what's the deal? March 22, 2012 6:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm uncomfortable with this deletion, the post seems fairly "just the facts", albeit with one grammar meh, the comments were good thus far, etc.
posted by jeffburdges to MetaFilter-Related at 6:02 PM (121 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

That post was Prime Grade-a OutrageFilter and I am comfortable with the deletion. The story, if true, is horrible, but it's pretty thin, evidence-wise to be the starting point for another Catholic Church pile-on. The poster could have at least mentioned some of the story's gaps and inconsistencies or linked to a more restrained read rather than presenting it all as already-established fact.
posted by Cortes at 6:10 PM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


There are certainly posts where the poster must go beyond "just the facts" to get everyone started off on the right foot, but we're capable of discussing events that took place 50 year ago like adults whatever the presentation.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:10 PM on March 22, 2012


The comments were not good. We axed a few of them and were still managing flags on the "Well what do you expect with the Catholic Church/religion?" aspect of it. We were on the fence about it watching the flags for a bit but decided that babysitting an "open season on Catholics/religion" thread wasn't what we wanted to do tonight, or stick taz with overnight.

I honestly don't know if there's a way to make a post about the forcible castration of kids by the church that won't turn into this sort of thread, but I'd like to see someone try, not just stick with the one we have and have it suck. MeFi is not, at its core, a news site and if people want to make a post about something going on in the news especially something horrible that has come to light I'd like to see it just somehow be more made for a MeFi audience and not just "here's the rage inducing headline about the giant institution we love to hate together"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:11 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


but we're capable of discussing events that took place 50 year ago like adults whatever the presentation.

We are certainly capable of it.

That's different than guaranteed, though.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:12 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's hard to imagine a different phrasing of that post that would be more neutral or less inflammatory. It's more or less a simple restating of the NPR story, an news outlet not known for sensationalism. The labor-intensiveness of tending such a post may be a legitimate reason for not wanting to keep it around, but I'm not sure what the OP could have done differently.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:16 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looking at your comment again, Jessamyn, I guess what you're saying is that it wasn't so much how the post was presented but what it was presenting, which is essentially a number of news stories repeating essentially the same set of facts about the limited amount known at this point. In that case, I guess the ingredient which might make this a better post is time for more in depth reporting to occur.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:21 PM on March 22, 2012


I get that there are no hard-and-fast rules, &c., but just from a quality-of-discourse point of view, I don't think it was right that that post was deleted but the one about Twitter Sexism Argument that Everybody Interprets as Confirming their Preconceptions #8,646,239 was kept up.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:23 PM on March 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


jessamyn: "I honestly don't know if there's a way to make a post about the forcible castration of kids by the church that won't turn into this sort of thread, but I'd like to see someone try, not just stick with the one we have and have it suck. "

I spent some time trying to create one this evening and finally gave up. I don't think it will be possible to create a thread that won't completely flame out into a Church hatefest until (if?) more information is released. It's the Catholic Church, child abuse, secrecy, castration and sexual assault all rolled into one story. The perfect storm.
posted by zarq at 6:26 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good deletion reason: the links are light on evidence, and there might be a better post on the same topic once more facts come to light.

Bad deletion reason: the post gives information that reflects poorly on a religion, which will lead to comments that are critical of that religion.
posted by John Cohen at 6:26 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


forcible castration of kids by the church

I believe the first adjective is redundant.
posted by Trurl at 6:27 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


When the story broke here almost a week ago, I kept trying to make an FPP that wasn't outragefilter. I tried historical, sociological, political framings. Everything led to "bad people did bad thing and bad thing is bad" with a generous helping of "and Catholic people = bad people".

Couldn't fix it.
posted by likeso at 6:27 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah having multiple links to what is mostly the same story isn't that much different from a single link to one story. I'm sure there's backstory and other stuff that might help people contextualize this so that it's not "Wow those guys SUCK and by the way so does all religion"

But really, it's just tiring the way threads about anything concerning religion have the same people showing up basically making their comments about how this is why all religion is bad and blah blah. We are mostly an atheist/agnostic group of mods but I find that sort of kneejerkism unhelpful for MeFi discussions, regardless of its actual truth value and it's tiresome watching the same people wade in and then the same people start fights with those people and the resultant flagging and MeTa complaints. Ultimately we had to decide if we wanted to argue in MeTa or have people arguing in the thread and then also arguing in MeTa. If people want to use this space to maybe help think about how post on religion can not go so damned badly, that would be great.

I believe the first adjective is redundant.

If you believe that no children can give consent, yes. However there are people who choose to be castrated, whatever you may think about that decision.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:29 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you believe that no children can give consent, yes

Legally speaking, children are incapable of giving informed consent to the use of their genitals - let alone the removal of them.
posted by Trurl at 6:31 PM on March 22, 2012


jessamyn: "If people want to use this space to maybe help think about how post on religion can not go so damned badly, that would be great."

Posts that focus on religious tolerance, education, interesting historical events and/or acts of altruism have a better chance of surviving. No guarantees, though.
posted by zarq at 6:35 PM on March 22, 2012


I believe the first adjective is redundant.


*cough*
posted by R. Schlock at 6:40 PM on March 22, 2012


However there are people who choose to be castrated, whatever you may think about that decision.

Can someone make a post about this? I would except I'm skeeved out whenever someone takes a knife to genitals. As an incentive, there are probably a bunch of favorites to be had.
posted by karathrace at 6:42 PM on March 22, 2012


"… the post seems fairly "just the facts" …"

Not when you compare it to the details given in Cortes's link.
  • "forcible castrations" != "Court papers say that the castration occurred at Heithuis’ own request."
  • "young boys" != "Mr. Heithuis, 20 at the time, was transferred to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St Joseph Hospital in Veghel, where he was castrated [in 1956]."
  • "cure them of homosexuality" != "The claim that Heithuis was castrated as a “punishment” is lifted from a personal email from Rogge to Dohmen. It is pure speculation."
Pure OutrageFilter, nothing more. Good deletion.
posted by Pinback at 6:43 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


However there are people who choose to be castrated, whatever you may think about that decision.

But Jessamyn, that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Even children that were used as castrati did not do it of their own volition. I've been keeping out of religion threads for a while now. And I knew this one would be killed.

But your comment is a non sequitur in this case. IMHO.
posted by Splunge at 6:46 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pure OutrageFilter, nothing more. Good deletion.

I don't really know what that means. This was the same reason that was touted when the Trayvon Martin story was first deleted. It wasn't deleted later on when there was still no more information to be had.
posted by karathrace at 6:47 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It means "this is not presented without bias as a set of facts in order to provoke discussion - it is presented with bias as a set of facts in order to provoke outrage."
posted by Pinback at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't really know what that means.

