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June 20, 2011 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I guess Ironmouth is accusing Trurl of being Joe Beese in these 2 comments? Whether it's true or not, it's a shitty way to engage people in the thread.
posted by empath to Etiquette/Policy at 2:34 PM (538 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I'm just welcoming him back. He sent a note of thanks to me, dude.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:38 PM on June 20, 2011


both comments already deleted
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:38 PM on June 20, 2011


But thanks for the intel!
posted by mudpuppie at 2:39 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


We deleted both of Ironmouth's comments from that thread. Outing people's sock puppets is very seriously against the rules (whether they privately let you know or not). This MeTa post is not so great in that regard either actually.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:40 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't actually think i was outing anybody, I just thought he was being douchey with someone he disagreed with...
posted by empath at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2011


Yeah could we delete this, too? That's shitty.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I need a sock puppet called Joe Bees, only to be used in bee-related discussions.

(If somebody actually does this, it's not me.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't know about the outing sock puppet rule! Won't do that again!
posted by Ironmouth at 2:42 PM on June 20, 2011


This is the best thread about someone I don't know unknowingly telling everyone that someone I don't know is someone I don't know I've ever known.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:44 PM on June 20, 2011 [54 favorites]


Wait shit, Trurl is Joe Beese?

You know, I'd have kind of preferred not to know that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:44 PM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


I know MeTas don't usually get deleted, but I agree about this one. If dude wants to talk about it he will.
posted by mintcake! at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2011


Joe Beads?
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I am going to spread a counter-rumor that Rory Marinich is Joe Beese.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't be Joe Beese, I'm too busy being Optimus Chyme.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


Thanks for letting us know, empath!
posted by grouse at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2011


I am Scott Adams.
posted by fuq at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am not Artw.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2011


I totally can't believe none of you have figured out that I'm actually Paul Weller's publicist.

oops
posted by scody at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


its against the rules ? in a brand new day sort of way ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2011


I am Tiger Woods.
posted by maryr at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2011


...But I wanna be like Mike.
posted by maryr at 2:48 PM on June 20, 2011


actually, Ironmouth shit on that entire thread, just because your a lawyer doesn't mean you have to be an asshole:


Comment #1: "... I'm no fan of the Libyan thing, but christ, worse than Bush?" No one said Obama was worse than Bush

Comment #2: "We haven't dropped a bomb or fired a shot since April. We are mid-air refueling and providing AWACS assets." Factual assertion which doesn't appear to be true.

Comment # 3 Derail, "just war" is a red herring and you ddin't respond to the susbtance of the comment you are referring to.

Several comments in a long derail about whether internet lawyers can determine something is a violation of the war powers act: that may be entertaining to you, but the issue was really whether the president ought to give wide credence to the legal judgements of the attorney general and the olc. Maybe, as a lawyer, this would be an important issue to you... guess not.

3:21pm "Why all this love for ole Muammar? I guess that if Chavez says he's a good guy the far left must agree." What? Are we redbaiting now?

3:47pm: "The whole thing is designed to make liberals mad at the President. Appears to be working here, at least." This adds nothing to the discussion, maybe you need a time out?

5:12"hey, joe, good to see you back." ad hominem. stop being an asshole, don't you have a job or something... wish I did.

5:27"Joe, this isn't Iraq. This is helping the pro-democracy rebels. Why do you want Qadaffi around?" ad hominem. It wasn't cute the first time.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:48 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


ITT can we all pretend to be sockpuppets of people we're not?

Grarg! Fuck you all! None of you have any common sense! I'm a lawyer!
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hurray, ennui.bz has dragged the argument over here!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's actually possible to discuss political questions, but it requires actually responding to what people say instead of resorting to street debate techniques.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I never actually left, but it was really nice of you to ...

Wait. It wasn't about me? That's actually kind of hurtful.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Okay okay okay guess who I am:

NO FUCK YOU

solution: anyone in any Apple thread, for some reason, I mean seriously guys that's stupid
posted by shakespeherian at 2:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know how at the end of The Sixth Sense, you realized "oh shit, how did I not see that?" (especially if you didn't know there was a twist ending to figure out)

Having semi-paid attention to the thread's arguments (though not enough to see the offending, removed comments), that's how this thread makes me feel about the other one.

What a twist!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


*whips out political shiv, turns on MJ's "Beat It"*

Let's dance!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2011


Hey guys I'm anil dash's sock puppet
posted by subbes at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay - I'll admit it. I'm Rory Marinich. And also Brandon Blatcher. And all the mods. And well everyone. Mefi is all me, all the time.

Are you happy now?
posted by 26.2 at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2011


What I still don't get about The Sixth Sense was how did Bruce Willis get into Haley Joel Osment's mom's living room to wait for Haley Joel Osment to come home without noticing that the mom never once acknowledged his presence or the fact that a stranger was walking into her house? The movie has editing, guys: Dead Bruce Willis does not.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:53 PM on June 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


If someone could help me figure out who I am, that would be great.
posted by -jf- at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2011


Maybe that was his spawn point.
posted by maryr at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2011 [23 favorites]


I totally can't believe none of you have figured out that I'm actually Paul Weller's publicist.

I guess all that making out paid off, eh?
posted by adamdschneider at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"ITT can we all pretend to be sockpuppets of people we're not?"

Well, if you are them, then you're not pretending. So that's the only condition under which you could pretend, yes.
posted by Eideteker at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2011


I just got curious about what Chyme was up to. Apparently he spends his time tweeting insults at Lovecraft in Brooklyn. That makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

Okay - I'll admit it. I'm Rory Marinich.

4000 word essay on seemingly random minutae immediately followed by 5am groggy fuckladen rant or GTFO
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm sorry, but seeing this on the metalk page made me laugh harder than anything else today.
posted by hellojed at 2:56 PM on June 20, 2011


There is no way this thread is going to go well, let's just nuke it from orbit.
posted by desjardins at 2:59 PM on June 20, 2011


Apparently he spends his time tweeting insults at Lovecraft in Brooklyn. That makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

Way to cherry-pick. Although, I also think that Lovecraft in Brooklyn's anti-nature comment comments are pretty appalling.
posted by grouse at 3:00 PM on June 20, 2011


Shit, I just sold a laptop, that's like 80 sockpuppets! Yesss.
posted by Tikirific at 3:02 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


hey guys lets have a whole meta thread about people who arent in the thread and complain about why they suck
posted by shakespeherian at 3:02 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there a reason that this post hasn't been nuked? The post in and of itself is like some kind of weird, Metafilter-divides-by-zero ouroboros in the first place....

I'm getting a headache trying to figure out how the post hasn't negated itself...
posted by tzikeh at 3:02 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nature regularly tries to eat foundation of my house. It can go hell.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:03 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


grouse: yeah, kind of not a fan of those either. And those were the only two recent MetaFilter comments. The one before that was calling out delmoi, and that doesn't even count, on account of delmoi's so fun to get mad at. :)
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:03 PM on June 20, 2011


Metafilter: video game loser virgins.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:04 PM on June 20, 2011


Personal sock puppet outing time:

I am The Owls. Cause I like owls. I feel like they could use a proper representative in the online community.


Everyone is fond of owls.
posted by The Whelk at 3:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is there a reason that this post hasn't been nuked? The post in and of itself is like some kind of weird, Metafilter-divides-by-zero ouroboros in the first place....

so, I can post my stop being an asshole, meta? seriously, political threads need to either be banned or moderated heavily for noise.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:05 PM on June 20, 2011


Everyone says they like owls. Because they're awake while you're asleep.
posted by -jf- at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The owls are not what they seem.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I am The Owls.

Who?
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


why the fuck do people have sock puppets
you need to take metafilter less seriously ya'll
posted by nathancaswell at 3:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because they're awake while you're asleep

You are making wild assumptions about my sleep cycle good sir.
posted by The Whelk at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2011


No one knows I'm an owl on the internet
posted by found missing at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2011


I like these kinds of threads the way I like The Soup. I can't bare to watch the trainwreck, but I like hearing about it afterward.
posted by Kimberly at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


No one knows I'm an owl on the internet

O RLY?
posted by maryr at 3:11 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


why the fuck do people have sock puppets
you need to take metafilter less seriously ya'll


I do, I do
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:11 PM on June 20, 2011


you need to learn how to spell y'all, y'all
posted by pineapple at 3:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I am only just barely familiar with any of the three names in question.

This baffles me, because I still spend an inordinate amount of time here. Do these people restrict their participation to 'political' threads?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:13 PM on June 20, 2011


Kimberly: “I like these kinds of threads the way I like The Soup. I can't bare to watch the trainwreck, but I like hearing about it afterward.”

I can bare it. In fact, that's usually what causes the train wreck.
posted by koeselitz at 3:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are making wild assumptions about my sleep cycle good sir.

I apologize. I forget my manners when I'm sock-puppeting.
posted by -jf- at 3:15 PM on June 20, 2011


What I still don't get about The Sixth Sense was how did Bruce Willis get into Haley Joel Osment's mom's living room to wait for Haley Joel Osment to come home without noticing that the mom never once acknowledged his presence or the fact that a stranger was walking into her house? The movie has editing, guys: Dead Bruce Willis does not.

Wait, what? Bruce Willis' character was actually a lady? Oh man! Spoiler alert!
posted by NoMich at 3:16 PM on June 20, 2011


*rimshot*
posted by Tikirific at 3:16 PM on June 20, 2011


stavrosthewonderchicken: “I am only just barely familiar with any of the three names in question. This baffles me, because I still spend an inordinate amount of time here. Do these people restrict their participation to 'political' threads?”

Tell me about it. I usually hate the idea of inferior classes, but I'm pretty sure the PoliticsFilter side of the site is sort of our homegrown version of Youtube comments.
posted by koeselitz at 3:18 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's been kind of an open secret for a bit now. Several comments on it have been deleted. But since it's out for everyone now: Welcome back, Joe.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:20 PM on June 20, 2011


The cat is out of the bag now. You guys are better than Wikileaks at keeping secrets.
posted by crunchland at 3:21 PM on June 20, 2011


I am Spartacus.
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:22 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The movie has editing, guys: Dead Bruce Willis does not.

I've sort of constructed this world where the ghosts are "asleep" until Osment or some other kid wake them up - they enter each situation in the middle. I mostly constructed this theory after I watched Inception which explicitely linked movie editing with dream states.
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I never expected Joe Beese to show up in a thread about Obama.
posted by found missing at 3:26 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


While I'm actually very happy that Joe Beese is back (though, again, I'd have much preferred not to know which name he was back under), I think that this means I have to stay out of political threads from now on. Joe Beese + Ironmouth = instant unhappy day for Rory.

The irony is that I rarely follow politics outside of MetaFilter, so this essentially means I'll go back to complete political illiteracy. Does anybody know if there's an RSS service that'll tell me who to vote for in the 2016 primaries? I'm ready to go back to being a sheep now.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:28 PM on June 20, 2011


Try wakeupsheeple.com, Rory.
posted by josher71 at 3:31 PM on June 20, 2011


me: Is there a reason that this post hasn't been nuked?
ennui.bz: so, I can post my stop being an asshole, meta?

I didn't mean it as anything to do with letting you post. I meant as it regards outing MeFites and the rules at MetaFilter.

1: Empath says "hey, Ironmouth says Trurl is Joe Beese."
2: Ironmouth says "hey, Trurl totally is Joe Beese, he wrote me email and everything."
3: Jessamyn says "we deleted those comments in that thread because outing a MeFite using another handle is completely against the rules, and this post is doing just that very thing."
4: Post remains up.
5: ....
6: MetaFilter Möbius strip forever!
posted by tzikeh at 3:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, I guess this is relevant since it's about sock-puppeting: anybody read that Scott Adams rant on his blog where he said that rape was normal or some such shit?
posted by angrycat at 3:32 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


nooooo josher71 that's the opposite of what i want
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:33 PM on June 20, 2011


Joe Beese is Scott Adams, as far as I know
posted by found missing at 3:33 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know who else was Scott Adams?
posted by grouse at 3:35 PM on June 20, 2011


Hitler?
posted by found missing at 3:35 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is kind of like getting sekrit info into the court records, the info new goes away and is always publicly accessible.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:37 PM on June 20, 2011


Hmmm.

dontworryaboutitsheeple.com?
posted by josher71 at 3:38 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


you need to take metafilter less seriously ya'll

Actually, I think you probably need to take it more seriously.
posted by Justinian at 3:38 PM on June 20, 2011


I wish I was Rory Marinich.
posted by weston at 3:39 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


At jessamyn's request, I'm here to acknowledge publicly what I've previously acknowledged privately to the several who asked: He is I and I am him.

For the record, banshee first made the connection on May 25.
posted by Trurl at 3:47 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's very fine but are you him and he us me and we are all together?
posted by The Whelk at 3:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is interesting. I wonder if you'd have received half as many 'favorites' if you were still posting as Joe Beese.
posted by crunchland at 3:50 PM on June 20, 2011


Yay a thread!
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2011


This site still has favorites? I hadn't noticed.
posted by koeselitz at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is interesting. I wonder if you'd have received half as many 'favorites' if you were still posting as Joe Beese.

Sure he would. Joe Beese himself was a favorite magnate/magnet.
posted by found missing at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trurl-y shocked.
posted by gman at 3:53 PM on June 20, 2011


Tell us what Outside was like, was it as the other They Who Left, Yet Came Crawling Back say, all bright and shiny and unairconditioned and therefore miserable?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Missed ya, Joe.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2011


I'll take Ironmouth and Beese's endless cage fight any day over empath's incessant rapid-fire inane refutations. Let threads breathe, man.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:57 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welcome back, Joe.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:57 PM on June 20, 2011


There is a giant room, with a blue (sometimes white or grey) ceiling, and sometimes when there is not the white, there is a bright thing, and it burns us.
posted by Karmakaze at 3:57 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


welcome back Joe. I disagree with you about Obama, but then, I've been an asshole on the blue many a time; you've only been PERSISTENT. Srsly, you're a better mefi than me.
posted by angrycat at 3:59 PM on June 20, 2011


MetaFilter Möbius strip forever!

We emailed Joe/Trurl to let him know what was up. It seemed that closing the thread, even though we maintain that opening it was a not-cool thing to do, would just make the whole thing that much more of a weird mystery and much less of an "okay let's get this over with" situation. The downside to having MeTa as a community discussion location is that once people post this sort of stuff you can't just sort of unpost it [though we can delete comments] so there was some back channel "what do we do" discussion and a few emails and we decided that leaving this up with a general "please don't do this sort of thing again, everyone" message was preferable to trying to just put the cat back in the bag unless Joe/Trurl was vehemently opposed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:00 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, so we're all in then, and we all know who we are at last. Skins over there, this side tops. On the whistle. DODGEBALL!!!
posted by Elmore at 4:03 PM on June 20, 2011


I used to be Brandon Blatcher's sock puppet but then I became self aware. *


* This comment is a lie.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2011


My theory is that Joe wanted people to know he is Trurl, otherwise he wouldn't have told people via email that he is Trurl.
posted by found missing at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


No hard feelings about this thread, btw. I always expected to get "made" sooner or later.
posted by Trurl at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Trurl?

Guess troll was taken?
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2011


He is I and I am him.

And we warned you and yourself about not falling back into the same old pain-in-the-ass routine in political threads that ended up getting you banned last time, and that's not really something that it's okay for you to lose ground on again. That it's been kind of an obvious "so that's him back then, eh?" thing to a bunch of folks from your behavior since you came back is part of, per jessamyn's comment right up there, why this metatalk is such a weird no-win. We try to make the Brand New Day thing work but it's got to go both ways.

We gave you a ton of chances last time, got some "no really, I'll be good" stuff from you when you came back, and here we are again. If you want to keep being here you need to figure that out because we aren't going to be able to give you a dozen chances the second time around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's no crying in dodgeball!
posted by The Whelk at 4:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who?
posted by The Owls at 4:06 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


What is wrong with you people anyway?
posted by The Bizzaro Whelk at 4:07 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


For the record, I'm stunned that no one has registered the username "Sparticus" for these kind of situations. Stunned, I tell you. Think of the iterations of that joke that have gone unsaid into the void.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:11 PM on June 20, 2011


As some of you already know, I am actually half of the people on MetaFilter.

The other half are assholes.
posted by rokusan at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2011


Or maybe that's my half.
posted by rokusan at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2011


I am your better 3/5ths.
posted by The Whelk at 4:14 PM on June 20, 2011


I'm Kirk Douglas's son.
posted by katemonster at 4:14 PM on June 20, 2011


The moral is, if you start a new account and don't want your old persona to follow you, don't blab to people in MeMail about who you are!

I'm not even going to tell you who **I** really am...
posted by hermitosis at 4:15 PM on June 20, 2011


I would gladly trade Ironmouth for Joe Beese anyday.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:15 PM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Explanation appreciated, mods.

Is there a way to delete posts in MeTa, or is closing it up/leaving it visible the only option here? I'm trying to remember a deleted post on the grey and kind of can't.
posted by mintcake! at 4:16 PM on June 20, 2011


They're deleteable like on other parts of the site (though a few years back that wasn't quite the case), but Metatalk being Metatalk and cats and bags being what they are it can be sort of an impossible situation sometimes where deleting something that people are already chattering about is pretty much pointing a neon flashing light at the thing. This felt like one of those.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2011


I would gladly trade Joe Beese for sixcolors.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 4:20 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's like a bad episode of an EST cult of Playing the Game in here.

Who among you hasn't sinned, etc, etc. Have a non-sarcastic metaphorical cookie and a hug.
posted by loquacious at 4:20 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will trade Joe Beese for Josh Beckett and a player to be named.
posted by found missing at 4:22 PM on June 20, 2011


does the saying "cat out of the bag" come out the practice of drowning cats? or is there a funner explanation like there was this cat party and the cat was hiding in the bag and then came out of the bag and there was unexpected cat mayhem?
posted by angrycat at 4:22 PM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


The funny thing is, put a bag on the floor and before you know it, the cat is in it.
posted by found missing at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


I prefer to think that "cat out of the bag" is actually a Feynman metaphor about entropy and the impending heat death of the universe.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would gladly trade Ironmouth for Joe Beese anyday.

I've got a slightly worn The Whelk that I'll give you for your Ironmouth, or I also have a sealed original edition shakespeherian. Also, I'm looking to complete my mod deck, so if anyone has a good condition restless_nomad, I've got a couple of two-digiters I'd be willing to trade.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:25 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


jessamyn ★: we decided that leaving this up with a general "please don't do this sort of thing again, everyone" message was preferable to trying to just put the cat back in the bag

Gotcha. Makes perfect sense.
posted by tzikeh at 4:25 PM on June 20, 2011


angrycat: "does the saying "cat out of the bag" come out the practice of drowning cats? or is there a funner explanation like there was this cat party and the cat was hiding in the bag and then came out of the bag and there was unexpected cat mayhem"

It's UK naval slang, referring to the cat o' nine tails which was kept in a bag. Once the secret's out, someone's going to get flogged.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:26 PM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


I always thought let the cat out of the bag, was from the days when killing cats was a form of protest against the rich, who owned cats. Check out The Great Cat Massacre
posted by Ad hominem at 4:26 PM on June 20, 2011


Speaking of which wasn't Jessamy's star supposed to be for a month but now it is forever?

I am totally okay withthis result, btw.
posted by The Whelk at 4:28 PM on June 20, 2011


It's UK naval slang, referring to the cat o' nine tails which was kept in a bag. Once the secret's out, someone's going to get flogged.

Thank you! Learn something new every day!
posted by Ad hominem at 4:28 PM on June 20, 2011


It's UK naval slang, referring to the cat o' nine tails which was kept in a bag.

Snopes suggests otherwise.
posted by hippybear at 4:29 PM on June 20, 2011


Snopes says that the cat o' nine tails theory isn't true either. Cat party it is!
posted by grapesaresour at 4:29 PM on June 20, 2011


we decided that leaving this up with a general "please don't do this sort of thing again, everyone" message was preferable to trying to just put the cat back in the bag

Preferable to this thread: putting the cat back in the bag
posted by desjardins at 4:30 PM on June 20, 2011


Attention bag of cats: I am going to open the bag and HUG HUG HUG HUG HUG HUG HUG HUG all of you.
posted by mintcake! at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


Have you been deleting the joke-y complaints about identity spoilers or are people not going there?
posted by ServSci at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know the world is a more interesting place with British whipping based language origins so there.
posted by The Whelk at 4:32 PM on June 20, 2011


Cats put themselves in the bag. Try to put a cat in anything and you'll find it doesn't work out terribly well.
posted by maryr at 4:32 PM on June 20, 2011


The month isn't up yet. It's a long month.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:33 PM on June 20, 2011


My favorite British whipping based turn of phrase is "starting" or "starting him up."
posted by proj at 4:34 PM on June 20, 2011


Don't say what happens to me at the end of the book.
posted by Trurl at 4:34 PM on June 20, 2011


I have it on good authority that Metafilter uses the Saturn calendar.
posted by The Whelk at 4:36 PM on June 20, 2011


Preferable to this thread: putting the cat back in the bag

In a couple hundred years, many of the idioms by our few post-apocalyptic descendants will be based on shared cultural recollections of Maru, who will be one of the handful of worshipped Meme-Gods of the 23rd century. People will build shrines around little hologram .gifs. LOLSPEAK heavily scattered with Japenese-style emoticonography will be the new liturgical script.

Religious ceremonies will involve, not kneeling and sitting and standing and kneeling, but getting into and then out of boxes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:37 PM on June 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


I for one welcome our new Cat Overlords!
posted by grapesaresour at 4:38 PM on June 20, 2011


A young farm boy is going to put a missile in your exhaust port, Joe. Then there will be an explosion.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:38 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


We gave you a ton of chances last time, got some "no really, I'll be good" stuff from you when you came back, and here we are again.

This seems harsh. This MeTa is about someone else's posts in that thread. How's it his fault that we're here again?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:41 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


This seems harsh. This MeTa is about someone else's posts in that thread. How's it his fault that we're here again?

Because Joe outed his own sock puppet. No one asked him to.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 4:44 PM on June 20, 2011


How's it his fault that we're here again?

Too much history to go into, but it is.

Sorry.
posted by Trurl at 4:44 PM on June 20, 2011


cobra - what?
posted by tzikeh at 4:45 PM on June 20, 2011


People, this is very far from how we're supposed to worship Maru in the future.
posted by The Whelk at 4:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


How's it his fault that we're here again?

Because his previous time here was a noisy, bumpy pain in the ass and we ended up having a big talk in metatalk after he got banned about why, exactly, he got banned, and it was basically because of the sort of behavior that he was getting up to again in the thread referenced today. That's independent of whether it was a (unintentionally or otherwise) crappy move on Ironmouth's part to casually make the connection between the two accounts.

So I agree that it's a weird path to get there, but if we're gonna talk his being here again we need to be clear about that. I'd be super happy for that to be the end of it and everybody to be well-behaved and happy and shit, trust me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:47 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mellow-minded. You forgot mellow-minded. And funny (and shit). Whelk-like with a dash of divs, and a bit of clavs.
posted by Namlit at 4:49 PM on June 20, 2011


Why is it that I've never found Joe Beese to be a pain in the ass? There have been other posters (who I've agreed with politically) who I've found to be really unpleasant, but never Joe.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was thinking the same thing, dunkadunc. Maybe I don't read the right threads.
posted by desjardins at 4:54 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd be super happy for that to be the end of it and everybody to be well-behaved and happy and shit, trust me.

If it would help to close the thread, I'm super-OK with that.
posted by Trurl at 4:56 PM on June 20, 2011


There is the phrase: The cat's in the bag, and the bag's in the river.

But that really doesn't apply here.
posted by Elmore at 5:01 PM on June 20, 2011


Why is it that I've never found Joe Beese to be a pain in the ass?

The problem with Joe was that he made every single political thread, no matter how tangentially related to Obama, about how much Obama sucked, from basically the first day Obama was elected, and just never let it go.

It wasn't so much what he was saying, but the sheer, axe-grindy monotony of it that wore everyone down, imo.
posted by empath at 5:01 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wait how can that be when I'm--
posted by salvia at 5:04 PM on June 20, 2011


Nevermind!
posted by salvia at 5:04 PM on June 20, 2011


Everyone just reach out and grab someone. And then sway.


