I Hereby Declare the Peter (Robinson) Principle

 

peter_robinsonEditor’s Note: When we say Ricochet is the home of smart and civil conversation on the web, we mean it. So please join us today and get a free month on us. See you in the comments.

Friends, this election season has seemed …. interminable. The highs, the lows, the lower lows … a lot has happened, and it’s only just beginning. I realize that a situation like this arouses passions and you’ll find no more argumentative or stubborn person on Ricochet than myself.

Lately there have been more fissures within our little community here at Ricochet than usual. And that’s fine. It’s more than fine, it’s a good thing. I happen to think that Ricochet is boring when we all agree with each other.

However, a problem comes when these fissures are accompanied by acrimony. And there’s been lots of acrimony lately. Despite all our differences, it’s important to remember that we’re all on the same team. Not the Republican team, or the conservative team, or even the center-right team. We’re all on the Ricochet team. We’re all members of the same community. (And to anyone who doesn’t know yet, yes, this is most certainly a community.)

So we’re clear: I’m not telling anyone to not express their unpopular opinions. I welcome controversial posts (it’s a lot more interesting than Hillary Outrage #4069). But it’s important that when we disagree with each other, we do so respectfully.

To wit, I’d like to offer a useful guideline.

Our beloved founder Peter Robinson is a gentle and decent person. The English language has many colorful synonyms for the human posterior, but if were you to use anything stronger than the word “hiney” in his presence, there is a non-zero probability that the man would plotz. (And I don’t mean to ridicule the man. He is a light of decency in an indecent world. Would that I were able to be so.)

My suggestion is this: When you’re arguing with someone, it helps if you pretend the person you’re arguing with is Peter Robinson. (And the bigger the disagreement, the more inflamed the passions, the more you should apply this rule.) It’s not just about not cursing someone else, it’s about assuming good faith on their part.

And it’s entirely possible Peter Robinson is reading what you say. Do you want him to read you saying something unpleasant to someone else? And it’s not just Peter, lots of impressive people read Ricochet. (Trust me, I know!) Do you want to have said certain things in front of them?

And know that, if you seek to persuade, your target audience isn’t just the person you’re disagreeing with, it’s everyone else who is reading what you say. Before commenting, ask if you want to represent your side the way you’re about to.

If you, individually, maintain that level of civility and dignity, in both your argument and your prose, then nobody will be able to flag anything you say. And if we all did that, then … wow.

Now, I realize that 99% of Ricochet members never get flagged for violating the Code of Conduct. But many of us have been tempted, from time to time, to say things we shouldn’t. The Peter Principle isn’t meant as a condemnation or a scold, just as an entirely voluntary guideline to help make things even more civil around here.

And while we don’t always agree, we should at least be friends. And barring that, we should at least be civil to one another. Because that’s the whole point, right? That’s why we’re here. This isn’t supposed to be a sewer. Let everywhere else be the sewer, this is Ricochet. We’re better than that.

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  1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Annefy: Anything worth saying is worth being direct about. And if it’s not worth being direct about, keep your mouth shut.

    Families seem to differ on this, though. In my family the above wouldn’t work. My family has no shortage of folks who think they want directness, but no, they don’t. They want tact. They want a chance to save face, even if that means circumlocution. Anything else, they won’t listen to.

    More generally, the trait “I want to be tactless toward others while they are tactful toward me” seems pretty common. Obviously you are right, Annefy, to discourage this trait in your children – may I do the same. Try to mold a child properly, and you’re doing the right thing. Try to mold an adult who could use it, and the adult is naturally offended that he’s being treated like a child.

    • #91
  2. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:More generally, the trait “I want to be tactless toward others while they are tactful toward me” seems pretty common. Obviously you are right, Annefy, to discourage this trait in your children – may I do the same. Try to mold a child properly, and you’re doing the right thing. Try to mold an adult who could use it, and the adult is naturally offended that he’s being treated like a child.

    I have a feeling you’ll do just fine.

    • #92
  3. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    • #93
  4. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Fred Cole:I want everyone to know that I object to “plotz” being italicized. In my opinion, it’s long since joined the English language and should not be considered a foreign word.

    #AcrimonyMuch?

    • #94
  5. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Annefy: Anything worth saying is worth being direct about. And if it’s not worth being direct about, keep your mouth shut.

    Families seem to differ on this, though. In my family the above wouldn’t work. My family has no shortage of folks who think they want directness, but no, they don’t. They want tact. They want a chance to save face, even if that means circumlocution. Anything else, they won’t listen to.

    More generally, the trait “I want to be tactless toward others while they are tactful toward me” seems pretty common. Obviously you are right, Annefy, to discourage this trait in your children – may I do the same. Try to mold a child properly, and you’re doing the right thing. Try to mold an adult who could use it, and the adult is naturally offended that he’s being treated like a child.

    SO common. We never found the magic balance between “direct enough so you know what I’m talking about” and “tactful enough that you won’t go in a huff” with my mother.

    Which is why we all just ended up keeping our mouths shut.

    • #95
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Annefy: Which is why we all just ended up keeping our mouths shut.

    Oh we do plenty of that, too. But we gotta open our mouths sometimes – we’re not Trappists – and when we do, directness may also be too costly.

    • #96
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Spin: #AcrimonyMuch?

    He’s paying acrimony? Didn’t realize he’d been married before.

    • #97
  8. CRD Member
    CRD
    @CRD

    May I quibble and say that it should be the “Carter principle “? Peter doesn’t really get into much back and forth with the members. Dave Carter does. And he does so beautifully! Strong arguments delivered gently!

    • #98
  9. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    I’d like to buy a license for my pet fish, Eric.

    • #99
  10. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    CRD:May I quibble and say that it should be the “Carter principle “? Peter doesn’t really get into much back and forth with the members. Dave Carter does. And he does so beautifully! Strong arguments delivered gently!

    Here’s Dave gently delivering his argument.

    DaveCarter_lightbox2

    • #100
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