting that Donna posted a comment on her blog about all of this, but forgot to comment here. Is she afraid to answer any of us here?

"Fortress of Solitude"

We trans seek equal rights. We seek to live with dignity and without harassment. There have been great strides made thanks to many people doing many things. But WE are our own worst enemies when it comes to gaining RESPECT. The lack of civility is simply appalling, the epidemic of complaining over things that lack substance, the back-biting, really sheds an ugly light over us as a "people." Some say that it is the nature of the medium to blab whatever they feal and attack good people who are doing good things. As someone who is not a regular contributor to this blog, I say that from outside looking in it is ugly and embarassing and REALLY NEEDS TO STOP. Those who are instigating and perpetuating that kind of selfish free-for-all really should take a reality check and note the damage you are doing - for the sake of all of us. It's time to grow up and stop the nasty vitriolic crap. Please.

Alright. Enough of this. If you really want to know where I stand on this, see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbusArepJnA

And for god's sake, LEAVE MARTI ALONE!
(it was filmed before Donna posted this mind you, it's NOT a jab at Donna!)

Debate can be heated, we can and really ought to have some convictions that we defend vigorously.

Debate ought not include attacking a person as themselves, we can deplore, denounce or disclaim motives or actions.

At the end of the day, though, we are all riding the LGBT boat together. Pounding the keel with hammers for attention in a storm is most certainly NOT going to improve the safety of our journey.

In my career, I've had to go to court. All courtrooms are about good drama with a script used to present facts in the most dramatic and memorable way possible.

I do not attack opposing counsel, I attack his facts, or his interpretation and presentation of facts or opinions.

Afterwards, I nearly always join him or her for a drink.

We ought all be capable of still doing this, joining for a drink, after our revels of debate are done.

Maura,
That's "compartmentalization" you're talking about. See comment #16.

Can't we all just join hands and sing Kumbaya?

Nick is spot-on about what George Will is saying. Will is s total snob, one of the biggest elitists in the country who has devoted his life to defending elitists, whatever elitist thing they want to do that pops into their heads, and their goddamn right to remain elite at the expense of everyone else (I'm using "elite" there as materially elite, not culturally since honestly defining what is culturally elite is pretty elitist too).

George Will labels people as angry because he hates the fact that there are some people who speak out against oppression. Why? Because, in almost every sense of the word, he is the oppressor, or at least the oppressor's scribe who has to justify their actions in print so the rest of us accept them. When he writes about anger, it's more like "Jeez, why are Blacks and gays and womens and everyone so angry? Can't they just get a multi-million dollar contract to write drivel and then buy themselves a nice house? They wouldn't be so angry then." He's said as much on quite a few occasions, although he's usually better at dressing up that idea with things like "Black people lack morality and that's why they're being held back" and "Poor people choose to be poor."

So then coming to Donna's post here with that referenced in it...

I think there is a distinction to be made between anger and just plain being mean, and I'd even say that the latter doesn't require that someone be angry. And I think that TOS handles the latter, as Marti pointed out. If we're still having problems, then we should restrict it further, but confusing people's anger, long or short-term, and heated debates with other people trying to shut others out of debates doesn't seem productive.

Nick and Marti said that making that distinction is inherently elitist, and I agree, although I disagree with the idea that that means we shouldn't do it. There are reasons that thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of people read what we write, Bil, and not that others do, and a lot of those reasons are related to some form of privilege. While the internet has helped to reduce privilege-gone-wild in being gatekeepers of public discourse, as has happened in traditional media outlets, and while many, many people like ourselves who would have been kept out of that power structure before have a voice now, that doesn't mean that those hierarchies don't exist anymore.

There are reasons beyond "good writing" that make people read this site, and then choosing who to shut out of the discussions on that site is a privilege that extends directly from those other reasons. We need to keep that in mind, and I think that you're pretty good about doing that anyway.

The internet crashed the gates, I guess, but it's not going to save the world.

I guess where this all breaks down is what we're going to do about it. Are we going to start banning more people or deleting more comments that we deem too angry? Or are we going to post about it to shame a few people into hiding their anger to make the rest of us feel better? Or are we going to keep on doing what we're doing - let people post whatever and TOS those comments that are just petty attacks and insults?

Because most of our commenters are pretty respectful and cool people. I'd hate to see that aspect of this site change just because a few people need to get over the fact that someone might disagree with what they say if they post a comment.

And there are always going to be people who just want to be mean for whatever reason (it's the internet, for crying out loud). Honestly, I'm surprised at this response to a few comments on Marti's HRC post. Sometimes blog comments aren't what we want to read. Sometimes they're mean. They don't represent the community and, besides Bill O'Reilly, I don't know anyone who's gone around reading blog comments to get a general feel of a community instead of the blog posts. And if there are people doing that, then I think we need to tell them to cut it out.

Wow. Leave it to the GLBT community to pillary each other over a call for civility. If it wasn't so ironic - and inevitable - it would be pathetic.

The notion that the only guiding principle of our behavior on this blog is the Terms of Service agreement is disturbing to me. Unless something is specifically against the rules, we as individuals don't have any judgment, decency, or common sense, to know what's appropriate or not to say? Are we only mercenaries or autonamotons?

It's really quite simple, IMHO. If comments are directed at the facts, and not individuals, chances are effective political discourse will occur instead of ad hominem attacks.

You can be passionate or angry if the object of your ire is appropriate: XYZ is an unfair policy and it really pisses me off. But if that anger is expressed as, Joe Schmoe is an ignorant appeaser who doesn't know his ass from his elbow, it doesn't advance your cause or shine a light on your argument.

But to accuse those who object to incivility as being elitist is intellectually dishonest since it doesn't curttail anyone's free expression.

In fact, that accusation, as well as many of the hurtful, boisterous comments, are designed to bully anyone who doesn't have the time or the stomach to jump into the fray if they have a differing point of view. That does more to limit debate, and sour unity than anything else.

One last comment; I've found that people who have obsessive political hobby horses don't realize that this stuff applies to them. So no, they don't know who they are. They're just high-minded politically principled people. It's the other people who don't "get" it. Right.

Donna,

I applauded this in the original version on your blog, I applauded this revised version.

I admit I was disappointed that I have been so completely trashed you waited over 24 hours to approve my comment....not in you but that my approval is now something some consider a negative.

Alex Blaze just trashed me on Pam's in comment on a front page blog there calling me a racist. Bil has made it crystal clear that my writing about wanting the right to self identify and define is not welcome here either.

I am not engaging Autumn here or elsewhere, that actually has never been my style but all that is required to silence ideas is starting a fight and even if the victim returns with ideas rather than insults, all outsiders see is yet another tranny-fight. This continues to happen because largely it works. Immediately the ideas and concepts are lost and if you have no counter to those ideas, starting the fight gets the focus off them.

It's been this way since I first had contact with the trans communinity.

Oh brother.
what Rory said.
I get tired of knee-jerk reactions to the most innocuous things. I have to roll my eyes when the mildest of comments offends people. I just tune out. And it makes me sad.