The swaying is importantM
posted by The Whelk at 5:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sway damnit
posted by The Whelk at 5:09 PM on June 20, 2011


Mad libs!

The problem with ________ is/was that s/he made every single ________ thread, no matter how tangentially related to ______, about _______, from basically the first day ________, and just never let it go.
posted by desjardins at 5:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'm not an internet lawyer, but I do play one in real life. What?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:13 PM on June 20, 2011


empath: "The problem with Joe was that he made every single political thread, no matter how tangentially related to Obama, about how much Obama sucked, from basically the first day Obama was elected, and just never let it go."

That shouldn't be a bannable offense.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


People, this is very far from how we're supposed to worship Maru in the future.

Wait. We're supposed to worship Maru in the future? Does the fact that I worship him now make me apostate, or a trend-setter?
posted by hippybear at 5:15 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


That shouldn't be a bannable offense.

Why shouldn't it?
posted by muddgirl at 5:16 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


That shouldn't be a bannable offense.

It wasn't. There was a lot more going on than that, and it all accumulated over time.
posted by hippybear at 5:16 PM on June 20, 2011


Mad libs!

The problem with penis is/was that s/he made every single penis thread, no matter how tangentially related to penis, about penis, from basically the first day vagina, and just never let it go.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:16 PM on June 20, 2011


The problem with Joe was that he made every single political thread, no matter how tangentially related to Obama, about how much Obama sucked, from basically the first day Obama was elected, and just never let it go.

It wasn't so much what he was saying, but the sheer, axe-grindy monotony of it that wore everyone down, imo.


I reallyreallyreally don't see the benefit of dredging this all back up now, though. I'd like to cast another vote for closing this thread.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hippybear that makes you a sat.m
posted by The Whelk at 5:17 PM on June 20, 2011


Saint

We call them sat.m in the future


Oh god the floor
posted by The Whelk at 5:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or more completely, if the moderators ask me to stop making every music thread a referendum on Lady Gaga, and yet I continue to make every music thread a referendum on Lady Gaga, what should they do?
posted by muddgirl at 5:18 PM on June 20, 2011


That shouldn't be a bannable offense.

Anything that consistently causes problems is a bannable offense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or more completely, if the moderators ask me to stop making every music thread a referendum on Lady Gaga, and yet I continue to make every music thread a referendum on Lady Gaga, what should they do?

Gag the silly bimbo. (Lady Gaga, I men)
posted by jonmc at 5:23 PM on June 20, 2011


Lady Gaga, I men

a men.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 5:25 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


hallelujah
posted by jonmc at 5:27 PM on June 20, 2011


I reallyreallyreally don't see the benefit of dredging this all back up now, though.

I would tend to agree. I'm fine leaving the thread open if people want to discuss general policy stuff or go over Maruology or whatever, but having sort of covered the bases we can probably skip further rehashing of the Beese thing. There's metatalk archives if you really want to dig into old discussions about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:27 PM on June 20, 2011


I'd vote for closing this up too since I cannot say anything positive about Joe being back.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 5:29 PM on June 20, 2011


Anything that consistently causes problems is a bannable offense.

This.

I owe it to the mods to make the record very clear: They were right to ban me then*. And I am trying very hard** to make it right for them to have let me back. And the existence of this thread is due to my failure at that effort.

* I won't link to it. But if you consult Beese's OFB entry on "The End of the Affair", I felt so from the beginning.

** You think I didn't want to make a post about that Times story the moment I read about it?

posted by Trurl at 5:29 PM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


babbyʼ); Drop table users; --: I'd vote for closing this up too since I cannot say anything positive about Joe being back."

You know, for a new member here, you sure do have a lot of opinions on the userbase.
posted by gman at 5:32 PM on June 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


I like Joe, even though I got some of my comments deleted going around in circles with him. The guy has a link for all occasions, I'll think twice about arguing with him again.

But what I really want to share is this Nyan cat scarf
posted by Ad hominem at 5:32 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why would you link that when I can't buy it?
posted by maryr at 5:38 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, for a new member here, you sure do have a lot of opinions on the userbase.

Who is the mysterious "New" user? Sarah Palin? Jimmy Hoffa? Congressman Weiner?

Bueller?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:40 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why would you link that when I can't buy it?

Here is one you can buy, but I think there is a backlog.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:41 PM on June 20, 2011


goddamnit you guys are going to make me look it up to figure out what the fuck you're talking about aren't you... hang on
posted by nathancaswell at 5:42 PM on June 20, 2011


It's UK naval slang, referring to the cat o' nine tails which was kept in a bag.

Snopes suggests otherwise.


Phew, that was close. We almost learned something useful in this thread.

Carry on people!
posted by formless at 5:44 PM on June 20, 2011


Weirdly enough, when I think about Joe Beese, the first thing I remember is that he had whippets.

So, uh, Trurl, I would most strongly encourage you to lavishly intersperse any political posts/comments with posts, comments, and links to photos of whippets, yours or others'. This would do a great deal to meet the goals outlined previously by Cortex, and would make me and others very happy (because who does not love a whippet??)
posted by Kat Allison at 5:53 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have whippet issues. NEVER be in the backyard with more than three of them. Bad things happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:03 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, for a new member here, you sure do have a lot of opinions on the userbase.

Do you really assume that someone with a recent join date must be a new user? Don't do that.

(I mean, only babby') knows for sure, but there are a lot of BND accounts here, including the one under discussion.)
posted by rtha at 6:10 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've been assuming that was a bnd account since day one, but I have no idea who and I cherish my ignorance and cuddle it like a fat bulldog puppy named rupert.
posted by elizardbits at 6:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


who it is, i mean
posted by elizardbits at 6:12 PM on June 20, 2011


I have whippet issues. NEVER be in the backyard with more than three of them. Bad things happen.

True.
posted by Trurl at 6:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know an awesome pug named Bogart.
posted by rtha at 6:14 PM on June 20, 2011


EVERYONE

RUN AND TELL THAT
posted by The Whelk at 6:22 PM on June 20, 2011


Oh, I was so right. I knew Trurl was Beese. He had the same way of abandoning his incoherencies in mid-thread whenever he got tired of defending them. Well, I guess after being banned at Cole's there was nothing left but to beg to be re-instated here.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2011


babbyʼ); Drop table users; --: I'd vote for closing this up too since I cannot say anything positive about Joe being back."

You know, for a new member here, you sure do have a lot of opinions on the userbase.
posted by gman at 8:32 PM


This is just the latest example of the "old guard" disparaging newer users opinions. IT HAS BEEN POINTED OUT REPEATEDLY that many users lurk a long time before they join/post. Also, if you check out babby's profile it seems that they have been here in a (possibly) few incarnations. That aside, STFU about new users not having a valid or worthwhile point of view.
posted by futz at 6:33 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


after being banned at Cole's

For those of you don't follow my doings as closely, this is referring to the Democratic blog Balloon Juice - where the Beese/Trurl dynamic has also played out.
posted by Trurl at 6:33 PM on June 20, 2011


All my memories of whippits are happy. Phish, the Dead...good times.

Oh, you mean the dogs?

Carry on then.
posted by 26.2 at 6:34 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


WHIPPIT GOOD
posted by The Whelk at 6:37 PM on June 20, 2011


I am Tiger Woods.

You're no Rory McIlroy!
posted by Mister_A at 6:38 PM on June 20, 2011


Dude I made a golf joke!
posted by Mister_A at 6:39 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


futz: babbyʼ); Drop table users; --: This is just the latest example of the "old guard" disparaging newer users opinions. IT HAS BEEN POINTED OUT REPEATEDLY that many users lurk a long time before they join/post. Also, if you check out babby's profile it seems that they have been here in a (possibly) few incarnations. That aside, STFU about new users not having a valid or worthwhile point of view.

Is it? Is it really? OR is it blatantly obvious that he is an old timer with a fair bit of history here? Hence the fuckin' joke.
posted by gman at 6:40 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe work on your delivery?
posted by rtha at 6:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am really Horace Rumpole.

I'm playing a very long game.

Oh, and somebody Memail me how babby is formed. I hate not knowing all the dirt.

posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:49 PM on June 20, 2011


Hey everybody, new True Blood season starts this Sunday!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hence the fuckin' joke.

Maybe work on your delivery?


This brings up the question, what's the latest "i am kinda joking" emoticon thing? Seems the {HAMBURGER} is past its prime?
posted by salvia at 6:54 PM on June 20, 2011


gman, it didn't come off as a joke.
posted by futz at 6:56 PM on June 20, 2011


rtha: "Maybe work on your delivery?"

No, it was pretty freaking obvious.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm actually Pope Guilty. (Not intended to be a factual statement)

On a completely unrelated note, does anyone know what happened to ludwig_van?
posted by MattMangels at 6:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those of you don't follow my doings as closely

Sir, you flatter me. Yourself, too.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:59 PM on June 20, 2011


Hey everybody, new True Blood season starts this Sunday!

I AM EXCITE FOR MIGHTY VIKING COCK
posted by elizardbits at 7:01 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


MAYBE THIS TIME SOOKIE WILL BE KILLED OFF!! a girl can dream
posted by scody at 7:03 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Viking cock? Way to kill the mood there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:05 PM on June 20, 2011


No, it was pretty freaking obvious.

Obvious to you, obviously not obvious to others, therefore not universally obvious.

Obvious is a weird word.
posted by rtha at 7:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, is that the cock of an actual Viking, or merely a superlative cock?
posted by yellowbinder at 7:11 PM on June 20, 2011


My wang? That's where I'm a viking!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actual Viking.
posted by grapesaresour at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2011


I swear, MetaTalk has the zaniest conversation drifts.
posted by MattMangels at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


SOOKIE IS GONNA GO ROMP AND CAVORT SO WE CAN SPEND MORE WITH PAM, RIGHT?



RIGHT
posted by The Whelk at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Way to kill the mood there
posted by The Whelk at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2011


(not to say there is anything mere about a superlative cock)
posted by yellowbinder at 7:19 PM on June 20, 2011


Metafilter: No mere superlative cock
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 PM on June 20, 2011


Pam should live nextdoor to lafayette and his boyfriend. Eric can be their landlord.

Sookie can go hang with that nice werewolf, one state over.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


All the Lovecraft posters are the same person.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2011


In Brooklyn? Or Brisbane? Or maybe it is just the framing of the "posters".
posted by futz at 7:33 PM on June 20, 2011


I like these kinds of threads the way I like The Soup. I can't bare to watch the trainwreck, but I like hearing about it afterward.

Ok but do you really mean Cereal?
posted by Glinn at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2011


We emailed Joe/Trurl to let him know what was up. It seemed that closing the thread, even though we maintain that opening it was a not-cool thing to do, would just make the whole thing that much more of a weird mystery and much less of an "okay let's get this over with" situation.

Transparency is always better than mystery. Smart move, jessamyn.
posted by orthogonality at 8:10 PM on June 20, 2011


Viking cock? Way to kill the mood there.

Is it the horned helmet?
posted by Hoopo at 8:14 PM on June 20, 2011


I wonder who won Vampire Bill's modesty sock at the auction, and whether they framed with it or sleep with it or what.
posted by angrycat at 8:14 PM on June 20, 2011


Transparency is always better than mystery.

Why did my mind go straight to wardrobe choices? We may have to agree to disagree.
posted by salvia at 8:15 PM on June 20, 2011


It wasn't so much what he was saying, but the sheer, axe-grindy monotony of it that wore everyone down, imo.

I've never understood why people resented this so much.

When I drive down the road, I really appreciate having a white line on the right and yellow line on the left, and then little reflectors right of the white line and centered between the double yellow lines to my left. By reference to them, I know if I'm well centered on the road, or veering off, or completely off track.

Joe Beese's consistent suspicion of Obama was my double yellow line to the left. As long as his opinion was glittering there, and I didn't cross over further than it, I was safely on the road.

Joe Beese was being skeptical of Obama, so I could relax my vigilance. Conversely, when I found myself favoriting Joe, agreeing with his deeply skeptical world view, it was an indication to me that it was time to reevaluate both my own position -- and the conditions of the road laid down by Obama.

And frankly, Ironmouth is the rumble strip to the right -- he can be counted on, in any thread you want to go into, to have a legalistic apologia ready to exculpate Obama in particular, and governmental heavy-handedness and bureaucratic maliciousness in general.

With those two as signosts, reflectors, rumble strips, consistently saying the same thing, it's easier to navigate threads, easier to figure out my own position.
posted by orthogonality at 8:27 PM on June 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


I had kind of decided that Trurl was Joe based purely on post frequency + how "new" Trurl was, without regard to post content at all. But I'd also kind of decided I wasn't going to say anything about it, because that would be shitty (and also nobody would have cared if I'd said it anyway).
posted by penduluum at 8:28 PM on June 20, 2011


Joe Beese was being skeptical of Obama, so I could relax my vigilance.

The problem wasn't his skepticism of Obama, it was his continued and constant expression of it in threads that had absolutely nothing to do with him.
posted by empath at 8:32 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pfft. I totally knew it was him the whole time. Ya'll didn't know that? Shyeah.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:33 PM on June 20, 2011


But orthogonality, don't you think that's kind of the false doctrine of "the average of the extremes is correct"? Sometimes Ironmouth (or Joe) is just plain wrong. The road is always between the white and yellow lines. The truth isn't always between Ironmouth and Joe.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:33 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


With those two as signosts, reflectors, rumble strips, consistently saying the same thing, it's easier to navigate threads, easier to figure out my own position.

I thought Joe was more like a centre line.

Of course, we don't drive on the right like you guys...
posted by pompomtom at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2011


With those two as signosts, reflectors, rumble strips, consistently saying the same thing, it's easier to navigate threads, easier to figure out my own position.
posted by orthogonality


Sigh. This is depressing.
posted by futz at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2011


Dungeon Keeper AND Alpha Centauri are available at GOG. com right now just sayin'
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


The guyis making good front page threads and striving not to go off the rails in political threads. I say welcome back and good luck. I may need a brand new day one day myself. We all might.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


"And frankly, Ironmouth is the rumble strip to the right -- he can be counted on, in any thread you want to go into, to have a legalistic apologia ready to exculpate Obama in particular, and governmental heavy-handedness and bureaucratic maliciousness in general."

It's comments like this that really highlight how bizarre the misreading of Ironmouth is.

He is rarely apologizing — he just isn't doing the dogmatic denunciations that the echo-chamber MeFites demand of all discussions of politics here. Often, what he's saying is about the limits of the law or regrounding the discussion after yet another third-generation copy pasta leftist snark sends the comments off into the more-Chomsky-than-thou weeds.

But because his interlocutors seem to have so much trouble with understanding limited statements as limited statements and not the totalizing ideologies that they adhere to, everything he says gets seventy-million one-line sneers. Very rarely does someone disagree with him in a way that adds any substance — they just assume that he bears the burden of proof and is an all-purpose straw man for centrist Democrats (and thereby the phantasms of fascism so often fought here).

Calling his comments apologia make me wonder if you've ever tried the simple exercise of thinking about how you would construct an argument for the other side. Actual apologia are markedly different, and labeling them as such is more a way for you to sneer and impugn than have to deal with the substance of his arguments.
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 PM on June 20, 2011 [32 favorites]


Well, that's where the metaphor breaks down. To be very honest, I more often find myself driving over Joe's yellow line than over Ironmouth's rumble strip.

But again, that's still useful: if I find myself in agreement with Ironmouth, that in itself is evidence of something (usually that Ironmouth's legalistic interpretation has merit, and it's just an argument from authority).

And so too if I find myself wholeheartedly in agreement with Joe, that's evidence of something too (that Obama, on this particular issue, is starkly and obviously to the right of center).

Again, I don't frequently agree with Ironmouth (Ironmouth makes his living defending bureaucrats accused of mal- and mis-feasance, and from a professional standpoint it's a great thing that he internalizes the apologia for bureaucratic excess so well), but he clearly represents a certain type prevalent in the "father knows best" center-left and it's good to have that voice here, even if I find it sometimes misses the point I care about.

And similarly with Joe Beese, who represents a center argument on the lefty left, that I think we also benefit in being exposed to.

---
And my larger argument: Metafilter is in danger of -- more, in the process of -- becoming bland and homogenized and overly concerned with the trivial and the pointless. The quality of debate has been, and continues to, decline. As do the FPPs because of thread-shitting and overzealous moderation.

Many of the best and most interesting voices have already been driven away by the mediocre mob, or if still here are far less interested in interacting. (Yes, the Mefi mob is head and shoulders above the mob that comment on Youtube, but it's still safe bland and bourgeois.)

The range of voices has narrowed, and the quality of discourse has declined, mostly in the name of satisfying the broad bland flabby middle. Joe Beese and Ironmouth, whatever else they are, are not the flabby middle.
posted by orthogonality at 8:55 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


empath: "The problem wasn't his skepticism of Obama, it was his continued and constant expression of it in threads that had absolutely nothing to do with him."

If political arguments are roads, some people don't really care if they're rolling over asphalt or through shopping malls or parks or uninhabited wilds. They just want to drive, man - who cares what gets trampled or destroyed? So I don't believe you'll hear much against the pernicious Beese/Ironmouth battles amongst the purveyors of political discussion here, empath. They'd just as well everything was paved over anyhow, and they don't mind a bit of destruction as long as it moves us along to the point where every discussion is an argument about politics.
posted by koeselitz at 8:56 PM on June 20, 2011


orthogonality, I re-read your comment and I get what you were going for. I apologize for misreading your comment.
posted by futz at 8:57 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welcome back Joe. You've been missed, bud. I've been enjoying your posts. :)


Also, I know it's probably causing you and the mods no small level of angst and annoyance, but forgive me... I just laughed my ass off over this MeTa. "I'm just welcoming him back. He sent a note of thanks to me, dude." *snort*
posted by zarq at 8:58 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Huh. I'd always assumed Ironmouth was Joe Beese.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So how do hitch-hikers factor into this bizarre and extended road = politics metaphor? Are they standing on the shoulder holding "GOOGLE RON PAUL!" sandwich boards? Just want to be sure.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:06 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


s/and it's just an argument from authority)/and it's NOT just an argument from authority)
posted by orthogonality at 9:06 PM on June 20, 2011


I just want more passion and less echo chamber.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


orthogonality: "And my larger argument: Metafilter is in danger of -- more, in the process of -- becoming bland and homogenized and overly concerned with the trivial and the pointless."

Well, I guess I can agree with this point, although certainly in an entirely different way than you meant it. Metafilter finds itself overrun by petty squabbles between ideologues intent upon turning the site into a breeding ground for party politics. The only way to improve this situation would be a moratorium in so-called "political" threads, which in fact are not worthy of the name - because they're nothing but echo chambers and sounding rooms for a particular moderate-liberal point of view. After a while, all we're left with is a bunch of hand-wringing and shoe-gazing. Seriously, almost every single political thread takes exactly this form: appalling or outrageous fact drawn from the skimpiest of news sources followed by hundreds of comments expressing exactly the same sentiment. Occasionally a heretic wanders by an mutters something we don't like, but we shout them down soon enough. It's tiresome.

Most of us who really love Metafilter have learned to follow the old dictum of "if you don't like it don't click it," but when this poison starts spilling out over the whole site, something needs to be done.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 PM on June 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


I just got curious about what Chyme was up to. Apparently he spends his time tweeting insults at Lovecraft in Brooklyn. That makes me feel a little uncomfortable.


Thanks for telling me. I didn't see them. In his defense, the comment he called out was pretty dumb.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:10 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are they standing on the shoulder holding "GOOGLE RON PAUL!" sandwich boards?

Everyone knows that Glibertarians don't believe in public roads.

So they're the ones who assert their private property rights by building and manning makeshift toolbooths, sometimes buy not always situated under bridges.

And yes, often the toll we have to pay to the tool is listening to a story about how their invisible Sky Ghost Friend named Ron Paul or Ayn Rand, or The Free Market or the Invisible Hand will magically fix everything if we just believe hard enough.
posted by orthogonality at 9:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


We try to make the Brand New Day thing work but it's got to go both ways.

maybe don't name it after the most hated Spider-Man storyline since the Clone Saga?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"And my larger argument: Metafilter is in danger of -- more, in the process of -- becoming bland and homogenized and overly concerned with the trivial and the pointless. The quality of debate has been, and continues to, decline. As do the FPPs because of thread-shitting and overzealous moderation. "

That's horseshit.

Overly concerned about the trivial and the pointless? Cat-scan.com!

You're making an appeal to a mythic past that never existed and doing so to support your bad behavior and constant meritless complaints about any moderation at all, while conveniently forgetting the MeFi that actually existed.

I mean, I can understand you wanting to go back to making stunt posts, but that's never been the best of MetaFilter. You often conflated posting to MeFi with a political act.

But given how wrong you are about MeFi, it's not surprising that you'd be wildly wrong about some of the other comments here.
posted by klangklangston at 9:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I just want more passion and less echo chamber.

I really don't think the political threads suffer from lack of passion. The discussions get so damned tsundere they're almost painful to read.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:16 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Almost?
posted by koeselitz at 9:19 PM on June 20, 2011


I'm trying to be charitable here. And honestly, they're not all bad. I've become so suspicious of so many of the claims raised from either side of the aisle that they've forced me to actually research and verify them, thus inadvertently educating me better on the subject at hand. Silver lining!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:22 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi! Anyone want nachos? I just made 'em!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe. How are they going to vote in 2012?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


At jessamyn's request, I'm here to acknowledge publicly what I've previously acknowledged privately to the several who asked: He is I and I am him.

For the record, banshee first made the connection on May 25.


It was pretty obvious from within a day or two of your starting to post. I said nothing about it because of it being against the rules, and because I had no easy way to prove it without server-side data. I could have done some similarity analysis on the comments, but to what end? Life's too short.

I seem to remember 'Joe Beese' was kicked off MeFi, and I thought that decision was sound. So I now cordially invite you to GTFO and stop debasing one of my favorite literary characters with your partisan wingnuttery. I hate trolls.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:24 PM on June 20, 2011


TIL: "tsundere" is a word that comes form those weird Japanese cartoons, and means "standoffish then affectionate".
posted by orthogonality at 9:25 PM on June 20, 2011


Another acceptable meaning - and the one I was going with - was "expressing hostility but secretly feeling affection".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:26 PM on June 20, 2011


What is the mod position on this, now that the 'mystery' has been cleared up? Is Joe_Beese/Trurl a respected member of the community again, or has Smithers been ordered to release the hounds?
posted by anigbrowl at 9:26 PM on June 20, 2011


It was pretty obvious from within a day or two of your starting to post.

I'll ask banshee to relinquish the trophy.
posted by Trurl at 9:27 PM on June 20, 2011


I seem to remember 'Joe Beese' was kicked off MeFi, and I thought that decision was sound. So I now cordially invite you to GTFO and stop debasing one of my favorite literary characters with your partisan wingnuttery. I hate trolls.

You can't really make an appeal to authority ("I thought that decision was sound") and then demand he "GTFO" when the authorities are apparently OK with his being here under a new name.

And Trurl/Beese is clearly sincere, even to his detriment, so accusing him of being a troll (someone who pretends an opinion just to provoke) makes no sense.
posted by orthogonality at 9:29 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another acceptable meaning - and the one I was going with - was "expressing hostility but secretly feeling affection".

Fuck you, sweetie.

Wait, I'm doing it wrong.
posted by orthogonality at 9:31 PM on June 20, 2011


he just isn't doing the dogmatic denunciations that the echo-chamber MeFites demand of all discussions of politics here.

Come on. He does plenty of that shit. In today's Libya thread, although the original comment seems to have been deleted, he responded to someone's criticism with "Why do you want Qadaffi around?" One of his most common argumentative techniques is stating conclusively that something Obama advocated is the only Serious, possible solution, even if he never fought for anything else, and that if you disagree you're just an asshole undermining Democrats so that President Palin will win in 2012. (And then ignoring any subsequent comments that cast doubt upon that assertion.)

I'll give him credit, in that he often makes well-thought out comments about legal topics, but he makes plenty of horseshit dogmatic denunciations. And I know that you agree with the man's positions, but your declaration that "very rarely" does anyone ever respond to him with substance is dismissive and pretty fucking dumb.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 9:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I seem to remember 'Joe Beese' was kicked off MeFi, and I thought that decision was sound. So I now cordially invite you to GTFO and stop debasing one of my favorite literary characters with your partisan wingnuttery. I hate trolls.

