Ed Cone wrote, In Thanks for Reading,
People just don’t know how to act in public anymore. [snip]
The sense of what is appropriate behavior – the sense that there is such a thing as appropriate behavior – is diminishing across our culture. Considering what other people will think has been replaced by a reflexive recitation of one’s rights to do as one pleases. Good manners are not a class issue, but a way of indicating respect for others, of making people feel comfortable. In our coarse and boastful time, those things are just not valued.
Part of the decline of civility is this attitude, ably put in its place by TQ White II
This idea that somehow rudeness or unkindness is intrinsic to an honest discussion is completely wrong. It also, I believe, is an attitude that is destroying our ability to have public discourse.
There was an internet discussion of online civility recently:
point Ben Metcalfe seemed to be making when dragged in front of the whole class -- you can't always be nice if you're being honest.
The comments Shel Israel made right before the confrontation are pretty funny in retrospect:
It's a different world now and it's a new way of expressing things. It's a much faster world we live in, so I guess we got to live with it and every story has two points of view and we have to listen sometimes to see what other people think.
I started to get incredibly nervous about appearing on this stage today. ... The main reason I was scared and I'm still scared, is that IRC backchannel. ... I've seen people make comments on these channels that they would never say to somebody's face.
One of the commenters (TQ White II) on the "Civil War" discussion went on to say,
On the contrary, you can always be nice, even when you are being honest. This idea that somehow rudeness or unkindness is intrinsic to an honest discussion is completely wrong. It also, I believe, is an attitude that is destroying our ability to have public discourse.
Manners, politeness, respect, cutting a person some slack, even overlooking some of one's own more petty points are all things that are perfectly consistent with honesty. Honesty requires not contradicting things you know to be true. It requires advancing viewpoints that you believe. It says nothing about the linguistic tactics.
...... No one should have to be able or willing to brave arbitrarily harsh attack merely to participate. [The speaker] and his ilk represent the typical, juvenile attitude of people that simply don't care who they hurt. That use 'honesty' as a sleight of hand to deflect attention from willingness to brutalize people in pursuit of their own goals - often that cannot be advanced in a reasonable way.
Are "Nice" and "Honest" Mutually Exclusive? at Creating Passionate Users, Kathy Sierra said,
Requiring ultra-thick skin to participate more fully in the tech (or any) community is a barrier to entry that might just push away some of those who might not necessarily be afraid of the brutality, but simply don't like it. I don't agree with this "if you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen" notion here. (Or is it, "if you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch..." I get those confused.)
And in her year-end post, Kathy Sierra said,
My hope is that--especially online--people spend a little more time debating issues and a little less time falling into personal attacks, and especially when it's in the name of "frank truthfulness." The Dalai Lama is known for being direct, and has plenty of reasons to be pretty damn pissed... but he still manages to provide a lesson to us all on the power of optimism and not giving in to the kind of anger that leads to self-righteous cruelty toward others
In 2002, Public Agenda Online undertook a survey published as Aggravating Circumstances:
Daily life, from the perspective of those we interviewed, appears to be littered with unacceptable behavior, which has grown worse over time and shows no sign of abating on its own. The concept of a "tipping point"—that moment in an epidemic when it reaches a critical mass—probably is an apt description of what we've come to in terms of our incivility and disrespect for one another. We would probably all agree that it will take significant individual and collective resolve to challenge this epidemic of rudeness. Surely, we can muster the effort, the focus and the creativity to reach out in ways small and large to remedy this situation. Perhaps, the amount of energy participants describe it takes to cope with the stress our present situation produces could be the very fuel that is needed to make the necessary changes.
Escapable Logic sees the basic problem
The rudeness of the proletariat is a failure of the arbiters of taste and the people they might influence: social and business leaders.
Manners are the outward and visible sign of an inward and justifiable aspiration. We mimic those whom we admire in hopes of achieving their station. Only in that sense does the trickle-down theory actually work. There are only two explanations for the manners meltdown:
1. The well-mannered are not admirable.
2. The well-mannered are not really in charge.
In either case, they will fail to inspire polite behavior.
