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For some reason, the subject of incivility and cruel behavior in social media sites fascinates me. I think it does say quite a bit about human behavior and what happens when you change social interactions in a radical way, very, very quickly. At the risk of sounding too much like an evolutionary psychologist, it seems that once you remove the closeness, the in-the-flesh interactions that we evolved to need and that are necessary for thriving as a member of our species, many aspects of our behavior go completely out of whack. And to reverse-paraphrase Steven Pinker, the "better angels" of our nature get totally beat up by the "worse demons" of our nature. It certainly seems that empathy and inclusiveness get trampled by cruelty and tribalism. 

At the same time, social media allow for many good causes that appeal to the "better angels" of our nature, to actually exist and be effective, such as relief for natural disasters victims, campaigns pro-human rights, etc. I'm not trying to say social media is the bane of civilization. I do enjoy interacting with people through social media very much, and I find it an enriching experience because I can "meet" people from all over the world and learn their perspectives. 

Perhaps the problem lies in lack of "policing" as in "social policing." What I mean by that is the kind of community effect that comes from knowing that other people are watching (and judging) our behavior, the kind of phenomenon described by Philip Zimbardo in The Lucifer Effect, that anonymity stimulates destructive behavior. Many social networking sites do not moderate very effectively or moderate too late, once the interactions have escalated in intensity and nastiness. 

I was prompted to write this discussion because of an article about meanness or extreme rudeness on Twitter (you should read it, it has gossip galore), and I want to have your opinions or thoughts on this important issue. The article says that perhaps the same ferocious incivility was happening but we just could not see it because it wasn't so hugely public. At the same time, the article compares online incivility to road rage, a case of rational people behaving irrationally. It's possible. Here are some excerpts I thought interesting:

But Reynol Junco, a psychologist and social media researcher at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, believes the Twitter haters have it all wrong. In a phone interview, he called the idea of blaming social media for incivility “absurd,” and he pointed to Twitter’s prominent role in the last election as evidence that social media actually improves civic engagement. “A lot of this is about perception,” he said. “People assume that because we couldn’t see all this incivility before Twitter that it wasn’t happening, but these exchanges are reflective of conversations that are happening in the real world.”


And on the subject of social conventions and self-regulation as a community, perhaps shunning the offenders (the oldest form for human communities to punish transgressors, cheaters, etc.) is simply going to transfer from the real world into the online world, and that will solve the issue:

In fact, according to Weber Shandwick’s study, more than half of Americans say they are “tuning out” media because of what they consider uncivil commentary. (Are you paying attention, Rupert?) That same study also suggests that incivility on Twitter, in the long term, may be equally shunned. Half of Americans now say they have de-friended or blocked someone online because of incivility, while more than a quarter have dropped out of an online community completely. Junco cautioned that “trolls are just a part of the Internet space,” but he added that new technologies like social media should never be discounted simply because people have figured out ways to abuse them. He cites Carl Sagan, who famously believed that humans will one day venture to the stars -- that is, if we don’t kill each other first.


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In all seriousness, sometimes the response to incivility has to be standing up and confronting the bullies; ignoring doesn't always work. It is a fine line, and not always easy to know how to respond. It is very difficult to avoid replying to certain comments with a succinct "fuck you, you aggressive brainless moron fuck."

One of the problems of online bullying is that you can't directly stop it. You can't knock the teeth off that person. In real life that could seriously impair that person's ability to spread further bullshit. Online, even if you and all your friends block her/him, it won't stop the broadcasting. 

Shame in front of the bully's own friends would do the job but it's not easy to achieve. 

Yes, it is indeed, much harder to deal with online bullies. In my school years I've dealt with a few bullies by humiliating in front of their "friends" who admire them. It worked like a charm. It's harder to do online. But if a lot of people expose them in the end I think it helps others see the bully for who he/she is. 

