Habeas factus May 24, 2012 1:03 PM   Subscribe

This post ought not to have been deleted. The reason given: "This post was deleted for the following reason: Seems like an interesting and pretty fucked-up case, but most of the links here seem like they're kind of filler material and if the meat of the post is essentially "read this legal PDF" it might need to be presented a lot more in those terms, or with some good long-form journalism or analysis. Otherwise we've just got folks arguing about rape charges yet again. -- cortex"

What is wrong with 'read this legal pdf'? 90% of discussions about law at MetaFilter go round in circles because people either don't know how or can't be bothered to read the filings in the case. The legal filing has a table of contents and that includes a 'statement of facts.' This is not hard to understand even if you don't have any legal training. Deleting a contentious post because the author actually went to the trouble of providing primary sources is absurd, especially considering how many pointless arguments ensue in single-link-post threads because the single link contains an incomplete or biased treatment of the subject matter.

If it was up to me, we'd delete threads on legal cases that didn't include links to primary sources. I fail to see why punditry is more desirable than the actual facts presented to the court, and think that this is a terrible standard of moderation to use, regardless of how cranky rape threads can be. A guy spent six years in jail here for a crime he didn't commit, and that's not worth discussing because it might require people to do a little more reading than a typical blog post or tumblr page?

I am pretty offended by the rationale given for the deletion of this extremely worthwhile FPP, and call for its reinstatement unaltered.
posted by anigbrowl to Etiquette/Policy at 1:03 PM (206 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I think Zonker's derail pretty much sums up why people flagged the fpp and it got deleted. There are topics that Mefi simply cannot do.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2012


I thought the deletion explanation was both respectful and judicious.

I can't say the same for this post.
posted by Trurl at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


What is wrong with 'read this legal pdf'?

Nothing, in and of itself, but you pretty much need to build a post around that in terms of giving folks some sort of context and guidance for what is in there and where and not just drop a passing reference to a forty page document at the end of post that has a lot of other basically insubstantial links.

The post we had didn't do any of that work and if the PDF is the lede it was thoroughly buried. If someone wants to give it another shot that does a better job there, fine; it might help kickstart a discussion that wasn't immediately just about the same stock general rape-reporting and MRA arguments that have played out a ton of times before in a ton of previous rape-related threads.

"A guy spent six years in jail here for a crime he didn't commit" is a terrible situation but it's not a post by itself. A solid post about the situation would be fine. The distinction is really, really important.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:09 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I flagged it. Maybe I'm a pessimist, but it seemed pretty clear we were going to end up in a big messy fight about false rape claims and the experiences from actual victims.
posted by ODiV at 1:09 PM on May 24, 2012


I wonder about that sometimes--if you felt you didn't want to read a big messy fight thread, why not just not read it? Why flag? Do you flag as "potentially annoying"?
posted by Hoopo at 1:13 PM on May 24, 2012 [16 favorites]

anigbrowl:
"I fail to see why punditry is more desirable than the actual facts presented to the court, and think that this is a terrible standard of moderation to use, regardless of how cranky rape threads can be."
I thought the post had potential, but there were enough elements of newsfilter and outragefilter to make it potentially deletable. Since its importance shouldn't be a factor, I have to give this deletion a rating of "meh".
posted by charred husk at 1:13 PM on May 24, 2012


I flagged this post: there was almost nothing substantial to any of the links, and the topic was one that would surely have resulted in derail piled upon derail. I think this was a good deletion, and I think cortex's criticism is spot-on, as far as the post needing analysis or something other than a few lean links. It also seemed clear the discussion was heading down the sexist "Rape victims are probably liars persecuting the nation's beleaguered men" line which gets really tired.

The larger point to be made is that this is an extremely insignificant story. The OP did not provide any larger implications the case might hold nor context--a better FPP might include, for example, how often false accusations happen in rape trials in the US/Europe/world, what evidence the majority of rape cases hinge upon, what the options are for the man who was falsely accused (will he try to clear his name and get himself removed from the sex registry?), the sex registry system in general, etc. etc. It was outragefilter of the worst variety.
posted by nonmerci at 1:14 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if you do as cortex suggested, rape and jail time served due to false testimony are hot topics on MetaFilter, so you're bound to get a lot of knee-jerk comments, as there were already in the thread.

If the mods kept a thread that buried the lede and leads to a lot of heated comments, they'd have to keep coming back to quell the noise. Sad and fucked up topic, and touchy ground for MetaFilter.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:16 PM on May 24, 2012


Hoopo: Oh, I would have definitely read it.
posted by ODiV at 1:17 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


extremely insignificant story.

The guy spent 6 years in prison. Insignificant?
posted by Big_B at 1:17 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Seems odd that people flagged in in anticipation of it not going well. I was just finishing reading the links including the pdf when the red bar of death showed up.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:18 PM on May 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


It also seemed clear the discussion was heading down the sexist "Rape victims are probably liars persecuting the nation's beleaguered men" line

I have no idea what you;'re talking about. Did that thread get heavily pruned before it was chopped down?
posted by Hoopo at 1:20 PM on May 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Good deletion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:21 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I fail to see how

if the meat of the post is essentially "read this legal PDF" it might need to be presented a lot more in those terms

can be interpreted as

Deleting a contentious post because the author actually went to the trouble of providing primary sources
posted by zamboni at 1:27 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


After seeing an Israel post deleted followed by a rape (or lack thereof) post deleted, I kept checking MetaTalk. I feel like a bad person for doing this.
posted by charred husk at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Attempting precognition re: thread going bad and the fact that it's a Metafilter touchy subject are complete smokescreens and not really worth discussing. (I mean we can discuss whether or not those things are site policy we want to discuss, but not in terms of this post.)

Decades old news link + a personal website + one legal petition + needless filler don't equal a good post, no matter what the topic.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:29 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hoopo, if you really don't know what I'm talking about, you have a lot of MeFi and complementary MeTa thread education to catch up on. That's about all I want to say about that.

Otherwise--what charred husk and MCMikeNamara said.
posted by nonmerci at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2012


I flagged it because I don't think a post built completely around a legal filing document is FPP-worthy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:31 PM on May 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wow that's really condescending
posted by Hoopo at 1:31 PM on May 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


I fail to see why punditry is more desirable than the actual facts presented to the court, and think that this is a terrible standard of moderation to use, regardless of how cranky rape threads can be. A guy spent six years in jail here for a crime he didn't commit, and that's not worth discussing because it might require people to do a little more reading than a typical blog post or tumblr page?

This had very little to do with the fact that the OP was linking to primary source material and everything to do with the fact that "guy exonerated for rape he didn't commit" absent any other details is not really a post that will amount to anything other than THAT FUCKING SUCKS and a bunch of the same discussions we have here all the time. This post was on PDF link and a lot of filler. It's not much different than "Here is a movie I think you will like" and linking to an hour long move. Except that it's on a topic that goes badly here, and one that we have said politely and repeatedly that if you're going to do that you have to make good posts on the topic.

Some people like newsy posts, some people like fluffier posts. Both are part of the grand cornocopia that is MetaFilter. However some people like "Here is a really shitty thing that happened to someone" posts and those are more problematic, need to be done better than this, and are not our primary reason for existing.

"This is a terrible thing that happened" does not, in and of itself, make a good basis for a post. It also often makes for terrible discussion.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:34 PM on May 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

Hoopo:
"I wonder about that sometimes--if you felt you didn't want to read a big messy fight thread, why not just not read it? Why flag? Do you flag as "potentially annoying"?"
Big messy threads can have more consequences than just not being fun to read. They can lead to people leaving and lots of bad feelings which isn't always good of a community website. It happens, but preferably due to honest arguments over a good post and not due to some red meat tossed onto the front page.
posted by charred husk at 1:37 PM on May 24, 2012


Nothing, in and of itself, but you pretty much need to build a post around that in terms of giving folks some sort of context and guidance for what is in there and where and not just drop a passing reference to a forty page document at the end of post that has a lot of other basically insubstantial links.

I know what is in the legal filing: a detailed explanation of how the guy came to be accused of rape and sent to prison, and how the recantation came about. In other words, the subject matter outlined in the FPP by marcusesses, leading up to the authoritative document in the case. As for insubstantial links: the first one goes to the advocacy website set up by the Innocence Project to draw attention to Banks' case. The school is rather famous. the next two links document that this was an atheletic feeder school and that Banks was a successful athlete, which facts are both relevant to the case and help to explain why it got a lot of coverage in the first place. And the next link is a contemporary report on the matter from a respected newspaper, adding a salient detail about Banks' expulsion from school prior to and regardless of the outcome of any judicial procedures - a policy that may not be unconnected to the school's fame and athletic prestige.

This is all substantive. And putting the most important document at the end does not mean one is making a merely 'passing reference' to it. The document is, in fact, conclusive because the court has vacated the conviction based on the facts presented in the habeas corpus filing. This is why habeas corpus filings are important legal tools.

"A guy spent six years in jail here for a crime he didn't commit" is a terrible situation but it's not a post by itself. A solid post about the situation would be fine. The distinction is really, really important.

A post with a straightforward recitation of the facts and a link to the most comprehensive overview of the case available - a habeas corpus filing - isn't solid? I call bullshit.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:38 PM on May 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


advocacy website set up by the Innocence Project to draw attention to Banks' case

'by' should be 'with the help of'.

posted by anigbrowl at 1:39 PM on May 24, 2012


It also seemed clear the discussion was heading down the sexist "Rape victims are probably liars persecuting the nation's beleaguered men" line which gets really tired.

Who said that?

What gets really tired is people reflexively dismissing anything that happens to men as unimportant because, hey, they're just men. To me, the very fact that these comments get made is all the more reason to care about men. Personally, I care equally about women and men. But as between men and women, only men have their own gender used in Metafilter threads as a reason for being relatively uncaring about their fate. None of this is about whether the post should have been deleted — I have no opinion on that. But I feel very strongly that we should never stop caring about people being falsely accused of crimes, no matter what types of genitals the accused person has. This kind of thing ruins innocent people's lives. It's a big deal. And when people deny that it is a big deal, that only makes the underlying problem worse.
posted by John Cohen at 1:40 PM on May 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


If the FPP was insubstantial it was insubstantial, fine, but I thought the actual discussion was going damn well, to be honest.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:43 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do not think the post should have been deleted, however I was definitely miffed that the only explanation for the current state of affairs was a legal document. It would not have been difficult to add the current LA Times story to compliment the 2002 one.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:44 PM on May 24, 2012


What gets really tired is people reflexively dismissing anything that happens to men as unimportant because, hey, they're just men.

Who said that?
posted by escabeche at 1:45 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I saw this coming after the first batch of comments on the FPP. Part of the problem is that it is hard to have these discussions online, it is just too impersonal.

Another part of the problem may be that asking folks who are, for the most part, not attorneys to read a 40 page legal document in order to have a conversation on the internet may be asking a bit much. This is a community weblog, not a law class.
posted by HuronBob at 1:46 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hoopo, if you really don't know what I'm talking about, you have a lot of MeFi and complementary MeTa thread education to catch up on. That's about all I want to say about that.

I've seen and participated in many of these sorts of threads and I honestly don't see any comment even close to "Rape victims are probably liars persecuting the nation's beleaguered men" in that thread. Can you point to a specific comment in the thread that seems to be problematic to you? Many of the comments in the thread seemed to be preemptively expecting those sorts of comments by pointing out how rare false rape accusations are, but I didn't see any of those sorts of comments actually posted in the thread before it was deleted.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:47 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


John Cohen: When it comes to rape and sexual abuse, I don't think anyone would claim there is an equal split between men and women: statistically-speaking, the facts are pretty clear as to which sex/gender is usually the victim, and which is usually the perpetrator. And count me as someone who, having been raised in a patriarchal system which values men's skill set, 'natural' talents and contributions more than women's, finds herself actively caring more about women's issues than men's.

What happened to this young man in question was terrible, of course. But where are we supposed to go with this? Is there a systematic criminalization of men who have not committed rapes or other sexual crimes? Is this cultural, generational, locational? Who is the 'victim' and what might her motivations have been? Again--what are the larger implications here? All I see is a thinly-veiled "men's rights" outragefilter post.
posted by nonmerci at 1:49 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Who said that?

nonmerci
posted by Hoopo at 1:50 PM on May 24, 2012


burnmp3s: It really felt to me like that was where it was going. You'll note I did not comment in the original thread, post any 'noise' or attempt a derail--I made the comment in this MeTa, because it was part of my motivation for flagging the thread. I'm not sure why everyone is picking apart my comment here.
posted by nonmerci at 1:51 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This had very little to do with the fact that the OP was linking to primary source material and everything to do with the fact that "guy exonerated for rape he didn't commit" absent any other details is not really a post that will amount to anything other than THAT FUCKING SUCKS and a bunch of the same discussions we have here all the time.

I mean, I see where you're coming from, but it's hard for me to distinguish between this post and, for example, this one about Texas possibly wrongfully executing someone. Both had essentially one substantive link recording one side's version of events, in this case the Innocence Project's filing and in that case the Columbia team's findings. But that one worked OK, because people seem able to behave themselves when it comes to the the wrongfully executed (e.g. you don't have people coming in and saying "90+% of people executed were definitely guilty so who cares about this minor issue"). Why not frame the deletion reason more directly: when it comes to a false accusation of rape, some posters are going to derail the thread or belittle the issue in a way they generally don't on most topics.
posted by dsfan at 1:51 PM on May 24, 2012 [11 favorites]

burnmp3s:
"Many of the comments in the thread seemed to be preemptively expecting those sorts of comments by pointing out how rare false rape accusations are, but I didn't see any of those sorts of comments actually posted in the thread before it was deleted."
That's what dismayed me the most about the comments, actually. The first two comments out of the gate were shadowboxing. The post didn't provide any larger context, it was simply "this is a thing that happened", and right out of the gate we're defending against MRAs.
posted by charred husk at 1:52 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with angibrowl. It seems like the post was deleted simply because it touched on a controversial topic. Basically, giving a 'heckler's veto' to people who don't like to see that topic discussed. It seemed like a substantive post that linked to a powerful human story, whatever your view on the broader 'false rape accusations' discussion. I found the linked legal document very interesting and was shocked to see hte post deleted.
posted by zipadee at 1:55 PM on May 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I call bullshit.