Any post where the premise is "isn't this outrageous" and the comments are "yes it is".
posted by smackfu at 6:52 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


(And it's bad for MetaFilter just like it's bad for Fox News.)
posted by smackfu at 6:52 PM on March 22, 2012


Or it could be presented simply as fact and still provoke outrage, simply because the facts are themselves outrageous.
posted by Splunge at 6:53 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


But Jessamyn, that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

Sure, I was responding to Trurl who seemed to be making a sideways nitpicky language comment, that's all. There are people who opt for castration as adults for other reasons too. It's uncommon but it happens. Maybe I'll make a post about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:54 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


However there are people who choose to be castrated, whatever you may think about that decision.

Can someone make a post about this? I would except I'm skeeved out whenever someone takes a knife to genitals. As an incentive, there are probably a bunch of favorites to be had.
posted by karathrace at 6:42 PM on March 22 [+] [!]


Just checked. No posts about the Hijra. Now that's surprising.
posted by likeso at 6:54 PM on March 22, 2012


Any post where the premise is "isn't this outrageous" and the comments are "yes it is".

So any mention of police brutality, murder, injustice should be deleted? I don't think so. Sounds like a word with "filter" used as a suffix to give it validity on this website. But when you think about it, its just a word with "filter" at the end of it.

Endfilter.
posted by karathrace at 6:57 PM on March 22, 2012


jessamyn: "But Jessamyn, that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

Sure, I was responding to Trurl who seemed to be making a sideways nitpicky language comment, that's all. There are people who opt for castration as adults for other reasons too. It's uncommon but it happens. Maybe I'll make a post about it.
"

We'll have to agree to disagree here as I read it differently that you. I'll bow out of this thread now.
posted by Splunge at 6:58 PM on March 22, 2012


than^
posted by Splunge at 6:58 PM on March 22, 2012


Just checked. No posts about the Hijra. Now that's surprising.

From the link:
Reportedly, few have genital modifications, although some certainly do, and some consider nirwaan ("castrated") hijras to be the "true" hijras.

But still.
posted by karathrace at 6:59 PM on March 22, 2012


I dislike the term outragefilter because it suggests the problem lies with the outrage when afaik the problem always lies with the conflict between the outraged and the outraged at the outrage.

I believe one makes such posts fly by "distracting" the readers from the outrage long enough that reasonable conversation occurs, thus giving everyone else real discussion, and forcing the anti-outragers to look harder for the outragers, or visa versa.

There were various reasonable informative comments here that I felt made the thread sensible, presumably that's post culling by the mods, so I've no solid case, but hey.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:07 PM on March 22, 2012


I dislike the term outragefilter because it suggests the problem lies with the outrage

But the problem does lie with the outrage, doesn't it? Simple outrage is not at all conducive to interesting discussion.

A post that starts from a particular news item on, say, police brutality but then situates it in some broader context, or offers contrasting points of view, or shows it as it intersects with some other phenomenon--sounds like a great post to me. A post with a link to five articles about someone who got beaten by the police, not so much.
posted by Cortes at 7:15 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem with this case is that it is outrageous, and there doesn't seem anywhere to go in a discussion. In my attempts, I couldn't find distancing language or any angle that resulted in anything intellectual. Maybe in time, for someone with emotional discipline, it could be included in a post about government investigating committees?
posted by likeso at 7:17 PM on March 22, 2012


But the problem does lie with the outrage, doesn't it? Simple outrage is not at all conducive to interesting discussion.

It's no more or less conducive to interesting discussion than stuff that is just posted because it is funny, or heartwarming, or sad.

The problem is anger makes people post stupider than most other emotions so you don't quite get to that discussion. If people keep control though, there are a lot of interesting discussions to be had.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:23 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was responding to Trurl who seemed to be making a sideways nitpicky language comment

Just emphasizing the point that you don't see a lot of kids volunteering for this.
posted by Trurl at 7:44 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


zarq It's the Catholic Church, child abuse, secrecy, castration and sexual assault all rolled into one story. The perfect storm.

And just before bedtime for me. It would have been nice to have some idea what the deleted post was about, e.g., "Why was the post about the Catholic Church castration scandal deleted?" but I clicked it anyway. Have we ever discussed trigger warnings? Because it would have been nice to have one here.

I can scan headlines and see "abuse" and "Catholic Church" and have no problem. And I should have just exited the page once I saw what the FPP was about. But sometimes I feel like I have to know and that I will be strong enough to deal with the fallout, and so I read some of the links.

Big mistake.

So now I popped a few prescription pills and will probably be able to sleep tonight. Just waiting (and hoping) for that nice, numb feeling to wash over me, and that I do not have any nightmares tonight.
posted by Francophone at 7:50 PM on March 22, 2012


Have we ever discussed trigger warnings?

Users can add trigger warnings if they want to and some do. Most don't, and from a mod perspective we're not going to start adding them (unless you ask that one be added to your post). We won't add them to others' posts which is slightly differently from how we deal with NSFW indicators. Unless we think there is something significantly disturbing behind a disguised-sort of link, we stay out of this sort of thing and expect people to self-police though we ask people to keep graphic sex and violence descriptions below the fold when at all possible.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This was a tough judgement call but I think that jessamyn made the right decision. The principle she outlines above is one of the things which stops Metafilter turning into Boingboing etc. and I think that MeFi distinction, amongst others, is a positive one
posted by Bwithh at 8:04 PM on March 22, 2012


I honestly don't know if there's a way to make a post about the forcible castration of kids by the church that won't turn into this sort of thread,

A post discussing the history of tolerance in the Netherlands (first to legal same size marriages in 2001 and some other things), along with why that is might do the trick. Mention the Catholic castrations and dutch attitudes towards homosexuals at the time and finish it all up with an op ed or two about the future of Dutch tolerance (especially in regards to Islam and durgs) and you're golden.

It'll still be tense, but the key is not to focus on this one event. Put it in the context of Dutch history and its future. Focus on the Catholic Church and its probably doomed.

Possible links to use:
http://weblogs.nrc.nl/discussion/2009/07/02/which-way-forward-for-dutch-tolerance-on-drugs/
http://www.humanityinaction.org/knowledgebase/315-the-dutch-myth-of-tolerance
http://essay.utwente.nl/61190/
http://religionresearch.org/martijn/2009/07/14/the-politics-of-dutch-tolerance/
http://religionresearch.org/martijn/2009/07/14/the-politics-of-dutch-tolerance/
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/05/13/the-limits-of-live-and-let-live.html
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Terrible deletion. We can't discuss something outrageous because it's outrage-filter?

"On the other hand, Mr Hitler was a keen folk-dancer".
posted by unSane at 8:27 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


However there are people who choose to be castrated, whatever you may think about that decision.

Freud thought about it a lot.
posted by Brian B. at 8:32 PM on March 22, 2012


We can't discuss something outrageous because it's outrage-filter?

