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If it bleeds, it leads.
March 24, 2011 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm beginning to wonder if MetaFilter is becoming like local television news, in that it's painting a distorted picture of how bad things really are.

You all know the saying -- "if it bleeds, it leads." Local TV news becomes a calvacade of murder, crime, car accidents and abuse, when actually, murder rates are down and things are kinda nice, comparatively speaking.

Recent posts on the front page have been about:

* Joe Arpaio and Steven Seagal
* Idiot Alaskan militias
* Kerfluffle over gay wizards
* The Koch brothers
* Microsoft suing competitors for piracy
* Proposed UK health reforms that may have bad effects (emphasis mine)

IMO, that's a lot of overheated chaff in the midst of otherwise excellent wheat, and all of it with a bent toward "oh noes the sky is falling" about politics and culture.

In many regards, the sky is falling. But this ain't it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Etiquette/Policy at 6:37 PM (239 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I've noticed it too.
posted by gjc at 6:40 PM on March 24, 2011


I'm pretty sure Steven Seagal is really that bad.
posted by item at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2011 [25 favorites]


So are the idiot Alaskan militias but I often wonder what there is to talk about or how much people from other countries care about our dumb country-men and -women. The Mormon thread was really weird in terms of what the post said and what was really going on.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:42 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's painting a distorted picture of how bad things really are

Nah, things are pretty shitty. These posts are just a slice of the weirder side of shitty, for the most part.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:46 PM on March 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


Uh, the U.S. wheat supply actually isn't looking so hot.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:49 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally, I believe things ARE that bad, and I hope that Metafilter won't turn it's back on that and spend its time talking about lady gaga and steampunk.

I believe that forums in an intelligent community is the BEST place to gather and vet this information.
posted by tomswift at 6:52 PM on March 24, 2011 [26 favorites]


Steven Seagal is not a morman.
posted by clavdivs at 6:52 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hm. It has been a bit of a downer, although some of this is supported by the evidence. But now I'm trying to think of cool awesome stuff to post that can help set off the ALL DOOM ALL THE TIME tone of METADOOM.

also, i initially read clavdivs' comment as "Steven Seagal is not a woman", which caused a bit of a wtf double-take.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:56 PM on March 24, 2011


Because of this thread, I now have the feeling that pla hates me, because I'm a state worker. pla probably has no feelings about me one way or the other.
posted by JanetLand at 6:56 PM on March 24, 2011


Things are in a state of doom. There are no more Skittles and Rainbows out there.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 7:03 PM on March 24, 2011


I really dislike 'look at these assholes', agenda-driven posts on metafilter in general.

Personally, I believe things ARE that bad, and I hope that Metafilter won't turn it's back on that and spend its time talking about lady gaga and steampunk.

Anytime a post reads as This Is An Important Issue That We Must Seriously Discuss On Metafilter, it sets my teeth on edge. Because often its the same few people axe-grinding on the same boring topics.
posted by empath at 7:10 PM on March 24, 2011 [31 favorites]


I agree empath, it is tiresome, but necessary.
posted by tomswift at 7:13 PM on March 24, 2011


You'd think these fucking axes would be sharp by now.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:15 PM on March 24, 2011 [27 favorites]


I agree empath, it is tiresome, but necessary.

Because it accomplishes... what, exactly? What am I supposed to do with this vital information about Steven Seagal and Alaskan militias and some hack talking about gay wizards?
posted by IjonTichy at 7:16 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


nice ax, emp. it is big.
posted by ambient2 at 7:17 PM on March 24, 2011


You'd think these fucking axes would be sharp by now.
posted by jenkinsEar


eponyhistorical
posted by scody at 7:18 PM on March 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


Some people want to talk about Rango. Others want to talk about militias in their backyards and their ties to national politics. It's a big, big blue.

I also take issue with the characterization of my (first!) post as overheated chaff. I thought it was medium rare chaff!
posted by charmcityblues at 7:22 PM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


The rest of the world has pretty banal problems - sectarian violence, poverty, hunger, lack of clean water, racists who think people should be killed because of the colour of their skin.

The USA has people who want to secede from the richest country on earth and a dude driving a tank into a chicken battle. Plus fantasy authors parsing the finer points of hate the way they count angels on the head of a pin.

I mean, you gotta say that the USA does lead lead the world in this stuff.
posted by GuyZero at 7:22 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Cool Papa Bell believes MetaFilter is bad for our country and worse for our children. But is it as bad as he thinks? Or much worse than anyone realizes. Watch this NewsCenter 8 EyeTeam investigative report and decide for yourself, tonight at 11 only on NewsCenter 8."
posted by slogger at 7:23 PM on March 24, 2011 [37 favorites]


Followed by a Kia commercial with funky hamsters.
posted by y2karl at 7:27 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I didn't know it was your first time, charmcity. But look, we all cried the first time...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:28 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Steven Seagal is not a morman merman.

FTFY
posted by IvoShandor at 7:30 PM on March 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Anytime a post reads as This Is An Important Issue That We Must Seriously Discuss On Metafilter, it sets my teeth on edge

This is true. I tend not to devote a lot of time to the more serious discussions around here because, well, life is short. But on the other hand, "OMG, you're ruining Metafilter with all your negativity" is a silly attitude, too. I mean, if an over abundance of earnestness is a downer, man, then earnestness about earnestness is even more of a drag.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:30 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really don't get this callout at all. Do you have a concrete suggestion for how to remedy this state of affairs, or do you just want to bitch about the fact that the front page posts don't perfectly resemble your preferred mix of politics, pop culture, and pabulum? Seriously. What do you want to happen here? Should the mods institute a quota on feel-bad posts per 24 hours? Should we have a coolpapabellweather icon to distinguish downer "chaff" posts about racist cops and manipulation of the political process from the "wheat" posts that make you feel warm and fuzzy? What exactly do you want?
posted by googly at 7:31 PM on March 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


One of the great things about the blue is the wide variety of information. I get to pick in and choose, avoid what I am not interested in, and participate in discussions with a huge amount of different people with different perspectives.

I do think that the first Mefi post about the Apocalypse will be deleted. The second one will contain a wealth of background and the discussion will inevitably deteriorate to "the sky is falling".

Then there will be a MeTa callout which I will participate in until my computer melts in my hands.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:33 PM on March 24, 2011 [18 favorites]


You know how cars slow down as they pass a wreck, to gawk and gaze? That's what Metafilter is doing a lot these days, except the car is stuffed with a 10,000 angry and frightened people peering outside the window at the world via the internet. They see a lot of shit, because it's actually there.

Political threads have become mostly a joke, as people snipe and complain, like a 2 minute hate or a a different side of the Apple vs PC (or is it Google these days) "debates". This is pretty much why I only post fun stuff, that's usually just a link or two. Why add more grief to the site. The constant teeth gnashing and OH SHIT LOOK WHAT FUCKED STUFF IS GOING ON, RIGHT FUCKING NOW gets old. It really makes me wish for a kill file of certain users who seem to thrive on that steady stream of piss and/or the ability to make some posts disappear from my view of the site (but not actually delete from the site). Subreddits like, see?

That said, things are pretty fucked now, so it's not totally unreasonable that people are freaking out. But damn ya'll, freaking out constantly over shit you can't control? One day, when I'm dictator....

On preview:
What do you want to happen here?

I personally would like people to chill out a bit and find some interesting non political or news links to post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 PM on March 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


I want a hug. It says right there that I can have a hug.

Seriously, it's just a conversation to have. I may be flat wrong about this. This is how we learn.

At most, I'd want to see more talk about worthiness of GRAR and in addition to talk about worthiness of Lady Gaga.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:35 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It says everyone needs a hug, not that you can have one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 PM on March 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


It says everyone needs a hug, not that you can have one.

The human condition in a nutshell.
posted by GuyZero at 7:38 PM on March 24, 2011 [68 favorites]


The human condition in a nutshell

That's not the kind of hug he was talking about.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:40 PM on March 24, 2011


I don't know what that means.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:41 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The human condition, outside a nutshell.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just MetaFilter. I've been noticing this with news sources I read, too. The thing is, things kind of really are that bad. I'm not sure I'd feel better if there were no notice of it on this website. There's a whole lotta shit getting flung, on top of the usual ration of random disasters. I guess we could all go post our favorite arts and pop culture links, but there's something a little eerie about that, too.

When in the course of human events a lot of shit goes down it's probably okay if it's what most people are talking about on and offline. I can think of a few times in the last 100 years when politics and current events just really ruled discourse, and I think this is one of those times. Yes, I could probably enjoy some more light and fun links, but the serious stuff going on is just bound to feel more weighty and worthy of remark or at least head-checking to at least some people.
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on March 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


Wouldn't the standard way to deal with this to be to post something more positive? That said, we've got new wars, nuclear disasters, and shithouse pop music... things could be argued to be 'that' bad...

Alternatively, shall we have UpfulGroupvine.metafilter.com?

Also: (((((Cool Papa Bell)))))
posted by pompomtom at 7:52 PM on March 24, 2011


http://www.metafilter.com/101865/Get-over-it-you-bunch-of-pussies

Also, the Dilbert guy is sexist. I think the recreational outrage quota has been exceeded a bit lately.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:52 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I first came to MetaFilter as a lurker, linking here from, I think, Brunching Shuttlecocks or Slumbering Lungfish. I loved it because it was just a whole page of "hey, check out this cool thing!" There's not as much of that these days. But there is still some of it. I hope it will come back, though. Because I like to check out cool things.
posted by The World Famous at 7:53 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm beginning to wonder if MetaFilter is becoming like local television news,

Our anchorpeople aren't as attractive and our weatherman isn't as wacky.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


turn off the computer, it's spring.
posted by edgeways at 7:56 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Our anchorpeople aren't as attractive and our weatherman isn't as wacky.

True. But we do have incoherent ostensibly-headache-induced babbling from time to time.
posted by The World Famous at 7:57 PM on March 24, 2011


I wish there was a separate site for OutrageFilter, or a mechanism to filter it out. I like Metafilter as a way to discover cool stuff, I don't enjoy it when reading the front page is just a way to make myself all emotionally exercised.
posted by phoenixy at 7:57 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's the thing, though.

Jon Stewart called out a media clip on The Daily Show last night; I only caught the tail end of this on repeat today, so I didn't get the whole setup. But it looked like it was a FOX or CNN newscaster arguing about whether the radiation in Japan was reaching the US and whether we were fucked as a result. She was arguing with a scientist who was trying to explain that no, there were over FIVE THOUSAND MILES between our two countries, and by the time any radiation made it over here it would have been petered out in strength. And the newscaster was just dismissing his points.

that kind of fearmongering, the "radiation coming to US omigod", is what the media does.

On the other hand, here on Metafilter, you get one person posting a link claiming that radiation from Japan would reach the US - but then you get someone else weighing in with links to other sources, someone else saying "hey, I'm a chemist, and I can explain this to you thusly," another person pointing out that Chernyobl is CLOSER to the US than Japan and that didn't seem to bug us, and...and a whole preponderance of evidence to the contrary, setting that initial alarm into a proper and saner context.

That's why this is not like the evening news in here. It's a dialogue, not a monologue.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [57 favorites]


Oh please. It's a gigantic explosion of random particles hurtling through an inherently chaotic universe, madly seeking any stability. Of course it's seriously twisted. Like it could be any other way. You puny humans are so amusing.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


But we do have incoherent ostensibly-headache-induced babbling from time to time.

You're Welcome.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, all that's true. But you know what day it is today?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing is, things kind of really are that bad.

Not compared to, say, any other time ever. On a universal scale of human suffering, things are getting better. And it is because of the hard work of people out there working hard. Not the ones garment rending on a website.
posted by gjc at 7:59 PM on March 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Are you seriously suggesting that Steven Segal, riding in tank, with backup from a SWAT team and a bomb robot taking down a man suspected of cockfighting doesn't belong on the blue?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:01 PM on March 24, 2011 [20 favorites]


turn off the computer, it's spring.

Yeah, right. March is roaring around like ten lions what with the drenching, freezing, ceaseless rain. Spring! Ha!
posted by rtha at 8:03 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I support this callout. There have been lots of posts recently that are just excuses to say "Hey, look at these idiots doing terrible things. Aren't they idiots?!"