Your comment in the UN thread was pretty awful. Maybe you shouldn't throw stones.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 PM on June 20, 2011


You can't really make an appeal to authority ("I thought that decision was sound") and then demand he "GTFO" when the authorities are apparently OK with his being here under a new name.

That remains to be seen. And I didn't demand he GTFO, I invited him to do so, to see whether or not he had any respect for the other people using this site. This may seem like a pointless distinction to you, but it matters to me. We are probably not going to see eye to eye about this in the future.

And Trurl/Beese is clearly sincere, even to his detriment, so accusing him of being a troll (someone who pretends an opinion just to provoke) makes no sense.

Based on what, his consistency? Lots of trolls are consistent. Frankly, if he told me I was on fire my first question would be where he got the matches.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:38 PM on June 20, 2011


"You can't really make an appeal to authority ("I thought that decision was sound") and then demand he "GTFO" when the authorities are apparently OK with his being here under a new name. "

That's not what "appeal to authority" means.
posted by klangklangston at 9:38 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


What happened to Joe "The Number of the" Beese? I only found out in my own MetaTalk thread that my old nemesis Pope Guilty had flamed out.

I tend to have huge gaps of weeks, sometimes months where I don't look at MetaFilter. I miss a lot of the action.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:40 PM on June 20, 2011


Whether it's true or not, it's a shitty way to engage people in the thread.
posted by empath


Tune in next week, when I'll chide people for writing badly and making dumb jokes.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:40 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I didn't demand he GTFO, I invited him to do so,

Seriously, dude, we're supposed to believe that for you "GET THE FUCK OUT" is a polite invitation, not a demand or fighting words?

We're supposed to think that's the way you'd "invite" your Mom? "Hey Mom, GET THE FUCK OUT!"
posted by orthogonality at 9:44 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


At jessamyn's request, I'm here to acknowledge publicly what I've previously acknowledged privately to the several who asked: He is I and I am him.

He is I and I am him. Slim with the tilted brim. What's my motherfuckin' name?!

Serial killah!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:45 PM on June 20, 2011


"One of his most common argumentative techniques is stating conclusively that something Obama advocated is the only Serious, possible solution, even if he never fought for anything else, and that if you disagree you're just an asshole undermining Democrats so that President Palin will win in 2012. (And then ignoring any subsequent comments that cast doubt upon that assertion.)"

No, though that's a way that I frequently see him misread by people spoiling for a fight.

That's actually a handful of arguments conflated with each other, and a frequent counter-criticism for folks who take an unrelatistic view of politics. I disagree with Ironmouth about some things, but he's generally right about both the law and the current political environment, and I feel like he takes a lot of shit from people who are frustrated with the law and political environment and attack him like he's a consistent supporter of same.

The snark about wanting Gaddafi, you're right about, but count how many people were riding his ass in that thread — getting shirty is understandable, if regrettable.
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


At least he didn't say, "I am that I am".
posted by orthogonality at 9:47 PM on June 20, 2011


Your comment in the UN thread was pretty awful. Maybe you shouldn't throw stones.

Oh, the thread where a bunch of people rushed to post put-downs of the UN Human Rights commission for voting to recognize LGBT rights for the first time? Hmm, I feel just fine about that actually, because I wasn't the one taking snide cheap shots at a historical milestone - a waypoint rather than the promised land, to be sure, but still one of global significance for tens, maybe hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Yes, I said that those who did were a bunch of assholes. I stand by that remark.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:50 PM on June 20, 2011


*throughs shoe at billboard.
posted by clavdivs at 9:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I feel just fine about that actually, because I wasn't the one taking snide cheap shots at a historical milestone

No one was taking snide cheap shots at anything. You were just behaving like a huge jerk.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:51 PM on June 20, 2011


klang, it's not an infrequent thing. I just checked in my comment history for the last thread I remember having a conversation with Ironmouth in, and I found him saying (not to me, but to others) "You want Obama to torture to the point where you conflate what Bush did with what his treatment of the detainees" and "Glenn Greenwald gonna start ordering President Romney around. For someone who 'cares' about the detainees, you sure have no concern for them or anyone captured under President Romney." If you think I'm somehow giving these types of comments an uncharitable misreading, we're just gonna have to agree to disagree, because the people he's responding to never said anything remotely like what he was claiming.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 9:52 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Don't get me wrong: I like Ironmouth, but he thinks like an advocat, a litigator, and he wants to win arguments rather than have discussions. An admirable trait in a trial lawyer.
posted by orthogonality at 9:55 PM on June 20, 2011


No, though that's a way that I frequently see him misread by people spoiling for a fight.

Klangklangston, here is one of Ironmouth's comments from earlier today, verbatim:

Seriously, I don't get why the left continues to shoot themselves in the foot and do everything in their power to put insane people into the presidency.

Is this not what cobra_high_tigers is talking about?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:57 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously, dude, we're supposed to believe that for you "GET THE FUCK OUT" is a polite invitation, not a demand or fighting words?

No, you're not. It is a frosty invitation, without so much as a cherry on top. I was responding your mischaracterization of my earlier remark as an argument from authority, and pointing out that I would like J_B/Trurl to leave but have no leverage with which I can force him to do so. When I am angry I make cutting remarks instead of using my caps lock key, and because I am a snobby hipster (aka a european) I employ ironic understatement to emphasize my displeasure.

tl;dr it's the difference between 'GTFO' and 'why don't you GTFO', and if you still don't get it then don't worry about it.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:02 PM on June 20, 2011


No one was taking snide cheap shots at anything. You were just behaving like a huge jerk.

The thread in question. I don't wish to derail, but a) I didn't bring it up and b) Trurl was one of the people whose remarks I took offense at. I'll let others judge who was doing what.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:13 PM on June 20, 2011


I'm in a motel room in a small Appalachia town, and all the stores are closed because it's 1AM.

And I was hungry. So I rooted around in my suitcase and discovered that I had a delicious strawberry pop tart (unfrosted, the only real pop-tarts are unfrosted). And I ate it. And it was good.

And in a Proustian moment, I remembered that I knew a girl from Boston with a really strong accent who once declared to a group of friends among whom I counted as a member that she was having a "PAWP TAHT PAHTY" that evening.

Why is this thread still open?
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why is this thread still open?
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 PM on June 20, 2011


That's not what "appeal to authority" means.

I was responding your mischaracterization of my earlier remark as an argument from authority

It's an appeal to authority.

You were implying Joe Beese's ban was correct because an authority (the mods) banned him.
A (fallacious) appeal to authority argument has the basic form:

1. Source A says that p is true.
2. Source A is authoritative.
3. Therefore, p is true.

A is the mods. p id the proposition that "Beese ought to be banned".

When you wrote, "I thought that decision was sound", that was an implicit appeal to authority.
posted by orthogonality at 10:16 PM on June 20, 2011


Except that we're not talking about provable facts and truth statements. I have to go out right now; ask someone to explain (or look up) the difference between positive and normative statements.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:22 PM on June 20, 2011


orthogonality: "Don't get me wrong: I like Ironmouth, but he thinks like an advocat, a litigator, and he wants to win arguments rather than have discussions."

Man, you just described every "political" commenter on this site. There is no such thing as a political conversation here that leads to personal revelations; that's why the intractable mess is so annoying. Nobody has a mind that is open to possibilities; they're just closed, out of concern or a sense of right or a sense of injustice. I'm sorry if this seems combative, ortho, but I've felt this tension for a long time now, and I guess it's coming out here.
posted by koeselitz at 10:37 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"It's an appeal to authority.

You were implying Joe Beese's ban was correct because an authority (the mods) banned him.
A (fallacious) appeal to authority argument has the basic form:

1. Source A says that p is true.
2. Source A is authoritative.
3. Therefore, p is true.

A is the mods. p id the proposition that "Beese ought to be banned".

When you wrote, "I thought that decision was sound", that was an implicit appeal to authority.
"

No, and that's an idiotic convolution.

"I thought that decision was sound" does not imply that the speaker thinks the decision was sound because it was made by the mods, which is the inherent circularity of the fallacy.

That I think Machinegun Kelly was rightly convicted is not an appeal to the authority of the jury nor the judge; I've looked at enough of the evidence to conclude that it was just to convict him.

In your construction, it's impossible to independently concur with an opinion, which is absurd.
posted by klangklangston at 10:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Seriously, I don't get why the left continues to shoot themselves in the foot and do everything in their power to put insane people into the presidency.

Is this not what cobra_high_tigers is talking about?
"

If it is, it's a poor example.

In it, Ironmouth responds to over-broad comparisons between Bush and Obama — and I agree that some of the assertions are warranted (i.e. I think that Obama's failure to seek authorization under the War Powers Act is the wrong decision) — and someone saying that Obama will lose unless the GOP nominates someone like Michelle Bachmann.

"Shoot[ing] themselves in the foot" is a pretty apt description of a particular strain of criticism — criticism that is markedly poor at getting results and often reads to me more like an attempt to state in-group norms than any real strategy for action.
posted by klangklangston at 10:54 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


maybe don't name it after the most hated Spider-Man storyline since the Clone Saga?

It was either "Brand New Day" or "Crisis on Infinite Accounts". You can see our hands were tied.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:54 PM on June 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


There is no such thing as a political conversation here that leads to personal revelations; that's why the intractable mess is so annoying. Nobody has a mind that is open to possibilities; they're just closed, out of concern or a sense of right or a sense of injustice.

koeselitz, god knows I've vacillated over Obama, as even a quick galnce at my "popular favorites" will demonstrate.

I'm not the partisan here that Joe Beese was or Ironmouth is, precisely because of my vacillation. But I look to the debate and interplay between folks like Joe and Ironmouth, and Metafilter's reaction to their arguments, to guide and to double-check my opinions.

Even, perhaps especially, when one or the other offers up (and stridently defends) a particularly weak argument, that for me is evidence of where the truth may lie.

And I also depend on metafilter for folks like ericb and fugitivefromchaingang and jardinier and many others, who alert me to political stories or viewpoints I wouldn't otherwise encounter -- and these too lead to personal revelations for me.

I understand that you hate political threads, and I sort of understand why, but for me the threads, even when fighty, serve a real purpose.
posted by orthogonality at 11:03 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


aka a european Not in my name.
You remember who else was European?
posted by adamvasco at 11:51 PM on June 20, 2011


If it is, it's a poor example.

No one can tell you any different, klang.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:04 AM on June 21, 2011


You remember who else was European?

Voltaire?
posted by anigbrowl at 12:35 AM on June 21, 2011


wants to win arguments rather than have discussions

Man, you just described every "political" commenter on this site. There is no such thing as a political conversation here that leads to personal revelations; that's why the intractable mess is so annoying.

for me the threads, even when fighty, serve a real purpose


I'm not opposed to contrasting viewpoints, but when it gets fighty, it just isn't worth it to me to participate. I actually think that often, fighty tones interfere with exploring contrasting views on a topic.

I was in an exchange today where we had interestingly different views, but (in a not-at-all-unusual way) those differences were getting explored within a framing of somewhat personal attacks. To exaggerate for brevity, it was like: "your behavior is either stupid or intentionally misleading, given [interesting, new viewpoints about the topic of the thread]." (I'm not linking because the actual discussion was well within the site norm; this isn't a callout.) It was as if my motivations and intent were the real question at issue, not the topic of the post. How boring would it be if I started providing evidence? ("Excerpts from my text logs here of pre-commenting discussion... illustrate no conscious intent to...") The difference in viewpoints was interesting, but someone else's idea of what I was thinking and considering when posting just wasn't. It just immediately seemed completely not worth my time. Plus, it felt like "jokey-♫ jokey-joke. Oh, what? I just stumbled into the moshpit again?? FUUUU."

I'm not saying I don't like reading a good debate from time to time, but too often attacks don't advance the discussion in any meaningful way. It seems like the fightier the tone gets, the less use that discussion is for actually exploring different viewpoints.
posted by salvia at 1:22 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I actually noticed truro around here, because I was surprised by his thoughtful and thorough comments. Even as someone who had no problem with Beese before the banning, it's clear to me he's making the effort that the mods have asked of him.

It's one thing to get axe grindy over Obama's foreign policy in a post about, say, amnesty international--quite another to do so in a thread about Obama's justifications for war in Libya.

There is no such thing as a political conversation here that leads to personal revelations

Speak for yourself, kemosabe. As long as people aren't shouting each other down (good riddance, pope guilty and optimus chyme) I can take away plenty from political arguments on mefi.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 2:32 AM on June 21, 2011


Argh. Fucking cell phone. Truro=trurl.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 2:33 AM on June 21, 2011


I actually noticed truro around here, because I was surprised by his thoughtful and thorough comments. Even as someone who had no problem with Beese before the banning, it's clear to me he's making the effort that the mods have asked of him.

It's one thing to get axe grindy over Obama's foreign policy in a post about, say, amnesty international--quite another to do so in a thread about Obama's justifications for war in Libya.


Thank you for noticing the distinction.

However, in my case, it's still an abrogation of my responsibilities under the terms of the BND. I should not publicly comment about the Obama administration period - for the simple reason that, as I acknowledged to jessamyn weeks ago, I am constitutionally, as it were, incapable of moderating myself on the subject. I mean, look at that thread. I am all over it. So unmistakably That Guy. No good.

Beese expressed several accounts worth of opinion on that subject here - so I've already had more than my share. He has MeFi Mail, HOFB, and several sympathetically minded political blogs as outlets. Trurl was supposed to be non-political. So I am apologetically returning to his regular programming.
posted by Trurl at 3:55 AM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


This thread is becoming a perfect example of why BNDs related to previously disruptive behaviour only work well if you remain anonymous. And why lowering that veil of anonymity can be problematic.

It's an imperfect system. The whole point of "brand new day"is to give someone a second chance, free of their previous baggage. But we still carry it with us.
posted by zarq at 4:08 AM on June 21, 2011


Good luck to you, Trurl.
posted by Wolof at 4:18 AM on June 21, 2011


This thread is becoming a perfect example of why BNDs related to previously disruptive behaviour only work well if you remain anonymous. And why lowering that veil of anonymity can be problematic.

Quite. I never intended to go public. And I have no one but myself to blame for having made the connection so obvious.

The silver lining here is that, now that it's out, I have lots of extra motivation for avoiding political commentary - as I had originally intended. Certain MeFites whose identities can be guessed without difficulty, for whom even a reminder of Beese's politics is intolerable, will seize upon even a whiff of partisanship in Trurl's comments to make trouble. And I owe the mods a lifetime of no more trouble.
posted by Trurl at 4:24 AM on June 21, 2011


Oh fuck that noise. It's entirely OK for you to answer someone over mail that "yes, I'm the artist formerly known as Beese".

The fault here lies with Ironmouth for outing you.
posted by orthogonality at 4:33 AM on June 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Quite. I never intended to go public. And I have no one but myself to blame for having made the connection so obvious.

Ok, ok, let's move on into that Brand New Day and leave the past behind.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:01 AM on June 21, 2011


Brand new day or not, 35 reasonably good MeFi posts in less than two months is an impressive thing.
posted by modernnomad at 6:01 AM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


This thread is becoming a perfect example of why BNDs related to previously disruptive behaviour only work well if you remain anonymous. And why lowering that veil of anonymity can be problematic.


This is not entirely true. I can think of one long-time member who is now on her third alias. Whereas one time she was completely incendiary, she's now a pleasant member of the community. But that instance withstanding, your point is well taken. I hope Trurl can stand as another exception to the rule.
posted by slogger at 6:08 AM on June 21, 2011


fuck that noise. It's entirely OK for you to answer someone over mail that "yes, I'm the artist formerly known as Beese".

It's Ironmouth's fault, yes. But the moment a BND chooses to reveal themselves to anyone other than the mods, the chances increase that they will be publicly identified. When a person has a history that includes them being previously banned for a certain type of behavior, anyone who didn't like them in their previous incarnation is going to watch them like a hawk and jump on them if they do anything even vaguely suspicious. Perhaps that's human nature.

Trurl didn't do anything wrong. But now that the secret is out, he won't be given the benefit of the doubt that anonymity grants.

Anyone who takes a BND and wants to make a clean break should take this lesson to heart. You can't trust anyone but the mods to keep your secret. Not even in a supposedly private memail.

Speaking of which, has Ironmouth been spoken to by the mods for violating memail privacy? He revealed something someone told him in confidence in memail, a clear violation of site policy.
posted by zarq at 6:15 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of his most common argumentative techniques is stating conclusively that something Obama advocated is the only Serious, possible solution, even if he never fought for anything else, and that if you disagree you're just an asshole undermining Democrats so that President Palin will win in 2012.

Now that's just false and totally unfair.

In that last thread, if you disagree you're just an asshole undermining Democrats so that President Romney will win in 2012 because that's who happens to be leading in the polls at that particular moment Ironmouth decided to paste that comment for the thousandth time.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:18 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Trurl didn't do anything wrong.

'cept do the exact thing that got him banned in the first place, as noted by him and the mods in this very thread. So there's that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:32 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


slogger: " This is not entirely true. I can think of one long-time member who is now on her third alias. Whereas one time she was completely incendiary, she's now a pleasant member of the community.

She is.

But every few months we still seem to have a big blow-up in MeTa over something she said, so it's not exactly been smooth sailing.

The "Muslim Community Center" thread was in August 2010.
The "End the Brand New Day" thread was in April 2010.
The "Kids Education" thread was in January 2010.

These incidents stick in my head because they're angry and at times vicious threads. It's not worth rehashing those threads so I'm not linking to them. But you'll note that the same people tend to attack her consistently and repeatedly. Which is what I'm referring to above re: people being less willing to give non-anon BND's the benefit of the doubt.

But that instance withstanding, your point is well taken. I hope Trurl can stand as another exception to the rule."

Me too. I like Joe.
posted by zarq at 6:36 AM on June 21, 2011


I'm fine leaving the thread open if people want to discuss general policy stuff

The trouble with Brand-New Day is that (jokes aside) it does kind of create a "cabal," or at least an "in-crowd" of hardcore users who know who's who. One of MetaFilter's fundamental precepts is openness of identity. BND obviously clashes with that somewhat, and the mods recognize that as a necessary sacrifice. What's less-often discussed is that inevitably, New_Username is discovered to be Old_Username, not by the general membership but only by a few people, who then inevitably begin dropping veiled references. (See above, in fact!)

From my perspective, this makes it seem like BND works fine with respect to the majority of the membership who can behave just fine, but it has a shelf life of about two weeks for the 10% who necessitate it. For them, it just makes things worse.
posted by cribcage at 6:41 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


But every few months we still seem to have a big blow-up in MeTa over something she said, so it's not exactly been smooth sailing.

Maybe if we limited flagging to once a week, people would be more judicious about complaining that someone on the interwebs upset them by having an opinion contrary to their own.
posted by orthogonality at 6:44 AM on June 21, 2011


Yeah, but zarq, since last August, I can't think of a single controversial thing she's said. I was just thinking that earlier this week.

We're never going to make political threads better, because some people want to sit down and deliberate and try to come to revelations, and other people want to use those threads to change minds and instigate political activism. If you're against the latter, it means you're cynical and devoid of hope; if you're against the former, it means you're shouty and incapable of elaborate thought. There is no right answer because we will never agree, as a community, whether these political discussions "mean" anything to participants or whether they ought to be ivory tower-like discussions of political philosophy.

I'd prefer them be about political philosophy, but then I'm politically apathetic and I'd rather learn something new than listen to people talk about whether our nation is fucked/just how fucked our nation is.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:46 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've read the entire thread and I've reached a conclusion on which I think we can all agree:

The moderators don't make enough money.
posted by desjardins at 6:48 AM on June 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


orthogonality: " Maybe if we limited flagging to once a week, people would be more judicious about complaining that someone on the interwebs upset them by having an opinion contrary to their own."

People disagree around here all the time without arguments becoming disruptive or causing a MeTa FPP. The idea that this isn't a reasonable place for contrary opinions seems a little silly.
posted by zarq at 6:50 AM on June 21, 2011


every few months we still seem to have a big blow-up in MeTa over something she said, so it's not exactly been smooth sailing.

...But whose fault is it that those blow-ups happen?

Honestly?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on June 21, 2011


My fault. It's my fault. Lay off!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:57 AM on June 21, 2011


Well, I blame the Jews.
posted by orthogonality at 6:58 AM on June 21, 2011


Rory Marinich: "Yeah, but zarq, since last August, I can't think of a single controversial thing she's said. I was just thinking that earlier this week.

If that's the case, I'm glad. This place is a lot nicer without the 500-1100 comment witch hunts.

I've defended St. Alia a number of times in MeTa. Also complained about her very strongly one time when I thought she wasn't engaging the community in good faith. But for the most part I feel about SAotB the way iamkimiam said she does in one of those threads I'm not linking to:
I'll second that dunkadunc, and take it up one further. I also like having her around, because she's an earnest human who means well and is trying to get by in this world, just like the rest of us. She takes a lot of shit and sifts through it all and learns what she can. She sticks by this community and reads the threads and participates, despite however many times people call her out, bring up the past, or focus on the negative. She's an inspiration to me, because I know that when I do or say something contrarian, or am dragged through the mud by fucking strangers, I can remind myself that I don't need to flame out, quit, or retaliate in kind. I can keep trying. And if one person recognizes that, even if it is just me for my own transgressions, then it's worth sticking it out. Because there's always tomorrow, which may be more accepting than today. I'm glad St. Alia is here and I hope she never decides to leave us.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:44 AM on April 14, 2010 [113 favorites −] [!]


Have I mentioned how awesome iamkimiam is? :)

We're never going to make political threads better, because some people want to sit down and deliberate and try to come to revelations, and other people want to use those threads to change minds and instigate political activism. If you're against the latter, it means you're cynical and devoid of hope; if you're against the former, it means you're shouty and incapable of elaborate thought. There is no right answer because we will never agree, as a community, whether these political discussions "mean" anything to participants or whether they ought to be ivory tower-like discussions of political philosophy.

So, we talk it out. Hopefully people will keep open minds and have enough self-awareness to see when they're being unreasonably dogmatic.
posted by zarq at 6:58 AM on June 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Of course, there are other obvious users who are now present under different names who are also continuing sources of controversy. The BND policy is a tricky one to navigate and I suspect the two-way street of cooperation referenced by cortex is frequently a little more one-way than we'd like to admit. It's a generous policy by the mods, far more generous than many other places, but it also I think often gives BNDers too much room to repeat past offenses.
posted by proj at 6:59 AM on June 21, 2011


Can we for the love of god please stop dragging in users who have nothing whatsoever to do with this (horrible enough already) thread?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:00 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real problem with the Brand New Day policy is that it keeps reminding me of Sting.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:02 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So can Joe Beese have his original screen name back? This is too confusing.
posted by humanfont at 7:02 AM on June 21, 2011


Can we for the love of god please stop dragging in users who have nothing whatsoever to do with this (horrible enough already) thread?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:00 AM on June 21 [+] [!]


The problem is that this thread was specifically left open to discuss BND policy, and that's difficult to do without discussing past instances of said policy.
posted by proj at 7:04 AM on June 21, 2011


The real problem with the Brand New Day policy is that it keeps reminding me of Sting.

The Every Breath You Take Policy is a little more controversial.
posted by The Whelk at 7:04 AM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "every few months we still seem to have a big blow-up in MeTa over something she said, so it's not exactly been smooth sailing.

...But whose fault is it that those blow-ups happen?

Honestly?
"

I think some of the complaints and accusations have been unjustified or mischaracterizations. I don't really think it's a great idea to discuss that in depth here. I was trying to answer slogger and talk about BNDs, not turn this into a random call out of St. Alia.

Our beliefs and positions adapt and evolve over time as we learn and grow. Or at least, they should. I just feel that if someone takes a BND, they should have the opportunity to be judged as a fresh, new voice for what they say, not for the person they used to be.
posted by zarq at 7:07 AM on June 21, 2011


So, we talk it out. Hopefully people will keep open minds and have enough self-awareness to see when they're being unreasonably dogmatic.

