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October 9, 2009 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Feeling safe posting on MetaFilter. Courtesy, disagreement, "welcoming" environments and related topics.

This came up in the Australian Racism MetaTalk thread, but I feel it could do with pulling into it's own thread because that one took a stranger turn.

We know MeFi is not always arms-wide welcoming to opposing viewpoints. It's pretty established, for instance, that conservatives in a politics thread won't have an easy time of it. But I'm worried that this is giving others a bad impression of MeFi - that it is not welcoming or safe if you disagree with the hive mind in any way - that you will be snarked at, insulted and then branded a troll if you disagree with the group consensus on anything.

I suspect that almost all of us would say that we don't want MeFi to be a homogeneous site, that differing opinions are part of what makes for good discussion.

Question: Is this something we as a community want to change? Is it something we should want to change? How welcoming should we even want to be? Is there anything we can or should do to reduce the take-away impression that MeFi is not welcoming?
posted by subbes to Etiquette/Policy at 3:56 PM (461 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Note that I'm not saying obviously out-there crap needs to be tolerated (for ex., the racist statements that were deleted from the OKC thread) but non-offensive viewpoints that differ - surely they shouldn't be met by a barrage of ad-hominems*.



* exaggeration.
posted by subbes at 3:57 PM on October 9, 2009


We know MeFi is not always arms-wide welcoming to opposing viewpoints. It's pretty established, for instance, that conservatives in a politics thread won't have an easy time of it.

I don't think this is entirely true. I think that MetaFilter is VERY welcoming to those who politely back up their opinions with links and citations, rather than argumentative blather--at least moreso than most sites out there. Yes, MetaFilter is left of center, but most of the time it is possible to have reasoned discussions that don't turn into crapfests.
posted by ColdChef at 4:01 PM on October 9, 2009 [19 favorites]


Like a dog is welcoming to a piece of steak.
posted by smackfu at 4:04 PM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have a similar sense to ColdChef - I think I differ from what might, insofar as such a thing exists, be called the site consensus on a number of hot-button issues but haven't really experienced anything worse for my pains in saying so than embarrassment at my own inability to frame a decent argument.
posted by Abiezer at 4:14 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there anything we can or should do to reduce the take-away impression that MeFi is not welcoming?

I'm not sure that impression exists, does it?

519 comments in, this thread is still mostly civil. Rape is one of the most difficult and personal topics this community could address, yet folks like EmpressCallipygos, Ellehumour, hubbit, tkchrist, durn bronzefist, Heyho and many others are still trying valiantly to come to an understanding.

There's a lot of good in that thread and we've gained at least one new member from it, perhaps more.
posted by zarq at 4:19 PM on October 9, 2009


I wish I could completely agree with ColdChef. And there is some truth to what he's saying. But I do think Metafilter is unwelcoming of some perspectives.

It's not as simple as just "conservatives aren't welcome in political arguments." Yes, people will probably be open to someone who happens to make a right-of-center point and has particularly strong evidence to back it up. But liberal views (many of which I share) are accepted as matter of course without even giving evidence to back them up.

The problem seems particularly acute with "identity" topics: especially race and gender, and maybe sexual orientation.

For example, I'm as pro-gay-rights as anyone I know. There was a thread a while ago about a documentary about outing closeted gay right-wingers. Not surprisingly, most commenters were in favor of it. OK, that's a valid opinion. But I happen to think that's a counterproductive strategy. When I said this, the response did not have the tone of: "Gee, I may disagree with you, but you raise some interesting points." The tone was: "If you think that, then you're probably a bad person, and you obviously don't support gay rights."

I wouldn't quite say I didn't "feel safe," since I don't even know how pixels on a screen can make someone feel unsafe unless it's someone threatening to come to your house and attack you. But I did feel unwelcome. Again, I have no complaint with the fact that people disagreed with me. Maybe they're right and I'm wrong. But if that's the case, the best they can do is rationally explain why they take that position, not resort to bluster.

As for race and gender, I think there are some overly stringent assumptions about which viewpoints are acceptable vs. which ones make you a bad person. Just because you (not talking to the OP, just a general "you") might happen to hold conventionally liberal views on race and gender doesn't mean anyone who challenges your views is being malicious. I don't mean we should give a fair hearing to people who want to return to Jim Crow or oppose women having the right to vote -- obviously, some views are beyond the pale and have no place in civil discourse in the year 2009. But if someone questions, say, whether the gap in how much money men and women make represents an injustice/discrimination, or whether it's a result of other factors that are difficult to control for in empirical experiments -- factors that might even be advantageous to women -- I really don't think that should be beyond the pale. By all means, people should feel free to strongly disagree with that view, but discussions will be better off if there's a broader range of viewpoints that are respected even if they're not popular.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:26 PM on October 9, 2009 [27 favorites]


Just because there are two or more sides to an arguments does not automatically mean all sides are equally valid. I've seem both liberals and conservatives get torn new assholes because they put forth crappy arguments.

As others have noted this IS a left of center community, but... well let me compare here, I read Dkos to see what issues is on the radar of liberals but find the discussions there predominantly strident and very insular even if I agree with the general topic, I read Metafilter to find decent discussion of the topics, and related broad issues. People have thrown "echo chamber" around here in the past, but it applies a lot less here than it does in many many many other places, indeed I would like to know of any comparable sized web site that does it as well as this place.

As to the "safe" comment in the other meta thread... I wouldn't gainsay how that poster felt, but I do struggle to understand it.

Overall, I think the Blue avoids most of the pitfalls you lay forth, as long as you look at the breadth of the comments rather than focusing on a vocal minority.

I do, however, think MeTa is a bit over-hostile to new threads or people's concerns. People seem to take perverse pleasure in commenting and attacking threads they don't deem worthy, when frankly all they really have to do is avoid the thread... but you know what they say about opinions and assholes.
posted by edgeways at 4:35 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's that Metafilter is not welcoming, just that there are some threads that have a problem where fast moving discussion, snark, and the inability to give someone the benefit of the doubt all combine into one big mess. So far I've tried to stay out of the racism/sexism/-ism threads on the blue because of these issues and the fact that I'm a relatively new user. Sometimes there is a sense of, "Well who the hell are you to come in this thread and say something?" There were a bunch of things I wanted to add in the recent OkCupid thread, but I was seriously concerned that a) I couldn't explain my point well enough by Metafilter standards and b) that I would unwittingly offend someone. We all come from such different life experiences and can be hurt by different ideas/phrases/words that I'm not sure how much I should qualify my comments. But I do think Metafilter has taught me to step back and breathe when I read something I don't agree with. If I don't get what someone is saying or where they're coming from, I can always ask for clarification.

On preview: I agree with Jaltcoh that the "you're a bad person because you think X" is really horrible. That ends all discussion because the person you're addressing is then leaving the discussion or trying to defend themselves instead of their reasoning. The name-calling (which is less prevalent on the blue than on the gray, I think) is also counterproductive and childish.
posted by Mouse Army at 4:41 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


As others have noted this IS a left of center community,

Sauce please.

I do, however, think MeTa is a bit over-hostile to new threads or people's concerns. People seem to take perverse pleasure in commenting and attacking threads they don't deem worthy, when frankly all they really have to do is avoid the thread...

No, it's called Best Of The Web for good reason. If I want YouTube-style comments and posts then I'll go to YouTube.
posted by panboi at 4:43 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's pretty established, for instance, that conservatives in a politics thread won't have an easy time of it.

I'd disagree and modify that to say something along the lines of trolls and the deliberately disingenuous will have an easy time disrupting a politics thread.

There's a spectrum of conversation on MetaFilter, and it's ever-widening. You can go back to the very beginning and see that the discussion began around 'pretty much nonexistent' and progressed quickly into 'intelligent discourse'. The natural distaste many people have for intelligent discourse (in favor of entertainment, mostly) established a barrier to participation and fed on itself for quite some time, soon becoming a robust reputation, and eventually some sort of standard. Only those who really relished high-falutin' participated, but as MetaTalk began framing standards and guidelines so that those who didn't rely on a brought enthusiasm could read them, learn them, and then participate too. Internet memes and the rapid socialization of the web opened the door to many more people here, and we've seen not so much a decline as a generalizing of discourse as more and more people read, join up, and participate. It's an homogenization that allows for specious reasoning, fighty fire and quick snark, and wandering opinions alongside the facts, reasoning, and polite discourse.

You can match perceived prejudices like The Left to a tendency for earlyish users to be progressive, both in political ideology and in technological advancement. So you've got a bunch of early adopters who Use Their Words and are naturally progressive-minded. But as the userbase expands you wind up with conservatives who play fast and loose with facts, progressives who do the same, fighty conservatives who just want to say you're wrong! and poor! and don't deserve it!, fighty progressives who will happly do the same, and really just a smoothing out of the discussion into something that's as frustrating as MSNBC and FoxNews rolled into one. Just participate in good faith, ignore or rebut with care, and do your part to hold us to a standard that's worth the respect this site garners around the web. You can't expect everyone to do it with you, but don't let that ruffle your scruff.
posted by carsonb at 4:43 PM on October 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Interesting. You know, I find I can't get myself all worked up about something someone says in a thread anymore, unless it's what I think is misinformation about prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases.

also, there are just some posters who I know will say stupid stuff. I'm not naming names but I know who they are and I just roll my eyes and move on.
posted by anniecat at 4:46 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think that MetaFilter is VERY welcoming to those who politely back up their opinions with links and citations, rather than argumentative blather

This is true, but there is a lot of non-conservative argumentative blather that is welcomed. If it's witty and snarky enough, it generates the largest number of favorites from other users seen on this site. There are a lot of HURF DURF REPUGLICANS comments. I can't stand sites that revel in that crap against either party. Metafilter's idiotic comments are heavily biased against conservatives. I'd like to see a lot less of that, but have taken to just staying away from political threads unless I'm sure I can remain jolly. The fantastic comments can be well balanced. But sites are rarely judged by their intelligent comments.
posted by FuManchu at 4:50 PM on October 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


You can match perceived prejudices like The Left to a tendency for earlyish users to be progressive, both in political ideology and in technological advancement.

Computer users are young. Liberals are young. It's not much more complicated than that. Will be interesting as the computer users get older.
posted by smackfu at 4:52 PM on October 9, 2009


No, it's called Best Of The Web for good reason. If I want YouTube-style comments and posts then I'll go to YouTube.

No, it's called "Feature Requests, Bugs, etc." and there's no great risk of youtubery.

Edgeways was referring to over-hostility and dismissiveness on MetaTalk. Stuff like marching into a thread and saying, essentially, "Your concerns are trivial and you're stupid for bringing them to our attention."
posted by CKmtl at 5:05 PM on October 9, 2009


I do, however, think MeTa is a bit over-hostile to new threads or people's concerns. People seem to take perverse pleasure in commenting and attacking threads they don't deem worthy, when frankly all they really have to do is avoid the thread... but you know what they say about opinions and assholes.

I agree. I don't have anything to back this assertion up, but it seems that not long ago, MeTas calling out a specific members for whatever reason were a lot more common ('MeFite X is a bad person, is bad for the site, and should feel bad'). Frequently, those types of personal call-outs were often (And rightly, IMO) perceived as being petty and internecine and derided as such.

Now, MeTas seem to be trending towards calling out a specific type of behavior that is impairing members' enjoyment of the site ('Comments making fun of X are bad for the site, etc.'), but people's reactions are still derisive, despite the fact that these new breed of MeTas are about more than just shame and blame.

Again, I dunno if this holds water or it's just a result of me participating less, but as someone who used to spend a lot of time being a dink in the personal call-out MeTas, and is now sort of chagrined seeing similar behavior in what I see as being more constructive, worthier posts on the Gray, it's just how I see it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:06 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there anything we can or should do to reduce the take-away impression that MeFi is not welcoming?

I'm going to try to ignore my internal monologue that says "who do I think I am trying to give any advice to the community here" and just give my suggestions, for what they're worth.

This place is more welcoming to opposing viewpoints than any other site I've seen, for sure, but I also agree that people holding those opposing viewpoints are often held to a higher standard of references and citations. I don't think it's realistic to do much about that--who is going to think to themselves "I agree with you completely, and I demand proof!"

I've pretty much stayed out of the highly contentious discussions on the blue and grey of late. But I've been following most of them. Based on what I've seen in those, a few things that might help:

If you have something to say in a contentious thread, try to say it in the most inoffensive way you can find. I get the feeling some comments are made with the thought that, well, I'm just going to say what I think and if other people are offended by what I say, that's their problem. Try to think of it as your problem when that happens, too.

If you read a comment that makes you angry, read it again and try to interpret it in the most generous way you can imagine. Maybe the person who wrote it just didn't write it very well. Maybe you're misunderstanding their point. Maybe you even mis-read what they wrote, or they made a typing error and didn't actually write what they meant to write. (I feel like I've seen more than the usual amount of heat generated by these causes!)

Avoid commenting while angry. Strong feelings about things are OK, of course, but none of us are at our best when we're pissed off. I'm not saying walk away from the conversation completely as soon as it gets heated, I just mean take a few minutes to cool off and compose your thoughts. And then when you do make your next comment, be ruthless about filtering out any trace of saying something hurtful just to get the person back for saying something that hurt you.

Just my $0.02
posted by FishBike at 5:12 PM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think Metafilter is a site that values rigorous argument and being willing to fight and back up your opinions, and that's a double-edged sword. It's well and good to say, as long as you don't put forth "crappy arguments" you're okay, but sometimes, at worst, it can feel like you put forth your feelings and experiences only to have them nitpicked and scrutinized--and, yes, that can feel unsafe.
posted by Jeanne at 5:27 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that MetaFilter is VERY welcoming to those who politely back up their opinions with links and citations, rather than argumentative blather--at least moreso than most sites out there.

The problem is, that same standard doesn't apply to comments that fall left of center. If every comment, liberal and conservative (and all the middle) required links and citations, this place would become a morgue. So it's not really links and citations, but a willingness to put up with half-thoughts and one-liners. This site will put up with them on the left, because most kinda agree with them, but conservatives are held to a much, much higher threshold here. Fair or not, those are the rules.

The only problem, as I see it, is that conservatives, even if they do provide links and citations, would still get their asses handed to them by one-liners, and more often than not, simply have to suck it up, because they're playing an away game. Sure, there are those that will thoughtfully engage them here, and there's plenty of intelligent conversation to be found, which is still why I hang out here, but the game's a bit rigged, and a mild amount of self-awareness and restraint would go a long way to maintaining intelligent discussion and civility.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:31 PM on October 9, 2009 [36 favorites]


Maybe posts could have tags to indicate the discourse expected? Ranging from "polite" "nodigressions" and "narrowlydefinedsubject" to "havefun" "WTF!" and "noquarteraskednonegiven"?

I briefly wondered if it would be possible to come up with a list of guaranteed safe topics. Very briefly.
posted by shetterly at 5:42 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Benefit of the Doubt.

If you're not giving every user here the benefit of the doubt, you're part of the problem. Even if another thread leads you to believe they don't deserve it, give them the benefit of the doubt.

It's that simple.
posted by potch at 5:44 PM on October 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think that MetaFilter is VERY welcoming to those who politely back up their opinions with links and citations, rather than argumentative blather

Bullshit. Doing this in the face of certain belligerent dicks will still get you called this kind of abuse.

Look, MetaFilter is a thoughtful community of very, very bright people that is nevertheless frequently trolled by various grudge-polishers, shoulder-chip carriers, basement sociopaths and aggro pricks. Sometimes you think you're talking with someone who is a good-faith interlocutor and you suddenly notice the lidded stare or the flecks of spittle. What can you do, but backtrack, cash in, and try again some other time? Some people are itching for a fight and they like best to do it with people who actually care about what they're saying.

Every time I get kneecapped by one of these assholes, I smart about it for a few days and think about leaving the site. It happens every 6-8 months, on average. Ironically, whenever I find myself most invested in a conversation. But MetaFilter, for all its flaws, remains the least bad community site I've found. And I consider many of you my friends and would miss hearing the brilliant things you often have to tell me. You're MetaFilter, as far as I'm concerned. The trolls are just noise.
posted by felix betachat at 5:47 PM on October 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I seriously envy anyone who lives somewhere where the political culture is so progressive that they think Metafilter doesn't qualify as "left of center".
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:53 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Edgeways was referring to over-hostility and dismissiveness on MetaTalk.

No, they were referring to avoiding threads on the blue if you take issue with them. If people are taking a pop at FPP then there's generally a good reason.

We can go anywhere on the intertubes to hear all sorts of misinformed opinions - and a fair degree of ranting. On here, the standards are higher.

Still would like some sauce on my first comment though.
posted by panboi at 6:06 PM on October 9, 2009


they think Metafilter doesn't qualify as "left of center"
That's just all the milk-sop liberals letting the centre collapse to the right :D
posted by Abiezer at 6:10 PM on October 9, 2009


It's well and good to say, as long as you don't put forth "crappy arguments" you're okay, but sometimes, at worst, it can feel like you put forth your feelings and experiences only to have them nitpicked and scrutinized--and, yes, that can feel unsafe.

This, yeah. It's one thing to wade into a contentious thread and say "I believe [blah blah blah] [links]" and have your argument ripped apart. It's another to say "This thing happened to me [personal anecdote]" and have other people say, no, you didn't experience that (this is a perfect example), or no, you interpreted that all wrong, your feelings on the matter are wrong. That can certainly lead to people feeling unsafe and unwelcome.

On preview - panboi, edgeways was talking at first about the Blue, but in the next graf, moves on to talking specifically about the Grey, which is, as far as I can tell, always shortened to meTa. My reading of it is that edgeways is talking about the callouts in MeTa complaining about allegedly unworthy threads in the Blue, and advising that rather than making a meTa for every dumb post on the front page, people skip those posts.
posted by rtha at 6:17 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, they were referring to avoiding threads on the blue if you take issue with them. If people are taking a pop at FPP then there's generally a good reason.

No. Edgeways was referring to threads on MetaTalk, not threads on the blue. Even if one isn't aware that "MeTa" is an oft used shortened form of the name, here's how you can tell:

"Overall, I think the Blue avoids...

I do, however, think MeTa is..."

This indicates contrast. Contrasting "the Blue" with "MeTa" makes no sense if they are one and the same.
posted by CKmtl at 6:20 PM on October 9, 2009


CKmtl nails it
posted by edgeways at 6:24 PM on October 9, 2009


No, they were referring to avoiding threads on the blue if you take issue with them. If people are taking a pop at FPP then there's generally a good reason.

No, I believe CKmtl had it correctly; the last paragraph of edgeways' comment was specifically setting off "MeTa"—the grey—from his prior defense of the blue, and complaining (defensibly, in my humble) about some of the rush-to-criticize behavior that happens over here when threads go up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:25 PM on October 9, 2009


If the next person is ready to clarify edgeways' comment, now is apparently the time on Sprockets when we do that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:26 PM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Blame it on the punk rock in my past but I like the some of the hard-edged contentiousness that goes on around here. Someone takes a ready-fire-aim approach to a topic, says something DUMB and gets eviscerated for it. Yes, it can hurt but as Conan the Barbarian said (or maybe it was Nietzsche), "That which does not destroy us, only makes us stronger." And smarter.
posted by philip-random at 6:27 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


'cept for tuberculosis
posted by edgeways at 6:33 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, if one holds certain opinions here, commenting on certain threads is like chumming for sharks. It's pretty disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

OTOH, this place has always been a bit on the contentious side. I'd say that over the years it's actually mellowed a wee bit. Mefi's not for cowards or sissies, and after the first roughing up or two a newer poster should be getting pretty inured to it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:38 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It has long been my opinion that the inability of the average user to distinguish genuine disagreement from trolling is a good yardstick for determining just how much of an echo chamber a given site is. If you are unable to discern that someone simply does not agree (with or without evidence to back it up) from someone who is tossing out broad bait in the hopes that something will rise to the surface and snap, you are not getting enough dissent in your diet.
posted by adipocere at 6:41 PM on October 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


This'll sound revoltingly Pollyanna-ish, but I actually take this bullshit seriously and try to abide by it as if it's the freakin' Girl Scout pledge:

Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.

I know I've failed to live up to that here and there, almost exclusively in MeTa and generally in pursuit of some not-even-moderately amusing flippant smarty crack rather than in an effort to hurt feelings.

It seems OK to me if people talk (relevant) shit about public figures who are the subjects of posts because that comes with the territory, and it's fine to explain dispassionately what you find problematic about fellow MeFites' behavior or how you react to it, but it's just really small and puerile to go after people you're conversing with and attack their characters. It's only happened to me a couple of times, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste no matter who's on the receiving end and often makes me take some days off to rinse and spit repeatedly.

As has been noted in the recent MeTa racism/sexism/etc. threads, it is especially disturbing when someone reports her/his direct experience and gets a snotty response amounting to "sorry, that didn't happen; you must be hallucinating again, and this makes you a bad or unreliable person."
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:41 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, MetaFilter is left of center

I don't think this is true. It's left of DC, but the US populace is left of DC. MeFi is also probably left of the US on average, but MeFi is also probably younger than the US on average. I bet MeFi is not significantly left of the sex/age/education demographic cohorts.
posted by DU at 6:46 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I doubt there are many forums that don't match their underlying demographics.
posted by smackfu at 6:50 PM on October 9, 2009


While there are always discontents, always someone who seems to thrill at questioning why a post should dare grace the Blue, for the most part, I think the folks here are pretty respectful for the most part. You always have the certain hot spots which seem to strike the rawest parts of someone's soul, for better or for worse, but its like knowing the good and bad sides of town. Spend enough time, you start recognizing the danger signs and avoid any of the unpleasantness that you might perceive (it's all subjective).
posted by Atreides at 6:51 PM on October 9, 2009


Huh. I get bonus points for using "for the most part" twice in the same sentence. For the most part, that ain't bad.
posted by Atreides at 6:51 PM on October 9, 2009


It's left of DC

Approximately 2500 miles left of DC.
posted by qvantamon at 6:56 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, if one holds certain opinions here, commenting on certain threads is like chumming for sharks. It's pretty disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

Presentation matters a great deal as far as that goes. There are people who do a good job, and people who do a not-so-good job, of broaching unconventional or less-popular lines of reasoning on the site. The folks who consistently do a good job generally get along famously. To pretend or to imply by careful omission otherwise is itself deeply disingenuous.

I agree with the general criticism that the balance of reaction and criticism for more popular vs. less popular general stances can be crappy at times. By volume I've probably been more annoyed on the site with my ideological compadres than with those with whom I disagree. And that's in part I think a reflection of that kind of failure of some folks to show sufficient thoughtfulness and restraint in an argument when they feel they are on popularly defensible ground and thus not as likely to see a backlash against a badly-played argument.

But I don't think it's a fundamentally broken balance, and I'm heartened when folks do call out bad argumentation from those they may generally agree with, and praise and encourage good arguments from folks with whom they don't. And that that can be found on mefi, even in heated situations, in among the less laudable internet chatter and folderol, is part of what makes me like this place so much.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:02 PM on October 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


feel it could do with pulling into it's own thread because

its its its ITS ITS ITS
posted by killdevil at 7:03 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


killdevil: "its its its ITS ITS ITS"

Yeah, sorry, can I blame Friday and be done with that?
posted by subbes at 7:06 PM on October 9, 2009


Yes, the apostrophe police will let you off with a warning... this time.
posted by killdevil at 7:09 PM on October 9, 2009


It's kind of interesting that when the current community is not on a single page about something, it often ends up being a verboten topic because the fights are so impassioned.
posted by smackfu at 7:15 PM on October 9, 2009


philip-random: "Yes, it can hurt but as Conan the Barbarian said (or maybe it was Nietzsche), "That which does not destroy us, only makes us stronger." And smarter."

Either that, or it makes you think "fuck this shit" and give up on participating in the site at all, leaving it to fester into even more of an echo chamber than it already is. (Just sayin'.)
posted by shammack at 7:18 PM on October 9, 2009


DU: It's left of DC, but the US populace is left of DC.

That's ridiculous, and everybody knows it. I even got out a map and checked.
posted by koeselitz at 7:21 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


But I'm worried that this is giving others a bad impression of MeFi - that it is not welcoming or safe if you disagree with the hive mind in any way - that you will be snarked at, insulted and then branded a troll if you disagree with the group consensus on anything.

This place is already full of "Look at me, I'm so sensitive!'-types, as evidenced by the torrent of Metatalk threads such as this. So I hope to Christ that it's not perceived as "safe," because that might dam up the sudden constant flow of this crud.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:27 PM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Did shetterly get banned, or did he decide to close down his account?
posted by lalex at 7:27 PM on October 9, 2009


"I've seem both liberals and conservatives get torn new assholes because they put forth crappy arguments."

There just isn't enough time for every lazy liberal argument to get gutted here, there are too many of them.

And I agree with a lot of what's been said above (but then, I would) about this place mellowing.

I also think that a lot of it comes from the idea that we should be posting things to have the community discuss them, rather than things that we find that are awesome. I don't mind mixing it up, but, say, that Oz racism thing? That was posted because the poster basically wanted to foment a controversy, and that's kind of bullshit, in my 'umble. I feel like we'd have a lot less need for discussions on what appropriate modes of discourse were if a lot of the This Is My Important Issue posts were axed.

But hey, that's me. Off to the bar.
posted by klangklangston at 7:28 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Did shetterly get banned, or did he decide to close down his account?"

That's really a class issue.
posted by klangklangston at 7:29 PM on October 9, 2009 [19 favorites]


It's funny how depending on the crowd you're speaking to one can feel a slight twing of out-ness in relation to the group or even apologetic for daring to defy the common wisdom of those you're speakng to.

As someone who self-identifies as liberal living in the south I find myself in this situation frequently. I clear my throat and say to the group of redneck country boys who I work with and who I'm mostly fond of . . . 'If they've chosen to be gay have you chosen to be straight?'

Strangely the group agrees that their view is the sensible one and that mine is clearly an outlier. They don't dislike me for my opinion they just kind of pity me for it. I can make as good an argument for any liberal view held by any member of this site and the reaction will be mostly the same.

Are these people stupid? Many of you will say yes. You would be wrong but there is not enough ink in my keyboard to explain why.

I come home and read this site and watch the group agree on what view is sensible and that user X is the outlier. The feelings of deja vous are unsettling for me. Now you say "How dare you compare the well thought out and intelligent points of view found here with that of your redneck buddies on the job site?"


I'm not smart enough to explain this here and now, maybe I'll sit down sometime soon and work out a really thoughtful explanation. For now I'll simply put it like this; everyone is in love with their perspective and it's hard to talk someone out of love.

You are not right, you don't have empirical evidence, you can't prove anything. You are alone at your monitor with your one true love.
posted by nola at 7:32 PM on October 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


Did shetterly get banned, or did he decide to close down his account?

He closed it himself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:50 PM on October 9, 2009


You are alone at your monitor with your one true love.

I can only see him when I turn it off though. Oh Romeo!
posted by carsonb at 7:53 PM on October 9, 2009


You are alone at your monitor with your one true love.

Dr. Strange is here?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:02 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really do like pie.
posted by shammack at 8:02 PM on October 9, 2009


This place is already full of "Look at me, I'm so sensitive!'-types, as evidenced by the torrent of Metatalk threads such as this.

"Giving a shit's only cool when it gives me an opportunity to be a right and proper asshole."

We get it: You couldn't give a fuck about things other people think are important. You see that sort of behavior as sanctimonious posturing. Your sensibilities are much more refined than most of the shmucks around here. We get it. What do you want, for everyone to raise their respective thresholds for taking offense to match yours? ShitheelFilter.com'd be a super-fun place to visit.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:21 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are alone at your monitor with your one true love.

Ceiling Cat? Is that you?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:22 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I come home from work. Mom has put my daughter down for a nap, Liz is still at work. "I need to get home Mark. One of my goats is sick and I'm having to give her water in a bottle or she won't drink any" I give her a kiss on the check 'thanks for watching Kit mom' moments later I find myself listening to my mother explain to me how a principle Santa Barbara Florida is going to jail because he prayed at a luncheon and the ACLU is trying to put him behind bars and . . . 'Mom, the ACLU has defended Christians in the past. Jerry Falwell for instance.' "Maybe they did that as cover for their communist agenda"

'Listen, the only real problem I can see is that everyone knows they are right and can't for even one moment consider that they really don't understand themselves or the world around them, and that makes them afraid so the find something to believe in and will not doubt for a second that it is the fucking gold standard truth'. "Mark! Please, I do not want to have my ears polluted with . . ." 'and so we're gonna end up blowing ourselves up because we can't even hear each other' She looks at me tenderly over the top of her bifocals, the way she has since I was old enough to be over the top of her bifocals and she says the same thing she has said since I was young enough to be looking up at her from under her bifocals.