I'm not even sure what that means in this situation. We saw the flags, we checked it out, we talked to each other, we made the decision we made, and we're here to talk to you about it. I don't think it was a good post for MetaFilter. Other people seemed to not think it was a good post for MetaFilter. We deleted it.

Why not frame the deletion reason more directly

I think "Otherwise we've just got folks arguing about rape charges yet again." is very very clearly saying that. Honestly threads about rape are a very particular kind of awful here. They bring out the worst in many people for a variety of reasons, are a pain to moderate, and go terribly more often than not. People fight with each other, sow ill will, quit the site, flag and send us emails about them. We are a community website and this community is really our only "product" such as it is and its our job to keep it running smoothly.

We have had a longtime standing "If you are going to make a post about a difficult topic it needs to be done well" and we felt this didn't hit that bar.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:56 PM on May 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm with Anigbrowl. I thought this was a miserable deletion.
posted by unSane at 1:56 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Here is a really shitty thing that happened to someone" posts and those are more problematic, need to be done better than this

I doubt if any of us who have posted about politicized issues they feel passionately about have a perfect record in clearing the higher bar described here.

It's not a judgment of your cause. Just of the post.
posted by Trurl at 1:57 PM on May 24, 2012


I'd have deleted the post on the grounds of "Jesus fuck are we now trawling metro news sections for crime stories we can discuss around the internet water cooler? Can't you just go to the newspaper websites themselves and talk about it in comments with octogenarian racists instead?"
posted by furiousthought at 1:57 PM on May 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I didn't have a chance to read the articles. I read the FPP and scanned the comments, and found it surprising that so much of it leaned toward anger about rape not being treated seriously enough, rather than about the substance of the post--that being this one guy and how false testimony completely screwed him.

Does voicing anger/sympathy/concern over what happened to this guy somehow imply that one thinks rape isn't a serious crime that deserves serious attention? Does that caveat even need to be said?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good deletion, imo.

People, stop making posts about shitty things that happen just so we can have another boring fucking argument about it.
posted by empath at 2:00 PM on May 24, 2012 [19 favorites]


stop making posts about shitty things that happen just so we can have another boring fucking argument about it.

HAHA you're too late!
posted by Hoopo at 2:01 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another part of the problem may be that asking folks who are, for the most part, not attorneys to read a 40 page legal document in order to have a conversation on the internet may be asking a bit much. This is a community weblog, not a law class.

That's a reasonable point; but I think 'statement of facts - page 6' in the Table of Contents is pretty damn obvious, and the facts are written up in pretty plain English. Such legal filings are often provided in threads as supplementary information (and are frequently more informative than the news reports that kick off the threads - even the LA Times article on Banks' release above omits to mention that there is no evidence he and his accuser even had sex); nobody is forced to read or participate in the thread if they don't want to; and anyway, there are quite a few attorneys, people who work in the criminal justice system, and people who have been through it as victims and/or inmates right here on Metafilter, all of whom tend to prefer having all the relevant facts available when discussing a complex topic like a legal case.

I'm fond of Einstein's admonition to 'make things as simple as possible, but no simpler,' which is why I mentioned above that I wish legal-ish FPPs that don't link to the primary documents would be more strictly moderated, because arguments made in the absence of facts tend to be both bitter and pointless. I fail to see what's so wrong with telling people what happened in outline and inviting them to spend 5-10 minutes reading about the specifics if they are interested.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:01 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whether or not it was a good deletion is something for others to decide. But here's one point of anecdata.

I saw this post maybe 1 second before it was deleted, because when I clicked it, I saw the deletion notice.

After reading the description, I clicked to look at the thread only to see the argument that I knew would be there.

"There's no way I'm going to comment on this one, but I bet the thread is an absolute trainwreck. Oh look, first comment is exactly as reflexive as I expected."

So, yes, I've become one of those guys that goes to auto races for the crashes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:03 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


This was not a great post. The problem is not that primary sources were included, the problem is that no secondary sources were included. News posts should be based around text meant for public consumption, like news reports or blog posts. Here we had only a legal filing, which is undesirable both because it is less accessible than a news report and because it represents the claims of only one party to a dispute, although in this case the important parts are sworn factual claims. A news report would tell the story in a quickly digestible way, and also test the facts a little bit. I actually did read the PDF, but it would've been a better post if I didn't have to.

All that said, I can't take seriously the arguments that e.g. "the discussion was heading down the sexist 'Rape victims are probably liars persecuting the nation's beleaguered men' line." Instead, the thread began with preemptive derails in the other direction suggesting that, whatever happened in the FPP, "far bigger problem is the number of true accusations of rape and sexual assault that go unreported" -- which was not really on topic, and seemed to be spoiling for a fight that wasn't in the FPP. But after that things got on track pretty quickly. The discussion was both civil and on topic (possibly excepting the "send her to prison" posts -- I suppose those are on topic but one-line comments calling for anyone's incarceration are troubling).

It seems like what many people are saying is that any post about a man falsely accused of rape is problematic, because it gives ammunition to people they disagree with -- it creates the impression that false accusations of rape might be a real problem, even if it doesn't say anything about them generally. And so they flag it, derail the thread, etc. But it seems disingenuous to then frame this as something "Metafilter doesn't do well." Instead of deleting the derails, we are giving them a heckler's veto over the thread.

But where are we supposed to go with this? Is there a systematic criminalization of men who have not committed rapes or other sexual crimes? Is this cultural, generational, locational? Who is the 'victim' and what might her motivations have been? Again--what are the larger implications here?

There is plenty of matter for this discussion in the FPP if you dare to look. I wrote about it a tiny bit in my comment. It seems like the "victim" initially invented the rape story because she didn't want to admit to her mom that she had been making out with Banks (apparently they didn't even have sex). She later stuck to her story because she had a lawsuit pending against the school for allowing the supposed rape to occur; she eventually received a $750,000 settlement. Her lawyer dissuaded her from speaking out in a way that might have helped establish Banks's innocence earlier. Banks was advised by his lawyer to plead no contest even though he was innocent, even though there was no physical evidence, and notwithstanding the "victim's" contradictory testimony, because in spite of all the weaknesses of the case against him, he faced a very real chance of going to jail forever if he pleaded not guilty.

In other words, yes, this is a story about systematic faults in the US criminal justice system, some of which have nothing to do with rape in particular but others of which probably do.

Now, look, outragefilter is not usually the best of the web, and I often feel bad when I get sucked into it. But this was not deleted because it was outragefilter, it was deleted because a large constituency here thinks some outrages are politically inconvenient. And that rubs me the wrong way.
posted by grobstein at 2:06 PM on May 24, 2012 [32 favorites]


I also disagree with this deletion.

I viewed the supporting links as background, not "filler", and thought the thread was moving (civilly) towards discussing "'a system that was so stacked against the accused that he decided to plead no contest even though he was innocent of the crime' -- which has significant and horrifying implications for our justice system as a whole."

I'd have deleted the post on the grounds of "Jesus fuck are we now trawling metro news sections for crime stories we can discuss around the internet water cooler? Can't you just go to the newspaper websites themselves and talk about it in comments with octogenarian racists instead?"

That would be a good deletion reason for this post.
posted by lalex at 2:06 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think "Otherwise we've just got folks arguing about rape charges yet again." is very very clearly saying that. Honestly threads about rape are a very particular kind of awful here. They bring out the worst in many people for a variety of reasons, are a pain to moderate, and go terribly more often than not. People fight with each other, sow ill will, quit the site, flag and send us emails about them. We are a community website and this community is really our only "product" such as it is and its our job to keep it running smoothly.

Jessamyn--Understood. I guess my point is, and I don't really want to get into a long drawn-out discussion about this because on the whole I agree with most of your and cortex's deletions (and honestly this one doesn't bother me much), I think saying it like the original deletion reason isn't setting expectations for us high enough as commenters. There are plenty of times we can discuss "shitty things happening" without devolving into stupid fights (like wrongful executions, people being unjustly punished overseas), but there are a few (false rape accusations, police brutality is probably in there too, maybe some others I can't think of right now) where we seem incapable, and I think saying "the post has to be much better" lets people off the hook when they derail threads right out of the gate in ways they really shouldn't. Probably the post should be better, but just because a post is iffy isn't an excuse for commenters to act badly.
posted by dsfan at 2:10 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thank you grobstein!
posted by Hoopo at 2:11 PM on May 24, 2012


That's a reasonable point; but I think 'statement of facts - page 6' in the Table of Contents is pretty damn obvious, and the facts are written up in pretty plain English.

It might have been good to include them in FPP. Or something. I dunno.

I agree with the others that despite there being some interesting things about this case, it was basically outragefilter.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:13 PM on May 24, 2012


grobstein, if you had crafted the FPP including things you touched upon in your comment, it would have been an excellent FPP and I would be surprised if it were deleted. I don't think the FPP was made in such a way that was conducive to good discussion--the comments did not seem to be going particularly well, but that is kind of beside the point, and was extremely incidental to my reasoning for flagging it--but it was thin, it was newsfilter, and apart from being a human-interest story, seemed really insignificant.
posted by nonmerci at 2:14 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And by insignificant, I guess I would say, how is this more interesting/important/Best of the Web than numerous sad stories posted on CNN, Huffington Post, etc? If someone had made the FPP with the explicit purpose of contextualizing it and establishing its relevance to other areas of discussion (like corruptions in the US Justice System, the school system in question, etc.), it would have been a better post.
posted by nonmerci at 2:17 PM on May 24, 2012


charred husk: "After seeing an Israel post deleted followed by a rape (or lack thereof) post deleted, I kept checking MetaTalk. I feel like a bad person for doing this."

When the Israel thread was deleted, I seriously considered reposting it myself without the Kristallnacht reference. Perhaps if the OP hadn't tried to conflate the incident being discussed with the freakin' Holocaust, the thread would have gone better. I'd like to think we're all adult enough to be able to discuss Israel as a topic without axe-grindingly Godwinning every thread about it.
posted by zarq at 2:17 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I call bullshit.

I'm not even sure what that means in this situation. We saw the flags, we checked it out, we talked to each other, we made the decision we made, and we're here to talk to you about it. I don't think it was a good post for MetaFilter. Other people seemed to not think it was a good post for MetaFilter. We deleted it.


I'm calling bullshit because, like dsfan, the problem here seems to be with the commenting rather than the FPP. I thought this case raised all sorts of interesting questions about how easily someone's life can be sacrificed on the altar of money and prestige (by the accuser and school respectively), as well as how the maximalist approach of the American criminal justice system provides perverse incentives for such outcomes. There have been many substantive discussions of such topics on MeFi, and this FPP struck me as a good start for such a discussion because it was studiously neutral and well-sourced. Furthermore, although false accusations and subsequent recantations are a staple of criminal justice issues, we rarely get much information on why and how the false accusations can to be made and subsequently recanted.

Unfortunately, those of us who would have liked to discuss the substantive issues never had a chance to do so. I don't find the reasons offered for why it doesn't meet the bar persuasive in the least, and would like some explanation of what should have been offered up instead. As noted, people frequently post on contentious subjects with far less in the way of context or source material, and there was no axe-grinding going on in the text of the post.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


and I think saying "the post has to be much better" lets people off the hook when they derail threads right out of the gate in ways they really shouldn't. Probably the post should be better, but just because a post is iffy isn't an excuse for commenters to act badly.

On the latter point I think we probably totally agree, and people getting into the same old crappy fights is not something that is solely the fault of bad posts or anything. But the deletion reason of a post that seems to us not to be good is not really where we're going to try and have a conversation about comments in the ensuing thread; that's pretty much something that needs to be hashed out in Metatalk if someone wants to talk about it, or something we'll try and address as a mod aside in the thread of an otherwise good post where the comments are going south for some reason anyway.

In practice all topics are not made equal in terms of their likely costs in terms of community GRAR levels, and as far as that goes touchy topics do need more effort for posts going in. It's not an excuse for annoying comments, but annoying comments also aren't generally why we're deleting a post or what we're discussing in the deletion reason, and expecting otherwise is unrealistic, as much as I hear where you are coming from.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wanted more details about the current situation, and when I saw the only thing new was a fifty page pdf of a legal ruling I left. Could have been an interesting story with more details, but as it was it was mostly 'horrible thing happened'.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:20 PM on May 24, 2012


Also,

> I call bullshit.

I don't think this ever helps a person's argument.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:21 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suspect the only time it is good policy to make a legal document the only solid cornerstone of a FPP is when it have wide ranging societal impact, such as perhaps a SCOTUS ruling.

This was a fucked up case, but it is something that happens from time to time and is endemic of a much broader problem, that of seeking conviction over truth (from a brief glace at the description I would crucify the prosecution's lawyer above and beyond the plaintiff). This case is not special beyond the lives it touched directly.
posted by edgeways at 2:24 PM on May 24, 2012


If someone had made the FPP with the explicit purpose of contextualizing it and establishing its relevance to other areas of discussion (like corruptions in the US Justice System, the school system in question, etc.), it would have been a better post.

...but that's where the discussion went.
posted by Hoopo at 2:24 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


when I saw the only thing new was a fifty page pdf of a legal ruling I left.

Without reading it, evidently, since you'd have discovered that it wasn't a ruling and the meat of it was there in the first few pages.

tl;dr isn't a good argument for deletion

Both this and the Israel deletion both have a whiff of convenience about them. Sometimes it seems it's more important to keep this place tidy than to actually have a meaningful conversation.

For my money, the mods ought to be more protective of stuff which raises hackles. Deleting a thread because the conversation isn't going well is only a cure in the sense that death cures everything.

