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Calling out all participants in the Slactivist thread...
December 21, 2011 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to draw everyone's attention to the recent thread here concerning the Slactivist blog.

We hear an awful lot about things that Metafilter doesn't do well, and religion is never far from the top of that list, but this was a great discussion: informative, lively, civil, and thought-provoking. The post itself was also great. Everyone involved should give themselves a pat on the back (taking a deep breath first, if necessary).
posted by Ipsifendus to MetaFilter-Related at 7:44 AM (76 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I was thinking the same thing as I read that thread yesterday. Great discussion on a potentially explosive topic. Good stuff!
posted by slogger at 7:46 AM on December 21, 2011


So now we have to do call outs for threads that DON'T devolve into shitstorms?

How far the mighty metafilter has fallen.
posted by Grither at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cheer up, Grither. It's not all bad good.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is what happens when you have a good, positive link about religion and comments from people who are allowed to talk inside ball in peace. Not "devoid of atheists" peace, though. There were plenty there and making good conversation. It was a "no shitbombs" kind of peace.

I feel kinda bad that things went so well there but someone apparently had to drop a smug bomb in this thread. Glad it got cleaned.
posted by charred husk at 8:16 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


we're due for a year end HUG THE PAIN AWAY thread.
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also found that thread amazing. LH de-skulked and at one point it looked like two people were this -><- close to planning a metafilter meetup at church. That is something I did not ever think I would see in a metafilter thread. The last time I looked there wasn't one invisible sky god comment.
posted by bukvich at 8:32 AM on December 21, 2011


We hear an awful lot about things that Metafilter doesn't do well, and religion is never far from the top of that list, but this was a great discussion: informative, lively, civil, and thought-provoking.

it's a nice post, but it's also one that appeals to the left leaning stance of the site. No big deal, I'm personally doing my part to tilt things further by only eating grass fed cows, but the comments would have been very different if the post was about a conservative blog.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:35 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


So now we have to do call outs for threads that DON'T devolve into shitstorms?

Hmm. No, that's actually not what I meant at all. I find threads that I enjoy here every day. I'm calling this one in particular out for exceptionably capable collective negotiation through territory that we know, based on past experience, to be laden with landmines. And, to be the kind of pedantic wiseass that everyone in that thread managed to avoid becoming: it's not about "having" to do anything. I'm acting of my own free will.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:36 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So now we have to do call outs for threads that DON'T devolve into shitstorms?
How far the mighty metafilter has fallen.


No offense, but some might see your attitude in this comment as part of what you claim to be lamenting.
posted by aught at 8:40 AM on December 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


We hear an awful lot about things that Metafilter doesn't do well, and religion is never far from the top of that list, but this was a great discussion: informative, lively, civil, and thought-provoking. The post itself was also great. Everyone involved should give themselves a pat on the back (taking a deep breath first, if necessary).

OK, somebody go in there and throw some bombs please.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:43 AM on December 21, 2011


the comments would have been very different if the post was about a conservative blog.

Sure, but it's a start. There have been many posts that also look at religion from a non-ideological or lefty perspective or just a theological perspective and got the shit-dump anyway. This was interesting and informative.
posted by Miko at 8:53 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think the word "lefty" was some kind of hedge against threadshitting in this case. Since they are ideologically leftist, then it's all ok! Anyway, glad people showed restraint.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:57 AM on December 21, 2011


So now we have to do call outs for threads that DON'T devolve into shitstorms?

There is such a thing as calling people's attention to things that are good.

If it clarifies things, maybe substitute "props to" for "calling out" in the title of this MeTa.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on December 21, 2011


Ipsifendus, thanks for pointing out the thread. I deliberately avoided reading the thread because I was sure it wouldn't end well. Happy to see it didn't.
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Same here - I had read some of the slacktivist's stuff but figured there'd be a lot of 'not ending well' in the thread. And now I've read it and really enjoyed it.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:36 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am glad that we are not getting into a fight about how we avoided getting into a fight.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:52 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


no u
posted by Burhanistan at 9:55 AM on December 21, 2011


Yo momma metafilter's so schmoopy it's got My Little Ponies.
posted by zarq at 9:58 AM on December 21, 2011


<mostly_kidding_but_kinda_not>

You're welcome.