You can discuss it, just do it somewhere else. Metafilter is not the appropriate outlet for your social-outrage-of-the-day venting.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:49 PM on March 22, 2012


...the comments were good thus far?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:03 PM on March 22, 2012


I bet there's a few people who are confused at what they are reading here because they have no experience with religious denial.
posted by Brian B. at 9:14 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just looked back at my couple of comments in that thread. Given that the deletion of this post rescued me from an afternoon of outrage and venting that I was clearly building up to, I must yet again bow to the superior wisdom of the mods.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:17 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I honestly don't know if there's a way to make a post about the forcible castration of kids by the church that won't turn into this sort of thread,

I honestly don't know why anyone would think it shouldn't turn into that sort of thread. Metafilter's squeamishness about anything that might turn into criticism or mockery of religion - no matter how well-well-deserved - is tiresome.

However there are people who choose to be castrated, whatever you may think about that decision.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:29 AM on March 23


As are eye-wateringly pungent red herrings intended to make people look away from the awkward thing we don't want a Metafilter post about.
posted by Decani at 10:59 PM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I honestly don't know if there's a way to make a post about the forcible castration of kids by the church that won't turn into this sort of thread, but I'd like to see someone try

The problem with this approach is that there's no way for your users to know how to post about something that is true and also truly horrific. Your usual standard is that posts should be substantiated by facts and absent axe-grinding - so someone makes a post comprised completely of news sources and you delete it because you don't want to deal with the commenter outcry? Of course that pisses a good poster off and they either self-exile or they end up getting banned by the mods.

If you'd prefer that people not post about controversial religious issues on your site, please just say so from the get go.
posted by SakuraK at 11:25 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know why I'm still surprised that there are people who think Metafilter shies away from being critical of religion. I often feel that in order to comment here I have to put away the part of me that houses the religious self. In general, I see far more denigration of religion here than I do of atheism. I'm perfectly willing to accept that this may be confirmation bias. What I'm not willing to accept is the contention that Metafilter is somehow overly protective of religion.
posted by bardophile at 12:13 AM on March 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


If you'd prefer that people not post about controversial religious issues on your site, please just say so from the get go.

I believe the issue is controversial religious issues that will likely lead to outrage. "castrations of young boys in the 1950's to cure them of homosexuality" -- I'd say that outrage is beyond likely, verging on inevitable.

good deletion.
posted by philip-random at 12:15 AM on March 23, 2012


Calling out jessamyn IS pretty ballzy ++
posted by TangerineGurl at 12:55 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


We should castrate the OP.
posted by telstar at 1:33 AM on March 23, 2012


TangerineGurl: Calling out jessamyn IS pretty ballzy ++

You say ballzy, I say dickish. Either way, things might get bloody in a thread about castration.
posted by Kattullus at 1:53 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I vote good deletion. That thread was going to go only one way, an FPP with a more historical perspective and more depth may have stood more chance of a good reception.
posted by arcticseal at 3:06 AM on March 23, 2012


I don't even see how that post was a "controversial religious issue." Do you expect it would be followed by an evenhanded discussion in which some people could argue that there were perfectly good reasons for it? "Controversial" implies that people take sides, like abortion or gay marriage. This is more like DailyKos flamebait material.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:29 AM on March 23, 2012


Your usual standard is that posts should be substantiated by facts and absent axe-grinding - so someone makes a post comprised completely of news sources

Because the sources were all rehashings of the same newspaper article and completely absent, were the articles that have noted the doubts about the story and the axe-grindyness of the stories.

Whether that was intentional or accidental, it makes for not a great post.
posted by Jahaza at 6:22 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The poster could have at least mentioned some of the story's gaps and inconsistencies or linked to a more restrained read rather than presenting it all as already-established fact.

An apology for castration by Pat Buchanan's Boswell published in The Telegraph may be the only source on Earth less credible on this topic than the Catholic Church itself. Though, props to The Telegraph this time. They didn't sandwich the column between Hitler or tits.

(Why, just last year The Telegraph revealed the secret "sex hormone plan to feminise Hitler.")
posted by octobersurprise at 6:33 AM on March 23, 2012


Maaaan... my last comment, when I made it, having just woken up and before I'd had coffee, was a really funny joke in my head... looking at it a few hours later it's just sort of incomprehensibly assholish. Sorry.
posted by Kattullus at 6:43 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


An apology for castration by Pat Buchanan's Boswell published in The Telegraph may be the only source on Earth less credible on this topic than the Catholic Church itself. Though, props to The Telegraph this time. They didn't sandwich the column between Hitler or tits.

Did you look at the actual post then? The first link of the post is to The Telegraph.
posted by Jahaza at 6:55 AM on March 23, 2012


This shouldn't even be a debate. Here's how this reasoning goes:

Q. What is MeFi for?
A. The best of the web

Q. Is it horrible that a church may or may not have castrated boys?
A. Yes

Q. Is that fact the best of the web or is it just another thing that is horrible about the world?
A. The latter.

Q. Should I post it on MeFi?
A. No.

How is this even a debate?
posted by spicynuts at 6:59 AM on March 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


It's a proxy for the age-old newsfilter debate. If you are on the newsfilter side, then "important" outragefilter stuff should be posted because it is real news.
posted by smackfu at 7:10 AM on March 23, 2012


Is that fact the best of the web or is it just another thing that is horrible about the world?....How is this even a debate?

It's a debate when someone disagrees with you, not when you disagree with yourself. I'm reminded of Imelda Marcos, wife if dictator Ferdinand Marcos. She collected thousands of shoes and fancied herself a critic. She publicly condemned filmmakers who were often showing poverty and injustice in her country, and winning international awards for it, and she demanded instead they make happy films like they do in America.
posted by Brian B. at 7:18 AM on March 23, 2012


Did you look at the actual post then? The first link of the post is to The Telegraph.

So The Telegraph is debating the pros and cons of forced castration in its own pages? Well, that'll certainly bring in the traffic. Shame they couldn't have fit Hitler in there somewhere.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:30 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


How is this even a debate?

Because this moronic contretemps was allowed to stand.

It's feminist recreational outrage filter as opposed to religious recreational outrage filter.

I would have axed them both.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:38 AM on March 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would have axed them both.

To be honest, I probably would have also. The second one built up flags more slowly and didn't have as many lulzy "I'm going to lob this firebomb in here" early comments but upon reflection that thread turned into what we were hoping to avoid by axing the castration thread. "A bunch of people got angry on the internet" rarely makes for good MeFi threads, but sometimes what's going on is so unavoidably on-topic for here [that is there are a number of MeFi users aware of it or involved in it or the sites that it concerns] those threads seem more relevant somehow.

But yeah, agreeing with you after the fact.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:42 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, neither of us really liked that twitter thing, it was just less obviously a Thing on the face of it. I feel like retreading twitter drama is not really a great idea for a post in general, as much as I can sort of understand the appeal of something like storify used as a way to create more of a coherent narrative than "go read these twitters streams in order".
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:45 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter's squeamishness about anything that might turn into criticism or mockery of religion - no matter how well-well-deserved - is tiresome.