Meanwhile of course my P G Wodehouse FPP is going swimmingly. How depressing.
posted by unSane at 2:27 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wanted more details about the current situation, and when I saw the only thing new was a fifty page pdf of a legal ruling I left. Could have been an interesting story with more details, but as it was it was mostly 'horrible thing happened'.

I assumed this as well when I saw that the main link was a legal PDF, but the main evidence description part of the PDF actually gave me a better idea of what was presented in court and whatnot than most news articles do.

If someone had made the FPP with the explicit purpose of contextualizing it and establishing its relevance to other areas of discussion (like corruptions in the US Justice System, the school system in question, etc.), it would have been a better post.

Personally I think that would have made it more axe-grindy. I know newsfilter or outragefilter gets deleted fairly often here but when posts do stay up I would rather just have them present the facts without trying to put a spin on them.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe we should try an experiment where anyone who really superduper objects to an fpp deletion gets temporary mod powers - they can undelete the thread (but not edit it) and have to babysit it as long as it's active. They don't get to ban anyone, but they are responsible for keeping it from becoming a trainwreck and creating a meTa.
posted by rtha at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Then we film it and edit in some confessionals and it airs on Bravo.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:33 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, not Bravo - TLC!
posted by rtha at 2:34 PM on May 24, 2012


ODiV: I flagged it. Maybe I'm a pessimist, but it seemed pretty clear we were going to end up in a big messy fight about false rape claims and the experiences from actual victims."

I'm perfectly fine with the idea that a 40-page legal document by itself might not make a great post. I like the idea of providing more background. I also think the post could qualify as outrage filter. I trust the mods to put some thought into deletions, and I know they aren't going to delete a post just because a few people don't like the subject matter.

Even so, I really want to discourage "pre-emptive flagging" as a thing. We're adults here, and we don't need a Net Nanny to decide for us that this is a touchy subject we aren't mature enough to handle. It just rubs me the wrong way.
posted by misha at 2:35 PM on May 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


rtha: "Maybe we should try an experiment where anyone who really superduper objects to an fpp deletion gets temporary mod powers - they can undelete the thread (but not edit it) and have to babysit it as long as it's active. They don't get to ban anyone, but they are responsible for keeping it from becoming a trainwreck and creating a meTa."

So let's assume that in the case of the Israel thread, markkraft objected to his own FPP being deleted, undeleted it and was then responsible for making sure the thread went well.

Do you think that would end well?
posted by zarq at 2:38 PM on May 24, 2012


I don't think the issue is that we aren't mature enough to handle it so Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, I think it's more that one of the chief responsibilities of the mods is to keep this site functions relatively smoothly as a community, and giant shitstorm fights about contentious subjects generate a lot of hurt feelings, often, and sometimes lead to people leaving the site, which is pretty much objectively bad for the community.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:38 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


unSane: Meanwhile of course my P G Wodehouse FPP is going swimmingly. How depressing.

unsane, I love that FPP so much I want to marry it.
posted by misha at 2:39 PM on May 24, 2012


I agree you with, misha. Oddly, this is one of the first posts I've flagged because I thought it was terrible--I've always thought it was a bit ridiculous that flags could override anything else and get a post deleted, but over the years that I've been here, flagging has it seems increased in usage and is now normalized as a tool members use when they disagree that a post is "Best of the Web." It seems like a big part of the site culture now, and one I've personally stopped resisting.
posted by nonmerci at 2:42 PM on May 24, 2012


Both this and the Israel deletion both have a whiff of convenience about them. Sometimes it seems it's more important to keep this place tidy than to actually have a meaningful conversation.

I flagged the Israel post, because I thought the FPP itself was too bloggy. I would welcome a different post about the plight of Sudanese refugees and the question of what international conventions do and don't require of Israel (and everyone else.) This post, I didn't expect to go particularly well, but the post itself didn't break any guidelines and I didn't see any reason to flag it. And for what it's worth, I don't think this thread was going as badly as the Israel thread, almost all of which was alternation between "Israel sucks" and "this FPP sucks."
posted by escabeche at 2:43 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I flagged the Israel post because of the flagrant Godwin.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2012


They can lead to people leaving and lots of bad feelings which isn't always good of a community website

People can leave for a lot of reasons. I've left before. It isn't the traditionally fight-filled threads either; most recently I actually considered a break after the Doctorow/Bradbury title fiasco because holy shit embarrassing. Sometimes the tone here gets a bit tedious for me; sometimes it feels like certain prolific members are constantly lecturing, sometimes it's too much of an echo chamber. That's my pet peeves, you probably have your own too. But I came back. So do lots of people who leave. Because overall it's pretty good. And I like the argumentative threads about politics etc because in between the kneejerk reactions there's often arguments I had never considered, articulated well, unlike what you'd find at 99% of other sites. It's what got me hooked in the first place.
posted by Hoopo at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Both this and the Israel deletion both have a whiff of convenience about them. Sometimes it seems it's more important to keep this place tidy than to actually have a meaningful conversation.

For my money, the mods ought to be more protective of stuff which raises hackles. Deleting a thread because the conversation isn't going well is only a cure in the sense that death cures everything.


I am going to say this politely because I am angry: that is not how this place works. You can decide what you would like to do with that information.

Your money is $5, long ago spent. We have a very lean team where we have no more than two people working at any one time and 90% of the time there is one main person working. As such, there are decisions we make because, at our moderation levels, this site can not support them. If you choose to call that convenience fine, I call it pragmatic. This is not new, this is part of the way this site works. We are very protective of individuals who seem to get off on the wrong foot here and we try to make sure people aren't just getting needlessly hassled because their views are unpopular, but there are literally thousands of other places on the internet where you can have substantive discussions about crappy things that have happened to people.

One of the reasons that MetaFilter exists as a unique place where people like to hang out and talk about things is because it's not filled up with all the usual assholes from the rest of the internet. We can only maintain that level of quality here if we're not spending all of our time babysitting individual threads where people holler at each other about the same old things and writing emails to strangers whose husbands may or may not have committed suicide and writing emails to members who are upset. This has been a difficult week. Death doesn't cure everything.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2012 [54 favorites]


I wanted more details about the current situation, and when I saw the only thing new was a fifty page pdf of a legal ruling I left.

Which is fine - not that I don't like to read your comments in threads, but the takeaway here s the way our legal system operates and maybe a discussion of that should be rather dry and fact-based.

I admit that resorting to pissy language to make my point is a bit obnoxious, but I am genuinely upset by the prevailing air of 'this subject is rather awful so let's avoid getting caught up in it.' Our social reluctance to confront such thorny issues has a lot to do with how Banks ended up spending 6 years in jail.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you think that would end well?

Of course it wouldn't end well, but that's not my point. (Which is that a lot of objections to deletions seem to boil down to "but we totally would have a respectful discussion!" and/or "it was a perfectly fine post that would be an awesome thread because everyone would read the links!", and I think a lot of times people underestimate peoples' abilities to read the links, to be assholes, and overestimate their own abilities to moderate a discussion like that.)

(Also, I was not being at all serious about my suggestion.)

(Today is parenthetical day in my universe.)
posted by rtha at 2:45 PM on May 24, 2012


rtha: "Of course it wouldn't end well, but that's not my point. (Which is that a lot of objections to deletions seem to boil down to "but we totally would have a respectful discussion!" and/or "it was a perfectly fine post that would be an awesome thread because everyone would read the links!", and I think a lot of times people underestimate peoples' abilities to read the links, to be assholes, and overestimate their own abilities to moderate a discussion like that.)

Oh, definitely.

(Also, I was not being at all serious about my suggestion.)"

Heh. Okay. :D
posted by zarq at 2:48 PM on May 24, 2012


I was recently called to serve on a jury, dismissed with a peremptory challenge, but the facts of that case so far as I could suss out from the things said during voire dire were that: A young woman was drunk and called a cab, and she accused the cab driver of deliberately touching her breasts through her clothing, and the cab driver was being prosecuted for some variation of sexual assault. And there were numerous questions about if any of us had dealt with "bad customer service experiences".

Clearly, we hadn't gotten in to the actual trial, so I know nothing of the evidence and testimony in the case, just how the prosecution and defense attorney were spinning things in an effort to get a reaction from the jury.

I have very mixed feelings about being booted off that jury ("yay, I can go back to work", "crap, there are deep issues there and I hope my peers are up to that discussion"), and I would very much like to have a deep civil conversation about the nuance of "he said/she said" in the absence of witnesses and forensic evidence. I'd love to talk to someone from a DA's office about the political impossibility of dropping charges on the lack of evidence. I'd love to talk about the limits of reasonable doubt. On errors in judgement, consent and the lack thereof when chemically impaired, and all of those things.

Y'all are not my therapist, I get that, but... anyway, I trust the judgement of the moderators, I don't know whether this thread would have gone bad or not, I may copy it wholesale over to my personal blog and see if I can have the conversation there.

Damn. And I understand.
posted by straw at 2:50 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our social reluctance to confront such thorny issues has a lot to do with how Banks ended up spending 6 years in jail.

Metafilter can not really do what you want it to do. Metafilter shouldn't try to what you want it to do.
posted by lrobertjones at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2012


Which is fine - not that I don't like to read your comments in threads, but the takeaway here s the way our legal system operates and maybe a discussion of that should be rather dry and fact-based.

Perhaps you would be happier on a message board for lawyers.
posted by empath at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your money is $5, long ago spent.

jessamyn, you should be aware that "for my money" means "in my opinion", not "I demand X for my $5".
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:01 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Perhaps you would be happier on a message board for lawyers.

No one is happier on a message board full of lawyers.
posted by Hoopo at 3:02 PM on May 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I didn't flag it, but I was planning to send an email to marcusesses (who seems pretty new) to advise them that the post, as written, didn't point us to a good summary of the story. I know that multi-link posts to news stories can be tough to build, and I have my share of clunkers.

My experience of reading the post:

First link: Brian Banks' site. The home page of the site is pretty but almost completely textless, and my first click to the Innocence Project doesn't tell me much. OK, will dig into that in a while, but the FPP must have a good link about the whole story, right?

Second link: a Wikipedia entry about the high school. Probably not something I would have to read carefully to understand this specific story in context. Might look at that later.

Third link: Banks' old ranking, in some detail. I can skip that.

Fourth link: a 2002 news story about the case. OK, but I want to read some detail about what happened to exonerate him 10 years later.

Fifth link: the 40 page PDF of the legal filing. I start going through it, but being unfamiliar with such documents, I back out pretty quickly, still looking for a decent high level summary to start with. But because it is so obviously full of detailed information, I'll come back to it later.

I finally clicked through Banks' site a few times to find a very brief summary of the case that seemed a little old, as it mentioned his upcoming hearing in April 2012. The News area of the site did include some links to current news stories.

And when I went back to the thread, I found that unSane had outlined the major facets of the case: who the accuser was, what her motivations her, and how the system had Banks absolutely trapped. This was all fascinating and worth discussing, but it wasn't presented in the post.

In brief: the 40 page legal filing is an AWESOME source. But it's not the best first source for those of us who aren't lawyers, or who really, really want a high level view before we dig in.
posted by maudlin at 3:04 PM on May 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


I thought that was a good post and well worth discussing.

furiousxgeorge's link would have improved it, and he probably would have added that.

MetaFilter actually does rape discussions better than any other venue I've found.

I'm sympathetic to the claim that threads like that are a real pain to moderate, but I would like to see some chastisement of the people who make them a pain to moderate rather than deletion.
posted by jamjam at 3:05 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Perhaps you would be happier on a message board for lawyers.

One of the reasons I joined MetaFilter in the first lace was that there are a lot of lawyers and other professionals like scientists, doctors, etc., who share their valuable time to discuss complex subjects in a thoughtful fashion. Is that bad? Because I'll cheerfully accept your suggestions for an alternative forum.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:08 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your money is $5, long ago spent.

For my money is ordinary idiomatic US English for 'in my opinion'. I was putting in two cents, not five dollars.
posted by unSane at 3:19 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would have liked to have seen the fpp stay as I think it could have been a very interesting discussion, but yeah, this has been a tough week for Team Mod so maybe let's all ease back on this one.
posted by Big_B at 3:22 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rather than creating this Meta and making long comments about the deletion, wouldn't it be easier to just write a new post?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:24 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Depends on what you think would happen. But reposting something that's been deleted is only good behavior under specialized circumstances I think.
posted by grobstein at 3:25 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The mods have repeatedly said the subject just needs a better presentation, so that's not a problem here.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:28 PM on May 24, 2012


BEST $5 VALUE EVER
posted by Trurl at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I dunno Trurl, I had a pretty awesome sub for lunch
posted by Hoopo at 3:35 PM on May 24, 2012


But reposting something that's been deleted is only good behavior under specialized circumstances I think.

Generally, reposting something that's been deleted while (a) making an earnest attempt to take what the deletion reason had to say into account and (b) not thumbing a nose at the previous deletion somehow is totally okay. If it seems like a tricky situation, dropping us a note of inquiry at the contact form about whether and how to proceed is always totally fine and folks sometimes do so.

There have certainly been cases of people reposting badly and having the repost deleted, but it's generally a problem with bad reposting in specific, not with giving things another go being a problem in general.

It does sort of surprise me on an ongoing basis that we don't have more concerted goes at do-overs and fewer "why can't we post about this?" type metatalks when do-overs are generally fine and we can, in fact, post about just about anything if it's done right and deletion reasons generally at least gesture in the direction of what was wrong with a given post. But lots of things surprise me, and I realize everybody's got their own view into these things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:41 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


"If you are going to make a post about a difficult topic it needs to be done well" and we felt this didn't hit that bar.

what defines something as being about a difficult topic? Would any post touching on rape (for example, a link to a case of an actual rape that went unreported) be defined as a difficult topic?
posted by zipadee at 3:45 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no comment or opinion about the merits or lack of merit of the post, the topic of the post, the deletion, or this Metatalk.