Usually I have faith in the MetaFilter community. Not where politics are concerned. It happens too quickly and it affects too many people for enough of us to have a level head about it. We can see two or three political threads a day. Each one is going to have users who are directly affected by what's going on and can't detach themselves from the happenings. There are too many reasons to participate in a political thread in bad faith, and not enough motivation to pick any single thread, stick it out, and be a good participant.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:09 AM on June 21, 2011


shakespeherian: "The real problem with the Brand New Day policy is that it keeps reminding me of Sting."

It's a Brand New Day, and the sun is high....
posted by zarq at 7:10 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


In that spirit I try to give everyone a BND every day.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:10 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


orthogonality: "Well, I blame the Jews."

It's okay. Our mothers blame us too. :D
posted by zarq at 7:12 AM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think Brand New Day is actually a somewhat inaccurate name for a good policy. The policy is "You can come back if you promise to be good. But we better not use your old username or people will jump down your throat as soon as you reappear. Use a new one, you'll probably eventually be found out, but by then you will hopefully have proved that you have changed and there won't be as big of a shit storm."

But YCCBIYPTBGBWBNUYOUNOPWJDYTASAYRAUNOYPEBFOBBTYWHHPTYHCATWBABOASS would be an awful name for the policy, BND will do.
posted by charred husk at 7:16 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


In that spirit I try to give everyone a BND every day.

Thank you, but a grilled cheese sandwich is better.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 AM on June 21, 2011


orthogonality: Well, I blame the Jews.

I await futz inevitably labelling you an anti-semite.
posted by gman at 7:16 AM on June 21, 2011


Look, just because you spoused me doesn't mean you can give me that kind of line without sending me a banjo first.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:17 AM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "There are too many reasons to participate in a political thread in bad faith, and not enough motivation to pick any single thread, stick it out, and be a good participant."

I don't always do it well, (and in fact sometimes I truly suck at it) but I like trying to be the change I want to see in the world. It's usually better than hectoring people, anyway.
posted by zarq at 7:19 AM on June 21, 2011


I blame Jaws.
posted by The Whelk at 7:19 AM on June 21, 2011


Speaking of which, has Ironmouth been spoken to by the mods for violating memail privacy? He revealed something someone told him in confidence in memail, a clear violation of site policy.

I get the impression Ironmouth just didn't think that shit through, not that Ironmouth was being malicious about referencing email out of school or whatever. It is a very good idea to stop and double-check your assumptions about what is known and is not known, and I don't think he did a great job of that here and would rather he be more careful about that in the future, but when we talk about people doing weird shit with dragging private correspondence into a thread for grudgematch purposes or whatever this isn't really an idealized example of the problem.

Trurl didn't do anything wrong.

Trurl was in fact bucking for a timeout and a "seriously, not another peep or that's it forever" warning with that thread until things went in a direction with the speculation and this metatalk post that would have made a timeout really weird in context, so here we are just talking it out publicly instead. He seems like a good guy in general and I think it'd be great if he can manage to just killfile politics from his metafilter brain and thus avoid putting us in the position of dropping the hammer again, but this is not a "he didn't do anything wrong" situation, it's a "he was really, really doing that thing that got him banned once already" situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:19 AM on June 21, 2011


Now I can't wait to find out who Klapaucius really is.
posted by DU at 7:19 AM on June 21, 2011


I was trying to answer slogger and talk about BNDs, not turn this into a random call out of St. Alia.

I wasn't calling her out -- my question "whose fault is that" was begging the answer, "other users who proved themselves incapable of letting go a grudge."

I just feel that if someone takes a BND, they should have the opportunity to be judged as a fresh, new voice for what they say, not for the person they used to be.

I agree. I was implying that the blow-ups were happening because other users were inable to do precisely this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 AM on June 21, 2011


I blame Jaws.

We're going to need a bigger BND.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:21 AM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


cortex: "...but when we talk about people doing weird shit with dragging private correspondence into a thread for grudgematch purposes or whatever this isn't really an idealized example of the problem.

OK. Thanks for clarifying.

...but this is not a "he didn't do anything wrong" situation, it's a "he was really, really doing that thing that got him banned once already" situation."

I only meant that he didn't do anything wrong by telling someone privately that he was Joe Beese. Wasn't commenting more abstractly about his in-thread behavior. But the larger context is good to know, so thank you.
posted by zarq at 7:23 AM on June 21, 2011


I'm my own grandpa.

My own personal solution to political threads that seem to devolve into liberals accusing liberals of harming liberals by advocating for a particular liberalism, is to close the tab, open my bank account, and throw some money at The Trevor Project, Planned Parenthood, or Amnesty International. It's more productive, more satisfying, and they probably don't care about my motivations in voting for Democrats as long as they get the check.

I wasn't calling her out -- my question "whose fault is that" was begging the answer, "other users who proved themselves incapable of letting go a grudge."

Honestly, I don't even remember what her past alts were, and don't particularly care.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:26 AM on June 21, 2011


Honestly, I don't even remember what her past alts were, and don't particularly care.

Most of the people I'm thinking of who called her out for past lives are no longer members, to be honest, so no worries. (I wasn't even a member while her past alts were active, and had to find out second-hand why these few users were calling her by a different name and screaming about things I didn't know about.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 AM on June 21, 2011


I blame Jaws.

Sorry, this is not the "pics from corroded SD card found on beach" thread.
posted by aught at 7:29 AM on June 21, 2011


liberals accusing liberals of harming liberals by advocating for a particular liberalism

Bonus points for these same threads involving multiple comments about circular firing squads.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:30 AM on June 21, 2011


People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice....They won the battle, but they haven't won the war....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.
posted by crunchland at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: "I wasn't calling her out -- my question "whose fault is that" was begging the answer, "other users who proved themselves incapable of letting go a grudge."

OK.

I was implying that the blow-ups were happening because other users were inable to do precisely this."

Ah. OK, I understand.
posted by zarq at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2011


I didn't even know who you guys were referring to until names were named. So, maybe stop that?
posted by maryr at 7:34 AM on June 21, 2011


I only meant that he didn't do anything wrong by telling someone privately that he was Joe Beese.

Ah, I get you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:36 AM on June 21, 2011


OK CAN SOMEONE MEMAIL ME A LIST OF WHO USED TO BE WHO BECAUSE I AM A BIT DIZZY NOW



AND MY SHIFT KEY IS STUCK
posted by subbes at 8:10 AM on June 21, 2011


This wild mirror-world of shifting identity is tiring, can someone get me a coke?
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on June 21, 2011


maryr: "I didn't even know who you guys were referring to until names were named. So, maybe stop that?"

Sorry.

There are a number of users who have taken the BND option and some are more open about who they were than others. It's polite not to name names, but I can see how it would be annoying to someone who isn't aware of the situation. SAotB has outed herself in MeTa, so while it's still not great to dredge up her past user history, we can still talk about it without major uproar.
posted by zarq at 8:15 AM on June 21, 2011


Everyone is dhoyt.
posted by orthogonality at 8:16 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here you go subbes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 AM on June 21, 2011


I went to a psychic because I was almost positive I was Cleopatra in a past life, but it turns out I was just an unborn baby bird.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2011


The policy is "You can come back if you promise to be good. But we better not use your old username or people will jump down your throat as soon as you reappear.

Sounds like witness relocation. Let's call it "WitSec."

I'd prefer them be about political philosophy, but then I'm politically apathetic and I'd rather learn something new

I wonder why anyone who's politically apathetic has any interest in political philosophy at all. There must be more self-satisfying hobbies.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:36 AM on June 21, 2011


Thank you! Learn something new every day!

Boy, you bought a pig in a poke with that one.
posted by y2karl at 8:58 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I didn't mean to drag anyone into this who isn't participating in the discussion. I just wanted to point out some successes of the BND policy, and was trying to be a little opaque while doing so. Guess that didn't work out so well, did it?
posted by slogger at 9:07 AM on June 21, 2011


But whose fault is it that those blow-ups happen?

Robert Heinlein.
posted by nomisxid at 9:08 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If anything, it was more the explicitly complaining about someone uninvolved in the thread that bothered me. Can't we just talk behind people's back like good gossips?

Seriously though, as a fairly new member, I do like hearing backstory and slowly learning who is who. (I totally clicked the sockpuppet link above.) This post is just a lousy way to do it.
posted by maryr at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2011


I wonder why anyone who's politically apathetic has any interest in political philosophy at all. There must be more self-satisfying hobbies.

Political philosophy tends to be about larger subjects than day-to-day political reporting. Many political philosophies would sanction the conclusion that politics as reported in the papers (and voting!) is not very important.
posted by grobstein at 9:19 AM on June 21, 2011


Whenever I hear the name Joe Beese I think of his old profile pic of Warren Oates from Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
posted by marxchivist at 9:26 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


orthogonality: “koeselitz, god knows I've vacillated over Obama, as even a quick galnce at my "popular favorites" will demonstrate. I'm not the partisan here that Joe Beese was or Ironmouth is, precisely because of my vacillation.”

If you think that actually represents vacillation in any significant sense, you're living in a narrow, narrow trench, my friend. And while I have no ground to criticize anyone here, and openly admit it, a lot of times I feel like the political comments that get the most favorites (yes, including yours) are generally a lot of moralistic hand-wringing rather than thoughtful exposition. I'm sorry, but I cringe hard every time I see one of those comments that gets three dozen favorites because it expresses high-minded contempt for something we all agree is wrong. And those are by far the most popular comments in political threads.
posted by koeselitz at 9:30 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Political philosophy tends to be about larger subjects than day-to-day political reporting. Many political philosophies would sanction the conclusion that politics as reported in the papers (and voting!) is not very important.

True. But I repeat myself, I wonder why anyone lacking any interest in day-to-day politics should even care about the larger picture of some ideal polity. That's something that seems particularly pointless to me. But maybe Rory didn't intend such a sweeping dismissal. Or maybe some people approach it like model trains.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:39 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Metafilter political threads are largely responsible for my increasing apathy over day-to-day politics.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:00 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


octobersurprise: “But I repeat myself, I wonder why anyone lacking any interest in day-to-day politics should even care about the larger picture of some ideal polity. That's something that seems particularly pointless to me. But maybe Rory didn't intend such a sweeping dismissal. Or maybe some people approach it like model trains.”

There are those of us who believe that the first prerequisite for actually thinking about true political philosophy is abandoning the silliness and partisanship of "day-to-day politics," which represent largely a distraction from the workings of true political philosophy.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


... I feel like the political comments that get the most favorites (yes, including yours) are generally a lot of moralistic hand-wringing rather than thoughtful exposition. I'm sorry, but I cringe hard every time I see one of those comments that gets three dozen favorites because it expresses high-minded contempt for something we all agree is wrong. And those are by far the most popular comments in political threads.

I don't understand the problem with people favoriting something they agree with.
posted by Trurl at 10:17 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "I'm sorry, but I cringe hard every time I see one of those comments that gets three dozen favorites because it expresses high-minded contempt for something we all agree is wrong. And those are by far the most popular comments in political threads."

People favorite things for many, many reasons. Please don't assume that favoriting is an indication of support.
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the problem with people favoriting something they agree with.

They're being wrong on the internet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:24 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't understand the problem with people favoriting something they agree with.

I think it gets back to the issue that some people (not usually me) have with the favorites system, which is the idea that it can serve as a reward mechanism for behavior that, widespread, can bring down the quality of discussion on the site. If one person posts something filled with invective in a political thread, say, and lots of people favorite it, it could, in theory, lead to political threads being filled with spittle-flecked comments because those are the sorts of comments that are seen as most valuable to the community, even though I think most people would agree that an entire thread like that would be tiresome.

Mind you, I'm not proposing any sort of solution to this problem (as I see it), but I think it merits acknowledgement.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:25 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mind you, I'm not proposing any sort of solution to this problem (as I see it), but I think it merits acknowledgement.

We could rename favorites to "bookmarks".
posted by pineapple at 10:35 AM on June 21, 2011


We could rename them "failorites" to make them ambiguous.
posted by found missing at 10:42 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: There are those of us who believe that the first prerequisite for actually thinking about true political philosophy is abandoning the silliness and partisanship of "day-to-day politics," which represent largely a distraction from the workings of true political philosophy.

I'll make the argument that "day-to-day politics" is less partisan than either what's reported in the "news" (which has become primarily an exercise in goading talking heads into melodramatic and entertaining argument), or what happens here on metafilter. You show up, you act, you write the check, you vote, and maybe you argue theory over coffee. "Day-to-day" politics is dominated by coalitions of people who don't agree on everything, but agree on enough to take some kind of action.

There's a ridiculous quantity of hyperbole in political discussions about the impact of metafilter. Arguments here are not going to make or break any government policy or election, and they won't as long as the dominant mode is j'accuse! rather than, "here are then 10 people to call to move this issue forward."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:43 AM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


the dominant mode is j'accuse!

That is exactly the thing. Thank you.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:46 AM on June 21, 2011


me: “... I feel like the political comments that get the most favorites (yes, including yours) are generally a lot of moralistic hand-wringing rather than thoughtful exposition. I'm sorry, but I cringe hard every time I see one of those comments that gets three dozen favorites because it expresses high-minded contempt for something we all agree is wrong. And those are by far the most popular comments in political threads.”

Trurl: “I don't understand the problem with people favoriting something they agree with.”

It had less to do with the favoriting and more to do with the message: high-minded expressions of dismissal and contempt are the preferred mode of discourse here.

zarq: “People favorite things for many, many reasons. Please don't assume that favoriting is an indication of support.”

I'm not going to get into the favorites argument, since I ground that axe down to dust long ago. Even if it's the case that most people don't use favorites as an expression of positive appraisal – and I think that's an odd assumption to make – even if, that is, favorites are just an expression of notability or valueless interest, favoriting those kinds of comments sends a message, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 10:50 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm exactly who I claim to be.
Todd Lokken
posted by charred husk at 11:00 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Regardless of what any individual uses favorites for, it's difficult to see an exchange in a thread between two people, one of whose comments is heavily favorited, and not get the perception that that person's contributions are more valued by the community. I'm seriously not trying to start an argument about favorites, because I like favorites, and I don't want to get rid of them or rename them or anything-- I think it's a neat system. But I also think it's worthwhile to explore what sorts of dynamics that system creates.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:04 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: "But I also think it's worthwhile to explore what sorts of dynamics that system creates."

TBH, I may not be the best judge. My attitude about them obviously isn't universal.
posted by zarq at 11:12 AM on June 21, 2011


I wonder why anyone lacking any interest in day-to-day politics should even care about the larger picture of some ideal polity. That's something that seems particularly pointless to me. But maybe Rory didn't intend such a sweeping dismissal. Or maybe some people approach it like model trains.

Perhaps I should stop using the phrase "politically apathetic", because I do follow politics to some extent, I try and pay attention to the issues, and I debate politics a whole lot, particularly with the younger people I know. I mean "politically apathetic" in the sense that I'm not an activist for the causes I believe in, and furthermore I feel that unless you're going to really put an effort into getting involved in the political machine and working out ways to fix things, there're better ways to spend your time than political onanism.

American politics shapes the American landscape, but that's different from its being the American landscape. Dwelling too much on its inherent shittiness is as misguided as dwelling too much on any shitty part of the human condition. It's a part, certainly, and there's value in both trying to understand it and in trying to change it — but I feel that a lot of Internet armchair politics isn't attempting to understand the landscape, it's just railing pointlessly against it without getting anything done. I don't see the purpose to relentless negativity unleashed at a hundred different targets, which is how I perceive political threads here. I think there would be much more value to discussing the workings of the political system earnestly, at length, and even with a certain playfulness. I care more about "Why do these people believe/behave the way they do?/How do they justify their actions?/Are their actions justified?" than I do about "Here are all the people being hurt/We are rapidly declining and degenerating".

I understand the impetus to focus on the victims and the hurt. But the message can't just end with "These people are hurt, this is injust, let us be outraged". There's got to be some motivation — either a formulation of a plan to help those people, or an attempt to understand just how they got to where they are, and why our society allows those injustices. I feel that understanding cannot be achieved with vitriol and outrage. At the same time, I understand both outrage and vitriol, because these are horrible things happening. It is difficult to separate ourselves from the bad things enough to talk about them levelheadedly. And as a young (relatively) affluent white male I don't feel I'm entitled to tell people to distance themselves from their gut emotional reactions. It feels rude.

I wish we could have political discussion without the anger and outrage and misguided passion. I'd love to be able to geek out and beanplate about politics as much as we do about television or books. I learn more about cinema and music than I do about politics because the style of friendly, open, articulate discussion that I prefer is more commonly found there than here. And I'm apathetic enough about politics that I don't feel it's my responsibility to invest both time and emotion into trying to get people to behave enough that we can have a decent discussion.

If anybody knows places where I can read and talk about politics like that, let me know. It's not MetaFilter. My bet is that it never will be MetaFilter, because it's too fun to get outraged, and enough of us have the emotional depths of slightly sophisticated teenagers that political discussion won't ever escape their grasps. But I'd love to be proven wrong. I do enjoy this community when it's focused and fun.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:17 AM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


favoriting those kinds of comments sends a message

When I got a favorite... I mean, whenever I got around to noticing it... for a political comment, the message I received was "I agree with you". [And if that wasn't the favoriter's intention, I don't wanna know about it.] I assume this for the simple reason that such agreement accounts for 99.9% of the favorites I give to other people's political comments.

Now I like being agreed with. I like it heartily, sir! But I can assure you that a favorite-less environment would have made no difference in my own case. I carry on just as overbearingly at Balloon Juice (mentioned upthread) - where the only feedback system is the freewheeling insults from other commenters - who, on the whole, are considerably more hostile towards Beese-think than this place.
posted by Trurl at 11:18 AM on June 21, 2011


You aren't (weren't) the only participant in such threads, though. So while maybe your behavior is unaffected, that's not necessarily true for everyone else.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:24 AM on June 21, 2011


the first prerequisite for actually thinking about true political philosophy is abandoning the silliness and partisanship of "day-to-day politics," which represent largely a distraction from the workings of true political philosophy.

If this is true, then retiring from day-to-day politics to think nobler thoughts may be life's necessary endeavor. I'm inclined to think, though, that day-to-day politics is, as a process, the best we can hope for (where "day-to-day politics" is the messy organizing, voting, compromising, and sausage-making of modern (quasi-) democratic politics, not the bloviating, attention-whoring, and outrage-mongering that accompanies that work on TV and blogs; I'm largely apathetic about all that, also). I think a (more or less) satisfying and ethical life can be lived with no interest or activity in daily politics at all, but living so, and then spending one's time thinking about "true political philosophy" seems daft. Better you should take up gardening.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:24 AM on June 21, 2011


I don't understand the problem with people favoriting something they agree with.

That would explain a lot. This is the problem: people who want to be popular tell other people what they want to hear. Look at almost any substantial thread and the first ~10-20% of the comments are likely to consist of posturing, one-upmanship, and arch dismissal. These rarely have anything to do with the subject at hand and rarely contribute anything of substance. It's just schoolyard level group dynamics - in short, bullying.

It's particularly obvious on any threads about the supreme court (50% of the commenters haven't bothered to read anything at all about the case and are just competing to see who can say the snarkiest thing about Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Kennedy), the economy (blah blah blah class warfare blah blah), music threads (my favorite band > your favorite band) and so on. It reminds me of this.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:25 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


a lot of times I feel like the political comments that get the most favorites (yes, including yours) are generally a lot of moralistic hand-wringing rather than thoughtful exposition. I'm sorry, but I cringe hard every time I see one of those comments that gets three dozen favorites because it expresses high-minded contempt for something we all agree is wrong. And those are by far the most popular comments in political threads.

I'm just giving the voters what they want. I have to move to the center. If I didn't pander with high-minded contempt, the other side would, and they'd get more favorites. Once our side has a filibuster-proof majority, we'll produce the high-minded political comments I promised in my campaign.
posted by orthogonality at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


so, by the book, address Trurl as Trurl.

I wish we could have political discussion without the anger and outrage and misguided passion.

Take a sample of political threads, obvious political threads of course and then see how they are framed or written as an FFP. Of those, how many deliver/convey a position that warrants and or facilitates a very thought-filled discussion. IMO, filter as become better at that through time… besides your referring to politics and not having some misguided emotion in them would seem like some sort of commercial for SOMA.
posted by clavdivs at 11:44 AM on June 21, 2011


I actually think that thread went a little better than previous threads about Libya.

From Ironmouth we got: I'm no fan of the Libyan thing ...

And later on: Frankly, I've always thought it was a bad move to get in there because the rebels were not strong enough where our intervention on a minor scale could help ... I understood that he did not want to stand by while a revolution was going to topple a series of strongmen previously supported by the US. But this wasn't a place where that action could do good.

From empath: ... some people (many people) supported it [the Iraq war] with the best of intentions, just as many people are supporting the current Libyan war with the best of intentions.

These are pretty remarkable statements from both of them. It's almost as if if they've read other people's comments in previous threads and thought about it.
posted by nangar at 11:54 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi Trurl!
posted by Mister_A at 1:07 PM on June 21, 2011


Good to see you here Trurl.
posted by adamvasco at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2011


nobody knows the trurl i've seen ...
posted by pyramid termite at 1:54 PM on June 21, 2011


"The owls are not what they seem."

So, Twin Peaks?
posted by Eideteker at 2:05 PM on June 21, 2011


That's all I'm good for.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:11 PM on June 21, 2011


I wish we could have political discussion without the anger and outrage and misguided passion.

Unfortunately, anger and outrage and passion are a necessary part of politics for better or worse. It's inherent; legislatures all over the world are full of screaming hotheads and even violence. Unless you want to talk theory, removed from current events and the cartoonish portrayals of contemporary ideology, you're probably not going to find a lot of level-headed debate where everyone is respectful to the participants. Sometimes not even then. Politics often comes down to real-world effects of policy on real lives. People have to take it personally, because it is personal.
posted by Hoopo at 2:47 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


yeah!
posted by clavdivs at 3:00 PM on June 21, 2011


Hoopo: “People have to take it personally, because it is personal.”

But thinking about politics requires learning to be impersonal about it. That's the difficulty. When you take things personally, it's impossible to find justice.
posted by koeselitz at 3:08 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


wanna fight about it?
posted by Hoopo at 3:11 PM on June 21, 2011


When you take things personally, it's impossible to find justice.

How so?
posted by rtha at 3:13 PM on June 21, 2011


me: “When you take things personally, it's impossible to find justice.”

rtha: “How so?”

Taking things personally means focusing intently on one's own good. Justice, on the other hand, concerns the greatest good for all. The most difficult thing about justice, but the most needful thing, is learning to look beyond our own benefit. That means learning to understand why others believe the things they believe, why they want the things that they want. This is flatly impossible when we take things personally and come to the conversation aiming only to obtain benefit for ourselves.

Furthermore, when we come to the conversation with specific ends in mind which we demand – when we take things personally – we're making assumptions, fundamental assumptions about the nature of justice itself. We assume that what we think we want is truly what is best for us; whereas experience should teach us that this isn't the case, and that we rarely, if ever, know what is truly good for ourselves. In order to think clearly about justice, we have to stop taking things personally and adopt a contemplative mode, asking questions: what is really just in this situation? How do we know?
posted by koeselitz at 3:25 PM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I got a favorite... I mean, whenever I got around to noticing it... for a political comment, the message I received was "I agree with you".

I know how many favorites I have because I refresh my profile page obsessively. I always assume that people favorite my comments either because

a) they agree with me
b) they disagree with me on this and all future issues and are flagging my comment as a way of helping them rember who the dumbasses are and also as a way of taunting me, making me think I'm loved and appreciated when really you are all laughing at me behind my back

It's the last one, isn't it?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:34 PM on June 21, 2011


When you take things personally, it's impossible to find justice.

Justice is rarely an abstract, rational notion. People who take the matter of justice personally do so precisely because those ideas are, at their core, often defined by personal, emotional experiences.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


that we rarely, if ever, know what is truly good for ourselves.

Is there some evidence to substantiate this? Not trying to be a jerk, but this sounds off base.
posted by 26.2 at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2011


But thinking about politics requires learning to be impersonal about it. That's the difficulty. When you take things personally, it's impossible to find justice.

Careful now. Do you know what they did to Socrates?
posted by Hoopo at 3:40 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Taking things personally means focusing intently on one's own good. Justice, on the other hand, concerns the greatest good for all.