Oh look, another right at the top of the page.
posted by auto-correct at 8:04 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a big internet. Until it feels like genuinely interesting topics are getting squeezed out, I don't think this is something I'm going to worry about. In fact, one of favourite things about MeFi is seeing how devoted some people are to things that would never occur to me to be of the slightest interest.

If all I saw on the frontpage were the 'serious' topics that I already spend plenty of time reading about (and also enjoy discussing here), I'd probably come here less. I don't need an echo-chamber, and a little frivolity is good for the soul.
posted by modernnomad at 8:06 PM on March 24, 2011


coolpapabellweather

Heh. Pretty good one.

it's wether, though
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:07 PM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


I first came to MetaFilter as a lurker, linking here from, I think, Brunching Shuttlecocks or Slumbering Lungfish. I loved it because it was just a whole page of "hey, check out this cool thing!" There's not as much of that these days.

I always recommend testing that perception by visiting the archives. I just checked the posts from this day five years ago, and we have posts about Bush/the Patriot Act, climate change, terrorism, a poke at the pro-life movement, international crises, etc. The next day we get peak oil, journalists in Baghdad, and peace activists being harassed. The day after that we get the Bush/Blair memo, wounded US soldiers, a multiple murder in DC, PETA, and Vladimir Putin the plaigiarist.

The past always looks better than the present, because the anxieties of living in the past have faded, leaving us only the anxieties of today.

STill, there were some pretty cool posts salted in with the current events five years ago, and we should keep doing that. As always, the answer to "not enough good posts" is "make more good posts," so maybe over the next few days everybody who is feeling like it's super heavy around here right now can find something cool but non-heavy to post. Who's in?
posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on March 24, 2011 [25 favorites]


On a universal scale of human suffering, things are getting better.

Mmmm, maybe century by century yes, but decade by decade, variable.

And it is because of the hard work of people out there working hard. Not the ones garment rending on a website.

Some of us are both!
posted by Miko at 8:09 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you seriously suggesting that Steven Segal, riding in tank, with backup from a SWAT team and a bomb robot taking down a man suspected of cockfighting doesn't belong on the blue?

If only the post had alien babies and Area 51 in it, it wouldn't be so axe-grindy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2011


Blazecock, I immediately started singing, in my head, "Eleanor Rigby" but replacing the words "Eleanor Rigby" with "alien babies". I fear that's the only way I'll be able to hear the song for the rest of my life.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:20 PM on March 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


I woke up this morning with a funny taste in my mouth. The same sort of taste in my mouth that I imagine Camus used to wake up with. Or Baudelaire. Hamsun. Dostoevsky. Any of the great European depressed types, really. They all woke up in the morning tasting the same thing I tasted: bitter, bitter existential dread-ash.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:20 PM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


replacing the words "Eleanor Rigby" with "alien babies".

Aaah, look at all the quasi-people....
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on March 24, 2011 [18 favorites]


I first came to MetaFilter reality as a lurker, linking here from, I think, Brunching Shuttlecocks or Slumbering Lungfish wet fleshy sacs. I loved it because it was just a whole page decades of "hey, check out this cool thing!" There's not as much of that these days. But there is still some of it. I hope it will come back, though. Because I like to check out cool things.
posted by setanor at 8:23 PM on March 24, 2011


* Joe Arpaio and Steven Seagal

to be fair, half of that post is links to my favorite film blog

still, i wasn't sure if the post was going to make it. i've got stuff lined up about b-movies and awesome music

i do have to say that since i get most of my news from MeFi i do have a "man, i can't go back to America. place is getting crazy" reaction

but so what? the site is for links and discussing things. good things happening - unless they're extraordinarily good - isn't usually news. and this week there have been some amazing posts of film and videogames.

also, the list at the top for got 'Lady Gaga'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:24 PM on March 24, 2011


You're just getting older. You start paying less attention to music and girls and it all becomes the news and weather. Then you start telling people about your bowel movements. Then you get moved into an old folk's home and no one visits until you die (probably because of something with Obamacare or death panels). Then everyone argues over who would have gotten to split your pension if the government hadn't gone broke.

Finally you make metafilter as your very own obit post mixed with outragefilter since the people who were supposed to cremate you didn't. They just hid your body in the woods for some for some young couple to find after losing their virginity! Forever after their love tastes like bitter, bitter existential dread-ash, and they can never quite get the smell out.

There you are, dead on the blue, some asshole complains about the dots, and cortex deletes you with the reason of, "Enough with the fucking stunt posts already!"




.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:25 PM on March 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


Alien baby...picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been

In order to return the rice to the mothership, where it will be analysed as part of an ongoing effort to understand our ways and thus our conquerability.

Waits at the window, wearing the face that it keeps in a jar by the door

A cunning disguise!
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:25 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Alien Babies, probing your butt in a holler where no one has been...

got nuthin'....
posted by jonmc at 8:30 PM on March 24, 2011


Ladies and gentleman... The (alien) Beetles!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:30 PM on March 24, 2011


some asshole complains about the dots, and cortex deletes you

Delete the dots ... la la lala ... delete the dots ... la la lala ...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:31 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wanna hold your flagella....
posted by jonmc at 8:33 PM on March 24, 2011


The Betelgeuseans!
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:34 PM on March 24, 2011


oh since I saaaawww herrrrrr floating there...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:36 PM on March 24, 2011


I'm seeing a lot of politicalfilter / outragefilter wandering through my Metafilter RSS feeds. I finally had to step out of the abortion-related threads so I could keep my cool. I agree with Miko that the best answer to this is more good threads about non-political stuff, and wish I had a subject I was all het up over and had lots of cool links to so I could post one.
posted by immlass at 8:37 PM on March 24, 2011


We all live in a Black Helicopter, Black Helicopter....
posted by jonmc at 8:37 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I smell a K-Tel record!

• I'm Looking Through You (With X-Ray Vision)
• Here Comes The Sunspot
• The Ballad of John and Yolk Embryo (Pod XZ-3319/B)
• Ticket to Rigel
• You Know My Name (Xorf)
• Across the Universe
• Run For Your Life
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:41 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


and of course...

Why Don't We Do It In The Road (To save My Dying Planet)
posted by jonmc at 8:43 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Gray Meta talking in the dead of night
take these posts and learn to sigh...
posted by francesca too at 8:44 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


CPB officially joined the site in 2007, which means, unless he was lurking a long time, he missed the era when "Nader Nader Nader" and "Surely THIS..." (referring to a never-achieved tipping point of BushAdministration outrage) became site running jokes. Considering the deepening river of shit we are sinking into, it would be tragic if this site ignored it. But the problem appears that most of the current OUTRAGEFILTER posts are focusing on micro-outrages (individual cases) rather than macro (major trendlines), and more of Powerful People SAYING assholish things rather than DOING. In some other cases, I consider it a valuable service to see the most reprehensibly evil legislation getting plenty of attention BEFORE it becomes law.

I usually post about more fun matters, but when I saw THIS, I had to share the bad news. Macro Bad News. 37 of you agreed and favorited it (my Dr. Goodword post got 39, and my Betty White and Jonathan Couton-centric posts also got 37, my most favorited since changing accounts).

On a universal scale of human suffering, things are getting better
The Mefite who made that statement has made one front-page post... about the Blagojevich trial. I can't think of a purer example of 'turning MetaFilter into Tabloid TV' than that post. Pardon me for getting personal, but when this complaint really is bullshit and I didn't want to tell CPB that directly.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:44 PM on March 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


On a universal scale of human suffering, things are getting better

this is true though. increased living standards, increasing sensitivity to cruelty, etc

but yeah, more cool shit. what got me to finally de-lurk was a post about my favorite band and not the million and one political debates i skimmed through

that said, sometimes the outrage-filter can swallow everything up. that 'fantasy gay Mormon' post ende dup with a discussion about Mormons
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:46 PM on March 24, 2011


Y'all can't slag on CPB, because he got me into a party with an open bar once, from the comfort of his home. True Story.
posted by hellojed at 8:54 PM on March 24, 2011


I usually post about more fun matters, but when I saw THIS, I had to share the bad news. Macro Bad News. 37 of you agreed and favorited it...

Not to be pedantic, but favorites do not necessarily mean "agreed" and it's irritating when they're trotted out in this way.

The Mefite who made that statement has made one front-page post... about the Blagojevich trial. I can't think of a purer example of 'turning MetaFilter into Tabloid TV' than that post.

The Mefite who made this statement has contributed over 5,000 posts and comments to this site. Sorry you think that one post wasn't up to par, but this is pretty rude.
posted by lalex at 8:59 PM on March 24, 2011


The Mefite who made that statement has made one front-page post

Please don't do this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:07 PM on March 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


Duke lost!
posted by BeerFilter at 9:08 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


CPB officially joined the site in 2007, which means, unless he was lurking a long time

I was here in 2005, under a previous moniker, and I started lurking along about 2003, when AskMe opened. Get off my lawn, punks. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:09 PM on March 24, 2011


I'm beginning to wonder if MetaFilter is becoming like local television news, in that it's painting a distorted picture of how bad things really are.

Give it a few days/weeks/weeks until someone posts:
"I'm beginning to wonder if MetaFilter is becoming like entertainment news, in that it's painting a distorted picture of how good things really are..."

Different people come here to read about different things. "War and Death" posts come in waves, as do the "Rainbows and Unicorns". Some days I wanna read about "War and Death", other days it's "Rainbows and Unicorns". On even weirder days it's "Rainbows and Death". Today, for instance I for one couldn't give a rats arse about animated reptiles, snarky British TV shows or blinking LEDs. But I may want to read them tomorrow.
posted by robotot at 9:25 PM on March 24, 2011


I just don't believe that everything on the website appeals to everyone, and certainly not every post on the blue is supposed to be weighted by the rest of the posts on the page. Each of the called-out posts in the OP can and do appeal to different people and might be interesting and newsworthy to each.

Besides, this is an almost impossible thing to moderate and asking for that is just never going to happen.
posted by flatluigi at 9:25 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, I am rambling and do not make much sense.
posted by robotot at 9:26 PM on March 24, 2011


This link is unrelated to anything.
posted by empath at 9:38 PM on March 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I could've been an actor, but I wound up here.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:39 PM on March 24, 2011


I thought we came here to for kittens and puppies...
posted by patheral at 9:50 PM on March 24, 2011


It's clear from this thread that recent events haven't had much of an impact on many of you or if they have, you prefer it stay out of this place. Either way, like EmpressCallipygos I appreciate the dialogue about these things.

Anyway, even an official call for fewer angsty posts is unlikely to result in more of the kind you like best (or think belong here). Or, are people holding back good stuff because they don't want their stuff to get cooties from the "bad" stuff?

Of course, I have been around here for less time than some of the things in your refrigerator have been in your refrigerator.
posted by Glinn at 9:52 PM on March 24, 2011


Miko: “I always recommend testing that perception by visiting the archives... The past always looks better than the present, because the anxieties of living in the past have faded, leaving us only the anxieties of today.”

Things have, however, certainly changed. It's a lot easier to say "things are the same" than to think about the ways in which things have actually changed. I think it's worth doing, however.
posted by koeselitz at 10:05 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Proposal: OstrichFilter

Anyone who doesn't want to see anything negative can bury their head in the sand. But not African sand, or Arabian sand, or Afghan sand, or Arizonian sand, or Albertan sand, or Alaskan sand. Actually, on second thought, it's probably best that those people should avoid sand, especially in places beginning with the letter A.

Maybe just close your eyes?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


On days when the blue feels like gloom and doom, I just head over to the green and cross my fingers for a "Can I eat this?"
posted by emd3737 at 10:08 PM on March 24, 2011


This thread made me sad.
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


But a MeFite just got me drunk.

(Hi carson!)

Also, Mix party been killing it what what.
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


When in the course of human events a lot of shit goes down it's probably okay if it's what most people are talking about on and offline. I can think of a few times in the last 100 years when politics and current events just really ruled discourse, and I think this is one of those times.

[...]

The past always looks better than the present, because the anxieties of living in the past have faded, leaving us only the anxieties of today.