But I will agree with the premise that it would be a good thing if every legal post centered on the actual briefs/pleadings and opinions/judgments. It is depressing and embarrassing how people reach opinions about a complex legal topic based upon some partisan snippet they read from someone who probably didn't read the actual things themselves. One simply is not going to understand the legal issues by reading some executive summary or bloggy criticism. If one doesn't have the time or inclination to read the actual source documents and understand them, then one probably ought not express any opinion on the merits of a legal issue because it is almost certainly going to be uninformed and likely wrong.

It would be as stupid as offering an impassioned criticism of a film based exclusively on comments underneath a film trailer on youtube and without having watched the film or the trailer. Yet that is the level of insight you see from people commenting about legal issues without actually reading the brief or opinions.
posted by dios at 3:47 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


It was a bad post and a good deletion.

It was just, as said above, "here's a bad thing that happened" with no context or larger framework, and it was on a particularly hot-button topic.

It's not that we need a nanny to tell us what we can handle discussing, it's that there is no point in discussing something that usually ends in a shitstorm unless there's something special or new to discuss.

For example, discussions on problems with religion often tend to bring out anger. You could probably make several posts a day on various incidents from around the US of some religious group or person doing something bad or stupid. But what's the point of having such posts? It just rehashes the same religion debates. They should only stay up if they bring something new or interesting in a larger context to the table.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:47 PM on May 24, 2012


unSane> Your money is $5, long ago spent.

For my money is ordinary idiomatic US English for 'in my opinion'. I was putting in two cents, not five dollars.


Maybe Jessamyn knows this? The expression, plus what you said about what the mod team “ought to” do instead of what they were doing, made you sound entitled.
posted by Tobu at 3:48 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


anigbrowl, a discussion of the tensions you've described could be very interesting. But I think cortex's comment at the top explain pretty well why this post wasn't a good starting point for one. (Though I didn't follow it closely, and it sounds like some people were having a profitable discussion.)

Maudlin's comment describes my experience too.

And I was going to say something about "don't think of a deletion as a failed test, but as a project returned for re-work and re-submission", but cortex said it perfectly.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:52 PM on May 24, 2012


Would any post touching on rape (for example, a link to a case of an actual rape that went unreported) be defined as a difficult topic?

Rape as a topic in general introduces a big handicap, because it's a profoundly heavy subject that's touched a whole lot of people directly and indirectly. How much that's an issue from one post to the next is going to depend a lot on how it ties into the post and the nature of the situation, but it's pretty much universally a tougher topic to deal with than just about any music-related post or discussion of 19th C. architectural theory or so on.

The same goes for a number of other topics. And none of those topics live in an entirely separate box from everything else; there's not one set of rules for rape and police and religion and Apple/Microsoft/Google threads and another for everything else or anything. It's a matter of degree, based largely on the practical experiences of the posts that have been made and the discussions that have played out on this site over the last decade and change, and the topics that seem to be consistently more difficult to do right get more attention and pushback on subpar framing specifically because it's become clear that that's necessary to keep things sane around here.

I feel like "try harder" is about the best possible compromise response we can have to the practical fact of some topics being hard to make work in a setting like this. It's better than "fine, be terrible" and it's better than "that topic is forbidden". It's still not and never can be perfect, especially since in a big group like this there's no unanimous consensus about where these lines should be drawn, but at least it gives folks a chance to make the effort on the things they think deserve a second shot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:57 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The expression, plus what you said about what the mod team “ought to” do instead of what they were doing, made you sound entitled.

How would you have expressed it?
posted by unSane at 4:17 PM on May 24, 2012


How would you have expressed it?

Replace this:
For my money, the mods ought to be more protective of stuff which raises hackles.
With this:
In my opinion, the mods ought to be more protective of stuff which raises hackles.
posted by vidur at 4:43 PM on May 24, 2012


Or perhaps:
I think the mods ought to be more protective of stuff which raises hackles.

I am not saying that jessamyn did not misunderstand your intent. May be she did. But there are plenty of ways to rephrase that without saying "for my money, the mods ought to do X" and coming across like the mods ought to do stuff because we paid $5.

And that's my two cents. Twenty bucks, same as in town.
posted by vidur at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2012


How would you have expressed it?

I'd try to express a preference for a more delicate atmosphere on touchy discussions, but stopped short of giving advice or suggesting the mods direct their efforts there. Or if it still sounds like advice, I'd soften it with an acknowledgement that keeping that particular thread open and friendly might cause more work and stress and that I'm thankful for not dealing with it.

FWIW, I've learned something from watching some of the megathreads on controversial topics, but the interesting stuff is interleaved with long pissing matches. I admire everyone involved who keeps a cool head to make them work.
posted by Tobu at 4:50 PM on May 24, 2012


The expression, plus what you said about what the mod team “ought to” do instead of what they were doing, made you sound entitled.

My privilege is offended by your othering of unSane's entitlement.
posted by Chuckles at 5:21 PM on May 24, 2012


e of the reasons I joined MetaFilter in the first lace was that there are a lot of lawyers and other professionals like scientists, doctors, etc., who share their valuable time to discuss complex subjects in a thoughtful fashion. Is that bad? Because I'll cheerfully accept your suggestions for an alternative forum.

It's great that there are lawyers who have the time and expertise to read a 40 page legal opinion, but the vast majority of the site does not, and a post which depends on it is not a good post for a site like this.

If you want a site where discussion is limited to expert commentary on primary sources, you are probably going to have to create it.
posted by empath at 5:36 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I will agree with the premise that it would be a good thing if every legal post centered on the actual briefs/pleadings and opinions/judgments....If one doesn't have the time or inclination to read the actual source documents and understand them, then one probably ought not express any opinion on the merits of a legal issue because it is almost certainly going to be uninformed and likely wrong.

I am a lay person who sometimes has occasion to read the opinions of my state appellate courts for my job. I have read several fascinating ones, at least one brilliant one, and more than a few which were hugely important and complex. (If anyone wants to read a 60 page exegesis that lays out in minute detail the flaws in the American system of buying and selling mortgages which led to the foreclosure crisis, hit me up.) Some were practically Thurber stories --- let me tell you about the one about the guy who got convicted of animal cruelty for accidentally running over a duck.

But: You will never, ever get people to do this, even here on Metafilter, home of sages. Legal opinions almost always contain extensive discussion of several dry, technical points, and they're chock-a-block with brackets and parenthesis and quotes and blockquotes citing precedent which are hugely difficult to parse if you're not familiar with legal notation. It can be difficult to tell who is speaking in what paragraph, what the decision is, and what parts of the decision are significant and which represent a break with the past or a new understanding of the law.

This isn't always true, of course, there's at least a few judges out there who write with verve. But to a layperson, opening up a PDF, being confronted with a half-a-page header you don't understand followed by a wall of text and then noticing, wait, this thing goes on for dozens of pages? People will check out nigh-instantaneously.

I mean, sure, put in a link by all means, so it's there for the people who want it. But I think it's foolish to expect that people are going to be that generous with their leisure time to dive in to something like that in order to have a bit of chat on a web forum, and therefore there's little hope that any ensuing discussion will center on primary sources.
posted by Diablevert at 5:45 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


But I will agree with the premise that it would be a good thing if every legal post centered on the actual briefs/pleadings and opinions/judgments. It is depressing and embarrassing how people reach opinions about a complex legal topic based upon some partisan snippet they read from someone who probably didn't read the actual things themselves.

You can say the exact same sort of thing about almost any topic on metafilter: from sports, to music, to physics. Do you think we should only posts links to arxiv for new science news? Do you think we should limit discussion about israel and palestine to foreign relations majors or people who grew up on the levant? Like it or not, life calls upon us to make judgements upon topics which we are not experts on all the time. And legal news impacts us directly, and we can shape the way the law works through the voting booth. I don't want to rely on a priesthood of lawyers on metafilter to tell us what to think about every new court case.
posted by empath at 6:01 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's great that there are lawyers who have the time and expertise to read a 40 page legal opinion, but the vast majority of the site does not, and a post which depends on it is not a good post for a site like this.

It's 40 double-spaced pages consisting largely of narrative that would take a person of ordinary reading ability probably 10-15 minutes to read. If a person considers himself fluent in the English language, he should have little problem with this material.

Cortex's point above that posts about certain topics must be particular good is well-taken, but we've had plenty of fine threads coming out of posts consisting of basically just a supreme court ruling (by far tougher to read than this brief)--example, example. Sure there are news blurbs in these examples, but really they contain hardly more information than is in the deleted post. The difference is, threads where people opine about prison overcrowding or free speech without reading the material linked in the post just go differently.
posted by dsfan at 6:03 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's 40 double-spaced pages consisting largely of narrative that would take a person of ordinary reading ability probably 10-15 minutes to read. If a person considers himself fluent in the English language, he should have little problem with this material.

There is a lot of text on the Internet. A LOT of text. It may be technically relatively easy to read 40 pages, but that's time that could be spent reading or doing something else. If a topic seems interesting enough, and if it's really the only source to get that information, then people will be more motivated to read it.

Each example thread you mention starts with a single, clear link to a NY Times article that summarizes the issues and the decisions in two pages. That's a lot more information than was in the FPP we're discussing now. Please remember that none of the links in this FPP went directly to an up to date summary of the case.

Some of the people participating in the Supreme Court threads may have already been familiar with the story and went straight to the decision, but I suspect many people read just the news story, or read all or part of the decision only AFTER reading the two pages from the NYT.
posted by maudlin at 6:14 PM on May 24, 2012


Diablevert: "let me tell you about the one about the guy who got convicted of animal cruelty for accidentally running over a duck. "

Oh, go on then. If you insist.
posted by subbes at 6:20 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of text on the Internet. A LOT of text. It may be technically relatively easy to read 40 pages, but that's time that could be spent reading or doing something else. If a topic seems interesting enough, and if it's really the only source to get that information, then people will be more motivated to read it.

Each example thread you mention starts with a single, clear link to a NY Times article that summarizes the issues and the decisions in two pages. That's a lot more information than was in the FPP we're discussing now. Please remember that none of the links in this FPP went directly to an up to date summary of the case.


All that's true, and I agree it would have improved the post (I mean, I don't think it was a particularly great post, and I said above I really have no problem with its deletion). But, look, right now on the front page is a post whose only link (albeit repeated in html and pdf form) is to a significantly more difficult piece for a layman to read. So it's not just that this was a wall of text, it's that posts about this topic have to meet a higher standard. I understand why that is, and it's not really a heckler's veto (since you can override the 'veto' with a better post), but it's a pretty sad commentary on commenting here that this is the case.

By the way, I'm sure they can defend themselves, but neither dios nor anigbrowl, as far as I can tell, said that non-lawyers shouldn't opine about legal threads, just that it's generally better to read the cases and briefs rather than secondary material to make judgments.
posted by dsfan at 6:29 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, go on then. If you insist.

Well, basically, he peeled out of a parking lot without paying enough attention at took out this duck without even noticing. Not just any duck --- a mama duck. With a line of ducklings she was leading across the road behind her. The wounded duck, her bared breast smeared red, attempted valiantly to collect her scattered young but quickly collapsed; a bunch of shoppers and clerks ran out of Best Buy and stopped traffic amid scenes of mournful quacking; finally some bright spark ran and got a cardboard box and the crowd managed to round up the ducklings.

Meanwhile, a couple who was waiting at the intersection in their truck saw the whole thing and peeled off after the joker, forcing him to pull to the side of the road a mile away and effectively conducting a citizen's arrest for attempted duck-i-cide. A cop was eventually called and with about a dozen angry shoppers and about a half dozen orphaned ducklings all yelling/quacking away, it was decided that Something Must Be Done and the guy got arrested for animal cruelty.

The legal case centered on whether his actions fit the definition of negligent indifference to animal welfare under the cruelty law (he said he didn't realize he'd hit the duck, the other witnesses said he knew and took off anyway) and whether it mattered that it was a wild duck (which can be legally hunted) and whether his original sentence --- six months suspended, hefty fine --- was excessive.

This is all IIRC, of course, I'm sure I've fudged some of the details. I just couldn't get the image out of my head of some poor schmuck humming to himself as he merrily accelerated onto the highway, little knowing that he was about to bring himself tens of thousands in legal bills and set precedent, all over a duck. (Whose tragic death scene, via the reproduced testimony of the Best Buy cashier and even in the context of an appellate opinion, was nonetheless quite touching.)
posted by Diablevert at 6:41 PM on May 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Meanwhile of course my P G Wodehouse FPP is going swimmingly. How depressing.

Why is this depressing? No, really. I fail to understand why people get so tetchy at the thought of Mefi being a site for kittens and rainbows and 19thc architecture instead of breaking news and outrage filter.

Some days, I'd rather read 20 posts on comic books and video games (neither of which I take part in as reader/player IRL) than 1 weighty post on Obama and Romney. Given the sheer number of comic book and video game FPPs (not to mention Apple, Roger Ebert, and cats) that people post, I'm going to guess there are folks out there who feel the same.
posted by librarylis at 6:46 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why is this depressing? No, really. I fail to understand why people get so tetchy at the thought of Mefi being a site for kittens and rainbows and 19thc architecture instead of breaking news and outrage filter.

Self-evidently, I don't have a problem with kittens and rainbows, since I posted it.

What's depressing (to me) is my perception -- true or not -- that there's a reflex to delete 'difficult' posts which run counter to certain -- I hesitate to say orthodoxies because it's not really that kind of place -- but lets say broadly-held opinions among mefites.

Not that *all* such posts get deleted, far from it, but they do seem to be held to a higher standard of conduct.

For example, if the Israeli post had been about an outbreak of anti-semitism among the Sudanese, would it have been deleted? If the post under discussion had been about a guy being finally convicted of rape six years after having escaped prosecution, would it have been deleted?