I think you're creating a dichotomy where there doesn't have to be one, and where one may not necessarily always exist.

I know a lot of people whose desire for justice springs from what has been deeply, personally felt, but they easily see that the struggle is not only about them or for them. Many gay people have struggled over the decades to end institutionalized homophobia, for instance; for many of us, this is because we've have personal experience of it. But we also recognize that we're not the only person who has been beaten/fired/thrown out of the house/lost custody of our kids - that the injustice perpetrated against us as an individual has also been perpetrated against many people for similar reasons, and that that is wrong and needs to change.

Sometimes, it really is quite easy to see what is just: To stop legal discrimination against women, or gay people, or because of race. Sometimes, it's really just not that hard. I'm a little surprised that you would make such a sweeping generalization.
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Careful now. Do you know what they did to Socrates?

put him on a trial on lurid charges that he could have easily beat?


I liked "joes" old profile pic. prolly the best IMO.

warren oates from Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
posted by clavdivs at 5:26 PM on June 21, 2011


Being of my age I mainly remember Oates as Sgt. Hulka with his big toe that he wanted to see how far he could stick up asses.
posted by jonmc at 6:03 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then there are people like me who pay attention to both koeselitz, trurl, Ironmouth, Blazecock Pileon, and rtha. We pay attention to day-to-day politics, but we change our minds all the time. And we tend to feel that changing our minds is a shameful thing to do. Because popular people never change their minds, they repeat the same thing again and again, ever more emphatically.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:07 PM on June 21, 2011


popular people never change their minds

?
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:35 PM on June 21, 2011


Just to be clear: I listed 5 people who I tend to agree with, but whose comments in political threads are often so painfully predictable we might as well use a script.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:36 PM on June 21, 2011


popular people never change their minds


Are these people you tend to see changing their minds?
posted by Dumsnill at 6:40 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loved that RV and drill cadence thing.
posted by clavdivs at 6:55 PM on June 21, 2011


Depends on what the issue is. Am I going to change my mind on gay marriage? Duh. No. Racism and sexism being bad? No.

If there's a particular issue you've seen me address that you're wondering if I have or might change my mind about, you can ask me. I'm right here.
posted by rtha at 6:56 PM on June 21, 2011


Oh, I forgot: cats are weird. I will not be changing my mind about that.
posted by rtha at 6:57 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hm, digging up specific examples of not changing one's opinion is difficult. (Since that makes up 99 % of everyone's contribution's, including my own.)

I'm glad you haven't changed your mind on gay marriage and racism, though; that is one of the many reasons I like you. But don't pretend that there are many contributors to major political threads who change their minds about anything significant.
posted by Dumsnill at 7:19 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am one of those deluded people that didn't get the Joe/Trurl connection. But now that I know I don't care. I have disagreed with Joe and Trurl. I still like them both. Welcome back man. Now be good.
posted by Splunge at 7:23 PM on June 21, 2011


I guess I'm not getting your point. (Which may not be you; I'm currently host to a cold and have a head full of dumb.)
posted by rtha at 7:27 PM on June 21, 2011


It's OK, rtha. Cats think you're weird, too. Specifically, they think you're their mom, but a strange sort of mom that can't hunt.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:43 PM on June 21, 2011


As far as politics is concerned, our side is having passionate disagreements amongst ourselves and getting discouraged, while the other side is stockpiling food, buying guns and tons of ammunition, and teaching their children to hate us and how to shoot.

Good luck us.
posted by jamjam at 8:17 PM on June 21, 2011


That's what I'm talking about. If you've said that early in a typical politics thread, it would have garnered you 68 favorites.

And that's fine, but not.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:22 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dumsnill: “Are these people you tend to see changing their minds?”

Well, for one thing: when I started here, I was a supporter of George W Bush, pro-Iraq war, and all round a pretty rabid conservative. I don't know if I can say that I'm liberal now; but I have a feeling I've changed some on that front. I'm a hell of a lot more sensitive to sexism, racism, and homophobia; I'd even say this place has pretty much been an education in recognizing those things for what they are. I really, really value how much thought this community has put into those things. It's a very rare thing.

I also have gotten a lot more conflicted about how much I insult people. For instance, the shit I said to orthogonality upthread is actually starting to bother me, whereas two years ago I could have said it and not minded a bit.

I don't think this stuff counts as very good examples of what you're talking about, though. I mean, it's just standard life-change stuff. Considering that it's been almost seven years that I've been here, I think a person's bound to change a bit over time, and that has nothing to do with how open their mind is.
posted by koeselitz at 8:36 PM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


No, and I realize that those I used as examples were actually rather bad examples, but I preferred using people I like. And it's easier for me to change my mind, because I don't tend to throw myself into hyper-angry politics threads, so I don't feel like I have all that much to defend. And I'm not a high-profile user; If I change my mind, nobody will notice. If you change your mind, a hell of a lot people will. So yeah, sorry.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:48 PM on June 21, 2011


It's OK, rtha. Cats think you're weird, too. Specifically, they think you're their mom, but a strange sort of mom that can't hunt.

Oh, I'm certain that our cats think we are helpless and stupid. We can't clean ourselves, we can't catch our own food, and despite their best efforts, we understand less Cat than a newborn kitten. We're morons, but we have opposable thumbs and we're pretty good at skritching. And we're warm places to sleep. Oh, and we have laptops for watching videos.
posted by rtha at 9:03 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cats basically behave just like reptiles. That's why they're weird.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:10 PM on June 21, 2011


babbyʼ); Drop table users; --:

I've been wanting to call him little Bobby Tables since he got here.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:20 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


But thinking about politics requires learning to be impersonal about it. That's the difficulty. When you take things personally, it's impossible to find justice.

I didn’t mean to treat you so bad
You shouldn’t take it so personal
I didn’t mean to make you so sad
You just happened to be there, that’s all
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:22 PM on June 21, 2011


Late to the party, but the BND policy drives me nuts because (clearly) I spend lotsa time on metafilter and come to think of people on here with a great deal of affection, and when there are flame outs, I'm always kind of sad, and miss people. And sometimes I suspect that people are around on new accounts, but I never can quite tell, and it's impolite to ask that sort of thing and what if I'm wrong, I don't want to embarrass myself in a MeMail and all. I'm always sort of relieved when they're outed because it's like, "Oh! My friend!" and I mentally am hugging them as I'm re-contacting them (hope that doesn't seem creepy).

I guess it just makes it hard to maintain online relationships--positive ones, too. Anyway, I'm glad Mr. Beese is back in one form or another, because I always enjoyed him on the green.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 PM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's impolite to ask (in memail) unless you notably hated that person in which case yeah, it's kinda shitty.

I actually had someone recognize me from a site I we were both on nearly ten years ago and memail me to confirm, which was extremely impressive. I wasn't offended as much as I was impressed. I could have easily said "no, not me" or ignored it. No big thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:25 PM on June 21, 2011


Well, for one thing: when I started here, I was a supporter of George W Bush, pro-Iraq war, and all round a pretty rabid conservative.

I remember the conservative koeselitz quite well.

Your intelligence and overall formidability were as apparent then as they are now, and I always looked forward to reading what you had to say, just as I do now.

You had the capacity to make me doubt myself as few others have ever done, and you haven't lost that either, despite the fact that I see our general outlooks as more congruent now than they were then.

I do recall slighting you on one occasion (there may have been others), and it's clear to me now that I did that because I found you threatening.
posted by jamjam at 11:47 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hoopo: Unless you want to talk theory, removed from current events and the cartoonish portrayals of contemporary ideology, you're probably not going to find a lot of level-headed debate where everyone is respectful to the participants. Sometimes not even then. Politics often comes down to real-world effects of policy on real lives. People have to take it personally, because it is personal.

Blazecock Pileon: Justice is rarely an abstract, rational notion. People who take the matter of justice personally do so precisely because those ideas are, at their core, often defined by personal, emotional experiences.

Yeah? And where does that deep, personal experience take you? Does it motivate you to understand the difference between right and wrong, learn to feel the compassion for your fellow man that they denied you, and fight the things you know to be evils by spreading truth and never backing down? Or do you just dwell in emotional catharsis, letting yourself grow angry and vent at all the people you know are bad people, sitting in one place and never going anywhere?

It's possible to feel things personally without so coloring your emotions that you can't hold a rational discussion. And by "rational discussion" I don't mean "discussion in which one rational thought is wielded like a cudgel to drive out other thoughts". One thing MetaFilter is very bad at is having conversations wherein different opinions are stated politely and without rancor. Everybody gets their hackles up at everybody and progression is impossible.

You're guilty of this, Blazecock, as you know because we get into pissfights every other week. (:-D) I've told you repeatedly that while I agree with you on almost everything politically, I find that you comment in bad faith because you refuse to try and understand your opponents' opinions; you are convinced that you understand them already, and so it is impossible for a conversation with you in it to progress past the point where you've stubbornly dug yourself in.

I don't think that it's enough to be right in a conversation. Good conversational technique involves also allowing (and encouraging) the people you disagree with to speak, and making them feel like their contributions are welcome even if you disagree with them. You ask them questions. You try and understand why they believe the thing that they believe. You let yourself be flexible and respond to specific ideas of theirs that they disagree with, and let the conversation move in all sorts of directions as each of you maps out the extent of the other's beliefs. Then you can criticize the person you're talking to for their actual beliefs rather than addressing strawmen. (And by "criticize", of course I mean you do this politely, without suggesting that your opponents are bad people for having bad beliefs.)

This is the Internet, meaning we have an infinite amount of time to go on with each discussion. We're not limited to two-minute clips addressed to the nation, where it is very important to mention up-front just how much hatred we feel for beliefs that aren't ours. We have the luxury and the leisure to take things slowly, do things the right way, and evolve ourselves as a community. We pass up that luxury to feel outrage three times a day without going anywhere. MetaFilter is a "best of the web" site, not a water cooler. We don't post about TV shows just to talk about them while they're airing, or we're not supposed to; so why is it that we're allowed to post about political events just to talk about them? Why were we allowed to talk about Anthony Weiner without the FPP being about some kind of interesting thing that resulted in the aftermath? The Weiner story itself was not the best of the web, and the political conversation it invited was subpar.

But in the end, it's hard to stick to polite, meaningful debate when the people you're debating with are unwilling to respond in kind. I joked way earlier in this thread, back when this thread was happy-go-lucky and I was Optimus Chyme, that my modum operandum is a 4000 word essay followed by a fuckladen rant; that's because time and again I make an effort to enunciate my thoughts, and immediately somebody picks a line or a phrasing and uses it as an excuse to dismiss my entire thing. I get pissed off pretty quickly at that kind of shit. I don't think I'm wrong to get angry at that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:34 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


rtha: Sometimes, it really is quite easy to see what is just: To stop legal discrimination against women, or gay people, or because of race. Sometimes, it's really just not that hard. I'm a little surprised that you would make such a sweeping generalization.

Know what's hard? Talking to people who are in favor of discrimination against women or gay people or black people calmly and with enough understanding that you have a shot at shaking up their beliefs.

Sometimes you don't talk to people about why they think what they think because you don't understand their beliefs. Sometimes it's pretty obvious why they believe what they believe. I think that plenty of people do believe things because "Fuck you got mine", or because "Invisible man in the sky says". But you try and be understanding anyway. Sometimes because people's beliefs, even their stupidest and shallowest beliefs, are couched in a lot more nuance than is immediately apparent.

Even when it's not, even when it's a belief adopted at 8 years of age and clung to without thought since then, you don't just jump in and start pointing fingers and start diagnosing. It doesn't matter if you're completely accurate in your diagnosis. People hate being analyzed for their public thoughts (and it's not, by the way, that many of these analyses are phrased politely; usually "analysis" is just an excuse to insult somebody while claiming possession of objective fact). Even when you feel you know exactly what's wrong with those racists and sexists and homophobes, even when you are undisputedly in the right, it's vital that you let the people you disagree with talk, because it's only while talking that we realize the flaws in our own thoughts.

People cannot be told what they're wrong about. Not when they're talking about deep beliefs, or even shallow beliefs. They must realize it for themselves. And the way you lead them to that realization is to make them feel like you value their thought, you present your own thoughts respectfully, and you let them try and resolve the conflict between the two. Usually this doesn't happen immediately. Moments of cutting insight are rare. But present that conflict again and again and again, and, slowly, people will change their mind.

Not in every situation. If you're a politician and your opponents are spewing garbage violently, you take the offensive (though good politicians can do this respectfully and civilly, though some voodoo magic). If you meet somebody who's just not willing to talk these things over, I don't see anything wrong with insisting that they're wrong in their beliefs whenever they mention them. Politely, of course. Anyway, we're not in those situations. We're a community based on values like talking about shit and there's no reason to treat other members with disrespect. Even members who think stupid things. And we have a lot of stupid thoughts in the community. We even have Linux users!

The hardest thing in the world is respectfully handling somebody whose beliefs are wrong, shallow, and likely to hurt other people. But it's a necessary skill. Those are the conversations that matter most. If all you do when you talk to people you disagree with is insult them, you're making things worse for your side. And if all you're doing is talking to people who already agree with you, you're just circlejerking. MetaFilter circlejerks very, very nicely.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:50 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Where do you stand on the desirability of lecturing people, Rory?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:13 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


the need for exposition?
posted by clavdivs at 6:16 AM on June 22, 2011


fucking LOVE it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:18 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Though I respectfully submit that there's a difference between "lecturing" and "talking for a long time, in public".
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:22 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


People cannot be told what they're wrong about. Not when they're talking about deep beliefs, or even shallow beliefs. They must realize it for themselves. And the way you lead them to that realization is to make them feel like you value their thought, you present your own thoughts respectfully, and you let them try and resolve the conflict between the two. Usually this doesn't happen immediately. Moments of cutting insight are rare. But present that conflict again and again and again, and, slowly, people will change their mind.

Requoted because this made me nearly jump up and down pointing at my computer and say "THAT! THAT FOR THE WIN!"

Favorited with extreme speed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rory = Optimus?

I did not know that.

posted by Trurl at 6:27 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


babbyʼ); Drop table users; --:

I've been wanting to call him little Bobby Tables since he got here.


Always sanitize your inputs.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:04 AM on June 22, 2011


Rory Marinich: " People cannot be told what they're wrong about. Not when they're talking about deep beliefs, or even shallow beliefs. They must realize it for themselves. And the way you lead them to that realization is to make them feel like you value their thought, you present your own thoughts respectfully, and you let them try and resolve the conflict between the two. Usually this doesn't happen immediately. Moments of cutting insight are rare. But present that conflict again and again and again, and, slowly, people will change their mind."

Well said.
posted by zarq at 7:17 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The hardest thing in the world is respectfully handling somebody whose beliefs are wrong, shallow, and likely to hurt other people. But it's a necessary skill. Those are the conversations that matter most. If all you do when you talk to people you disagree with is insult them, you're making things worse for your side. And if all you're doing is talking to people who already agree with you, you're just circlejerking. MetaFilter circlejerks very, very nicely.

It's not always circle jerking. I spoke a few months ago here about the personal experiences that changed my feeling about this. But for people for whom these political positions matter--for women, for queer people, for people of color--you're expecting too much when you expect them to turn off their passion and their pain so that they can show infinite patience in guiding bigots to the truth. Bigots who, almost always, have nothing at stake in these conversations. Good for you if you have that patience, if you want to engage on that level. But you can't, and shouldn't, expect others to be able to turn off the pain of personal experience, or the passion.

There's a position--usually in conservative circles--that the discourse needs to be kept dispassionate to make it "safe" for all perspectives. But those perspectives almost always include the offensive, the toe-curlingly ignorant, the just-plain wrong. I mean, watch that Miss USA "evolution" video for a taste of that--"We have to expose our children to both sides of the story et cetera et cetera" and few of those young women state the real truth, which is that evolution is the cornerstone to understanding biology and science and that our country is built on the separation of church and state. No, we have to make room for specific Christian religious beliefs despite the fact that teaching otherwise is both unconstitutional and incorrect in a pedagogical sense.

But that's a low-stakes issue. Issues of rights are different, and I can't fault anyone for getting really, really pissed off that they can't marry, that they're not guaranteed an equal wage with their male coworkers, that race-motivated hate crimes still exist. The problem with asking all parties to engage in endless patient discourse with people who hold hateful beliefs is that it alienates those who are already hurting. And I'd rather this be a safe space for them than for bigots.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:45 AM on June 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Right, PhoB. That's why I said before that as a straight white American man I feel very uncomfortable berating people for their emotions. I expect civility and respect in the discussions I participate in; but if I don't find it, that just means I'm not going to participate in a political MetaFilter thread probably ever. It's not my right to tell other people their emotions are hurtful.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:50 AM on June 22, 2011


People cannot be told what they're wrong about. Not when they're talking about deep beliefs, or even shallow beliefs. They must realize it for themselves. And the way you lead them to that realization is to make them feel like you value their thought, you present your own thoughts respectfully, and you let them try and resolve the conflict between the two.

Ugh. I find this "Shape of the Earth: Views Differ" logic disappointing and detrimental to any kind of progress. If you want to cast it off as condescension or superiority, fine, but I simply don't believe that I am obligated to "value" someone's thoughts. Nor am I obligated to be "respectful" when someone employs religion, or bigotry, or simply a complete lie, as the comforting blanket they wrap around their thinking.

I can respectfully value someone's different opinion on the quality of a TV show. Hell, I can even respectfully value someone's vote for a different political candidate if it's because they actually support their economic plan, their environmental plan, how they feel about unions, etc. But do not tell me, or expect me, to "respect" the idea that you think, say, gay people are sub-human because the Sky Cake commands it. Or that black people are lazy. Or that Obama wants to send seniors to "death panels." Or that global warming simply doesn't exist. Because making those arguments shows absolutely no respect to me.

And the fact is, with all four of those examples, the party differing to them is not interested in "learning for themselves" whether it's wrong. They either simply are wrong, or choose not to care. Someone who says "the Bible says gays are immoral" does not ever, EVER follow up with "but I'm interested in learning a different view." Nor someone who says "blacks are lazy and I'm scared they'll all murder me." Nor someone who says "Obama's health care plan will send seniors to death panels." They either learn through experience or education, at which point they have to face and admit "wow, I was really wrong and I'm glad I discovered that" or they will choose not to face that because what they originally said is simply what they want to believe whether or not it's true.

I admire your optimism that you think the former is possible and they might "have a shot" at having their view changed. But the only ones who do are the ones who are not in the latter, who are simply accepting the ignorance of their beliefs. But in either case, guess what-- what you have to do is tell them what they are wrong about.

People sure as shit can be told what they're wrong about. And most of them need to be told more often.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:52 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi: "The problem with asking all parties to engage in endless patient discourse with people who hold hateful beliefs is that it alienates those who are already hurting. And I'd rather this be a safe space for them than for bigots."

Oh my god yes. There's this school of thought that holds civility above all else, and I think it can really stifle discussion, especially when dealing with certain kinds of fuckery.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:57 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


But do not tell me, or expect me, to "respect" the idea that you think, say, gay people are sub-human because the Sky Cake commands it.

You know the whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" ideal? Same thing goes here. Hate the idea. Hate hate hate it. Some ideas are filthy and ignorant and hurtful and I want the fuckers dead and cut into little pieces and buried in the earth and pissed on. But having detestable thoughts should not make you a detestable person, unless you would make the claim that every person has a complete awareness of why they believe the things they believe. And I think that claim is detestable itself.

Because making those arguments shows absolutely no respect to me.

Another very difficult thing to do (I struggle with this myself) is to detach yourself from your most valued beliefs. People who disagree with the things you cherish most, especially people who disagree in a way that proves what little thought they've put into their disagreement, are not knowingly disrespecting you. They usually don't even realize that respect ought to be paid. If you want to teach them to respect your thoughts, you have got to start by showing some respect for them. (Again: Not their thoughts. Them.)

And the fact is, with all four of those examples, the party differing to them is not interested in "learning for themselves" whether it's wrong.

I forget who said this, but somebody said that if you want to teach somebody, the first thing you have to teach them is to love learning. Lots of people are uncurious. If you want them to learn, first you have to teach them curiosity. And you do that by treating your conversation with them like it's fascinating, rather than mundane and obvious and Jesus Christ how can you be such an idiotic ass? Even if that's how you want to feel.

Some people really are resistant to thinking. Fewer than you'd think, if you treat them respectfully. Sometimes, people really just don't care enough about a subject to think about it, and you don't know how to make it valuable to them. But then you can tell them, truthfully, that if they don't think about these things, they might want to reconsider acting on these unthought beliefs, and sometimes that in and of itself gets them thinking.

People sure as shit can be told what they're wrong about. And most of them need to be told more often.

No, they fucking don't. What they need is to think about what they're wrong about. And telling somebody what those things are doesn't make them believe it.

There's this school of thought that holds civility above all else, and I think it can really stifle discussion, especially when dealing with certain kinds of fuckery.

Yeah, but that fuckery is rarely found on MetaFilter.

We are a community. We respect (in theory) one another. There is nothing at stake here. We don't influence elections or politicians or the media. What do we lose by being civil?
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:06 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Rory made it pretty clear that he's talking about conversation here on Metafilter, where we have very little in the way of people talking about death panels or black people being lazy or so forth. Also: They either learn through experience or education. What, exactly, do you think education looks like, if not exactly the sort of measured and reasonableness that Rory is talking about?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, they fucking don't. What they need is to think about what they're wrong about. And telling somebody what those things are doesn't make them believe it.

Yes they fucking do. You choose to listen only when someone says something to you. You have to tell someone they are wrong and they can choose to listen to you or not. More often than not, the ones who shield their beliefs behind the examples I pointed out do not choose to do that.

In 2008, in the first thread about Palin, a commenter literally repeated a lie about Obama supporting an abortion policy four times in the same thread. This was after people saying it was wrong. Linking to evidence of it being wrong. This person did not care. At that point, my interest isn't "educating" them about anything. They are choosing to be ignorant. My objective is not letting the lie go unchallenged in a Google search. And the idea that "respect" existed in that intercourse vanished a long time ago.

What, exactly, do you think education looks like, if not exactly the sort of measured and reasonableness that Rory is talking about?

One would have to live a very, very sheltered life to truly believe that being educated about something only occurs in measured and reasonable incidents. I doubt any of us do.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:18 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This total-respect-for-everyone-always platform is a stunningly narrow and blinkered view of what good conversation, education, and persuasion are. It ought to be quite obvious that people can also learn from, be persuaded, and be educated by withering satire, dismissive contempt, throwaway silly jokes, and intemperate angry responses in conversation (to say nothing of how much more entertaining they are than self-righteous earnestness). The nonsensical idea that only po-faced earnest exposition and uncritical respectfulness are politically or personally acceptable in online discussion should be fought tooth and nail by anyone with an aesthetic enjoyment of language's possibilities, or a sense of humor, or a serious political position.
posted by RogerB at 8:21 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


One would have to live a very, very sheltered life to truly believe that being educated about something only occurs in measured and reasonable incidents. I doubt any of us do.

One would also have to live a sheltered life to not have noticed that when a teacher is mean, insulting, and abusive, being educated by that teacher is harder.

And yet it seems many people here forget that. It makes me wonder whether people are actualy "eductating" after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rory, I just want to say that while I respect what you're trying to say, it genuinely doesn't seem like you realize how logical, civil, reasoned discourse is both a machination of privilege (revealing a certain type of education and upbringing; subjugating exchanges of personal experience as lesser; dismissing those who actually have something at stake here, even if you don't believe they do) and an artifact of that privilege, as you're actually only able to have this conversation in this way because it means very, very little to you. And it's not particularly respectful or civil to tell those who can't, or won't engage in the way that you want them to that they're "circlejerking," either
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:24 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I simply don't think it's true that people are more likely to learn & grow when someone is shouting at them or insulting them rather than treating them with civility and respect. Now, it's quite possible that your goal isn't to get someone to learn & grow, which is what you just said: If your goal is to make sure there's a counterpoint to lies on the same page in case someone finds it in a Google search, then invective will probably draw some eyes and accomplish your goal.