Miko, I'm not entirely sure how you're fitting together these two different notions.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:22 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Personally, I didn't post 3 subjects of outrage today because my outrage muscles are worn out. I mean, I can read about most of the topics of outrage posted on MetaFilter also by reading news.google.com regularly, and I've been reading this website long enough to know how the discussion will go, so what's the point?

I did make a very deliberate FPP about some rather good political news I came across, which I really thought was worth sharing with people.

I think, overall, it really IS that bad. There's something going on politically in our country at the state level which feels oddly star chamber coordinated (and there have been links suggesting that isn't just paranoia), and the whole situation in Japan has been freaking me out for a while (not because of the nuclear plants, specifically), and the lack of obvious economic recovery even at this point is beginning to wear on me, and and and and.....

So, I'm making a point to avoid making the obvious, easy GRAR-talk-about-this posts and seeking to find something a bit more positive to talk about. Because I can play out the GRAR conversations in my mind at this point, and with the rare exception, I haven't really found anything in those kinds of threads which has created deeper understanding for me.

But... is MetaFilter's front page painting a bleaker picture than really exists? I'm not sure it is, actually.
posted by hippybear at 10:25 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, I have a thousand ill-bred jokes I'll withhold. Times was bleak back in 2001. Times less bleak now. End of story.
posted by mwhybark at 10:29 PM on March 24, 2011


Wait, maybe they actually are bleaker, but I experience them with less dread, since it seems conclusively proven that war is bad and the man is gonna fuck shit up. Less uncertainty, less stress.
posted by mwhybark at 10:31 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that's a joke but those are wisecracks. I'll shut up now.
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 PM on March 24, 2011


In many regards, the sky is falling. But this ain't it.

it's just like someone getting upset with their spouse because they left the cap off the toothpaste and getting into a major fight over that

it's not really the cap off the toothpaste - maybe he/she was screwing around on him/her a few months ago - or spending too much money - or neglecting the relationship

but that's not what someone's going to fight about, because it's too painful

no, it's leaving that DAMN CAP off the DAMN TOOTHPASTE!!!
posted by pyramid termite at 10:39 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Proposal: OstrichFilter

mmmm ostrich burgers

man the only things i've got to complain about are a game I wasn't going to play being banned, the various hassles of poor life, and the usual injustice every country has

is America REALLY that bad though? 'cause if i'm prolonging my exile because of the skewed view MeFi gives me i'll be pissed off

sometimes a dude with a tank is just a dude with a tank, ya know?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:41 PM on March 24, 2011




Wait, maybe they actually are bleaker, but I experience them with less dread, since it seems conclusively proven that war is bad and the man is gonna fuck shit up. Less uncertainty, less stress.


yeah, once you've accepted that you and everybody you love are eventually going to die alot of this becomes less worrying unless you know people personally accepted. just be happy you're not the one getting earthquaked or flooded
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:42 PM on March 24, 2011


er, effected. of affected. not accepted
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:42 PM on March 24, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: "yeah, once you've accepted that you and everybody you love are eventually going to die alot of this becomes less worrying"

no, it's more 'my taxes will be used to torture people and indemnify banks and there is nothing i can do to stop that.'
posted by mwhybark at 11:09 PM on March 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


make that 'bankstas'
posted by mwhybark at 11:09 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


but yeah huh all joking aside i guess i do agree with the premise of this post. MeFi does portray my home as a pit of craziness and despair, though that's kinda borne out by a few eyewitness reports it has had a negative effect on me
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:37 PM on March 24, 2011


TV news and newspapers/news sites concoct headlines and invent controversy to draw eyeballs for ad revenue. I sometimes get the feeling outragefilter FPPs are concocted to draw comments.

The line between "newsfilter" and "grarfilter" often seems blurred. Maybe it's a sign of the times, though.
posted by Maximian at 11:45 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, things are pretty shitty, for various values of 'things', in America and elsewhere, which is a surprise given how hopeful many (myself included) were just a couple of years ago.

But I think (without getting into any kind of laying-blame territory) that there is a certain feedback mechanism in effect. The more of those kind of 'let's argue' or 'let's get together and shake our heads and/or fists at this latest horror or outrage' posts are made, and the longer and more favorited they become, the more inclination there is among users, especially newer users who have joined as the cycle has ramped up and are in some sense post-best-of-the-web-era, to post more of them.

There are still a lot of interesting things being posted every day that have nothing to do with the Decline and Fall or disasters and Bad Things. But they don't often get anything like as many comments or favorites, and that, for better or worse, is the visible measure of Metafilter Success.

But, as has been said before: a bigger comments count does not necessarily mean a better post, nor does number of favorites for that matter.

Metafilter's fine, I think. The userbase is big enough that these things tend to work themselves out, slowly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:46 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


And there's always the "be the change you want to see" approach...

If you think there's been too much negativity and outrage on MeFi lately, then start regularly posting things which aren't either of those things.
posted by hippybear at 12:05 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you think there's been too much negativity and outrage on MeFi lately, then start regularly posting things which aren't either of those things.

This is an excellent idea, and something more of us could be doing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 AM on March 25, 2011


There are still a lot of interesting things being posted every day that have nothing to do with the Decline and Fall or disasters and Bad Things. But they don't often get anything like as many comments or favorites, and that, for better or worse, is the visible measure of Metafilter Success.

yeah, exactly. you just know that whoever posts the first news report of some big badness happening will get alot of comments. can't say i'm immune
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:35 AM on March 25, 2011



turn off the computer, it's spring.


*looks out window*

*sees great fucking piles of snow*


*cries*



*watches this*
posted by louche mustachio at 12:52 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


The problem isnt that bad things are posted on here...its that reading and commenting and joking about the same old shit makes us complacent.

Haha its here...haha things really ARE that shitty...haha MOST people are unemployed...snark snark...people want to kill us fatty Americans.

Haha. Cant wait for the next "oh this is soooo horrible, that im gonna reference wide stance" post on the blue.

Fight motherfuckers, fight.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:24 AM on March 25, 2011


Fight motherfuckers, fight.

To elaborate, if this sort of thing makes you angry and annoyed, there are better places to put your energy than hollering at the same old enemies here. Not that this isn't a good place to sort of get your scheme on as fasr as deciding what you'd like to do about various bad things, but I do think that for some people the bad feelings get channeled into yelling st stangers and then there's less done about the real world actual problem.

Just my $.02. I'm never going to tell someone they're doing it wrong, but it's worth assessing the amount of energy one has to deal with a problem and then looking at where your time/energy is going and seeing if you feel that's the right direction for it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:03 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, what hal_c_on and jessamyn said. It's the repetition of the same outrage and arguments in news and political threads that doesn't seem very productive. Everyone has a podium and sopbox on the web yes, but everyone also has a crowd of people who agree or think like them to engage in the 200-300 comment hate. Nothing gets solved really, not even the transmutation of that negative energy into action.

Eventually ya gotta leave the watercooler and go do something, if only for your own sanity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:11 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


And there's always the "be the change you want to see" approach...If you think there's been too much negativity and outrage on MeFi lately, then start regularly posting things which aren't either of those things

Yes, thank you. Well said.
posted by zarq at 5:37 AM on March 25, 2011


wish I had a subject I was all het up over and had lots of cool links to so I could post one.

I've got a ton of 'em, just no time for the needed research and assembly.

Miko, I'm not entirely sure how you're fitting together these two different notions.

Is nuance dead? This is, like, the third time this week someone has called out a comment of mine as seeming contradictory for making points which are not mutually exclusive. Two things can at once be true and worth thinking about when evaluating a decline argument: (a) this is a time of unusually high political, economic, and natural-disaster activity in history and people are likely to want to pay attention to that in all fora, and (b) human beings are also unreliable reconstructors of the past and tend to idealize it. Folks may have forgotten just how much of this there has been periodically over the lifetime of MetaFilter, waxing and waning along with the seriousness and frequency of events in the world.

I agree with koeselitz that saying "things are the same" precludes having an interesting and productive discussion about what may have changed, but to have that discussion in a reality-based way, first you have to look at the evidence about what went before and what's going on today and show something about what's changed. Our subjective senses of what MetaFilter is or was all vary somewhat, and we may all be comparing any given day to a different and imperfectly remembered 'peak' era or day.

It's such a big task to quantify postings by the topics they represent or the raw number of posts per month or year on specific topics and how those have changed, but it sure would be interesting and a good way to detect real change over time in MetaFilter. But as subjective statement, I've been reading a long time, starting around 9/11, and have weathered the MeFi eras surrounding the terrorism and anthrax hysterias, the Patriot Act, the Bush years, the various wars, Katrina/Rita and aftermath, the elections of 2004 and 2008, and the usual ration of earthquakes, volcano eruptions, oil spills and scandals, I would say that though we're in one of the phases right now in which current-events weather seems particularly heavy, those eras have come before and will come again, and are just as likely to wane as problems get solved and/or news gets old as past such eras have.

I think the important thing in maintaining a good MeFi is remembering the self-correcting power of the community. I'd always love to see more good posts. Every now and then there's a real streak of what I consider awesome, awesome stuff, and those are always really enjoyable (though they might not be the same streaks others are considering the most awesome ones - there are a lot of variables). If everybody who is tired of outragefilter went out and found something non-hell-in-a-handbasket-ish to post about within the next week, it would probably turn out to be a pretty interesting week on MeFi. Here's one - at some point every year I try to troll through all the Best of the Web nominations from the Museums and the Web conference, and there are usually some gems in there. I'm really busy right now, so have at it!
posted by Miko at 6:23 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


*looks out window*

*sees great fucking piles of snow*


If you're seeing piles of snow fucking, I want some of what you're smoking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on March 25, 2011


I'd actually been thinking of proposing we have a contest or just a month where we post nothing on our hotbutton topics. No religion, no abortion, no rape, no politics... I'm tired of the same arguments, and I feel like a certain subset of daily posters keeps reaching into the grar-barrell.
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:26 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


All I know is, from the micro to the macro, things have been weird in my world lately. From Japan to my boss's brain tumor to my dad randomly passing out and hitting his head to the economy to gas prices to all my friends seeming to have someone either in the hospital or headed there...etcetera....

Post what you want. It is what it is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:33 AM on March 25, 2011


If you're seeing piles of snow fucking, I want some of what you're smoking.

We call them Special Snowflakes.
posted by doublehappy at 6:37 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm tempted to go get some langjager this afternoon, but I know my wife won't be very pleased if I do.
posted by slogger at 6:59 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm not sure they are, but what if things really are that bad, and really are getting worse or more strange?

Because if they are, then wouldn't any concerted effort toward more "happy news" just be polishing up the bubble of denial?
posted by rokusan at 7:08 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because if they are, then wouldn't any concerted effort toward more "happy news" just be polishing up the bubble of denial?

The fact that people come here and learn about things in the news doesn't mean that MetaFilter is a newspaper. There is no obligation on the part of the site in general or the community in specific to post things here just because they are true or just because they happened or just because they are terrible.

I know there are a lot of people who do enjoy coming here to talk about newsy topics. There are other people here who enjoy fighting about newsy topics. There are other people here who feel that posting a lot of [often US-centric, though not as much lately] news stories about terrible things that are happening in the world sort of strays from MetaFilter's core function to be a place where people share neat stuff they have found on the web. That's fine, the site can be many thing to many people.

However, I bristle when people claim that one sort of post is inherently more valid than another sort of post. Some people like pop culture. Some people like news. Some people like to hate on stupid people in the news. Some people like to yell at people on the internet. I think most of us could agree (I hope) that the first two categories are "Things that are generally okay for MetaFilter (thought please try to make a good post about them" and the latter two are less desireable. The problem we have, as mods, is that while pop culture and skunk-eating-a-banana sorts of posts rarely turn into shouting matches requiring moderation and often a lot of attention, the same thing isn't true for newsy posts. And, since there's the added frisson of "This Is An Important Issue That We Must Seriously Discuss On Metafilter" people get pretty dug in about their position meaning that moderation decisions are often heavily scrutinized and disputed.