"Until people repent and ask Jesus to show them what they need in their life, they are going to be unhappy." She goes on at some lenght which I could share but it never did mean much to my ears I doubt it will to your's. I can't help but notice how much older she is, how the years and the hipocondria has taken it's toll. She won't be here many more years. I'll never really share anything of myself with her. We are forever frozen away from each other close enough to touch but in these blocks of ice we might as well be light years away.

I go upstairs. I've got about an hour before the little girl wakes up, why not waste it by further frustrating myself over other people's inability to be somewhat reasonable. Or at the very least try and be the zen ones in this crazy little world.

. . .

'Fuck me' *face deep inside of palms*
posted by nola at 8:26 PM on October 9, 2009 [17 favorites]


Based on where I choose to live, I often find myself in the minority on many issues. I am pretty sure very few of my neighbors own a gun or would even consider it. But I am very welcome at home and here at Meta because I am a reasonable guy. I listen before I talk. I consider and then I tell you why you are wrong. I like this place and I think for most people who have trouble getting along on this site it is because they bring the black cloud with them. Stop harshing my mellow.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:46 PM on October 9, 2009


Glad to see so many of you here with your axes - we can have a good old fashioned grinding party!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:53 PM on October 9, 2009


The Light Fantastic: "Glad to see so many of you here with your axes - we can have a good old fashioned grinding party!"

Dude I thought we were supposed to stop it with the sexy talk

On a serious note, I like it when people post about stuff that bothers them. MetaTalk isn't running out of ink. I guess that we should all just chill and be happy and try to get along. Fighting for the sake of fighting isn't really that fun and people who like to do it, well, they should just make sure it's consensual. Consensual is good.
posted by kathrineg at 9:05 PM on October 9, 2009


> That's really a class issue.
> posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on October 9

So where's shetterly now that we want to talk about it? Oh, the unbearable irony of life.


> Or at the very least try and be the zen ones in this crazy little world.

Careful there, nola. That doesn't differ in the smallest detail from repenting and asking J. to let you glance at the roadmap.
posted by jfuller at 9:10 PM on October 9, 2009


No, it's called Best Of The Web for good reason. If I want YouTube-style comments and posts then I'll go to YouTube.

There's like, a Grand Canyone-sized gap between the two.
posted by mannequito at 9:12 PM on October 9, 2009


There just isn't enough time for every lazy liberal argument to get gutted here, there are too many of them. ...

But hey, that's me. Off to the bar.


As someone just back from the bar, I agree. There's a lot of very lazy "me too ha ha" stuff here that gets old well before the eighteenth time you read it.

That said, though, the "don't be an asshole" suggestion remains a good one. Part of not being an asshole is realizing that just because it's a community-wide in-joke, or it's an opinion shared by many, doesn't actually require you to repeat it. (For example, I'd happily never again read one of those 'Metafilter: xyz' posts. That's pure lazy shite, not worth the half second it takes me to skim past it.)
posted by Forktine at 10:08 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


metafilter: pure lazy shite, not worth the half second it takes me to skim past it






sorry, I had to do that. but never again. I shall never preface a post with 'Metafilter:' ever again, even if sorely tempted.
posted by philip-random at 10:28 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


A lot of people here make me feel flames on the side on the side of my face, but ultimately I respect and welcome anyone who stands up for themself, is respectful, and does the bulk of their thinking on any given topic outside of a thread, instead of thinking out loud in the middle of it. Which is also a standard I try to hold myself to these days, and I've come a long way (I think).
posted by hermitosis at 11:26 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


OTOH, this place has always been a bit on the contentious side. I'd say that over the years it's actually mellowed a wee bit. Mefi's not for cowards or sissies, and after the first roughing up or two a newer poster should be getting pretty inured to it.

The "filter" in MetaFilter applies to users as well as links.

Which really is just as well, 'cause this place would melt down if all 80000 users were actively posting.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 PM on October 9, 2009



Glad to see so many of you here with your axes - we can have a good old fashioned grinding party!


*Looks down at knife; slinks away, dejectedly.*

I think sometimes we take for granted how reasonable and well rounded the discourse is here. There are some very intelligent, formidable people that post regularly, experts on a wide array of topics. There are some who are incredibly witty and funny, that keep things light and accessible. There are in-jokes, sure, but I don't necessarily think that that is a bad thing - they are kept to a level that suggests camaraderie and a sense of community cohesion without making things completely opaque to outsiders. If someone is being a jerk, they are quickly called on it - either by other posters in thread or the mods.

And we are constantly questioning and adjusting, to ensure that we are considering opposing viewpoints and making sure people feel included.

In fact, if there's anything that keeps people from entering the discussion, it's not the fact that their viewpoint is different or controversial, but that as a whole, compared with other forums, Metafilter can be generally intimidating. I have had people who would love to join and post suggest to me that they simply don't feel like they're smart enough to do so, to which I respond "Um, look at who you're talking to. If I can do it..? I mean, really. "
posted by louche mustachio at 12:01 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of HURF DURF REPUGLICANS comments. I can't stand sites that revel in that crap against either party. Metafilter's idiotic comments are heavily biased against conservatives.

To be fair, MeFi "grew up" during Bush's reign of error. It's going to take some time and love for the community to heal from that experience. And it's not like the Republican Party is making it any easier for anyone to get over it. In fact, it's like they keep ripping the fucking scab back off.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


philip-random: "Yes, it can hurt but as Conan the Barbarian said (or maybe it was Nietzsche), "That which does not destroy us, only makes us stronger." And smarter."
Either that, or it makes you think "fuck this shit" and give up on participating in the site at all, leaving it to fester into even more of an echo chamber than it already is. (Just sayin'.)


When I read this sort of argument I think to myself, "If you give up so easily, what do we lose, really?" (Just sayin'.)
posted by five fresh fish at 12:13 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think SeizeTheDay has it, with the double standard. And it's one of the reasons I don't post more often in political threads. Liberal one-liners and witticisms and silliness is perfectly acceptable, but conservatives must always back up what they say and defend it thoroughly.

It's not the most welcoming environment in the world, no. But as has also been said above, it's a heck of a lot better than most places on the internet. The reason I keep coming back here - where I hesitate to comment about political issues because I will likely be grilled about my views and my sources and their accuracy - is because Metafilter is still twenty times better than the scum I would find at a more conservatively oriented site.

I don't want to surround myself with opinions like my own. And if that means that I get to read some glib one-liners about conservatives or religion or God or whatever along with the discussion, I don't mind. I laugh at them, too.
posted by po at 12:35 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter is very middle-class liberal. That's very, very different from being "left".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:40 AM on October 10, 2009 [18 favorites]


I'm probably in a lonely minority here, but MetaFilter is the only web community I've ever belonged to (I know, I'm hopeless, I'm just not so very computer oriented--this 6 month old machine is the first computer I've owned since university way on back in the day) so I don't have anything to compare it to. Even in my limited experience, MetaFilter seems like a pretty fair and balanced place though (and I don't mean that in a Fox News sort of way).

I think many of the people on this site are delightful, and I'm amazed at the depth of expertise here, especially in AskMe. I usually enjoy reading the comments, and generally enjoy the explosive snarkfests that sometimes erupt. Things do sometimes seem a bit cliquey, however, and this can be somewhat discouraging. I'm also not really comfortable with many users' stated practice of compiling dossiers on other users, and judging all further comments blindly. Just because someone has some views you disagree with doesn't make everything that they write totally unworthy of consideration. Overall, I'd like to think that we can disagree politically, and still find common ground on a personal level.
posted by Go Banana at 12:50 AM on October 10, 2009


I shall never preface a post with 'Metafilter:' ever again, even if sorely tempted.

I've made that public promise in the past myself.

Never kept it, mind.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:07 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think sometimes we take for granted how reasonable and well rounded the discourse is here.

I agree. But in my case, all it takes is ten minutes on just about any other forum anywhere online before I'm back here, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a freshly renewed wellspring of gratitude and enthusiasm.

...as a whole, compared with other forums, Metafilter can be generally intimidating. I have had people who would love to join and post suggest to me that they simply don't feel like they're smart enough to do so...

I hear that. MetaFilter is full of amazing people, many of whom are used to being among the smartest in the room, and that makes it both challenging and joyful. I've scrapped many a painstakingly-written post or comment after reviewing it and realizing it just isn't up to MetaFilter standards (or my own internalized idea of them, anyway).

But at the same time, I love MetaFilter's high standards. Keeping company with such brilliant people brings out the best in me. The environment here encourages me to think deeply, frame my arguments effectively, choose my words judiciously, carefully consider how my words will be received by the community, and examine things from various angles. Even when I fail to live up to these standards, though, there is great value in trying to do so.
posted by velvet winter at 2:26 AM on October 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Jam a bastard in it, you crap

Mom, is that you? Just kidding.

I agree with the observation that minority opinions are held to a higher level of scrutiny. I also think MetaFilter handles that better than just about any public forum, with the understanding that this isn't saying much.

differing opinions are part of what makes for good discussion

I'm not sure I believe that, especially within contentious posts involving politics or religion or racism. Very often it makes for a lot of discussion, but most people don't handle having their viewpoints challenged very well. A lot of times I see most people being pretty friendly until someone appears disingenuous or refuses to back up their viewpoint. At that point the gloves might come off, which I think is mostly a consequence of anonymity on the internet. Maybe we could handle that better, but I can't really get worked up about it. People can be assholes, but at least it discourages intellectual dishonesty.

Is it something we should want to change?

I can't really think of a way we can affect the frequency of new members blindly wading into a thread with an opinion that will be challenged. Or even old members who do so with regularity with no intention of defending their viewpoint. The first don't know better and the latter don't care. So the only thing left to change would be peoples' reactions to the two groups, which... is possible but unlikely, probably.
posted by empyrean at 3:25 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think we do an ok job, but I think there's room for improvement. We won't ever be able to change the way people judge their own comments or their particular style of argumentation, so I think the only way to actually change the shape of discussions is through a change in moderation style -- moderators who work with a heavier hand, and who are only moderators and not straddling the moderator/commenter roles (because sometimes it's hard to tell if they are speaking as moderators or commenters). But I'm not sure I would like that approach.
posted by Houstonian at 4:24 AM on October 10, 2009


it's called Best Of The Web for good reason.
Actually, it's not.

This place is as welcoming as it needs to be. This should be obvious from the constantly climbing user numbers and from how many with low numbers are still around.
posted by dg at 5:21 AM on October 10, 2009


MetaFilter: We don't have to listen to you; you have to listen to us.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 5:25 AM on October 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I, for one, welcome varying opinions but I will steam-fry your liver for lunch and sauté your toes for dinner if you dare defend reagan.

now please excuse me, I have some ears in the oven.
posted by krautland at 5:46 AM on October 10, 2009


I think one of the important sub-issues here is whether or not the MeFi community feels like it needs to be welcoming. There's a certain sense of the free-roaming snark being a feature, not a bug, which leads to a general "if you can't take the snark get out of the MeFi" kind of thing.

Some people who have interesting things to share (whether links or comments or questions) may not be able to take the snark. By insisting that the contentiousness is inherent to the site and that it's, for better or worse, unchangeable - and furthermore, as some users would have it, it's necessary - we're cutting ourselves off from a lot of people who might otherwise post in here.

The "community" aspect of MetaFilter as an "internet community" is amazing. I love meetups so much that I regularly trek over an hour to get to them. Still, there's a sense of induction into the community - a sort of "you have proven yourself and been found worthy" quality to enduring the snark.

Now, I love snark. I've participated in plenty of it. But I have to say, it gets old. Recently, I took a few weeks off from MetaFilter and part of that was that I honestly didn't have the time to check in, but most of it was that the snark had become exhausting. Even to me, who has been here for four years.

I wonder if I was a new member signing up now if I would even bother to post. Especially since the atmosphere leans towards the view that you should expect to get chewed up and spat back out again and if you can't handle that, you should go back to looking at LOLcats.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:49 AM on October 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


Even to me, who has been here for four years.
Newbie ;-)
posted by dg at 5:57 AM on October 10, 2009


Did I say four? Holy crap, it's been FIVE years. Christ on toast.

And that's $5n00b to you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:51 AM on October 10, 2009


I'd like a zero-tolerance policy on hate speech like cunt/gash/sweater puppies. And a cessation of the "no you did not experience sexism/racism/t-shirts/etc. because I say so" invalidation arguments that, for example, EmpressCallipygos was dealing with in the rape thread. Overall there's been some good consciousness-raising to be proud of around here, though.

In the general annoyance category, more active moderation of lazy repetition like Metafilter: "XYZ" and "You know who else. . ." would definitely improve my reading experience.
posted by Marnie at 7:08 AM on October 10, 2009


I'm not the fighty type to begin with, but meeting mefites in person does wonders for being mindful of what you say. I've come home from meetups and combed my past comments to make sure I haven't been snarky anyone I've just met. (And if I have, please let me know.) I wish more people would attend meetups; I think the discourse here would improve tenfold. (also, adamdschneider put it well.)
posted by desjardins at 7:09 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


snarky TO anyone
posted by desjardins at 7:10 AM on October 10, 2009


Computer users are young. Liberals are young. It's not much more complicated than that. Will be interesting as the computer users get older.

Computer user here. Liberal* here. Young? Heh... No. And getting older. Interesting yet?

*for want of a better term
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:45 AM on October 10, 2009


In the general annoyance category, more active moderation of lazy repetition like Metafilter: "XYZ" and "You know who else. . ." would definitely improve my reading experience.

I recommend not relying on the moderators to improve your 'reading experience.'
posted by carsonb at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Computer users are young. Liberals are young. It's not much more complicated than that. Will be interesting as the computer users get older.

What.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:49 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Recently, I took a few weeks off from MetaFilter and part of that was that I honestly didn't have the time to check in, but most of it was that the snark had become exhausting.

In general I think it's good to take some time from Metafilter every now and then. It clears the head, you get things done, get different perspectives, new experiences, etc, etc.

It's an open marriage thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 AM on October 10, 2009


What the hell do you know about open marriages?
posted by gman at 8:02 AM on October 10, 2009


Poor shetterly just got piled-on for pushing a practically communist view of racism. Heck, even jessamyn got in a kick.

One reason I forgive MeFi the pileons, the dismissiveness, the petty scolding, etc., is because it's usually pretty good about giving someone a hand up and dust off afterwards. Shetterly didn't get a great hand up, but he should have stepped away from the meef earlier (e.g. when he said he was going to).

(Though sometimes I get disturbed at the cothreads that arise when someone's getting a drubbing. I get an image of a family sitting in the living room talking loudly about what's on TV in order to drown out the sounds crying from the bedroom, to pretend it isn't happening. Gosh kids isn't that Dr. Strange just nifty? Anybody want some pie?)

In the other case, divabat felt unsafe but I don't quite understand it, as there were plenty of people in that thread who were taking the same side. To my eyes, it looked more like a call for an airstrike. "Battlestations, everyone! The people-we're-labeling-as-racists are fighting back!"

I think MeFi is doing okay. Except for the racism and sexism discussions, which are a bit 1990 small liberal arts college. And languagehat being stuck on permanent jerk mode. Something has to be done about languagehat. To the hugmobile!
posted by fleacircus at 8:05 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Poor shetterly just got piled-on for pushing a practically communist view of racism. Heck, even jessamyn got in a kick.

I don't think this is accurate. Shetterly got piled on for pushing that view of racism every time the subject of racism came up, and because shetterly's defense of that viewpoint tended to get super-shrill and accusatory. Almost everybody said they agreed with his assessment, but it gets a bit annoying to have a guy show up in every thread about racism and say BUT YOU GUYS IT'S ABOUT RACE AND CLASS and then make it all about class. I tried, for the most part, to be civil about this, but was either ignored or scolded by shetterly for doing so.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:10 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Computer users are young. Liberals are young. It's not much more complicated than that.

This is one of the few online communities I'm in where I'm not the oldest member.

That said, there is, as everywhere, a tendency to homogenize opinion by making it safer to agree with the hive. However, it's refreshing that certain arguments don't have to be refought all the time. Diversity on certain core issues (e.g. whether the world is round) just means that we'd never get on to discuss more interesting matters. Communication, after all, must start with certain shared premises. I'd rather discuss whether Obama should get a Nobel peace prize without first needing to establish if he was born in this country or if he's a socialist.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:12 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bullshit. Doing this in the face of certain belligerent dicks will still get you called this kind of abuse.


Ouch, felix betachat! Krautland was being a jerk and had he simply written his little diatribe, it would have been easy to dismiss. It was the fact that he got so many favorites that made it so infuriating. Another example of why we either need to get rid of favorites or else have negatives to balance them out. It is far easier to click a button than it is to write a comment, which means sometimes people favorite too lightly. They may not agree whole-heartedly with what is written; they may just be amused, or applaud the form, or agree with part of the sentiment expressed. The end result is the same-- it feels like not only is Krautland being a jerk but he has the support of 12 other members behind him.

in my case, all it takes is ten minutes on just about any other forum anywhere online before I'm back here, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a freshly renewed wellspring of gratitude and enthusiasm.

This is my experience as well. We demand proper grammar and punctuation usage from all members, for one thing. We are also quick to point out "noise," derailments, and logical fallacies. Our high standards may be too high for some, but it makes for better overall discussions.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:15 AM on October 10, 2009


Poor shetterly just got piled-on for pushing a practically communist view of racism.

There was also the issue of the unfair arguing tactics -- putting words in people's mouths, accusing them of blaming things on racism only because they couldn't let go of their greatest love, capitalismmmmmmwa!, etc.

That said, I do feel bad that his last act on the website -- for now, anyway -- was telling me to look up a word in the dictionary. He must have been pretty irritated by then.
posted by palliser at 8:19 AM on October 10, 2009


We demand proper grammar and punctuation usage from all members, for one thing.

Do we? I didn't see that in the FAQ. I've always thought is actually one of the most unwelcoming aspects of the site that underscores many members' cultural elitist leanings. Hopefully new members with interesting backgrounds who may struggle in this area aren't scared off by this unfortunate attitude.
posted by The Straightener at 8:26 AM on October 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


Heck, even jessamyn got in a kick.

That's a good example of what I was trying to say about trying to discern the moderator versus the commenter. In that case, shetterly said, "Yay! I never have to post again!" and this was the moderator/commenter reply. Was that the moderator? Or just a comment from just another Mefite? Not picking on any moderator at all, but I was also wondering the same when bunnycup's dead child was mentioned, and when Hovercraft Eel's background was brought up. I think it makes a big difference in how conversations are shaped and the amount of support the comments receive, but I don't know of a way to tell automatically.
posted by Houstonian at 8:38 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


We demand proper grammar and punctuation usage from all members, for one thing.

No, the small minded and relentlessly anal got about nitpicking to assuage their own narrow viewpoints, thus letting others know who not to invite to the secret bacon and chocolate parties.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:49 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


(also, adamdschneider put it well.)

I actually can't imagine what would make me flameout in the first place, but if I ever wanted to, the face time I've gotten with users here would stop me, no doubt. I've actually suggested at least once via MeMail to someone I was having it out with that they should come to a meetup and we could get to know each other because I felt that would decrease the hostility markedly, but to no avail. Alas.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:13 AM on October 10, 2009


I was also wondering the same when bunnycup's dead child was mentioned, and when Hovercraft Eel's background was brought up.

And klangklangton's background. Not sure what has brought about this trend, but I don't like it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:13 AM on October 10, 2009


I think velvet winter nailed it eloquently.

I've been using network discussion forums since 1986. Anyone who thinks MeFi is a tough, harsh, mean place is speaking from lack of experience. I assert that any communities that are "easier" than MeFi are communities with draconian moderation and, thus, a lack of diversity.

Kudos to MeFi mods for their adroit work.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


However, it's refreshing that certain arguments don't have to be refought all the time. Diversity on certain core issues (e.g. whether the world is round) just means that we'd never get on to discuss more interesting matters. Communication, after all, must start with certain shared premises.

Speaking of which, where do we stand on contrails?
posted by philip-random at 9:27 AM on October 10, 2009


Shetterly didn't get a great hand up, but he should have stepped away from the meef earlier (e.g. when he said he was going to).

Dude had such a habit of "stepping away now...okay I'm back but now I'm stepping away...okay I'm back!" that it was parodied and self-parodied back when he was a regular on BoingBoing instead of over here (the Violet Blue thing was the transition point). Another one of those long-running and kind of tiring behavioral tics that doesn't necessarily jump out to folks newly encountering him but was frustrating to behold from someone who'd been paying attention to how he interacted with the site.

He's mentioned elsewhere trying to just eliminate internetly distractions so he can focus on his writing work, so hopefully stepping away in a more enforceable way from Metafilter helps him there, all else aside.

(Though sometimes I get disturbed at the cothreads that arise when someone's getting a drubbing. I get an image of a family sitting in the living room talking loudly about what's on TV in order to drown out the sounds crying from the bedroom, to pretend it isn't happening. Gosh kids isn't that Dr. Strange just nifty? Anybody want some pie?)

I don't think it's generally a reaction to a drubbing so much as a reaction to an argument that's going on too long or going nowhere good, really; one of the less flattering things I can say about metafilter is sometimes a genuine drubbing is something folks will tune into a little too keenly.

But talk of pie or the seizing upon of a tangent to have a separate discussion seems like it's generally an end-run attempt to just move away from a bad discussion in general, and while I don't think it's a perfect approach and worry about it being obnoxious in its own right, I think a brisk discussion of pecan vs. meringue is worlds better than attempting to end an argument by going all volcano on someone at least 99% of the time. If it's "Pie!" vs "FUUUCK YOOOOOUU", I prefer pie.

I think it makes a big difference in how conversations are shaped and the amount of support the comments receive, but I don't know of a way to tell automatically.

We try to keep it pretty clear when we can. Most of the time, that's not too much of a challenge; sometimes, when there's the intersection of a lot of userland and admin-and-user interaction history, it gets muddy, because addressing something that's been problematic from a mod side without hitting some notes informed specifically by our kind of unique experiences on the site can be tricky.

Yesterday was a hell of a day on the site. I'm glad in a load-balancing sense that it waited for me to be home so I could try and help with some of it, but at that Jessamyn has been working a crazy, crazy month to make it possible for me to go on my whole cross-country adventure and neither she (exhausted) or I (rusty) were likely to be at the top of our games. And when we're not at the top of our games, managing that blurry line effectively can get a little trickier.

We're users; we love this place, and we've been here forever, and being able to participate in the conversations here in a casual userland sense is one of the not just perks but outright requirements of our employment here, I think it's safe to say. That that conflicts with moderation stuff sometimes is a challenge and one we're generally pretty deeply aware of, but at times and despite our best efforts it is going to be kind of swampy navigating between the two. Hearing when something is a little confusing or seems to come off as not a great execution of that sort of thing is fine and useful, because we may occasionally hit a blind spot. I don't think there's really any pat answer available on the subject; it's something we're sensitive to and have to struggle with sometimes, but it's kind of a natural product of the way things work here and how our roles as mods work, not something that could be easily snipped out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:29 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd like to refer everyone back to FishBike's excellent advice. I believe that following these suggestions would prevent about 80% of the nastiness that occasionally flares up around here.

To that I would add: be your own most ruthless editor. Cool it with the itchy trigger finger and re-read what you're about to post. Is it possible to misinterpret your statement? Rest assured it will be, so re-write the damn thing to make it unambiguous. Are you indulging in hyperbole? Unless it's clearly in jest, your over-the-top words will be an irresistible target for the machine guns of snark.

I think that's what happened here, with the unfortunate choice of words ("unsafe" instead of "unwelcoming"). MeFites tend to be a bunch of literal-minded "word nerds", with a large contingent of socially inept geeks with thick skins (*raises hand*), and we gleefully shoot down the lamest quarry. This is a tough crowd to write for - a logical misstep or the merest whiff of emo are like blood in the water, so try to keep your writing crystal clear and dispassionate.

That's for the mechanics of writing for MeFi. For the mindset, read FishBike's post again.
posted by Quietgal at 9:31 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Giving a shit's only cool when it gives me an opportunity to be a right and proper asshole."

I feel your indignation. You are so sensitive, so alarmed by verbal injustice that you can't help but be some 90's-era stereotype of the PC soft-left. Truly, you are the arbiter of acceptable discourse.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2009


Shetterly got piled on for pushing that view of racism every time the subject of racism came up,

I meant to phrase it as: even though shetterly's views are par for MeFi's course, he got piled on for pushing them.

That's a good example of what I was trying to say about trying to discern the moderator versus the commenter.

Looking back, maybe I misread it and jessamyn was yay-ing at something else. Anyway I think the gray area (nyuk) between moderator and user is something in MeFi's favor. One reason I like it is that it discourages the fuckoes gaming the moderator system, starting ridiculous arguments over minuscule points of policy, staging big dramatic walkouts, etc. It encourages a bit more personal responsibility, I think. Compare to Wikipedia which has massively detailed and well defined policies and has a disingenuous turdball factor of what, 98%?
posted by fleacircus at 9:55 AM on October 10, 2009


I've been trying to reign in my snark lately, to an extent. It's sort of the lingua franca of the Web, and it can be damned useful sometimes, but I have found when you toss a snarky comment off in response to another user -- especially one who is offering an honest and unsnarky viewpoint, that it's sometimes like putting a tingerbox in a fire and then rolling that into a fireworks factory and then setting of a dirty bomb on top of it. People participate in a forum expecting that others may disagree with them. They don't participate expecting to be ridiculed, and often, if your on the receiving end of an especially snarky retort, that's what feels like just happened.

Of course, there are trolls out there, and people for whom argument is just a game of one-upmanship, and they'll try every devious tactic and every solipsistic rhetorical technique they can muster, and won't listen to reasoned responses, and respond to any questioning of their points with hostility and ridicule. But I tend to assume, because somebody makes a bad argument, that this is exactly what they're doing, and immediately draw my pistols and start firing. I guess I'm just amazed that people make bad or uninformed arguments, and assume they are doing it deliberately. I don't know why I would assume this. I make bad or uninformed arguments all the time, and think they're perfectly good, and invite them over for tea and go to the box social with them and ride a bicycle with them on my handlebars and B.J. Thomas singing, and only later discover what a fool I've been.

So I'm trying to assume that people are honest brokers until it becomes obvious that they are not. I don't succeed all the time. When you've spent years training your gun arm to reach for your pistol, it just goes there sometimes, reflexively. But snark is a technique for stopping a discussion, not forwarding it, so I'm really trying to hang those guns up until I really need them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:00 AM on October 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


> And klangklangton's background.

Huh? She didn't mention anything about klang's family or personal life or whatever, she just pointed out that he was frequently sounding like a jerk and should try to do it less often. Good advice.

> I feel your indignation. You are so sensitive, so alarmed by verbal injustice that you can't help but be some 90's-era stereotype of the PC soft-left. Truly, you are the arbiter of acceptable discourse.

Your shtick is not nearly as fresh and hilarious out here as it is inside your head.
posted by languagehat at 10:05 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Self righteous pitchfork weilding FTW. Everyone give themselves a big clap on the back for solving racism by hounding someone from the site.
posted by Artw at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been interacting with Shetterly online since the days of USENET, so off and on for nearly twenty years. He can dish it out, and he can take it when it's sent his way. You can only be hounded if you continue to comeback for more. I see more exasperation than hounding.

Also, he'll either be back or he won't. He signed up like everyone else and can make his own determination as to whether the site is meeting his needs.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:18 AM on October 10, 2009


"If you give up so easily, what do we lose, really?"

If you value diversity, create an environment that values the expression of different world views over the ability to throw a fierce elbow.

If you don't value diversity, there are other, more monocultural, websites that will likely suit you better.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2009


A couple months ago I set up a Snark-less week challenge for myself. Here were my rules: No sarcasm. No snappy comebacks. No fucking with people. And if I catch myself doing these things, $1 for every infraction. If the week ends under $10, I’ll buy myself something. If its over $10, I’ll give it away.