There are also some of us who feel like MetaFilter* is anything but squeamish about criticising and mocking religion. And that is tiresome also.

And yes, there is frustration and defensiveness, justified and otherwise, on both sides and aplenty. But I will bet that in the past, say, five years, there are a hell of a lot more comments on this site in the vein of "Invisible bearded sky dad! Christians always go like THIS, amirite?" than there are comments in the vein of "They said they were atheists? I mean, say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it's an ethos."

Particularly in America, it's certainly true that the broader culture is quite friendly toward (a misguided, incoherent, and wierdly sanitized form of) Christianity. And that means that atheists and religion-mockers (and non-Christians**, for that matter) will certainly feel at odds with the greater culture -- which includes MetaFilter. MetaFilter + the rest of America = certainly friendly to religion and especially friendly to (something resembling) Christianity. I think that MetaFilter on its own, though, is a lot less friendly to religion.

As a religious person, I'm not complaining about this. I think the mods do a good job keeping it reasonably respectful and I'm glad that this community is different to the broader culture. But your belief that this community is squeamish about criticising or mocking religion could not be further from my own.

* to the extent that there is "a MetaFilter" about which things like this can be said.
** a descriptive term definitely NOT meant to imply anything normative about Christianity or deficient about its referents.

posted by gauche at 8:45 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


You have to rotate your deletion every once in awhile. Otherwise, you get sunken-in spots, which is probably the reason you're uncomfortable.

Or maybe you should just invest in one of those new tempurpedic deletions?
posted by Eideteker at 8:54 AM on March 23, 2012


If you'd prefer that people not post about controversial religious issues on your site,

No one is saying that, though. These posts just need not be "Outrage of the Day". When posts have the "All right-thinking people will be appaled by this..." tone, it's not a good post.
posted by spaltavian at 9:02 AM on March 23, 2012


Those of you are essentially saying, "we're allowed to post crap links here so we should do that," should try to do better. Stop trying to ruin a public good.
posted by michaelh at 9:34 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing about outragefilter: is it going be a thread full of angry people turning on each other and pecking each other to death about minor disagreements and twisting another user's words to represent the position they really want to attack? This happens all the time. Every "Let's Everyone Get Good and Angry!" thread turns into a bloody cannibalfest. If people could act reasonably, there wouldn't really be an issue about deletions of this kind of post, because there would be no need to delete.

As it is, we try to encourage more light and less heat by asking that people not think of Metafilter as the place to come and have knife fights with each other about what's in the news today, and to take some care in compiling and framing news and politics posts to set the tone for reasonable discussion, not to editorialize, not to dig up the worst, most horrifying thing you can find and just drop it on the doorstep in order to "wake people up," and not to use the site as your personal blog or means of activism to get people to be as angry as possible about the stuff you're angry about.

People here are pretty closely aligned on most issues, generally, so people go into the rage posts raging, without any obvious local participant to clearly rage at, usually, and start picking apart each other's comments to ferret out the thing they can take offense at, or one or two people venture a different point of view and they become the Entire Focus of the thread, with everyone taking this great opportunity to shed rage in their direction, or two or three people who don't like each other get into their usual thing and go mano a mano, and someone is outraged that Metafilter allows user A to say what they said, and someone else is outraged because user B was an asshole, and user B is outraged that user C said something mean to them, and why does Metafilter allow this? It's outrageous! Why aren't those outrageous comments I don't like in the thread I am fighting in deleted?

And everybody is outraged when we delete outragefilter. It's just rage all the way down. If you want to make a post about a difficult topic, my advice is to just try to make a very careful, objective, even-handed post with good links, without the shock-value pull quotes and presentation, and more importantly, if you want to be able to discuss news and politics here, that you try as a participant to promote intelligent, rational discussion.

Otherwise, it's just people trying to top each other at being more outraged, or expressing their outrage in more outrageous ways, and the outcome becomes tediously predictable. Basically, we have a lot of members, almost all of them are outraged about something, and we don't need to be the de facto outlet for absorbing all that.

So... just... as a poster, try to be a mensch. As a commenter, try to be a mensch. This is how to shave down the number of topics that "Metafilter doesn't do well." Metafilter can do everything well, and there's pretty much nothing that shouldn't be up for posting and discussion, if people choose that.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:02 AM on March 23, 2012 [19 favorites]


Thanks, taz. I believe the above statement should be required reading for this site as well as the rest of the internet.
posted by blurker at 10:37 AM on March 23, 2012


It wouldn't help, blurker; there are always going to be people who say, "well, okay, but this situation is different".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on March 23, 2012


Aww, way to harsh my mellow.
posted by blurker at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2012


What I'm not willing to accept is the contention that Metafilter is somehow overly protective of religion.

Consider the degree of rhetorical hostility permitted towards the Republican Party next to that permitted towards the equally unpopular Roman Catholic Church.

Though, it's pretty much open season on the Church of Scientology - so it would be more accurate to say "overly protective of mainstream religion".
posted by Trurl at 1:14 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


If it had been revealed that, say, the Ku Klux Klan had carried out forcible castrations of black boys in the 1950s, would that FPP have been allowed to stand? Or indeed, as Trurl suggests, if the Church of Scientology had done so?

The Catholic Church gets a pass because why again?
posted by unSane at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2012


Consider the degree of rhetorical hostility permitted towards the Republican Party

FWIW I think anytime this turns into 'Republicans are terrible people'-type stuff, it's also pretty shitty.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:20 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW I think anytime this turns into 'Republicans are terrible people'-type stuff, it's also pretty shitty.

And in fairness to the mods, they regularly delete political posts where there's not much to say except "those fucking fuckers". And no one feels that the GOP is thereby "getting a pass".
posted by Trurl at 1:23 PM on March 23, 2012


Consider the degree of rhetorical hostility permitted towards the Republican Party next to that permitted towards the equally unpopular Roman Catholic Church.

I don't think that's a good measure of whether MetaFilter is "protective" of religion. I also have the impression that the mods have to monitor political threads pretty closely and would just as soon have our political rhetoric take a turn for the temporate, as well.

If it had been revealed that, say, the Ku Klux Klan had carried out forcible castrations of black boys in the 1950s, would that FPP have been allowed to stand? Or indeed, as Trurl suggests, if the Church of Scientology had done so?

We've had all manner of threads deleted when somebody -- anybody -- does something shitty that makes people legitimately upset. Police brutality is the one that springs most readily to my own mind. I don't think you'd say that the police are getting a pass or that MetaFilter is a place that is deeply solicitous of goodwill of police officers and departments. Indeed in the diversity MeTa a couple weeks ago we had some folks saying that they feel like cops are personae non gratae around here.
posted by gauche at 1:24 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh for fuck's sake. Some people on this site are totally shitty/aggro/generalizing/combative about expressing their (otherwise in my biased just-a-person opinion understandable) dislike of the GOP or of specific politicians or organizations or entities, and that sucks and we try to rein it in where we're able to because we think that sucks. A larger group of folks are grumpy about that stuff but within reasonable or more grey area regions of behavior, which is less likely to produce active deletions and such but still is not something we like, and we have said so many times.

