Peter Beaumont writes (in How do we escape the hysteria that threatens to erode public debate?, Guardian):

In the midst of a global recession and increasing distrust of both politics and the media, public conversation in western countries is already in the process of becoming more extreme and angry. Others have noted how, in the UK, old unwritten rules have come to be influenced by exposure to the more brawling style of the US. But the change in how we talk among ourselves has also been shaped by the constraints and opportunities afforded by the online world.

It’s an interesting article and worth a read, but it does seem to be setting up a false dichotomy between debate online (bad) and old-fashioned public debate (being eroded). Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t remember the old public debate being that broad or inclusive. Web comments aren’t either, but at least they’re open.

It’s another example of calling new approaches dangerous if they don’t meet the sort of idealised standards of transparency and representativeness that the old ones never did. I’m on holiday at the moment (can’t you tell?) but more to come on this topic next week.

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