Please, if you've got suggestions, share them.
I recently told someone that I didn't think name-calling or a focus on it was helpful. And on a one-on-one basis, I do believe that avoiding labeling is most constructive; but the more I chew on it, the more exceptions I see, or at least circumstances where IMO there shouldn't be an absolute prohibition.
One exception might be employing a quotation making the point that "X is undesirable"; since you can't always get people, particularly ones who've been dead for millennia, to come back & express their views with less hyperbole.
Another might be a situation where a group is expounding on reckless-endangerment fringe views to a crowd, particularly if they're not making it clear that these views are fringe (or dangerous). I can envision situations where I'd apply a derogatory label (e.g. deniers, confusionists, etc) to a group espousing such a view, or even to an influential individual espousing that view, although if addressing him directly I would likely not do so.
Was it wise for me to make that general "I don't think behavior Y is helpful" statement at all?
The problem with making such general statements is that there usually do turn out to be some situations in which the statement doesn't hold. But how do we go about reconciling this "failure of generality" (which argues for tolerance of seeming inconsistency) with the Clinton test (how would I feel if Clinton had done it, instead of Bush?) (which argues for intolerance of inconsistency)? And how do you balance these two opposing guidelines, when engaging in intellectually honest dialogue with someone of different views? (How do you safeguard against fooling yourself into thinking "ah, but this really is a justifiable exception" when it really isn't, given our well-documented penchant for doing exactly that?)
And how do you prevent this area from becoming a vulnerability, Achilles heel style, to actors who are motivated to just quietly amass a collection & then let fly with a barrage? (and who may be counting on their audience to only have, or lend, half an ear...)
A "safe", conflict-averse workaround to avoid the whole problem is just to stop making general statements; but the problem with this reaction is that it's unnatural, it really hems you in, communicationally speaking; you end up feeling (spontaneity-wise) like Bob or Mat, of the quadruple-amputee jokes. As social & intellectual creatures, that's no way to live.
My first (and so far, only) thought is, we bloggers need a "report an inconsistency" button, akin to the "report an error" one ( ) - to indicate that we'd like you to tell us when you (think you) spot one, so we can chew on it.