Anyhow, I'm just trying to outline why I think that people make the "We're stcking our heads in the sand" arguments here when we don't link to the latest popular Outragefilter news story but also why I don't think that perspective holds water.

MetaFilter is not a newspaper despite the fact that some people may get their daily news here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:17 AM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Because if they are, then wouldn't any concerted effort toward more "happy news" just be polishing up the bubble of denial?

I think it's trickier than that. I'd expect bad trends out in the world to manifest in metafilter posts, that's kind of a given because if it's notable (good or bad) it's got a chance of showing up here as a post. So in the sense that there's been a lot of bad shit going down lately, it's not weird that there's posts and maybe more than average that are essentially "here are the facts on the ground, or the analyses making the rounds, about bad shit x" posts.

I think it'd be weird if there was a lot of bad shit going down and not a word about it, basically, yes. I think it's pretty unlikely that'd happen, the userbase is way too varied in interests and posting instincts and so on for us ever to go mum.

On the other hand, while acknowledging and agreeing with Miko's observation that there's no point in the archives where you won't find Bad News! posts on any given week, there's also never been a point where Bring Us Your Bad News was anything like metafilter's mandate, and I don't think there's really a need for badder news to mean the front page gets a higher proportion of posts to gloom about it. We can gloom pretty well and at vigorous length in a baseline normal number of gloomy news/events/shit-happens threads, and looking at what feels like an uptick in the sheer volume and being bummed about that is a pretty reasonable reaction that has nothing to do with living in a bubble.

Metafilter isn't a news outlet or a directory of terrible things. We have a lot of posts about news, we have plenty of posts about terrible things, but they aren't fundamentally what this place has ever been about and wanting to see that stuff not take over is a pretty understandable position. I certainly feel that way myself.

So, it's felt gloomy here lately to me too. On the other hand, this place often is self-correcting, and I don't want to worry too much about what may well be a momentary spike of fever when we've had lots of spikes and troughs before on all sorts of fronts; I think we keep collectively taking the temperature periodically, let things run their course a bit, do what each of us can to help the site be what we feel like it should be, and if nothing else talk about all this again in a while.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:21 AM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Clearly, what we need is a youtube of a baby monkey riding on a pig.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:26 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


For the first time in a long time I looked at a current front cover of Newsweek, which was a scene of tsunami desctruction emblazoned with something like "Apocalypse Now: What The #@%! Is Next?". It actually cracked me up because of how much it seemed like some absurd prop from some 80's cheap scifi flick about the terrible future.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 7:29 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


it is tiresome, but necessary

No, this isn't Congress or an advocacy site. It's not necessary to talk about anything here. Metafilter is about finding the best of the web- you've got a link that is really interesting about a serious topic? Cool, let's see it. But we're under no obligation to have it here, or to read it here. The link justifies it, not the topic.

A topic shouldn't be posted about just because it's important- if your link isn't really good, it doesn't matter if it's the Most Serious Thing Ever, don't post it.
posted by spaltavian at 7:31 AM on March 25, 2011


What cortex writes makes a lot of sense. There might also be some type of gloom-paralyzes-activity-effect going on here, at least I noticed that in myself; I've been planning to make one or two vaguely art-in-the-outskirts-themed posts, but in view of the combined miseries of Japan and Libya, I just wasn't in the mood to subject others to my meek link-assembling skills and to see them trying to be polite about it (or not).
posted by Namlit at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2011


Also I was gonna make a post about an awesome mechanical speech synthesis robot thing the other day but as usual it's something someone posted about already like three years ago so I just played kick the can* for a while instead.

*This is a euphemism**.
**For "Dragon Age 2".

posted by cortex (staff) at 7:41 AM on March 25, 2011


Hey man, if it bleeds, it leads. It is what it is. The sky is falling from the teeth gnashing, ladies and gentlemen, please don't do this.

Yeah, all that's true. But you know what day it is today?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:58 PM on March 24


It's DEATH METAL FRIDAY
posted by cashman at 7:42 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


i got a link to a skunk, eatin' a banana,
eatin' a banana while a monkey rides a pig,
and a post 'bout a lunatic, down in Alabama,
down in Alabama that I think you'll dig.
then a post about the government, post about the government,
post about the government and what they've done
and then a link to a site where a girl from Oklahoma
made a statue of Picasso outta chewing gum,
and it's all the very best of the web,
yes it's all the very best of the web
hey it's all the very best of the web
and you can click it or not,
click it or not,
click it or not...
that's all i've got
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:51 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Koch brothers' pernicious influence not just in the US but now perhaps Canada as well is just overheated chaff? What are they, just a couple of rich guys whose views perhaps differ a bit from the mostly-liberal MetaFilter? Really, people, you worry about them too much?

No.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:06 AM on March 25, 2011


It boggles the mind that anyone would have that hard of a time ignoring a thread.

Speaking for myself, I spend a ton of time here, and still don't read them all. So why would I care if something under 100% of them actually pertain to my interests?

This entire conversation is needlessly divisive and antagonistic. But I suppose I can take my own advice and just ignore it.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:14 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell: “The Koch brothers' pernicious influence not just in the US but now perhaps Canada as well is just overheated chaff? What are they, just a couple of rich guys whose views perhaps differ a bit from the mostly-liberal MetaFilter? Really, people, you worry about them too much? No.”

The malaise of the modern world is caused by the perception that only dirt can fight dirt, that the only way to defeat low-level scum is to go rooting in the gutter and wallow in it incessantly.

There is such a thing as trying to be higher human beings. One part of trying to be higher human beings is not paying any damned attention to idiots like the Koch brothers. But what if they win? But what if their lot takes over the world? Don't we have a responsibility to try to defeat evil and overcome miseducation? Of course we do. The only way to win this game, however, is to elevate ourselves above its playing.

Thoughtful contemplation and reasoned, rewarding discourse always has the potential to crowd out impotent handwringing over the unfortunate things we see around us. In order for that to happen, though, we have to achieve a kind of serenity about our place in the world and our responsibility to it. That's not easy, I admit; but it's a worthy goal.
posted by koeselitz at 8:20 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]




If you think there's been too much negativity and outrage on MeFi lately, then start regularly posting things which aren't either of those things.



Speaking as somebody that's been following the political threads closely, and someone that was called out in the grey here... (Along with a few others.)

I haven't actually found that the political threads here are that negative. There's some outrage, but for the most part it's a "ra-ra solidarity" kind of outrage, with the exception of a couple obvious trolls.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:20 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


As someone who is a sucker for the "what-a-special-wonderful-community" moments we share, and who continues to gratefully learn from all of you here how to better examine my own too-closely-held perspectives, Metafilter has been extraordinarily irritating lately.

It's not the front page posts themselves putting me off -- it's the four-paragraph pendantry every time someone dares dips a toe into expressing feeling conflicted or challenged by the Metafilter community party line. It sometimes feels so ... tunnel vision-y? naive? it's like listening to know-it-all 20 year olds trashing their parents' 25-year marriages or tedious long-held jobs or entire modes of existence. Many of you are quite ready and able to walk in the shoes of anybody except that person who may not know how to think new or different or inclusively or only fact-based, not feeling-based or this-is-how-I-was-taught. The wrath reigns down, sometimes with a mod on board (which I find kind of not-good, honestly. If it were my sandbox I think I'd ask mods, if they want to participate in threads in addition to moderating them, to stick with more pragmatic or lighter threads for their own comments and stay away from the hot buttons because of the possible perception of their weight or sway or favoritism, but that's just me).

I'm guilty of firing off un-helpful comments, being snarky, eye-rolling (and unintentionally derailing) all over the place, I'm sure I'm so out of touch I don't even see it. Still, I aspire. I want to apply the "there but for the grace of [your moral equivalency] go I," especially when I read perspectives I don't agree with that exhibit what is clearly an honest, deeply-held truth for the poster! It makes me so uncomfortable, especially in Ask or Talk, when someone sticks their neck out with a question/comment and gets 65 insta-replies, complete with citations and links and 19 past threads and 400 personal anecdotes, just piling on the poster to show how clearly BLIND he/she is to even ask this question or omg be dumb enough to challenge the first-hand experience of those answering the Ask. There seems to be a lot of shouting down lately.

I mean, I've said this before, so I guess I'm grabbing my 4 paragraphs of pendantry as well. We are all Other to each other. All, even those who may come off as unenlightened or oppressive or blind -- koeselitz said it well the other day about misogyny (you can insert your favorite crimes unenlightened Mefites commit)
it comes from a moment of pain that's never faced down and confronted. A moment of pain which we ourselves may not be aware of. Sometimes the confrontation requires a spoonful of sugar and some sympathy, along with the dose of 4-paragraph enlightenment medicine (which I myself have benefited from).

tl;dr: Stop hollering.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is nuance dead? This is, like, the third time this week someone has called out a comment of mine as seeming contradictory for making points which are not mutually exclusive

No, I was just asking for clarification. Thank you.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:31 AM on March 25, 2011


No, I was just asking for clarification. Thank you.

Didn't mean to leap all over you, it was just weird how it happened a few times in a row. You even took care to phrase your question in a curious "how do these go together" way rather than an "inconsistency - gotcha!!" way, so I'm sorry I felt that as a last straw.
posted by Miko at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2011


It's spelled "pedantry."
posted by jtron at 8:37 AM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well, I feel like it's fine to have this conversation, but I want to chime in on the side of diversity here. The "If you don't like a post's topic, don't read it" rule of thumb works pretty well for me.

Also, a lot of outrages have been happening in my area lately, and while there's plenty of "chaff" about it, I've enjoyed participating in those threads because they are different in style and content than strictly news- or politics- centered fora. And I've also learned a lot (both factually and about how conversations happen) by reading selectively in other outrage posts.

I like a healthy balance of SLYTs and MLOutrage posts, with a dash of obits, crappy tumblr blogs, well-put together science and tech linkfests, and a lot of roughage I don't bother to digest.
posted by Mngo at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm sorry I felt that as a last straw.

No need to apologize. I felt kind of shitty posting that and then going immediately to bed because I was worried you'd think I was gotcha-ing, which is my least favorite thing, the idea that people's statements are beholden not to their own inherent truth and correlation to the real world but to previous statements by those same individuals. I groused about it a bit earlier in another thread but I really do hate the idea that catching someone contradicting themselves with two disparate statements is the same thing as proving that that person is wrong about whichever thing you want them to be wrong about.

So, anyway, it's 10:40am here, who needs a drink?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:42 AM on March 25, 2011


In all seriousness, though...

COOL PAPA BELL: you don't have to read everything.
LOVECRAFT IN BROOKLYN: you don't have to make a front page post EVERY day.
COWARDLY LION: it turns out you had courage within you. Or something. Hey, it's in the interests of the unelected Oz upper crust to keep the lions cowardly, know what I mean?
posted by jtron at 8:42 AM on March 25, 2011


I love how everyone learns that their greatest desire has always been an innate part of them, reflecting their inner worth and value as individuals, and then Dorothy-- oh, you get what you wanted because you're wearing magic shoes.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:46 AM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


And because you stole those shoes from somebody who got killed during a natural disaster. Go Dorothy!
posted by koeselitz at 8:50 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because it accomplishes... what, exactly?

Most of the time, nothing. But as seen in the Wisconsin protest threads and with the Japanese earthquake and reactor fears, there was a lot of coordinating of donations and finding people as well as up to the moment reporting on events that might affect people that were there at the moment.

Sometimes it is just a venue to bitch, sometimes it becomes something more.
posted by quin at 8:51 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The wrath reigns down, sometimes with a mod on board (which I find kind of not-good, honestly. If it were my sandbox I think I'd ask mods, if they want to participate in threads in addition to moderating them, to stick with more pragmatic or lighter threads for their own comments and stay away from the hot buttons because of the possible perception of their weight or sway or favoritism, but that's just me).

I think we all make a fair effort specifically to pursue that division, actually. I have lots of strong opinions about shit going on in the world and etc. but most of the time it's either/or for me—if I have to come into a thread to try and reel some shit in, I usually stay out of the argument itself if I can, partly to avoid feeling that weird tension of modding-and-arguing-both but partly because having to play the heavy in a thread to keep other people from being jerks often kind of poisons the mood for me in any case.

