I often complain that I am singled out as being an “ontological asshole,” even though people are routinely much meaner to me than I would ever dream of being. I think this exchange is a good example of the phenomenon. If you read the comment, you’ll see that it basically says that everything we’re doing at AUFS is completely worthless if not outright farcical — and it does so at great length. That, in my mind, is mean. When Anthony responds angrily, as any human being would, several people leap to the original commenter’s defense and shame Anthony for overreacting, in the process seriously understating the negativity of the original commenter.
This happens again and again — the only possible sin in blog conversations is “tone” (which is, incidentally, the most difficult thing to pick up as intended in online communication!). Any kind of content gets a free pass, as long as the “tone” is right. When the sacred law of “tone” is violated, suddenly we’re locked into procedural conversations about how we all need to show the proper respect. And weirdly, it’s always the people with the minority opinions in a given setting who need to be lectured about respectfulness.