Good Faith, Digitally

From Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy:

Debates in the blogosphere often involve accusations of bad faith. Positions are often dismissed as disingenuous, two-faced, and deceitful. In this post, I want to argue for the importance of taking a different approach: I think we should debate with a strong presumption of good faith.

My first reason is that I think arguments made in bad faith are actually pretty rare in the blogosphere. Granted, we all have our own quirky perspectives. We all approach hot-button issues in different ways, and all of us occasionally say things that readers find wrong, silly, or outrageous. But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of those cases are real efforts to articulate honestly-held views.

Good Faith, Digitally, the title of this post, suggests both our 1s and 0s (binary) online meeting and the means to communicate, our fingers. I hadn’t yet assessed what Mr. Kerr identifies in blogosphere rhetoric — the frequent presumption of bad faith. I take that to mean accusing someone of engaging in argument for its own sake and the distractions that ensue. He adds:

the accusation will come off as a lame non-answer: “you don’t really believe that” will sound like an excuse not to articulate why the position is wrong. And of course it only makes the person you’re arguing against angry and less likely to take you seriously. In a disagreement, it’s natural to treat nice people nicely and mean people defensively. Making a false accusation of bad faith just makes people dig in their heels.

When we encounter each other in our online, is there commonly a shock when different opinions emerge? Mr. Kerr’s suggestion then makes good sense. Read the original, including over 70 comments ranging from silly to serious. (The graphic above reads, “INTERNET A Series of Tubes“)

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