So, with qualifiers intact: If your goal is to correct people's erroneous and harmful beliefs and get them to change their mind, I think that treating them with contempt is not the best method.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:26 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alternate way of saying what I just said:

YOU STUPID FUCKS ARE WRONG, DEAL WITH IT
posted by shakespeherian at 8:28 AM on June 22, 2011


By the way? That stuff I'm saying about treating people respectfully even when you think their ideas are misguided? That doesn't just apply to bigotry and political discussions. It applies to this conversation we're having right now.

It goes against a number of my instincts not to get majorly angry when people argue that civility impedes "progress". I was a very angry kid. I still have difficulty talking to people who sincerely think that homosexuality is an abomination. Or even people who think that Christ is going to deliver believers to salvation. I think once I made a Christian girl cry because she was telling me about how gay people are all gonna go to hell, and I unloaded on her. Told her she was a shitty person who had shitty thoughts. They were shitty thoughts. But she wasn't a bad person for thinking them.

Back then I was convinced that all our beliefs and characteristics were inherent parts of who we are; now I'm nearly convinced of the opposite. Everything that defines us we choose to make a part of ourselves; we are free (in one sense of the word "free") to disassemble and reconstruct ourselves, limited only by our unwillingness to accept our potential for change. I believe — though I am not yet good enough to live unwaveringly by this belief — that it's wrong to insult people for their beliefs, because they are convinced, for whatever reason, that those beliefs are the right ones to hold.

I feel that the purpose of meaningful conversation is to investigate the motives in holding on to those beliefs, and to encourage humility and willingness to change. That's not to say there's no place for rudeness and sarcasm and bluntness. I enjoy being cutting and scathing and withering and outright infuriated. But none of those things help encourage people to reconsider their beliefs.

All this is to say that I am somewhat furious about the people on this web site who make the argument that anger, scorn, and dismissiveness will encourage people to think. I am further annoyed with the idea that MetaFilter is the place for blind rage. PhoBWanKenobi, with all respect, I don't think that people who have been so harmed by a topic they cannot speak civilly about it ought to be attempting to join in a conversation about it. If all they have to offer is vitriol, perhaps they can tell their story and leave. Then people who are emotionally invested but still capable of offering respect can attempt to have a conversation with the people who still don't "get it".

There are places for people who need catharsis. I don't think MetaFilter should be that place. That's because I've always seen MetaFilter as a place for people to hold conversation, and catharsis is the opposite of genuine respectful conversation. Catharsis is about the self rather than the whole.

And the reason I try to be civil and reasoned is that I am very, very, very capable of being a loud sarcastic asshole. (More capable of it than lots of you who try to be sarcastic assholes on MetaFilter. Sometimes I find it pathetic just how shitty people here are at being assholes.) But I don't feel that it helps. The irony of this conversation is that if I just said, "Hey Roger and Pho and XCKAKSKCOAQ, you're all [______] [___________], I can't believe you [____] [__] [_______________]", you wouldn't suddenly find yourselves more willing to think about your behavior. Your hackles would get raised. You'd get pretty pissed off at me. And then if I went "Oh actually I was just proving to you how bad your behavior was by mimicking it at you", you'd still be pretty pissed off. Rage and anger stops people from wanting to respect your thoughts.

We have so many people in these political threads who make the argument: "If we keep trying to be civil while Republicans are being loud angry assholes, then we'll lose, so let's be loud angry assholes!" What they miss is that politics happens on many, many levels. We are not political players on the level of, say, Harry Reid. Harry Reid ought to be a lot more of an angry, forceful dick. That's his job. But when we're talking politics amongst ourselves, the goal should not to push our political goals. Political goals cannot be met by commenting on MetaFilter. Instead the goal should be to try and attain a deeper mutual understanding of each other's positions, to rethink our own, and to be a little bit more sure that we really get what's going on.

Civility and reason isn't something we're both with. It's something we have to make a hard effort to learn. But once we've got it, we shouldn't judge people who lack both reason and civility. It's our responsibility to set the example for as long as we think it's productive, and, once it stops being productive (as in that Obama abortion story, XQUZYPHYR), to politely disengage and not let ourselves dwell too much on the fact that Somebody is Wrong on the Internet. Not if it's not going to be productive. Not even if it's going to feel really, really good.

When you join in a forum discussion, you have a responsibility not to make the discussion about you. The discussion has to always be about the discussion, and, through it, the community. Otherwise people stop wanting to participate. People don't like participating in political threads here, and the people responsible for creating that aversion are the people who make political threads so unpleasant to participate in.

This is the most polite way that I can put my beliefs on the matter. I wrote a number of other responses, none of which were remotely polite, all of which said the same thing. My civility is not an inherent Rory Marinich trait. It's something that I put a lot of effort into maintaining. And I think that a lot of you who avoid civility just because it's not your native style are trying to justify your cockery by claiming that it's not hurtful to the community. It is.

(Respectfully, I'm going to to bow out of this thread now; I've invested too much time into it already. If any of y'all are interested in continuing the discussion, tweet or email or MeMail me and I'd love to talk about this. But public discussion takes too much effort past a certain point.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Know what's hard? Talking to people who are in favor of discrimination against women or gay people or black people calmly and with enough understanding that you have a shot at shaking up their beliefs.

Thank you so much for your condescension, for assuming that this has never occurred to me, and for lecturing me as if I haven't maybe been doing exactly this (in contexts other than the internet) for, mmm, 25 years.

My patience has worn pretty thin over the years, and I don't have much room in me anymore for being gentle and persuasive when someone is being obtusely and deliberately butt-ignorant and hateful. Someone who's just kind of clueless? Sure. I worked with a guy a few years ago who had so many misconceptions about glbt people, but he wasn't hateful or bigoted - he was just uneducated. We worked together every day and developed a relationship where he could ask me questions and I understood where he was coming from and didn't jump all over him, but explained stuff, and talked, and it was good.

What I'm not cut out for at all any more is face-to-face with strangers who already see me as less than human. I'll never be able to adequately express my gratitude to people like klangklangston, for their willingness and ability to go out and canvass, to do the talking and educating and the particular kind of persuading in contexts where I just. Can't. Do. It anymore.
posted by rtha at 8:56 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


By the way? That stuff I'm saying about treating people respectfully even when you think their ideas are misguided? That doesn't just apply to bigotry and political discussions. It applies to this conversation we're having right now.

On lack of preview: if you think the way you've addressed me here is respectful and civil, we have very different definitions of those terms.
posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Clearly.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:00 AM on June 22, 2011


, I don't think that people who have been so harmed by a topic they cannot speak civilly about it ought to be attempting to join in a conversation about it. If all they have to offer is vitriol, perhaps they can tell their story and leave. Then people who are emotionally invested but still capable of offering respect can attempt to have a conversation with the people who still don't "get it".

And I think this belies ignorance about how much political decisions can hurt people personally. And I don't think it's right, or fair, or just, to ask these people to stop participating in these arguments because you don't like their tone. Quite frankly, (barely) obscuring your anger behind a wall of text doesn't help the conversation any, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


But having detestable thoughts should not make you a detestable person, unless you would make the claim that every person has a complete awareness of why they believe the things they believe. And I think that claim is detestable itself.

What? You think a claim that "every person has a complete awareness of why they believe the things they believe" is detestable? I mean, such a claim is obviously absurd; it runs counter to everything most of us know about how people behave; but detestable? That's absurd itself. I don't think you actually believe that such a claim is detestable; I think you chose that word because it sounded fine in that spot. You're making a speech, not talking to people, even as you try to instruct us all in the ways of good speakin'.

You mean well, Rory, I don't doubt it, but maybe you should meditate on moments when speech is inadequate to life.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:01 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Detestable. I think it's an excuse that people make to justify being fuckheads even when they know that it's not polite to be. It's every teenager's excuse.

The people who make that claim aren't detestable. Far from it! But the claim itself really, really pisses me off. In part because it's a claim that I use a whole lot and I'm trying hard to distance myself from it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:10 AM on June 22, 2011


It's a nice ideal, but:

1) Sometimes there's just no winning on the politeness front, especially for groups that are routinely stereotyped as being rude and hostile.

2) Sometimes, sarcasm, contempt and dismissal is the second best response. Jesus did it, as did the Gautama Buddha and MLK. Perhaps a better response might be to flag an move on, but that doesn't seem to stem the derails either.

And I think that a lot of you who avoid civility just because it's not your native style are trying to justify your cockery by claiming that it's not hurtful to the community.

You know what else is hurtful to the community? Repeatedly derailing the discussion to lecture people on "civility."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:24 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I get pissed off pretty quickly at that kind of shit. I don't think I'm wrong to get angry at that.

So it's cool for you to have a paragraph of "fuck"s because someone...quotes you out of context.

Not cool for me to have a paragraph of "fuck"s in response to a systemic power imbalance that has affected me and the people I love for decades without end.

Okay.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Out of our arguments with each other we make rhetoric; out of our arguments with ourselves we make poetry internet comments." — W. B. "Bud" Yeats, truck driver.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Simplicity is awesome.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2011


I try really hard not to have that paragraph of "fucks" because it instantly lessens my position.

There's a place to be outraged at things. I don't think MetaFilter ought to be that place. Hence the term "OutrageFilter" for threads which seem to only exist to get people riled up.

KirkJobSluder: This was a crappy MetaTalk thread that should have been closed up 450 comments ago. First it was a silly thread, and then for a little while it was a ranty thread, and now it's a whatever-this-is-now. But I don't know if it's even possible to derail a thread like this.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:32 AM on June 22, 2011


KirkJobSluder: " 2) Sometimes, sarcasm, contempt and dismissal is the second best response. Jesus did it, as did the Gautama Buddha and MLK. Perhaps a better response might be to flag an move on, but that doesn't seem to stem the derails either."

Most of the time on Metafilter, Sarcasm, contempt and dismissal of other users is a derail. Once a person moves into that mode of discussion here, there's a predictable countdown to when the conversation will wind up in MeTa with people complaining and shouting past one another.

There is a time and place for rudeness and dismissal. But the default assumption of people here should be that everyone is taking part in threads in good faith until proven otherwise.
posted by zarq at 9:34 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


It ought to be quite obvious that people can also learn from, be persuaded, and be educated by withering satire, dismissive contempt, throwaway silly jokes, and intemperate angry responses in conversation (to say nothing of how much more entertaining they are than self-righteous earnestness). The nonsensical idea that only po-faced earnest exposition and uncritical respectfulness are politically or personally acceptable in online discussion should be fought tooth and nail by anyone with an aesthetic enjoyment of language's possibilities, or a sense of humor, or a serious political position.

RogerB, I think you misunderstand what Rory (and others) are driving at. The claim is not that minds are only changed when you give an unfailingly civil and tempered (and boring and dull) lecture to the other side; the claim is more simply that minds are only changed when you respect the people you are talking to as people. "Hate the sin, not the sinner" is very apt, and nothing in it precludes you from satirizing or mocking the "sinful" behavior. But if you have nothing but contempt for the person you're talking to/about, that will come through far more clearly than anything else you're trying to say.

My patience has worn pretty thin over the years, and I don't have much room in me anymore for being gentle and persuasive when someone is being obtusely and deliberately butt-ignorant and hateful.


I'm genuinely sorry for that, rtha, but I don't see how you get from there to Rory being anything but civil to you.

No one (that I see) is demanding that anyone else must display the patience of a saint or else they're an utter failure at life the Internet Metafilter; the issue really is what we want Metafilter to be, a safe space for the underprivileged or a place where we try to have discourse to change the minds and views of the privileged that come here. They are two very different goals and all I see in this thread is an argument between folks who think one is better and folks who think the other is better. IMO neither is better, but they are different, and require different ways of behaving to be successful. At the most basic level, the "safe space" model requires shutting up the ignorant, bigoted assholes; the "debate arena" model requires shutting up, or at least toning down, the raging-est raging assholes.

Metafilter, to my mind, is not really a safe space for anything (avoiding spoilers for instance! ohgoddidIreallyjustgothere); the very light moderation (that we all hopefully love) makes it poorly suited to shutting down/shutting out the obnoxious privileged assholes who will inanely interrupt any kind of conversation you try to have, leaving you with little recourse but to try actually talking to them. If you're trying to make it a safe space that talking is going to involve a lot of snark along the lines of "GTFO ignorant asshole" and "go read [Issue] 101" (but hopefully wittier and cleverer) and probably is going to be a shit thread to read (unless it's really witty and clever). If instead you actually make a good-faith effort to communicate with them, well, that can be interesting - to me, at least, more interesting than snarky one-liners that amount to "Christ what an asshole". YMMV, and I want to reiterate that I'm not telling anyone what they personally should post.

At the end of the day, though, Metafilter threads usually end up being a little bit of everything all in one big messy pile. Which is probably the ideal; I personally wouldn't be as interested in Metafilter if there were no heated debates and I never got to feel like I could actually communicate with "the other side" as it were, but at the same time I have nothing but enormous respect and awe for the people who are brave enough to come here and tell painful stories even knowing what an unsafe space this often is, and I'm glad they get the support and appreciation here that they usually do. All I could really ask for is that the "debate arena" side stop referring to the "safe space" model as "circle jerking" (etc.) and that the "safe space" side stop feeling persecuted by the folks who want to debate.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:36 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Everything that defines us we choose to make a part of ourselves; we are free (in one sense of the word "free") to disassemble and reconstruct ourselves, limited only by our unwillingness to accept our potential for change.

Oh man, I know you're trying to talk about political beliefs or something, but as a female with massive tits and a last name that opens me up to all sorts of nastiness I am just LOLing at the idea that I totally choose what "defines" me and I'm only limited by my unwillingness to whatever. Keep on keepin' on, man.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:37 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I don't know if it's even possible to derail a thread like this.

Oh man, was anyone else surprised to see Ned back from the dead in that Game of Thrones finale?! WTF was that about ?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:40 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I try really hard not to have that paragraph of "fucks" because it instantly lessens my position.

You realize that you are inherently privileging the voices of people who aren't personally affected by systemic oppression, right?
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:42 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


>> But don't pretend that there are many contributors to major political threads who change their minds about anything significant.

What does that look like, Dumsnill? Do the vocal political posters need to contribute a comment that goes something like, "Gay marriage is an abomination before God, and further, it will weaken this country's moral fabr— HEY! Wait a second! I've just had a change of heart and I now support marriage equality, and I'm sending money to HRC. As you were."

An artless example, yes... but my point is simply, that changing one's mind about a "significant belief" is a gradual dripping of alternative informations and inputs, the way the Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years. Someone wakes up a decade later and realizes they were wrong about [race/feminism/Israel/evolution/whatever], and they're not sure how or when it happened but, somehow, it just did.

>> And it's easier for me to change my mind, because I don't tend to throw myself into hyper-angry politics threads, so I don't feel like I have all that much to defend. And I'm not a high-profile user; If I change my mind, nobody will notice. If you change your mind, a hell of a lot people will. So yeah, sorry.

This is kind of bullshit. So what if someone changes their mind? What needs to be "easy" about it?

And are you saying that a "high-profile user" (whatever those criteria are) is more inclined to dig in their heels in the face of opposite information and refuse to publicly change their mind because they need to save face?

>> I simply don't believe that I am obligated to "value" someone's thoughts.

Which is not what Rory said, to my read. He suggested (emphasis mine) that we "make them feel like you value their thought," IF and only IF your goal is to change hearts and minds. Look at rtha's tale about the guy who was clueless and uneducated regarding glbt issues. She was able to understand where he was coming from, and thoughtfully, patiently educate him. Coming out of the gate with contempt and hate for someone like that is just going to drive them further into the dark.

My takeaway from Rory's comment is that IF you want to make people think differently, you have to lead them to the water... but allow them to drink for themselves.

If the situation is such that you don't care to change what wrong-headed people think, then don't engage respectfully or as if you value their right to their position. I don't feel that this is about "what the wrong-headed person deserves" but about "what do I, as a passionate person who wants to right wrong-headedness, see as the best way to effect the desired outcome."

(Though I do also whole-heartedly agree with rtha. The "obtusely and deliberately butt-ignorant and hateful" don't deserve even a dram of my oxygen.)

>> I'm genuinely sorry for that, rtha, but I don't see how you get from there to Rory being anything but civil to you.

I don't think rtha was accusing Rory of being obtusely hateful, but the faceless others with whom she speaks in these conversations.
posted by pineapple at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


IMO neither is better, but they are different, and require different ways of behaving to be successful.

Metafilter threads usually end up being a little bit of everything all in one big messy pile. Which is probably the ideal

On re-reading what I wrote (I know, I'm supposed to do that before I post right?) I want to add that these sentences aren't in contradiction. I think Metafilter isn't entirely successful at being a safe space, and it isn't entirely successful at being a debate arena, but I think what it is, being not-quite-successful at either but still kinda trying to be both, is pretty unique on the Internet and better than just being strictly one or the other.

Oh man, was anyone else surprised to see Ned back from the dead in that Game of Thrones finale?! WTF was that about ?!

I'm waiting for the spinoff series, "Undead Ned: Game of WHO KILLS THE MOST SHIT WINS", it's gonna be awesome.

I don't think rtha was accusing Rory of being obtusely hateful, but the faceless others with whom she speaks in these conversations.

rtha pretty clearly said they didn't feel Rory was being civil.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2011


Look. It is perfectly fine to get good-n-mad about the ills of the world. It is perfectly valid to get good-n-mad with people who believe unconscionable things.

All Rory is saying is that getting good-n-mad with those people isn't going to work as a means to "educate them," so if that's what you ultimately wanted to do, expect further disappointment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on June 22, 2011


You realize that you are inherently privileging the voices of people who aren't personally affected by systemic oppression, right?

Look, I'm not talking about this as a be-like-this-in-every-aspect-of-life thing, right? I'm talking about this as a doesn't-MetaFilter-work-nicer-when-we're-not-calling-each-other-fuckheads thing.

Earlier in the thread, Trurl was talking about his Brand New Day, and he said:

Beese expressed several accounts worth of opinion on that subject here - so I've already had more than my share. He has MeFi Mail, HOFB, and several sympathetically minded political blogs as outlets.

I think that this is awesome because I liked Joe Beese and I've been liking Trurl, but Joe's behavior on political threads made them really frustrating. Plus, there are other places to discuss political outrage! Other awesome places!

And there's a place for that here, too. Some people, like rtha, say fantastic things that clearly come from a place of personal upset. I love that. (And my response to rtha wasn't a response to her behavior personally, it was more me trying to figure out my own thoughts. I'm sorry that I made it sound like a condescending response.) But not everybody being angry on MetaFilter is being angry so constructively. Lots of people use anger as an excuse not to talk to people. It happens especially on political threads. I wish it would happen there less. That's all.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2011


>> rtha pretty clearly said they didn't feel Rory was being civil.

mstokes650, sorry about that, I was just looking at your pull-quote out of context, not the comment you linked.
posted by pineapple at 9:56 AM on June 22, 2011


I think people are disagreeing about the purpose of political threads on metafilter, EC. On the rare occasions when I participate, it's not to educate people. It's to do other things--commiserate, share experiences, learn context.

But I think there's real debate about whether anger and outrage are effective means of political change. I don't think it's black and white at all, and while I think there's merit to what Rory's saying, I also think we have to be careful about devaluing oppressed voices in these conversations, which is often an outcome.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:56 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ugh but I wish they were making a Dune HBO show instead of a Game of Thrones HBO show so I could spoil things for people

hey remember when Duncan Idaho had sex with that woman and it transformed him into a superhuman killing machine? that was great

posted by Rory Marinich at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2011


I think people are disagreeing about the purpose of political threads on metafilter, EC. On the rare occasions when I participate, it's not to educate people. It's to do other things--commiserate, share experiences, learn context.

I don't think anyone was saying there was a "purpose" to the threads at all. Rory was just saying why he didn't like participating in them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2011


rtha pretty clearly said they didn't feel Rory was being civil.

Yeah. Not uncivil in the name-calling, shouty sense, but uncivil in the make-assumptions-about-and-condescend-to sense. Which he's memailed me about and on that front, okay. I disagree with a bunch of other stuff he's said, though, still.
posted by rtha at 10:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look, I'm not talking about this as a be-like-this-in-every-aspect-of-life thing, right? I'm talking about this as a doesn't-MetaFilter-work-nicer-when-we're-not-calling-each-other-fuckheads thing.

If you're talking about differing political viewpoints that don't really affect anyone's life, make that clear.

It seemed like you were talking about how to interact with bigots who say bigoted things and essentially lecturing us about the best way to proceed (step out of a discussion if you get "too" angry to be "respectful", for example).

Telling people not to participate unless they can reach your arbitrary standard of civility, educational usefulness to bigots, or whatever...privileges the voices of people who are unaffected by systemic bigotry. Do you understand how that works?

Do you also understand why people might not feel open to being "educated" by you about what does and does not work when talking to people and changing minds? You are putting yourself in a position of knowing quite a bit about it and assuming that the rest of us simply haven't thought about it because we choose to approach discussion in a different way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:04 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think-- and I am open to being wrong about this-- that Rory is telling anyone 'not to participate unless they can reach [his] arbitrary standard of civility.' I don't think he's trying to shut anyone up. I think he's explaining that angry ranting doesn't function especially well to change people's minds about issues, so if your goal is to change people's minds about issues, angry ranting doesn't function especially well to do that. He isn't saying it's not allowed, or that anyone who doesn't measure up to his metric of discourse has to ragequit the internet or something.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2011


It ought to be quite obvious that people can also learn from, be persuaded, and be educated by withering satire, dismissive contempt, throwaway silly jokes, and intemperate angry responses in conversation (to say nothing of how much more entertaining they are than self-righteous earnestness).

Translation: It ought to be quite obvious that people can also learn from, be persuaded, and be educated by belittlement, derision, jokes only funny to the jokesters, and intemperate personal attacks.

Yeah, right.... Being treated with ridicule and contempt is such a learning experience.

It should be quite obvious that there is an unconscious part of the mind, where we stuff all our darker impulses. But the standard bearers of 'reason' seem incapable of looking at, let alone admit to even having an irrational part to their own minds. As La Rochefoucauld put it, it is as easy to diguise ourselves from ourselves as it is hard to disguise ourselves from others.

Dishing out emotional toxic waste on unseen strangers has a big payoff for the dishers -- if not for the dished, to whom it is quite obvious that pissing on people is about pissing on people, not 'educating' them.

As noted in the New York Times: People Argue Just To Win, Scholars Assert. Well, duh... There is an argument proven here daily.

We would rather speak than be heard--and then declare ourselves the winners. It's almost never about persuasion.
posted by y2karl at 10:18 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


minds are only changed when you respect the people you are talking to as people.

No one disagrees with this. Indeed, it's the proponents of "respect" and "civility" above all else, here, who keep conflating contempt/satire/critique/dismissal of a view with aggression or hostility to the person who holds it. They're also repeatedly and arbitrarily narrowing the purpose of in-thread conversation as though we were all only here to attempt to persuade other users who vocally disagree, via earnest reason or emotional storytelling; as PhoBWanKenobi rightly points out, this is only one of many reasons people engage in conversation here, and it's by no means obvious that it's the best or most interesting one.

Not everyone wants MeFi to be their high-school debate club or church-group heartfelt sharing session, and it's a dumb mistake to propound norms or rules based on this presumption. For some of us it's more important to have a group of friends trading jokes, a quorum of experts sharing knowledge, a platform for shouting into the wind, a round table to spitball and brainstorm, or even, you know, a place to find links to nifty stuff on the Web.
posted by RogerB at 10:18 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


No one disagrees with this.

Nah, plenty of people have stated outright that they disagree with this in this thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2011


Okay, you're right. Indeed, I disagree with it myself; it's clear that minds can be changed in other ways as well. What I ought to have said was that no one disagrees that MeFites ought to respect one another as people.
posted by RogerB at 10:25 AM on June 22, 2011


Telling people not to participate unless they can reach your arbitrary standard of civility, educational usefulness to bigots, or whatever...privileges the voices of people who are unaffected by systemic bigotry. Do you understand how that works?

Yes.

And you're absolutely right. The biggest grievance in my week is that I regret not having civil MetaFilter political threads. That's jack shit compared to actual people problems.

I was trying to articulate the way that I feel discourage works best, and to explain why I have a problem with political threads on MetaFilter. But it's not my right to tell other people they're wrong for behaving the way they do, because I'm the least affected by politics of anybody, and so I have the least reason to participate in political discussion. I'd like to be able to. But if you think that civil political discussion is neutered political discussion, that's more your right to say than it is mine.

