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Hi  The3rdColumn,

My apologies for coming late to this, I've only just spotted this thread has become controversial.  Many thanks for your kind words above, and may I also say that I appreciated your support when I got some abuse on Timesonline.

Please permit me to step back from the details of this controversy and make some more general observations.  

Firstly, all newspapers, blogs, community forums etc. have some general orientations - more or less tightly defined, and more or less tightly enforced.  We have both criticised Charles Bremner for his tabloid tendencies to personalise all commentary and focus almost exclusively on the many foibles of Sarkozy as being emblematic of France.  He has found a very comfortable niche market playing into British perceptions of France and no doubt receives something of a star rating with the Times editorial team for so doing.  He doesn't do heavy economic/political analysis and thus tends to report on and repeat the commonplaces of others.

ET aspires to be a less "populist" and more analytically inclined community who are less interested in personalities and more into underlying economic, political, sociological and environmental causes.  As such it's stock in trade is to challenge, and sometimes refute the "common sense" assumptions of popular political discourse.  In this context, challenging the notion of "mentalité d'assistés" is par for the course, although in a state as interventionist as France, it would not be surprising to find that many are dependent on the state in many ways.  Hell, we all depend on the state for law and order, so it depends on how that concept is used to criticise some and not others.

I too have "issues" with some aspects of ET's self definition:  Whatever its origins, I don't see the relevance of defining ET as some sort of European counterpoint to American liberal blogosphere.  Whilst I am full of admiration for Jerome personally, I think ET lacks a transparent structure and process for defining/agreeing editorial policies, resolving disputes, and representing the public face of ET in the real world.  

I hate the moral superiority of pre-defining ourselves as "progressive" when we should have the moral courage to allow the facts and logic takes us where they will - even if that means adopting a position others might type cast as conservative, Marxist, utopian, or whatever.  I sometimes find it very cliquish and prone to setting a higher standard of evidence for dissident views than those which set the "dominant narrative" within ET.  

I doubt it will ever become a very broadly based forum for a very large user population because we have a tendency to pay lip service to tolerance of diversity and yet give minority views a hard time.  For a forum which prides itself on evidence based argument and high standards of behaviour, too often ad hominum and personalised attacks do creep in.

Having said all that, I think you would be hard put to find a higher or more civil standard of debate anywhere else.  I think you have to be prepared to accept that your assumptions will be scrutinized, and tested against the evidence, and as newcomers here, our views will not be granted the same level of automatic approval as old-timers who have built up a certain status and with many friendships and shared understandings over the years.

I do hope you will stay because I enjoyed your posts and because I think ET needs to be more open to a wider range of views if it is to grow and prosper.  Some old-timers may resist this because they prefer it as a cosy club for the illuminated few - that too is their entitlement. Almost every week we have a spat where someone threatens to leave because they are unhappy with how they have been treated, and I have been there myself.  

But I hope ET will grow into something bigger than all of us and make a growing contribution to informed debate within Europe and beyond.  You too have a contribution to make to that, and you shouldn't let a tense exchange with one or two other members get in the way of that.  We can all be a bit precious about what we may feel to be an unfair or unsympathetic reception for our dearest thoughts.  I still have a few bones to pick with others!  The key thing is that we can all learn from the experience.

I hope you stay.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 01:11:32 PM EST
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