I was pretty good for that week, and actually stayed under $10, based on what I was aware of. There may have been snarky comments or behavior that I didn't count. But for the most part I was pretty diligent about sticking to the goal. However, the interesting part was that I realized that I had to significantly adjust my behavior. Especially on the internet. I couldn't even tell you how many times that I started to write a sentence, and then realized I was going against my goal for the sake of a cheap, not-so-funny joke, and ended up closing the window or forcing myself to move on. That in itself was pretty enlightening. But I think the best part was that by the end of the week, I felt pretty good about myself. Maybe that was part self-righteousness, and if so, I hope that it would wear off over time. But regardless, the feeling has inspired me to try to be less snarky all the time, just for the hell of it. And I am usually reminded of this personal challenge, especially at moments where I start typing less than sincere lines of thought.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:50 AM on October 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Self righteous pitchfork weilding FTW. Everyone give themselves a big clap on the back for solving racism by hounding someone from the site.

I don't think Shetterly's stance on racism was the problem here, though. I swear this is the last time I will fall back on this instantly ancient reference, but it was getting to the point that no matter what anyone else said, you had Shetterly snatching the mic away to declare, "But classism is the worst racism of all time! OF ALL TIME!!!" Honestly, the issue isn't whether he's right or wrong or kinda right and kinda wrong or whatever, it's that someone who basically ignores all conversation to keep pounding the same note on the same drum because oh my god if i say it one more time then maybe everybody will finally HEAR ME!! is just kinda tedious and obnoxious and, frankly, pretty rude to all the other people who are actually engaging in interactive back-and-forth discussion.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:18 AM on October 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you value diversity, create an environment that values the expression of different world views over the ability to throw a fierce elbow.

Okay, hockey analogy embraced: elbowing is against the rules (2 minute minor, worse if there's intent to injure) ... but a good clean open ice hit is completely legal, and entirely avoidable if you keep your head up.

In other words, this ain't badminton we're playing here.
posted by philip-random at 11:26 AM on October 10, 2009


What's wrong with badminton?
posted by small_ruminant at 11:30 AM on October 10, 2009


It's for the birdies.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:36 AM on October 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I never thought anyone would imply that I'm too much of a capitalist! It was like Christmas in October, I laughed my ass off. One of Shetterly's best moments.
posted by kathrineg at 11:41 AM on October 10, 2009


Yeah, the end-of-thread derailing is something about which I have ambiguous feelings.

It feels exclusionary towards people who don't really read and respond to threads in real time. For you, it has been hours (or even days) since that heartfelt, meaningful discussion up there in the middle of the thread. For someone else, it's been minutes, and it feel jarring as hell. It also discourages participation from latecomers.
posted by kathrineg at 11:44 AM on October 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


Computer users are young. Liberals are young.
With all due respect; you sir, are full of shit.
posted by adamvasco at 12:03 PM on October 10, 2009


Well, there are definitely some people who pay lip service to the value of diversity of opinion, but what they want and sometimes demand is an affirmation, not a conversation. eg: certain obit threads. That being said, this is not unique to MeFi, but I've never spent time on any sites with a greater degree of ideological homogeneity (though I know they're out there) so I'm used to a bit more free ranging debate, more willingness to explore points raised than glossing over complexity to serve some PSA.

I don't buy the safety angle, though. Some people are threatened by anything. If you don't feel safe expressing your opinions on the internet, where do you?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:18 PM on October 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


What sites do you spend time on where there is more debate?
posted by kathrineg at 12:19 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do we? I didn't see that in the FAQ. I've always thought is actually one of the most unwelcoming aspects of the site that underscores many members' cultural elitist leanings

@ The Straightener, oh i garentee u if start writing yr comments like this yr going to catch some flack

"cultural elitest leanings" dont make me fuckin laff

Secret Life of Gravy
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:33 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


shetterly's entire schtick, on and off MeFi, is basically "Hey, stop talking about race and start talking about class" as if the two weren't completely intertwined. I'm not sure I'm sad that that will be missing in every future thread about racism that shetterly would've noticed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:11 PM on October 10, 2009


Let me explain a little bit, from my viewpoint, about why I started this thread.

I like MeFi. I like MeFites. Especially those of you I've met, or talked to.

And I've recommended it to others, some of whom have signed up. Last night I was having a discussion with one of these people, and they said that they're scared to post a comment (especially if they disagree with the main opinion of the comment thread) because they expect to get their (metaphorical) head ripped off. To which I was going to respond with the boilerplate examples of cases where we all came together as a community, maybe a suggestion that it was confirmation bias, that they were overly sensitive, or a suggestion that they flag it and move on. But I had a hard time doing that.

Maybe this is a function of the current hairball of racism threads. Maybe it's because I am looking at it more closely now, from the point of view of a newer user rather than as someone who knows the nuances of who is who and why they cut off their hands. I had to concede:

MeFi can be scary to new users. It's a community of incredibly smart and coherent folks, and if you are not expecting to have your comments taken to pieces, that's a rude awakening. It still is scary to me, so I generally avoid posting seriously on things I really care about on the blue or grey, in case I'm told in 5-paragraph detail just how wrong I am and why I'm a bad person for being so wrong*.


Which, you know, par for the course and all, fast-moving, intelligent web site/community, you have to be prepared to back up what you say and think about what you're saying. But has it gotten worse? Or was I just ignoring it?


I don't know what I want to come out of this thread. I do know that I definitely don't want everyone to decide that we (or I) need coddling, or are sensitive special snowflakes. Maybe, perhaps, I would just like for everyone to consider taking a deep breath before pressing "Post Comment," to think that there is another person on the other side of the interactions we're having, to assume good faith, and behave in good faith. Even if only for a couple of days, as an experiment.

* Hyperbole, mostly.
posted by subbes at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2009


Jeez, can we stop talking about the guy already? His account has been closed since last night.
posted by desjardins at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2009


erm, that comment was directed at Pope Guilty, not subbes.
posted by desjardins at 1:23 PM on October 10, 2009


P.S. I am the person who decreed that thread to be "now about pie" and it was because I was concerned the thread was drifting towards shetterly-pitchforks, or a shouting match with no outcome in sight. I'm still not sure if that was a good call to have made, and to those that tried to make original topic points after I decreed pie, I apologize.
posted by subbes at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2009


@secrit live of gravey:

lol, youve changd my commmeting stile forevar!!! i now c dat grammer n capz r da toolz of r classs-bassed opppresserz. down wit da grammer natzis!! power 2 da ppl!!

-dbl blok n bled


lol my gawd!! writen lik dis iz fukkin hard! Dis takes g8 effert 2 do! lol
posted by double block and bleed at 2:36 PM on October 10, 2009


*fears that The Straightener has started a horrendous meme*
posted by Kwine at 3:05 PM on October 10, 2009


But has it gotten worse? Or was I just ignoring it?

No, I think it's gotten worse. A friend of mine who is mostly a lurker (questionsandanchors) and I were talking about this recently and we felt that the tone really HAS gone a notch further up on the snark-o-meter. The hair trigger for a lot of people who seem to wait by their keyboards with a can of whoopass* has gotten ever thinner. Perhaps this is a function of more users = more volume, and if all of the volume is being generated by people with, um, strong opinions...

Well, that's my generous reading of it. Or we could just be becoming a bunch of jerks.

* Not a literal can.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:10 PM on October 10, 2009


No, I am a special snowflake and need coddling. Thank you for your cooperation!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:10 PM on October 10, 2009


I read the first 50 or so posts here and have given up and I’m just going to comment.

If you want to add an item to the list of topics with which it is forbidden to disagree, consider the contention that transgender issues are gay issues and vice-versa, and (corollary) if there is a discussion between an indisputably transgender issue and a gay issue, the transgender issue is more important and is actually a truer and fuller example of a gay issue. (Both of these things can’t be true at once.) I especially dislike it when people attempt to camouflage a discussion of how badly treated transgender people are (a perennial hobbyhorse) as something else, which really happened in a relatively recent thread.

Of course in a free society and in a mature discussion forum like this one, it is permissible without qualification to hold the foregoing views. What I get upset about is being shouted down as some kind of phobe for expressing the view that transgender simply does not equal gay, transgender is not more imporant than gay, gay is not some kind of alternative transgender, gays are not transgender, or any similar heresy.

Most of you are Americans and to put it in American terms, conservatives and Republicans would simply dispute transgenderists’ right to exist (they’d like them medicated out of existence), whereas “progressives” or Democrats would either be uncomfortable or just support the theme and its variations 100%. I’m not American and I don’t view things according to the American Republican/Democrat divide, but people treat me like a Republican who’s trying to commit some kind of atrocity against transgenderists.

Any suggestion that the equivalency of transgender and gay might be false or simply isn’t something everyone agrees with, or that the (instrinsically contradictory) supremacy of transgender over gay might be false or disputed, is shot down immediately by a standing coterie of transgender supporters who can detect a milligram of leaden dissent hidden inside a mountain of iron ore.

MetaFilter is an unwelcoming environment for anyone who disagrees with some forms of transgender orthodoxy.
posted by joeclark at 3:18 PM on October 10, 2009


I think the largest problem is when one party is not arguing in good faith, or is not believed to be arguing in good faith. That's when the insults start coming out, generally.
posted by empath at 3:34 PM on October 10, 2009


joeclark: The sad thing is that for transgender folk, most of the world is an unwelcoming environment.

Thanks for pointing out MeFi's issues with this, but as far as contentious topics go, this one (unlike cat de-clawing) is fairly universal.

(I say this as a trans-ally who has lived with trans-folk. I'm all in solidarity with the greater struggle and all that, and yeah, this is not something that MeFi is uniquely bad at.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:37 PM on October 10, 2009


joeclark: "Any suggestion that the equivalency of transgender and gay might be false or simply isn’t something everyone agrees with, or that the (instrinsically contradictory) supremacy of transgender over gay might be false or disputed, is shot down immediately by a standing coterie of transgender supporters who can detect a milligram of leaden dissent hidden inside a mountain of iron ore."

I have a lot of interest in these issues and haven't noticed this--maybe I missed the discussion. Care to link to something that will illuminate what you mean?
posted by kathrineg at 3:37 PM on October 10, 2009


I could get into a fight with joeclark -I knew who'd written the comment before I finished the first line - but been there, done that, and we are in fact making pie today. Nectarine blueberry, in fact. I know which thing is better and will make me happier.
posted by rtha at 3:40 PM on October 10, 2009


kathrineg, joeclark is probably referring to these. You did not participate in these discussions. In fact, I see that you've only participated in two discussions that mention transgender, and only one that was about transgender. Is your interest a new one, an increasing one, or feigned?
posted by Houstonian at 4:17 PM on October 10, 2009


Houstonian, you've never participated in a discussion on MetaFilter about my comment history. Is your interest a new one, an increasing one, or feigned?
posted by kathrineg at 4:23 PM on October 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


Somewhat feigned, but it's exactly that snark that we are talking about. You are not interested in a respectful dialogue with joeclark about his beliefs. You are interested in making a comment with plausible deniability, in an attempt to draw him out so you can attack. It is exactly that behavior that is being discussed here: Fighty, snarky, corrosive, and unwelcoming.
posted by Houstonian at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2009


- In fact, I see that you've only participated in two discussions that mention transgender, and only one that was about transgender. Is your interest a new one, an increasing one, or feigned?

-- Houstonian, you've never participated in a discussion on MetaFilter about my comment history. Is your interest a new one, an increasing one, or feigned?


This is exactly the kind of unnecessary bickering that will escalate into snark, and it generally will scare off the quieter/newer/more shy members. Y'all aren't upset with each other. It's just been a rough coupla days here.

I miss the schmoopy.
posted by runningwithscissors at 4:34 PM on October 10, 2009


In fact, I see that you've only participated in two discussions that mention transgender, and only one that was about transgender. Is your interest a new one, an increasing one, or feigned?

See my comment above about people assuming that others are arguing in bad faith. Don't be a dick.
posted by empath at 4:39 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this is the right place to address my own question with katherineg regarding the "Where are you from" AskMe: what specifically is eating at you to tear apart my comment about my own experience into a derail about cultural sensitivity?

This is exactly, as Houstonian is point out, the kind of thing that keeps people from posting. I put in a response from my own experiences and was immediately told that I was disregarding the experiences of others. I was never intending to speak for anybody other than myself, and reading me as making a larger statement is rather absurd in that context. This is also the kind of thing that kept me from posting for a while. It's EXHAUSTING to defend every single comment that you make.

Why do you feel like my comment needed to encompass more than my own experience?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:41 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you really know what I was interested in, why did you bother to ask? Go bait someone else.
posted by kathrineg at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2009


You are right. kathering has been under my skin since she flew into a conversation this month to tell someone they lack imagination and so their opinion was not valid, and then disappeared when that was challenged by the person she insulted. It was so surprising, I actually notice her comments since then and remember that one every time. So yeah, I'm assuming she's arguing in bad faith, and perhaps that was incorrect. I look forward to the follow-up from joeclark and her subsequent respectful dialogue.
posted by Houstonian at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2009


grapefruitmoon, I thought my comment in response to this comment was polite. Maybe I didn't explain myself well; it was absolutely not my intention to imply that you were doing anything wrong or intentionally obtuse.

If you want to talk further about what I did mean, that's fine, just say so and I will explain more.

Looking at it again, I flagged that whole derail as a derail (including, of course, my part in it).
posted by kathrineg at 4:54 PM on October 10, 2009


Houstonian: "You are right. kathering has been under my skin since she flew into a conversation this month to tell someone they lack imagination and so their opinion was not valid, and then disappeared when that was challenged by the person she insulted. It was so surprising, I actually notice her comments since then and remember that one every time. "

Hmm, I'm not really sure what you're referencing. Of course we usually don't notice our own bad behavior. I'd like to think that I'm pretty good about sticking around to discuss things, unless there are extenuating circumstances or time conflicts.
posted by kathrineg at 4:59 PM on October 10, 2009


Chicago is (kind of) in the middle of New York and Houston, so why don't you two meet here and I'll make you some pie.
posted by desjardins at 5:00 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


stinkycheese -- who has a child people touch often -- was told by you, "Well, you're not in her situation and you don't know what she's feeling or experiencing, so perhaps your imagination about what you would or would not do is limited." She asked you, " Perhaps you intended it as a 'polite way' of telling me to shut up?"
posted by Houstonian at 5:03 PM on October 10, 2009


grapefruitmoon, I just asked you something about your comment in the other thread too before I came across this here, but never meant to get involved in a derail or pick your comment apart. It's just that you said that part of 23skidoo's comment was not true; I felt what he/she said was both true and quite important in answering the OP's question, explaining why asking "Where are you from?" may be a bad idea. I hope you see what I mean.
posted by catchingsignals at 5:08 PM on October 10, 2009


Ah, yes, I didn't notice her response. Although I doubt I would have responded even if I had, it seems like that train would go straight to derail city (maybe it already was there).

If I had to write that comment again, I probably wouldn't. The comment I was responding to was one in a long line of comments that essentially said "wow, you're weird! I'm glad I'm not like you!" with a lot of implied (or outright) criticism of the OP and that really pissed me off, but me being pissed off isn't reason enough to comment in an AskMe.
posted by kathrineg at 5:19 PM on October 10, 2009


catchingsignals: I guess we differ in our opinions of what's true in terms of an "American look" then. I agree totally with the posters in the thread that asking "Where are you from?" is a totally, totally loaded question. As a person who generally blends in with my surroundings, I wasn't going to comment on the thread at all - but then there was that bit that triggered a connection to my own experience that hey, this happens to a lot of people who don't even have any kind of noticeable "difference" and perhaps we should all just sing kumbaya because we're like, from the universe, man.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:48 PM on October 10, 2009


grapefruitmoon, it's really seems like you are saying that there is an American look and that look is mixed-Euro-mutt white. I don't think that's necessarily what you're trying to say but that's how it's coming across.
posted by kathrineg at 6:03 PM on October 10, 2009


Thanks for explaining what you meant grapefruitmoon. I don't think we disagree at all actually - it just seemed like you were disputing 23skidoo's comment by saying it was not true - and while I think you were pointing out that there absolutely exists a social construct of what some people think of as "the American Look", 23skidoo was I think more concerned with pointing out that biologically, there cannot be such a thing, which I'm sure you'd agree with. I don't know if you actually caught my comment before the derail was deleted, but I was just seeking to clarify that really - your experience actually directed supports what 23skidoo was saying, and you can see why within the context of that question I really felt it needed to be emphasized. And yeah, kumbaya, totally.
posted by catchingsignals at 6:19 PM on October 10, 2009


and while I think you were pointing out that there absolutely exists a social construct of what some people think of as "the American Look", 23skidoo was I think more concerned with pointing out that biologically, there cannot be such a thing, which I'm sure you'd agree with.

Yes, this is exactly what I was saying. katherineg, I'm sorry if it came across otherwise.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:24 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, that makes a lot more sense. I could tell I was missing something but I just couldn't tell what. Sorry I didn't communicate more clearly about what I thought you were trying to communicate.
posted by kathrineg at 6:30 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


wait, you're all getting along? but I made pie!!
posted by desjardins at 6:59 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll have a slice!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:08 PM on October 10, 2009


You have to argue with someone first.
posted by desjardins at 7:13 PM on October 10, 2009


NO I DON'T!



was that sufficient?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:16 PM on October 10, 2009


You have to argue with someone first.

WTF, GOD, why won't you validate my point of view?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:44 PM on October 10, 2009


Come on, guys, you can do better than that. Sheesh. Start a thread on cat declawing or something. cortex needs something to do.
posted by desjardins at 8:23 PM on October 10, 2009


I AM GOOD THANK YOU

PLEASE PASS THE PIE
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:25 PM on October 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


How about a burger instead?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:39 PM on October 10, 2009


remember, it's pi-KAHN not PEE-kan.
posted by desjardins at 8:43 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


TPS, to go with his giant donut?
posted by desjardins at 8:43 PM on October 10, 2009


Donut for breakfast, burger for lunch.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:44 PM on October 10, 2009


Donutburger for dinner.
posted by carsonb at 9:07 PM on October 10, 2009


I can attest to the fact that I have opinions (and they are just that: largely scientifically unsupported opinions that I've gained from my life experience) that would be wildly unpopular here on MeFi. I generally keep them to myself for several reasons, but chiefly among them the realization that people who think highly of me here would probably no longer do so if they knew some of the wilder things that I believe.

So the cultural atmosphere of MeFi is able to accomplish it's own passive "community enforcement" without specifically spelling out which opinions are acceptable or not in the FAQ. It's an interesting study in communitarianism, really.
posted by Avenger at 9:07 PM on October 10, 2009


I've discovered 4 different ways of saying 'pecan'. Well, five, if 'fucking delicious!' counts.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:14 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


the realization that people who think highly of me here would probably no longer do so if they knew some of the wilder things that I believe.

I think I overheard the Pope saying pretty much this exact same thing the last time I was hanging out at the Vatican. And everybody else kind of shrugged and nodded, and kept drinking the free red wine.
posted by philip-random at 9:19 PM on October 10, 2009


Pie fucking sucks. It's that sort of liberal desert, foisted on us by cat loving vegan agenda, that is destroying Metafilter and our venerated traditions.

If you eat continue eating pie, the terrorists have won.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:20 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pie is generally disappointing and yes, some of it fucking sucks.

But not my mom's.
posted by philip-random at 9:36 PM on October 10, 2009


My mom's is better than your mom's.
posted by desjardins at 9:37 PM on October 10, 2009


Stop being so damn sexist with your pieism!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:43 PM on October 10, 2009


Stop being so pious with your sexism!

yes, I do believe I will have another slice, thank you
posted by scody at 9:51 PM on October 10, 2009


Mefi isn't liberal. It's intelligent. That means stupidity won't fly as easily here as elsewhere on the web. And that means "conservatives" (politically correct term for "stupid people" or at least ignorant and anti-intellectual and intolerant ones, as far as I've observed) won't have an "easy time here." Stupid liberals, either. I like Mefi because the conversation is mostly smart. That just means, de facto, that the community leans left. You show me an equally intelligent "conservative" site and I will stand corrected. Such a site does not exist because there is no market for it among the stupid.

You want stupid company? Go watch Fox news and comment on Freerepublic.

Jesus. Fuck.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:12 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Come down off your cross and have some cake.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:15 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mefi isn't liberal. It's intelligent.

You might as well say that reality has a liberal bias.
posted by philip-random at 10:15 PM on October 10, 2009


Pie fucking sucks.

You just haven't been fucking the right pies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:25 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"... If you eat continue eating pie, the terrorists have won."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:20 AM on October 11

Slow down, there, BB. You're imitating foamin' at your keyboard, again.

Down South, we have somewhat different values of community than folks up North do. We set out rockin' chairs on our front porches, and put our crazy relatives out there, a couple hours a day, so's everybody passin' by can see that we've still got 'em, and say a friendly "Howdy!" from a safe distance. Our worst dogs live under our front porches. Our best dogs live under shade trees. Sooner or later, we offer most everybody that stops a glass of sweet tea. Folks we don't like personally can still be good neighbors. Preachers we don't think much of are obligated to act towards us with Christian charity, and in return, we're obligated to buy stuff at their bake sales. We'd consider it uninteresting if everybody we knew held the same opinions about religion, politics, or trucks. We can tell who's from around heah, and who's not, by the first 10 words that fall out of their mouth, when we meet 'em. We're not above buryin' our relatives in the front yard. We take a dim view of zonin' boards. We don't generally think our little neck of the woods is better than anybody else's. We don't mind waitin' for a person to reveal his character, but until he does, he remains fair game for speculation. And sooner or later, if a person lives long enough among us, he makes his mistakes and his friends, and they make his place, and we'd miss him if he left or died, if only for the aggravation he brings that stirs us out of our stupor on hot afternoons. We leave the runnin' to the younguns, and the rockin' to the wrinkled and the crazy, but everybody, young to old, has their pace and place.

But I've lived up North, and I've concluded Metafilter is, like it or not, an essentially Northern urban neighborhood, from a cultural standpoint. Oh, sure, it has its vocal international contingent, but what Yankee neighborhood doesn't? Around here (MeFi), it's more important to want to be part of this community, and to think this community is somehow slightly better than the place you came from, than it is to see it, and speak of it, warts and all. Even offering that it does have warts, makes your membership suspect, as if you can't really belong here, and still criticize it. Everybody here seems to be from somewhere else, some other places they liked less on the Web, or in life. It's a culture that is vocal about its respect for diversity, without being very tolerant of real differences, in the way that voluntary amalgamations of very like-minded people, of very similar ages and incomes, group together in Northern neighborhoods, for the ambiance of certain chains of bookstores, coffee shops, and bars. It's a place of picked nics, and polished punctuation, that sometimes hosts human communication, but is all too often happy to giggle at a bit of snark, or the stupidity of others. Don't get me wrong, some of it is Grade A snark, and I've read some seriously interesting and sometimes deeply moving stuff here; it's not as if this isn't, in any measure, a good neighborhood. But as communities go, it's not exactly the kind of organic result you get when people who must be somewhere, stay where they've found themselves, and make a go of it, regardless. So, I visit regularly, for the abrasion of opinion and viewpoint, that wears off me the barnacles I pick up sailing in warmer Southern waters, but I can't think of this place as my neighborhood. I'm never more than a tourist, here, and that is probably just as well, all around.
posted by paulsc at 10:34 PM on October 10, 2009 [33 favorites]


Holy crap, paulsc, that was great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:54 PM on October 10, 2009


What Mr. Blatcher said ...
posted by philip-random at 11:08 PM on October 10, 2009


I think MeFi is an Olde English Pub. Or a HA clubhouse. Or the Turkish Baths. Whatever floats your boat: a place where a bunch of people who know one another by name or nickname hang out to shoot the shit, throw some darts, break a few pool cues, and maybe get a blow-job.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:08 PM on October 10, 2009


You pie people ought to reconsider your behavior in this thread. Just because kathrineg and grapefruitmoon sorted out some past misunderstanding does not mean this conversation is over. That incident was, at most, an example of the dynamic under discussion. Resolving that one instance is more or less irrelevant to our continuing examination of metafilter culture.

Earlier in this thread, subbes stated that she introduced the pie derail in the previous thread. She explained that she did so only to head off "shetterly-pitchforks". I don't that reasoning applies here.

It's hard not to see pie talk as really disrespectful to the more earnest posters. Let's not tread on those people; their earnestness ought to be encouraged.
posted by ryanrs at 12:01 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let them eat cobbler.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:09 AM on October 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Anyway, it's really bizarre to see people remembering me negatively from various threads even though they never really interacted with me. I mean, I make an effort not to be a total douchewad but I can barely remember where I was living a month ago, much less what comments I was posting on metafilter.*


*this is an incredible exaggeration
posted by kathrineg at 12:35 AM on October 11, 2009


Well, I've heard somewhere that it's important to be earnest.
posted by dg at 12:44 AM on October 11, 2009


There have been a couple times when I have inadvertently indulged in mefi-style snark out in the real world. These occasions, which I generally regret, highlight to me the more hostile environment of metafilter.

This one time, a friend and I were talking with this lady who had a problem with her neighbors. She was ostensibly seeking advice on how to deal with passive aggressive people, but mostly she was venting. After she said her bit, she asked if we had any suggestions. Her neighbors sounded like very frustrating people, and I wanted to tell her that I agreed, and she wasn't a bad person for thinking so. So I said, "You should burn their fucking house down."

The lady on the phone gave a short awkward laugh. My friend, on the other side of the microphone, gave me a silent WTF?! look. And that's when I remembered broadcast radio is not metafilter. Whoops.

I don't think that remark would have raised too many eyebrows here on metatalk. It was an over-the-top call to action against a common enemy. I think most people here interpret that kind of sarcasm as humor. It is the fantasy that softens the blow when you realize that you cannot defeat your passive aggressive neighbors. Would've gotten favorites.

TL;DR: Jokes on screen are edgier than they appear.
posted by ryanrs at 2:18 AM on October 11, 2009


I will say, yes, this place is actively unfriendly towards any conservatives--check out that self-congratulatory "Mefi isn't liberal...it's intelligent" comment above.

It makes me feel pretty sick actually. It's one reason I tend to skip over the political threads. I have rarely seen new or interesting or original ideas brought to a political discussion here. It's mostly a lot of sniping, back patting, and smugness, a nice ego boost for everyone on the majority side of the argument.

It's not just metafilter, of course. I feel many U.S. citizens are trapped, either knowingly or unknowingly, in this kind of us vs. them mentality. Political parties have taken a cult status here. Berating and ridiculing non-cult members--this is so common has become expected. I'm not even sure if those berating and ridiculing understand exactly what is happening. Certainly, it feels pleasant and entertaining and may bolster the status within the cult, and provide good feelings to all group members. But the larger effect is that it is prevents the development of further ideas, creativity, and possible solutions.

I guess I am hoping for too much for a discussion that starts from things people can agree on, and try to work out ideas and solutions from there. But our culture is so politically divisive, a discussion will begin with the assumption that one's outward loyalty to a political group is, at first and foremost, the most critical thing towards whether your ideas will be welcome by a given group.

I would love to see a forum or place that is either apolitical, or intentionally mixed in terms of its politics, and where intelligent people of different backgrounds can talk about current affairs. It would be a solution-oriented forum, with the emphasis placed on determining a problem and solving it, as opposed to "you are the problem and we hate you."
posted by thisperon at 3:08 AM on October 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Not only is metafilter unfriendly to conservatives, but that unfriendliness filters out many conservative voices. I suspect the conservatives who remain do so in part because they enjoy the argumentative, adversarial dialogue. Not that that's a bad thing; I enjoy it myself. But if you have ever wondered why conservative mefites are all sharp-tongued lawyers, wonder no more.

I believe a kinder, gentler metafilter will result in kinder, gentler conservative posters. If the majority will turn down the hostility, then broader range of voices will speak.
posted by ryanrs at 4:06 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would love to see a forum or place that is either apolitical, or intentionally mixed in terms of its politics, and where intelligent people of different backgrounds can talk about current affairs. It would be a solution-oriented forum, with the emphasis placed on determining a problem and solving it, as opposed to "you are the problem and we hate you."

that sounds good, but it just isn't possible in a country where a substantial proportion of the "conservatives" are convinced that the best government is practically no government, that whatever problems exist are somebody else's problems, not theirs, and that they will do anything they can to obstruct and mess up those who are trying to find a solution, including flat out lying, veiled calls for insurrection and the possible use of violence

by their destructive, selfish and increasingly wanton behavior, much of the conservative base HAS become the problem - mostly because many of them simply will not accept the idea that the majority has a right to have its elected officials be able to govern effectively - they don't want an effective government - and although they've failed to convince the american people that they shouldn't want effective government, they're still trying to make sure we won't get one by dragging their feet and telling endless lies about those who are trying to do something

there are some things that can't be compromised on and some people who can't be compromised with
posted by pyramid termite at 4:24 AM on October 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


"... there are some things that can't be compromised on and some people who can't be compromised with"
posted by pyramid termite at 7:24 AM on October 11

Written like a true, absolutist liberal caricature of a conservative, pyramid termite.

