Ethics of Internet Discourse: Some Basic Observations

Ethics of Internet Discourse: Some Basic Observations January 8, 2018

PlatoAristotleRaphael

We don’t need new ethics to properly talk online. The NT is quite sufficient.

At The Coming Home Network (“CHNI”), as a staff moderator for their Internet forums [2007-2010], I had to abide by company policy. The goal was to cultivate new or potential Catholics, not to have a rugby match or mud bath every day. The CHNI discussion forums were the “real world”: real people with real struggles and real questions, trying to come into the real Catholic Church so they can really be saved and go to the real heaven one day! Quite real. The medium was entirely secondary to the goal.

One of my countless detractors was on my page just yesterday, saying I should get a “real job” and I’m in apologetics solely to get rich and to get all the backslaps and warm fuzzies and glory I can obtain, etc.: the funniest thing I have read in three months.

I left Internet discussion boards for good in October 2003, so I’m coming up to my tenth anniversary. Blogs and Facebook discussions are often little better. Human nature triumphs again over elementary NT ethics (where folks actually try to make it right ASAP and utter unimaginable, excruciatingly difficult phrases like “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong” and “no need for us to fight; can we talk about it and work it out?”).

It’s a long shot, but it may still be possible on rare occasions to actually apply NT ethical requirements to Internet discourse: at least on odd-numbered dates in even-numbered months, when the barometer is above 30 and the humidity is 40% or less, with a new moon phase.

We don’t fight and engage in slander-fests on my Facebook page (public posts and 5,000 friends, and almost 3,000 additional followers), so it’s certainly possible, as long as there is a zero tolerance policy for childish nonsense and bull manure (as there was at CHNI). But if it’s allowed, it will take place every time.

If you are as disgusted with what passes for “conversation” in so many venues online as I am, my blog and Facebook page are places where you can be freed from the garbage and juvenile wrangling, and engage in constructive, civil, amiable, open-minded adult discussions without having to worry about being personally attacked or slandered.

I exercise zero tolerance for those things, which is why we have the pleasant atmosphere and environment that we have. I have lots of female participation, which is always a great indicator of conflict-free discussions, since women have a very low tolerance for macho / male ego / testosterone mudfests. Thanks to all of you for making that possible. You’ll never know how much I appreciate it.

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(originally 4-24-13)

Photo credit: Plato and Aristotle: detail of The School of Athens (1509), by Raphael (1483-1520) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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