I'm totally sympathetic to the mod viewpoint which says "we had a shitter of a week, it's Friday, give us a fucking break, we really don't need to threadsit something right now". If that's the case, really, just say it. We get it.

But here you had two different posts both of which raised prickly but very interesting (to me) and worthy of discussion (to me) issues. The kind of stuff which I'd like to see posted, frankly, because you do get a better quality of discussion here and are more likely to have your preconceptions challenged and (sometimes) undermined. Neither of them were perfectly framed but I honestly don't think either of them were particularly deleteworthy, absent the specific context of a shitty week and TGIF.
posted by unSane at 7:03 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


For example, if the Israeli post had been about an outbreak of anti-semitism among the Sudanese, would it have been deleted?

If it had directly compared the situation to events in the Holocaust, and then the poster went on to criticize people who questioned that? Yes, I feel pretty strongly it would've been deleted.
posted by inigo2 at 7:06 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


For example, if the Israeli post had been about an outbreak of anti-semitism among the Sudanese, would it have been deleted?

If it had otherwise had the same sort of problems that the actual post had? Yes.

If the post under discussion had been about a guy being finally convicted of rape six years after having escaped prosecution, would it have been deleted?

Yes, if it had otherwise had the same sort of problems that the actual post had.

People make good and less good posts about all sorts of things. There have been so many rape-related posts over the years that you would have a hard time finding an angle that had not been covered; certainly there have been posts about both male and female rape victims, male and female accusers, rape convictions and rape acquittals apparently both proper and sketchy, both timely and delayed.

Neither of them were perfectly framed but I honestly don't think either of them were particularly deleteworthy, absent the specific context of a shitty week and TGIF.

We disagree. Which is fine, but I don't think the disagreement needs to be explained away by supposing some systemic anti-male or pro-Israel bias rather than the less juicy but more mundanely plausible notion that we actually just thought those specific actual posts were not very good posts. Especially given how often we stress the "someone can try and do this but make a better post out of it" followthrough on this stuff.

And for my part at least, to whatever extent there's a Shitty Week And TGIF thing here it's not so much that people can't have a thread on a difficult topic because we're too tired to moderate a reasonable discussion; rather, it's that once again defending in Metatalk the concepts of trying harder on difficult topics and of trying again if you think something that got deleted merits a stronger do-over post as anything other than really well-established common sense reactions to this stuff sounds more tedious than usual.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:19 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah I should speak up and say that the Israel post was a really different thing for reasons people have mentioned. I mean normally anything about Israel or anti-semitism gets people's dander up but some posts are okay and some are not. Most lately are okay and that's great. This one not only had the Kristallnacht reference (which wasn't even exactly IN the original linked articles but appeared to have been chosen for effect) but it had the OP (a known BNDer) actively fighting with people in the thread even after we'd stepped in and made the suggestion that people cool it somewhat.

We were prepared to babysit that thread and it just got worse and worse. So this wasn't "this isn't a better post about these topics, please make one" this was "guy seemed to make this post for axe-grinding reasons and is threadsitting after we flat out said not to and the post was iffy in the first place and we all talked about it and figured this is really not the best way to be BNDing things here and this is the sort of thing that he should not be doing" if you want to know the entire thought process for that.

And that was the last thread we had any serious mod discussion about until this one.

If the post under discussion had been about a guy being finally convicted of rape six years after having escaped prosecution, would it have been deleted?

Probably? If it had linked to a 40 page court document and one "Convict this guy" website and links to his sports history and other stuff? Honestly I know there are differences of opinion on this one, but we really felt this was not a good way to make a post about this topic. And the comments in the thread were not dissuading us from that idea. And, on preview, what cortex said, the tiring thing is having first-principles discussions about it, not really the moderation aspect of it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:19 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


In other words, yes, this is a story about systematic faults in the US criminal justice system, some of which have nothing to do with rape in particular but others of which probably do.

This could have potentially been a decent post if it had been framed this way, rather than as newsfilter.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 PM on May 24, 2012


I don't want to rely on a priesthood of lawyers on metafilter to tell us what to think about every new court case.

Don't. Read it for yourself. That's precisely my point. It's there for you (or should be there as part of the post, which is my point). Don't rely on what a lawyer said about it; read it yourself. But certainly don't rely on what some non-lawyer partisan hack says about it from your favorite blog--that's even dumber. Educate yourself. Judges write these reasoned opinions with the point of making it so anyone (including lay people) can understand what the law is without having much built-in knowledge.

I don't want to limit discussion to lawyers; I want everyone to participate. But that requires effort to read what you are commenting about. If you can't be motivated to understand the issue or read anything more than some blog rant about a generalized topic, then don't bother posting claims about what is happening or offer criticisms of what a court is doing. Because you don't know.

But I think it's foolish to expect that people are going to be that generous with their leisure time to dive in to something like that in order to have a bit of chat on a web forum.

Here is where we disagree. I don't see this place as a place to "have a bit of a chat". I see this as a place where things and ideas are shared and discussed which is a higher form of communication than "chat". We frown upon people who just start firing off opinions without "RTFA". We are usually not tolerant of people who start spouting off uninformed opinions on topics that they don't know about. So I guess my response to you is this: people may not want to spend their leisure time reading a post made about a legal case or ruling (they may not want to RTFA for any post or topic) but then they shouldn't try to participate in a critical or judgmental way. And if they do, they should be criticized themselves.
posted by dios at 7:28 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am confident they did not delete anything today on account of it being Friday.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:31 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


it would be a good thing if every legal post centered on the actual briefs/pleadings and opinions/judgments. It is depressing and embarrassing how people reach opinions about a complex legal topic based upon some partisan snippet they read from someone who probably didn't read the actual things themselves.

SO MUCH THIS. SERIOUSLY.

If you have time to discuss and/or grar about a legal issue, particularly the ramifications of a specific legal case, you have time to read the legal documents in said case. Seriously seriously, legal documents are a lot easier to read than people think, most of the time. Especially for the kind of people who read MetaFilter.

It really is embarrassing how many people can get all worked up over a case when all they've read is a couple of news articles and blog posts about it. It reminds me of Homer Simpson: "I'm not signing anything until I read it, or someone gives me the gist of it." Why are people so willing to just let other people, whose motivations may not be entirely objective, just give them the gist of important legal matters instead of reading the matter themselves?
posted by Gator at 7:32 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Soooo, is anyone gonna do a new post on the basic subject or not?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on May 24, 2012


Fair enough on the Israel post. I didn't know the poster's history but I did see him continuing to theadsit after you asked him not too, so there's that. The explicit Kristallnacht parallel in the FPP was kind of redundant since it was blindingly obvious for anyone who knew their history.

On the rape post, obviously it's your call. The FPP had a bunch of weird links but one doozy. In a way it's sort of the flipside of the Israel one, in that the subtext of the Israel one was too explicity and that of the rape one was too implicit.

I guess in both cases I felt a bit cheated of an interesting discussion by people who could see past the awkward framing. But there's a difference between wanting to sit here with a drink and bat opinions back and forth about something, and having to umpire it. I get that.
posted by unSane at 7:33 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the rape post was interesting because it shows the problem of having linked civil and criminal cases. People who make false allegations (of rape or any other crime) are often too scared or embarrassed to retract their story, but there usually isn't a hefty financial penalty for telling the truth. Furthermore, the prosecutors in criminal trials don't usually have a direct financial interest in obtaining a conviction - but in this case her attorney received half the settlement in the linked civil suit, so he effectively had an interest in having Banks convicted. So this isn't just another waah, waah, he was falsely convicted and sent to jail. It's about the corrupting effect of civil settlements on the criminal justice system. I hadn't thought about it before, and I'm glad that I read the (now deleted) FPP.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:38 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


it's that once again defending in Metatalk the concepts of trying harder on difficult topics and of trying again if you think something that got deleted merits a stronger do-over post as anything other than really well-established common sense reactions to this stuff sounds more tedious than usual.

I think that came across more clearly in this thread than in any other I've seen so that was very useful. The THREAD DELETED thing has a big 'here be dragons' factor so I don't think you guys can emphasise the 'better do-over permitted' aspect enough. I've certainly censored myself from doing-over a deleted post in the past because I didn't want to be perceived as thumbing my nose, even if I wasn't.
posted by unSane at 7:38 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This post ought not to have been deleted.
I agree.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:40 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Soooo, is anyone gonna do a new post on the basic subject or not?


I would, but I feel like it's been a tough enough week for the mods.
posted by lalex at 7:51 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


some systemic anti-male or pro-Israel bias

By the way, that wasn't what I was suggesting at all. I mean, at all. I don't think either of those things obtain here.

The broadly-held assumptions I was referring to were (1) that anti-semitism is widespread and we must tread carefully when accusing Jewish people (however fringe their political affiliation) of the kinds of behavior they as a people were subject to during the holocaust and (2) that rape allegations are rarely made-up.

I don't particularly disagree with either of these opinions.

What was interesting about both posts was the degree to which they cut across broader versions of the same axioms, namely "rape allegations are almost never made up, so rape should be treated as a special kind of crime with different evidentiary requirements' and 'Jewish people in general are incapable of racist or fascistic behavior because of their history'.

I happen to disagree wth the broad versions and so these posts were interesting to me as counter-examples to the broad versions which left the narrow versions intact. Maybe I was just reading too much into them.
posted by unSane at 7:52 PM on May 24, 2012


Here is where we disagree. I don't see this place as a place to "have a bit of a chat". I see this as a place where things and ideas are shared and discussed which is a higher form of communication than "chat". We frown upon people who just start firing off opinions without "RTFA". We are usually not tolerant of people who start spouting off uninformed opinions on topics that they don't know about. So I guess my response to you is this: people may not want to spend their leisure time reading a post made about a legal case or ruling (they may not want to RTFA for any post or topic) but then they shouldn't try to participate in a critical or judgmental way. And if they do, they should be criticized themselves.

Okay, your post makes me think a couple things.
1) Generally speaking, I'm all about RTFA. I'm pretty sure if I look in my recent activity I can find those four words in that order in the past week in relation to a post I strongly felt was badly framed, the subsequent discussion of which ignored a hugely salient point because nobody had in fact RTFA, and I was quite snappish about it, really. So perhaps I'm bitter.
2) But in light of that and other experiences --- the A in that case was a 2,000 word Bloomberg news feature, not 40 closely printed pages of legalese --- I think there's a gradient. Participation in metafilter does and should require a higher level of effort than participation in other forums. It is not too much to expect people to read a long magazine feature or several news stories on a complex event in order to understand and participate in a discussion. That's a good thing. But I think there's limits to what one can reasonably expect, and I think most legal opinions in the raw --- which I do regularly read and find myself fascinated by --- are well above that.
3) Because while calling what we do here "chat" was glib, it was deliberately so. This is not a freshman survey course. It is not a debate at the Oxford Union. It is not being sponsored by the league of women voters. It's a discussion. It's a conversation. Frankly, getting people to adhere to the extremely minimal standards of doing more than reading the title and the FPP has not been a rousing success, considering that just about every thread --- and especially the contentious ones --- starts off with a good 5-10 comments worth of glib sarcasm, time-stamped about two minutes after the post goes up. I find that tiresome and wish it were otherwise, but given that that's the case I think swinging the pendulum all the way over to where participation requires you to do 40 pages of background reading is a bridge too far. There are limits to what you can reasonably expect out of people. We aren't being graded.

Again, by all means, include links to primary sources if possible. Many people will find them useful and enriching. But I think shifting site culture to the point where deep reading into dense primary sources a basic requirement for thread participation is a pipe dream.
posted by Diablevert at 7:55 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't rely on what a lawyer said about it; read it yourself. But certainly don't rely on what some non-lawyer partisan hack says about it from your favorite blog--that's even dumber. Educate yourself. Judges write these reasoned opinions with the point of making it so anyone (including lay people) can understand what the law is without having much built-in knowledge.

Maybe they try, but do they succeed? I, too, appreciate when a thread on a Supreme Court or appellate court case includes the text of the decision, and I often read them. But I can't say that I understand them; they rely not only on specialized language but on a deep network of tacit knowledge shared by people with expertise and experience in the law. I know this because sometimes I post in those threads and it's clear from the responses of the actual lawyers that I haven't really grasped what the issues are. In fact, the responses I get are much like the ones that I find myself giving to people who post in math threads -- people who are intelligent, educated, and thoughtful, but who simply don't have the specialized knowledge required to see in a math paper what's actually there.

I believe that e.g. Antonin Scalia is a deep, wise, conscientious legal scholar; but the reason I believe that is because that's what lawyers say on blogs (and other lawyers have told me in person) and I have no reason to doubt it. But I don't have direct access to that fact myself. That's just how law is. Maybe when you're immersed in it, it seems like plain English. But it isn't.
posted by escabeche at 8:00 PM on May 24, 2012


What's depressing (to me) is my perception -- true or not -- that there's a reflex to delete 'difficult' posts which run counter to certain -- I hesitate to say orthodoxies because it's not really that kind of place -- but lets say broadly-held opinions among mefites.

Not that *all* such posts get deleted, far from it, but they do seem to be held to a higher standard of conduct.


There's a current post about an apparent decrease in the public acceptability of abortion in the US. There's one about the genetics of race in a historically persecuted minority group in the US - do topics get any more difficult than that? - that has a 108-page scientific pdf but provides multiple relevant links for lay readers.

Neutral framing helps, especially when the mod staff is already known to be babysitting multiple threads and coming off a major management crisis. It's sensible to hold posts that can reasonably be predicted to anger or distress a sizeable portion of the commentariat to a higher standard than posts that are more neutral.
posted by gingerest at 8:09 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


We can only maintain that level of quality here if we're not spending all of our time babysitting individual threads where people holler at each other about the same old things and writing emails to strangers whose husbands may or may not have committed suicide and writing emails to members who are upset. This has been a difficult week. Death doesn't cure everything.

Note: Jessamyn needs a hug.