But, you know, we're users here and we're imperfect people besides. Sometimes the context of a thread makes it difficult to step in neutrally; sometimes the need to mod pops up after one of us joined the conversation hoping it'd be alright; sometimes what we feel strongly about on this or that topic makes a break past our respective I'm Wearing My Mod Hat, I'm Not Going There thresholds.

Believe me that you see a whole lot less just-jawin' opinioneering and argumentation from us in threads where we're also having to actively be a mod presence than you would if we didn't make a pretty significant effort to respect precisely that weird fuzzy divide. It's never gonna be 100%, and to some extent I'd say that if it ever got to the point where it had to be this job would lose its appeal.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:51 AM on March 25, 2011


It's spelled "pedantry."
posted by jtron at 11:37 AM on March 25 [1 favorite +] [!]

It was a typo, thanks. There are a few more of 'em in there -- my apologies.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2011


I know there are good reasons not to do it, but it would be kinda nifty if you had an ACTING AS MOD button that you could toggle depending on the comment and would be reflected in the 'posted by' line somehow.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:57 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm pretty sure that was a joke. The butt of which is pedants.
posted by Miko at 8:57 AM on March 25, 2011


I believe it's called Muphry's Law. Like, when you are correcting someone's grocer's apostrophe's and mangle their usage yourselve's.
posted by jtron at 9:17 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ, it's spelled "apostrophies".
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2011


Christ, cortex! The proper names and titles of monotheistic deities should be capitalized!
posted by Miko at 9:21 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like Jesus and the Apostophies?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:21 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


r
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:26 AM on March 25, 2011


ἀποστροφή'σ?
posted by jtron at 9:26 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that Jesus was a vegetarian. How do you cook apostophies?
posted by Namlit at 9:28 AM on March 25, 2011


I don't know, but I can cook a pot of feed.
posted by Miko at 9:30 AM on March 25, 2011


A pot of feet, you say?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:33 AM on March 25, 2011


(which I find kind of not-good, honestly. If it were my sandbox I think I'd ask mods, if they want to participate in threads in addition to moderating them, to stick with more pragmatic or lighter threads for their own comments and stay away from the hot buttons because of the possible perception of their weight or sway or favoritism, but that's just me).


Totally agree with this.


But, you know, we're users here and we're imperfect people besides. Sometimes the context of a thread makes it difficult to step in neutrally; sometimes the need to mod pops up after one of us joined the conversation hoping it'd be alright; sometimes what we feel strongly about on this or that topic makes a break past our respective I'm Wearing My Mod Hat, I'm Not Going There thresholds.


No - you're not a user here anymore cortex, presumably you get paid for what you do - its called modding, which is much different from coming into threads with personal opinions - its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would you like phies with that?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it

Everyone knows no such thing.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:38 AM on March 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


moratorium on the apostrophe in 5 minutes....5 minutes until the moratorium on the apostrophe.

good data and writing is like a brand label. I look for that in users, not the site as a whole.
posted by clavdivs at 9:39 AM on March 25, 2011


its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it

Yeah, I don't know that either.

I guess I don't have expectations that mods shouldn't participate. Since MeFi is not a newspaper, I don't necessarily see any conflict of interest there. It's not like a reporter or editor also writing letters to the editor or op-eds. Nor is it like formal editorials when they comment, carrying the weight of a united cabal decision. To me it looks like they're here to help establish and support a set of boundaries and values about site interaction and manage problems when they arise, not to have or give official site opinions. It always seems pretty clear to me when they're opinionizing personally, and I don't really see it as saying "METAFILTER SAYS blah blah blah" unless they indicate they're specifically talking about how MeFi is being managed.

I'm sure the boundary is really tricky at times, but my expectation isn't that they be neutral as human beings all the time. I can see cortex's point about how dull that would make the job. In some ways, you couldn't possibly be as good a boundary setter, counselor, or enforcer if you yourself didn't understand what it was like to be participating in threads and experiencing all the kinds of things that happen to someone in them. If that weren't important, if a history and presence on the site were unimportant to its good mangement, then Matt just could hand anybody a sheet of guidelines and a sheriff badge and have them mod away. It would just be a lot more formal, rulebound, and probably chillier place.
posted by Miko at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


No - you're not a user here anymore cortex, presumably you get paid for what you do - its called modding

Yes, I am a user here still, and I think I'd be a pretty shit mod if that's not what I was in the first place. Me and Matt and Jess have all acknowledged plenty of times before the various ways in which being a mod makes that more complicated, and certainly there are a lot of times where I pretty much have to just doff my user hat entirely to deal with a thread, but we're not commodity workers who dig administrative dirt for a buck. We all have long history here, care tremendously about the place as a community we're part of, and come to our moderation practices and policies here first and foremost as users of metafilter.

which is much different from coming into threads with personal opinions - its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it.

If you want to elaborate on this, feel free to, but beyond the acknowledged fact that we're not actually literally affectless and robotic in our daily work here I'm not sure what you're getting at.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:51 AM on March 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


I don't see how the mods and their opinions have been affecting the site adversely nor do I know that everyone knows such a thing.
posted by proj at 9:51 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Namlit: "What cortex writes makes a lot of sense. There might also be some type of gloom-paralyzes-activity-effect going on here, at least I noticed that in myself; I've been planning to make one or two vaguely art-in-the-outskirts-themed posts, but in view of the combined miseries of Japan and Libya, I just wasn't in the mood to subject others to my meek link-assembling skills and to see them trying to be polite about it (or not)."

Oh, please post, and please don't worry about whether the links are up to snuff.

If the topic is interesting enough, people may take it upon themselves to add content in the comments. If they do, you don't have to think of that as a criticism of your work, but a compliment: your introduction compelled them to explore and find out more on their own.

I used to worry that my posts weren't going to be interesting enough or that people would think they sucked. Don't anymore: if people like them or think they're worth returning to, they'll either comment or perhaps favorite. If not, then there's always tomorrow!

When I stopped overthinking my posts I started having a lot more fun around here. :D
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ridiculous to suggest that the mods' opinions are corrupting the site. More paranoid bad-newsism outrage filter if you ask me!
posted by Mngo at 10:08 AM on March 25, 2011


They are NORMORATORS!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:10 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


...wouldn't any concerted effort toward more "happy news" just be polishing up the bubble of denial?

MetaFilter is not a newspaper despite the fact that some people may get their daily news here.


My comment was more intended as "As above, so below."

If the world is genuinely getting more fucked-up and weird (assumption for point) it seems natural to me that MetaFilter threads and topics would reflect that, sooner or later, organically and without any special effort necessary on anyone's part.

If the world is invaded by pink fluffy unicorn-shaped aliens tomorrow, I'm pretty sure there might be a thread or two about it, and it'd be pretty tough to avoid discussing it. Perhaps even an AskMe, or if we're especially lucky, a Meetup.

Love it or hate it or embrace it or rage, but if it happens in the world or on the web, it's going to happen in here, innit?
posted by rokusan at 10:19 AM on March 25, 2011


Three days ago, less than two weeks after the earthquake in Japan, someone posted a single-link FPP to an article entitled "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power."

Today it looks like Fukishima is not only still not under control, but the situation is seriously worse than it was before.

In several threads over the past two weeks the mere suggestion that the situation at Fukishima was not under control was met with many haughty "don't be hysterical you anti-nuke fear-mongering Luddite" comments.

So no I don't think MetaFilter has become a sea of "sky is falling" negativity; indeed, in the case of the news from Japan--where there has been an incredible degree of Pollyannish editorializing meant to preempt any doubts about nuclear safety--one might argue just the opposite.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 10:19 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never said mods shouldn't participate, comment or give opinions, or that them doing so was adversely affecting the site. I specifically cited hot-button threads as trickier, I'm not going to list the topics, presumably we all know 'em, scorched as they are into the blue vs. gray parts of our brains.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:22 AM on March 25, 2011


rokusan: "If the world is invaded by pink fluffy unicorn-shaped aliens tomorrow, "

...with 'molecular acid' for blood...
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So no I don't think MetaFilter has become a sea of "sky is falling" negativity; indeed, in the case of the news from Japan--where there has been an incredible degree of Pollyannish editorializing meant to preempt any doubts about nuclear safety--one might argue just the opposite.

This is kind of what's being talked about though, isn't it? Newsy threads tend to go poorly because everyone feels the need to be right about their chosen topic. I'm guilty of this as well and this post and the comments here have really made me examine my modal form of participation here. I don't have the energy for the endless debates in which nothing is resolved nor do I see that it's "necessary" to discuss topics in a particular fashion.
posted by proj at 10:30 AM on March 25, 2011


its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it.

I must not be everyone.
posted by rtha at 10:34 AM on March 25, 2011


Newsy threads tend to go poorly because everyone feels the need to be right about their chosen topic.

I think the same can be said for a number of non-newsy threads, given the at times argumentative nature of metafilter.

My point was that the Japan news threads were awash is unprompted pro-nuke cheerleading, much of it aimed at the phantom straw man of anti-nuke hysteria: I say phantom b/c I saw very few stridently anti-nuke screeds at all.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 10:36 AM on March 25, 2011


ALL DOOM ALL THE TIME tone of METADOOM.

I would like to propose that the site officially change its name to MetaDoom, if only because Ask.MetaDoom sounds pretty awesome.
posted by asciident at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2011


My point was that the Japan news threads were awash is unprompted pro-nuke cheerleading, much of it aimed at the phantom straw man of anti-nuke hysteria: I say phantom b/c I saw very few stridently anti-nuke screeds at all.

My point is that phrases like cheerleading and hysteria tend to polarize political discussion that you see in newsy threads.
posted by proj at 10:45 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The bartenders participate in the conversations with the regulars, but they still have to kick people out.
posted by jtron at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Metadoom.com is available.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:48 AM on March 25, 2011


Dear MetaDoom, is he into me or am I allowing my wishful thinking to cloud my perceptions? - User

DEAR USER: IT MATTERS NOT. ALL SHALL BE CONSUMED IN FIRE. SO JUST ASK HIM OUT. - METADOOM
posted by AugieAugustus at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


DTMFA (where "D" stands for Doom)
posted by The World Famous at 10:55 AM on March 25, 2011


I AM NOT YOUR DOCTOR DOOM
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:57 AM on March 25, 2011


coming into threads with personal opinions

...also posting songs to MeMu, joking around when recipe time happens over here and answering a ton of AskMes. I like having some insight into the admins' personalities. It's refreshing on ye olde "silently disemvowel comments from the depths of a dark basement" internet.*

Newsy threads tend to go poorly because everyone feels the need to be right about their chosen topic.

I feel that. I promised myself that I wouldn't get into discussions re my couple of hot buttons, and I think it's made MeFi kind of a happy place for me. I appreciate that for some folks this place is where you go to get heated and discuss the news. Given some base level of appropriateness, for some of us it's a place for sweet one-liners and gabbing about music. There's plenty of room for everything. I think it's less "the site is becoming x/y/z" than how we choose to interact.

*(just my opinion, the mods certainly don't need anyone to defend them/help them put on their big-person underpants, etc.)
posted by mintcake! at 10:58 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


My point was that the Japan news threads were awash is unprompted pro-nuke cheerleading, much of it aimed at the phantom straw man of anti-nuke hysteria: I say phantom b/c I saw very few stridently anti-nuke screeds at all.

I think that the kind of discussion that I like, and the kind that originally attracted me to this site, is the kind that doesn't have sides at all, regardless of representation. I think it's entirely possible to discuss, say, the situation in Fukishima without anyone having to drag out their big ol' HERE IS WHAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER totem. I also think people can suggest that others are mistaken or incorrect or unwise without the two of them having to argue about it. I don't think it's necessarily easy, nor that it can ever be perfectly achieved, but it seems like a nice ideal to aim for.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:59 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


"sir, the 'demise' light has burnt out and we only have orange replacement bulbs"

"fool, full power"

"roger-roger"

This is why saturday night is the loneliest night of the week.


I don't think it's necessarily easy, nor that it can ever be perfectly achieved, but it seems like a nice ideal to aim for.

well said.
posted by clavdivs at 11:13 AM on March 25, 2011


No - you're not a user here anymore cortex, presumably you get paid for what you do - its called modding, which is much different from coming into threads with personal opinions - its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it.