See basically exactly the same situation for religious stuff, whether generic religious belief or Christianity specifically or the Catholic church. See also people obsessing about various other personal hobbyhorses.

It's totally fine for folks to have negative opinions about stuff, and it's fine for them to express that in a productive way in contexts where it makes sense. It's not so okay for them to be really lousy about how they engage the subject, and enough lousiness in the same predictable ways gets frustrating to deal with. That goes for hurling slurs at Ann Coulter, it goes for shouting something like BOY RAPE in every thread that even mentions Catholicism, it goes for axegrinding about current Presidential administrations, it goes for a whole lot of things.

The idea the the Catholic Church gets a pass here or that there is any kind of organized effort to shield it specifically from criticism is absurd, to put it politely. And it's the sort of thing that gets said about any number of topics by different sets of people who feel that that topic is not sufficiently open for aggro behavior on the site or whatever, and it's basically equally tiring across the board.

That we live in a world where people cannot manage collectively and of their own volition to avoid being overtly shitty on any number of topics is a source of great frustration for me in general, but my ideal world keeps not manifesting so I make do and try to at least help this place not be completely terrible on any number of topics. We have no shortage of GRAR bullshit here as things stand now; there is no need to specifically set sights on any specific topic just to make sure there's enough additional GRAR delivered at it that no one can conceivably object that that topic isn't getting enough negative attention on Metafilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:30 PM on March 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


unSane: " The Catholic Church gets a pass because why again?"

They don't. Removing a post because it is likely to trigger unconstructive, unfocused outrage does not mean that the mods are protecting or (dis)approve of its content.

Check out VikingSword's activity, by searching for posts that include the word "Church." His posts are thoughtful and discussion provoking. And they tend to focus on stories that do not reflect positively on the Catholic Church, like their official position on gay marriage. He's had some posts deleted over the years. But the ones that have survived are usually excellent.
posted by zarq at 1:35 PM on March 23, 2012


So you'd have deleted the Ku Klux Klan post, is that what you're saying?
posted by unSane at 1:39 PM on March 23, 2012


it goes for axegrinding about current Presidential administrations

[looks around with an exaggerated air of innocence]
posted by Trurl at 1:41 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you'd have deleted the Ku Klux Klan post, is that what you're saying?

Show me a post that actually got made and that was the exact equivalent of this except somehow about the KKK instead of the Dutch Catholic Church and I will deal with it then. I can sure as shit tell you that there's a whole variety of potential "KKK did a shitty thing!" posts that would likely end up getting deleted, yes, but I'm not going to give a firm ruling on an imaginary post and I have very little patience today for "well prove you're not coddling x!" games.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:53 PM on March 23, 2012


I think that post should have stood, and I began reading this post with some harsh and denunciatory language tingling in my fingertips, but I no longer feel that would be appropriate, if, in fact, it ever is, here.

I think that story is 'best of the web', especially in a context which now must include the enormous and deeply disgusting backlash now building up in the Catholic Church against any further concessions about the sex abuse scandal:
In 2002, at the height of the outcry over the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests, the Archbishop of New York, Edward M. Egan, issued a letter to be read at Mass. In it, he offered an apology about the church’s handling of sex-abuse cases in New York and in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was previously posted.
...
Now, 10 years later and in retirement, Cardinal Egan has taken back his apology.

In a interview with Connecticut magazine published on the magazine’s Web site last week, a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

He said many more things in the interview, some of them seemingly at odds with the facts. He repeatedly denied that any sex abuse had occurred on his watch in Bridgeport. He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.) And he described the Bridgeport diocese’s handling of sex-abuse cases as “incredibly good.” ...
And though the Church denies it, clearly a coordinated nationwide campaign is being mounted to keep victims who have been silent until now from coming forward:
A group representing victims of clergy abuse is being targeted with subpoenas seeking two decades of emails, including possibly correspondence with lawyers.

The Roman Catholic Church has obtained five subpoenas in Kansas City and St. Louis for records held by the group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the New York Times reports. One subpoena seeks documents regarding the lawyer for four plaintiffs suing a priest based on recovered memories, as well as documents mentioning the priest and repressed memories. The aim is to learn whether the lawyer violated a gag order. The other subpoena also seeks repressed memory information.

Yeshiva law professor and victims advocate Marci Hamilton told the Times that the subpoenas are part of a campaign to silence SNAP. William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, viewed the action as part of a growing consensus by bishops “that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.”

A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops denied, however, that there was any national strategy to get more aggressive, the story says.
Nothing any Mefite has written that I've read has cast the Church in as bad a light as its own actions, simply and straightforwardly reported.
posted by jamjam at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did flag the post and think it should have been deleted, but I do feel the protectiveness can get a bit over the top sometimes. I had an entirely innocuous comment deleted recently, which was no big deal really, but it does make me think there is something to the point that in some cases the moderation is a bit over-zealous.

One of the things to keep in mind though, when complaining about not being sure what will or won't be deleted...is that something being deleted is not the end of the world and there are a million other places to discuss the topic. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try and make quality posts out of fear of deletion, but still posting here does require you accept that some stuff is going to be in the grey area.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:59 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


jamjam: "...especially in a context which now must include the enormous and deeply disgusting backlash now building up in the Catholic Church against any further concessions about the sex abuse scandal: "

Are you arguing that the post should have survived based on information that it didn't include?
posted by zarq at 2:03 PM on March 23, 2012


I have very little patience today for "well prove you're not coddling x!" games.

Eh, well, your level of patience is not really my problem. If you don't want to engage with this then maybe let one of the other mods do it and take a breather.

I'm not asking you or anyone else to prove anything or playing a game. I'm trying to clarify the differential treatment of one organisation over another because I believe there is (probably unintentional) leeway given to the Catholic Church and other organised religions because, y'know, tread carefully because you tread on so-and-so's dreams or something.

I don't believe for a second that the equivalent KKK post would have been deleted because (a) it's okay not to like the KKK and (b) you would have folk storming into Meta complaining about a racist deletion. Equally, I don't think the CoS post would have been deleted.

This story was an important and new datapoint in an ongoing narrative of child abuse which has been repeatedly discussed on MeFi. The post was well framed. If the deletion reason basically boils down to 'can't be arsed to deal with this frankly', then fair enough but MeFi is poorer for it.
posted by unSane at 2:41 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


you would have folk storming into Meta complaining about a racist deletion

Is that a thing?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:43 PM on March 23, 2012


This story was an important and new datapoint in an ongoing narrative of child abuse which has been repeatedly discussed on MeFi. The post was well framed.

Being "important" is not a criteria for a good post.