*hug!!!*
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:22 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I think this was a good deletion. There's such a thing as cutting off a post's potential via the framing. The type of links here almost guaranteed that few people would read the post, there were fighty initial comments which almost guaranteed the conversation would just run in a miserable circle around false rape allegations, it seems like it would be horrible to moderate. It's an interesting individual case, and you can wring your hands about people today being unwilling to read legal documents or whatever, but I suspect the mods are here to work around human nature, not fundamentally change it. At least, the former would be less exhausting.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:27 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


anigbrowl: "One of the reasons I joined MetaFilter in the first lace was that there are a lot of lawyers and other professionals like scientists, doctors, etc., who share their valuable time to discuss complex subjects in a thoughtful fashion."

FWIW, I'm a (mostly currently non-practicing) lawyer, and the framing of this post did nothing for me. (I was going to make a flippant comment to the effect that "sometimes I can barely stand to read filings for cases I'm involved in!" but I'll be more serious.)

First, it's not the first, or tenth, or hundreth wrongful conviction case I've seen (and I don't even practice criminal law), and it's not the most tragic. It's sad and horrible, but what seems noteworthy about it (and why the media picked it up) is the football angle, not the wrongful conviction.

Second, it isn't framed as "here is a crazy-ass policy problem with the criminal law system, and here is an example of how someone's life was ruined by it." It's framed as, "Here is a shitty case with a pretty familiar* narrative" (*familiar to me as a lawyer who pays reasonable attention to the criminal system). I see in the comments how people began to discuss the larger issues raised by the case, but that wasn't the framing. Most of the time, I don't have anything interesting to contribute about an individual case that I'm not involved in. My reaction would be, "Man, that poor kid." I would, however, probably have something to say about a larger policy issue.

Third, for cases I'm not involved in, it really does have to be a pretty special case for me to read filings or decisions rather than newsy summaries. There are legal reporters I like whose work I trust, and I'd generally rather read their overview than dig into case documents. Sometimes I am interested and I do search out the filings, but it's not particularly appealing. I don't know many lawyers who want to read them recreationally, even if they otherwise enjoy reading and arguing about legal issues for fun. (Maybe some of that is that I'm generally familiar with the broad outlines of the legal issues so a good news story fills in enough of the factual background that I can understand the legal issues without needing to do a detailed read of whatever filing we're talking about.)

Fourth, legal documents make me read slow. Like, slooooooow. It switches my brain out of "here is something interesting" mode and into "you must read this with extreme and precise attention to detail, while deconstructing the logical arguments and referencing your brain full of related law."

Fifth, when other lawyers pass me, say, a state Supreme Court opinion they think I shouldn't miss, they generally curate it in some fashion so I can jump to the important part, or so I have a set-up so I know what I'm reading. "Here's a link to the Lawyer's Weekly summary of the case background (in four paragraphs rather than 30 pages); jump to page 52 and take a look at the discussion of estoppel." or "Whoa! The court just overturned Law 437-5, which the City is relying on in that pending Metropolis vs. Jim Bob case!" or "You will not even believe the new asshole the judge rips the defense attorney on page 12." If I were presenting a legal document as a major part of a FPP, I'd be doubly sure to curate it and explain what people would be looking at and where they should focus their attention, since the format isn't familiar to laypeople.

I obviously only speak for myself, I don't know what other lawyers on metafilter like to read in terms of legal FPPs, but those are the sorts of things that would have put me off commenting in this FPP, rather than drawn me to share expertise.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:52 PM on May 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


I am confident they did not delete anything today on account of it being Friday.

Its Thursday where the mods in question live.
posted by Falconetti at 8:55 PM on May 24, 2012


Is joke, son.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:07 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the rape post was interesting because it shows the problem of having linked civil and criminal cases.

Hey, another good angle that would have made a good FPP.
posted by desuetude at 9:20 PM on May 24, 2012


Judges write these reasoned opinions with the point of making it so anyone (including lay people) can understand what the law is without having much built-in knowledge.

That is the ideal. Some judges nail it. Many don't try. In fairness, it's easy to understand why. It takes effort to write a judicial opinion that is ironclad (won't be reversed on appeal) and is also comprehensible to the parties and other lay readers...and the reality is, often nobody reads the decisions. The losing party doesn't read the decision, he just reads the email from his attorney, and the attorneys just read the clerk's cover letter. And the clerk had skipped straight to the last page.

I have seen decisions that were entered wrongly on this account and not challenged, because the judge followed a well-reasoned discussion with a copy/paste mistake ("DENIED" instead of "ALLOWED") and nobody noticed.

That said, I completely agree with Dios about linking to legal documents in FPPs, wherever possible. And yes, the same logic holds for scientific research, etc., and even for linking NewsFilter FPPs to local reporting rather than just NYTimes, CNN, etc. Original documents will improve an FPP. To borrow a phrase from a legal-writing professor, you should not rely on "an intelligence between" you and the original material—in other words, a fallible person who is reporting or summarizing it for you. The closer you get to the boots on the ground, the better the FPP.
posted by cribcage at 9:31 PM on May 24, 2012


It's an interesting and shitty case, as they say, but it would have made a better FPP if there had been more to it other than just showing how shitty of a case it is: if there had been some broader theme or implication in there, aside from "a really shitty thing happened to this guy." There isn't a whole lot to discuss otherwise.

The topic is inherently GRAR-y enough such that the bar is raised.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:12 PM on May 24, 2012


As I law student, I read a lot of legal documents. I read decisions: decisions of the US Supreme Court all the way down to decisions of shitty little specialized courts you've never heard of. I read filings: complaints, answers, briefs, responses, you name it. I read secondary sources: treatises, practice guides, law review articles, and more.

The quality varies widely. The readability varies widely. The two are related but not always linked, in legal writing. So...some primary documents and other legal sources might indeed be properly made the central link in a notional FPP, and everyone would be equipped to enjoy them. Others would be exceedingly poor choices. It's not a uniform genre, at all. (There's more dross than gold, granted.)

Some decisions are downright literary, and that's the standard our highest court aspires to. However, it often fails--just as with many other courts, even some Supreme Court decisions would make you want to put an icepick through your eye. Not quite Nabokov.

I don't have an opinion on the deleted FPP, but I do think that in most cases it more helpful to include links to primary materials than omit them. Like Dios, I tend to think that a lot of major filings (complaints, for instance) and many decisions (both at the trial and appellate level) are better sources than the blogs and AP/Reuters stories linked in their place, and that most mefites are equipped to understand them. There's a visceral reaction to seeing the legally formatted document in a lot of people that's really unjustified these days. A twenty page, 12 pt. double spaced motion doesn't leave a lot of room for embellishment, especially when citations can chew up half a line each, and both judges and lawyers are busy. Plain language is increasingly the norm.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:09 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Grr. Meant to point here: Not Quite Nabokov. The syllabus (digest) alone isn't so bad.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:12 PM on May 24, 2012


New FPP here, seems to make the grade?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:41 AM on May 25, 2012


Understood that it's not going to be an exact science, nobody's gonna agree with all decisions about what stays and what goes, but it seems ever harder to understand, both in the posts and the comments. People heave up the laziest stuff about a pop song or a real thin post about nothing much and those things stay, but this one goes.

Too, though I recall at least one mods' comments about wanting to see less snark and noise, it still gets damn tiresome to open a thread and realize a serious majority of the comments are not-funny crap....................
posted by ambient2 at 1:48 AM on May 25, 2012


I think it's because the link itself must be something. Not the story that the link is about, but the link itself. The songs are interesting to the people who like the song/artist and think others will like it. But a link to a local news article about a pop song wouldn't cut it.
posted by Danila at 1:59 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


ambient2, we understand that everyone has their own individual frustrations with content and commentary, but from our point of view, only certain things cause painful rifts in the community, take up crazy amounts of moderation time, result in valued members leaving the site, and generate a whole lot of angry emails and metatalk posts.

When we decide that the bar has to be higher for those sorts of posts, it's not us saying that we think random YouTube song is better content than X Travesty of Justice, or Y Egregious Case of Abuse, etc., it's us saying that the latter posts tend to be concretely damaging to the site, and if we need to ride them harder to keep the ensuing threads from devolving into ragefests, that's what we have to do. It's no fun. It's not pleasant to be accused of censorship or laziness or trying to prevent people from having meaningful discussion. It's not wonderful to have to repeat and restate over and over and over and over again why we do what we do, and how posters and commenters can make it better.

We do not physically have the capability to monitor every comment on every contentious thread and nip problems in the bud and try to steer things away from becoming complete shitstorms, thus we ask that posters try to post neutrally, not use rage-inducing quotes, not editorialize, not axegrind or threadsit, present good content, try to give context or background that might make something meaningful beyond Horrible Thing Happened, and not to go trawling for the worst things they can find to post on Metafilter. We ask that commenters take responsibility for keeping the discussion adult and rational, to try to avoid hyperbolic statements and supersaturated sarcasm, and to avoid attacking and insulting each other.

That's our way of dealing with it as opposed to issuing a ban on difficult subjects, though, trust me, it makes our work and lives much harder and a lot more unpleasant. Usually, if a post doesn't fly the first time, it can be reposted with some changes, and while it's clear that a lot of people find this unreasonable or onerous, that's the compromise at this point.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:02 AM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find this post to be amazingly disingenuous given angibrowl's history of stridently arguing that men get the short end of the stick in discussion of sexism and privilege. I don't think we can have an honest conversation about whether the post should have been deleted (it should have) if it's framed as simply a discussion about the law, when the real reason angibrowl is concerned is likely because he's afraid that this displays, yet again, the tough and unjust road that the men of Metafilter have to walk. I have no doubt someone will try to disabuse me of this notion, since the men concerned with preserving male privilege here have so many arguments about why their concern this time is contingent and not trolling, but let's be honest: if this were a poorly framed post about a random court case in which someone was wrongly convicted of vehicular manslaughter, this Meta would not be here.
posted by OmieWise at 5:08 AM on May 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


but let's be honest: if this were a poorly framed post about a random court case in which someone was wrongly convicted of vehicular manslaughter, this Meta would not be here.

Proving a hypothetical rarely works and besides the point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:31 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Couple of things....

1) it would be nice, omiewise, if you would not characterize any man who disagrees with you as trying to preserve male privilege. It makes responding to you a lot harder.

2) I agree with you that users who are known to have an Axe to Grind on certain topics probably have ulterior motives for posting. We see this a lot in I/P and abortion posts. And political ones. But ultimately, if the concern being raised is reasonable, then its really unfair to attack someone for something they're not saying.
posted by zarq at 5:55 AM on May 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Holy ad hominem, omiewise. What an incredible insight you have into the workings of somebody else's brain!

Hate the post, not the poster.
posted by unSane at 6:06 AM on May 25, 2012


You three are being such typical frat bros MRA neggers. You only reason you said what you said is because of all that privilege dripping off your limp noodles. It's disgusting really.
posted by Dano St at 6:15 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on. OmieWise is right. anigbrowl started this off by saying he was actually offended at the deletion. Yes, that was disingenuous - because it left off the reason for taking offense.
posted by koeselitz at 6:22 AM on May 25, 2012


You three are being such typical frat bros MRA neggers.

Why are you doing this? Do not do this here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:33 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


What am I doing? I'm just trying to fit in.
posted by Dano St at 6:38 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're failing.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:42 AM on May 25, 2012


Oh, come on. OmieWise is right. anigbrowl started this off by saying he was actually offended at the deletion. Yes, that was disingenuous - because it left off the reason for taking offense.

So you'd rather we discussed anigbrowl than the post?
posted by unSane at 6:46 AM on May 25, 2012


What am I doing? I'm just trying to fit in.

You're doing an over the top parody of people's positions in an effort to make a statement about a topic you frequently complain about here and over email. Do not do that here, this is a problematic enough thread dealing with people's actual feelings. We don't need people jumping in with hyperbolic statements just to make some sort of sideways point. Say what you have to say, don't do it like that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:47 AM on May 25, 2012


but let's be honest: if this were a poorly framed post about a random court case in which someone was wrongly convicted of vehicular manslaughter, this Meta would not be here.

Yes, because the original post wouldn't have been deleted.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 6:50 AM on May 25, 2012


koeselitz: "Oh, come on. OmieWise is right. anigbrowl started this off by saying he was actually offended at the deletion. Yes, that was disingenuous - because it left off the reason for taking offense."

No, he gave three paragraphs of explanations as to why he was offended by the deletions. You're assuming that there's another one, unstated. And there very well may be.

Having been accused in Meta multiple times of having ulterior motives for posting things to the Blue that were deleted or happened to piss people off, I'm a bit sensitive to others being accused of the same.

Would it not be better to ask, rather than making assumptions and accusations? How is omiewise's comment going to elicit anything other than an angry defensive reaction?
posted by zarq at 7:06 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, several posters claimed early on in this MeTa that the post was deleted and/or flagged because it was "politically inconvenient":

I agree with angibrowl. It seems like the post was deleted simply because it touched on a controversial topic. Basically, giving a 'heckler's veto' to people who don't like to see that topic discussed.

and:

It seems like what many people are saying is that any post about a man falsely accused of rape is problematic, because it gives ammunition to people they disagree with -- it creates the impression that false accusations of rape might be a real problem, even if it doesn't say anything about them generally. And so they flag it, derail the thread, etc. But it seems disingenuous to then frame this as something "Metafilter doesn't do well." Instead of deleting the derails, we are giving them a heckler's veto over the thread. . . . Now, look, outragefilter is not usually the best of the web, and I often feel bad when I get sucked into it. But this was not deleted because it was outragefilter, it was deleted because a large constituency here thinks some outrages are politically inconvenient. And that rubs me the wrong way.