It's all working, Karl! Better than we ever hoped!
posted by paulsc at 5:00 AM on October 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


it just isn't possible in a country where a substantial proportion of the "conservatives"

much of the conservative base HAS become the problem - mostly because many of them

So talk to the other proportion. The proportion that will talk to you. My husband self-identifies as conservative, and he's definitely further to the right than me, but he is totally repulsed by the Palin/teabagger crowd. He's not a mefite (yet) for reasons that have nothing to do with the tenor/politics of the site, but if he were I would hope that he'd at least be listened to and not shoved in the same category as the types to which you're referring. Otherwise I would actually discourage him from joining, because it's pointless to talk to people who won't listen to you... which is what you're saying, right?
posted by desjardins at 6:10 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, MetaFilter definitely loses people because of the insult culture. Some people leave, some members never post/comment because of it, some potential members are never introduced/invited to the site, because their member friends don't want them getting unexpectedly mugged in a lolcat thread. There's a lot of grandstanding for favorites or attention or perhaps "cred" that usually involves scathing and/or hyperbolic personal insults. On the one hand, I think a lot of people do this to spice things up, and maybe it does... on the other, I view it as the comment-version of infotainment. Is it actually relaying information or anything of value? Well, kinda. Maybe. Sometimes. But very often these comments are to good faith discussion as Fox News is to "fair and balanced" reporting. They don't even try.
posted by taz at 6:19 AM on October 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I live with someone who up until last September, would have voted for John McCain (if he could have voted). He is definitely a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal.

He would never attend a teabagging party. Or become a tea bagger. Or anything else having to do with tea and/or bags.

He would also never post anything in a political MetaFilter thread because really, why on earth would he want to get attacked by the mob? I know that there are others like him out there, and yeah, maybe we'd hear their opinions if we'd just stop screaming "I AM MORE LIBERAL THAN THOU!" so damn loudly. (Note: This doesn't mean we have to stop being liberal, or screaming about it, just take it down a few notches.)

Kumbaya, man. Kumba-fucking-ya.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:59 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course this place is hostile to conservatives. The biggest shame isn't that this discourages the 20%ers who self-identify as republican, it's the self-censoring of the dirty conservative impulses that everyone has.

Dear MetaFilter: I couldn't sleep last night. I lay next to my wife in bed thinking about free trade disciplines. As much as they're unfair and distorting in a world without robust environmental and safety standards and labour mobility, I can't help but think they're under-appreciated for restraining national and international conflict. And my dirty secret is I think they're a moral imperative. Where you're born shouldn't be a lottery that forever constrains your entrepreneurial ambitions.

Is it OK that I care more about inter-generational income mobility than I do about the generosity of welfare programs?

Er. Not sure where this cross came from. Here, let me step down.

As it happens, I work for a left of centre political party largely because I am angered by the environmental and social positions staked out by the (NA-wide) right at the moment. But I don't think it would take a huge reconfiguration to think of myself as centre-right or conservative. My conservatism is pretty milquetoast... I'm skeptical of government programs because I prefer decentralized systems and skeptical of regulations and standards because they're always subject to some degree of industry capture and corruption. But my liberalism is also pretty milquetoast: I'm OK with the idea that the ultimate goal of public education and a lot of social policy should be an even playing field, not the uniform provision of a human right.

I would love it if MeFi was a space that helped me foster my bizarro-world republican tendencies.
posted by ~ at 6:59 AM on October 11, 2009


I have a question for the more politically-astute MeFites that seems relevant to this discussion.

I can remember a time where, in Canada, the terms liberal and conservative were used to refer to politicians. There was still an us-vs-them mindset, but "they" were the politicians, all of them, and "we" were the voters.

Whereas now, it seems like we're importing the usage of these terms from the US, where they refer to regular people's political views and are tending to divide the country along those lines, instead of "bastard politicians" vs. "all the rest of us".

So my question is, was there ever a time in the US where it was like I remember it being in Canada? And if so, why did it change to the way it is now?

It's also possible it never really was like this in Canada either, and I was seeing the situation in a rather naive light.
posted by FishBike at 7:20 AM on October 11, 2009


The u-SOFA in my adult life has always been us v. them, liberal v. conservative. The labels apply to the general view points and more often than not, it's the politicians who are derided for being not "liberal enough."

If there ever was a time down here when it was "bastard politicians" vs. "teeming masses," it was before I was of age to vote. (2000)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:26 AM on October 11, 2009


Eck. It is indeed dumb and probably harmful to casually categorize people by party affiliation. Thanks for calling attention to it, FishBike.
posted by ~ at 7:34 AM on October 11, 2009


I was voting age in 1992. I don't know that it was any less divisive; it was just about different issues. Abortion and AIDS were more front-and-center then.

I do see a shift in labeling, though. I don't think my grandparents (who are of the Palin persuasion) CALLED themselves conservative back then; I don't know that they really identified with a group. They just assumed that they, in their own individual worlds, were right. I see the labeling as part of the rise of 24 hour cable news and the Internet, which more easily allows people to self-segregate, because they can stay in their houses and interact instead of having to meet their neighbors. Not that most people shut themselves in, but it's just easier to only interact with people you agree with nowadays. What paulsc said is apt. Though my grandparents are Southern, they seem to have adopted a more Northern form of "community."

God my grammar sucks today.
posted by desjardins at 7:51 AM on October 11, 2009


I agree with taz. There are several closed user accounts I could link to, but I don't want to get into a big discussion about the circumstances under which those particular people departed.

But I have discussed with some ex-Mefites over email who said they left because the level of not just snark, not just sarcasm, and not just impassioned debate, but plain mean-spiritedness was just too high for them. And I think the community as a whole loses out from their absence.

Valuing diversity doesn't just refer to political leanings, but also to communicating with people, in general, in such a way that the "filter" in Metafilter doesn't begin to mean "filtering for the lowest common denominator on the sensitivity scale."
posted by Ouisch at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd also like to add that, while Metafilter in general does pay a great deal of lip-service to being anti-racist and anti-misogynist, the practice of insulting, piling on, or even just attempting to intimidate (by arguing from authority, etc.), are effectively silencing tactics, and create a chilling effect that selectively filters out people who are most likely to be marginalized and thus denied voice every day in their real lives.

So, in practice, this kind of behaviour can perpetuate the racism, misogyny, and other forms of inequality that we're supposedly so opposed to.
posted by Ouisch at 8:09 AM on October 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


You show me an equally intelligent "conservative" site and I will stand corrected. Such a site does not exist because there is no market for it among the stupid.

This shit honestly makes me angry. It is exactly the kind of unnuanced, balls-to-the-wall aggressive partitioning of people into the Us and the Wrong categories that makes it that much harder to have civil, productive conversations with people who don't absolutely agree with the speaker's personal ideology. It is bad for the site and bad for conversation, and it's something that happens a lot in political discussions here.

There's a healthy measure of distance between arguing passionately for your position and arguing dismissively, and the latter is uglier and far more alienating in a community context. I know it may be satisfying to vent, but doing so in such a willfully divisive and insulting fashion doesn't improve this place, it makes it worse, and I really, really dislike it when people do that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:11 AM on October 11, 2009 [30 favorites]


So my question is, was there ever a time in the US where it was like I remember it being in Canada? And if so, why did it change to the way it is now?

Why, yes, indeed, there was such a time. It was called the Era of Good Feelings. It lasted from 1817 to 1825. All American children learn about it in school. They cast a heavy sigh for such a lost Arcadia, before they resume pummeling other children at recess whose parents don't vote the way theirs do. In my grade school, fifty years ago, my parents were known to be Democrats, and the neighborhood was largely Republican, so it was I who was in for the pummeling. Nowadays I am a Republican, and I find myself hanging out mostly on lefty webboards, but I have learned to keep my mouth shut on political matters and pummelings are infrequent.

Most of MeFi is fine, as far as being 'welcoming'. The political threads, though, are a vast fever swamp. To understand why, review the posts here by pyramid termite and fourcheesemac, both frequent contributors to those threads.

There are also two other elements at work. First, Gresham's Law. When non-left wing voices are so rare, anyone offering opposing views will have to defend them alone, against scores of other posters in the thread. If the non-left winger actually summons the energy and time to answer all the charges, objections, and insults hurled at them, they will then be accused of monopolizing the thread! I've seen this happen.

The other element is the non-threaded nature of MeFi. If you are defending an unpopular viewpoint, you must sit at the computer for hours, hitting F5, so not as to miss responses, and be able to answer them in a timely manner. If you don't, you will be taunted by others on the thread. I've seen this happen more than once. Have to go to work? Or sleep? Tough. By tomorrow the thread will have lost the interest of most of the original posters, and in two days it will be off the front page. If you don't respond immediately, you may be accused of trolling, 'shitting in the thread', and the like. I've seen that happen more than once, too. The non-threaded nature of MeFi has a number of advantages, but it is not an advantage for reasoned discussion of complicated issues.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:12 AM on October 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


It is exactly the kind of unnuanced, balls-to-the-wall aggressive partitioning of people into the Us and the Wrong categories that makes it that much harder to have civil, productive conversations with people who don't absolutely agree with the speaker's personal ideology.

Amren.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:20 AM on October 11, 2009


"Be the change you wish to see".

Don't walk away, engage in those threads you see going bad, not by joining in the snark and ugliness, but by holding, at least on your end, the conversation you want to see. Those who want similar conversations will find you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:42 AM on October 11, 2009


If you are defending an unpopular viewpoint, you must sit at the computer for hours, hitting F5, so not as to miss responses, and be able to answer them in a timely manner

Or you can just go for a walk. Or go to sleep. Seriously. I want people to be able to speak freely here, but when it gets to the point where you're compulsively refreshing because you "have to" defend your viewpoint, it's time to do something else.
posted by desjardins at 8:44 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mefi isn't liberal. It's intelligent.

Intelligent people can still be lazy. Of forgetful. A lot of people have beliefs about all sorts of things that they never really examined the way they would a topic completely new to them. Where threads cross with these unexamined beliefs and with people who are adversely affected by those beliefs outside of the site, Mefi can become quite a nasty place to hang around.

Often all it takes is for someone to make a comment along the lines of, "Actually, I'm affected by this is x, y and z ways, and I think a, b and c about it," to steer the thread into a good place, but the more snarky crap there is in the first 20 comments the harder it is to even want to make that comment in the first place.

Addressing joeclark's comment (as a gosh-darn-it real trans person) it seems like he's bringing his frustrations with discussions outside of mefi to threads that really didn't warrant it, at least until he made his initial comment. Which is I suppose another point: conversations about sensitive subjects tend to bring their own language, suppositions, and grudges with them from elsewhere on the web, and often outsiders to those conversations can feel sidelined; for this reason I think it's important for those of us who already know the lingo (both on my side of, in this instance, the "transgender supremecy" (lolwut) debate and those on t'other) to approach said threads in a 101-fashion, and not screaming invective left over from another conversation on another site.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2009


The political threads, though, are a vast fever swamp. To understand why, review the posts here by pyramid termite

it's interesting that none of the people who've complained about my comment have a factual refutation of it

there are people in this country who are just as i described them - do you deny that there are people who do not want to see an effective government because they don't want one? - do you deny that blatant lies have been told repeatedly by many on the right?

your problem isn't with me, it's with what i've described
posted by pyramid termite at 9:17 AM on October 11, 2009


I'm the person subbes was talking with who inspired this post. After having experienced bits of Metafilter stuff vicariously through her for a while, I was finally persuaded to join the site a couple of months ago. It was intimidating, so I thought I should lurk for a while before attempting to post anything of consequence. But the more I've read, the less comfortable I've become with the idea of posting anything resembling an earnestly held opinion here.

I'm not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination (I think that aspect of the post has taken on a lot more prominence than was originally intended), but I do occasionally find myself disagreeing with the Metafilter majority on some issues, usually in relatively minor ways. I don't comment, but I see someone in the thread posting something similar to what I might have said, and then that person is immediately eviscerated. If it's really a factually incorrect or illogical argument, then that's fair enough, obviously, but I'm referring more to cases where both parties had access to the same data and arrived at different conclusions, and the result is not debate but simply "your opinion is bad and you should feel bad." For all the back-patting about what a great place this is for rational debate between diverse viewpoints, most of the arguments I've seen have just ended up as shouting matches where whoever's getting the fewest favorites eventually gives up. (Admittedly, I could just be reading the wrong threads.) Taken individually none of these instances are worth getting worked up over, but cumulatively they have the effect that every time I consider posting anything that might be remotely controversial, I think about the inevitable shitstorm and the fact that I'd have to sit around raising my blood pressure replying to comments with well-cited arguments for the rest of the day if I wanted to be taken seriously (while those who agree with the consensus can just drop a few zingers and rake in the favorites), and decide that it's not worth it and the internet doesn't care what I think anyway.

All of this would be fine -- pretty much par for the course on the internet -- except that I'm under the impression that Metafilter likes to present itself as, well, better than that. That's what I thought when I signed up, and I became disillusioned pretty quickly. Maybe nobody cares, and that's fine too. I don't presume to say that you guys should even consider this a problem, but there seems to be a pretty clear disconnect between the way Metafilter thinks of itself and how it's actually coming across to the uninitiated (based on my self-reported sample of 1). I see a lot of people saying that this place is more welcoming to opposing viewpoints than anywhere else, and I wonder if we're reading the same site. And most of my views aren't even that much different from the hive mind's; I can't imagine what it's like for anyone who really does deviate from the norm.

Anyway, I really don't mean to sound like an asshole who barged in out of nowhere to start complaining about everything. I wouldn't have said anything if subbes hadn't raised the subject. I know this is more a matter of my own insecurities than anything else, and I don't expect to be coddled snowflake etc. But at the end of the day, the constant snark and aggression is actively discouraging at least one new user from trying to make any sort of meaningful contribution to the site, and I doubt I'm the only one. Take from that what you will.
posted by shammack at 9:32 AM on October 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


There's a healthy measure of distance between arguing passionately for your position and arguing dismissively, and the latter is uglier and far more alienating in a community context.

I've been guilty of being dismissive of political points of view here over the years. I've joined in shouting down people who's conservative views I found laughable or offensive. But I found after awhile that my smug attitude was so prevalent among some of the other users here that I didn't even need to say anything, someone would be along shortly to pile on in my stead.

But since then it's become clear that this has had a chilling effect Ouisch pointed out upthread. And the result has been the formation of an unofficial Mefi orthodoxy enforced by some local loudmouths in a way that reminds me of when I was \embroiled in church life as a young person, all the ideas had been sorted out for me and there was an answer for any tough question that if anyone was foolish enought to challenge would simply result in them being bullied into silence.

Don't get me wrong I still feel very stongly about politics and religion, but there is a noticeable absence of diverse opinon here now which I think is a bad thing.

There's a healthy measure of distance between arguing passionately for your position and arguing dismissively

There it is that's the problem and it's hard for any of us not to slip into being simply dismissive.

The real danger of being dismissive is that we don't just shut up the cranks, but we also shut up those who we may not agree with but who none the less may have something of value to share with us, and dare I say even teach us. If not about the fact at the very least the world around us.

The whole reason I rejected religion and found that my views over time became more and more liberal is because at the core I want to learn. I want to listen. Why the hell would I join an online fourm if not for those reasons. If I'm going to come in here everyday and hear the choir preaching I might as well just join a local church, at least at church you have the occasional dinner and let me tell you something there's pie, I mean real pie not internet pie.
posted by nola at 9:32 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


pyramid termite, you began one of your comments here with:
that sounds good, but it just isn't possible in a country where a substantial proportion of the "conservatives" [...]
followed by a list of things that conservatives believe or do that would make intelligent discussion here impossible with them.

When you say "substantial portion" I think that means you're allowing for the possibility that not all conservatives think and behave as you describe. Do you think that for those who don't (even if they are in the minority), intelligent discussion in political threads is possible?

Because I think those are the sort of people we want to encourage to join in those discussions. And a big obstacle to their participation is that they'll immediately have to get into defending against these kinds of generalizations, rather than intelligently discussing the point at hand.

Your comments here might not be part of what ails your country, but I feel like they are an example of the problem we're talking about here with respect to political threads.
posted by FishBike at 9:36 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


that sounds good, but it just isn't possible in a country where......

Well that's that then. Why bother trying? Really, what a lot of dreg that is! If all you want to do is sit around saying "I'm a liberal and conservatives are stupid"then you don't need any kind of eloquent discourse or intelligent conversation to do it. Take it to Yahoo.

If you want to have an intelligent discussion and learn something about how the other half thinks- and -*shock* - maybe even learn something - you're going to have to try.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:37 AM on October 11, 2009


When you say "substantial portion" I think that means you're allowing for the possibility that not all conservatives think and behave as you describe.

that's right, i am

And a big obstacle to their participation is that they'll immediately have to get into defending against these kinds of generalizations, rather than intelligently discussing the point at hand.

Your comments here might not be part of what ails your country, but I feel like they are an example of the problem we're talking about here with respect to political threads.


no, because i didn't direct them at a specific member here - i was describing a certain group of people in our country who do in fact exist

---

SLC mom -

If all you want to do is sit around saying "I'm a liberal and conservatives are stupid"

please link to where i said that

If you want to have an intelligent discussion

i do - that's why i avoid people who misquote and distort what others say - which, i might point out, is one of the problems that is really plaguing this site to the point where i've given up on quite a few discussions
posted by pyramid termite at 10:02 AM on October 11, 2009


I live in Berkeley. BERKELEY! And yet I know enough conservatives to know they aren't stupid. I respect them. I am glad they're in my life. They enrich the dialogue. I wish there more of them here.

And if you think liberal and intelligent are synonymous, move to fucking Berkeley.

I learn a lot from metafilter, but it's an echo chamber where politics is concerned. (And I'd have to agree with Pope Guilty that metafilter is not left, but middle-class liberal, and that those are very different things.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to know what it means to be "liberal" or "conservative."

'cause people in this thread are identifying themselves as "conservative," when I really think they probably are not.

For starters, there are at least two dimensions to consider: the social and the fiscal. And I daresay that MeFi members tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

People who are socially conservative do not receive warm welcome on MeFi. I think that's largely because MeFi folk tend to understand that the reality of the global community is that there is an astounding range of diversity and being socially conservative about other's lives leads only to strife and harm.

I think people who are fiscally conservative are probably well-received on MeFi. OTOH, I'm not entirely sure what "fiscal conservative" really means. My natural interpretation is "don't spend money foolishly," but perhaps it's actually code for "give all the money to the ultra-wealthy." If it's the latter then, no, not gonna be well-received: strife and harm at fault.

Anyhoo, I think maybe we need to firm up some definitions. If not for the benefit of the conversation that's been going on here, then for those of us who aren't American and don't quite grok American-style politics.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on October 11, 2009



I would love to see a forum or place that is either apolitical, or intentionally mixed in terms of its politics, and where intelligent people of different backgrounds can talk about current affairs. It would be a solution-oriented forum, with the emphasis placed on determining a problem and solving it, as opposed to "you are the problem and we hate you."

that sounds good, but it just isn't possible in a country where a substantial proportion of the "conservatives" are convinced that the best government is practically no government, that whatever problems exist are somebody else's problems, not theirs, and that they will do anything they can to obstruct and mess up those who are trying to find a solution, including flat out lying, veiled calls for insurrection and the possible use of violence


Wow, I'm amazed that it has gotten THIS bad that you are immediately shooting down the mere idea of a place where people can discuss ideas from different perspectives.

You are shutting down possibility of a conversation even before we've tried. To people with differing viewpoints--why would they even bothering wasting their time having a discussion here?
posted by thisperon at 10:34 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think people who are fiscally conservative are probably well-received on MeFi.

The extreme version of fiscal conservatism--libertarianism--is pretty much eviscerated on Mefi.
posted by thisperon at 10:39 AM on October 11, 2009


I tend to be an eviscerater of libertarianism, mostly because the abuses of regular capitalism are so nakedly damaging to so many people, and because the most unfettered capitalism has historically been so riddle with murderous abuses. As a result, libertarianism strikes me as am economic approach that is naive and dangerous, and will say so whenever the topic comes up. I will try to be civil about it, but my objection to it will always be forceful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


And if you think liberal and intelligent are synonymous, move to fucking Berkeley.

Or Vermont. Or Massachusetts. Or any other "liberal haven." I know plenty of dumb liberals. I don't know as many smart conservatives, just because I went to Hampshire College, which limits my social circle to "Leftist" or "Anarchist." If you think MeFi is a lefty echo chamber, we've got nothing on Camp Hamp (a.k.a. "Vote Nader University." Honestly, in 2000, the campus sign was painted over to read "Vote Nader."). Anyhow, yeah, liberals aren't always intelligent and intelligent people aren't always liberal.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:06 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]



there are people in this country who are just as i described them - do you deny that there are people who do not want to see an effective government because they don't want one? - do you deny that blatant lies have been told repeatedly by many on the right?

your problem isn't with me, it's with what i've described


pyramid termite: I tend to agree with you across the board when it comes to the content of your comments, and yet I do have a problem with you, sometimes. That is, I take issue is your all too common win-at-all-costs attitude. Fuck that shit. Seriously. Peace is way more important than victory, certainly the kind of victory that lays waste to a landscape, a city, a community.
posted by philip-random at 11:23 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


your problem isn't with me, it's with what i've described

My problem is with both. That there's some merit to your complaints does not preclude folks from reasonably disliking how you go about stating them. Finding a way to make these arguments that doesn't come off so abrasively and exclusively would be a wonderful improvement, not just for you but for a lot of outspoken GRAR-tending commenters around here. It's possible to retain the content without the bile, and this'd be a better place if that happened more consistently.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:36 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I follow the logic, pyramid termite -- there are bad, disingenuous, wrongheaded, idiotic people on the right, so we can't have a conversation with anyone who identifies as conservative? I mean, that's how your first comment here reads to me. And that doesn't make sense to me -- defining a group of people by its worst members, then writing them all off.
posted by palliser at 12:00 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This comment really sucks. That last line about DTMFA is needlessly nasty, petty and not funny at all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:05 PM on October 11, 2009


My problem is with both. That there's some merit to your complaints does not preclude folks from reasonably disliking how you go about stating them. Finding a way to make these arguments that doesn't come off so abrasively and exclusively would be a wonderful improvement, not just for you but for a lot of outspoken GRAR-tending commenters around here. It's possible to retain the content without the bile, and this'd be a better place if that happened more consistently.

ok, i'm abrasive and exclusive, i can be misquoted at will, be told "fuck that shit" and i'm GRAR

i'm not the one with the civility problem here

so much for "safe posting"
posted by pyramid termite at 12:16 PM on October 11, 2009


i'm not the one with the civility problem here

Whether you liked that comment or not, the tone reads as perfectly civil. It's a criticism of your behavior, sure, and that's not any fun to read - but it wasn't an attack on you personally and contains constructive suggestions (i.e., reigning in the bile).
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:46 PM on October 11, 2009


i'm not the one with the civility problem here

No, see, I think you're missing the point. That others have such a problem does not preclude you from also, maybe, possibly having one.
posted by liketitanic at 1:03 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will say, yes, this place is actively unfriendly towards any conservatives--check out that self-congratulatory "Mefi isn't liberal...it's intelligent" comment above.

I don't know about that. I think it might be true that Mefi is more intellectual than strictly liberal, per se. If the USA (where most active members are) someday has an intelligent, scientifically-informed, sensible conservative party, I think it would hold some attraction for a lot of us. I'd certainly listen to their arguments. But, unfortunately, the Republican party has descended into paranoid conspiracies and not-so-subtle threats of violence, while the Democratic party seems to be the only one with any grown-ups at the moment. Until that changes, I have to throw my lot in with the group that is at least trying to make sense.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:14 PM on October 11, 2009


"Until that changes, I have to throw my lot in with the group that is at least trying to make sense."

Throwing one's lot in with the group? What exactly does this mean?
posted by thisperon at 1:33 PM on October 11, 2009


Not-so-subtle threats of violence? I'm afraid they are actually aggressively violent.

Re: Libertarianism — that's not fiscal conservative, that's just plain batshitinsane. Libertarianism is about as realistic a fiscal platform as Soviet-style communism.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:10 PM on October 11, 2009


Pater Aletheias: "But, unfortunately, the Republican party has descended into paranoid conspiracies and not-so-subtle threats of violence, while the Democratic party seems to be the only one with any grown-ups at the moment. Until that changes, I have to throw my lot in with the group that is at least trying to make sense."

There are a lot of people who are outside the binary party structure. I don't identify as a Democrat, I'm not registered to vote as a Democrat, etc. Doesn't make me a Republican, either.
posted by kathrineg at 2:47 PM on October 11, 2009


But, unfortunately, the Republican party has descended into paranoid conspiracies and not-so-subtle threats of violence

Whether this is true for the whole of the party or not (I'm sure it isn't), it's unfortunately all too true for its public face (and mouth), as this recent FPP points out. Who need satire anymore?
posted by philip-random at 3:03 PM on October 11, 2009


Disagreeing with people is never an excuse for being rude to them.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:08 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm on another forum which is somewhat less left-leaning than here (largely by being a bastion of affluent white maleness, but that's a separate issue) and it's been possible there to have civil conversations with conservatives without having to drive them all off. Granted, it's also helped by some vigorous moderation, and we have lost some batshitinsane posters, but there's still a large contingent of those "moderate conservatives" you always hear about who feel abandoned by the Republican party but aren't willing to defect to a party that they feel represents them even less.

So yeah, there are actual sane human conservatives who can hold civil conversations. Really.
posted by Karmakaze at 4:36 PM on October 11, 2009


Question: Why does metafilter NEED to be a place where conservatives feel comfortable commenting? There are about 80,000 conservative blogs out there, it's not our fault if they all suck.
posted by empath at 5:25 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Empath, if you said that about women or gays or Polish bicycle riders,
people would be handing you your hinie right about now.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:29 PM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Question: Why does metafilter NEED to be a place where conservatives feel comfortable commenting?

I don't think that MetaFilter needs to be a place that tries to be bi-partisan necessarily, but a political discussion that turns into an echo chamber is really, really dull. I used to learn things reading political threads around here, and now I just get annoyed. Someone I was corresponding with recently put it well (in a completely unrelated context): "I learn the most from the people who are unhappy with me."

What I'm trying to say is that we don't need to try to move to the right or to court conservative users, but that users who just so happen to also be conservative should feel comfortable voicing their opinions and at least be heard out before being disemboweled. Now, if it's a dumb opinion, of course that deserves a dumb response, but there are plenty of people out there with smart ideas that differ from our lefty smart ideas and hey, it would be cool if more voices could be heard.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:31 PM on October 11, 2009


Why does metafilter NEED to be a place where Polish bicycle riders feel comfortable commenting? There are about 8 Polish bicycle rider blogs out there, it's not our fault if they all suck.
posted by gman at 5:32 PM on October 11, 2009


Heh, I threw in the conservative thing as an example, but I guess it was an example that's gotten run with. Ironically I'm a dyed-in-the-wool loony lefty, more liberal than my husband (who has long hair and wore tie-dye today).

I'd suggest a rephrase to "why would MeFi need to be a place where people feel comfortable commenting?" to get a feel for why MeFi should be welcoming to conservatives.

Because it should be welcoming to people, and I'm assured by reliable sources that conservatives are people too (as are furries, non-North-American/European individuals, parents, Microsoft users, hipsters, or any other sub-set that might not be overly represented here, not that I've conducted a study or anything so I'm just pulling these hypotheticals out of my ass).
posted by subbes at 5:38 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Disagreeing with people is never an excuse for being rude to them.

People who want to take away my rights do not automatically deserve niceness.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:00 PM on October 11, 2009


People who want to take away my rights do not automatically deserve niceness.

I would disagree with this, totally. I'm a huge believer in karma (as part of the Buddhist philosophy, not just some watered-down "You get what you deserve" kind of thing) and believe that compassion solves more problems than anger. If you don't want to follow the Dalai Lama or Jesus in that "treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated," at least go with Kurt Vonnegut (as quoted above): "G-ddamnit. You've got to be kind."

That includes when people aren't necessarily kind to you first.

Think about it: somebody pisses you off. You lash out. They are then set in their views that you're a tool and are in no way inclined to change that view. Somebody pisses you off, and instead, you let it go or try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you don't change their mind, but you have done no harm and left the door open to actual communication in the future instead of a screaming match.

