Where is the Netiquette?
It used to be a given. The leaders of the Internet 'revolution' were all focused on providing an open space that invited people in and made them welcome. They lead by example, and people like Howard Rheingold set a damn good example in how he conducted himself (still does) which was expressed in the book Virtual Community (free read on his site).
Now we have (unnamed) folks who would rather "efff good sense" and "effff civility". Maybe these statements were merely meant to be antagonistic or just frothy, but I suspect they were generated more from group think that developed amongst a portion of the conference attendees. Those statements certainly shocked me and made me stop to think about this matter deeper, so I am glad for that if not the sentiment.
The trouble is, these are the new leaders and this is the example they choose to set. Sounds a lot like Charles Barkley exclaiming he is no role model and dismissing the notion that he should be a responsible leader. Well guess what, he was a leader/role model and so are you. While anarchists (not referring to any individual here) have some appealing ideas and arguments, those arguments tend to be narcissistic and inward focused. Which is fine if you want to live in a world where no one is looking out for anyone else. But if you truly want people to be empowered and to become self-reliant beyond government hand-outs, we must lead them. In order to lead them we must communicate with them and educate them. As any good parent will tell you, we lead by the examples we set. How we communicate, how we conduct ourselves and what attitude(intention) we take when interacting with others are the most important things every individual has in their direct control. So take control of it and let's all work towards our common goals while respecting each individual and being more tolerant of the situational and cultural differences.
History has some lesson here I am sure - most likely in the fall of Roman civilization, but I am no historian so that is as far as I will take that point. We do however, stand at a defining moment in our history which could determine the success or failure of our society. Either we continue to wage wars and behave crudely like violent animals, or we can rise ourselves up above all that by being more conscious and aware of the world around us and how we interact with it.
Howard Rheingold wrote an important critique of a paper that presents quite an opposing view to this which I just found researching this post. Am so glad there are people with his insytes in the world who share them so freely. Am so glad that smart people have had the chance to enter the conversation - I certainly don't want to shut them out as we have done with the political system in America. The biggest problem with American politics (for those of you not living here who can't see it) is not that the system is broken as some suggested in the back channel. It is that the loudest people with the most aggressive personalities have shouted down and intimidated the moderate centrists who actually represent the majority of my great country. And yes, I am a proud citizen, not for the many stupid things we have done over the course of our history, but for the incredible, soaring spirit of possibility that beats within our hearts and the hearts of millions of people who have come to live here.
So I am glad Mena confronted Ben, but wish she would have done it better. I also have a lot of respect for Ben standing up as he did, but I wish he could have just said why he felt Mena's presentation was Bullshit. Most of all, I am glad this conversation has come to light at this time - it is seemingly the most important thing to come from Les Blogs. Don Park has one of the best points I have read so far in all this on Ben's blog post about 'the civility incident'.
[Update: Apparently Ben does not like the attention as all links to his site are getting the message GONE. If you follow one of those links, just hit the refresh button or enter the URL directly to read the page]
[Background bote: I briefly participated in the backchannel conversation at the end of each day of les blogs and have read through many of the posts about the 'Ben vs. Mena' discussion which I will now affectionately call 'the incident'. I was not there, but I watched the video. I also posted a comment on Ben's blog. This is a much deeper discussion that was brought to light as a result of 2 well meaning people who each would probably wish things went down differently. I saw some people talking about this as if the people being affected were just 'suits' (ie business interests) but the reality is much broader. Even if it were just suits, many people forget that there are people in those suits, and those people deserve as much respect as every other human until they are known personally as being less deserving. Wholesale stereotyping seems to be bad when addressing most groups by many people, but ok when it comes to people in the world of business. This double standard is not fair, nor is it appropriate or inline with the peace/love view of the world that so many of those people are proponents of. Equal justice/opportunity for all, means ALL people, not just the people you agree with.]