</mostly_kidding_but_kinda_not>
posted by benito.strauss at 10:09 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


tilt things further by only eating grass fed cows,

tsk, my religion is against the eating of cows, grass fed or no
posted by infini at 10:12 AM on December 21, 2011


aught: "No offense, but some might see your attitude in this comment as part of what you claim to be lamenting."

I am a master of satire. ;-)
posted by Grither at 10:27 AM on December 21, 2011


I feel like I should have something to say in this thread. But here we are.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:31 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're all typed out from the back and forth, I'd understand.

Thanks to you -- and everyone else -- in that thread. I'm glad this callout was made. (I avoided it originally not for "Metafilter reasons", but for "what thinking about the popularity of Left Behind does to me" reasons -- which is the same reason I've avoided continually reading the site in question. It's great but at what cost to my sanity?)

The thread is not (just) an example of "Metafilter doing something well that it might not normally do well" but is just a phenomenal discussion from start to finish. It's been a long time since I carefully read such a long thread from top to bottom. Thanks for it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:46 AM on December 21, 2011


It's a great thread. Enjoying it very much.

So out of curiosity, and relating back to the theme of several metadiscussions lately, can it be revealed how much moderation 'got done' in that thread? Were there many comments flagged and/or removed (I'm just curious; have no axe to grind with regards to the necessity of moderation)?
posted by zomg at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2011


So out of curiosity, and relating back to the theme of several metadiscussions lately, can it be revealed how much moderation 'got done' in that thread? Were there many comments flagged and/or removed (I'm just curious; have no axe to grind with regards to the necessity of moderation)?

I had the thread open in a browser window most of yesterday and continually checked it; I didn't see any comments that were deleted or modified or anything.
posted by downing street memo at 11:39 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not "devoid of atheists" peace, though.

Atheists aren't the problem.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:50 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are several atheists in that thread and none of them has been in any way problematic.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:08 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charlie Brown: "Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

Linus: "Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please."

Linus: "And I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and See. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer..."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:30 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I did a very similar Metatalk a couple months ago. I think it would be cool to have a Wiki page of good posts on controversial topics. I also think it's possible that at least wiith respect to religion, the tone of Metafilter has changed quite a bit in the last couple years.

Good discussions happen on good posts. Mefi is at its best when it's "Hey, look at this interesting thing I found," not "this is very important and I am very important for telling you about it."
posted by roll truck roll at 12:36 PM on December 21, 2011


I was bummed that no one wanted to talk about the new Perrotta book. It was relevant!
posted by COBRA! at 12:37 PM on December 21, 2011


At the risk of seeming to attempt to moderate my own post here, and at the additonal risk of presuming to speak on charred husk's behalf, I believe that in saying "not 'devoid of atheists' kind of peace', c.h. was attempting to prevent people from assuming that he meant only religious discussions without atheists participating could go peacefully.

As it turns out, there were a few self-identified atheists participating in the discussion.
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:39 PM on December 21, 2011


Good discussions happen on good posts.

Sometimes bad discussions happen on good posts too. This wasn't one of those times, but the quality of the post content is definitely not the sole determinant of whether the thread goes well.

The determining factor is whether people treat each other well.
posted by Miko at 12:43 PM on December 21, 2011


Atheists aren't the problem.

The great thing about this thread is that it's pointing out there wasn't a problem at all.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:43 PM on December 21, 2011


I didn't post on that thread (not that I am a fan of the Left Behind books because I certainly am not) but as a believer in the inerrancy of scripture .....well I doubt the thread would have gone as well.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:49 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought that did go pretty well. It's sort of out in the weeds now but still civil and positive.
posted by valkyryn at 1:00 PM on December 21, 2011


Ipsifendus: " I believe that in saying "not 'devoid of atheists' kind of peace', c.h. was attempting to prevent people from assuming that he meant only religious discussions without atheists participating could go peacefully."