I have my own issues with this sometimes, but I've learned a lot in communication with people who have views that are directly hostile to my own that if I listen to what they're saying and understand that they truly believe that what they're saying is for the best, even if I totally, totally disagree, I can let it go as "Yeah, well, that's just like, your opinion, man."

Nobody on this site is going to get up tomorrow morning, knock on your door, and take your health insurance card out of your wallet. Maybe they vote for somebody who does, sure. But they're not going to understand or sympathize with your stance if you act like a dick. Nobody has ever been convinced of an opposing argument by being berated.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:22 PM on October 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


That's a fair and wise position. However, I don't expect everyone to take high road every time. I think people are entitled to anger when other people treat them as sub-human, and that sometimes it's too much of a burden to be polite on top of all the other burdens that come with systematic oppresion.
posted by kathrineg at 7:04 PM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


subbes: "Ironically I'm a dyed-in-the-wool loony lefty, more liberal than my husband (who has long hair and wore tie-dye today)."

In my own defense, that was my "doing laundry" outfit.

posted by shammack at 7:07 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


But from a policy standpoint, being polite is better than being angry. In politics threads especially, being angry or dismissive often seems to be the default stance.
posted by ryanrs at 7:21 PM on October 11, 2009


Question: Why does metafilter NEED to be a place where conservatives feel comfortable commenting? There are about 80,000 conservative blogs out there, it's not our fault if they all suck.

A calligraphy quotation from Walter Lippmann has hung above my desk for thirty years. It was a gift from my mother to my father, who was a journalist, and admired Lippmann greatly.

The quotation reads: "When all think alike, no one thinks very much."

Monocultures of all kinds are unhealthy. Misinformation and flagrant nonsense abound in the MeFi political threads because those threads are entirely under the control of left wing partisans. News events that support existing left wing political beliefs are linked and discussed. Events that might call left wing beliefs into question are utterly ignored.

What's that? The 80,000 conservative blogs are just as bad at this? Indeed they are. As are the 80,000 left/liberal blogs. It is the nature of partisanship. One reason that I, a non-lefty, read those threads is for exposure to facts and interpretations that I won't get on the wingnut blogs.

Here is the purpose of your intellectual enemies: only they will bring you the truths that you don't want to hear.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:34 PM on October 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm a huge believer in karma

I don't think karma is a reliable, working basis for a fair and equitable system. Sometimes calling (mostly religious) bigots who they are is necessary and important, because shame often works better and faster than karma. When rights disappear and GLBT people get killed, perhaps being polite (i.e., silent) is not working too well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:40 PM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


You don't have to be silent, but you don't have to be rude, either. And part of the problem, frankly, is prejudice. People slap on a label, (for the purpose of the illustration any label will do) and then voila, supposedly that person bears the burden for ever single action and statement taken by anyone with that label. That is unfair, silly and wrong.

I happen to have gay friends that I correspond with on a regular basis-these are people who have met me in person, and who know I am conservative, and who know I am Christian, and yet have this amazing ability to be my friend anyway. Because we see each other as people and not labels. No, we don't agree on everything (one's a vegan and I do like my hamburger) but that does not mean we need to throw each other in a camp called "enemy" and be nasty to each other. What freaking good would that do?

So some of you seem to say that you have an inability to have civil discourse with people you do not agree with. That, frankly, is not something one should be proud of. Your anger hurts only you, in the long run. Life is too short to live it that way.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:58 PM on October 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


When rights disappear and GLBT people get killed, perhaps being polite (i.e., silent) is not working too well.

You're misunderstanding me. I am not advocating silence.

I am simply advocating not meeting ugliness with more ugliness. I do believe that we need to speak up, but that we don't need to belittle others in order to achieve our own goals. Y'know. Like Gandhi. Or the Dalai Lama. Hell, that dude watches his countrymen die and he's still trying to talk rationally to the Chinese.

Also: you're totally misunderstanding what I mean by karma. Karma IS a fair and equitable system, in the Buddhist sense. I tried to make the distinction that I'm talking about the Wheel of Dharma here, that the energy that you put into the world is what you will get back, not a "Those jerks will get it in the end" kind of a deal. Y'know, "Be the change" and all that. If you're trying to "work" karma, you're doing it wrong.

And no, I don't believe shame "works." Ever.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:26 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think people are entitled to anger when other people treat them as sub-human, and that sometimes it's too much of a burden to be polite on top of all the other burdens that come with systematic oppresion.

I'm with you on the anger. I get angry. Oh boy. I'm just differing with you on the latter part. I believe that being civil, even when angry, is something that we should strive to do rather than giving in to the urge to start screaming "FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING FUCKITY FUCKER."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:33 PM on October 11, 2009


I don't think that MetaFilter needs to be a place that tries to be bi-partisan necessarily, but a political discussion that turns into an echo chamber is really, really dull.

Monocultures of all kinds are unhealthy.

I'm curious as to how MeFi is supposed to develop a robust political spectrum, when most of its users inhabit a country that has a single political party: the Corporate Favours Party, in its Dem and GOP forms.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:38 PM on October 11, 2009


Question: Why does metafilter NEED to be a place where conservatives feel comfortable commenting? There are about 80,000 conservative blogs out there, it's not our fault if they all suck.

Because there are people here who aspire to make this place something better.

But like I said, I would love to see a place that has divergent political views and its members are interested in solving problems and exchanging perspectives, as opposed to shouting down outsiders. Metafilter, currently, isn't it. Should it be that place? Your vote is obviously no; I'm leaning towards "yes, it would be great, but it's not my call to make."
posted by thisperon at 9:38 PM on October 11, 2009


five fresh fish: "I'm curious as to how MeFi is supposed to develop a robust political spectrum, when most of its users inhabit a country that has a single political party: the Corporate Favours Party, in its Dem and GOP forms."

Americans /= American political parties. But thanks for the nuanced insight into the American psyche.
posted by kathrineg at 10:06 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon: "I'm with you on the anger. I get angry. Oh boy. I'm just differing with you on the latter part. I believe that being civil, even when angry, is something that we should strive to do rather than giving in to the urge to start screaming "FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING FUCKITY FUCKER.""

Well, I have no problem applying this sort of standard to myself, but I am very, very reluctant to suggest it to people whose experience I don't understand. I absolutely hate it when people say that women should be more polite, so I try not to be that person when it comes to other stuff. Example, I consider myself part of the queer community but because of my marriage to a dude I avoid a huge amount of oppression and bigotry. So I don't like to say to people who experience that that they should calm down, be more polite, whatever. I don't live their lives, you know?
posted by kathrineg at 11:51 PM on October 11, 2009


Oh fun, this thread now includes some faux-innocent, hilariously non-self-aware comments from St. Alia/Konolia/Bunnyfire.
posted by lalex at 2:52 AM on October 12, 2009


lalex, I am much more selfaware than you give me credit for, but have fun assuming labels describe the person. See, that kind of comment dehumanizes and dismisses, and is part of the problem.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:45 AM on October 12, 2009


You don't have to be silent, but you don't have to be rude, either.

Unfortunately, politeness often means expecting silence from oppressed peoples. For example, calling someone a bigot — who is a bigot — is apparently defined by bigots as rude behavior, when it is simply speaking the truth. And the majority go along with the bigot's lie.

In the end, politeness is defined by the people who control the narrative. Conservatives and religious bigots control and define the narrative of civil rights here in the United States, here on Metafilter — somehow, even despite its left-leaning tendencies — and elsewhere in the world, to the end effect that people have their rights taken away, lose their jobs, or are dragged out of their homes and murdered. But we need to be polite and respectful and shut up, yessah.

If you — any of you — really want true politeness and respect in exchanges between people, stop being a bigot and, if you're not a bigot, stop apologizing for bigots by giving them the benefit of the doubt on every malformed idea that enters their hateful closed minds.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:23 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Conservatives and religious bigots control and define the narrative of civil rights here in the United States, here on Metafilter — somehow, even despite its left-leaning tendencies — and elsewhere in the world, to the end effect that people have their rights taken away, lose their jobs, or are dragged out of their homes and murdered.

I don't understand this statement. How have conservatives on Metafilter defined the narrative of civil rights, to the end effect that some have their rights taken away, lose jobs, or are murdered?

It's a rare day that I agree with St. Alia, but I don't think that statement is true of her or the handful of other conservatives on this site.
posted by Houstonian at 4:36 AM on October 12, 2009


Heh, when I read Blazecock Pileon's comment, I wondered how long it would take for someone to (wilfully or otherwise) misinterpret it. Now I know - 13 minutes.
posted by dg at 4:49 AM on October 12, 2009


No, I'm not snarking. I think we are bringing our thoughts about others outside this community to here. St. Alia may very well be one of those people, but she's not doing it here, is she?
posted by Houstonian at 4:53 AM on October 12, 2009


A display of righteous indignation is probably the least effective tool of persuasion. It is more immediately satisfying to vent though. I guess it depends on which you consider more important.
posted by vapidave at 4:56 AM on October 12, 2009


Exactly.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:00 AM on October 12, 2009


people have their rights taken away, lose their jobs, or are dragged out of their homes and murdered.

None of which happens here, and none of which I do. I may not vote your preferences, but that is a matter of conscience.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:02 AM on October 12, 2009


For example, calling someone a bigot — who is a bigot — is apparently defined by bigots as rude behavior, when it is simply speaking the truth.

Of course it's rude. Calling someone a bigot, to their face, is rude, even if they really are a bigot. The same is true for calling fat people fat, calling stupid people stupid, etc. Now I'm not saying that rudeness is never appropriate, but let's not pretend it's polite. (We probably also shouldn't pretend it's constructive).
posted by ryanrs at 5:09 AM on October 12, 2009


You can can call someone a bigot to their face without being rude. It's all about the words you put around it. Of course, being a bigot, they'll probably take it badly.
posted by dg at 6:06 AM on October 12, 2009


None of which happens here, and none of which I do.

Yes, you do. I might not be allowed to bring it up here, but you are easily the most hateful, disingenuous conservative participant on this site and on other sites that Shall Not Be Named.
posted by lalex at 6:17 AM on October 12, 2009


So I don't like to say to people who experience that that they should calm down, be more polite, whatever. I don't live their lives, you know?

True, I don't know people's experiences - and I'm not trying to get anybody to "calm down" in the sense of "Oh hey, you're oppressed, don't worry, here's a cookie. Chill."

What I'm advocating is that on this website people give each other the benefit of the doubt, like in this polite exchange that we're having even though we disagree. That's it. I believe that MetaFilter can be a place where we can set aside differences and be civil to each other, even if we do have vastly different life experiences. I'm not trying to make a larger statement about the world in general because, yeah, it's totally not my place to do so.

If you — any of you — really want true politeness and respect in exchanges between people, stop being a bigot and, if you're not a bigot, stop apologizing for bigots by giving them the benefit of the doubt on every malformed idea that enters their hateful closed minds.

I do want real politeness and respect. I don't consider myself a bigot and I don't believe that my posting history would reveal me to be such. Nor am I apologizing for anybody's behavior on this site. I am only speaking from my own point of view that nastiness - from all sides - met with further nastiness doesn't lead to productive discussion and breaks down the sense of "community" that makes MetaFilter awesome.

This goes both ways. I agree that those who you are labeling as "bigots" should be polite as well. I am not simply saying "Oh yes! Let's let the conservatives have their way!" No, not at all. I'm saying that we should be able to politely express our opinions on the site. By "polite" I don't mean "We shouldn't say things that are true if they're going to upset somebody," but rather I mean "Hey, let's stick to being reasonable and true to the facts and stay away from purposefully attacking each other."

Y'know, kinda like what it already says on the post box. I just think that it gets lost quite frequently.

Yes, if someone is being "bigoted" they need to be called out on it, but saying "Look, I feel like you're missing x, y, and z point and here's why" is more effective (especially for other people who are following along at home) than saying "OH YOU ARE A BIGOTED BIGOT." Especially since nobody is going to pay attention to you or take you seriously once you've gotten so mad that you've started leveling personal insults. Even if you believe the labels to be true, they don't help.

A display of righteous indignation is probably the least effective tool of persuasion.

Yes, I definitely agree.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:32 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


people have their rights taken away, lose their jobs, or are dragged out of their homes and murdered.

None of which happens here, and none of which I do.

[...]

Yes, you do. I might not be allowed to bring it up here, but you are easily the most hateful, disingenuous conservative participant on this site and on other sites that Shall Not Be Named.


Posting history and opinions aside, can we at least agree that St. Alia of the Bunnies has never murdered any MeFites and get on with it?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:33 AM on October 12, 2009


shammack: I'm the person subbes was talking with who inspired this post... the more I've read, the less comfortable I've become with the idea of posting anything resembling an earnestly held opinion here.

subbes: Heh, I threw in the conservative thing as an example, but I guess it was an example that's gotten run with.

Before the thread dissolves into our scheduled stalking and beating of St. Alia the Other, let me try to bring us back to what the thread was actually supposed to be about. We seem to have focused on political conservatives, but maybe subbes and shammack had some other kinds of non-standard opinions in mind? Care to share?

Honestly, with the exception of the auto-bashing of conservatives and libertarians that goes on, I don't think MeFi is really that harsh on non-standard opinions, as long as they're expressed without rancor, and reasonably articulately. Outrage of the Day stuff goes down poorly as a post topic, and usually gets deleted with a gentle reminder to Get Your Own Blog. There are the cop haters who will pounce on anything about cops. Touting your cat declawing and circumcision service is likely to have a bad outcome.

Beyond those topics, though, I actually don't think MeFi is that harsh. Did you guys have a particular topic in mind?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:45 AM on October 12, 2009


While Christianity almost always engenders a certain amount of hostility, once you get past the flippant Wizard responses, I'd say Metafilter does as reasonable a job as possible on the Internet of keeping discussions surrounding it pretty civil.
posted by Atreides at 6:58 AM on October 12, 2009


Beyond those topics, though, I actually don't think MeFi is that harsh. Did you guys have a particular topic in mind?

Rape. Feminism.
posted by Ouisch at 7:22 AM on October 12, 2009


In my experience, MetaFilter doesn't do discussions of religion very well at all. By fifty comments or so, it's religion v. science with the very vocal atheist brigade insisting that religion is completely opposed to rational thought. Which, ok, sure. But it's the same argument over and over again and people of faith (not just Christians) get tarred as being less intelligent than atheists due to their refusal to believe the "evidence" that G-d doesn't exist.

It's getting better, but LOLXians is still a definite phenomenon and there are very few religious discussions that don't devolve into a pile of atheists screaming that adherents to religion are blind sheeple.

But maybe I'm prickly on this one because I adhere to a religion and I don't like to think of myself as a sheeple.

(Other topics that we don't do well that I think are more specific to us than general topics - i.e. rape - that don't EVER go well: obesity & circumcision.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:39 AM on October 12, 2009


I think you have a good point, grapefruitmoon, but I've also been thinking about the train of thought that goes something like this "Well, this topic never goes well elsewhere on the internet; therefore, we shouldn't expect it to go well on Metafilter, either."

I understand the sentiment behind this, and on first reading, it does make a lot of intuitive sense.

However, I think part of the reason people are attracted to Metafilter in the first place is because of the higher level of commentary that goes on here, as compared to the rest of the internet. The classic example is YouTube comments vs. Metafilter comments, but there's a lot of territory in between those two destinations. And I feel that Metafilter is unique in genuine handling (or having the capacity to handle) contentious topics in a really useful way.

This goes much further than just wanting us all to be nicey-nice to each other; the goal I'm seeing is the ability to have geniune discourse on tough issues, and possibly even contribute something to the wider understanding on these issues.

We're really a unique place on the internet, with the potential and capacity to actually hash things out in a basically functional way. I'd hate to see it devolve into constant verbal abuse and silencing tactics that obstruct general discourse.

tl;dr - I think we should, maybe, expect Metafilter to do generally contentious topics better than the rest of the internet, and better than we currently do.
posted by Ouisch at 8:09 AM on October 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Things we don't tolerate well: Military service, "flyover states," vegetarianism.
posted by Houstonian at 8:20 AM on October 12, 2009


Military service and flyover states correlate with the general animus against conservatives and Republicans, I think. They're part of the same concept cloud.

Vegetarianism, of course, isn't. Have you noticed intolerance of vegetarianism? Are the vegans abusive of cheese omelet-eaters? This has never caught my attention, but I'm a meat murderer, and I don't pay close attention to the vegan threads.

There's also the 'your favorite band sucks' issue. There seems to be an impulse stick your finger in the eye of anyone who is honestly enthusiastic about something that you don't care for. Where does that come from? It's odd, because it's both tolerated and criticized at the same time. People will call it out in the thread, yet it keeps happening.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:48 AM on October 12, 2009


I am much more selfaware than you give me credit for

Considering the general substance of what you post here, I'm not so sure that this is a good thing.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 9:08 AM on October 12, 2009


I am much more selfaware than you give me credit for

Considering the general substance of what you post here, I'm not so sure that this is a good thing.


Is everyone's irony filter broken?? What's this post about, again?
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:15 AM on October 12, 2009


grapefruitmoon: "It's getting better, but LOLXians is still a definite phenomenon and there are very few religious discussions that don't devolve into a pile of atheists screaming that adherents to religion are blind sheeple."

I think you're missing the threads that end with religious people telling atheists that they're just secret Christians or people who can't experience wonder or something.

Also, calling it an atheist brigade--using the word sheeple--really seems overly hostile.
posted by kathrineg at 9:34 AM on October 12, 2009


I agree that military service and flyover states probably stem from the conservative thing. But, there's an inability to understand that serving in the military or living outside of East Coast/West Coast does not mean you are a conservative.

I might be wrong about the vegetarianism thing, but they usually simmer with "it's unhealthy" versus "no it's not." Although, maybe it's just disagreement instead of intolerance.

We don't do Mormonism well, either.

What's weird is that I feel I must add here, I'm not vegetarian, I'm not Mormon, I'm not religiously or politically conservative, I'm not in the military. I almost never agree with JoeClark (mentioned way upthread re transexuals) or St. Alia. But, by merely pointing to the things we don't do well, I fear that people will brand me with one of those labels and write me off as a Bible-beating, Hannity-listening, Bush-supporting, gun-toting, gay-hating, brownshirt-wearing creationist. I've internalized that there are some things that you must not say, some people you must always kick or never defend regardless of the situation, or else you face a possible attack. If you believe that everyone has the right to politely express their opinion -- even opinions that are not popular -- it's the same as holding that opinion yourself.
posted by Houstonian at 9:35 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh fun, this thread now includes some faux-innocent, hilariously non-self-aware comments from St. Alia/Konolia/Bunnyfire.

This is the kind of comment that makes this place worse.
posted by smackfu at 9:36 AM on October 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


In particular, I mean:

1) Calling someone out in general, not for specific comments.
2) Accusing them of being disingenuous.
3) Laughing at other people.
4) Holding very old grudges, from other threads.
posted by smackfu at 9:41 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was also wondering the same when bunnycup's dead child was mentioned, and when Hovercraft Eel's background was brought up.

And klangklangton's background. Not sure what has brought about this trend, but I don't like it.


Aging Spinster Librarianism.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 9:48 AM on October 12, 2009


Yes, konolia should be treated with all the dignity and respect that she gives to homosexuals.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:49 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think it has anything to do with this topic or that topic or what sides people are on. The problem is that instead of saying stuff about the topic or the viewpoint being expressed, some MeFites get caught up in viciously insulting or attacking the person making the comments.

St. Alia could have come into this thread and said, "I just donated $500 to PFLAG and NARAL," and someone would still have found a reason to go after her.

In the "how not to look like a rapist" thread, someone made some abrasive remarks and was summarily called a "budding sociopath." In a poverty-related thread where I had the temerity to say that my (often extremely poor) neighbors perceive themselves as middle-class and don't appreciate people who patronizingly treat them as nothing but victims with a plight, someone told me that I was a heartless failure.

Really, is that the way you routinely talk to people who disagree with you? Would you non-jokingly say something like that at a meet-up? I don't care if you're my nearest and dearest family member; if you came to my house for dinner and called someone at the table a "budding sociopath," I'd show you fucking door, and if it were a public place, I'd leave. Why the hell would any of us choose to associate with total strangers who pull that kind of nonsense?
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:52 AM on October 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Aging Spinster Librarianism.

This thing where we try to give people the benefit of the doubt even if they have a history of shitty behavior, and the other thing where we try in particular not to tell people to go fuck themselves even when they're being awful: those are both really hard to do sometimes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:53 AM on October 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Hovercraft Eel apparently gives respect in the amount he feels he deserves. This new incarnation is much, much more unpleasant and trollish than the former. I mean, dude.

On preview: I might not call anyone a budding sociopath if they were sitting across the table from me, but if they made a remark like some of the ones made in that rapist thread, they wouldn't be sitting at my table in the first place.
posted by rtha at 9:57 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think you're missing the threads that end with religious people telling atheists that they're just secret Christians or people who can't experience wonder or something.

Also, calling it an atheist brigade--using the word sheeple--really seems overly hostile.


Yes, I've definitely missed those threads. And also, you missed the part where I apologized for being prickly since this issue in particular bugs me.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:00 AM on October 12, 2009


Fair enough.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:00 AM on October 12, 2009


How 'bout a site-wide day off? Maybe it would give us some time to get our collective crankypants-ness adjusted.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:02 AM on October 12, 2009


Yes, konolia should be treated with all the dignity and respect that she gives to homosexuals.

#1) Brand New Day Fail.
#2) St. Alia of the Bunnies has not done or said anything in this thread to warrant the outrage her username generates. It's really too bad that certain users can't exist without the thread becoming about everything that they've ever said. Honestly, if she hadn't commented in here, we wouldn't have had to deal with people saying that she doesn't deserve people's respect - and guess what! Her comments in this thread have been perfectly civil. Clearly, she elicits a reaction in a lot of people - and maybe that will always be the case - but can we try, just TRY to save the reaction for where it's warranted as opposed to turning every thread that St. Alia comments in into a thread about St. Alia?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:04 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I liked Cortex's comment here.
posted by Houstonian at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2009


grapefruitmoon: "Yes, I've definitely missed those threads. And also, you missed the part where I apologized for being prickly since this issue in particular bugs me."

I didn't miss it, nor do I even particularly disagree with you. There is more to it than just that, though.

If I never hear the word sheeple again it will be too soon.
posted by kathrineg at 10:08 AM on October 12, 2009


Sorry if the word "sheeple" bugged you, my intent was not hostility, but rather y'know, stream of consciousness it's the word that came to mind when thinking back on those interactions and whatnot.

Dude, can we like call a truce or something? I know you're a cool person, but man, this is like the 1200th time I've had to pick apart and defend the wording of my comments to you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:10 AM on October 12, 2009


I expect as the end of this thread becomes people airing their specific grievances about other users, it will become markedly counterproductive.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:26 AM on October 12, 2009


The hell you say AZ, more like anti-counterproductive to me.
posted by netbros at 10:32 AM on October 12, 2009


I expect as the end of this thread becomes people airing their specific grievances about other users, it will become markedly counterproductive.

Metatalk: Everyday is Festivus!
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on October 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Can we just move on to the feats of strength?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:34 AM on October 12, 2009


#1) Brand New Day Fail.

How many brand new days does a bigot deserve?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:38 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon: "Dude, can we like call a truce or something? I know you're a cool person, but man, this is like the 1200th time I've had to pick apart and defend the wording of my comments to you."

Yeah, I don't know wtf bee got into my bonnet with the whole OMG YOU SAID BRIGADE!!!! thing but it was a gigantic overreaction, so sorry about that. I wouldn't blame you for killfiling me after that one. :(

I think I need some tea or something.
posted by kathrineg at 10:41 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, the ACLU defended the KKK. I hope we can all agree that the Klan should crawl back into their dark hole, but there it was. The ACLU supported their right to expression, even when their beliefs are horrible. When they did that, I didn't write a check that year; but later I thought it was the right thing for them to do because, if I want the right to expression, I must protect that right for all people -- even the ones I think are hateful.

So, Metafilter's not the American government, membership comes with further restrictions, and so on. But, isn't the principle the right one, and shouldn't we support that principle here?
posted by Houstonian at 10:48 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Tea for all! I found some P.G. Tips in Stop & Shop of all places and it is greatly enhancing the quality of my life.

(I know some Brit is going to come in and be all "But that's made of crap!" and it's only because they haven't had to suffer the indignity that is Lipton.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:00 AM on October 12, 2009


How many brand new days does a bigot deserve?

Is this like, a koan or something? 6?

I think the correct answer would be "As many as you do."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:02 AM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think the correct answer would be "As many as you do."

What a charming nonanswer.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, it was a charming non-question.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:13 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, isn't the principle the right one, and shouldn't we support that principle here?

Do you have a particular kluxer in mind that you wish to nominate for membership here? Or do you think we should hold auditions?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:17 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno, nobody asked me, but it's MeTa, so whatever. I tend to think that there are certain ideas, opinions, and viewpoints which are inherently toxic and damaging, not only to the people who hold them but to those who interact with them and the communities which they exist in. A few of these are found on what we generally call the left (mostly among the authoritarian communist movements), but they tend to cluster on the right, where antipathy toward the notion of community and equality is held to be valid or legitimate. My problem with konolia (and a few others on MeFi) is she they seems to hold and act on these toxic viewpoints, and the presence of these viewpoints is damaging.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:17 AM on October 12, 2009


St. Alia is not a troll. She's rarely disagreeable in threads (at least in her current incarnation; old as I am, I'm too new to know if she ever was disagreeable.) She happens to have a viewpoint that many of us forcefully disagree with, and one that, I would agree, frequents promoted discrimination against people based on their sexual preference. So she's a bigot, but she's an honest one, and she actually does read responses to her comments and offer her responses in return, as hard as they may be for those of us who are atheist freethinkers to swallow, and as benighted and blinkered and medieval as we may find them.

How many brand new days does she deserve? An infinite amount, because we do not simply dismiss people for having honest opinions that we honestly disapprove of. I mean, she's not actually a bad person. From what I can tell, she's kind and cares for her kids and tries to do right, but she defines right very differently than I do, and she is part of a system that I consider to be repressive, and she defends that system.

That's cause for disagreement, yes; I'm not sure it's cause for banning. But, then, I'm not sure how I would feel is she was on here bell curving about black people, or arguing for the forcible conversion of Jews, or saying that we should take the whiskey away from the Irish. I'd like to think I would still be arguing for honest disagreement, but I might fight to defend my whiskey.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:20 AM on October 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


How many brand new days does she deserve? An infinite amount, because we do not simply dismiss people for having honest opinions that we honestly disapprove of.

I agree 1000%.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:43 AM on October 12, 2009


I tend to think that there are certain ideas, opinions, and viewpoints which are inherently toxic and damaging, not only to the people who hold them but to those who interact with them and the communities which they exist in.

The mods have defined already what those ideas are. However, I have a feeling that you would go further with those ideas than they would.

The problem is, people who want that kind of response tend to forget that not everyone agrees upon WHICH ideas ARE inherantly toxic, and where YOU may think the idea is toxic, for someone else BANNING that idea is the toxic part.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:19 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aging Spinster Librarianism.

Heh.

But seriously, if people won't call StAotB by her new username they shouldn't be talking about her or they should be making some sort of topic shift to site policy. Right now policy is

- don't bring up old usernames unless the user in question does it first

And we're sticking to that. I'd also like to add that we've made steps at cutting short threads that turn into StAotB vs. everyone (people can email her if they just want to quiz her about her belief system) but at the same time we expect people not to savegely attack her for her beliefs. People who just can't stand the fact that she exists and the things she believes need to take it up with her personally and not turn MeFi into a referendum on StAotB's belief system.

That said, from a personal perspective, I'd like to see a little less of the "oh this runs contrary to my belief system" asides in threads on touchy topics by her and other people. If you want to talk about things with the users of this site, that's totally cool. If you just want to go on record with the "well this is what User X thinks about this" that's sort of a non-great way of making conversation and tends to contribute to shitty derails which should run contrary to what most people are hoping to get out of the site.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:37 PM on October 12, 2009


The problem is that instead of saying stuff about the topic or the viewpoint being expressed, some MeFites get caught up in viciously insulting or attacking the person making the comments.

I've related this anecdote before. It concerns a British friend who commented that the problem with much North American argument is an inability to separate the person from the idea. Rather than say, that's really quite a dumb idea, you know? We say, you're really dumb, you know?

Both are provocative things to say but the latter is far worse if you have any interest in keeping things civil.