The post was not well framed, because when it was posted, there was already signifigant criticism of the reporting providing context for the claims in the reporting and that criticism was not included. Instead, we got about five different news organizations regurgitating one newspaper report.
posted by Jahaza at 2:44 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you believe that the Catholic Church can be substituted without remainder for the Klan, you are of course welcome to believe that, but surely you cannot be surprised to find that others -- even others antagonistic to the Church -- do not share that belief. It's pretty unfair of you to insinuate that the mods fail to act in accordance to your belief on this issue out of some kind of incomprehensible sensitivity to the feelings of some unnamed third parties.
posted by gauche at 2:47 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, zarq, I'm not.

I think context for almost all posts is, and can only be primarily implicit.

I saw that post last night and couldn't decide whether or not to say anything about the backlash against victims, but I probably would have this morning, upon reflection.
posted by jamjam at 2:48 PM on March 23, 2012


If you believe that the Catholic Church can be substituted without remainder for the Klan, you are of course welcome to believe that, but surely you cannot be surprised to find that others -- even others antagonistic to the Church -- do not share that belief.

You're making my point for me.

If you'd delete one and not the other then clearly you have different standards for KKK and RC church.
posted by unSane at 2:52 PM on March 23, 2012


Other pairs of "bad" things Metafilter has different standards for:

Nazis and Republicans
tsunamis and mild earthquakes
Hitler and Thatcher
posted by Jahaza at 2:57 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Serial killers and that thing where you're using a letter opener and accidentally slice through the fold in the contents of the envelope and have to tape it back together
posted by shakespeherian at 2:59 PM on March 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's okay not to like the KKK

It's also okay to not like the Catholic Church. It's really, really okay. I don't like the Catholic Church, above and beyond the fact that I don't much like organized religion in general. I think the Church has got huge corruption problems, some seriously regressive social policies internal and otherwise, and a record of taking exactly the wrong side on some profoundly bad things that have happened within its bureaucracy. I'm the farthest thing from a fan, whatever sympathy I have for individual Catholics.

None of which comes into this shit either way, because me or any other mod liking or not liking some person or some organization is not the determining factor in whether or not folks acting out on Metafilter is problematic or whether posts that dredge up arguments are a net negative contribution to this place. That we delete some critical posts on fight-starting topics is not an endorsement of the things being criticized; that we don't delete every single critical or turns-out-fighty post is not an endorsement of people being angry jerks to each other or to folks or groups in absentia.

If I were actually just angling for what I personally prefer, there would be a hell of a lot fewer "this is a bad thing" type posts in general, topic be-damned, because as much as I like reading thoughtful analysis and criticism from mefites when it's done well there are few things more draining and dispiriting to deal with than a bunch of people getting together to be angry on the internet, whether angry at each other or angry at somebody else or angry that they aren't being given enough opportunities to get their angry on. I think I can safely say that that's pretty much how the rest of the mods feel in general as well. The stuff we're mostly like to hear grumbling "why can't we have a thread about x!" complaints about is also the stuff that is the biggest drain on the sense of fun and engagement and interesting-shit-people-found enthusiasm that made this place interesting to me in the first place.

But for whatever reason there's a lot of folks on this site who see it as at least in part their preferred place to look at and argue about bad shit, and as an attempt to meet this community halfway on stuff we try to walk a line on this where that stuff is okay in principle but sometimes folks need to try harder in how they frame posts about the tough stuff and how they frame their comments about that stuff or their responses to other users. It's a pain in the ass a lot of the time but it's a working compromise.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:10 PM on March 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seriously, "this is a bad thing that happened" is probably one of the biggest deletion reason categories we have. Police violence, child abuse, and animal abuse are among the top three subjects that are often made into one-note outragefilter posts, and they generally get deleted. It doesn't really matter who the police tased or who was doing the abusing - these are just topics that require an extra level of care in threadcrafting so as not to cause a predictable shitstorm.

In this particular thread, the anti-Catholic and anti-homophobia notes are just a bonus, I think - a substantial bonus, sure, but far from what pushed it over the delete-worthy line. You can play mad libs with that sentence all you want - the "carrying out forcible castrations of young boys " part is pretty much going to sink it by itself, without some hefty framing work.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:50 PM on March 23, 2012


If you'd delete one and not the other then clearly you have different standards for KKK and RC church.

Then isn't it a good thing that gauche isn't a mod, now?


And besides, I don't think it's a matter of "oh, god, it's about the church, we need to be respectful," it's a matter of "oh, god, it's about the church, that's just going to make those same five guys fling monkeypoo the way they always do no matter what anyone says about the church and honestly, fuck that".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:12 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm comfortable with jessamyn's assertion that said thread racked up "bad comments" too quickly. There isn't anyone besides the poster who could efficiently address that issue.

I dislike tripple page comments of angry noise burying all the lovely one liner snarks and quips that really distinguish metafilter as much as anyone else.

There are numerous pony solutions like a wiki grave yard where bad posts go to be edited communally, and often die, but metafilter doesn't work that way.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:13 PM on March 23, 2012


wiki grave yard where bad posts go to be edited communally

That shit would make Wikipedia edit wars look like patty cake.
posted by Trurl at 4:39 PM on March 23, 2012



As are eye-wateringly pungent red herrings intended to make people look away from the awkward thing we don't want a Metafilter post about.


Good to know i'm not the only person that notices this disingenious bullshit - if you're not prepared to answer users questions in an open, honest and non manipulative manner - you really shouldn't take a job as a site mod.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:45 PM on March 23, 2012


I would like to take this learning moment to alert people to an overlooked fact. Religious debates will bring out two strong opponents, usually disguised for deeply personal reasons. Some will predictably take a common victim's stance to show their hurt and dismay, others will demand a fair hearing of the naked facts because they have learned the hard way to distrust the dogma in question. The latter is more interesting, because the former is just scared and nervous. So, when it appears that people are "anti-" something and , it is often the case they are "ex-" something. What may appear to be casual bigotry to the brainwashed, is in fact ultra-informed to the more discerning. Not in call cases, but especially regarding religious questions. One thing I have noticed is that there is an American shallowness to unquestionably accept an adherents viewpoint on religion, while rejecting a former believers viewpoint, only because there is social pressure to "correctly"accept established and propagated movements, but not the "ex-" movements. This is perhaps the best reason to regard political correctness as a misguided ploy if it involves protecting religious dogma.
posted by Brian B. at 9:07 PM on March 23, 2012


"So, when it appears that people are 'anti-' something and , it is often the case they are 'ex-' something. What may appear to be casual bigotry to the brainwashed, is in fact ultra-informed to the more discerning."

This is clearly why we should all accept David Horowitz's criticisms and rants against leftism as ultra-informed. Indeed, we should respect his opinions at least as much as we respect the opinions of those who have remained leftists.

Also, Christine O'Donnell is a respectable expert on paganism. Oh, yeah, apparently Madalyn Murray O'Hair's son, William, has a lot of negative things to say about atheism since he became a Baptist.