That's exactly it. My point was that despite so many people who gripe that "atheists ruin religion threads!", there were plenty there and things went swimmingly. Hence, as BP stated, atheists aren't the problem. Threadshitters are the problem, as I pointed out in the nearby atheist post where a "smug atheist" comment get deleted.
posted by charred husk at 1:42 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


BTW, by "smug atheist" I mean that someone made a comment about atheists being smug. It usually has the same threadshitting power as "invisible sky wizard".
posted by charred husk at 1:55 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought that did go pretty well. It's sort of out in the weeds now but still civil and positive.

But the weeds! They're so fun!

Agreed at how pleasant and interesting the thread has been. Thanks to everyone who's been participating!
posted by verb at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2011


I wanna be an invisible sky wizard. The best I can manage is an inconspicuous guy with a window seat fumbling through a card trick.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:14 PM on December 21, 2011


can it be revealed how much moderation 'got done' in that thread?

5 comments with 5 flags total. No deletions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:53 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty cool.
posted by zomg at 3:03 PM on December 21, 2011


Good thread. Good, intelligent discussion of the subject. Not derailed. I think it's nice that this was singled out for attention, in part because it's a thread that is worth reading.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:10 PM on December 21, 2011


I did note the thread because I wanted (when I have more time) to read the links, but now I see I will have to read the thread as well. Thanks for letting me know it is Must-Read-MeFi.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:32 PM on December 21, 2011


I didn't even go into that thread because a few months ago I came across and read some of Clark's posts on dominion theology, then saw the whole Left Behind project, took a look at it, was overwhelmed by its scope, picked almost at random a few entries to read, did so, and then bookmarked the site with the intention of returning and possibly starting from the beginning. Of course, I never did.

It's hard for me to understand what there's to talk about in the thread if one hasn't read those books or read a substantial portion of Slactivist's discussion of them. Taking a look at the thread, I see that really the discussion is about the stuff that people should know first in order to have a discussion about the thread's topic. (Not that the discussion is framed this way, but that's what the thread really is.) Which is okay, I guess, though it's kind of a shame in my opinion.

I've only scanned the thread and read portions of some of the comments, but from what I've read, I can't really go along with the claim that this thread is a kind of positive demonstration of anything about MeFi and religion and discourse. This thread is exceptional because the post created conditions that encouraged it to be exceptional. It's sufficiently specialized that, with regard to participation, it appealed to a very limited subset of mefites. It was framed in such a way as to not appeal to people whose interest would be piqued merely by a mention of Evangelicals, the Left Behind books, or the like.

And then the discussion itself quickly became very theological in character. And, something I think perhaps the non-Evangelicals and others may not appreciate, is that "theology" is very often as alienating to Evangelicals as it is to non-theists. So the only people left are the people who have a very intellectualized interest in the conjunction of the theology and socioreligious history implicit in the post and the discussion. That's going to be a group more like-minded than otherwise, and more importantly, sharing the same discursive/intellectual sensibilities, even when beliefs are wildly divergent. This is a context in which people have really good, reasonable, and respectful conversations pretty much effortlessly.

It's much, much more difficult to do so when people's sensibilities, discursive styles, and emotional investments are both very diverse and often at cross-purposes. And that's what happens in the more typical threads involving religion here (and elsewhere).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:50 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's hard for me to understand what there's to talk about in the thread if one hasn't read those books or read a substantial portion of Slactivist's discussion of them.

Well. To be fair, those were the linked pages in the post. Figuring out how to frame discussions such that positive discussion is encouraged and can flourish is an important part of MetaFilter. The mods sometimes kill threads because they're framed in a flame-baity way just because it's hard to do well with some topics.

So, yes. The framing of the original post was such that it didn't automatically turn the thread into a battlefield. That seems like a good thing, and something worth pointing out and encouraging.
posted by verb at 7:55 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps we should have more specialized discussions that are a pleasure to read and fewer general discussions that digress into the same axegrinding that we've seen many times before.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:21 AM on December 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is a context in which people have really good, reasonable, and respectful conversations pretty much effortlessly.

I see what you're saying and agree that people do, and that people who are able to take this larger and more abstract view can easily have a great old time discussing points of theology and history and society, but on MetaFilter even these have tended to derail. That's what's nice about this thread - it didn't.

