These thoughts come solely from personal observations of, and experience with groups of all kinds, in many different venues, over many years, rather than on any academic basis, so as such, are totally subjective. However, studying human behaviors has been a lifetime fascination for me, and one I have delved deeply into, online especially, over this past ten years.
When people "group themselves up" in any setting, they all bring baggage with them. Every single one of us have bags full of unresolved issues of one sort or another, some we know about, some we don't. So, there we are, in the midst of a group, and as we interact on more and more intense levels, some of those suitcases will pop open, and stuff will spill out..it is inevitable. Conflicts arise. Misunderstandings, mis-perceptions, over reactions, projection super defensiveness, attack/counter attack..you name it, it is GOING to happen, in any group, sooner or later, no matter how "cohesive" it seemed to be at the start.
This has gotten labeled as "dysfunctional" in this label loving, disease oriented culture. I don't think it is, although I used to. Now I see this as a "process" through which we learn HOW to get along: what works and what doesn't, to learn more about who we are..and how we are..through the feedback and reactions of others. To learn more about others. Messy and sometimes painful as hell? Certainly. So is childbirth. So are all developmental growing pains, to some degree.
Anyway, the likelihood of this kind of process getting kicked off in any grouping, go up astronomically in a limited medium like this, where all we have of each other to work with, is written communication and NO non verbal cues at all!
Non verbal communication is by far and away more impactful than spoken or written words, and here are trying to make do with only about 30 to 40 percent of the info we need to fully communicate with each other. It's a wonder we get as much decent communication accomplished as we do!
Ok. Back to what is considered "dysfunctionality" in groups, (that I see more as a learning process.) No two of us are ever at the same place in terms of being "ready to learn" things. Or to take in new info. Some are ready to hear honest mirroring and feedback from others, and many are certainly are NOT at that stage of their lives yet, and will perceive it as an "attack" instead.
And many have no CLUE as to how to offer objective feedback in non threatening or non-judgemental manner. Thus they are almost guaranteed to trip trigger points right and left and engender immediate "defensive counter-attack."
And to make it almost inevitable that things will deteriorate if all of this goes on too long is this simple fact: most of us cannot make the simple differentiation between a persons "behaviors" and a persons 'intrinsic worth" as a human being. So we end up attacking each others basic character and/or integrity as a human being, based on written words said on a screen.
That's it. That's all we are reacting to. Words on a screen. A persons visible behavior of the moment, that may or may not reflect who that person truly is at all, if we were to come to actually know them. It took me a long time to "get" that simple reality.
My behaviors are one thing: my worth as a human being is another thing. They do not always match. There were many times in my life when my behaviors were rotten and hurtful to others, because I had no insight into myself at all at the time and my baggage was in charge of me, not my essential core self. I know now my core self was never really "rotten," Just misguided. Ignorant of truths I had yet to learn. Affected by an addiction I was not ready to own and traumatic issues still stuck where I couldn't see them yet. That made me a fallible human, not a "rotten" one. A" fixable" human being, once I was ready to do it.
Ok. So one way or another, we find ourselves in these groups that feel and seem to be falling apart at the freaking seams. all around our ears. Some of us panic, not wanting to lose whatever measure of belonging we had found..and attack the hell out of any visible outsiders that might be "causing" this fracturing. Or we may turn on each other. Or we may decide to walk away altogether. All of these are understandable human behaviors given wherever we each are at in our own lives.
But sometimes, this dynamic seems to escalate and takes on a life of it's own. It begins to spread, like a virus, from place to place. Once it gets inside of us, we can end up carry it like any contagious viri, wherever else we go outside our own "group"..and infect others along the way. Until it can reach an epidemic stage.
I believe this is what we're seeing now, in the liberal blogosphere. Not only did we all bring our own personal "baggage" to these blogs, which in itself is a hell of a growth challenge, we also were all facing head on, the visible proof of the internal demolition of our entire country unfolding before our wide open eyes.
Now THAT ...is one hell of a load to place on humans who are only connected via 30 -40 percent of our ability to communicate with each other, folks. Maybe an impossible load to expect fallible human beings to handle. I will posit that it is an impossible load at this time in our evolution.
Blog owners, whether big or small, are first and foremost, imperfect human beings at various stages of maturing. Yet somehow, the expectation seems to exist that they ought to be some kind of highly advanced species, suddenly able to do what has never been done successfully in any group of humans: please everyone and never make a single mistake! Good luck with that.
Community members who loyally align themselves with these "community" type blogs, also seem to expect something that has never yet been perfected in human history: a peaceful, collaborative, community with little to no serious conflict or disruption! Good luck with that too..especially when communication with just written words that are often interpreted differently by nearly everyone reading them! And with public doorways wide open to whoever wishes to wander in!
So my conclusions are that "community political blogs" have been a necessary, valuable and fascinating " step ahead" using new technology, in the overall human search for better ways to come together and relate effectively.
I think this "step" has served pretty much served it's purpose quite well, and is now in process of ending itself naturally so people can pick up whatever they have earned from it, and use it for the next step ahead, whatever that will turns out to be.
I am pretty darned sure what it will take online, is a separation between "political blogs" and "community blogs". I do not see the two goals as compatible at all. You add politics, or religion for that matter, as a focus point in any "communal gathering" and stand back..fireworks are inevitable.
Politics is only one of many ties that can bind us together in some sense of "community".
"Debate" is not the only satisfying from of human interaction. But those who love these things most, would still have them everywhere, on political discussion boards.
Those who, for whatever reasons, desire the sense of having online "community" with others they wish to maintain connection with, can also choose to build those kinds of sites on line, in whatever format works for them.
But as far as I can see, mixing politics and "community" is an experiment that has proven impossible to maintain, due to the levels of toxicity and pollution that they have produced, and it's time to pack up and move on to the next experiment. :)