I recently read that two of my favorite commenters over at BMG have left - apparently forever. Some have applauded their decision; some understand, while others disagree profusely. Here's Bob's take, an Editor of Blue Mass Group:
People shouldn't be so tender they can't bear to listen to opposing arguments.In a way, he's actually right. People should be a little more thick-skinned in life. It's so very easy to offend anyone and everyone that suddenly we have to be careful about what we say, for example, calling someone an ass (even if they are). However, even though we don't want people to be too tender, calling someone an "ass" is not okay. Swearing is wrong. The very next line of Bob's reply:
They also shouldn't resort to swearing and name-calling.Is name calling childish and sophomoric? Sure, but sometimes that's the best way to greet certain trollish posts - after all, trolls only troll to get people to waste their time and piss 'em off. That's the nature of a troll. So, if two of my favorite commenters occasionally dabbled in flinging an ass across the table (and let's not forget, they're both probably registered Democrats), is it really all that bad?
Certainly, BMG has been seeing a few trolls around these days - often under the guise of serious thinkers (/sarcasm off). Sometimes, they're a bit more obvious. A troll here and there wouldn't be a problem - but suddenly, these trolls are having their dairies on the recommended list and a third or more of replies of some posts are far more offensive to many people than name-calling. After all, what's worse - being called an ass or being told you're a fornicating homo who shouldn't be allowed to have children - and should be subject to citizen's arrest if and when marriage equality is repealed.
Which leads me to my next point: the intentions of the website. David, Charley and Bob never intended Blue Mass Group to be a "progressive website." In other words, they've always sought out the thoughts and opinions of people of all stripes. Finally, after a lot of hard work, their efforts have paid off: Republican Rock Radio Machine has 129 comments since the beginning of February. Sadly, that's not necessarily a bad thing. How can the editors of BMG avoid the Rock Radios, when they say they want people of all stripes? Certainly, there's room in the blogosphere for "reality-based commentary" that has fantastical replies and isn't always progressive in nature - which gets me to my final point, the last snippet of that Bob reply reads thusly,
How seriously can one take someone who won't engage in debate and spikes their comments with invective? Not very.True enough, but like I say, some people have confused the purpose of Blue Mass Group, in a way that doesn't line up with the editors' intentions. Many progressive, liberal and moderate readers coming to Blue Mass Group have come with the intentions of developing progressive ideas and strategies - BMG has benefited tremendously from their presence, especially when these people were the bulk of who comprised Blue Mass Group from the beginning through recent days.
However, a certain frustration has brewed under the pretenses that BMG is a progressive website when it clearly is not. Even well-intentioned conservative commenters (who I personally like), such as Peter Porcupine, piss off those people - especially when their dairies are being promoted and the editors routinely praise their contributions.
Finally, a lot of people have had it - and we've seen that in several ways. People have stopped commenting at BMG. People have come to Ryan's Take to frequently complain about BMG, even when the specific blog isn't about anything related to BMG at all. Still, I know of two efforts to create unified websites that would - in some way - serve as an alternative to Blue Mass Group.
It's at this time I'm reminded that "preaching to the choir is wrong." I'm reminded of an acquaintance of mine, a fellow UMASS Dartmouth student who also writes at BMG, JoeTS. He wrote an important dairy about why he writes at Blue Mass Group - when he's an active College Republican and conservative in nature. Essentially, if all he did was go to Hub Politics - scary red territory if there was any - then he'd be doing himself a disservice. He wouldn't be pushing his ideas on the most hostile minds, who would poke every conceivable hole. He wouldn't be listening to people with alternative viewpoints. Truly, he's one of the good-guy conservatives I typically get along with.
However, there are many reasons to write at a particular website. We all have different purposes. Sometimes, an insulated environment can be a bonus - fully develop your idea before a million people come to try to rip it to shreds. Alternately, it can be about organizing and building a movement locally. Or, seeking out the opinions of progressives who may not necessarily agree with an idea - when people like Sens. Jon Tester and Jim Webb are considered part of the movement, clearly we don't all think alike. A progressive website, geared toward the progressive movement, may well be better served by catering to a progressive audience. It's not being soft-skinned, unwilling to debate or even preaching to the choir; it's developing your ideas and building your movement.
BMG isn't that website and isn't that movement. It's editors may be a part of that movement, but their website is all-encompassing and different. Ultimately, there's room for more active websites in Massachusetts like Blue Mass Group, but obviously different in its intentions. Clearly, Blue Mass Group - as it's become more and more successful - is becoming the general Massachusetts blog. Progressive people have come to find out that it isn't a progressive website - a fact I learned at least as early as this past summer, when David told me that directly. It's not a bad thing, it's just different than what some people have come to expect. Other websites - communities - will emerge and the Massachusetts section of the blogosphere will become a more diverse, better place. Until then, I leave my Final Take: I understand - and share - in the frustrations of certain readers and commenters, but sadly Blue Mass Group has become the place its editors always wanted it to be.