A few off-the-cuff responses:
christopher::: wrote:What I wonder is a) how do you view this,
Seems like sometimes folks don't realize how the written word can come across. If you say something straight, but it disagrees with what someone else has written, you can be perceived as angry. Voice inflections, facial expressions, all the stuff that occurs in face-to-face dialogue is absent, and smilies just don't bridge the gap. So I think a lot of the difficulty arises because people are not accustomed to communicating through a faceless written medium.
christopher::: wrote: b) how should people respond
When there is tension, I think it works best if posters view their own tension first and foremost. The tension we perceive in another in their writing may or may not be present. Apart from that, I think it's OK to let folks vent and act stupid without worrying too much about it, because anyone who reads the thread can see for themselves what's going on, and everyone is going to bring their own interpretation to it. There is never, in my opinion, any reason to try to vex the other person or make things worse (which isn't to say that I've never personally done this). But in the world of Web boards, I think generally it's a big mistake to take anything personally.
christopher::: wrote: and c) is this a natural tension that should be expected,
christopher::: wrote: and d) do you have any suggestions for how this tension might be neutralized or diminished?
Not really, because you can never control what the other person is going to do. The best we can do is be aware of the tension that arises within ourselves and work with that.
I've had some interactions such as what you describe (not too many), and I have to admit that sometimes I can be thin-skinned. This whole tension between "liberals" and "conservatives" (or however you want to label the two sides) doesn't have to carry the emotional baggage. Disagreements are fine. It's the sense of righteous indignation that's the problem. I think that's really the key: To recognize when righteous indignation is arising in the other person, and then be gentle. And to recognize when righteous indignation is rising within oneself, and then be extra careful.