There have been complaints that it was impossible to have even these kinds of discussions in the past. Someone in one religion-related MetaTalk thread or other over the past couple years said something like "well, you people always say you want to have these highfalutin theological discussions, so why don't you just have them already and get on with it?" And the response was that it was impossible to get them, because those inclined toward them would just bail out when it got rude and defaulted to the same argument: whether religious activities of any kind are acceptable in contemporary society.

So this thread is an example of what one of those theo-societal-historical discussions looks like when everyone can refrain from saying "your ideas are BS and you don't belong here" to those coming from another perspective.
posted by Miko at 5:29 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, something I think perhaps the non-Evangelicals and others may not appreciate, is that "theology" is very often as alienating to Evangelicals as it is to non-theists.

True, and don't I know it. There's a reason I don't go to the church I grew up in anymore. But if you'll notice, this fact is the focus of a critique that Clark makes with some frequency, and something I discussed in-thread.

But it's also kind of weird. It makes complete sense for an atheist or non-theist to be "alienated" by theological discussions. The fact that it's true isn't even all that interesting, because the explanation is obvious. Evangelicals, on the other hand, might be expected to have an interest in theology, and the fact that they tend not to be is more than a bit counter-intuitive, and thus significantly more interesting.

It's sufficiently specialized that, with regard to participation, it appealed to a very limited subset of mefites.

I fail to see why this is a problem. In my experience, MetaFilter is at its best when threads attract those people most qualified to discuss the subject matter. Sort of general-interest threads can occasionally come interesting, but the fact that just about anyone can jump right in with an opinion which is just as nuanced and thought-through as anyone else suggests to me that the subject in question is either fairly shallow, or that we simply don't have any experts ready to hand. Neither of those options is awesome. But on a few occasions, someone will post something that a smattering of MeFites do have significant expertise about, and we get discussions like this one, or explanations like this or this.

It's a big site. Sometimes I find that it's best enjoyed by sitting back and let the people who know what they're talking about have at it. If you think the thread in question didn't have general appeal, maybe that's a feature, not a bug.
posted by valkyryn at 6:04 AM on December 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm liking this thread, and the other two thread as well.

The cynic in me pops up and points out that we've had great threads on both religion and non-theistic philosophy in the past. Metafilter can, on rare occasions, have civil and insightful discussions about these issues.

In most cases though, it won't. So valkyryn is a braver person than I am.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:56 AM on December 22, 2011


"So this thread is an example of what one of those theo-societal-historical discussions looks like when everyone can refrain from saying 'your ideas are BS and you don't belong here' to those coming from another perspective."

Ah. Well, that's awesome, then. I hope no one thinks that I don't think it's great that that thread proved to be a really good discussion. I am.

Not having been here the last four years, I wasn't aware that there was a sense that even smaller, more specialized religion threads were always awful, too. Religious topics tended to go bad back then, but certainly not always.

"Perhaps we should have more specialized discussions that are a pleasure to read and fewer general discussions that digress into the same axegrinding that we've seen many times before."

But shouldn't the hope/aim be that somehow those general discussions could be made better, too?

"If you think the thread in question didn't have general appeal, maybe that's a feature, not a bug."

I don't think it's a bug! Those are my favorite posts, really. I mean, this is a big part of why I don't like newsfilter and never have. MeFi is not, for me, a place I come to to find people who don't know much talking about stuff that everyone is talking about everywhere.

My point was only that the thread wasn't some proof-of-concept that religious threads could, in general, be civil and productive because it's not really representative of the average MeFi post on religious topics. But, as Miko points out, the "concept" was other than what I thought it was—that MeFi could do any religious posts civilly and productively. So that's good.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2011


But shouldn't the hope/aim be that somehow those general discussions could be made better, too?

Yes! But think of it as reclaiming occupied territory from the scourge of Flame Wars. Establishing a beachhead in the special-interest threads is useful...
posted by verb at 7:19 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, showing how not to do it...

Counterexamples are nice.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:53 AM on December 22, 2011


Bet you the one that survives still won't go that well.
posted by zarq at 8:06 AM on December 22, 2011


I've been reading this "metafilter" for a long time now, and as I am an arrogant, loudmouth asshole with no social skills or joy in life - and also I have syphillis and I'm a drunk - I'd like to jot down my unique perspective on the history of the MetaFilter Flame Wars.