What I ought to have said was that no one disagrees that MeFites ought to respect one another as people.

I disagree that people agree with that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:43 AM on June 22, 2011


I don't think-- and I am open to being wrong about this-- that Rory is telling anyone 'not to participate unless they can reach [his] arbitrary standard of civility.'

He said this:
PhoBWanKenobi, with all respect, I don't think that people who have been so harmed by a topic they cannot speak civilly about it ought to be attempting to join in a conversation about it. If all they have to offer is vitriol, perhaps they can tell their story and leave. Then people who are emotionally invested but still capable of offering respect can attempt to have a conversation with the people who still don't "get it".

He also said this:


Another very difficult thing to do (I struggle with this myself) is to detach yourself from your most valued beliefs. People who disagree with the things you cherish most, especially people who disagree in a way that proves what little thought they've put into their disagreement, are not knowingly disrespecting you.

Which indicates to me that this is all something relatively detached for him. If someone says something sexist it's not just a matter of my abstract belief that sexism is totally wrong and stuff. It's my life, it's my job, it's my body, it's my access to health care...it's not a "belief". It's not something I cherish. It's reality and it's in my face on a day to day basis whether I want it to be or not.

He seems to be utterly missing that key difference between thinking about something and living something and he seems to think that we can all be dispassionate (and that we should be) if we simply try really, really, hard, like he does.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Young rope rider, I'm not getting that at all from what rory said.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on June 22, 2011


Okay, so reading your most recent response, you realize why implying that if we all try hard enough we could be as civil as you is really minimizing of the fact that other people have different experiences, right? You really approached this from "look, I know it's hard" when you have no idea how hard it is.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:02 AM on June 22, 2011


"Telling people not to participate unless they can reach your arbitrary standard of civility, educational usefulness to bigots, or whatever...privileges the voices of people who are unaffected by systemic bigotry. Do you understand how that works? "

Except that's not true — Both you and RTHA are participating fine here.

Further, it's OK to set norms for discussion, even if those norms correspond somewhat to social privilege. People whose comments are typo-laden rants aren't going to be taken as seriously as those who can articulate a clear argument, even if those who are just ranting have more skin in the game.

Also, it reads like you're presuming that people who are affected by systemic bigotry can't articulate their feelings in a way that doesn't include lashing out, and that's untrue too.

But being a victim of systemic bigotry is not the only requirement to comment, and shouldn't be. And just being motivated by pure emotion, even if that emotion is justifiable, doesn't mean that the conclusions reached will be fair or just themselves — there are plenty of hard done by folks who blame the wrong parties, like some of the very vocal anti-immigrant African Americans we see here in California. Frenzied mobs often have some true kernel of injustice, but rarely do good.

Fundamentally, we should be able to see a distinction between justice and vengeance, and too many of the vitriolic comments on MetaFilter are made in the spirit of vengeance — that's something that Koeselitz touched on with the idea of good politics being impersonal. I disagree with him there, but vengeance is the risk run when politics is made personal, especially when it's tied up in a feeling of righteousness, which victimhood often confers (one of the reasons why fundamentalist Christians adopt the rhetoric of victimhood is to justify their attacks on the secular).
posted by klangklangston at 11:04 AM on June 22, 2011


FWIW, it does seem that all involved in this conversation here have taken the tact of respectful conversation rather than belittlement, condescension, sarcasm, etc.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rory: But I don't know if it's even possible to derail a thread like this.

I wasn't referring to this thread, or even strictly just to metafilter. Political and religious threads here are notorious for jumping tracks from the topic of the FPP to a referendum on the "civility" of the participants involved. I've seen communities completely destroyed by civility-policing that became a game of playing gotcha over trivial nuances of tone and word choices. Metafilter isn't quite there yet, and has actually pleasantly surprised me a couple of times in the last month. (A FPP about Dawkins' participation in the creation of a new university shocked my expectations in discussing the educational system of the U.K..)

zarq: Most of the time on Metafilter, Sarcasm, contempt and dismissal of other users is a derail.

Sure, but so, usually, is the comment that inspired it. But it's interesting that you've deliberately changed the object from posts and ideas to users.

zarq: There is a time and place for rudeness and dismissal. But the default assumption of people here should be that everyone is taking part in threads in good faith until proven otherwise.

Sometimes, the bad faith of the comment is obvious from the start. Now as I've said here and a few other places, the better strategy is to flag and move on, but that goes for many complaints about civility which assume bad faith of the other person.

pineapple: Coming out of the gate with contempt and hate for someone like that is just going to drive them further into the dark.

Sure, and I'd say that a fair bit of the snark and sarcasm here is in response to cases of this. Rory seems to advocate the thankless job of always rising to the occasion. Personally, I'm rethinking how much time I've spent "casting pearls before swine" so to speak. Earnest and carefully edited politeness is often rewarded by being kicked in the teeth anyway. So flag and move on.

But, part of my skepticism here is that Rory is preaching to the converted, (at least to those who pay lip service to the concept until they have an opportunity to pull their own "gotcha"). Back to politics, for several years now, many political threads have been dominated by Metafilter's equivalent of gang warfare. The pro- and anti-Democrat camps are, in my experience, deeply entrenched, openly hostile to a range of opinions, willing to flood a topic repeating a decade-old argument, and extremely personal.

Advocating earnest and polite discussion in that polarized environment is magical thinking, and I don't expect moderation policy here to change either. Having realized that there's nothing I can write in those topics that won't be labeled as simultaneously a sellout of liberal values and a destroyer of liberal candidates, my choice is to just go to a different neighborhood so to speak.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:07 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Advocating earnest and polite discussion in that polarized environment is magical thinking, and I don't expect moderation policy here to change either. Having realized that there's nothing I can write in those topics that won't be labeled as simultaneously a sellout of liberal values and a destroyer of liberal candidates, my choice is to just go to a different neighborhood so to speak.

I agree with this completely, but also: isn't that just a fucking shame? I don't know that there's much hope for improvement, but the site has made some improvements in its culture in certain aspects in the past, so while I'm not about to step a toe into any thread with the word 'Obama' in the FPP, I also don't want to abandon all hope, either.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:11 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, it does seem that all involved in this conversation here have taken the tact of respectful conversation rather than belittlement, condescension, sarcasm, etc.

I . . . well, I don't want things to get dragged down again (and Rory and I have already hugged over MeMail), but I suspect that some of the people who felt offended here felt that way because it's kind of off-putting to have a member of a privileged group say, over and over again, essentially "I'm not participating here because you guys don't comport yourself with civility." I don't think that was Rory's intention, but it sure feels a bit like a tone argument or concern trolling, which feels icky and condescending despite the calls for respectful discourse.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:16 AM on June 22, 2011


I'm getting the sense that you're not speaking directly to me, so please feel free to disregard.

you realize why implying that if we all try hard enough we could be as civil as you is really minimizing of the fact that other people have different experiences, right?

I think that assumes that what Rory meant was "you need to try harder to be civil in order to communicate at all ever." And I'm not sure that that's what he meant. Going back to something he said:

I don't think that people who have been so harmed by a topic they cannot speak civilly about it ought to be attempting to join in a conversation about it. If all they have to offer is vitriol, perhaps they can tell their story and leave.

I can see why you would get the impression that this meant "you are not allowed to participate in the post at all unless you play nice." But he didn't mean that -- or, rather, I think the relevant word in what he's saying is "conversation."

To paraphrase what he said: there are two ways to participate in a thread. If you want to take the way of conversation, that requires some back-and-forth, give-and-take, listening-and-talking. And you cannot do that without a baseline minimum of respect for the participants as people -- not in their views as such, but respect in the fact that they at least wouldn't take well to being told they're idiots, and you may need to meet them where they live first in order to get them to listen to you. That's not giving in to their beliefs, it's a human-nature, group-dynamics thing.

But it's also not easy. For anyone. Especially when it comes to topics you happen to be especially passionate about. And that is why Rory is saying there is an alternate approach to participating in threads -- the way of testimony, in which you tell your story and that's it. Maybe if someone asks you a direct question about it or requests clarification of something, then great -- but your story's there, along with all of the callouts to the people who have harmed you and caused you ill. Your testimony can be as accusatory as you like, and can be powerful.

A testimony, however, is not conversation. And continuing to repeat your testimony again and again is not conversation.

We all have things that we are passionate enough about that testimony is the only thing we can offer on those topics. And testimony can be extremely powerful in swaying opinion. But it is not conversation. Conversation is slower and gentler, but it also works to alter opinions.

Both conversation and testimony can be important. The problem only arises when people try to use testimony AS conversation, and expect it to work the same way. And it doesn't -- and that's not because "you're not trying hard enough to be civil" or "conversation is better than testimony" or whatever. It's only that taking one communication tactic and trying to apply it to the conventions of another just plain won't work -- it's like trying to use one tool to do a completely different tool's job.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I appreciate that, and for my own part I apologize if anything I've said came off that way (I don't mean that in a cheap 'I'm sorry if anyone was offended' way, I just mean I haven't seen anyone complain about me specifically but I'd like to preempt them with an apology if one is due).
posted by shakespeherian at 11:19 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And are you saying that a "high-profile user" (whatever those criteria are) is more inclined to dig in their heels in the face of opposite information and refuse to publicly change their mind because they need to save face?

That's pretty much what I'm saying, yes. Do you honestly not believe that politicians and pundits who are known for their strong opinions on various issues don't find it harder to publicly change their minds? They will seem like weaklings or turncoats, right? Everything they have ever said will be used against them.
posted by Dumsnill at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2011


You shouldn't participate if you aren't willing to be uncivil sometimes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:51 AM on June 22, 2011


You shouldn't participate if you aren't willing to be uncivil sometimes.

If that's the case, I invite you to consider the form of that participation and how it may be best received.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on June 22, 2011


One of the things that makes Rory's preaching go down a bit easier is that he has the grace to admit that it's really hard at times, a bit of honesty that would be better shared around when this position is advocated.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:59 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think Rory's preaching as much as he's a guy who wants to make the strongest case he can while also attempting to explore a lot of the nuances brought up by his thoughts, so he tends to write at length in order to be as honest as he can about his position.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:04 PM on June 22, 2011


KirkJobSluder: "Sure, but so, usually, is the comment that inspired it.

Sure, by definition. But I'd say the determining factor to whether an initial comment becomes a derail really depends on the ensuing conversation and responses. Which we have control over.

But it's interesting that you've deliberately changed the object from posts and ideas to users.

Wait, I didn't do that. The subject at hand isn't just about ideas and posts, but how users treat one another when they discuss them. Either I've misread the thread, or you're misreading my intent, I think?

Sometimes, the bad faith of the comment is obvious from the start.

True. But my impression is that doesn't happen often. Half the time, massive derails develop over things that could be easily resolved calmly, without too much rancor and without people taking personal insult.

Now as I've said here and a few other places, the better strategy is to flag and move on, but that goes for many complaints about civility which assume bad faith of the other person."

Part of the problem is civility affects the signal-to-noise ratio. The less civil conversations around here are, the more noisy they are and the less likely they are to be productive. I suspect they also turn away people who would otherwise participate, but don't want to have their heads handed to them.

Regarding assuming bad faith:

I'm a big, big fan of fiamo. Many of the topics we discuss are emotionally-charged and attract people who feel passionately about them, which is good. If we can point to something that someone is saying and say, "hey, I think you're wrong and here's why" without attacking them for doing so, that's better than the alternative. When people feel like they're being accused of something, they tend to act defensively.
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on June 22, 2011


If we can point to something that someone is saying and say, "hey, I think you're wrong and here's why" without attacking them for doing so, that's better than the alternative. When people feel like they're being accused of something, they tend to act defensively.

While I agree with you that the passionate argument should be directed against ideas and not people, it becomes very easy for people to derail the conversation into one about "civility" et al by taking those idea-driven comments personally. I think that's where the backlash against the tone argument comes from; civility is, to my mind, a worthwhile and laudable goal, but not when it can hold hostage an actual discourse. Or, to put it another way, just because someone is acting defensively doesn't mean that they've been attacked or that their interlocutor has been uncivil.

Of course, that doesn't excuse genuine incivility either, insomuch as one is taking cheap shots as opposed to making some sort of substantive point. I just think that if "incivility" turns people away from the discussion, it makes it easy for a bad-faith participant to obstruct the conversation by claiming it has occurred. I don't think conversations can be so easily divided between these two poles as the arguments to date are claiming.
posted by Errant at 12:21 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


civility is, to my mind, a worthwhile and laudable goal, but not when it can hold hostage an actual discourse.

This is one of the reasons MeTa exists actually. People can talk here about tone argument type things. I don't have much to add from a mod perspective except to just re-mention that calling people assholes or getting into huge fighty "fuck you, no fuck YOU" arguments is one of the bedrock guidelines here. It definitely happens sometimes, sure, but we have it as a community goal that people behave decently to each other. I'm aware that there is conflict between this idea and the idea of a safe space, or totally free and open discourse, and the more complicated idea of privilege and the idea of free speech within that context.

That said, I feel that it's important to pipe up and mention that there's the abstract "how political discussions are most effective" and "How political discussions are most effective on MetaFilter" which is a place with certain, not terribly restrictive but definitely present, guidelines on how people interact. I'm sure there are people who dislike these, or who wish they were different. I feel that a minor success here is that we seem to have equal numbers wanting to pull them in opposite directions (more strict, more loose) and the continual tension is, in some ways, one of the things that makes this place the sort of special place it is.

So, in short, we hope that having a place for meta-discussion is one of the features that allows actual discussion to continue to be worthwhile and useful.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


A part of my pushback on this comes from a basic social justice principle that "politeness" has been used especially against minority views in order to squash discussion or revelation of real conflict. A seminal work here is MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail in which he points out the fallacy of polite moderation when it comes to social justice issues. Pointing to the fact that African-Americans were deprived of basic rights and liberties under segregation was fundamentally impolitic and impolite. But it was truthful. This idea would be picked up by feminists, gay-rights advocates, and Gnu atheists (although I'm still on the fence about the latter.)

Some threads, IMO, are the proper place to react and express anger without regard to tone, just as we have threads to express concern, grief, and joy. So the question in my mind is how can we create a space where it's acceptable to express anger regarding larger social issues without unfairly targeting individuals?

And again, I've been a part of communities that fell apart because the dog-piling onto every perceived infraction of "civility" made it a hostile environment.

On Preview:
Zarq: Wait, I didn't do that.

Yes you did because my comment specifically addressed sarcasm WRT posts and ideas. Conflating that with personal attacks is another issue entirely, but perhaps I wasn't as clear as I should have been because I take it for granted that snarking a claim made in a post isn't snarking the person who made the post.

But come on here. I certainly do it. Rory does it. You had your own snarky grudge-based personal attack against me ("mefi, heal thyself"). Some threads are delightful reads of good-natured sarcasm. I'm not going to sign on to an unrealistic ideal of human behavior in which sarcastic and dismissive responses are never appropriate. Sometimes, a sarcastic response is exactly what's needed to counter a silly idea.

Part of the problem is civility affects the signal-to-noise ratio. The less civil conversations around here are, the more noisy they are and the less likely they are to be productive. I suspect they also turn away people who would otherwise participate, but don't want to have their heads handed to them.

You know what else destroys signal to noise ratio? Meta-discussions about rudeness on the blue.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:57 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


...calling people assholes or getting into huge fighty "fuck you, no fuck YOU" arguments is one of the bedrock guidelines here. It definitely happens sometimes, sure, but we have it as a community goal that people behave decently to each other.

"Good sir, would you be so kind as to go fuck yourself? That's a good chap."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:01 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Errant: "While I agree with you that the passionate argument should be directed against ideas and not people, it becomes very easy for people to derail the conversation into one about "civility" et al by taking those idea-driven comments personally. I think that's where the backlash against the tone argument comes from; civility is, to my mind, a worthwhile and laudable goal, but not when it can hold hostage an actual discourse. Or, to put it another way, just because someone is acting defensively doesn't mean that they've been attacked or that their interlocutor has been uncivil.

Yes, I agree.

Of course, that doesn't excuse genuine incivility either, insomuch as one is taking cheap shots as opposed to making some sort of substantive point. I just think that if "incivility" turns people away from the discussion, it makes it easy for a bad-faith participant to obstruct the conversation by claiming it has occurred. I don't think conversations can be so easily divided between these two poles as the arguments to date are claiming."

I agree with you here, too.
posted by zarq at 1:08 PM on June 22, 2011


A part of my pushback on this comes from a basic social justice principle that "politeness" has been used especially against minority views in order to squash discussion or revelation of real conflict. A seminal work here is MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail in which he points out the fallacy of polite moderation when it comes to social justice issues. Pointing to the fact that African-Americans were deprived of basic rights and liberties under segregation was fundamentally impolitic and impolite. But it was truthful. This idea would be picked up by feminists, gay-rights advocates, and Gnu atheists (although I'm still on the fence about the latter.)

I don't want to push back against this too hard, because I think I largely agree with your overall point, but there's a difference between what Rory or zarq or I am talking about and the anger and impolitesse that MLK is talking about-- MLK didn't mock or belittle his opponents, and he didn't tell them to go fuck themselves or act like anyone who disagreed with him what a Grade-A moron arguing in bad faith who simply didn't care about anything but getting what's theirs. And I don't think everyone on Metafilter needs to rise to the level of eloquence set by Dr. King, either-- I'm more talking about threads where liberals regard conservatives as rubes or assholes or where atheists regard theists as rubes or assholes. I'm fine with anger.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:13 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pointing to the fact that African-Americans were deprived of basic rights and liberties under segregation was fundamentally impolitic and impolite. But it was truthful. This idea would be picked up by feminists, gay-rights advocates, and Gnu atheists

But that's not how I understand tone argument, though possibly I have it wrong. In those cases, merely mentioning that women, for example, get paid less than men for the same work was what was verboten, not how people said it. I see a big space between "Don't be assholes" and "You have to be polite." The former tries to keep the place from being inhospitable in broad strokes and the latter is prescribing some sort of "don't talk about touchy issues" chilling language.

I maintain that people can explain that they are angry and why they are angry without taking that anger out on people here or on the community at large, and that we can have this as a norm without silencing anyone. I'm aware that it's an open question whether this is the case, but that's the viewpoint that I'm coming at this from.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:13 PM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I said: "And are you saying that a "high-profile user" (whatever those criteria are) is more inclined to dig in their heels in the face of opposite information and refuse to publicly change their mind because they need to save face?"

and Dumsnill replied: "That's pretty much what I'm saying, yes. Do you honestly not believe that politicians and pundits who are known for their strong opinions on various issues don't find it harder to publicly change their minds? They will seem like weaklings or turncoats, right? Everything they have ever said will be used against them."

And I must apologize... because I thought we were talking about MetaFilter users. You seem to be talking about public figures, and I don't really have a dog in that hunt. I agree that pundits (who get paid as talking heads for physically, obviously, openly arguing for one side or the other) have a vested interest in never backing down no matter what.
posted by pineapple at 1:25 PM on June 22, 2011


You seem to be talking about public figures

No, but my contention is that participants on sites like Metafilter too often end up in the same sort of position as pundits: once their names become recognizable enough, they're left either defending every single reasonable or unreasonable thing they've ever said, or they're perceived as turncoats.
posted by Dumsnill at 1:44 PM on June 22, 2011


Get it right Brandon, Its: -
Please, if you will, gently and slowly fuck the fuck off.
posted by adamvasco at 2:12 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is one of the reasons MeTa exists actually. People can talk here about tone argument type things.

And it's one of the things I really like about MeTa, because that the "tone argument" can sometimes be a fallacy doesn't mean that tones or civility in general aren't worth discussing or teasing out.

For whatever it's worth (and this is not directed at you, jessamyn, just more generally), I don't think that MeFi as a whole should be a safe space as the term is usually understood. I believe it can be a place that promotes the value of people speaking up, and it can also be a place where people can disagree passionately and then need to take a walk or cool off or whatever. It doesn't have to be a safe space in order to be welcoming to people who do not normally speak. I understand the necessity of "safe spaces", but MeFi shouldn't be one, because the very nature of those spaces has a chilling effect on real discourse and turns those spaces into echo chambers. I'd rather pick fights with people and then buy them their drink of choice.

I see a big space between "Don't be assholes" and "You have to be polite."

Yes, this is the space between the two poles I was talking about. I don't think anyone has to be polite. I do think they should try not to be assholes. I think people conflate being indecorous with being an asshole. I do not think they are the same thing.
posted by Errant at 2:21 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone has to be polite. I do think they should try not to be assholes. I think people conflate being indecorous with being an asshole. I do not think they are the same thing.

Where the problem comes in, then, is that one person's "indecorous" is another person's "asshole". And that is where I think a lot of the disconnect comes in, and those arguments generate a lot of noise.

And that noise (she said, trying to drag things back around to where she thinks we came in) causes a lot of people to be frustrated with the political threads, because they may WANT to engage in political discussion but then it all gets bogged down with "I'm being indecorous" "no you're being an asshole" static, and these people just wish that didn't happen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:37 PM on June 22, 2011


>> You seem to be talking about public figures

>> No, but my contention is that participants on sites like Metafilter too often end up in the same sort of position as pundits: once their names become recognizable enough, they're left either defending every single reasonable or unreasonable thing they've ever said, or they're perceived as turncoats.


So, yes, then this is what I have a problem with because it is kind of bullshit. Someone who feels that he or she is so inextricably entrenched in the corpus of their online persona's political positions that they are subsequently forced at gunpoint into this weird either/or you suggested are invertebrates who don't deserve to post here.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing whether the either/or exists. I'm sure it does, for some posters. And we'll never know who those people are, barring the obvious cases where, over the course of a comment thread, a "high-profile user" (your words) starts firmly on Opinion A but is publicly brought around to Opinion B.

But I get kind of queasy when I imagine people frantically banging on keyboards, waving pitchforks on FPPs over a position they no longer even hold, simply because they feel some bizarre compulsion to Be True to Your School.

The ability to change one's mind after a round of thoughtful discourse is a mark of maturity. I would frankly welcome seeing it more often, and wouldn't dare think of a MeFi mind-changer as a turncoat.
posted by pineapple at 3:20 PM on June 22, 2011


I can tell you, Dumsnill, that I have changed my mind frequently upon being exposed to new ideas, here and elsewhere. You may choose to believe me or not, I don't really care about that part.
posted by Errant at 3:32 PM on June 22, 2011


I believe you, but I don't think that changes the general dynamic I was alluding to.
posted by Dumsnill at 3:46 PM on June 22, 2011


shakespherian: I don't want to push back against this too hard, because I think I largely agree with your overall point, but there's a difference between what Rory or zarq or I am talking about and the anger and impolitesse that MLK is talking about-- MLK didn't mock or belittle his opponents, and he didn't tell them to go fuck themselves or act like anyone who disagreed with him what a Grade-A moron arguing in bad faith who simply didn't care about anything but getting what's theirs. And I don't think everyone on Metafilter needs to rise to the level of eloquence set by Dr. King, either-- I'm more talking about threads where liberals regard conservatives as rubes or assholes or where atheists regard theists as rubes or assholes. I'm fine with anger.

MLK wasn't above mockery of other positions, nor did he pull his punches in disagreement. Unless we're reading, "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who..." in a different way. This delightful little bit of intentionally shocking invective comes in the middle of what is perhaps an excessively patient explanation of why he was engaged in direct action. He's insulting his audience with a purpose, arguing that if you still think he's uppity after reading this far into the letter, perhaps you should examine just how liberal you think you are.

Of course, in our modern environment of electronic cherry-picking all we'd talk about is MLK's lack of nuance in equating moderates to the Klan. (Wait, is that mockery?)

And yes, it's a different thing from quite a bit of the bad behavior on metafilter. But it is something that makes me cautious about the demands being made here. I reserve the right to mock the expression of certain stereotypical ideas. And that's a different thing from mocking a person.

Why? Most of the time, treating a bad idea seriously just results in the other person going double-down trying to justify it. So yes, I'll snark about being a baby-eating atheist with plans for world domination, getting my bi-card punched with a convenient horse (everything that moves, baby), and being an evil Republican agent trying to destroy the Democrats by driving people to vote for them, because it's all been said before--perhaps by me honestly and politely early in the thread--and I'm not about to debate my life against someone who just dug in their heels in opposition to it.

