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09/08/2014

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Pierre

That’s terribly interesting and urgent, but you’re right to note it’s a minefield. My own sketchy suggestion would be that we should generally honor a very minimal duty of civility, in that there should exist some minimal, so to speak, “higher-order” rules that define how we should devise more specific rules.

To be (tentatively) more precise: affirming one set of rules for all blogs would be excessive, but we could affirm some more modest rules that constrain the design of “local” rules. It seems perfectly okay to me that members of a blog-based community (where being a member of one such community is not exclusive of being a member of another community) accept rude behavior within their community, as long as (a) this is agreed upon within their community and (b) they do not so behave toward non-members (say, they don’t insult someone who is not a member and who is not in position to demand not to be so insulted).

Now here, as members of the Cocoon community, we all agree on more demanding rules of civility *within our own community*. We can so behave here, and nevertheless believe that, in some other contexts, it is acceptable not to adopt such rules of civility (again, this applies only to members of a given community: we still ought to honor some kind of duty of civility toward non-members, since they cannot be presumed to consent to these “non-civil” rules). When on the Cocoon, I happily abide by the rules you have adopted (and believe that they are pretty healthy in this context); while in some other contexts, mockery may be acceptable (and part of the “game”). To take a more concrete, and perhaps caricatural, example: I would never ever make a racist joke here (it’s just grossly uncivil), but there are contexts where it is ok, because it is commonly acknowledged that the participants are not racist, etc.

So, as a general duty, I’d say that we owe to each other: (a) to make clear what the rules of the community are; (b) that, however these rules are devised within a community, they be compatible with a higher-order, fairly modest principle of respect across blog-based communities.

Now of course, it is difficult to imagine how any such rule could be enforced, except in (rare) cases of clear violation of the law. And of course all of the above is purely tentative and requires a great deal of clarification and of identifying more difficult cases. How, for instance, could we count someone saying “feminists are evil witches” without naming anyone personally? This is not a case of *personal* insult, and yet it seems reasonable to claim that it *is* disrepectful.

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