Firstly, you'll no doubt agree that every MeFi and/or MeTa thread concerning in any way the topics of religion, abortion, Apple v Microsoft v Linux, deceased persons, living persons, politics, race, obesity, gender, philosophy, science, art, puppies, kittens or words has ended in a frightening "flame war" aka "train-wreck" aka "thread-toilet".

Millions of users died by reading those threads. Most of them died when another user "thread shat" i.e. went over to their house and defecated on their face. Each death is, of course, directly attributable to mathowie for starting this website, but that's another comment (please vote #1 quidnunc kid in 2012).

The result of the MetaFilter Flame Wars was that all topics are now banned on MetaFilter, because words can and do kill. I once read a word: it killed me. I am now dead, thanks to MetaFilter.

I don't know how we can possibly survive as a web-based community now, given the potential of horrible word-death that stalks our every waking moment. However, I do think that banning everyone would be a good start. I should point out, however, that if you read this comment and die, I cannot accept legal liabililty. Because I am also dead. I think I mentioned that in the paragraph above. In summary then: vote #1 quidnunc corpse in 2012 and never have to read again.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:15 AM on December 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I only believe the part about syphilis.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:17 AM on December 22, 2011


What about "drunk"???
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vote #1 quidnunc corpse - stiff competition for mathowie in 2012!
posted by Abiezer at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2011


How can a corpse be drunk? You haven't thought this out at all.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:25 AM on December 22, 2011


You haven't thought this out at all

WOAH WOAH WOAH - is this a "rule"?

I was NOT made aware of this requirement when I received my membership pack.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:27 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This thread should be more specifically about Valkyryn. He is one of the main reasons I joined mefi after lurking. I am a flaming atheist and his contributions are incredible, especially given his minority position here. I wish I could display so much grace and objectivity when facing superior (and sometimes condescending) opposing numbers.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:29 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


READ A BOOK jesus you kids.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:29 AM on December 22, 2011


This thread should be more specifically about Valkyryn

Oh yeah, "Vote #1 Valkyryn, he's incredible and nice and graceful".

PFFT. Get a REAL campaign slogan. He isn't dead OR drunk!!!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:34 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


He isn't dead OR drunk!!!

Gimme a minute...

posted by valkyryn at 8:35 AM on December 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


This man is drunk. Dead Drunk.

Dead right.
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 AM on December 22, 2011


Body? There's no body-- nobody in there.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:37 AM on December 22, 2011


"Bet you the one that survives still won't go that well."

It's too late to take that bet—the thread so far provides some clues—but I'm pretty sure that it will be okay. I could be wrong. The post itself is framed in a much less inflammatory fashion and I don't think the song is that controversial, for that matter. Someone could do what the other poster did, and present their views on the non-airing of the song in a very provocative way and it could go downhill fast. But...somehow I don't think all of that will happen.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:58 AM on December 22, 2011


How can a corpse be drunk? You haven't thought this out at all.

A corpse can be drunk. You just have to blend it smoothly enough.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:09 AM on December 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Now I want tortilla chips.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:11 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You just have to blend it smoothly enough

This comment was voted "worst answer" in a certain infamous AskMe thread.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:27 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gimme a minute...

Ah, the other advantage of being Reformed instead of Baptist.
posted by Jahaza at 10:26 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the spirit of the holidays, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to this piece by Charles P. Pierce, featuring a combination of Birther nuttiness and a bunny wearing a pancake on its head.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:40 AM on December 22, 2011


It's a big site. Sometimes I find that it's best enjoyed by sitting back and let the people who know what they're talking about have at it.

My sincere wish is that this will someday happen in a thread about contemporary literary criticism.
posted by escabeche at 3:59 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


whenever i read a comment by tqk i think i have perhaps plateaued. How do i get to the next level of Mefi-rim?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:29 PM on December 22, 2011


I consider getting a favorite by the quidnunc kid to be a merit badge.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:31 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never gotten one :C
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:31 AM on December 23, 2011


That's the first time I've ever seen a Wilford Brimley emoticon. Awesome.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 5:29 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


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