EC: Where the problem comes in, then, is that one person's "indecorous" is another person's "asshole".

And one person's perfectly reasonable and honest expressed position is another person's "indecorous," and another person's "asshole".
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


So yes, I'll snark about being a baby-eating atheist with plans for world domination, getting my bi-card punched with a convenient horse (everything that moves, baby), and being an evil Republican agent trying to destroy the Democrats by driving people to vote for them, because it's all been said before--perhaps by me honestly and politely early in the thread--and I'm not about to debate my life against someone who just dug in their heels in opposition to it.

That's fine with me, too. I'm more talking about the charging-out-of-the-gate-with-all-guns-blazing phenomenon that I see here often. And, actually, I think the reverse dynamic happens quite a bit: People throw insults and stereotypes at each other as soon as the thread starts, people get some cheap lulz and compare one another to Hitler, and then about 500 comments later it turns (magically) into a fairly decent discussion with nuance and the exploration of the boundaries of differing viewpoints. Also, for what it's worth, w/r/t:

But it is something that makes me cautious about the demands being made here.

I'm not making any demands at all. I'm just conversing about what works best for Metafilter as a community and place for people to disagree. I have some opinions about that, but I'm not so rigid about those opinions as to be issuing demands.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:12 PM on June 22, 2011


And one person's perfectly reasonable and honest expressed position is another person's "indecorous," and another person's "asshole".

...I can see "reasonable opinion" getting mistaken for "indecorous", but mistaking it for "asshole"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:38 PM on June 22, 2011


I've said this before, but "unreasonable" is frequently deployed as a catch-all pejorative against any argument that has a hint of emotion about it in order to dismiss viewpoints with a sniff. To be clear, I am not saying that that is happening here. I am saying that "reasonableness" is a fairly difficult metric to come to consensus on, made more difficult by the presence of arbiters whom one may not consider to be wholly without bias in the matter.
posted by Errant at 4:59 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it jackass-y of me to be jumping into this thread at comment 500, but I find your description of the tone of "Letter from Birmingham Jail" unrecognizable.

As I understand it, the discussion in the thread as a whole is about civility in politics threads. Some, like Rory, are advancing the argument that there is a problem with the way these threads go on Metafilter, namely that people get swept up in the certitude of their convictions and quickly begin to believe that anyone who disagrees with them is arguing in bad faith, and to use invective and attack to advance their points, and shit gets fighty and no minds get changed and so what's the point?

Whereas others are arguing that to suggest that one ought to clamp down on passion when one has experienced or witnessed an injustice is asserting a form of privilege, and that sometimes you need to call a motherfucker a motherfucker and if you can't handle that then you don't care enough to be involved in the argument in the first place. Effectively, that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. You submit "Letter from Birmingham Jail" as an example of this, an example of someone being impolite and speaking the truth in the pursuit of justice.

Yet does the letter not begin with an assertion of fellowship, brotherhood, and the promise of civility? ("But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.") And does it not continue in this vein in the most extreme of circumstances, while King enduring yet another manifestation of the very injustice he protested? Is not its substance nothing but an careful explanation of his beliefs, including the evidence he on which he based them, and explaining their significance with analogies that would resonate with his audience in particular ("this kind of civil disobedience...was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar") and with examples which draw upon the assumption of shared humanity, that if he explains he position clearly they will sympathize with it, because they too are human? ("when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television.") Does it not stop to acknowledge his opponent's good faith and the gestures they have made which suggest their might be common ground between their different sides? ("I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis.") Does it not close with the firm hope that those difference may be ultimately resolved?

In short, King's letter is passionate. It is frank. It is devastating, in laying the case for his cause. But it also one of the most civil documents which exist in our political cannon, one which address an audience in firm opposition to him as brothers. And one of the most persuasive, a clarion which has rung out across ages and nation. (And possible, affected my own tone in writing this.) King's letter was addressed to fellow clergymen, and not to George Wallace, nor the George Wallaces of the world. But I'd submit that in many ways the ultimate audience for the letter, and for the civil rights movement as a whole, was that white moderate. And that it was his clarity and dispassion, in the face of extreme provocation, that won them over. You cannot call upon the conscience of a beast.
posted by Diablevert at 5:53 PM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ha! If it makes you feel any better, Joe, I was blithely assuming Trurl was someone else. I got a little crink in my brow when you gave me that Tuskegee airmen response in regards to the trustworthiness of the US Govt -- but settled on "Oh jeepers, another one, except a little older." Yes, somehow, Trurl reads as older than Joe Beese to me. Funny, that.
posted by cavalier at 5:59 PM on June 22, 2011


All I have to add here is that for the folks who have a problem with BND because it reminds them of Sting, I'd like to invite them to think instead of Van Morrison.
posted by Nabubrush at 7:21 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The cast improvised virtually all of the dialog where they sit around and tell their back stories. This includes Murray's lines about Lee Harvey making out with a cow and calling Sgt. Hulka a big toe....

According to John Larroquette, he was drunk in many of his scenes."
posted by clavdivs at 9:43 PM on June 22, 2011


Diablevert: ...and that sometimes you need to call a motherfucker a motherfucker and if you can't handle that then you don't care enough to be involved in the argument in the first place.

I just spent seven hours and four drafts writing a Rory's way® response to this post. But I get the strong feeling I'm being played by someone spoiling for a fight. This isn't a remotely fair discussion of my argument. If I've misjudged your intent, ask an honest question and I'll consider an apology. But I'm not going to answer for bullshit like this.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:12 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Reasonable" and "civil" are concepts that we know from social psychology are socially-constructed and fraught with bias. We might as well just propose the Bill and Ted standard, "Be excellent with each other."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:23 AM on June 23, 2011


We know this from social psychology?

Asking people to be "reasonable" is of course problematic, but I don't think anyone in this conversation has been asking people to be reasonable on MetaFilter. "Civil" though is another matter. When people complain about incivility on MetaFilter, I think they're mostly complaining about the 'fuck you, you stupid little inbred piece of shit' style of argumentation that's so prevalent on MetaFilter.

By insisting that when people complain about this they really mean is they think it's "incivil" for people to have opinions they disapprove of, you come across as making a dishonest defense of using personal attacks and person ridicule to shut people up in place of responding to their arguments or positions. Having read previous threads where you've made pretty much the same argument and having read your comments here, I don't think you're being dishonest, I think you really do misunderstand what people mean by it. "Civility" is not always a code word for something else.

You wrote earlier, "Having realized that there's nothing I can write in those topics that won't be labeled as simultaneously a sellout of liberal values and a destroyer of liberal candidates, my choice is to just go to a different neighborhood so to speak." Is it incomprehensible that some people might wish that MetaFilter political threads weren't like that?
posted by nangar at 3:45 AM on June 23, 2011


Kirk, I think your refusing to engage is a "Rory's Way" response to that comment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 AM on June 23, 2011


nangar: By insisting that when people complain about this they really mean is they think it's "incivil" for people to have opinions they disapprove of....

Well, I guess it's a good thing I don't insist that. But come on here. I've been accused of engaging in ridicule and prejudice because someone objected to a single adjective of a post that was polite and conciliatory. The accusations continued even after I apologized. In 24 years on the internet, I've probably spent subjective months of my life carefully editing messages for tone, that went wasted because someone was just looking for something to be offended by.

On another community, I just saw a guy go from first post to permaban in a few short hours primarily because a half-dozen high-status people in the community jumped on one, unfortunate turn of phrase. I'll reverse myself and say that Will Shetterly was partially right about racefail. A good chunk of the internet has became toxic because every message is examined under a microscope for offensiveness, apologies are like blood in the water, and you can't move on because grudges are held on wikis and omnibus posts.

You might say that can't happen here, but I've seen political threads get "Joe Beese'd" even when he wasn't participating. I've been a forum moderator and know just how fuzzy those ideas can get when a discussion is moving fast and furiously, and taken the heat from people yelling at me about why I made a judgement call for this rather than that.

I don't think "civility" is a "code word." I do think that the arguments here honestly misunderstand what a big, fuzzy, biased, and culturally constructed word that is. Statements like, "we should be cautious about referring to a person's posting history" are better.

I wouldn't mind seeing better political discussions but I'm not convinced that the Rory way® is the answer. It's labor intensive and not going to stop tit-for-tat axe grinding. My draconian solution is to change the reward structure. Threads that switch over from talking about the FPP to voting strategies for the 2012 election (or worse, the 2000 election) get locked. If you want to campaign for Obama, Nader, Greens, stay-at-home, or lesser-evil voting, get the meat for your own FPP and keep it there.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:55 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for clarifying, Kirk. That makes more sense than what I thought you meant.
posted by nangar at 6:18 AM on June 23, 2011


I'm reluctant to reward a creatively terrible reading of the text here with an analysis of the rhetoric of Letter from a Birmingham Jail, but the half-truths there based on cherry-picking the most conciliatory passages are too great to pass up.

To start with, the standards of propriety that King violated were not set by King, or his wannabe hagiographers (I've no objection to King hagiography, just bad and dishonest King ones) but by the Alabama Clergy who published this statement that clearly defines what was expected of King and Alabama blacks. Alabama blacks should go home and trust in the political process, while King should pack it up, return to Atlanta, and let Brimingham locals deal with the problem. So from the start, there's nothing he could write that would have been considered to be something other than intrusively sticking his nose into the business of others.

Certainly he does call for common peace and understanding, but he pulls no punches in pointing out his audience's implicit racism as a barrier to that fellowship. Throughout the letter he accuses them of racism and complicity in segregation. He calls them more frustrating than the Klan, attacks their theology, attacks their statements from the pulpit, and calls their understanding of justice hollow. Stallings (and several others) are notable because they are exceptions to his deep frustration with white moderates and their congregations:
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some---such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church....
These statements were radical and outrageous in '63, and they've continued to be such up to the Jerimiah Wright scandal. I sincerely doubt that you can write a post here that argues that most white mefis are apathetic toward or complicit with urban redlining without drawing a flamewar. But that's exactly what King tells his audience.

Of course, he does this, sometimes making the point with what reads to be gently mocking humor, without dehumanizing the white moderate. Frankly, I find the failure to recognize a repeated distinction between attacking ideas and dehumanizing people in this discussion to be astonishing. The idea should have been obvious when he was introduced to two legendary teachers who did the same thing. I don't think Jesus hated Peter when he snarked his disciple, nor do I think that the Buddha was cruel when he turned a monk's questions into a joke.

But perhaps metafilter is the wrong place and the wrong culture for that sort of thing. I've certainly had problems in the past communicating that sarcasm, criticism, and humor can come from a position of respect rather than contempt.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:33 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


We may just be talking past each other at this point, attempting to find a point where we actually disagree. I agree that sarcasm, criticism, and humor can come from respect rather than contempt, and aside from sarcasm (which I think has mostly been linked to condescension in this thread, which colors it differently) I don't think anyone here has said that any of these things should be out of the question. The point that we seem to have coalesced around is that 'respect rather than contempt' bit, but of course it can be difficult to delineate between the two in a purely textual medium, which is why I tend to stray more in the direction of forthrightness, qualifiers, and conciliation in order to ensure that I not be misread-- but that isn't a proscription of mine.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 AM on June 23, 2011


"I just spent seven hours and four drafts writing a Rory's way® response to this post. But I get the strong feeling I'm being played by someone spoiling for a fight. This isn't a remotely fair discussion of my argument. If I've misjudged your intent, ask an honest question and I'll consider an apology. But I'm not going to answer for bullshit like this."

Certainly, what I wrote was a brief caricature of a complex argument. Like any caricature, it exaggerates certain characteristic qualities in order to make the whole figure recognizable at a glance. Perhaps I was in that measure glib; I was trying to get at a theme I saw a number of people express, not you alone, and to do it quickly, so as to be able to move on an engage on the subject I thought was interesting, which was your citing "Birmingham Jail" as an example of an impolite, impolitic argument. (Which I do, still, strongly disagree with.)

Beyond that, I'm not sure how to respond. I was not attempting to troll you. I fear that you may disbelieve me, on the basis of a mere assertion, but at the same time, I feel like going through the thread picking apart every comment which contributed to my impression of the overall gist of the argument would end up fragmenting the discussion into an analysis of a minutia.
posted by Diablevert at 8:30 AM on June 23, 2011


Certainly, what I wrote was a brief caricature of a complex argument.

And Diablevert goes double-down on bullshit.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:02 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


…and that's exactly the kind of asshole comment that poisons discussion. Thanks, Kirk!
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 AM on June 23, 2011


Kirk, I thought you made a good a point about the vagueness of the word "civility." It has been a problem is this discussion and we have been talking past each other a lot. It doesn't seem like you and Diablevert actually disagree on the interpretation of King's letter. I think you're disagreeing about what incivility is. I can see how you think it could be considered uncivil, because it is strongly critical. Diablevert doesn't consider it uncivil in his sense of the term. He thinks it's civil for pretty much the same reasons that you think it's uncivil but OK.

> I find the failure to recognize a repeated distinction between attacking ideas and dehumanizing people in this discussion to be astonishing.

I think a lot of people have made that distinction in this thread. (I certainly do.) The phrase "hate the sin and love the sinner" has even been thrown about a bit to make this distinction.
posted by nangar at 9:53 AM on June 23, 2011


This is the 527th comment in this thread.
posted by box at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2011


I'd like to add too, that I think Rory's example of talking to bigots was a poor one for a couple of reasons (although I agree with quite a few other things he said). PhoBWanKenobi already pointed out one of them (and Rory responded to it):

it genuinely doesn't seem like you realize how logical, civil, reasoned discourse is both a machination of privilege ... and an artifact of that privilege, as you're actually only able to have this conversation in this way because it means very, very little to you.

Another is that Rory's mode of talking to bigots only works if the bigot has some respect for you. It's hard to someone who considers you to be a devil. Even more so if they consider you to be by definition mentally inferior and incapable of rational thought.

(These can also be problems in conversation situations that don't actually involve bigotry.)

A third issue is that the main problems with MeFi political threads are not problems with dealing with overt bigotry. (Some people would disagree with this of course.)
posted by nangar at 10:30 AM on June 23, 2011


And Diablevert goes double-down on bullshit.

Knock this off, please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:44 AM on June 23, 2011


klangklangston: Yes, and I eat babies as well.

I've spent far too many hours in this discussion practicing the Rory way® in writing about these issues. If you want to discuss my opinions, they're up there in writing. If you don't understand, ask. That's how you have a discussion.

I'm opposed to personal attacks on metafilter. I've written as such multiple times on this thread. So Dablevert's claims about my expressed opinion are just plain wrong. His willingness to defend a claim that's just plain wrong strikes me as baffling. And it doesn't need further discussion beyond pointing out, that on this matter, he's just plain wrong.

And I apologize for using the word "bullshit" instead of the phrase, "just plain wrong." It means approximately the same thing. But I shouldn't have written that, and it's probably another word I should strike from my mefi vocabulary.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Diablevert: Beyond that, I'm not sure how to respond.

How about, "I apologize for the misunderstanding, could you perhaps clarify...?"
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread is archived and closed to new comments


































.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I've spent far too many hours in this discussion practicing the Rory way® in writing about these issues. If you want to discuss my opinions, they're up there in writing. If you don't understand, ask. That's how you have a discussion. "

That's three times you've snidely slagged Rory for his earnest contributions. Why is that, Kirk? Do you think the joke gets funnier each time?

And when people try to discuss your opinions, you dismiss them as "doubling down on bullshit" rather than talking about what you don't like. Oh, yeah, that's the "Rory way," which is what, less effective than sneering for you?

You refuse to take seriously a critique of your own cherry-picking (and appeal to authority) with regard to King's letter, and instead dismiss it as someone spoiling for a fight. Why do you think that your glib dismissals and active hostility are more valuable as conversation than Rory's earnest comments, Kirk?

Are you simply trying to fill the vacuum that Ethereal Bligh left?

"I'm opposed to personal attacks on metafilter. I've written as such multiple times on this thread. So Dablevert's claims about my expressed opinion are just plain wrong. His willingness to defend a claim that's just plain wrong strikes me as baffling. And it doesn't need further discussion beyond pointing out, that on this matter, he's just plain wrong."

Except that you haven't explained how it's wrong. You've alleged cherry-picking, and then simply asserted that what you meant was something different, and accused him of misrepresentations and bullshit. So I might as well say that you're just plain wrong as well, and it's baffling to see you double down on this bullshit.

It's not that I don't understand your argument, or that I'm not even sympathetic to it, but you got challenged and responded by being a dick — specifically with a comment that added only contempt. You may see some niggling minutiae that separate that from "calling a motherfucker a motherfucker," but the line is exceedingly thin, especially within the context of poisonous rhetoric.

Then you have the balls to ask him to apologize! For what? You accused him of spoiling for a fight, and refused to make any comment of substance besides holding that he's just wrong, and then expect him to apologize so that he can hear more on how because, like, we can't know what's civil for all occasions, you can just sneer at people who disagree with you?

That's bullshit, Kirk, and you should know it.
posted by klangklangston at 12:04 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: Wow, there's a lot of issues there.

First of all, I'm not slagging off Rory, whose responses I greatly respect and emulate. But I can see how it can be seen that way, so I apologize for that and will be more careful in the future.

Second, you're conflating two different issues here. I respect but disagree with Diablevert's interpretation of the Letter because it downplays the hostility of his audience to his presence in Birmingham and King's scathing critique of the majority (with a handful of exceptions) of white moderates and churches.

What I don't respect is his admitted caricature, which I found to be incorrect, hostile, offensive, inappropriate, and (possibly) spoiling for a fight. I have explained this multiple times now. I'll admit that I have a thin skin for being told I hold an opinion I had just written disagreement with. I've already described my complaint that if you participate in political discussion threads after a certain point, you'll be treated as a pro-/anti-Obama partisan regardless of what you post. And I see the same thing here.

I probably should have gone with one of the early drafts which restated the following principles:

1) Rory's ideas are good ones.
2) As far as I'm aware, everyone agrees that personal attacks have no place here.
3) Context and discrimination do matter here, and should be addressed.
4) "Civility" can become toxic if taken to an extreme.

But, the caricature was so extreme, so offensive, so wrong, that I suspected I was being trolled. Why am I wasting my time on a person who spent two paragraphs shitting on the thread and polarizing the discussion into ridiculous strawmen? How do I respond to some good stuff about MLK in a post that's front-loaded with crap?

I think a basic rule of good-faith discussion is that when someone says, "this isn't a remotely fair discussion of my argument" that you don't dig in your heels and insist on being correct. People change their minds and miscommunication happens. If these discussions are going to be productive, the simple courtesy of saying, "I'm sorry, could you tell me more?" is a necessity.

Otherwise you end up in contrarian Monty Python arguments:
"I like cats."
"No you don't, I like cats."
"Really, I like cats."
"You're a dog person, you can't like cats."

My suggestion wasn't that he humiliate himself and sacrifice face. My suggestion was that he exercise the common courtesy of asking for clarification, rather than defending what he admits are gross caricatures. My goal there was to establish that we probably mostly agree.

Certainly while you're wrong on a few things in there, you're right about a great many bungles. So Diablevert, I've handled this entire conversation badly, I apologize for my actions in this thread, and will strive to do better.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:39 PM on June 23, 2011


Besides, I also try not to sneer at people. I'm embarrassed by my teeth, and in spite of genetics giving me awesome if premature Reed Richards grey, my family bone structure results in something more akin to a geriatric woodchuck than Tim Roth.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:03 PM on June 23, 2011


Hey, that was really, sincerely classy, and I appreciate it a lot.
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 PM on June 23, 2011


My suggestion was that he exercise the common courtesy of asking for clarification, rather than defending what he admits are gross caricatures.

I feel that you think my original comment misstated your position and was an attack on you personally, a deliberate attempt to distort your individual opinion. This seems to be the cause of the friction between us and I do regret that my being glib contributed to that impression. However, my intent was to sum up what I saw as the thrust of the argument in the thread as a whole before going into my objections toward the example you raised. In my mind, the point I was making was structured like this:
As I understand it, the discussion in the thread as a whole is about [Q] Some, like Rory, are advancing the argument that [Y].....Whereas others are arguing that [Y]. You submit "Letter from Birmingham Jail" as an example of [Y].
And I then went on to spend the bulk of my comment going on and on about why I thought it the Letter was in fact more X-ish than Y-ish. You responed to that by accusing me of arguing in bad faith, of trolling you. I responded by asserting that I wasn't and trying to explain what my intent was. You still seemed to think that even that was arguing in bad faith, that having disingenuously attacked you, if I now desired to be reasonable I should start with trying to come to clear understanding of your position.

I did not seek clarification from you because I thought that my description of the Y side of the fence was admitted glib, it was also essentially correct. It does seem to me that many in the thread have argued that it is often the right thing, in an argument, to call a bigot a bigot, to use passionate language if one feels passionately about the rightness of one's side. It does seem to me that several people in this thread have argued that calls for civility and reasonableness are calls to dampen that passion, are in effect exercising privilege to quell voices with whom one disagrees. I still think that.

Leaving aside whether the Letter is X-ist or Y-ist, my personal opinion is that there's a difference between style and substance, and that you can feel as passionately as you like about the substance of your position, but that if you wish to persuade someone who disagrees with you, passion is frequently damn near useless unless couched in a style which is measured and civil. This is very, very difficult to do in practice, of course. But to exercise civility entails the presumption of reasonableness on the part of the listener. And believing that you're dealing with someone whose mind can be changed is the necessary precondition of changing it. It is also the extension of a courtesy, and it cuts both ways. (I also think that there's a human tendency to believe that anyone who disagrees with you must be some combination of ignorant, stupid, or insane.)

Expressing outrage does have its uses, of course. It's a hell of thing for inflaming the passions of the like-minded. That's a legitimate form of political discourse and many people seem to enjoy it a lot. For the most part I tend not to.
posted by Diablevert at 2:05 PM on June 24, 2011


Diablevert: I think you're digging your heels here on something that's pretty flimsy. As I'm the only person who cited MLK, this discussion certainly seems to be personal. And I'm baffled as how you can say that something is a glib caricature on the one hand and not a distortion on the other. The use of glib caricature in place of actual discussion can certainly be characterized as trolling.

But, perhaps it's the bisexual in me who tends to view everything according to a Likert scale, but I had thought we had moved beyond X vs. Y well before you inserted your opinion. To use a well-worn analogy, most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can also advocate that posts be respectful WRT people, and make a space for sarcasm and mockery WRT ideas. We can advocate for more "civility" while recognizing that we should be careful in evaluating discussions where people are stereotyped as "uncivil." We can recognize that detachment, passion, and grief all have their place here, and talk about how to refine those ideas. We can recognize great teachers like MLK, Jesus, and the Buddha as capable of both great compassion, and pointed, even mocking, criticism of behavior and ideas.

We can, in other words, exercise "moderation in the pursuit of justice."

That was the spirit in which I introduced MLK along with Jesus and the Buddha. You're simultaneously preaching to the choir and arguing arguing against a strawman. I wouldn't have introduced those three if I didn't admire their compassion along with their rhetoric. I certainly may be wrong about MLK's rhetoric, I don't think I am about Siddhartha Gautama who's both gentle and hilarious. But I certainly didn't cite them as advocacy of 4chan-style discussion on the Internet.

So I don't recognize your "X-ist" and "Y-ist" as separate camps like you describe.

The call for dispassion BTW, was made by koeselitz up thread. It's a nice ideal that I try (admittedly imperfectly) to practice many times. I think the downside is that passion was central to one of the few cases where mefi was actually politically effective. Women wrote passionately about their experiences with street harassment, and more than a few men expressed that testimony changed their minds.

Again, my motivation in this discussion is two-fold. First, I've seen communities go completely toxic both from unchecked personal attacks, and the development of a callout culture on interpersonal and political civility. Both norms can be completely destructive to community when emphasized to excess. Second, to grind my personal axe, I'm utterly reluctant to post anything related to my spiritual interests for fear of creating a location for the eternal "asshole atheist" civility debate, which is always divisive, never productive, and almost never on-topic.

I'll certainly work to improve the quality of my own posts, and not to respond with anger. But that's a personal spiritual practice for me. It's not necessarily something I wish for the entire site, otherwise I'd miss some pretty good stuff.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2011


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