This "civility filter" is something I try to apply to all my MeFi commentary. And yes, I'm pretty sure I fail on a more or less regular basis.
posted by philip-random at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2009


Yes, konolia should be treated with all the dignity and respect that she gives to homosexuals.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:49 AM on October 12 [1 favorite +] [!]

I'd be happy with that. Because that would mean I would be treated kindly and with dignity even though my opinions were different.

I would like to say this: Perhaps some of you don't realize that even if you hate me and the horse I rode in on, it's valuable to the site to have people with my particular opinions here. Many of you would prefer to darken the door of a church or don't have the opportunity to sit down and talk to a Southerner/Christian/conservative/Charismatic whateverwhateverwhatever....just like how in my own social circles it's harder for me to meet people with some of the viewpoints expressed here. I'm here because, first, I don't want to be in an echo chamber myself, because I do want to be around people who think (yes I know there are those with my mindsets that don't, and it annoys me too) and because I see it as valuable to see the unvarnished unedited opinions of those people who are NOT LIKE ME.

I am truly sorry that some of you have experienced nothing from hate from segments of society that are commanded to love. I understand that there is a knee jerk reaction to what I am that in many cases gets in the way of your learning WHO I really am. I do think for the good of the site that it would be good if a few of you dial the vitriol down-not so much for me as much as for others who would prefer threads to be less sharp and mean.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is the quality of MeFi improved when we allow bigots to spew their hateful and regressive opinions in our community? Why should we welcome them into our roles?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:58 PM on October 12, 2009


FFF, if we go by your criteria, couldn't I say you were bigoted against Christians? That would make you a bigot, and then you'd have to get the old heave-ho as well.

I think the site would be poorer without both of us, myself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2009


Why should we welcome them into our roles?

I would prefer you not decide what my "role" is, whatever that means. Your hateful and regressive opinion is not everyone's.

Therefore:

Is the quality of MeFi improved when we allow bigots to spew their hateful and regressive opinions in our community?


Yes. If they're aired out and dismissed in a reasonable fashion, they're much less dangerous than when they're not. Just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they aren't there.

This refusal to engage with people with whom one disagrees is baffling to me. How will they learn? How will you?
posted by small_ruminant at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is the quality of MeFi improved when we allow bigots to spew their hateful and regressive opinions in our community? Why should we welcome them into our roles?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:58 PM on October 12 [+] [!]


Priceless typo, that. Absolutely priceless.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 1:16 PM on October 12, 2009


This refusal to engage with people with whom one disagrees is baffling to me. How will they learn? How will you?

This nails it. There are few things more dangerous (both to yourself and those you're interacting with) than being convinced you're right, about anything. It's the death of communication and is the fallback of all ruinous fundamentalism.

This doesn't mean there's anything particularly wrong with a STRONG opinion or two, strenuously presented and defended. But if there's no "give" in your game plan, you've already lost. That is (in keeping with the game analogy), you'll either be soundly trounced by your superior opponent (because he/she becomes superior the instant you decide that you are), or, more pertinent to Metafilter, you'll just ruin the game.
posted by philip-random at 1:18 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


The old forums at Red Action had "a liberal editorial policy saw fascist and anti-fascist, Right and Left, Loyalist and Republican, Anarchist and Stalinist engage each other, many for the first time, as equals." This meant politically committed persons who'd been battering ten bells out of each other (or worse) in literal physical confrontations actually had a reasoned debate, admittedly in a tone and using language that wouldn't go over on MeFi. A lot of that was that there was little point in continually restating that you hated each other's guts when that was a given. As you'll see at the link though, it was deemed to have run its useful course after a few years.
posted by Abiezer at 1:19 PM on October 12, 2009


I will welcome the gay-bashers, Muslim-haters, white supremacists, and others of the LGF ilk with open arms, then.

I don't expect them to learn, though. We've seen plenty of the bigoted sorts come through MeFi and it seems they never. ever. become less bigoted.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:21 PM on October 12, 2009


So the message I'm getting is: as long as your tone is civil there is no need for your sentiments to be. Anything goes as long as you're "nice" about it.

Yes?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:29 PM on October 12, 2009


Actually, I don't really care whether or not we allow miscreants, idiots, and bigots into our midst. They tend to get chewed up and spat out. Other than the trolling sorts they do little damage as far as I can tell.

Mostly I'm just beefing about this inane idea that everyone gets infinite opportunities to once again disappoint the community by demonstrating that they remain as bigoted, hateful, and ignorant as the last time they were allowed to poison a thread with their medieval social attitudes.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:32 PM on October 12, 2009


They're not poisoning anything. They're sharing their hateful, digusting, inhuman positions, ideas, and thoughts with us! Metafilter should be proud to host such things.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:34 PM on October 12, 2009


They're not poisoning anything. They're sharing their hateful, digusting, inhuman positions, ideas, and thoughts with us!

And you have the right to tell them that THEIR IDEAS are hateful, disgusting, and inhuman. That's the way it works.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I "get" to tell them this over and over again, and then I "get" to be told that calling out crazy-ass insane racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, and misogyny makes you a bigger jerk than the crazy-ass insane racists, homophobes, religious bigots, and misogynists!How could I ever get tired of it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:38 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


So the message I'm getting is: as long as your tone is civil there is no need for your sentiments to be. Anything goes as long as you're "nice" about it.

We're not the thought police. The site is for links and discussion. There are plenty of people who have indicated they have no interest in sharing links and talking about things on the site (i.e. they're trolls, or self-promoters, or incorrigible assholes or some combination) and they are shown the door and not allowed back in even if they ask nicely. People who appear to be making an effort to abide by the site guidelines are allowed to stay here, yes. If you can talk civilly about your uncivil opinions you can stay, yes.

And fff, if you think people are poisoning a thread, let the mods know, drop a note in the thread that people are derailing or whatever. If we think people are making a good faith effort to interact with the site on the site's terms -- terms which do not include a laundry list of acceptable opinions but do include the "don't be an asshole" edict and focusing on the topic at hand -- we let them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:39 PM on October 12, 2009


I'd say yes, up to point PG. There's certain viewpoints that are a derail in themselves - bell curve racists and the like - that if they appear in threads other than those specific topics should be deleted with extreme prejudice (ho ho) as what's the point? I.e. gone not for the thought-crime but because the inevitable response precludes the possibility of sensible conversation. And that seems to be, give-or-take, the way moderation happens here at the moment.
But I wouldn't kick someone off the site for thinking such shite if they could save it for the very rare occasions when it was the matter at hand, where they can leap at their long-awaited chance to make themselves look stupid.
posted by Abiezer at 1:39 PM on October 12, 2009


And I "get" to tell them this over and over again, and then I "get" to be told that calling out crazy-ass insane racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, and misogyny makes you a bigger jerk than the crazy-ass insane racists, homophobes, religious bigots, and misogynists!

It hasn't stopped me from continuing to tell others that the "LOLCHRISTIANS" meme is lame...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:43 PM on October 12, 2009


The problem that I have with that is that the expression of particular viewpoints is in and of itself an assault on other people. Racist remarks are in and of themselves assaults on those they're aimed at. Homophobic remarks are in and of themselves assaults on GLBT-identified persons. These are not viewpoints which it is possible to express in a civil fashion; their very presence degrades the discourse and the people engaging in it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:45 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I "get" to be told that calling out crazy-ass insane racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, and misogyny makes you a bigger jerk than the crazy-ass insane racists, homophobes, religious bigots, and misogynists!

No, you "get" to be told that you're better than a crazy-ass insane racist, homophobic, bigoted misogynist and you should act like it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:46 PM on October 12, 2009


The problem that I have with that is that the expression of particular viewpoints is in and of itself an assault on other people. Racist remarks are in and of themselves assaults on those they're aimed at. Homophobic remarks are in and of themselves assaults on GLBT-identified persons. These are not viewpoints which it is possible to express in a civil fashion; their very presence degrades the discourse and the people engaging in it.

Even if that comment is very quickly followed up by a whole flood of "dude, that's fucked up, what's wrong with you?" and then is usually flagged a whole ton, and then disappears within a few hours anyway?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:46 PM on October 12, 2009


Dammit, I hit post too soon -- I meant to add:

The problem that I have with that is that the expression of particular viewpoints is in and of itself an assault on other people. Racist remarks are in and of themselves assaults on those they're aimed at. Homophobic remarks are in and of themselves assaults on GLBT-identified persons. These are not viewpoints which it is possible to express in a civil fashion; their very presence degrades the discourse and the people engaging in it.

A system is in place to deal with the aggregiously awful comments. The mods set up such a system, and use it. For the interim before that system is fully implemented, or for those comments which the mods feel fall outside the scope of that system, I trust that my fellow MeFites are resilient enough to emotionally cope with such remarks, particularly in light of the fact that most of the time the remarkers are pilloried by others.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:49 PM on October 12, 2009


These are not viewpoints which it is possible to express in a civil fashion; their very presence degrades the discourse and the people engaging in it.

Well, then there's no need to further degrade the discourse by turning it around and making it a referrendum on THAT user, right? I think that the way you said it here is really very well-put and could be repeated in a thread with such remarks: "Look, by saying this, you are degrading such and such person and that's really not acceptable."

I don't think anyone here is advocating "Oh hey, let's start allowing hate speech to flow wildly from the mountaintops!" I think the real salient point here is, ok, how do we react to unpopular opinions and how can we tone it down so that people who disagree with us can still comment without feeling like they're going to be attacked?

To me, flat out racist/bigoted comments aren't really the problem here - those comments usually get flagged/called out/nuked from orbit pretty quickly. The question is really diverging opinions and how do we keep new users around and participating in the community, rather than dropping $5 and then being too scared to comment. Presumably, these users are not going to start writing "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" in every thread, so trying to turn around the idea that we should be more welcoming into "Yeah, well, what about the BIGOTS?!" is a bit of a slippery slope kind of thing. Why don't we just start by not being total jerks all the time and then see how much actual bigotry we have to fight against on the site and how much of it is a far tamer sort of disagreement.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:54 PM on October 12, 2009


Racist remarks are in and of themselves assaults on those they're aimed at. Homophobic remarks are in and of themselves assaults on GLBT-identified persons. These are not viewpoints which it is possible to express in a civil fashion; their very presence degrades the discourse and the people engaging in it.

Okay, but do you see these things? Seriously, if you see these things let us know they are Not Okay, no matter who is saying them. There is a short list of Not Okay stuff which has expanded over time to include a lot of the sort of casual sexist/homophobic/racist remarks that we saw more of when this community was smaller.

If you see someone making those sorts of comments, let us know that. It's not okay, however, to equate people talking about their religion with the presumption that they're a homophobe. It's not okay to overgeneralize about people's religions and to go after them in the same way that it wasn't okay to go after all Americans for dumb stuff Bush did (detrimental as it was to culture, civility and the actual health and welfare of millions of people).

And really, if your only response to someone talking about something you don't like is to call people filth or racists or assholes in-thread then you should probably take a step back from the thread. As grapefruitmoon said, if you're worried about the level of discourse, that would help. I personally know it's a tough thing to get your head around, that a thread might go better if you just stopped commenting in it, but I've definitely seen it happen, for many different values of "you" including me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:59 PM on October 12, 2009


and then I "get" to be told that calling out crazy-ass insane racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, and misogyny makes you a bigger jerk than the crazy-ass insane racists, homophobes, religious bigots, and misogynists!

Acting like a jerk makes you a jerk. There's no binary here, it's not something where if someone else holds ugly opinions then you automatically are excused for behaving badly. This is something that some folks here seem either to be unwilling or unable to acknowledge: you're still acting like a jerk even if the person you're reacting to has their own problems.

I don't know how to be any clearer about this: when we talk about wanting people to act civil, to act like adults, to engage in conversation with each other in a respectful fashion, there's no "unless the other person is a jerk or a bigot or trucks with unlikeable people or positions". Shitty behavior is shitty behavior and there is no But They're Worse rule that makes it okay.

People on metafilter are smart enough and savvy enough to combat odious ideas with care and precision without making interpersonal battles out of the whole thing or getting into dismissive, smeary broadsides that go after whole groups. They can do this if they so choose, and most of the time most of the folks here do so, and it's just fucking tiring that a small portion of otherwise smart and insightful folks here insist on not doing so and then go so far as to archly defend their right to be a jerk as if it's some kind of necessity.

Metafilter is not staging ground on which the political or ideological battles of the real world are fought. The stakes here are not so high, the practical results of our conversations not so concrete, that it makes any sense to excuse lousy behavior on the grounds of activist necessity or anything like that. It feels like that's something some folks don't agree with—the site gets treated as a place where A Line Must Be Drawn about one issue or another to the point where instead of trying for civil and constructive conversation it descends into trench warfare, and I think that's needless and that it sucks the life out of what could be (and in the best cases are indeed) vibrant, challenging, productive discussions about tricky issues.

The site has never, ever been made a better place by people venting spleen on other users for their ideas. Less of that would be a wonderful thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:00 PM on October 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Bono convinced Jesse Helms and Bill Frist to support a bill fighting AIDS in Africa via measured discourse, not by railing against them.
Just sayin.
posted by vapidave at 2:06 PM on October 12, 2009


The problem that I have with that is that the expression of particular viewpoints is in and of itself an assault on other people. Racist remarks are in and of themselves assaults on those they're aimed at. Homophobic remarks are in and of themselves assaults on GLBT-identified persons.
That's true.
These are not viewpoints which it is possible to express in a civil fashion; their very presence degrades the discourse and the people engaging in it.
This I don't think necessarily follows. The danger of a degrading of the overall discourse is worst where it's insidious (as discussed at length in the boyzone debates) but given the overall tenor of discussion of these topics on MeFi, I credit those of our users here who are subject to far worse structural prejudices on a daily basis with both the ability and the resilience to handle occasional open expressions of the sort of views that underpin them. Even with some of the stupidest views, occasional engagement with them can help you make sure your own arguments are not aimed at a different opponent to the one you actually face.
posted by Abiezer at 2:11 PM on October 12, 2009


I actually think that racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etc remarks can be expressed politely and in a way that should probably be responded to politely, as long as the person expressing them is doing it out of naivete and not out of malice. However, I think once a person has been informed that their remarks are offensive to someone for whatever reason, then there comes a point where politeness is no longer called for.
posted by empath at 2:23 PM on October 12, 2009


It hasn't stopped me from continuing to tell others that the "LOLCHRISTIANS" meme is lame...

Are you sure it's LOLCHRISTIANS and not LOLTIMECUBE? Because I don't see Peter Alethes and other thoughtful Christians being LOL'd at whole lot.

I trust that my fellow MeFites are resilient enough to emotionally cope with such remarks

Discussed here. I don't know if the conclusion is that users are resilient enough, or are not.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:30 PM on October 12, 2009


I actually think that racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etc remarks can be expressed politely and in a way that should probably be responded to politely, as long as the person expressing them is doing it out of naivete and not out of malice.

And the thing about this is, I think oftentimes, these kinds of comments are presented in a patently offensive/rude/sneering/dismissive way to begin with -- and those are the instances where I'd like to see stronger moderation (either in the form of comment deletion or a mod stepping in and saying "Cut it out") and maybe less piling on.

I'd also like to know, from the mods' perspective, if they think a stronger use of flags on the part of readers would help them out. Despite the existence of the "racism/sexism/offensive" flag, do you think it's possible we actually don't use it enough? Or perhaps the threshold for moderator action on that particular type of flag is set too high?
posted by Ouisch at 2:35 PM on October 12, 2009


Since we are discussing bigotry here, let me ask a question. Isn't there a difference between disagreeing with a particular person on a particular activity or viewpoint and being hostile or dismissing or treating as inferior a person with that particular viewpoint?

If Mathowie was making playlists from his cd collection and giving them to all his friends, and I disapproved of him doing so because he had paid no royalties, does this make me bigoted against Mathowie? No, just means I wouldn't do what he was doing and would rather he didn't.

If Jessamyn was eating pork barbecue and I was a vegan who thought meat=murder, am I bigoted against Jessamyn, or do I simply have a different value system?

If Cortex insisted that only Dunkin Donuts was worthy of being eaten but I was a staunch Krispy Kremer, would I be a bigot against Cortex, or do I just prefer a better donut?

If a friend of mine was having sex before marriage, and I felt that was a bad idea (or, heck, let's just say sin and get it over with) does that make me bigoted against my friend? Or, again, does that just mean my value system and theirs were different?

In all four cases we are presuming I don't refuse to socialize with any of the above, I don't try to get petitions signed against them (Well, maybe for Krispy Kreme...heh) and I would happily have a cup of coffee with any of them (local shops preferred over Starb$cks of course.)

We all have our pet values, our pet oxen that we don't want gored, our own viewpoints about what is Right and what is Wrong and how people should behave and conduct themselves. I think we need to be careful that we don't become a caricature of the very thing we claim to hate and are pointing out in others. And we need to deal with what is actually before us instead of what we think we know and what we assume.

Because we all know what assumption does.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:36 PM on October 12, 2009


actually think that racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etc remarks can be expressed politely and in a way that should probably be responded to politely, as long as the person expressing them is doing it out of naivete and not out of malice. However, I think once a person has been informed that their remarks are offensive to someone for whatever reason, then there comes a point where politeness is no longer called for.
posted by empath at 2:23 PM on October 12 [+] [!]


So you are saying that if someone makes blatantly antiChristian remarks, it is a-ok for a Christian to come out, guns a'blazin', and verbally pummel them into a metaphorically bloody heap?

Or for that matter, would you like to point out the racist, sexist, homophobic and AntiSemitic remarks you are referring to?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:40 PM on October 12, 2009


Or for that matter, would you like to point out the racist, sexist, homophobic and AntiSemitic remarks you are referring to?

I would like to politely ask that this not become a "show me where you've seen me doing this" discussion either express or implied.

StAotB, when you make requests like this, and you make them often, you're often taking the threads from discussions of generalities and turning them, knowingly or not, into "grade my report card" discussions about you personally which often result in bringing up your past accounts here on MeFi.

I'm aware that you may not think that you are doing this. I'd like to suggest that this will be the outcome of this sort of request and it would be a lot easier if you would not do this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:45 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I credit those of our users here who are subject to far worse structural prejudices on a daily basis with both the ability and the resilience to handle occasional open expressions of the sort of views that underpin them.

And I totally appreciate the point you're making here, but I also think that it can be exhausting for people to feel they have to engage constantly with the same stereotypes/logical fallacies/popular arguments over and over again. I don't know whether it's true that it's unilaterally worse when prejudice is tacit rather than overt; I do know that there are differences there, but that both situations can get pretty fucking old pretty fast to people who deal with one or both on a daily basis IRL.

I'd also like to point out that the tolerance of these kinds of attitudes/statements, whether they're blatant or more subtle, can scare away and/or silence the people who would disagree with them (and I guess you'd call those users "less resilient," but I'm prepared to be a bit more charitable than that.)

I agree that civil disagreement is something that should be supported, even encouraged at Metafilter. By that same token, I don't want to see that devolve into giving people carte blanche to actually say bigoted, offensive stuff to people in a passive-aggressive way, and then hold the offended parties to a totally different (i.e. higher) standard of response.

I don't want to see anyone get nasty with anyone else -- at the same time, it is quite common for marginalized people to be told that they're being "too angry" and that they need to remain calm and perfectly on-point whenever confronted with totally harsh, crude statements casually tossed about by people who aren't directly affected by prejudice at hand.

I guess what I'm saying is -- civility good; double standard bad.

And that's why I'd like to see more MOD intervention in these cases where the offensive/racist/sexist flags are employed, because it lets people know that those statements are not okay here, while at the same time not leaving the grievously offended party feeling like no one has their back, and like they MUST get embroiled in an intense fight-to-the-death about an issue that is close to their heart, but merely an excuse for casual bigotry on the part of the offender.
posted by Ouisch at 2:48 PM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have always felt that the dismissiveness and hostility expressed toward religion -- especially by my fellow atheists, and especially that sneering "superhero in the sky" crap -- was nad for conversation and just bad for the site. But, then, I don't really care what nonsense somebody else believes. I think sex cures sneezing, and wouldn't appreciate it if somebody disabused me of that notion, or took away my pepper.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:48 PM on October 12, 2009


Jessamyn, I understand what you are saying, but otoh it's easy to throw around accusations. I'm saying IN GENERAL where do they see these things, because I don't think they really happen here-and when they do you guys clean them up pretty rapidly. I'll be happy to drop it since you feel it would be counterproductive.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:49 PM on October 12, 2009


Yes, I meant "nad for conversation."
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:49 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Since we are discussing bigotry here, let me ask a question. Isn't there a difference between disagreeing with a particular person on a particular activity or viewpoint and being hostile or dismissing or treating as inferior a person with that particular viewpoint?

Think all you want, disagree all you want, but don't expect people to be cheerful when you describe exactly how much you disapprove of them.
posted by kathrineg at 2:51 PM on October 12, 2009


Dividing line is traditionally matters of choice and matters of being who you are. In the instances you offer St. Alia all the behaviours are chosen; what's under discussion here seems to be bigotry against non-chosen ways of being a person (which is somewhat complicated by a lack of universal agreement on the latter in certain cases, but good manners tends to imply taking people at their own assessment).
On preview: religious faith is a matter of choice and should be as open to debate as a political standpoint - the history of Christianity is certainly not short of controversies of every kind. Pointless prejudicial remarks would fail the discourse test and get nixed for that reason; that seems to have been the track record.
And I also think that it can be exhausting for people to feel they have to engage constantly with the same stereotypes/logical fallacies/popular arguments over and over again.
This I very much get too and I hope the earlier thing I said about deleting such tripe in anywhere but places where it was strictly on-topic and so people were engaged in the debate would mean I'm not asking people to put up with this sort of dull grind against the idiocy unless they chose to. And where it was the topic at hand I think the fair chance is you wouldn't be contesting such views alone.
posted by Abiezer at 2:52 PM on October 12, 2009


Well, I manage to remain pretty cheerful despite these sorts of threads....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:52 PM on October 12, 2009


Well, I manage to remain pretty cheerful despite these sorts of threads....

Wow, I didn't realize that so many people here disapprove of your skin color or your gender or your intimate relationships...
posted by kathrineg at 2:55 PM on October 12, 2009


Or for that matter, would you like to point out the racist, sexist, homophobic and AntiSemitic remarks you are referring to?

I wasn't referring to you.
posted by empath at 2:56 PM on October 12, 2009


What a charming nonanswer.

What I think you mean is what a brilliant retort. I don't think I've ever seen someone handed their ass so gently before.
posted by nola at 2:57 PM on October 12, 2009


To make my intention more clear -- I meant that even when someone is offended by something someone says, unless it's just grossly and obviously over the top, the first response is probably to explain that you're offended by it and why, and the SECOND step is pitchforks and torches.
posted by empath at 2:58 PM on October 12, 2009


Well, I manage to remain pretty cheerful despite these sorts of threads...

And I think that's great of you, and I wish more of us could. But not everyone can, nor should we all be expected to.

And I'm not saying that we should be expected to lash out when offended, however -- I'm saying that we should have a better option at hand than the current one, which seems to be "shut up and go away from a topic that matters deeply to you" or "fight to the death because ain't no one else coming in to help."

I'd like for people to be able to voice their displeasure/offense in a civil manner, and actually be listened to, rather than dismissed right away or piled on by other site members. Or, for those who are feeling overloaded and not up to remaining civil in a discussion where they are likely to be attacked, to be able to flag something as "offensive" and see moderator action taken on it.
posted by Ouisch at 3:01 PM on October 12, 2009


If Cortex insisted that only Dunkin Donuts was worthy of being eaten but I was a staunch Krispy Kremer, would I be a bigot against Cortex, or do I just prefer a better donut?

That depends, have you ever stood outside of Dunkin Donuts protesting them, or yelled insults at the patrons trying to go inside? Or if not that far, have you ever used the internet to repeatedly and loudly criticize people who make use of the restaurant? Have you suggested that people that eat there are doing something that is forbidden by your belief system?

Because that might make you a bit bigoted.
posted by quin at 3:16 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


If a friend of mine was having sex before marriage, and I felt that was a bad idea (or, heck, let's just say sin and get it over with) does that make me bigoted against my friend? Or, again, does that just mean my value system and theirs were different?

In my opinion, there might be two ways to have that discussion. One way: "All Christians believe in the One True God who infallibly wrote The Bible. The Bible says you will go to hell. You whore."
I, for one, wouldn't like that and would flag it and hope it is deleted.

Another way: "There are many different thoughts about sex before marriage. My tradition urges against it. Some believe this is because at the time, women were property and sex before marriage meant that the property was spoiled. However, some still believe it's a good idea to abstain, for religious reasons as well as possible issues with being emotionally mature, health issues, and pregnancies."
I think this is better.
posted by Houstonian at 3:21 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


doing something that is forbidden by your belief system?

...and further, that it should therefore [because of the perceived Universal Truth of that belief system] be made illegal.

That's the point, sometimes implied, sometimes stated overtly, where discussion reliably goes off the rails.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:27 PM on October 12, 2009


Well, I think bigotry implies not merely a difference of conviction, but an intolerance of those who hold a different conviction.
posted by Ouisch at 3:30 PM on October 12, 2009


I guess I should say "an intolerance of the existence and/or presence of those who hold a different conviction."
posted by Ouisch at 3:33 PM on October 12, 2009


or, heck, let's just say sin and get it over with

The issue with the word "sin" is what cybercoitus interruptus states. There is a long sordid history in the whole entire world of things that have been done to people because other people thought they were sinners. This is wrapped up in the use of that word in mixed company. If you tell your friend you think she's a sinner, that's between you and her. She knows you, she can tell you to fuck off or whatever she feels is appropriate.

As far as specifics, and I'm sorry in some ways to even go here: if you tell an entire class of people that you think they are sinners in a large online community full of at least some members who you know to be members of that class then yes you are bigoted. Considering the centuries of oppression people have been subjected to because of other people in positions of power decided they were sinners, I would not use that word in polite company unless I wanted to get into a fight. It's basically in line with calling someone a Nazi as far as useless show stoppers.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:35 PM on October 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hence, someone who wishes a group of people (with whom they disagree) would cease existing may very well be a bigot.
posted by Ouisch at 3:35 PM on October 12, 2009


So you are saying that if someone makes blatantly antiChristian remarks, it is a-ok for a Christian to come out, guns a'blazin', and verbally pummel them into a metaphorically bloody heap?

LoLXtian comments are flag worthy. And gosh, I don't think Christians need to be leaving anyone in a blood heap, metaphorical or not!
posted by Atreides at 3:36 PM on October 12, 2009


Back in the early '70s, when the fires of feminism burned a whole lot hotter in many American homes than they do today, I began to find myself in one lopsided discussion with my wife after another on feminist topics in which she seemed suddenly to have a great interest. Over the course of a few months, as she became "radicalized" on the topic, I suddenly found myself with reading assignments of works by Gloria Steinhem, Betty Freidan, Angela Davis and a number of other writers of the day, and while I dutifully read most of it, I wasn't as persuaded as she hoped I'd be. But then, I'd gone to college briefly in Memphis in the late '60s, and seen the same kinds of rhetoric, and the same kinds of tactics being touted by her feminist sources, applied, with varying rates of success and failure, by other issue activists, including anti-war activists, anti-drug activists, racial activists, and a lot of political activists of various bents common to those turbulent times, in that troubled city.

I came away from that period pretty convinced that those who argue their narrow self-interests, however passionately, consistently or stridently, even if their facts are ironclad and their case long overdue for larger consideration, are never the best people to look to for the larger humanist progress. The civil rights activists, in my opinion, particularly because of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, got closest to getting issue activism right, in that they consistently argued that racial equality was but a small step along the longer road to equality for all people, on all issues where accident of birth is limiting to an individual. When they called for "civil rights" they got more support, from more sources, than they would have, had they narrowly argued for "racial equality," and the point was not lost on the leadership of the civil rights movement, or on its allies. But it was lost on so many others, as any history of those times will show.

But as Dr. King knew, and reminded us often, part of rising above narrow parochialism, is giving the other side room on larger ground to find common cause with you and your issues. That's a way of behaving that Congressman John Lewis learned early, in his involvement with the civil rights movement, and that he continues to exemplify today. Even his Congressional biography page continues that language, because, as I personally know, it is his deep personal belief:
"Often called "one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced," John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community" in America." [emphasis mine]
If a man who has had dogs set upon him, who has had hate's spittle thrown in his face in response to his very presence, and who has endured bullets fired out of darkness at him, can continue to talk about "The Beloved Community" in America," I for one, will continue to take notes, and measure my civility, and that of others, against his example and ideals, whether I can personally always rise to them, or not, or agree on every issue with his politics.