I think we should at the very least give the same benefit of the doubt to the people flagging and to the mods that we're meant to give to anigbrowl. Otherwise, it's a bit late to be all, oh ho ho ad hominem.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2012


Look, I know my comment was fighty rather than solicitous, but I'm not sure why we have to keep assuming good motives from people who have a history of reactive behavior and comments around certain topics. Why should we ignore that history? It dumbs down the entire conversation to treat that history as if it does not exist. It makes a mockery of our persistent usernames. Further, it accepts a framing for the larger conversation about, in this case, sexism and sexual assault, that misrepresents the central and salient issues. There are certainly ways that this could be framed to be about the potential loss of good legal discussion, even from angibrowl, but that would require him to admit his past history on this issue and explain why, even though that history would lead people to assume that his real motives revolve around the concern that we aren't discussing things like false rape accusations enough here on Metafilter, here are the reasons that that would be a bad assumption in this case. A comment like that, in which the issue had been acknowledged, would be one we could debate, it would be honest, and it would put the burden of proof on the person who has a history of dismissing concerns about sexism and male privilege.

In short, I'm not sure why it should be my responsibility to excuse angibrowl's previous positions, and I'm not sure why, absent any explanations that change our understanding, the members of this site should engage in apologetics for his framing.
posted by OmieWise at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


unSane: " What was interesting about both posts was the degree to which they cut across broader versions of the same axioms, namely "rape allegations are almost never made up, so rape should be treated as a special kind of crime with different evidentiary requirements' and 'Jewish people in general are incapable of racist or fascistic behavior because of their history'."

Cite? Where in the Israel post or comments did anyone say or imply that "Jewish people in general are incapable of racist of fascistic behavior because of their history?"

The anti-Sudanese riots in Israel started with a demonstration, that then turned violent. So, why were the Israeli's protesting? Do you know? I ask because that relevant fact was left out of the FPP.

Crime. Among other incidents, a 15 year old Israeli girl was assaulted and raped by a Sudanese immigrant. The crime wave, and particularly that rape -- the rapist's identity was determined through a DNA test -- prompted an outraged backlash in what was already an angry environment, political posturing by at least one right-wing nutballs in the Israeli government and has further fostered a wave of anti-immigration sentiment.

So then we have a post about it. The OP mentioned the firebombings, which was good. But the way the post was constructed, he also made it sound like innocent African Christians were being persecuted for no other reason than their identity, religion and immigrant status. No other context was provided. Yet the situation does not exist in a vacuum.

Adding insult to injury, the OP then compared it to Kristallnacht, an event from the Holocaust in which "At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and a further 30,000 arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.[2] Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone), and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged." So basically he's accusing Jews of acting like Nazis.

His ridiculous protest in the thread that he wasn't referencing Kristallnacht would have been laughable if it weren't so offensive.

While the situation in Israel is awful and heartbreaking, to compare it to Kristallnacht, an event which heralded the destruction of an established Jewish culture in Germany and wound up sending 30,000 Jews to concentration camps where they were likely slaughtered betrays a stunning lack of perspective.

So yes, the framing matters. And what is and is not mentioned also matters. The responses to the OP in the thread were inevitable, and they were certainly not the result of anyone claiming that "Jews are incapable of racism or fascism because of their history."
posted by zarq at 7:39 AM on May 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


The current thread on the Banks case seems to be going fine, by the way.
posted by escabeche at 7:50 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, thanks for mentioning it went up. I would have missed it otherwise. Link.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:05 AM on May 25, 2012


Why should we ignore that history? It dumbs down the entire conversation to treat that history as if it does not exist

How exactly would turning this conversation into one about anigbrowl's motives for posting to MeTa help things at all? I agree that anigbrowl has a history of being on one side of fighty threads on this topic, but I think the fact that he framed it from a more objective-sounding viewpoint for the post helped everyone else ignore those aspects and actually talk about the merits and flaws of the original post and its deletion. What were we missing from this thread by not talking about any of that other than people making accusations about anigbrowl posting in bad faith and anigbrowl responding to say he isn't?
posted by burnmp3s at 8:17 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cite? Where in the Israel post or comments did anyone say or imply that "Jewish people in general are incapable of racist of fascistic behavior because of their history?"

I never said or implied that that sentiment was in the post or comments. However you cannot be unaware that there is substantial section of the commentariat who regard any criticism of Israel or even segments of the Israeli (especially Zionist) population as anti-semitic. If you want a cite for that, the response to Peter Beinart's book which I'm sure you're aware of will do very well.
posted by unSane at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2012


Look, I know my comment was fighty rather than solicitous, but I'm not sure why we have to keep assuming good motives from people who have a history of reactive behavior and comments around certain topics. Why should we ignore that history? It dumbs down the entire conversation to treat that history as if it does not exist. It makes a mockery of our persistent usernames. Further, it accepts a framing for the larger conversation about, in this case, sexism and sexual assault, that misrepresents the central and salient issues.

These are good points, and I think you're right.

I can't very well argue that context matters in one comment and say it doesn't in the next.

There are certainly ways that this could be framed to be about the potential loss of good legal discussion, even from angibrowl, but that would require him to admit his past history on this issue and explain why, even though that history would lead people to assume that his real motives revolve around the concern that we aren't discussing things like false rape accusations enough here on Metafilter, here are the reasons that that would be a bad assumption in this case. A comment like that, in which the issue had been acknowledged, would be one we could debate, it would be honest, and it would put the burden of proof on the person who has a history of dismissing concerns about sexism and male privilege.

Yes. Also very good points.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone here who will be so up front about their biases. Assuming they are consciously aware of them in the first place.

OmieWise: " In short, I'm not sure why it should be my responsibility to excuse angibrowl's previous positions, and I'm not sure why, absent any explanations that change our understanding, the members of this site should engage in apologetics for his framing."

I wasn't trying to suggest you excuse his previous positions. I was not understand why they were relevant.

He made what I thought was a reasonable complaint* about the post's deletion that could be directly addressed. You were dismissing both it and him with an accusation that he has a separate agenda.

But yes, I see your point and agree with it, so I withdraw my objection.

* Well, the complaint itself was reasonable. His fighty aggressiveness with the mods not so much.
posted by zarq at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2012


Thanks for the html save, invisible Mod. :)

I found an italics/em tag bug. Will report it in the contact form.
posted by zarq at 8:24 AM on May 25, 2012


People, stop making posts about shitty things that happen just so we can have another boring fucking argument about it.

we should only make posts about happy things that happened, and have boring fucking conversations about them.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:41 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never said or implied that that sentiment was in the post or comments. However you cannot be unaware that there is substantial section of the commentariat who regard any criticism of Israel or even segments of the Israeli (especially Zionist) population as anti-semitic.

Here on MetaFilter? No there isn't. I didn't see it at all in the thread, and have almost never seen it here on MetaFilter.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:53 AM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


unSane: "However you cannot be unaware that there is substantial section of the commentariat who regard any criticism of Israel or even segments of the Israeli (especially Zionist) population as anti-semitic. If you want a cite for that, the response to Peter Beinart's book which I'm sure you're aware of will do very well."

Yep. Totally am aware. Have argued against people doing it here before.

I just didn't see signs of it happening in the thread, that's all.
posted by zarq at 8:55 AM on May 25, 2012


we should only make posts about happy things that happened, and have boring fucking conversations about them.

Between this and the alternative, I would vote for this.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:56 AM on May 25, 2012


Off topic, I'm at LAX right now and they keep paging a Matthew Chen, so now I have the Marthew Chen is Spamming theme stuck in my head.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:59 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here on MetaFilter? No there isn't. I didn't see it at all in the thread

As with many of these observations, there's maybe 1 or 2 people in the odd thread that make a comment along those lines, and those are what everyone seems to remember when declaring "Metafilter has a ______ problem"
posted by Hoopo at 10:35 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


me: ““Oh, come on. OmieWise is right. anigbrowl started this off by saying he was actually offended at the deletion. Yes, that was disingenuous - because it left off the reason for taking offense.’

zarq: “No, he gave three paragraphs of explanations as to why he was offended by the deletions. You're assuming that there's another one, unstated. And there very well may be. Having been accused in Meta multiple times of having ulterior motives for posting things to the Blue that were deleted or happened to piss people off, I'm a bit sensitive to others being accused of the same. Would it not be better to ask, rather than making assumptions and accusations? How is omiewise's comment going to elicit anything other than an angry defensive reaction?”

Those three paragraphs weren't at all about "offense" – the term is all out of proportion with what anigbrowl seems to be talking about in those paragraphs, some disagreements about site policy that don't seem to have any really major social implications in and of themselves, and there is absolutely no explanation of the "offensive" comment in them.

But we don't really have to go through anigbrowl's past history to see why he was "offended" at this – he finally said so right in this thread:

anigbrowl: “I admit that resorting to pissy language to make my point is a bit obnoxious, but I am genuinely upset by the prevailing air of 'this subject is rather awful so let's avoid getting caught up in it.' Our social reluctance to confront such thorny issues has a lot to do with how Banks ended up spending 6 years in jail.”

So, yeah. OmieWise was right. anigbrowl is upset at our "social reluctance" to confront the possibility that accusations of sexual assault are confabulated. The questionable premise that there is such a "social reluctance" is what's at issue here.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2012


I found the post interesting and informative and I wouldn't have known about it if it hadn't been posted here. Just because there's only one really interesting link in the fpp doesn't mean it shouldn't stand.

I hadn't read and wasn't really planning on taking a part in the discussion, whether it was heated or not. It's a shame when a good and interesting post is deleted to head off a thread that may or may not go smoothly.
posted by dazed_one at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's a bad deletion. Linking to a legal filing is not "linking to a legal pdf", like that's something useless. Legal filings are often hard to dig up, and it's one hallmark of metafilter that we would provide those primary sources for lawyers and nonlawyers alike. I do appreciate that we have to have a higher standard for hot-button topics, but what are the mods suggesting? More background and links would not have made this one any less hot-button; the fpp was not framed in an immflamatory way to begin with.
posted by yarly at 11:32 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


yarly: “I think it's a bad deletion. Linking to a legal filing is not 'linking to a legal pdf', like that's something useless.”

Did you actually read the deletion reason? "...if the meat of the post is essentially 'read this legal PDF' it might need to be presented a lot more in those terms..." Note that the fact that it's a legal PDF is emphatically not listed as a reason for the deletion; on the contrary, one of the reasons for the deletion is that there was too much extra filler in addition to the legal PDF.
posted by koeselitz at 11:38 AM on May 25, 2012


The current version of the post has more background right up front, as well as a link to the pdf. From a quick glance it seems to be going okay.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on May 25, 2012


But by all means let's keep arguing about the original deletion! Those damn mods just sit around all day eating bonbons and playing online poker; they need a little stimulation.
posted by languagehat at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm always Mods Rule!

but this was a bad deletion. The other post is better, but this is not deletion-worthy.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:22 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mmm bonbons.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:49 PM on May 25, 2012


certainly don't rely on what some non-lawyer partisan hack says about it from your favorite blog--that's even dumber.

Even dumber than relying on some lawyer partisan hack on your favorite blog? For my money, that's a toss-up.

Given that A) practically any topic of discussion can be re-presented to the audience at home if it doesn't pass muster the first time and B) it's a fucking website, these "The deletion of X: let me show you how angry it makes me!" announcements always seem superfluous to me.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:57 PM on May 25, 2012


Look, deleting in a post isn't really depriving MetaFilter of it forever, it's more like "please try again."

So all of this discussion about where the line should be drawn between "good enough" and "not quite good enough" seems a little much, especially because the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the subject matter itself is polarizing.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:00 PM on May 25, 2012


Those three paragraphs weren't at all about "offense" – the term is all out of proportion with what anigbrowl seems to be talking about in those paragraphs, some disagreements about site policy that don't seem to have any really major social implications in and of themselves, and there is absolutely no explanation of the "offensive" comment in them.

They most certainly are about offense. I read cortex's reason for deletion as a suggestion that asking people to RTFA something a bit complex was too much to ask on MeFi, and felt that he was asking for the FPP to be oversimplified - not dumbed down as such, but fed through the filter of some acceptable third party (sort of like Wikipedia discourages original research in favor of authorative citations). I spend maybe 10% of my MeFi time fact-checking things or looking up primary sources that have been omitted from an FPP (typically to the detriment of the resulting discussion), so I thought this FPP did a good job by including the key material. I spent about 10 minutes reading that, and the relevance of the other links became clear to me - at which point I went back to comment, and found the FPP had been deleted.

But we don't really have to go through anigbrowl's past history to see why he was "offended" at this – he finally said so right in this thread:

anigbrowl: “I admit that resorting to pissy language to make my point is a bit obnoxious, but I am genuinely upset by the prevailing air of 'this subject is rather awful so let's avoid getting caught up in it.' Our social reluctance to confront such thorny issues has a lot to do with how Banks ended up spending 6 years in jail.”


The pissy language was in reference to my overwrought 'I call bullshit', and in response to benito.strauss's reasonable observation that such statements rarely advance discussion. The original FPP may not have been great, but it was not that awful either; when I read the thread the first few comments were such blatant derails that I felt the bad start was very much the fault of the commenters rather than the author of the FPP. First-comment-snark is one of those things that bothers me a lot, and seems almost ubiquitous on MeFi these days. Maybe it bothers me too much, but I don't think I'm the only one.

So, yeah. OmieWise was right. anigbrowl is upset at our "social reluctance" to confront the possibility that accusations of sexual assault are confabulated. The questionable premise that there is such a "social reluctance" is what's at issue here.

No, the social reluctance is about the discussion of rape in general. It's too-often joked about rather than discussed seriously, women are too-often afraid to report it, reconciling standards of proof with the subjectivity of testimony is a Very Hard Problem from a legal point of view, and individuals in legal cases are often appropriated as proxies or pawns for political advantage, to the detriment of everyone involved.

What bothers me about this case is not that there was a false accusation. It sucks that there was, but that's sort of beside the point: what bothers me is that Banks felt he had to take a plea bargain rather than risk a life sentence, even though the forensic evidence supported the defense claim that no sexual intercourse even took place. Usually the problem is that forensic evidence wasn't collected, or wasn't stored or processed properly, or that there's dispute over the meaning of it. But in this case the forensic evidence ran directly counter to the accusations, which were themselves wildly inconsistent.

