Friday, July 18, 2008

Four Ways Not to Be a Jerk

For those of you who may or may not know, I'm from Nevada (arguably the greatest state in the Union, but that's beside the point), and I try to keep up with local politics there, which is what got me to reading a blog by a guy named Chuck Muth. Muth, for those of you (probably everyone) who don't know, is a Carson City-based conservative commentator who is, to put it nicely, a jerk. In light of some recent things he's written, I now introduce my handy Guide to Not Being a Jerk On Your Blog, dedicated to Chuck.

One important point: usually I'd provide links where I quote or reference something, but in this case I really don't want to give Muth's blog any free advertising by linking to his website; instead, I'll make sure I include enough info so that, if you're so inclined, you can do a search and find the reference yourself.

Don't make up rude nicknames for people who disagree with you. Though there are quite a few examples of this practice, in particular I'm thinking of Muth's calling Ron Paul supporters "Paultards."

2. Don't selectively delete comments from people just because you disagree with them. Regarding a Nevada teacher's union, Muth wrote:
If an education reform will benefit students but not members of the union, then the union will strenuously object to the reform.
I pointed out in a comment that, according to him, if there were some magic policy change that helped every child in the school district and neither hurt nor helped the teachers, the union would supposedly fight it every step of the way. I wrote "Riiight. That's not exactly a fair characterization." My comment was deleted within a couple of hours.

3. If you DO selectively delete comments, don't lie about it: After another reader pointed out Muth was deleting comments, Muth wrote:

I am selectively deleting comments which put forward paranoid and inaccurate information. If you want to spread your BS, do it on your own blog. I’ll note that I’ve never had to take this kind of action for anyone other than Paultards…including liberals.

Ignoring the rude tone, it turns out that he's lying: my comment had nothing to do with Ron Paul, nor am I a Ron Paul supporter; it was neither paranoid nor inaccurate. Moreover, Muth also deleted another comment regarding teachers unions that again had no connection to Ron Paul within the last 24 hours.

4. If someone points out that you've lied about what comments you delete, don't be a jerk: I politely pointed out (and you can check my wording if you'd like to see it) that Muth deleted my comment which had nothing to do with Ron Paul. Muth responded with, "Dear Moral Guy, here’s today’s lesson: Life’s not fair. Get over it." Not only is he ignoring that he lied, he chose to be rude and pretend as though he had done nothing wrong.
< /rant >


You might ask, how is this anything but my ranting about a personal vendetta? OK, maybe it is a little, but I do have a legitimate ethics-related point to make: people who write in newspapers, journals, blogs, magazines or whatever are bound, ethically if not legally, by certain rules of conduct. We might disagree about what precisely those rules are, but it's not hard to list some that everyone would agree with, including:

1. Show respect for others by refraining from calling people derogatory names.
2. Only report or write information you have good reason to believe is true.
3. Don't lie, especially to make yourself look better.

While I admit I'm not President of the Chuck Muth Fan Club, I still think I can fairly say he was out of line.

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