"The Beloved Community" as Lewis sees it, is, I think, not unlike a Southern town, where all do not go to the same church, or achieve a similar level of economic comfort, or gain a particular social standing, or necessarily overcome their inner limits and narrow beliefs, but yet, in the public discourse and daily commerce, strive for the kind of live-and-let-live commonality, that lets people of all colors and ages drink from the same water fountains if they are thirsty, and sit beside one another in the same darkness to see the same movies. It's a place where gay people can have dinner together and plan their tomorrows together, at a restaurant that seats them beside anyone else who is hungry, without requiring of the next diner to be seated anything other than money to pay for the dinner they too, will order, and the civility to not eavesdrop on neighboring tables. It's a place where we can disagree, and even disapprove of one another's views, actions and limitations, without becoming a mob, or indulging mob rule, ever, because, at long last, we've done with mobs and their brand of rough justice.

So far as I understand it, it's a place MeFi would do well to hold as an ideal, too.
posted by paulsc at 3:40 PM on October 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


those who argue their narrow self-interests, however passionately, consistently or stridently, even if their facts are ironclad and their case long overdue for larger consideration, are never the best people to look to for the larger humanist progress.

I like this point a lot. I also want to say that feminists of the era you're referring to eventually took a lot of heat (and some are still taking it, rightfully) for not doing that kind of intersectionality well, and we're working on it. Some of the best contemporary efforts I've read toward true humanism have emerged from a feminist, as well as civil rights, framework, and that makes me happy.

It's also important, though, to keep in mind that it's sometimes important to reinforce and make explicit where the lines of systemic discrimination lie, otherwise there's always a risk of your efforts being co-opted to serve efforts that truck in the disingenuous use of euphemisms for the purpose of actually promoting intolerance and bigotry.

For instance, I checked out the KKK's website a few years ago, out of pure curiosity of how such a thing could continue justifying its existence, and found that they were now pushing a "preserving diversity" rhetoric, wherein they could argue for keeping "racial bloodlines pure" for the sake of "human diversity."

If we don't come out and say, explicitly, yes a systemic bias affects group X detrimentally, to the benefit and privilege of group Y, generalities about "humanism" can actually be used to thwart that very goal.
posted by Ouisch at 3:58 PM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, I manage to remain pretty cheerful despite these sorts of threads...

It's good that you're cheerful. What is unfortunate is that you want to turn this thread, which is thus far pretty productive, into a laundry list of instances of bigotry, which illustrates to me that you don't actually get what it looks like when members of this community feel like they've been attacked in a racist/sexist manner. I'm guessing one of two things here: that either you've got completely different standards for what constitutes an offensive remark from most of us, or you wander around the site with blinders. In any case, you also remain firm in your beliefs no matter how many MeFi threads you participate in, so I would imagine that your level of homeostasis or whatever is more stable than most of ours - those of us who are cheerful, yes, but concerned about the community and want to hammer out how to get along better in these sorts of threads.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:04 PM on October 12, 2009


Honestly, my hide is so thick these days I guess I assume everyone else's is too. I'd like it if people were more civil, but the only person I can control is myself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:07 PM on October 12, 2009


Honestly, my hide is so thick these days I guess I assume everyone else's is too.

Yeah, it's better to err on the side of caution with this one. Not that we should handle each other with kid gloves, but not assuming that everyone can "take it" is a good place to start.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:10 PM on October 12, 2009


I'd like it if people were more civil, but the only person I can control is myself.

The word "control" is interesting, too.

At first, I was thinking about the implication here that being able to flag stuff as "offensive" and get it called out (or deleted) is a manner of attempting to control people (some would hyperbolically call it 'censorship' or whatever.) And I guess that's true.

What's also true, though, is that being actively offensive to people who have issues that you're well aware of is also an attempt to control people, or at least a discussion. It serves to intimidate, discourage people from speaking up, or else derail the conversation into such emotionally-charged psychodrama that it becomes totally counterproductive and no one ever has to deal with anyone else's viewpoint in a considered or civil manner. In some cases, it's blatant verbal abuse, which should be tolerated as little in a verbal context as physical abuse is in a material one.

And which form of control is wronger than the other? I don't know. But I'm guessing that, if a person who states something offensive to other members of the site is allowed to say their piece, but also exhorted to not belabor the issue and to perhaps *listen* closely to people's responses, that starts to look a lot less like "controlling others' behaviour" than being allowed to deliberately hurt and antagonize people is.
posted by Ouisch at 4:17 PM on October 12, 2009


"... If we don't come out and say, explicitly, yes a systemic bias affects group X detrimentally, to the benefit and privilege of group Y, generalities about "humanism" can actually be used to thwart that very goal."
posted by Ouisch at 6:58 PM on October 12

Perhaps. But, too often, I've seen those most vocal about pointing out their views of systemic bias, also become so insistent that their position is the position of unassailable moral superiority, that I've developed an ongoing suspicion, even a cynicism, about the tactics of narrow issue activism. It's a very, very fine line that we draw, around the transgressions and moral failures of others, that never crosses even our own shadow.

I've begun to think it simply honest of those with a desire to advocate strenuously for any point, that they take a greater burden upon themselves, as the civil rights leaders of Lewis' youth did, which is, to couch their views in a larger context, applicable to all in some measure, and to show how their willingness to support the views of others did not detract from their own effort, but was central to creating progress and greater tolerance for all. If we're to enjoy vivid, lively rhetoric in a broadly humanist community, it's vital that the loudest voices in it be first to demonstrate self-control, and respect for other viewpoints. Sometimes, even if all those who think themselves progressive can muster for those they most oppose, is a respect for what Jefferson called the "inalienable rights" of those with abhorrent viewpoints, it's still due upon them to put that forth, if they cannot manage a greater intersection.

In my limited experience, civility starts, and ends, with the smallest of nods to the other.
posted by paulsc at 4:33 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


When they called for "civil rights" they got more support, from more sources, than they would have, had they narrowly argued for "racial equality," and the point was not lost on the leadership of the civil rights movement, or on its allies.

I think it's more the case that it was much easier to sell racial equality because black people were largely themselves Christian, social conservative, and pretty fully Americanized already. Plus race is so obviously an accident of birth and cuts across humanity in such a general way... it was so much easier to sell racial freedom as something noble, humanist, and holy.

American Christians agreed and mountains got moved.

Then when it came time for the other people to get their rights; other people who were not, by and large, socially conservative and Christian—and where the problems were not so easily ascribed to one region of the country—American Christianity pulled up its stakes and said, "See ya on the other side of the picket line, you baby-killing fags!"

So when you see those feminists or whoever fighting for their rights out of self-interest it's simply because if they don't speak up they won't get them. Because despite all those wonderful words and dreams of the Beloved Community, American Christianity got squicked out or didn't see the problem here, and left them to fend for themselves.
posted by fleacircus at 4:44 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've begun to think it simply honest of those with a desire to advocate strenuously for any point, that they take a greater burden upon themselves, as the civil rights leaders of Lewis' youth did, which is, to couch their views in a larger context, applicable to all in some measure, and to show how their willingness to support the views of others did not detract from their own effort, but was central to creating progress and greater tolerance for all.

I certainly don't disagree with you there. I just get a little worried, sometimes, when it comes to issues like "well we should just rename feminism HUMANISM then!" because, yes, while humanism is (I believe) the larger goal of a movement like feminism, the pathway it is taking is the recognition and counteraction of a persistent, systemic bias that exists and that particularly targets women.

But I think you're probably referring more to people who like to claim their pet issue as the "last socially accepted prejudice" or similar. And that is something I really, really disagree with, and dislike hearing. So I think I'm with you there.

Sometimes, even if all those who think themselves progressive can muster for those they most oppose, is a respect for what Jefferson called the "inalienable rights" of those with abhorrent viewpoints, it's still due upon them to put that forth, if they cannot manage a greater intersection.

And here also. I like the idea of holding ourselves to such a standard, and I agree it's the most productive way to conduct a conversation.

But also, I recognize that, practically, in reality, we're humans, and we're likely to slip up and make mistakes from time to time. When we do, we shouldn't be disproportionately excorciated for that (because we are being held to a higher standard by others, as a means of instituting that "double standard" I referred to earlier) compared to the people who struck the first blow.
posted by Ouisch at 4:44 PM on October 12, 2009


Perhaps this suspicion of others acting out of self-interest is just your own way of dragging your feet, of not helping those with whom you don't identify? Or are you above being suspected of self-interest?
posted by fleacircus at 4:53 PM on October 12, 2009


LOLmyself — my last link was to this very thread. So much for reading the titlebar.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:35 PM on October 12, 2009



They're not poisoning anything. They're sharing their hateful, digusting, inhuman positions, ideas, and thoughts with us! Metafilter should be proud to host such things.


This is an example of why I steer clear of political threads. I don't even really know what kind of idea would truly offend you, but it seems the threat of having myself branded as something less than human, even before I type, is enough for me to stay away.
posted by thisperon at 5:52 PM on October 12, 2009


I don't even really know what kind of idea would truly offend you, but it seems the threat of having myself branded as something less than human, even before I type, is enough for me to stay away.

Are your ideas of the sort that brand others as something less than human, or less deserving of equal rights, or things to that effect?

If not, you probably don't really have all that much to fear.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on October 12, 2009


Are your ideas of the sort that brand others as something less than human, or less deserving of equal rights, or things to that effect?

If not, you probably don't really have all that much to fear.


It sounds great in principle I guess, but in practice it's not that simple, because the folks who are willing to take on an attitude of "well if you're not on the wrong team then clearly you've got nothing to be concerned about re: my righteous wrath" aren't doing a great job in practice of making this place comfortable in general.

I agree ideologically with a bunch of people here whose manner of argumentation really, really bothers me. I don't subscribe to any of those deeply unpopular beliefs in question, and I've got a pretty goddam thick skin at this point besides, so it's neither an issue of being afraid I'll be attacked for my beliefs nor one of just being unable to take the heat. And yet, there's a lot of this stuff on the site that upsets me because the way that people with whom I otherwise agree go about making their cases is ugly.

There's a recurring defense here that somehow because there are ugly or bad ideas & opinions in the world, the only thing that matters regarding site discourse is whether you're for or against those ideas & opinions—that if you're for any of them you deserve no quarter, and if you're against them you've got nothing to worry about because you're On The Right Side, or whatever. That dynamic seems to be brought out as the excuse for a lot of bad behavior, as if any aggro/jerkish/nasty behavior is vindicated because it's righteous.

I think that sucks. And I think it's blind of the folks falling in the direction of that sort of thing to not recognize that what they're actually doing is making the site more obnoxious for everyone—not just making people who disagree with them ideologically uncomfortable, but making basically everyone uncomfortable.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:31 PM on October 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Are your ideas of the sort that brand others as something less than human, or less deserving of equal rights, or things to that effect?

If not, you probably don't really have all that much to fear.


Unless you're expressing views on one topic, and someone else comes in and says 'Hey, you believe X, and all people who believe X ALL obviously believe Y, so therefore you suck because you believe Y."

THAT is something I've seen happen a lot, and if it were the one thing I could wave a magic wand and change, it'd be that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:50 PM on October 12, 2009


If not, you probably don't really have all that much to fear.

Really? I feel like there are folks on the site whose argumentation devices seem permanently set to "burn the heretic!" I'm not even referring to you here, fff, but I guess I'm surprised you haven't seen it, and that you'd trust others when they say they reserve their bile for those who really deserve it. I mean, I don't hold any of your verboten opinions, and I've definitely felt the wrath.

I think it's often a train of conclusions, each not too tightly strung together, as the Empress says -- well, you believe this, which means you must believe this, which implies this, which means you are either congenitally stupid or a force for evil.
posted by palliser at 7:31 PM on October 12, 2009


There are some people who post on mefi that are nothing more than bullies. They come into threads looking for a fight and the bring out the worst impulses in their victims, they pile on and pile on pushing their quarry into a corner calling out the hapless naïf for any seeming inconsistency while the rest of look on not really wanting to disagree because in principle some of us agree with the bullies. That's their real strenght, they're picking a fight they won't lose and they know it. To call it a fight isn't even fair it's more like a back alley beating that I ignore because I agree 'he had it coming'

But this does not make it ok. These are the tactics of a sociopath, and clever ones at that because they've chosen the perfect place to behave like wild dogs. They're not doing this on some rightwing blog were one could be excussed for engaging in over heated debait, they're doing it here where many of us will look the other way at their over the top behavor because after all we agree 'he had it coming' They cry "Look! Look it's one of them!" and then they heap onto the victim all the baggage of the ills of our time, whether deserved or not.

It's not right, and there are plenty of people on metafiter who are much finer than this and when it happens we all look like dickheads. And I'm not talking about one off disagreements I'm talking about the ugly knock down drag out disembowelments that occur from time to time, that make me kind of sick. Because from the start that's the desired effect, to ruin another human being in front of a crowd.
posted by nola at 7:33 PM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


(Not meaning to imply that the nastiness is a good thing when "justified" either.)
posted by palliser at 7:33 PM on October 12, 2009


It's almost aways some poor slob who may not be very smart and says something stupid and politically incorrect and then, oh boy the teeth come out. "We've got a fresh one" and of course he or she tries to defend themselves because the first response is loaded to make them nothing but defensive and it just goes on and on.
posted by nola at 7:41 PM on October 12, 2009


There's a recurring defense here that somehow because there are ugly or bad ideas & opinions in the world, the only thing that matters regarding site discourse is whether you're for or against those ideas & opinions—that if you're for any of them you deserve no quarter, and if you're against them you've got nothing to worry about because you're On The Right Side, or whatever.

RIGHTEOUS YOUNG MAN SAID: "The ends justify the means."
BEMUSED OLD MAN SAID: "No, my son. The means are the ends."

Angry young man was confused, which was as it should be, for the young man who is not confused is NOT on the path.

I'm 50 now, so I get to say thing like this.
posted by philip-random at 7:55 PM on October 12, 2009


things
posted by philip-random at 8:35 PM on October 12, 2009


Me talk thing like so.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:02 PM on October 12, 2009


It's not right, and there are plenty of people on metafiter who are much finer than this and when it happens we all look like dickheads.

I agree. For one thing, I'm quite surprised about the number of mefites here that are troubled by the nastiness and have voiced it in this thread.

I didn't know that (outside of one or two people) that anybody cared. This thread is a bright spot in an otherwise discouraging experience I've had with metafilter's political threads.
posted by thisperon at 10:09 PM on October 12, 2009


"... So when you see those feminists or whoever fighting for their rights out of self-interest it's simply because if they don't speak up they won't get them. Because despite all those wonderful words and dreams of the Beloved Community, American Christianity got squicked out or didn't see the problem here, and left them to fend for themselves."
posted by fleacircus at 7:44 PM on October 12

"You might be right. But, I don't remember history that way." as I once heard Jimmy Carter say.

I think the leadership of the civil rights movement did yeoman work early on, by organizing black churches and civics group solidly around the principal of non-violence (and nearly lost the movement entirely in the fires of Watts, Newark, Detroit, and then the assassination of Dr. King, and the violence that followed). The early civil rights leader's work, and the violence that surrounded some of it, and got national TV coverage, as well as the 1963 March on Washington, convinced President Kennedy to propose the Civil Rights Act. It nearly stalled in committee in the House, but after Kennedy's assassination, and some considerable political strong arming from then President Johnson, it passed, and became law under Johnson's pen.

It was barely enough to help Lewis and the rest of the non-violent civil rights leadership to persist after King's assassination, and the case load it threw into the federal courts was unprecedented, and slow to work its way into the details of real change. But the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the continuing march of federal judicial change lent legitimacy to moderates, and undermined radicalism. But from 1965 to 1970, whether this country would remain a republic, or not, was a close, close thing.

"American Christianity" as you put it, never left anyone on any ideological hill by themselves, because there was never any such monolithic social force in the first place. The nation's political leadership saw that it couldn't remain legitimate in the face of massive non-violent call for change, and did what was necessary to facilitate that change, but it was never as a result of a broad ecumenical Christian movement. The keys to the success of the civil rights movement were its founding on non-violence and its willingness to make its struggle a broader one, at nearly every opportunity, on behalf of women, the disabled, and the poor, and very importantly, to win the struggle for the public's support by exemplary public action and behavior.

I have no qualms with those who argue positions of self-interest. Nothing about standing up for your rights is inherently morally wrong or civilly ineffective. But I do find that what's missing in much of today's narrow issue activism, in my view, is the genuine commitment to non-violence, and a respect for reason and process, that was so powerful to the civil rights movement. Many of today's issue activists model their rhetoric and public behavior on the kind of activism that resulted in the tension of the streets and in the Democratic National Convention hall of Chicago in 1968, not the quiet heroism and dignity of the civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. There is a spitefulness in the rhetoric of some of today's issue activists, along with a nearly narcississtic need for dramatic confrontation, and a demonization of the opposition, that was entirely lacking in the '63 March on Washington. In my view, the causes which are using these strident tactics and rhetoric, are not having the force of moral authority, or the natural broadening of alliances that the civil rights movement finally encapsulated.

More to the point for this discussion, such rhetoric and tactics are not, in my view, making MeFi a better forum for discussing these issues.
posted by paulsc at 10:59 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are your ideas of the sort that brand others as something less than human, or less deserving of equal rights, or things to that effect?

If not, you probably don't really have all that much to fear.


I call shenanigans.

The problem here is that to pretend that one side is "right" (or even that there are "sides") implies that there is an arbiter deciding "Ok, you guys over here, you're right. You guys over there? You're just so wrong, you don't even know how wrong you are." And that just isn't the case. Most MeFites can come out against an arbitrary sky wizard type G-d, so it shouldn't be too much of a leap to consider that there is NOT A MAGICAL REFEREE DECIDING THAT YOU ARE RIGHT.

Maybe you are. That's awesome. But consider that the other person equally believes that hir magical referee has also told hir that ze is right.

And this, this is the cause of much nastiness since BOTH sides are arguing from the stance of righteous indignation that how dare the other person shit on what the magic sky referee has so OBVIOUSLY deemed to be true.

Unless we are talking about hard science, there are NO PROVEN RIGHT ANSWERS. There are, of course, answers that are less wrong when we're talking about human interaction, but there is no objective standard by which you may claim authority when talking about things such as politics.

I'm not advocating that we let racism/sexism/otherism go by lightly here. I'm just pointing out that there aren't very many people who knowingly brand others as subhuman for the hell of it. They truly believe, just as much as you do, that their position is the right one. And if we're advocating that it's ok to be nasty when people do this, we're reinforcing the cycle in which nastiness begets even more nastiness.

Also: if the offense here is that someone's views imply someone else to be of subhuman status, what on earth good does it do to that person when in your brilliant retort, you treat THEM like a subhuman? How strong does that really make your argument? From where I sit, it makes you look like a fool at best and a hypocrite at worst.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:51 AM on October 13, 2009


It's not okay, however, to equate people talking about their religion with the presumption that they're a homophobe. It's not okay to overgeneralize about people's religions and to go after them in the same way that it wasn't okay to go after all Americans for dumb stuff Bush did (detrimental as it was to culture, civility and the actual health and welfare of millions of people).
posted by jessamyn at 1:59 PM

Considering the centuries of oppression people have been subjected to because of other people in positions of power decided they were sinners, I would not use that word in polite company unless I wanted to get into a fight. It's basically in line with calling someone a Nazi as far as useless show stoppers.
posted by jessamyn at 3:35 PM


Jessamyn speaks truth. That is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:56 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many of today's issue activists model their rhetoric and public behavior on the kind of activism that resulted in the tension of the streets and in the Democratic National Convention hall of Chicago in 1968, not the quiet heroism and dignity of the civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.

It isn't at all clear to me what "issue activists" you are talking about here. Would you care to elaborate?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:19 AM on October 13, 2009


I think the leadership of the civil rights movement did yeoman work early on, by organizing black churches and civics group solidly around the principal of non-violence (and nearly lost the movement entirely in the fires of Watts, Newark, Detroit, and then the assassination of Dr. King, and the violence that followed).

I'm pretty sure we've been back and forth over this before here. But in case we haven't, I think it's important to remember that the "civil rights movement" was based both in non-violence and in armed resistance, and that the radicals and the reformers relied on each other to bring pressure in different ways. It was a lot easier for King to present himself as the guy you need to negotiate with when everyone knew that there were a bunch of angry young men waiting in the wings for an excuse to kick some ass and raise hell, for example, just as it was easier for the radicals in the Black Panther Party to make outrageous demands knowing that Lewis and others had the middle road solidly occupied.

I don't think it requires a trip deep into conspiracy land to consider why the story of the civil rights movement gets told now as if it were all warm snugglies and pure non-violence. It wasn't at all, and telling the story that way provides a false path to follow. Non-violent marchers were watched over by armed members of the Deacons of Defense (many of them WWII veterans), including on some of the most famous marches Lewis took part in. Non-violence and (threatened) violence were used deliberately and strategically, and the movement would never had had the success it did without the interplay between the two.
posted by Forktine at 7:04 AM on October 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


(For those interested, the wikipedia page on the Deacons isn't a bad overview.)
posted by Forktine at 7:15 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Paulsc, how one remembers history is not a particularly reliable barometer, because it's based on all kinds of personal politics and acts of forgetting.

The keys to the success of the civil rights movement were its founding on non-violence and its willingness to make its struggle a broader one, at nearly every opportunity, on behalf of women, the disabled, and the poor, and very importantly, to win the struggle for the public's support by exemplary public action and behavior.

No, not EVEN every opportunity, particularly early in the movement. The Birmingham NAACP refused to take on the defense of the Scottsboro boys. Walter White didn't even send someone from the national office until after the first round of convictions. The Alabama Communist Party and the International Legal Defense took that, if you'll excuse me, yeoman's job on. And there were a number of cases of people of color who weren't wealthy enough or who lacked the right politics being left out in the cold by the so-called Beloved Community. Freedom Movements that we now call the Civil Rights Movement are far more complicated than the narrative you've set forth, and I think that's important to say. I don't remember history. I'm a historian.
posted by liketitanic at 8:16 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]



"The Beloved Community" as Lewis sees it, is, I think, not unlike a Southern town, where all do not go to the same church, or achieve a similar level of economic comfort, or gain a particular social standing, or necessarily overcome their inner limits and narrow beliefs, but yet, in the public discourse and daily commerce, strive for the kind of live-and-let-live commonality, that lets people of all colors and ages drink from the same water fountains if they are thirsty, and sit beside one another in the same darkness to see the same movies.


Also, paulsc, can you step off of the southern cooperation fantasia, complete with local color dialect that you don't use anywhere else, long enough to acknowledge that that claim to live and let live commonality isn't new, and actually existed during the very time when "people of all colors and ages" could NOT "drink from the same water fountains"? That such claims were used perniciously to deny people rights and safety? And that, TODAY, there are MANY Southern towns where my wife and I having dinner together and being in any way affectionate is not just offensive to some people, but could threaten our safety? There are lots that aren't, and I've lived in two of them, and violence can happen in lots of places, but the way you talk about the South you experience leaves out a lot of other very hard realities, historical and otherwise.
posted by liketitanic at 8:24 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Being a Notherner myself, I find this "Southern Utopia" thing confusing. Especially the implication that Northern towns are thus inferior and/or disagreeable.

I'm from a small town where it's live and let live. You go to church and you talk about the weather and your barn and you go home and drink some beer and go hunting. Maybe you don't sit out on the porch because it's too damn cold, but there's always ice fishing. There's certainly room for everybody - everybody who can withstand a New England winter, that is - and while we may try to get as much done in as few syllables as possible, you can rest assured that we're not talking smack about you when you turn your back. (I know this happens in the Midwest, and I hear tell it happens in the South as well.) If we seem unfriendly, it's just because we don't know you yet. Stick around a while. You will always be "that new guy," even if you've been here for twenty years, but you'll be stopping traffic to talk to the guy coming from the other direction soon enough.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:54 AM on October 13, 2009


There's certainly room for everybody - everybody who can withstand a New England winter, that is - and while we may try to get as much done in as few syllables as possible, you can rest assured that we're not talking smack about you when you turn your back.

....Erm, I grew up in a small New England town, and I wouldn't be too sure that people "don't talk smack about you behind your back."

I'm not saying that it's indicative of small New England towns, or small Midwest towns, or small Southern towns or whatever. I'd say that it can be a problem in small towns, period. And the only reason I'm even stating that as opposed to it being a human-nature thing is that big cities are just too big for the whole town to be talking about you -- maybe a few blocks, but not all of New York will be gossiping about you unless you do something truly grand in scale.

But small towns? Definitely. Even in New England.

Mind you, often they'll HAVE your back as well, but they do also talk about you BEHIND your back.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on October 13, 2009


Especially the implication that Northern towns are thus inferior and/or disagreeable.

Get's cold up there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:43 AM on October 13, 2009


Geez, people, can you please try not to ruin my enjoyment of paulsc's bravura demonstration of code-switching -- albeit in the service of some weird Southern agrarian communitarian utopian paradisaical vision that is slightly disturbing, like some Disneyland ride where the music is all slightly out of tune -- with your petty insistence on FACTS and HISTORY and LOGIC? Thank you.

*golf claps*
posted by chinston at 1:01 PM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Heh, code-switching, probably not something I would understand as a yankee who is unable to critique my environment out of inherent insecurity.
posted by kathrineg at 1:03 PM on October 13, 2009


chinston, I am actually pretty torn by admiring the code switching and finding it maddeningly obfuscating.
posted by liketitanic at 1:10 PM on October 13, 2009


Code-switching? That must be some Yankee trick to screw a good honest Southern man of his hard day's labor!
posted by Atreides at 2:26 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is, the archetypes of human madness and crueltry weren't invented by the men of our day bur by our forebears. The Greeks, you might say, invented evil, the Greeks saw the evil inside us all, but testimonies or proofs of this evil no longer move us. They strike us as futile, sensless. You could say the same about madness. It was the Greeks who showed us the range of possibities and yet now they mean nothing to us. Everything changes, you say. Of course everything changes. Maybe but not the archetypes of crime, not any more than human nature changes. Maybe it's because polite society was so small back then. I'm talking about the nineteenth century, eighteenth century, seventheeth century. No doubt about it, society was smal. Most human beings existed on the outer fringes of society. In the seventeenth century for example, at least twenty percent of the merchandise on every slave ship died. By that I mean the dark-skinned people who were being transported for sale, to Virginia, say. And that didn't get anyone upset or make headlines in the Virginia papers or make anyone go out and call for the ship cptain to be hanged. But if a plantation owner went crazy and killed his wife, two deaths in total, Virginian society spent the next six months in fear, and the legend of the murderer on horseback might linger for generations. Or look at the French. During the Paris Commune of 1871, thousands of people were killed and no one batted and eye. Around the same time a knife sharpener killed his wife and elderly mother and then he was shot and killed by the police. The story didn't just make all the French newspapers, it was written up in papers across Europe, and even got a mention in the New York Examiner. How come? The ones killed in Commune wren't part of society, the dark-skinned people who died on the ship weren't part of society, whereas the woman killed in a French provincial capital and the murderer on horse-back in Virginia were. What happened to them could be written, you might say, it was legible. That said, words back then mostly used in the art of avoidance, not of revelation. Maybe they revealed something all the same. I couldn't tell you.
posted by nola at 9:29 PM on October 13, 2009


Because it does seem like at least some people here are genuinely interested in the quality of its political discussions, and many other contentious discussions in general, I'd like to link to this article about the tendency of groups to conform and stifle creativity and independent thought.

A salient passage I feel is relevant to this discussion:


Unfortunately psychologists have found that groups suffer all kinds of biases and glitches that lead to poor choices. Happily, though, experiments have revealed some straightforward remedies for these failings.

Because group members are often very similar in background and values they are quick to adopt majority decisions. Psychologist call this groupthink. We can combat groupthink by nurturing authentic dissent. This is no mean feat as dissenters are often shunned because of the challenge they present. Support for dissenters needs to come from leaders.

It seems only natural that groups will average out the preferences of its members, but psychologists have shown this often isn't true. In fact people are likely to display group polarization when together: initial preferences actually become exaggerated by group discussions. We can reduce this by avoiding homogeneity in group composition.

Finally, the most baffling of our behaviours in groups is our inability to share information effectively. Instead of revealing vital information known only to ourselves, time and again research has shown that we talk about things everyone already knows. We can reduce this counter-productive behaviour by recalling relevant information before meetings and ensuring each is aware of others' expertise.

posted by thisperon at 12:06 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I'd like to link to *this* classic exposition of "the tendency of groups to conform and stifle creativity and independent thought." Corn-pone Opinions. Although what Twain is saying is that most people hardly need to be stifled. They are eager to stifle themselves.