We're users. And we're moderators. And if this isn't okay with you, it's still not changing. Occasionally we dive into hot button threads for the sole purpose of trying to tame the discussion a little, maybe try to make sure things are going okay and to keep an eye on them. It is a very rare thing to have us both be commenting heavily in a thread as well as actively deleting comments from a thread, though it occasionally happens. More so in AskMe where I'm a pretty heavy contributor. Sometimes we will step in and try to channel discussion to MetaTalk that belongs in MetaTalk.

Part of our job is to actually set a tone. To be the people who don't come to the table saying "Well I'm as guilty as the next person but people need to stop doing this thing." I know this rankles some people. I know there are people who don't like the tone. I know there are people who flat out liked the site better before cortex and I started working here and who think that the only real rules are the one that mathowie sets. You're welcome to think that, but there's also the reality that is that we do work here and we are users and moderators at the same time. We feel that this is a better balance to set than to be "from away" moderators who don't get to interact on the site. Other sites do things differently.

If you think we're out of line there is also MetaTalk, of course, and if you think you won't get a fair shake here then you can email Matt directly. But really if you think things are getting all messed up to the point where "everyone knows" that things are problematic, it's really on you to say how, when and why and we can talk about it. That's sort of all we can do short of hanging it up or radically changing the way we do things.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:07 PM on March 25, 2011 [17 favorites]


I think the mods do a pretty good job of differentiating their personal opinions and random chatter from more modly things like spraying a thread down with the cool-it hose. (speaking ex-moderato?)
posted by rmd1023 at 12:09 PM on March 25, 2011


its called modding, which is much different from coming into threads with personal opinions - its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it.

I would agree, but not in the way you probably mean and it applies to all the mods in that they're off working more as opposed to hanging out in threads. It sucks but it's part of MeFi growing, so they got more work stuff to do, I think, as opposed to just being a user.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:12 PM on March 25, 2011


Okay okay okay okay.

No - you're not just a user here anymore cortex, presumably fortunately you get paid for what you do - its called modding, which is much different from in addition to coming into threads with personal opinions - its been positivelyaffecting the site for some time and everyone knows it. Thank you.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:13 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


ha, on a whim I Googled "cortex modding."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:16 PM on March 25, 2011


Koeselitz, you really think we are best off just ignoring the Koch brothers? I don't get that at all, and I'm so far away from potentially getting that that I'm not even sure how to continue this conversation. I mean, why doesn't your argument apply to George W. Bush? Or anything else bad or evil in this world?

I would agree, by the way, with mostly ignoring the likes of Glenn Beck. But the Kochs aren't circus clowns. They aren't mere cartoons. They are spending real money to accomplish real goals. Ignoring them is exactly what they'd most prefer.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You see your world on fire, don't try to act surprised.
posted by cashman at 1:20 PM on March 25, 2011


METAFILTER
Check out this video of a baby monkey riding on a pig. (SLYT)

METADOOM
Check out this video of a baby monkey riding on a pig. (SLYT) When the pair was finally captured, the baby monkey was returned to his cage at the animal testing facility and the pig was sent to the slaughterhouse.
posted by perhapses at 2:37 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to propose that the site officially change its name to MetaDoom, if only because Ask.MetaDoom sounds pretty awesome.

MetaDoom Projects and MetaDoom Jobs also sound like fun.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:47 PM on March 25, 2011


Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell: “Koeselitz, you really think we are best off just ignoring the Koch brothers? I don't get that at all, and I'm so far away from potentially getting that that I'm not even sure how to continue this conversation. I mean, why doesn't your argument apply to George W. Bush? Or anything else bad or evil in this world? I would agree, by the way, with mostly ignoring the likes of Glenn Beck. But the Kochs aren't circus clowns. They aren't mere cartoons. They are spending real money to accomplish real goals. Ignoring them is exactly what they'd most prefer.”

Well, there are two levels here: the microcosmic and the macrocosmic, what this means on Metafilter and what this means for life in general.

On the microcosmic level, I have a hard time knowing what good these kinds of posts can do here on the front page of MeFi. They don't raise awareness; any of us here that are aware of the Koch brothers don't like them much, and are unlikely to fall prey to any 'tricks' they pull. They aren't useful or meaningful pivots for conversation – not that posts here should be about the conversation at all – because we all generally agree that the Koch brothers are bad people. So every time there's a post about their doings, it just ends up being a bunch of unfortunate handwringing about their latest adventures in attempting to control the political landscape.

On the macrocosmic level, yes, I really do believe this. We are better off ignoring the Koch brothers. We are better off ignoring the Democrats and the Republicans, even, to a large degree. There's nothing there. It's an echo chamber, a huge lot of noise. Pundits, talking heads, people paid to have an opinion – these things should be avoided. The world nowadays is characterized by a very large amount of distraction and noise.

There's a popular bumper sticker which clearly and succinctly describes the exact antithesis of my way of seeing the world; it says: "IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION." In truth, if you're outraged, you can do no good. You aren't thinking rationally; you aren't thinking about what justice means; you aren't thinking about the good of humanity. You're just upset.

We're better off not wasting time on such nonsense. We should be thinking about what democracy means, about what justice means in a democratic context. That's a hell of a lot more important than the ephemeral bullshit that plays on CNN and shows up every week on the cover of Time magazine.
posted by koeselitz at 2:55 PM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Or, if I can maybe put this a little more briefly:

What most people call "politics" is unimportant nonsense that has nothing to do with life and how people actually live it. True politics is above and beyond "politics;" and the only way to come to grips with true politics is to learn to tune out the bullshit that everyone else wants us to chatter about and pay attention to what matters.
posted by koeselitz at 2:57 PM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


There are too many single-link posts which just quote that part of an article which MeFites are likely to find most outrageous or upsetting; too few posts - at least, on politically contentious issues - that make any effort to provide context, contrast, or comparison; too many comments made in a hurry without reading the source material, or with a highly selective reading that ignores significant facts; and too many snarky one-liners as posters rush to signal their cynical worldly-wisdom and their skills at demolishing straw men of their own creation.

What often results is not a debate, or a discussion, or a teach-in, but a turf fight in which the thread quickly fills up with several pages of pointed barbs - often witty, but often obvious and predictable, and offered more as display and for mutual approval of their sharpness and finesse than to dispute any serious contention or add information to the FPP. Dissenting arguments, alternative perspectives, or skeptical questioning often get an unfriendly reception, since they disrupt the prevailing unity of sentiment even if they are not opposed to it as such.

I don't want to call out any particular FPP or person; there are lots of single-link FPPs that delight and inform, and brevity is not only the soul of wit but often the bearer of astute observations. Still, it's been looking more and more like Youtube or a newspaper website around here lately, awash in snide remarks, fallacious arguments, lazy stereotypes, and a wide variety of bullying tactics.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:00 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


In political coverage, Metafilter is liberal media. Real liberal media like Olbermann or Maddow or DailyKos. Ideally, it would be more like NPR. An annoying amount of balance and striving for even handedness. (In FPP, at least) (This still ends up leaning liberal, bias of reality etc)

It's not gonna change, really. There aren't enough conservative posters to push back and short of intense mod effort to protect the few conservative voices that stop by it is unlikely such a population will be cultivated. This place can be harsh on minority opinions.

So it's an echo chamber politically with the obvious problems that brings. On right wing sites they complain about Soros, here they complain about Koch.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:12 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hah, okay. My initial instincts were right - we're so far apart on this one that there's no sense in even trying to have a conversation. I can't even wrap my head around the idea of someone who has the luxury of thinking we should ignore politics.

I'll just say that, as for raising awareness, I saw the Koch post and forwarded the link to a friend of mine who is Canadian, and who was very glad for the information. Of course, you would just consider that link "distraction" and "noise," so you still win - I guess it didn't raise any awareness!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:18 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't even wrap my head around the idea of someone who has the luxury of thinking we should ignore politics.

Why do you think "make fewer posts about X on the front page of MetaFilter" is the same thing as "ignore X?" Or am I misunderstanding your position?
posted by The World Famous at 3:20 PM on March 25, 2011


Why do you think "make fewer posts about X on the front page of MetaFilter" is the same thing as "ignore X?" Or am I misunderstanding your position?

Sorry, I was referring to Koeslitz's comment, in particular, this:
On the macrocosmic level, yes, I really do believe this. We are better off ignoring the Koch brothers. We are better off ignoring the Democrats and the Republicans, even, to a large degree. There's nothing there. It's an echo chamber, a huge lot of noise. Pundits, talking heads, people paid to have an opinion – these things should be avoided. The world nowadays is characterized by a very large amount of distraction and noise.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:23 PM on March 25, 2011


Ah. You know, on a very personal, individual level, I agree with koeselitz on that point. When I worked in politics, I lived and breathed politics. I cared about every little issue, every troubling development, every menacing threat to freedom, etc. Leaving that world and ignoring most of it really has made me a lot happier and, I think, a lot better person to be around.

There's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world at any given moment. I stand against all of it as a matter of principle. But as individuals, we really only have so much energy and so many years of life, you know? By necessity, we pick our battles in this life, no matter what. Koeselitz is right. I'm a lot better off, as a person, arguing with koeselitz about the merits of Miles Davis than getting frothed up on MetaFilter by something the Tea Party does.
posted by The World Famous at 3:28 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


bitter, bitter existential dread-ash

Hey!

I've always felt more umami than bitter. You can toss my corpse in the woods, though.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:38 PM on March 25, 2011


Miles Davis trumps politics.
posted by clavdivs at 3:58 PM on March 25, 2011


koeselitz: "We are better off ignoring the Democrats and the Republicans, even, to a large degree. There's nothing there. It's an echo chamber, a huge lot of noise. Pundits, talking heads, people paid to have an opinion – these things should be avoided. The world nowadays is characterized by a very large amount of distraction and noise."

Yet much of what I see on Metafilter is actually the debunking and rational interpretation of that noise, not an effort to increase its volume.

So yes, being better and more rationally informed does matter. That knowledge becomes vital when one is trying to make the right decisions. Whom to vote for. When to take a stand. When to write one's Congressman. How to speak out publicly against violence, hate and injustice. How and to whom to make donations that are most likely to make a difference. We learned in the recent abortion thread what donation dollar amount and frequency is most helpful to Planned Parenthood. That's one way we here on MeFi can take outrage and turn it into constructive efforts to create change.

Your reaction is natural, koeselitz. But consider this: it's possible that at least some of the noise is being generated to obfuscate the truth. Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck, Malkin, etc., fearmonger and manufacture outrage in order to hide deeper, more sinister agendas. If posts devoted to controversial topics become discussions where MeFites educate one another, might that not be more helpful than deliberate ignorance?
posted by zarq at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh you spoiled kids. This Metafilter may not be perfect, but its the best Metafilter in the world! If you don't like Metafilter, pack your sorry ass up and move to some other Metafilter. Or go start your own Metafilter, if you think its so damn easy. When I was a kid, we didn't even have a Metafilter. We sat quietly and listened to old people talk about the events of the day. Like to see you try that. I love my Metafilter and I don't want any backsass about it.

Metafilter: love it or leave it


posted by Redhush at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2011


I can't even wrap my head around the idea of someone who has the luxury of thinking we should ignore politics.

We should certainly not ignore it, and while I often play devil's advocate and like to look at an issue from multiple angles I have no desire to see MetaFilter abandon its general liberal perspective. But in an echo chamber, relatively little information is communicated and it turns into SameFilter and coupon-swapping after a while, while many interesting conversations about political ideas get lost among the avalanche of new topics. As a result, and like many other political forums, it becomes easier to go for the low-hanging fruit.

So the other day, some jerkoff in Maine has a mural removed from the lobby of the state's department of labor because he thinks it's sort of commie-looking - big long thread, but essentially the entire thread amounted to 'christ, what an asshole' with another angry but distinctly half-baked debate about pension accounting near the end. We never have an in-depth discussion about pension obligations and budget balancing because there's always a new thread that gets people even angrier. This is an important issue, but as far as the individual story goes it isn't much more than additional data to the Wisconsin thread(s).