Something is terribly wrong when we (as a society) are so reluctant to engage with a complex problem that it pushes people into choices that are so drastically counter to their own interest - whether victims who are unwilling to report, innocent people who accept egregiously bad plea bargains, or even voters who choose catastrophically bad sentencing and law enforcement policies by proxy or at the ballot box. This case is an unusually stark example of process failure.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:15 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Deletion of the original post is not evidence that we as a society are reluctant to engage complex problems.
posted by rtha at 1:40 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read cortex's reason for deletion as a suggestion that asking people to RTFA something a bit complex was too much to ask on MeFi, and felt that he was asking for the FPP to be oversimplified - not dumbed down as such, but fed through the filter of some acceptable third party (sort of like Wikipedia discourages original research in favor of authorative citations).

My actual take was that if the PDF was the meat, it needed to be presented as such—by either making a more document-centric post that presented the PDF as important and worth looking into, or by presenting it alongside some analysis of its contents.

How "maybe present this document better so it gets a fair shake" has gotten turned around several times in this thread to "it was bad to post this document" I do not know. But the disconnect between what I actually tried to convey in the deletion reason and in this thread and what it feels like a few people are imagining I said is a point of frustration on my end, for certain.

Something is terribly wrong when we (as a society) are so reluctant to engage with a complex problem that it pushes people into choices that are so drastically counter to their own interest

Which has approximately zero to do with the deletion of a post on Metafilter for being a little scattered and filler-y and with the suggestion that someone could do it over a little better.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:41 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


With all due respect, that seems pretty nit-picky, cortex. The new post is better, but it's just such a slight improvement that it's still hard to really grasp why the original was delete-worthy. I didn't think that deletions were supposed to serve the purpose of perfecting posting styles, but rather to address more serious concerns. If the original had been provoking in some way I would agree, but I just don't see it....
posted by yarly at 2:09 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't think that deletions were supposed to serve the purpose of perfecting posting styles,

This happens not infrequently when the post is poorly framed - unclear, inflammatory, editorialized to all getout, a link to CNN's front page announcing some famous person's death are all reasons that fpps get deleted and are fine for re-posting with some re-working of links/framing etc.
posted by rtha at 2:22 PM on May 25, 2012


The new post is better, but it's just such a slight improvement that it's still hard to really grasp why the original was delete-worthy.

Not to me. The deleted post focuses strictly on the horrible aspects that occurred. The latter tells a better story of tragic events, followed by a redemption. Neither hides from the touchy situation and both explicitly mention the kidnapping and rape charges.

But one is rooted in outrage and legal minutiae, the other in an upbeat outcome of a terrible situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:24 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Deletion of the original post is not evidence that we as a society are reluctant to engage complex problems.

Several people admitted they flagged the post due to overall "this is not something we do well" which indicates unwillingness to engage in a complex problem due to perceived negative outcome. Others flagged due to "dur long pdf cannot compute." Unfortunately we don't have flags that are specific, so a bunch of flags pop up, mods see them, delete post on their perception of what the issue is. In this case probably both.
posted by Big_B at 2:38 PM on May 25, 2012


If it clarifies things any, I care about process more than result in most-but-not-all contexts. In my view, ends do not automatically justify means. I am a utilitarian by temperment (to a greater degree than most people are comfortable with), but as I have limited foresight I reluctantly follow a deontological (rule based) path. So, for example, I'm against the death penalty on policy grounds (basically because costs > benefits by such a large margin), but I have to acknowledge that there are some good arguments for its retention and fallacious ones for its abolition, and a fallacious argument is not justified by my support for the intended result. On the other hand, where the costs and benefits are less clear, or the process so ill-defined that results are increasingly arbitrary (which can be considered as an unusually high transactional cost), then I think an accountable executive may be more effective decision mechanism.

As regards this issue, I still think the links in the FPP were relevant rather than being filler-y, but agree that it required some time spent reading the habeas corpus filing to appreciate why they were relevant. It wasn't the best possible post on the topic, but the flaggings and derails were hardly the best possible response to it either, and I felt it was a mistake to shift the problem entirely onto the FPP.

I never saw the Israel thread, and didn't know that it had been posted, or that it started out bad and rapidly got worse, until I read about it in this MeTa. I can certainly see why the mods wouldn't want to babysit another thread that looked destined to end up in tears now that I do know about it. Likewise, I didn't know that lots of people had pre-emptively flagged the Brian Banks FPP (or even that some people are in the habit of doing so without comment) until this MeTa was underway. Without that context, and taking the reason for deletion at face value, it looked very arbitrary.

Which has approximately zero to do with the deletion of a post on Metafilter for being a little scattered and filler-y and with the suggestion that someone could do it over a little better.

True - but not obvious without the context of being the second difficult thread on a bad morning at the end of a bad week. The topic is a particular kind of awful on Metafilter because the crime is a particular kind of awful in real life; I drew a parallel between the two because the discussion seemed to get cut off as suddenly and arbitrarily as the defendant's freedom. I am absolutely not suggesting these results were agenda-driven, but that in both cases a well-intentioned pre-emption resulted in an unfortunate outcome.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:44 PM on May 25, 2012


in both cases a well-intentioned pre-emption resulted in an unfortunate outcome.

I respect your heartfelt concern about this issue. Nevertheless, I tend to feel that being convicted of rape and having a thread deleted on metafilter are several orders of magnitude apart, in terms of seriousness and importance. Such that it strains credulity to draw an analogy between them.
posted by Diablevert at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2012


It wasn't the best possible post on the topic, but the flaggings and derails were hardly the best possible response to it either, and I felt it was a mistake to shift the problem entirely onto the FPP.

What would be the solution, then? Should a mod have to babysit the thread and remind all commenters to read the links before commenting? Should they preemptively delete comments that might derail the discussion? What if, as in your argument against the death penalty, it was determined by the mods - after discussion among themselves, seeing the flag queue, seeing the derail-y comments - that the thread would just cost too damn much in terms of mod time and community energy (fights, bans, timeouts, meTas, etc.)?
posted by rtha at 2:58 PM on May 25, 2012


By the way, the new thread does have several worthwhile links to reportage/analysis for additional context - but not all of them had been published at the time when the deleted FPP was being written.

So, like many newsy stories, the FPP may have been published a bit too soon, but (for me) that was mitigated by the fact that it did include the habeas corpus filing that set the guy free, and that he was freed very much on the basis of facts rather than upon some procedural legal technicality.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2012


Should a mod have to babysit the thread and remind all commenters to read the links before commenting?

That's kind of what they do once attention is drawn to it, isn't it? That's why you have the option to flag stuff that is a derail or offensive--which can be a lot more accurately applied to such comments than the nebulous "other" that people were presumably pre-emptively using against the post itself.
posted by Hoopo at 3:29 PM on May 25, 2012


Right. And they decided that a re-do with better framing would be fine, and that babysitting the thread that got deleted would not be effective use of resources. This isn't the only thread that's happened to.
posted by rtha at 4:19 PM on May 25, 2012


What would be the solution, then? Should a mod have to babysit the thread and remind all commenters to read the links before commenting?

Well, it seems they tried babysitting the Israel thread for a bit but it went south, and then this thread got off to a bad start. So with hindsight it seems like it got zapped partly because it got posted at the wrong time and the discussion got off on the wrong foot, rather than solely because of the FPP being inherently problematic. Not knowing any of the background moderation issues (as I mentioned, I didn't see the Israel thread or know of its deletion), and seeing that the discussion of the original FPP quickly got on track to the issues of plea-bargaining and bad financial incentives, complete with appropriate and relevant citations from the legal filing, the sudden deletion of the thread seemed strange.

It comes as a considerable surprise to me that some people think I'm a men's rights advocate. The question this case raises for me is not whose testimony to believe in a rape case, but how the defendant was threatened with life in prison when none of the available forensic or 3rd party evidence supported the prosecution case. If this had been about a case of vehicular manslaughter as someone hypothesized above, this would be equivalent to learning that nobody had been hit by a car in the first place.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:19 PM on May 25, 2012


I am massively uncomfortable with the use of MRA as a term of abuse.

I've had some contact over the years with MR folk and while there are certainly some strange characters embedded in there (to say the least), there are also some supremely tragic stories of guys who have been utterly, completely shafted in the family law arena because of certain presumptions about women, kids and so on.

I don't think we should be down on anyone for attempting to assert their rights.
posted by unSane at 6:54 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have no real opinion about that. I come from a messed up family and family law in general is so sad and depressing to me that I have consciously avoided learning anything about the theory or practice. As far as issues in criminal justice go, I'm very much against mugshots, perp walks, and blow-by-blow trial reports - in my ideal world, defendants' anonymity would be protected as much as possible pending conviction or acquittal, and and reporting restrictions would be much tighter; I think there's a strong case for prior restraint once a defendant is already in the hands of the criminal justice system. As a matter of course, minors' identities are concealed in cases of sexual abuse and a number of other contexts; this does not seem to have led to any erosion of the First Amendment, and I see no reason why it can't be extended to adult accusers (such as rape victims) or indeed defendants prior to conviction.

Most of the scholarly material about such things is concerned with the reliability of eyewitness ID and suchlike when potential witnesses are shown mugshots. I've found one paper suggesting that older jurors are only swayed by positive pretrial publicity while younger jurors are only swayed by negative pretrial publicity. Relatively little has been written about the effect on defendants; the wikipeida article on perp walks is a good introductory summary.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:47 PM on May 25, 2012


What would be the solution, then? Should a mod have to babysit the thread and remind all commenters to read the links before commenting?

Yes, or cut back on tolerance for people who make the babysitting necessary.
posted by ambient2 at 4:09 AM on May 26, 2012


I am massively uncomfortable with the use of MRA as a term of abuse.

Sure and the men's rights advocates abuse themselves enough already!
posted by octobersurprise at 5:38 AM on May 26, 2012


> I don't think we should be down on anyone for attempting to assert their rights.

Do you feel the same about, say, white-rights movements?
posted by languagehat at 8:05 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think white people asserting their rights is fine, yes. Don't you?
posted by unSane at 9:34 AM on May 26, 2012


To address the point you are presumably making, it's not the assertion of rights that makes white-rights movements problematic. It's the constellation of other activities. But anyway, we are talking about MRA. As a journalist I've heard and investigated enough stories of things that happened in family courts, in some cases driving men to the point of suicide because of lack of access to their children and so on, to not feel comfortable with glib dismissal of men's rights, in that context anyway.
posted by unSane at 9:41 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the complaints about the men's rights movement is not that they are not exclusively trying to address problems with family courts, but that the movement has a long history of leapfrogging from whatever legitimate problems exist in that system to genuine misogyny. There's an entire segment of the men's rights movement that argues -- frequently and vocally -- that male privilege no longer exists, and that we now live in a world of female privilege.

The men's rights movement is often its own worst enemy, and it is entirely possible to respect that there are places where some men may sometimes get the short end of the stick without having to respect the deeply problematic movement that has developed as a result. There are, to use another example, real problems with our immigration policies, but that doesn't men that I have to respect find vigilante border patrols.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


> As a journalist I've heard and investigated enough stories of things that happened in family courts... to not feel comfortable with glib dismissal of men's rights, in that context anyway.

I wasn't glibly dismissing men's rights, I was making what I would hope was an obvious point by analogy. Bunny Ultramod spelled it out very well: "the movement has a long history of leapfrogging from whatever legitimate problems exist in that system to genuine misogyny." There's nothing wrong, in theory, with "white people asserting their rights," but in practice it's very often associated with submerged or open racism. If a men's-rights advocate acknowledges the problem and makes a special effort to address it, making sure to avoid anything that could be taken to indicate opposition to women's rights, then I'll listen to them, but frankly that's not a common occurrence, because men who genuinely have no opposition to women's rights generally have better things to do than advocate for men's rights, just as white people who have no problem with black people generally have better things to do than advocate for white rights.
posted by languagehat at 10:20 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


because men who genuinely have no opposition to women's rights generally have better things to do than advocate for men's rights

The organisation I've had most contact with and have most respect for is Families Need Fathers. They probably don't fit your stereotype of a Men's Rights organisation but that's very firmly what they are. Not all Men's Rights groups are the gender equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan. FNF's briefing doc is very good.
posted by unSane at 12:07 PM on May 26, 2012


I've been very surprised actually that the Men's Rights groups that I am aware of in the UK and the Men's Rights groups that I am aware of in the US seem to have such different approaches and public faces. This may or may not have to do with just the way they present themselves or who is linking to what sort of stuff for what purpose, but the UK folks that you linked to have a really great approach.

I feel that it's one of those really problematic issues where there is such a vocal group of people who are saying terrible things [i.e. a subset of Men's Rights people in the US who have an approach that goes beyond advocacy into outright creepiness] that people have a difficult time looking beyond those things to the larger issue, even if the larger issue is a perfectly sensible one (shared parenting, equal protection from domestic violence for all genders, etc.). Same sort of thing is true for American Christianity (or religion generally, but in the US that's the case) and it's an argument that I think a lot of us on MeFi are more familiar with. It's hard to talk about your local do-gooder Christian folks without people making associations with shit like Prop 8 and other terrible legislation that is, to my mind, horribly anti-Christian. But hollering at people about how they've got it all wrong is less useful than providing reasonable good examples. Just like it's helpful when we remember that feminism is really about leveling the playing field and is good for men and women (you see people talking about how the patriarchy hurts women and men and I think that's useful to remember) the same is true for this sort of thing.

It's just such a fraught topic where many people have some personal examples in addition to more generalized knowledge, that threads can turn into a lot of "How DARE you say/think that" sort of conversations which can be frustrating all around. And yes, we've been talking to some of the people who seem to show up in these threads and wind up riling someone up, whether by design or by accident it sort of doesn't matter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


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