Your policy has a lot going for it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:32 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is clearly why we should all accept David Horowitz's criticisms and rants against leftism as ultra-informed. Indeed, we should respect his opinions at least as much as we respect the opinions of those who have remained leftists.

I don't think Horowitz left Judaism, nor O'Donnell her religion. To the contrary, they are apologists. Your examples make my point, but you didn't realize it.
posted by Brian B. at 9:56 PM on March 23, 2012


No, your argument is nonsense. Your argument was about being more informed than otherwise when one leaves a religion — an argument that in no way is exclusive to religion. It applies to everyone who changes beliefs or affiliations and is critical of them, religious or political or otherwise. If your argument applies to religious belief, it applies to politics.

But, also, O'Donnel claims to have investigated witchcraft and paganism before she became a born-again evangelical Christian. If you're not willing to include her experience because she was, apparently, some sort of a Christian her entire life (first Catholic, then lapsed Catholic during that witchcraft phase, then Evangelical); then, well, the same exclusion would apply to all former Catholics who remain Christians. Whatever tortured reasoning for why you don't include O'Donnel's attested interest in witchcraft also applies to former Catholics who remain Christians.

But, too, notably you conveniently ignored the example of William Murray, who was raised an atheist and became a born-again Baptist, and then also very critical of atheism. There is absolutely no reason why, by your logic, he shouldn't be accorded particular respect because he's likely to be "ultra-informed" on atheism and thus his criticisms of it should be seen as especially weighty.

Bottom line, your argument is so flawed as to be absurd. You're partial to critics of religious belief and you've invented an appealing but deeply flawed argument to rationalize this. You very likely don't apply the same standard to outspoken and angry critics of things you believe and are affiliated with when those critics once believed as you do and had the same affiliations.

One reason you don't, possibly, is because you recognize that people like Horowitz are often deeply biased in their criticisms because the disillusionment and the pain of breaking faith with former friends and family is very traumatic, causes lots of hard feelings and anger, and much of the resulting criticism aimed against those former beliefs and institutions is more about the former believer's personal issues than it is strictly on the matters in question. My personal experience has been that the opinions of such outspoken and angry former believers and members is, in general, less reliable as matters of judgment than those without the very personal experience you wish to value so highly, whether they are former theists, atheists, modeling club members, leftist or rightist activists, mefites, or whatever.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:44 PM on March 23, 2012


This is an ad hominem argument. Stop it. The opinions of people who are ex-something are exactly as valid as people who aren't. They may have useful knowledge or they may not. Take each case on its merits.
posted by unSane at 10:53 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


But, also, O'Donnel claims to have investigated witchcraft and paganism before she became a born-again evangelical Christian.

Then she's selling something else obviously. My argument, as you phrase it, has exposed you.
posted by Brian B. at 11:27 PM on March 23, 2012


'My argument, as you phrase it, has exposed you.'

Exposed me, how?

"This is an ad hominem argument. Stop it. The opinions of people who are ex-something are exactly as valid as people who aren't. They may have useful knowledge or they may not. Take each case on its merits."

I agree more than not. I think there's perfectly rational reasons to be suspicious of people who obviously have chips on their shoulders about something. But that's doesn't necessarily mean they are irrational or wrong or biased or whatever.

I mentioned that mainly as a contrast to Brian B's completely inverse claim that the opinions of such people are more likely to be valid than not. The idea that highly critical "ex-somethings" should be thought to be especially credible is simply not proven true in the real world. Horowitz is absolutely not credible on leftism, even though he was a radical leftist through the sixties. His arguments, on the merits, lack them. O'Donnell's arguments about paganism are, on the merits, false. She claims expertise from prior close experience.

There are lots of people like this. Whether they are ex-catholics or ex-atheists or ex-socialists or ex-conservatives. I have certainly not witnessed anything approaching an increased likelihood of credibility among such people. There are various reasons for this. In many cases, such as O'Donnell's, the claimed experience and expertise is itself suspect and either fraudulent or exagerated. In other cases, like Horowitz's, whatever he once knew has been deeply distorted and edited and filtered though his deep and visceral dislike of his former allies, for whatever reasons. In Murray's case, who was raised as an atheist by the person who was seen as the US's symbolic leader of the atheist cause, one would think he certainly has valid experience. But it's likely that all his issues with his mother (who was apparently a terrible mother) are mixed-up in his experience and understanding of his former atheism.

And that last is a very typical example of many varieties of former religious believers. In his case, he was an aggressive non-believer. But it seems absurd to dismiss his views off-hand while being necessarily respectful of those who went the other direction.

Anyway, as you say, the real test is what people actually say. And, in practice, a person's credibility — at least here — is pretty quickly made apparent. There are a number of former-whatevers (former Mormons come to mind) who have written here with extremely detailed and credible criticism of the LDS. As there are former Catholics who've done the same with the Catholic Church. There are others who are similarly critical and claim former belief who have not demonstrated that credibility.

I didn't argue that all former believers who are critical should be ignored because they aren't credible. I did say that my experience has often been that the loudest and angriest among them turn out to be notably lacking in credibility. But they are a minority of former believers-turned-critics. What I was responding to was the exact opposing claim: that such former believers-turned-critics have an increased credibility and deserve increased respect merely by virtue of their claims of being former believers. That is the argument I refuted, and will continue to refute. And experience shows that doing as you advise — judging people on the basis of the arguments they make and the evidence they present — works just fine and privileging a particular group's POV is unnecessary.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:08 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a former life I was an investigative journalist. As such you get to deal with an endless parade of potential whistle-blowers, almost all of whom are ex something and universally 'have an axe to grind', to coin your phrase. Quite a lot of them seem to be mentally unbalanced.

However, it turns out none of that has any bearing whatsoever on whether what they are telling you is true or not. The biggest stories I ever landed were tales told to me by people with diagnosed mental illnesses and criminal records, and in one case a compulsive liar and fantasist who also told me stories which were fabricated from top to bottom. But due diligence revealed that in the cases in question they were telling the truth.

I got these stories precisely because they had been invalidated on account of the source by everyone else who had heard them. And my bigger point is this: this is almost always the case. You almost never get handed a story from an impeccable source. If you do, you treat it with the utmost suspicion because most likely you are getting played.

Evidence of wrongdoing almost always comes from problematic sources. People with axes to grind. Ex-this, that or the other. It's structurally inevitable.

For example (real example): a nurse in a secure psychiatric hospital hits a young patient over the head with a snooker cue. The only witnesses are criminals with psychiatric problems - murderers and child abusers - and another nurse who has himself committed similar acts in the past. The young patient is locked in an isolation cell, where he dies the next day. The autopsy is hurried and vague. A complaint to the hospital by a patient is rejected as a fantasy/malicious by the management because the nurses say it never happened.

