One of the hardest aspects of political discussion is maintaining a civil and respectful tone – to see things that horrify or scare us and treat our ideological opponents with decency and respect. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of ‘Othering’ the people who we disagree with, and dismissing large groups of people as uniformly nasty or stupid. Lashing out when we’re angry can feel satisfying, but it makes practical engagement harder in the long-term.
These insults come in a range of flavours – from the relatively polite ‘red Tory’ (used mainly in Scotland to describe Labour politicians); to ‘libtard’ (used by right-wingers to describe left-wingers); to the more basic ‘Tory scum’ (used by left-wingers to refer to Tory politicians and voters).
You may believe that the Labour Party aren’t the best vehicle to enact leftward political change in Scotland (both of us would agree with you) but it’s best to try and be respectful to those who will, from time to time at least, be potential allies.
You may see yourself as a sensible, practical right-winger, but drawing a parallel between left-wing views and mental disability… well, it’s just not very classy.
You may be angry at the Tory Party leadership, but victory in any meaningful sense will involve winning over some of those who voted Tory – using broad insults can very easily end up driving those people away.
So we believe that keeping a polite tone, and trying to be respectful – even when someone winds us up to the extent that we want to smash something – is important to making any kind of political progress. We’ve thought a bit about how to achieve this in the comment section.
At the moment we’re thinking that we’ll allow through comments that are abusive in tone, but replacing the term of abusive with ‘smurf’, ‘smurfing’, ‘smurfer’ and so on. That way, the commenter can still say what they want to say, but at the strong risk of looking ridiculous.
To start with, we’re not going to have a list of banned terms, but please try and be sensible about what is abusive and dismissive, and try to be respectful.