Case 1. Well-mannered people are not admirable.
It is unacceptably rude behavior to enrich oneself at the expense of the hourly workers: to do so is beneath the dignity that capitalists and upper management claim to possess.
It is boorish to torture enemies and to eavesdrop on fellow citizens: it gives the lie to the nation's guiding standard of fair play and fair dealing by powerful people. True strength would never behave that way. ...[snip]
Case 2. Well-mannered people are not actually in charge.
Under this case, we let go of the simplistic, tempting diatribes against the well-mannered. ... Since we only mimic the behavior of those in charge, we find other prosperous people to admire and mimic, like rap stars and crack dealers.
Perhaps there's a pendulum effect at work: good manners trickle down only when the well-mannered are in charge and admirable. Otherwise, boorishness bubbles up spontaneously.
Public Rudeness from January 2004
Survey on Public Rudeness from 2002
Cathy Seipp, Public Rudeness, December 2005
Tim Blair collected examples, December 2005
Ben Witherington: Mind Your (Blog) Manners
What Would Dumbledore Do? from The Culture Beat
Rising Rudeness in Japan
The Means' Blog: Rudeness Rampant
Rudeness and the Moral Barometer by Brad Rourke
A whole website: Rudebusters
Cinnamon Stillwell: Where Have All the Manners Gone? June 2005
Betsy Palmierei: Are Women Smarter?
More commenters on public rudeness
Tenshi at Two-Headed Cat, May 5 2003
Ugh… just ugh. When did people start living in little bubbles? I mean, I remember years ago when the silliest thing you would see people do is pick their noses in their cars because they don't realize other people can see them. Nowadays though, it's like people do whatever they goddamn well please wherever they please because they don't care that other people can see them or hear them. It seems to have gotten worse and worse as time wears on.
Julie Gerstein, a Philadelphia-based freelance writer, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, calls it the Age of Rude, and we're all responsible for it:
Call it the Age of Rude - a cultural moment defined by rude and crude behavior and shaped by a blurring of the personal and public. We're living in it, and what's more, many of us - young and old - are enjoying every minute of it.
What's not to love? Contemporary pop culture is full of celebrities and celebutantes who have made it big on bad behavior....
Why not go right to the source: Paris Hilton, who has become the poster child for acting out. Hilton's very status as a celebrity is deeply rooted in the public's perverse fascination with her tacky, party-girl behavior...
It's not just our celebrities; the very nature of much of our entertainment revolves around rudeness. Take Johnny Knoxville's juggernaut of poor taste, Jackass, or Ashton Kutcher's prank show Punk'd, both of which rely on the embarrassment and denigration of others for ratings....
And the Age of Rude isn't necessarily just an affliction of the young. Remember those right-wing pundits? Bill O'Reilly - he of rapid-fire interjections, interruptions, verbal assaults, and sexual-harassment scandal - is no less guilty of being rude than Johnny Knoxville and Jackass. O'Reilly... is as ill-mannered as any slow-witted socialite....
In the Age of Rude, there are no boundaries. Just as reality TV serves to expose the real-life transgressions and bad manners of celebrities, so do magazines such as US Weekly, Star, and In Touch. The celeb-mag market has reached full saturation, and magazines are desperate to cover virtually anything a famous or near-famous person does (good or bad), giving genuine stars and talentless celebutantes alike a blank canvas for self-promotion. It's a mutually beneficial relationship: These celeb rags cover famous people's foibles and make tons of cash doing so. In 2004, the paparazzi rag US Weekly grossed more than $91 million in ad revenue.....
In the Age of Rude, the lines between appropriate and inappropriate, public and personal are blurred. With a media maelstrom hell-bent on exploiting our basest behaviors - and a nation of consumers shelling out for it - it's hard not to agree with the right-wing proclamation of moral decline. Every time we gawk, stare, or buy a copy of US Weekly, we're feeding the Rude machine.
I'd like to read Our Adjustable Manners (A Study in Private Courtesy and Public Rudeness), (ar) The Saturday Evening Post Dec 22 1906