Lot easier to knock someone's teeth out. =)

You need collective bargaining, but the unions in Michigan hold such an extreme opinion and are radicalized by elements who seem to hold class warfare as their mantra. The state of industry is pitiful, dividends are a thing of the past in many major firms, GM will probably require another bailout which if given without further and more drastic UAW concessions would only put off the final collapse. The stock tickets are depressing, in which most gains and falls are via speculation fueled by unsustainable deficit spending. North America is practically purged from foreign markets on matters of heavy industry as being a better price then Japan on steel or chemicals is a pipe dream at the moment. Any atempt to modernize american industry is opposed as robots would cost union workers jobs, and investment is hard to come by as any hope of returns on investment would likely be estingushed for unreasonable wage damands. Any criticism, regardless of it's content or intent, is called an attack on workers. Strikes and threats of strikes are used less to deal with specific labor grievences and more and more to tackle general political objectives. The social assistance blanket(welfare) is chronically abused as it is easier then moving to north dakota or joining the army(a traditional way for youth to earn job skills). A culture of dependence forms in places like the Appalachia or inner city detroit. Do you hear me spewing hate. The politicans are so concerned about the polls and shorterm electability that they will seldom focus on a long term cost-benifit analysis, even at such a critical time.

How cool, you know more about my state than I do. Not.

You should try reading something besides right wing tomfoolery. The thought that GM will need another bailout was thrown out last August, and never happened. Really, breitbart the best you can do? 

I will start a conversation on the reality, since everyone should know. It has nothing to do with Obama and the last bailout. GM still reported profits of 1.5 billion this quarter, and only the right wing prays for it's demise. Because these fuckers hate the working class and hope to wipe out another strong component of the middle class.

Sorry your discussion was derailed A.

im glad to hear gm making improvements, good. i will read through bloomberg to find an article on that. Also, sorry about the derailing A, its more my fault then Neals.

zrdm you are COMPLETELY WRONG about GM needing a future bailout,  you need to time travel back the 80's when you ideas had some sort of currency

8:22PM EDT October 31. 2012 - General Motors reported third-quarter earnings of $1.48 billion, or 89 cents per share, this morning as robust profits in North America more than offset continuing losses in Europe.

The quarter's results were a decline of 15% from $1.7 billion, or $1.03 per share, a year ago but still blew through Wall Street expectations. Excluding special items, earnings per share were 93 cents.

Net revenue was up 2% to $37.6 billion vs. $36.7 billion a year ago, about $2 billion more than expected, driven by both volume and higher pricing. Through three quarters this year GM has increased both U.S. sales (up 3.5% year over year) and average transaction price (up 0.6%), according to data. Its U.S. market share, however, is down to about 18% from more than 20% a year ago when Japanese makers were still recovering from the Japanese tsunami and Thai floods.

GM's quarterly loss was $478 million in Europe, where new-car sales are headed for their weakest year in about two decades and GM Europe, primarily its German Opel operation, has not made money since 1999. The loss in Europe a year ago was $292 million.

GM now estimates its total loss in Europe this year will be $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion. It sees 2013 as being "slightly better" and sees breaking even in Europe "mid-decade."

GM's international operations unit -- which includes China, South Korea and Australia -- posted an operational profit up 89% to $689 million. The South American unit turned to a profit of $114 million from a loss of $44 million a year ago as GM began rolling out a batch of new products.

"GM had a solid quarter because customers around the world love our new vehicles and we're also seeing green shoots take hold on tough issues like complexity reduction, pensions and Europe," said CEO Dan Akerson in a statement

A good post from the Dish about the insanity of republican ideas and actions

We Have To End Republican Nihilism


Ezra Klein details where the president draws the line:

The Obama administration is utterly steadfast on this point: They will not suffer a repeat of 2011, when they conducted negotiations over whether the United States should default. If Republicans go over the cliff and try to open up talks for raising the debt ceiling, the White House will not hold a meeting, they will not return a phone call, they will not look at the e-mails. They will move to an entirely public strategy, rallying voters and the business community against the GOP’s repeated brinksmanship.

There are two procedural issues on which, it seems to me, true conservatives should be outraged at Republicans. The first is the massive, unprecedented, destructive and radical use of a non-filibuster filibuster to make the Senate unable to pass anything significant without 60 votes, rather than 51 (or 50 with the veep). This is not conservative. It's a blatant attack on tradition in defense of pure partisanship.