You learn this story several years later from a psychopath who was there at the time and had a history of violence against the staff.

That's a pretty typical set-up right there.
posted by unSane at 8:49 AM on March 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


In a former life...

I am so sick of Metafilter coddling the Buddhists.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:55 AM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


(I will add that the most exhausting part of being an investigative journalist is sorting the wheat from the chaff -- very often you have to go a long way down the investigative road before you discover the whole thing is made up. For example, I spent a lot of time and (a broadcaster's) money investigating allegations of satanic abuse before the story broke nationally. I had to tell the broadcaster in the end that I thought it was bullshit and I could not back any of it up. They were not happy because of the money they'd spent. I felt like a failure at the time but in retrospect it's one of the things I'm proudest of).
posted by unSane at 8:56 AM on March 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Exposed me, how?

Your counter-examples are all representing another true belief. In such cases, if not all, their alternative negative experience is played up and distorted for rhetorical effect. Which brings us to this notion that ex's and former believers are assumed to have "chips on their shoulders." That's a pure apologetic dismissal. That chip, in fact, best describes the believer, not the former believer who is not selling anything other than their disbelief (with nothing to gain). Typically, the believers are projecting their own fear of damnation onto them, accusing them axe grinding for the dark side, or trying to justify their mistake somehow. The accusation of having an ulterior motive other than truth is another projection, and clearly assumes a sin in process. How anyone can casually entertain the notion of default correctness being the belief itself was my entire point above, and it is more common than not.
posted by Brian B. at 9:45 AM on March 24, 2012


In a former life...

I am so sick of Metafilter coddling the Buddhists.


We probably have driven away our Pythagoreans with all those references to beans, haven't we?
posted by jamjam at 10:43 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your argument, Brian B., is not very coherent. And I think it's amusing that you are assuming that my default position is correctness of religious believers (who believe in "damnation") when, in fact, I've been a staunch atheist materialist for, oh, thirty years now.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:04 PM on March 24, 2012


Your argument, Brian B., is not very coherent. And I think it's amusing that you are assuming that my default position is correctness of religious believers (who believe in "damnation") when, in fact, I've been a staunch atheist materialist for, oh, thirty years now.


I didn't accuse you of consistency or rationality, nor was it ever about you or I. As far as I can tell you prefer to create a straw man for personal reasons other than true disagreement.
posted by Brian B. at 8:26 PM on March 24, 2012


You know, tonight I posted to metatalk for the first time to ask about the deletion of this post on the state of the Louisiana mental health care system.

Really kind of baffled me why it was deleted, and continues to even after seeing the reason.

I think (and it may be because I have a horse in this race as a mental health worker in a psychiatric facility) that the post would've engendered a pretty decent discussion about the trend toward shutting down mental health facilities and transferring patients to the prison system and all that that entails(especially the loss of the right of refusal to take medications.) I was fashioning a comment to this effect as the post was being deleted.

I understand not everything can make it through, but is there criteria for deletion? Maybe there needs to be criteria instead of snarky comments about why it was deleted.
posted by dave78981 at 8:07 PM on March 26, 2012


Slipping down the slope from "no outrage" to "no bad news"
posted by smackfu at 9:25 PM on March 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I agree with smackfu. I have to say that I am truly befuddled at the Louisiana mental health care system post deletion. I come to Metafilter for that, and not so much for one-link posts about penis graffiti.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:49 PM on March 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, posts shouldn't go just because they're bad news. The article that's the first link in the Louisiana mental health care post is more than strong enough to carry a post. This is a completely baffling deletion, to me. It's not outragefilter and it's not a story that's all over the media. Finding good links on subject matters that are little known and making a post to the front page is what should be encouraged.
posted by Kattullus at 3:11 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think having a shifting 'bad news in-of-itself is a reason for deletion' informal policy is... well .. bad news. Just because a) it is bad news b) it is local and c) it doesn't interest a subset of Metafilter does not make it a poor post.
It's a bit frustrating to me and I think smackfu's comment regarding the slippery slope is spot on.
posted by edgeways at 5:07 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The deletion seems to have been driven more by flagging than some mod wading in and imposing a personal Polyanna POV on things, which makes it all the more pernicious to me. It's one thing when it's a handful of identifiable paid employees who are imposing their will -- it's another when it's an overall shift in the community's attitude.

My anonymous desire for a sunny day should not stop the rain from falling.
posted by philip-random at 8:04 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say not so much slippery-slope as pendulum-swinging, from where we are in team discussions on this. This is something we feel like goes back and forth a little in whatever the zeitgeist of the site is over time—on the admin side we've been feeling like there's been sort of an uptick in Here Is Bad News stuff lately but that's mostly a gut thing, US election stuff probably a notable component—and since it's something we've been looking hard at I think we're pushing slightly harder on some of the borderline stuff as an adjustment thing.

And the Louisiana post is something that was a borderline issue for us, not some "hey this is a terrible post wtf" thing. We talked about it, we were conflicted, we decided to go ahead and remove it on the reasoning that if we're looking at this balance of "here is some bad news" posts carefully this felt as presented like it was on that border zone.

It may well be that the nature of the situation is such that it's an interesting potential post above and beyond the whole Bad News angle and we got a poor read on it, but between us collectively feeling like it was more of that "you need to know about this because it is bad" territory and the post picking up a crop of flags, it seemed like something to go ahead and delete. But the specifics of that is probably more for the other metatalk thread about that deletion.

Basically, I don't think there's a conflict-free way to try and manage the level of Bad News stuff because as we've said there's a mix of opinions on this stuff, everything from "enough with the bad news" to "this is where I get my news" and all points between. And we've got posters who specifically seem interesting only or primarily in making "here is some bad news" posts, which as an aesthetic or motivational thing isn't bad but is in conflict somewhat with our desire to not have this place be the Bad News Blotter, so that's tricky too because our feeling isn't that it's a "you are a bad poster" thing—often there's care and thought put into those, certainly—so much as it's a general desire to just not have yet-another-bad-news-post be a common M.O. on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:23 AM on March 27, 2012


first off I am not trying to be overly contentious, or commentating in anger:


Personally I'd like to see more erring on openness and letting things stand on borderline cases. I would rather the LA mental health changes post stand than, say, OMG another creepy political ad by XYZ. Political ads are ephemeral, and 3 months from now none of use will recall Performance artist Cain and his exploding bunnies. Radical changes in mental health care actually has some significance to people's lives years down the road. I think that is worthy of consideration of what stays and what goes. If someone does not want to read it, or to comment on it they are perfectly capable of moving on to the cavorting cows post. That said I think "outrage-filter" (to me that means a specific isolated case of something horrible, rather than systemic or sweeping changes) is a good bar to impose to keep things from degenerating too far

I can understand if a given user is all about just posting from "everything's fucked up" POV everyday, or even every week, but looking at liketitanic's history s/he neither posts frequently, nor negatively.
posted by edgeways at 9:24 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


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