Thoughtful individuals have been troubled over this problem of human behavior for a long time.

The Psyblog writer seems somewhat more optimistic than Twain. As am I. Somewhat.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:16 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow Slithy! I just read that essay for the first time this morning in a totally unrelated context. It's a great essay, and I don't know if I feel better or worse that the problem was just as bad one hundred years ago.

Thanks for linking that. It was a great read.
posted by thisperon at 2:03 AM on October 14, 2009


One of my favourite early essayists Hazlitt was also not a believer in the idylls of small-town community; don't agree myself but it's his usual tour-de-force of composition:
All country people hate each other. They have so little comfort, that they envy their neighbours the smallest pleasure or advantage, and nearly grudge themselves the necessaries of life. From not being accustomed to enjoyment, they become hardened and averse to it -- stupid, for want of thought -- selfish, for want of society. There is nothing good to be had in the country, or, if there is, they will not let you have it. They had rather injure themselves than oblige any one else. Their common mode of life is a system of wretchedness and self-denial, like what we read of among barbarous tribes. You live out of the world. You cannot get your tea and sugar without sending to the next town for it; you pay double, and have it of the worst quality. The small-beer is sure to be sour -- the milk skimmed -- the meat bad, or spoiled in the cooking. You cannot do a single thing you like; you cannot walk out or sit at home, or write or read, or think or look as if you did, without being subject to impertinent curiosity. The apothecary annoys you with his complaisance; the parson with his superciliousness. If you are Poor, you are despised; if you are rich, you are feared and hated. If you do any one a favour, the whole neighbourhood is up in arms; the clamour is like that of a rookery; and the person himself, it is ten to one, laughs at you for your pains, and takes the first opportunity of showing you that he labours under no uneasy sense of obligation.
posted by Abiezer at 6:13 AM on October 14, 2009


Wow. My small town sucked, but at least it wasn't as bad as Hazlitt's.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:47 AM on October 14, 2009


We can combat groupthink by nurturing authentic dissent.

I agree. So how do we go about getting some authentic dissent?

It'd probably help to start completely ignoring the likes of Beck, Taitz, and all the other moonbats.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:52 AM on October 14, 2009


Hazlitt's small town is like the bizarro version of my small town.

And I agree with fff, giving equal time to moonbats [whether it's LOLCRAZY or whatever] is rarely a good use of time and space on MeFi with some rare exceptions. And even non-moonbat sorts of things... the Obama health care post yesterday. Single-link CNN. Thread going middlingly. Could have been a much better post with some care taken and I bet it would have been a better and more informative thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:05 AM on October 14, 2009


Perhaps mods need to start leaning on people to post some balanced opinions in the political FPPs? The problem there being, of course, judging moonbat versus authentic dissent.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:26 PM on October 14, 2009



I agree. So how do we go about getting some authentic dissent?


Yes. Ignoring the rabblerousers and demagogues is a good start.

Two more ways? Like the article suggests, discouraging bullying, and encouraging different voices. That is:

If somebody has a position you disagree with but presents it in a respectful way (that is, not trying to bully you, call you names, or soapbox), not to immediately join in the comments that follow implying the person is "part of a larger problem" and should be ridiculed or mocked.

Actively discouraging the chorus of commentary that concludes the person is bad and evil, and should be made fun of, or ignored.
posted by thisperon at 2:35 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Perhaps mods need to start leaning on people to post some balanced opinions in the political FPPs?

Yeah part of the problem definitely is that the political threads are really not loved by any of us in particular in Modland. Not that we have to love them, but I think we don't enjoy the intense political discussion sorts of threads and so we're not in them as much as other threads in MeFi (I like the quirky book/library ones, cortex is in most of the game ones, for example) and so I think they suffer from a little bit of lack of attention. They're also fast-moving so if we can't sort of get a grip on them when they're in trouble [i.e. when someone shows up and just starts poo flinging] it can be tough to "fix" in any real sense.

But yeah, we've been ratcheting up the "don't call people names to make your point" corrections and trying to also include the "just because you're proabbly reflecting the opinion of the site members on average does not mean you get to be a dick about it" perspective. Hopefully that's a start.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:19 PM on October 14, 2009


Maybe politically-oriented FPPs should have to provide a quality counter-argument/link? There are a fair number of them that would benefit from a more-rounded view.

Problem is, where do you find sane counter-views these days? Some of the things that are being argued about are so fundamentally black-and-white that it's difficult to find any sanity on the other side. Equality issues, access to health, that sort of thing. There's no "respectful other opinion" to be found.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:36 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe politically-oriented FPPs should have to provide a quality counter-argument/link?

I've seen people making MeFi posts do this, and it's rarely convincing. The counter-argument is transparently a straw man, only there to provide cover, the appearance of even-handedness, and plausible deniability.

What one-sided arguments need is another side, a living, breathing human who can parry thrusts and return them. The the problem, as I've said above, is finding someone who is willing to do this all alone, in the face of a thousand spitttle-flecked partisans of the opposite stripe.

Unfortunately, what you get in this circumstance is usually not an intelligent defender of the loyal opposition, but a crank who can't bear any opinion but his own, which is the problem with political threads already, or a troll, who isn't arguing in good faith, but only wants to stir up trouble.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:53 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Example: were we fifty years ago, would MeFi be improved by a post that presents both the pro-multiraciality and anti-miscegenation arguments? Is that how you get a more-rounded view? A more balanced post?

Another facet: a MeFi post about contemporary anti-miscegenation arguments or efforts would rightly result in the source sites being mocked and abused for their racism. So when we mock and abuse those that oppose gay marriage, is it that we are unfair and biased against (social) conservatives, or is it that we are right, just like we are about racism? I think we're right, and we lead the general population's attitudes by a few years.

Of course, it's easier to be black-and-white about issues like racism, equality, etc. Perhaps the gripe about "bias against conservatives" is more about posts that deal with economics? Land management practices? The role of the government in everyday lives? I dunno.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:01 PM on October 14, 2009


Gah. Some clumsy wording there. I hope you can figure out what I mean.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:03 PM on October 14, 2009


So when we mock and abuse those that oppose gay marriage, is it that we are unfair and biased against (social) conservatives, or is it that we are right, just like we are about racism?

The issue is that "mock and abuse" are really the things that so many people are (to my mind) rightly complaining about. I think very few people are complaining about the bias issue and many more are complaining about the bullying and the taunting and the aspersion-casting and the "let's get 'em" that tends to happen around these topics. And really it's like five or ten people who pile on and harass maybe two or three other people. And it makes threads icky to a few hundred other people, so it needs to change.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:40 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


So when we mock and abuse

Mocking is not necessarily bad. Indeed, it's often well earned. I've certainly been deservedly mocked and learned from it both here on Metatfilter and out there in the great-unfiltered.

As for abuse, sorry. I mean, look it up; try to find a find a single positive take on the word.
posted by philip-random at 8:05 PM on October 14, 2009


"... It isn't at all clear to me what "issue activists" you are talking about here. Would you care to elaborate?"
posted by octobersurprise at 9:19 AM on October 13

PETA comes to mind.

"... I'm a historian."
posted by liketitanic at 11:16 AM on October 13

Your mother must be so proud. Actually, I'm a little confused. Is this some kind of argument from authority, you being the self-congratulatory, yet semi-anonymous "authority?" Or, are you really trying to make a professional point, behind your MeFi nic, that, the trial, in the early 1930s, of The Scottsboro Boys, is somehow a damning indictment of the leadership of the Civil Rights movement, more than 20 years later? Because if that's what your trying to do, it's going to take a lot more historical explanation than the drive-by garbage you posted here, to get my poor amateur consideration.

"Also, paulsc, can you step off of the southern cooperation fantasia, complete with local color dialect that you don't use anywhere else, long enough to acknowledge that that claim to live and let live commonality isn't new, and actually existed during the very time when "people of all colors and ages" could NOT "drink from the same water fountains"? That such claims were used perniciously to deny people rights and safety? And that, TODAY, there are MANY Southern towns where my wife and I having dinner together and being in any way affectionate is not just offensive to some people, but could threaten our safety? There are lots that aren't, and I've lived in two of them, and violence can happen in lots of places, but the way you talk about the South you experience leaves out a lot of other very hard realities, historical and otherwise."
posted by liketitanic at 11:24 AM on October 13

In response to your first two "questions," sure, I can acknowledge that wrongs were done by people that claimed whites and blacks "got along" in the South, from Reconstructionist times, through the mid-20th century, to today. Can you acknowledge that your fear for your safety and that of your "wife" in the modern South, as a homosexual, is largely in your own mind, and is not greater than it might be in other areas of the U.S., (as you seem to say in your somewhat apolegetic, but confused, last sentence)? Or if not, provide reliable figures that gay women expressing affection in public are more likely to suffer violence in Southern climes, than elsewhere in the U.S., as a basis for further discussion? Because in following the first 100 returns on the Google search phrase "violence against lesbians in the American South" I have no evidence for any attacks since at least the year 2000 on lesbians as a result of public displays of affection. But if you do, please cite.

"Being a Notherner myself, I find this "Southern Utopia" thing confusing. Especially the implication that Northern towns are thus inferior and/or disagreeable. ..."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:54 AM on October 13

If you're following on liketitanic's assertions that I'm enamored with some mythical "Southern Utopia," I think it only fair that you acknowledge, as she didn't, that I didn't imply anything about Northern towns, grapefruitmoon. I compared MeFi, not entirely unfavorably, to a Northern urban neighborhood. But, I've lived in Massachussetts and New Hampshire towns, and if you want to talk about the inherent gentility and civility of those locales, let's relate our individual experiences in town meeting, when the subject of the Police Chief's salary as a line item in the town budget comes up, shall we?

"Geez, people, can you please try not to ruin my enjoyment of paulsc's bravura demonstration of code-switching ..."
posted by chinston at 4:01 PM on October 13

But, of course, I wasn't, as you put it, "code switching" anything, chinston. Either it's past time you take your medicine again, or that you just stop overthinking the straightforward plate of beans I actually posted.
posted by paulsc at 1:03 AM on October 15, 2009


Also, while I've appreciated all the discussion in this thread, I wouldn't want anyone to miss the latest LOLRepublicans MetaTalk post. Because, you know, "Metafilter-related," or not, funny is, ah, fun!
posted by paulsc at 1:17 AM on October 15, 2009


the inherent gentility and civility of those locales, let's relate our individual experiences in town meeting, when the subject of the Police Chief's salary as a line item in the town budget comes up, shall we?

Either my brain has really turned to jell-o due to this fever that I have, or this is both a misreading of my position AND an excellent attempt to bait me.

Dude, really, I was just sayin' that this whole "Southern Utopia" thing makes no sense and that Northern small towns have their own kind of mode of being that is not inherently UN-civil. If you want to use a high-emotional stakes moment as your example, well, bully for you, I guess - but I was talking about a day to day vibe of "live and let live."

I apologize that this is really as cogent a response as I can muster. This fever is doing nothing for my intellectual prowess.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:42 AM on October 15, 2009


The Southern States have higher violent crime rates than the rest of the country, so you're more at risk of being assaulted whether you're gay or not.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:14 AM on October 15, 2009


Your mother must be so proud.

Dead, actually, if you want to know. And not proud of much of anything I ever did. But bless your heart for asking after her.

Or, are you really trying to make a professional point, behind your MeFi nic, that, the trial, in the early 1930s, of The Scottsboro Boys, is somehow a damning indictment of the leadership of the Civil Rights movement, more than 20 years later?

One point, yes, that complicates the history of the Civil Rights Movement you present, though not a "damning indictment." Ella Baker's critiques of movement leadership come to mind here. Aprele Elliot's 1996 article on Baker as a so-called "free agent" in the Movement comes to mind. The Statement by American Clergymen [pdf warning!] condemning King comes to mind as well. Critiques from people ranging from WEB DuBois to, yes, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka come to mind as well (Nikhil Pal Singh's Black is a Country captures a number of these.

Because if that's what your trying to do, it's going to take a lot more historical explanation than the drive-by garbage you posted here, to get my poor amateur consideration.

Hope this helps!

In response to your first two "questions," sure, I can acknowledge that wrongs were done by people that claimed whites and blacks "got along" in the South, from Reconstructionist times, through the mid-20th century, to today.

But not that it . . . modifies your claim?

Can you acknowledge that your fear for your safety and that of your "wife" in the modern South, as a homosexual, is largely in your own mind, and is not greater than it might be in other areas of the U.S., (as you seem to say in your somewhat apolegetic, but confused, last sentence)? Or if not, provide reliable figures that gay women expressing affection in public are more likely to suffer violence in Southern climes, than elsewhere in the U.S., as a basis for further discussion? Because in following the first 100 returns on the Google search phrase "violence against lesbians in the American South" I have no evidence for any attacks since at least the year 2000 on lesbians as a result of public displays of affection. But if you do, please cite.

Did you seriously seriously put the word wife in scare quotes?

Your response ironically demonstrates the kind of conversation we've been having about being afraid and what makes one's feelings of fear "legitimate." But I guess that's not worth going into if you haven't been harassed or catcalled. Is it likely that I'd actually be hurt? Don't know. Is there discomfort and fear that is very real, with legitimate causes, yes.

What you did or didn't imply about the North wasn't really my concern. I would, however, call this code-switching and Utopic. But in the name of gettin' along, I can accept that you think I'm full of shit. I'm pretty sure you are, too.
posted by liketitanic at 7:06 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also . . . I do want to be clear. I'm not maligning the Civil Rights Movement's accomplishments. I do think it's not a consensus history, though, and I think that's worth saying. The Beloved Community was much smaller and self-selecting than we remember it. And that's my point, by the way, about being a historian--not that you're a rank amateur, paulsc, but that I wouldn't solely go by what Jimmy Carter remembers or what a culture nominates as memorable.

Metafilter: The drive-by garbage you posted here.
posted by liketitanic at 7:24 AM on October 15, 2009


I agree ideologically with a bunch of people here whose manner of argumentation really, really bothers me. I don't subscribe to any of those deeply unpopular beliefs in question, and I've got a pretty goddam thick skin at this point besides, so it's neither an issue of being afraid I'll be attacked for my beliefs nor one of just being unable to take the heat. And yet, there's a lot of this stuff on the site that upsets me because the way that people with whom I otherwise agree go about making their cases is ugly.

I read Metafilter a lot. This is my first and only post in this thread. I agree fully with Cortex here. From where I stand, the most objectionable commenting styles often seem to come from members recognized as "old-timers" or "in the know" regarding Metafilter's history and traditions.

It seems that a virtual requirement to enter a debate is to throw in an in-joke or another markers of familiarity with site culture. That's just to state an opinion. Meanwhile, those who proved their bona-fides long ago get a pass on abrasive rhetoric or comments that the community-- its most vocal members and moderators-- would not tolerate from newer or less active users.

I understand the site's communitarian bent gives longer, more active users greater benefit of doubt. However, I think it would improve the tenor of all debates to demand equal civility from all members across the board, rather than giving members who "ought to know better due to low user number" wider berth.

In practical terms that might mean 1) limiting in-jokey, dismissive conversation stoppers (donut/pie comments in serious conversations) or 2) ideally, reining in "conservative-hating" members who demand orthodoxy in the tone and content of comments from all members. In-jokiness and shouty "liberal" orthodoxy are unproductive especially in Metatalk. They are unproductive because they silence users who might bring fresh eyes and insight to the table.

These ideas would entail more work by the moderators and a shift in community standards (e.g., less leeway for longtime users). Regardless, I wouldn't be surprised if the dichotomies pushed over and over by the same dozen or so people silence a great number of users throughout the subsites. Speaking only for myself, they "silence" me in that I often see no reason to comment in a thread when I know I'll be attacked from a predictable, un-nuanced viewpoint. Very, very often, the people whose views I share appear as the very caricature painted by their political or intellectual opponents.

Basically, I'm saying that the moderators and users too should come down harder on those who bait other users or who use inflammatory rhetoric. Those users often have the longest histories at this place. Ironically, it seems as if such members feel comfortable using the silencing techniques their so-called enemies deploy elsewhere on the web and in real life. As a result, metatalk and the rest of the site becomes an echo chamber when contentious topics arise.
posted by vincele at 9:13 AM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can you acknowledge that your fear for your safety and that of your "wife" in the modern South, as a homosexual, is largely in your own mind, and is not greater than it might be in other areas of the U.S., (as you seem to say in your somewhat apolegetic, but confused, last sentence)? Or if not, provide reliable figures that gay women expressing affection in public are more likely to suffer violence in Southern climes, than elsewhere in the U.S., as a basis for further discussion? Because in following the first 100 returns on the Google search phrase "violence against lesbians in the American South" I have no evidence for any attacks since at least the year 2000 on lesbians as a result of public displays of affection. But if you do, please cite.

1. WTF is with putting wife in quotes? Why did you do that?

2. Your criteria for how people should judge how safe they are - well, wow. If no hand-holding lesbians have been attacked, then it must not be dangerous! Maybe hand-holding lesbians were not attacked because a) they know better than to express physical affection in public; b) many states do not mandate the collection of statistics on hates crimes based on sexual orientation.
posted by rtha at 9:14 AM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, while I've appreciated all the discussion in this thread, I wouldn't want anyone to miss the latest LOLRepublicans MetaTalk post.

I actually would suggest that that's more "LOLcrappywebsite" than "LOLRepublicans", but hey.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2009


So what do we do about people who state flat-out that homosexuals do not have the right to a fulfilling sex life?

Seriously, I just had a memail from a user who says that. Says that that there is a difference between being merely attracted to same-sex partners, and actually having sex with them. Says that the freedom to choose one's partners is not a civil right.

I mean, fuck me, what do you do when presented that sort of evil, hateful person?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 AM on October 15, 2009


"I reserve the right to repost email sent to this account. My communication on MetaFilter is Open."
posted by Houstonian at 10:08 AM on October 15, 2009


GWWWAAARRrr.

Evil people piss me off.

I need to go hammer some nails now. Just plain fucking evil.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 AM on October 15, 2009


Houstonian, I caught major shit last time I posted a MeMail. Apparently people are allowed to post hateful, evil shit and not have their evil words revealed to the greater public.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on October 15, 2009


What you do with a hateful person in your private email is totally your business.

What you do with a hateful person who is interacting publicly with the community is a totally, totally different matter.

Do whatever you need to do in private, but IN PRIVATE is where conversations like that belong: not dragged into MetaTalk.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:12 AM on October 15, 2009


Here's the mail rules

- do not repost private messages [email, memail, chat] without permission
- if someone is harassing you via MeMail let us know and that's a timeout-worthy offense

And again, all we can really control is what happens on the site. If someone wants to be hateful in their personal life and decent on the site, that's actually okay with us guidelines-wise. It may not be okay with us in the larger picture [i.e. I would not want to be friends with such a person] but all we have to go on is what people say here. That said, if someone is being hateful over email and then disingenuously commenting on the site in a way that suggests they're deliberately trolling [and that's happened once or twice but it's pretty rare] by all means let us know.

We can't keep racists and/or sexists and/or homophobes from using the site, but we can keep them from being racist/sexist/homophobic on the site to some extent. It's a tricky line and we're not perfect at it, but it's what we aim for. Those people who get spitting mad that people can even hold those beliefs need to take those larger "I hate the way you think!" discussions off the site or keep them civil here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:37 AM on October 15, 2009


Does a notice on one's user profile reading "MeMail sent to this account may be reposted publicly" constitute permission?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:46 AM on October 15, 2009


No. No it doesn't.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:57 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish, if I got a mefimail like that, I'd reply:
If you are in the U.S., the Supreme Court of the United States held in Lawrence v Texas that "intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment." So homos do, in fact, have the right to enjoy intimate sexual relations with the partners of their choosing, just like heteros.

Furthermore, the obsession with what kind of sex should or should not be allowed between consenting adults is kind of creepy. Stop it.

Signed,

rtha
posted by rtha at 11:13 AM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Houstonian, I caught major shit last time I posted a MeMail. Apparently people are allowed to post hateful, evil shit and not have their evil words revealed to the greater public.

Jessamyn basically covered it, but for the sake of reiteration: posting email without permission just plain isn't kosher. Do not do it. Do not do it regardless of the content of it. If you feel someone is being abusive or is in some way overstepping some bounds in their use of mefimail or email to communicate with you, let us know in private and we can deal with it.

At the end of the day, someone who only ever says odious things in whispers out of earshot of the public is someone I don't want to spend any of my time on; if that's what you're dealing with and you think it's not otherwise actionable, I'd recommend blocking them on mefimail and having done with it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:29 PM on October 15, 2009


Yah, well, you won't allow me to post the odious things, so how are you ever gonna know that you don't want to spend any time on that user?

It pisses me off that you are allowing someone to pose as one thing on the site, and not expose the vile evil that drives that user.

I think we should shine a light on it.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:47 PM on October 15, 2009


fff, send us an email already and let us know what's up. You seem to be arguing that we should just suspend a long-standing rule because you think someone sucks, and what I'm trying to make clear here is that the rule exists for a good reason even if someone sucks. Let us know what's up via the contact form if you think that person sucking is something that needs attention; otherwise, yeah, satisfying yourself that you know they secretly suck is kind of the way things go.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:51 PM on October 15, 2009


Dude, let the mods know. They can deal with it.

IN PRIVATE.

The rest of us? Don't need to be dragged into whatever mess you have going on. We can make our own assessments for what's vile/evil/etc. without your moralizations or getting into your PRIVATE conversations.

Not letting you post it on the site isn't the same as doing nothing. Just email the mods directly and voice your concerns to THEM. The rest of us can't do anything anyway.

Why do you think that we need to know what other people are saying in their email? So that we can agree with you in your assessment of vileness? Really, if we are the reasonable people you think we are, we can judge that for ourselves and we won't allow that kind of shit to go unnoticed if and when we have to encounter it on the public side of the site.

Email the mods or let it go. The rest of us don't need to be involved.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:06 PM on October 15, 2009


Yah, well, you won't allow me to post the odious things, so how are you ever gonna know that you don't want to spend any time on that user?

If "that user" is so spineless that they're too afraid to say anything in public, how the hell are they ever going to get any followers, and therefore why are they anyone worth worrying about?

If you're so offended by something someone sent you privately, forward it to the mods, block the guy and move the hell on.

Not every private communication has to become a federal case (in fact, we recently had much hue and cry over private communication BECOMING a federal case). There is a means in place to deal with what happened to you.


Upon preview: what cortex said. I'm aware I'm not speaking as a mod -- however, I'm speaking as someone who would rather not fight the battles that have already BEEN fought because there are other things we REALLY need to tackle.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:06 PM on October 15, 2009


I think we should shine a light on it.

You are, politely, outvoted. If you want to tell all the mods what is going on behind the scenes, terrific. If that exposes some greater hypocricy of the type I outlined above, there may be repercussions. We are allowing people to define how they want to appear on the site, that's totally true. We think this is a net positive. People who are willfully deceiving people on the site because of our good graces allowing them to basically self-identify will be dealt with. I really don't know what else to tell you. This is by design, not by accident.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on October 15, 2009


What this user has said in MeMail is not against me, but against the civil rights of homosexuals. That user has expressed similar things in public threads, though not, I think, in quite the same words.

I just find the whole thing disgusting. I can not believe what a despicable set of ideas this user has. It's like hearing from David Duke.

I have asked the user to never, ever contact me through MeMail again. I want nothing to do with someone who would deny a fellow human being love and companionship.

So I guess that will have to do the trick. I can't really see a role for mods here. The sick ideas in this user's head will show themselves in public yet again, I'm sure, and they never go unnoticed by our rights-supporting users.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:46 PM on October 15, 2009


I can't really see a role for mods here.

Why not let them decide? That's their job.
posted by rtha at 2:51 PM on October 15, 2009


The sick ideas in this user's head will show themselves in public yet again, I'm sure, and they never go unnoticed by our rights-supporting users.

Then what is there to discuss? You said you don't want contact, you've decided not to involve the mods - though they could talk to the user themselves, give the user a time out, whatever - and you've already indicated that those of us on the site who support equality already stand up to this person.

It's run its course. Nothing more to say, just let it go.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:13 PM on October 15, 2009


paulsc: "I compared MeFi, not entirely unfavorably, to a Northern urban neighborhood. "

Inaccurately, I might add. We love to complain.
posted by kathrineg at 12:18 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


We love to complain.

Truer words. Never spoken. Etc.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:44 AM on October 16, 2009


I mean, fuck me, what do you do when presented that sort of evil, hateful person?

you block them from sending you any more memails
posted by pyramid termite at 5:20 AM on October 16, 2009


I mean, fuck me, what do you do when presented that sort of evil, hateful person?

I usually change the channel.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2009


ArmyofKittens is incorrect in stating I am “bringing [my] frustrations with discussions outside of MeFi to threads that really didn’t warrant it, at least until he made his initial comment,” which is another way of saying “We were all getting along fine in this thread till you came along and dared to disagree.”
posted by joeclark at 12:58 PM on October 17, 2009


Additionally, I have no memory of disagreement with Houstonian.
posted by joeclark at 1:02 PM on October 17, 2009


ArmyofKittens is incorrect in stating I am “bringing [my] frustrations with discussions outside of MeFi to threads that really didn’t warrant it, at least until he made his initial comment,” which is another way of saying “We were all getting along fine in this thread till you came along and dared to disagree.”

Actually, I disagree that that's what that subtext is -- I took that as a statement that perhaps you'd had other discussions in other places that stuck in your craw for whatever reason, so your comments were slightly more heated or whatever because something was simmering underneath. And that happens -- everyone does that.

Additionally, I have no memory of disagreement with Houstonian.

Maybe because Houstonian hasn't stated them? It could be Houstonian read something you wrote, thought "huh, I disagree," but then decided "well, that's life," and went about his business.

That doesn't mean Houstonian didn't disagree with you. It just means Houstonian didn't POST that disagreement, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on October 17, 2009


joeclark, you are right. I said, "I almost never agree with JoeClark (mentioned way upthread re transsexuals)," and that may not be true. Honestly, I've not read through all your comments about transsexual issues, and if there's a transsexual "orthodoxy" then I've just not been paying close enough attention. If you typically say that being gay is different than being a transexual, then yes I agree that the definitions of those two words are different with neither homosexuals nor transsexuals having a more important cause when it comes to being treated fairly in society. If you typically say that there's a "transgender supremacy," then I'm kinda with ArmyOfKittens in saying lolwut. But that wasn't really my point, and I muddied it up by bringing up your name.

When I said "I almost never agree with JoeClark," I was trying to express that even though I may not agree with someone, I feel like standing up for their right to expression will tar me with a label. In my opinion, baiting and bashing a person for expressing unpopular viewpoints (and you were mentioned in that regard) is not fair. Arguing against a viewpoint is fair, but beating up the person is not fair. As an example, I think "I disagree and here are my reasons why" is reasonable; whereas "Go die in a fire, you asshole" is not reasonable.

Earlier in the thread, you said, "What I get upset about is being shouted down as some kind of phobe for expressing the view that transgender simply does not equal gay...." A few comments down from that, I felt you were being baited into a bashing. That's what I was trying to address.

And then, I immediately baited and attacked the person who I felt was baiting and attacking you. So, it was not my finest moment, but I wasn't attacking you.
posted by Houstonian at 4:56 PM on October 17, 2009


Okay, I did a search in the FAQ for this, and can't find the answer that way:

you block them from sending you any more memails

How DO you block someone from sending you any memails?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:08 AM on October 28, 2009


In your MeMail, when you are reading a message from them, you can click "block this sender" beneath their message.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:20 AM on October 28, 2009


Or you can just use Google to find their real name and threaten to have them prosecuted if they ever send you another message.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:52 AM on October 28, 2009


Pope Guilty's approach is not one we sanction.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty's approach is not one we sanction.

I took that as read.

Thanks -- ban implemented.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on October 28, 2009


That's not my approach. That's someone else's approach to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If someone from MetaFilter is harassing you, we will put a stop to their use of MetaFilter. If this is a case of mutual harassment, we will advise both of you to stop interacting with each other.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:37 AM on October 28, 2009


It was ages ago and I wasn't entirely innocent, I just find Power Word: Real Name threatening.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:45 AM on October 28, 2009


...I wasn't entirely innocent

D'uh. I mean, hello, you're Pope Guilty, ain'tcha?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:06 PM on October 28, 2009


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