Today, there's a story from the NYT about how GE didn't pay a cent in US taxes last year. GRAR, big corporation, why do we let them buy our politicians, understandable annoyance. When I read the story, there's a bunch of stuff about how GE almost lost one of their fattest tax breaks a couple of years ago, but then the head of the ways and means committee at the time, Charles Rangel, changed his mind, along with some other stuff about political donations. Oh yeah, I think, I should have paid more attention to that. I wonder what other people thought about it? do some searching, and am surprised to discover that Rangel's ethical issues and 2 years of legal problems and committee maneuvering had barely attracted comment over the last few years, and what comment it did attract was outweighed by chuckling over his inclusion in 'autotune the news.' The GOP bashed Rangel over the head on a regular basis, and I feel like it hurt the Democratic party quite a bit at the last election. I write a longish post (a bit more than this one) pointing this out, and about how we should have dealt with that issue when it appeared rather than sweeping it under the carpet and so on. Probably a complete waste of my time - it's only 90 minutes later but I'm fairly sure nobody feels like a painful self-examination on Friday afternoon.

But that's politics too, and the left's failure to engage with the issue or even give it the time of day strikes me as a monumental case of self-sabotage. With hindsight, GOP electoral strategists must have been laughing their asses off at having such a juicy talking paint for an entire electoral cycle.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:11 PM on March 25, 2011


Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell: “Hah, okay. My initial instincts were right - we're so far apart on this one that there's no sense in even trying to have a conversation. I can't even wrap my head around the idea of someone who has the luxury of thinking we should ignore politics.”

I had the "luxury" of doing my graduate work in political science at Boston College; a lot of my friends there were future thinktank people, lobbyists, campaign managers, and politicos of various stripes. Believe me, nothing will convince you of how meaningless it all is like seeing up-close and personal the lives of the "important" people in the machine.
posted by koeselitz at 4:21 PM on March 25, 2011


... and, again, my point wasn't that we should ignore politics. My point was that that's not politics. My point was that we ignore politics every time you let this nonsense take center stage.
posted by koeselitz at 4:23 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is an important issue, but as far as the individual story goes it isn't much more than additional data to the Wisconsin thread(s).

Oh yeah, but you know something, I work in a place today that's concerned with art history and does some "art & politics" type programming and so I relished this story. I thought it was just fascinating, connected to a long history of the use of images and artwork as tools in politics, rolled up with everything from Uncle Sam Wanting You to Internationalist posters to Wobbly signs to counterculture art to Diego Rivera's murals. It made me really reflect on the power of art images to distract and consume people, to deliver a message so effectively it cannot be mistaken, while at the same time to be interpreted so variously as to the value of that message. The mixing of aesthetics and meanings. I thought this was the most awesome thing ever to think about yesterday, and the thread went a different way, but I really appreciated the connections to art history, American art history in particular. I didn't think it was a lame post. I thought it was something worth thinking about.
posted by Miko at 4:44 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is worth thinking about. but whether in the context of current political trends in state legislatures, or in the complex relationship between art and political movements, I wish it had amounted to something more than 'look what's in today's news' and page after page of predictable one-liners. what I like about Metafilter is the additional context for things which I might never come across otherwise, as opposed to something that read like a twitter feed.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:06 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


backsass.
posted by clavdivs at 6:14 PM on March 25, 2011


I don't think I'd have come across the Maine mural otherwise. Maybe I would've, on Facebook, but anyway. Might have been more interesting framed around an art debate, but...just saying. Different strokes.
posted by Miko at 6:38 PM on March 25, 2011


Plus, I don't think the artist's husband would have popped up on my Facebook.
posted by Miko at 7:03 PM on March 25, 2011


No - you're not a user here anymore cortex, presumably you get paid for what you do - its called modding, which is much different from coming into threads with personal opinions - its been affecting the site for some time and everyone knows it.

I like you and all, sarge, but that is errant, vicious, thickheaded nonsense.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:36 PM on March 25, 2011


My point was that that's not politics.

Okay. Then you think we should ignore "what almost everyone else calls politics, but which you do not consider to be politics." Not trying to argue semantics.

Believe me, nothing will convince you of how meaningless it all is like seeing up-close and personal the lives of the "important" people in the machine.

I work in politics for a living, yet I've had no such experience. Quite the opposite, in fact. And I'm not one of the "important" people.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:37 PM on March 25, 2011


I would like the community to cut back on the empty newsfilter, which I think lends itself to boring argumentative badness. I can appreciate a well-written post with a couple of news items and links to really good explanatory material, but that's not what I see much of the time. For example, the recent FPP about GE's tax shenanigans (sorry VikingSword), which was hardly a buried story. Actually, pretty much any FPP made exclusively of NYT-like links and Wikipedia are going to annoy me. May as well set up a feed that automatically posts top stories from Google News.
posted by zennie at 8:18 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


why do we let them buy our politicians, understandable annoyance.

Can I use this for my Borjas novel?

The sun wracked hills moved faster as the Audi went into 3rd gear as if in flux with the Segovia that echoed with a brief chill. “Hold on” The sleek silver machine gilded around a hair pin curve with cartoon smoke precision . “Power and money, it is not the same but these things are what money can solve but never create” He reached for a Lucky Seven in the stock white half -sleeve shirt and deftly touched the dashboard lighter “Power with total control of even a nominal percentage of the worlds wealth is a danger to all of gods creatures” The fork in the road was decided, left and after 50 yards he stopped by a hill near vineyards melting off the dusk…{and then the dog barked}... off the dusk as if a picture postcard had waited on better light.
“You see buying people in power is a assurance not insurance. It is confirmation of polities sale price. You do not own power you rent it that way you are assured one thing, complicity. And that is the double blind of money.”
He lights the cigarette as the moon roof makes its shuffled presence known.
posted by clavdivs at 8:42 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell: “I'll just say that, as for raising awareness, I saw the Koch post and forwarded the link to a friend of mine who is Canadian, and who was very glad for the information. Of course, you would just consider that link "distraction" and "noise," so you still win - I guess it didn't raise any awareness!”

And what did this do, exactly? You imply that you raised awareness - how? Did you change your friend's mind? Are you two going to band together and take away all of the Koch brothers' money? Are you even going to be able to force one person whose mind is made up to vote against their conscience?

My point wasn't just that 'politics' isn't important. It's that 'politics' is an ineffectual way to change the world for the better. I don't mean this personally, and I can say with dead certainty that you've done more good in the world than I have; I mean, you do something substantial for a living, something you apparently believe in, whereas I do not. But as a point of fact, amongst all the most influential people I've known in my lifetime, all the people who had the largest impact on the greatest number of people, exactly zero of them have been politicians. (And almost all of them were teachers, for whatever it's worth.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:47 PM on March 25, 2011


zennie, I don't understand your position. Other people don't have to participate in those threads any more than you have to read them. Yet they do, because they want to. Personally, I usually enjoy threads like that, and I think it would be worse for people like me to go without them than it is for people like you to have to scroll down a bit further. I can understand the mods' position that certain types of threads make more work for them, but what does it have to do with you?

I often wonder what there is to talk about or how much people from other countries care about our dumb country-men and -women.

I'm not from America and I find it interesting. And what with

* Joe Arpaio and Steven Seagal
* Idiot Alaskan militias
* Kerfluffle over gay wizards
* The Koch brothers


and all, I might have written America off a long time ago if not for the discussions on this site reminding me that not everyone is as indifferent to what's going on in your country (and indeed the world) as it might otherwise seem.

But as a point of fact, amongst all the most influential people I've known in my lifetime, all the people who had the largest impact on the greatest number of people, exactly zero of them have been politicians.

What is 'politics' to you? What is 'impact'? How are things like the three strikes laws a bunch of US states implemented in the 90s, for instance, non-political and without impact?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:01 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine MeFi with faceless mods. I WANT the mods to be users and community members. I want us to feel like we know them. When my friends tell me to cool it, I'm much more likely to listen, stop and think, than I would if it came from some anonymous authoritarion mall cop.

The mods here are respected and liked and listened to because they are us.

And the podcasts help too.
posted by marsha56 at 10:59 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, once NYT starts billing people for access, the anti-newsfilter folks will probably get their wish, to some extent.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 PM on March 25, 2011


zennie, I don't understand your position. Other people don't have to participate in those threads any more than you have to read them. Yet they do, because they want to. Personally, I usually enjoy threads like that, and I think it would be worse for people like me to go without them than it is for people like you to have to scroll down a bit further. I can understand the mods' position that certain types of threads make more work for them, but what does it have to do with you?

There are plenty of things on Metafilter that I don't read and I have no problem with them because other people enjoy them. I didn't even notice the Lady Gaga FPPs until someone complained about them in Metatalk. But I do like politics and many types of news items. It's because I care about them that I want to raise the bar a little. Some news-based FPPs are great the way they are. All I'm asking is a little more care and context for the headline topics because they tend to be either controversial or underdeveloped (sometimes both).

And seriously? Things that make more work for the mods affect all of us... we don't need more fires to put out.
posted by zennie at 7:31 AM on March 26, 2011


But as a point of fact, amongst all the most influential people I've known in my lifetime, all the people who had the largest impact on the greatest number of people, exactly zero of them have been politicians. (And almost all of them were teachers, for whatever it's worth.)

I think it's a mistake to generalize from your own experience like this. Off the top of my not-very-caffeinated-yet head, I can think of a politician whose ability to squeeze blood from a stone has meant that many, many people did not have to lose their housing or stop taking the drugs that keep them alive because they couldn't afford them. I certainly agree that many people other than politicians can and do have a huge impact, but just because you haven't known any politicians who have done so doesn't mean they don't exist.

I suppose a lot of this depends on your definition of "politics" and "politician" and "impact."
posted by rtha at 7:49 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]



Could we have a Non Topical Day?

Just a day? On the equinoxes and solstices, perhaps. It could be announced well before hand, on the little title bar on the front page, and on Non-Topical Day any post related to current events/news topics would get spiked. Four days a year where everybody gets to take a breath and look at a bunch of neat stuff and not have their blood pressure spike and discuss interesting things. Something that might help to push the wheel back an inch, and rebalance it. A Day Without Grar.

I know lots of people like to discuss newsy stuff, and I've posted topical things myself. But if there's one thing the web is not lacking, it's Amen Corners for people to yell about the latest outrage of the day. When i come here and it feels like the whole front page is that, it depresses the shit out of me. I know, there's never a day when there's not non-topical stuff, but it can still feel overwhelming where there's seven comment single link post about an interesting graphic novelist or something sandwiched between 300-comment GRAR fest about the evil people and how they are ruining our world. Sometimes, I'd really, really like a day off.
posted by Diablevert at 7:55 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


politics' is an ineffectual way to change the world for the better

I dunno, I sure like being able to vote and having equal rights under the law and the Family and Medical Leave Act and stuff like that. Thank goodness some folks weren't jaded on the political process, or those wouldn't have happened, along with the many other ways I daily see politics changing the world for the better, locally and nationally.

MetaFilter does help keep me informed, among other outlets, and the discussion makes me a lot smarter and wiser about politics than I'd otherwise be. These discussions don't happen anywhere else online that I've ever found. In many cases they've galvanized me and caused me to make new commitments as an activist in various areas. I don't think they're a total waste of time or should be banned or that they're naive.

Sure, current events are taking over a lot of discourse lately, and it gets kind of one-note. Sure. I would actually be kind of in favor of a "non-topical day" (though believe me, people will find something to GRAR about anyway!). It would be grimly funny, though, if that turned out to be the day something huge went down.

Has everybody who wants to see something change made a non-topical FPP yet? I found one yesterday but it was a dupe. Maybe today after I do my homework.
posted by Miko at 8:00 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Koeselitz, I just don't get it. Politics (and I'm using it in the conventional sense, not yours) ended segregation. Politics is helping to win marriage equality for same-sex couples. I'm sorry that you feel politics is ineffectual, but I hope you'll understand why a great many people differ with you on this.

