Friday, January 30, 2009

Website Review: Opposing Views

I recently came across a very cool and intriguing new site called Opposing Views. One of the editors of the site emailed me requesting a link exchange for its "Gay Issues" page. This site basically serves as a forum for experts to debate various issues relevant to politics, society, health, religion, and money. Opposing Views chooses a topic and then invites "experts, opinion leaders, and advocates to pick a side and weigh in."

This site's strength lies in an area in which many blogs fail. Namely, it serves as a neutral and safe forum for heated debates to occur. While allowing experts to present their side of the debate in their own words, the forum also enforces and expects participants to abide by a Civility 101 code.

I read through many of the debates, and frankly, I found it quite refreshing to read positions that I disagreed with without having to wade through distracting personal attacks, paranoid accusations, and insults. For instance, even though I profoundly disagree with the Alliance Defense Fund's position on marriage equality, I can appreciate that they frame their argument in a way that says that they just believe "moms and dads matter" as opposed to making the offensive Gay People Are Very Bad People sort of personal attacks that are so frequent in the anti-gay blogosphere.

Civility goes a long way in helping the "other side" better understand where we are coming from. Even if we end up disagreeing about something, we at least walk away knowing that we've engaged with a real human being as opposed to a virulent caricature of a person. I have written before that a good rule of thumb to comment by is to first assume that someone is writing in good faith. Until I have pretty strong evidence that says otherwise, I try to operate under the assumption that humans are basically good. And, even though other people disagree with me about some things, they aren't out to intentionally trick me, misrepresent my position, or lie to me and other people. Knowing that all debate participants have agreed to the same code of civility can go really far in preventing blog-thread trainwrecks from occurring.

My participation in online comment threads has waxed and waned over the years. To be honest, I don't feel safe commenting at many of the anti-gay blogs that I read. I'm actually pretty tough, but it doesn't do much good for anyone to subject oneself to abuse over and over again. And likewise, perhaps anti-gays feel unsafe commenting at the blogs of LGBT political bloggers.

Anyway, I just thought I'd bring your attention to this site if you like debate but don't like the nastiness that often festers on the web.

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