I think the president should at some point personally take this on. Most Americans aren't fully aware that a filibuster today doesn't need even a few minutes of what we always thought of as filibustering. The filibusterers barely have to speak at all. They just have to signal their intent to, and the entire legislative process grinds to a halt. This gives a minority party a near-veto that should be solely the preserve of the president. That's an attack on our Constitution. Expose them, Mr President, as the revolutionaries they are. Mock them. Expose their laziness and obstructionism at a time when a huge majoritywants compromise; and the country and the world need it.

The second is the outrageous ploy to threaten to destroy the country's credit rating every time there is a conflict over debt. This is a form of legislative terrorism. It is an attack on the entire country in defense of a single fanatical faction. It's perhaps best summarized by the highly emotional torture fanatic, Marc Thiessen. Just read these extraordinary words:

Right now, it seems as if they are seeking the least painful way to surrender. It’s time to stand and fight instead. Republicans can still shoot their way out of their current predicament. It won’t be pretty and they will have to fight ugly — but they can still win ... In the short term, Americans may blame you. You can recover from that. What you will never recover from is surrendering your principles and giving up your brand as the party of low taxes and limited government.

There is no mention of the last election, and what it was fought on. There is no mention of the American people or the global economy. There is merely an insular ideological determination to wreck the country if necessary in order to maintain a purer "brand" for a faction. This is what the Founders warned us of when describing the toxicity of factionalism in a democracy.

And we should be clear what using the debt ceiling as blackmail really is; it is not an attempt to cut spending, which is accomplished through budget legislation. It is a refusal to make good on the very decisions the Congress has already made on spending and taxation. It is the equivalent of not paying your rent as a way to protest the price you already signed up for. It's grotesquely irresponsible, and after the last election, reflects a near delusional amnesia and contempt for the voters. Frum paraphrases it correctly:

"Mr. President, give us what we want or we'll blow up the government. In return for your concessions, we'll … refrain from blowing up the government."

Thiessen is an anti-conservative. He saw the rule of law as something to be gotten around so he could enable the torture of prisoners of war, using Nazi techniques. He sees the very credit of the country he allegedly loves as a mere instrument for partisan brinksmanship.

When you see a political party that openly flaunts these attacks on the American constitutional balance and the country's credit for purely partisan reasons, you begin to see how deep the rot has gone. This is not a party worthy of any role in government. It's a destructive, self-interested faction, threatening the stability of this country's constitution and economy. Obama is absolutely right not to yield on this. This anti-conservative radicalism is anti-American, uncivil and unpatriotic.

It must not be appeased. It has to be ended.

(Photo: Getty Images.)

More about the wrongness of Z's comments on unions and Michigan

Radio Host Stumps Michigan Governor By Asking How Union-Busting Wil...

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was happy to sign the union-busting “right-to-work” bill this week, saying that the law would help create jobs in his state. But in an interview with American Public Media on Thursday, Snyder was hard-pressed to give good reasons for why, exactly, the bill would inspire companies to move into Michigan and create new jobs.

Pressed by Marketplace Morning Report host Jeremy Hobson to explain what proof Snyder had that Michigan would see a job boom as a result of the law, the Governor cited neighboring Indiana’s recent job numbers as his only evidence:

SNYDER: This is about more and better jobs coming to Michigan. If you look at Indiana, they did similar legislation in February. And literally, thousands of new jobs are coming to Indiana where this was a major consideration in companies’ decision to move to that state.

HOBSON: Are you saying then that companies decided to go to Indiana, for example, because there’s less union membership in Indiana?

SNYDER: No, and I don’t want to speak for the companies but it is very clear that companies are looking at Indiana that previously did not. [...]

HOBSON: Well, make that connection though. You’re saying that, by not requiring workers to pay union dues, that therefore companies are going to be more attracted to the state. Why would that be?

SNYDER: Well, that’s a question for the companies but there is a strong sense, and companies do look at that. That’s something we’ve suffered here.[...]

HOBSON: Union membership has fallen dramatically in Michigan and across the country and it’s not as though that has translated into some boom in employment. I see the point you’re making, but it hasn’t been borne out in the evidence, has it?

SNYDER: Well, it’s been borne out in the Indiana case.


The Economic Policy Institute estimates that right-to-work will cost all Michigan workers — not just those in unions — an average of $1,500 a year, and that there is “no relationship” between right-to-work laws and employment rates.

Can we have a separate discussion on Michigan and unions and politics, etc? I think it's deserving of it's own discussion


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