And if your definition of success includes "band[ing] together and tak[ing] away all of the Koch brothers' money," then I can see why you think politics is ineffectual, because you're right, that's never going to happen, especially as the result of me forwarding a single link to a single friend.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2011


I'm going to try and be gentle, but your recent posting history includes posts about a deposition and Sarah Palin's Facebook.

I suggest you start posting about this important stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:42 AM on March 26, 2011


Has everybody who wants to see something change made a non-topical FPP yet? I found one yesterday but it was a dupe. Maybe today after I do my homework.

Yes.

I would make more political or newsy type posts, but frankly, the signal to noise ration is thrown so far out of whack by the usual crowd commenters, that I don't see the point of doing so anymore on Metafilter. People seem to see political or news posts as chance to grind their already sharpen axe and get on with the business of sharing the anger with the world. Very little constructive thought seems to happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:09 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would love a day without GRAR.

I mean use of the actual word GRAR.

I found it cute and endearing when I first heard it and apparently so did millions but now it is like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

Other than that, I am of the camp that news posts should have a higher qualitative bar, but I am against any move to eliminate news or topical posts, even for a day. You will rarely find me posting these types of posts, but they are one of my favorite types of posts to read and participate in here for many of the reasons Miko and others have elucidated.

There was some discussion upthread about the Maine mural being an example of a thin, pointless post, or something like that, but I loved that thread, it made me laugh. The utter absurdity of it is about as amusing 80% of the YouTube posts. I doubt anyone thinks that anything we say or do about politics or news here is going to change anything, but there is value in discussion and link-sharing. I'm always more informed about an issue that's been on the blue because there are some very smart people here.

If all you see if the "GRAR" (grrrrr), I would say you may be doing it wrong. I skip over any axe-grinders (good luck getting rid of them anywhere on the web) and mine for the gold. For example, here are a few little gems I got from the Maine mural post:

Threeway Handshake gave me an excellent talking point to use with my family: "How many jobs did this create?"

I learned BitterOldPunk is for hire as an "excellent butler, footman, or manservant, I'm literate, and can lift heavy things." And related, learned from Kadin2048 that you can get a degree in butling. Who knew?

I hadn't known about the destruction of Diego Rivera's Rockefeller Center mural. Thanks, puny human.

Found a great cartoon about political whining from The Whelk.

From briank, I learned that the Whoopie Pie is now the state's Official Treat

I would never have known about The Diaper bandit if Mayor Curley hadn't pointed it out or that LePage got a job for his daughter, informed by virago.

Sonascope educated me about Greenbelt Maryland, its history & its murals

Lelilo pointed me to the delightful Sardine Report, a blog I'd not have found, and the amusing entry about a new renewable energy strategy: installing a windmill in LePage's throat

Miko pointed me to the NYT interactive on the mural, that I might otherwise have missed.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:43 AM on March 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


And if the sky should indeed fall, I hope I am here discussing it with my fellow mefites as the news breaks because everyone was just so awesome in the Japan earthquake threads!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:47 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Goddamn it, this sort of cheerful optimism won't do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:04 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


MeFites do tend to be more Film Actors Guild than Team America. I wish I had a better way of explaining that.
posted by dougrayrankin at 10:04 PM on March 26, 2011


rtha: “I suppose a lot of this depends on your definition of ‘politics’ and ‘politician’ and ‘impact.’”

Exactly. More to the point, it depends on your definition of good, of justice. The difference is that I don't think I understand what justice means yet. You and Conrad apparently do. Perhaps I should defer to your wisdom on this.

Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell: “Koeselitz, I just don't get it. Politics (and I'm using it in the conventional sense, not yours) ended segregation. Politics is helping to win marriage equality for same-sex couples. I'm sorry that you feel politics is ineffectual, but I hope you'll understand why a great many people differ with you on this. And if your definition of success includes "band[ing] together and tak[ing] away all of the Koch brothers' money," then I can see why you think politics is ineffectual, because you're right, that's never going to happen, especially as the result of me forwarding a single link to a single friend.”

Well, I guess maybe I can give some context to my own opinion if I quote the person whom I'm thinking of as I say all this: Xenophon. This is from the beginning of his book The Education of Cyrus:
We have had occasion before now to reflect how often democracies have been overthrown by the desire for some other type of government, how often monarchies and oligarchies have been swept away by movements of the people, how often would-be despots have fallen in their turn, some at the outset by one stroke, while whose who have maintained their rule for ever so brief a season are looked upon with wonder as marvels of sagacity and success.

The same lesson, we had little doubt, was to be learnt from the family: the household might be great or small--even the master of few could hardly count on the obedience of his little flock. And so, one idea leading to another, we came to shape our reflexions thus: Drovers may certainly be called the rulers of their cattle and horse- breeders the rulers of their studs--all herdsmen, in short, may reasonably be considered the governors of the animals they guard. If, then, we were to believe the evidence of our senses, was it not obvious that flocks and herds were more ready to obey their keepers than men their rulers? Watch the cattle wending their way wherever their herdsmen guide them, see them grazing in the pastures where they are sent and abstaining from forbidden grounds, the fruit of their own bodies they yield to their master to use as he thinks best; nor have we ever seen one flock among them all combining against their guardian, either to disobey him or to refuse him the absolute control of their produce. On the contrary, they are more apt to show hostility against other animals than against the owner who derives advantage from them. But with man the rule is converse; men unite against none so readily as against those whom they see attempting to rule over them. As long, therefore, as we followed these reflexions, we could not but conclude that man is by nature fitted to govern all creatures, except his fellow-man.
Xenophon goes on to say that he has come to the conclusion that perhaps good governance and true leadership is possible; but to him, this seems highly difficult.

So we have two things; on the one hand, we have the perception (with which I am well familiar, and can feel sometimes myself) that political action is a simple, direct, obviously needful thing which is fairly the duty of every person; and, on the other hand, we have Xenophon's observation that effective political action for the sake of the good – effective governance – is in fact very, very difficult.

I still feel inclined toward the latter view. I don't think it's because I'm jaded, either; I think this is a realistic view of the world. I think effective and beneficial political action is a very, very rare and difficult thing; usually, when beneficial things come to us, they are more the result of random dumb luck than any person's action.

I guess we could take as an example the much-vaunted 'ObamaCare.' As a personal matter, I viewed the passage of that bill to be one of the most important and most beneficial political acts within my lifetime. That's my personal view of it, though I confess I might be wrong. But even assuming that I'm right, that bill's future effectiveness is by no means certain. People will fight on both sides, one side to keep it in force, the other side to kill it; and it's clear that the people who would like to kill it have a lot of cultural force on their side. What's more, I don't even think it's warranted to trust the party which was largely responsible for that bill to continue to defend it; I remember when it passed, I remember the political gamesmanship, I remember the compromises that were made. It is not at all outside the realm of possibility that those who voted for it will just as quickly abandon it if their political position is threatened enough to make a stand on the matter ill-advised.

At the end of the day, I have a hard time believing that lasting, solid, actual health care reform can be the result of anything besides (a) dumb luck and (b) a societal consensus that grows around it.

The same goes for all of these changes, by the way. Desegregation wasn't, in my mind, the result of any piece of legislation; it was the result of a debate we as a society had, a long and difficult debate. It was the result of a tumultuous time that happened to conclude with a strong societal consensus building around desegregation. After all, laws have been disregarded by a whole society many times before; I can point to prohibition, but there are many other examples. What has to happen for that change to occur is a complete and decisive societal turning.

Those turnings are not simple to effect. They're not easy. They are very rarely brought about by politicians themselves, I think.

Most important of all, it is by no means easy to see whether any given change will actually be just. We remember the clear ones for several reasons, not least because those changes produced us and made us what we are today. It seems clear to me, for example, that desegregation, and the civil rights movement accompanied it, was an overwhelmingly good thing for our society; it might be, in fact, the central and most important political fact relating to our identity, I think. But there are many, many issues that aren't nearly so easy to riddle out; unfortunately we can't see the future with the clear vision with which we see the past.

That's really all I've meant here, anyhow. It seems to me that when we talk about 'politics,' we're talking about the tip of the iceberg; what lies beneath, the massive fact of our society, our justice and how to achieve it – these things are the reality of which 'politics' is a small indicator.

On reflection, I grant that it's probably important to think about who is technically leading us. And I also grant that one of the primary duties which our peculiar nation asks of us is to take an active interest in our politicians and their selection. I only sense that there's something much more important behind this, something that reflects the true reality of our political interactions. And I think it's necessary to focus on that reality in order to seek knowledge of true politics.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 PM on March 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


a societal consensus that grows around it.

Sure, but how do you expect societal consensus to grow? In nations which have a strong healthcare system which covers everyone, by what process do you think they reached the point of broad societal consensus that it would be a good thing?
posted by Miko at 4:47 AM on March 27, 2011


Speaking for my own country, electoral mandate.
posted by Wolof at 6:25 AM on March 27, 2011


Filters gonna filter.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:58 AM on March 27, 2011


Good comment koeselitz. It reminds me that much of the change in society (US, anyway) comes from legislators (and executive and judicial) saying "fuck the opinion polls, this is the right thing to do".

Pres. Johnson is a great example of this. Here is a guy who likely called 80 year old black men "boy", who used the word nigger, who probably was personally uncomfortable with upending what was from his perspective a status quo that worked.

Yet, as president, he knew the status quo was wrong. He knew that people, whether through hate, fear or inertia, were not going to treat minority populations equally or fairly, and that the only way to effect change was to put into place some strong laws that forced people to do something approaching the right thing.

He understood that being the president is not like winning a political lottery, where the winner has four years to do what they feel. But that it is a four year prison sentence where every decision pisses someone off and the occupant of The Chair has to do what is right for the nation as a whole, rather than their own political desires or whims.

Also, it is just a fact of life that if you want to change the law, you have to change the minds of those who make the laws.
posted by gjc at 8:37 AM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Exactly. More to the point, it depends on your definition of good, of justice. The difference is that I don't think I understand what justice means yet. You and Conrad apparently do. Perhaps I should defer to your wisdom on this.

I guess I'm not willing to sit and do nothing until I have determined the best or only definitions of justice or good. I know that's not exactly what you mean, but it does ring a bit of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

It seems clear to me, for example, that desegregation, and the civil rights movement accompanied it, was an overwhelmingly good thing for our society; it might be, in fact, the central and most important political fact relating to our identity, I think. But there are many, many issues that aren't nearly so easy to riddle out; unfortunately we can't see the future with the clear vision with which we see the past.

This is true, and there's no solution to it. It would not automatically be better to just sit and wait and see what happens: inaction is also a form of action. The OUTRAGE felt by people in 1990 over the deaths of their friends while the government sat around and said "Oh, well, just a buncha faggots" produced action - not just die-ins and sit-ins, but also changes in policies and laws that literally saved the lives of thousands - hundreds of thousands, even. What good would it do for the people of Wisconsin who don't want to lose collective bargaining rights to not take action out of fear that the action might not produce some nebulous "ultimate good"?
posted by rtha at 9:52 AM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


also, i initially read clavdivs' comment as "Steven Seagal is not a woman", which caused a bit of a wtf double-take.

I also misread that, as: Steven Seagal is not a moron".

FWIW, in Australia, Steven has decided to take the T-Pain route and become a parody of himself. This whole becoming a parody of one's self is also becoming a bit tired. Christ, Snoop Dogg was takin' the piss out of himself 15 years ago.

What next?

posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:25 PM on March 27, 2011


MeFites do tend to be more Film Actors Guild than Team America. I wish I had a better way of explaining that.

So do I.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:04 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Desegregation wasn't, in my mind, the result of any piece of legislation; it was the result of a debate we as a society had, a long and difficult debate. It was the result of a tumultuous time that happened to conclude with a strong societal consensus building around desegregation.

All I can say is, your view is wrong, or at least, badly incomplete. Desegregation happened in large part because of the Civil Rights act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, enforced by court order and sometimes at gunpoint. It wasn't because of a "debate." And the only consensus among the white ruling class in the South was "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" (George Wallace, 1963).

Those bills were able to pass into law in part because of changes in how some of us viewed segregation. For those who didn't share modern views on segregation, the views of the rest of country had to be imposed on them by force. And that force was possible because of changes in the law... which came about through the political process.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:01 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


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