Questions About Moderation in Boy Scouts post October 5, 2012 10:30 AM   Subscribe

As part of the discussion for the recent post about the Boy Scouts not giving an Eagle Badge to a gay scout, we were talking about Eagle Scouts returning their badges. I have a question about the moderation in that thread.

Here is the comment of mine that was deleted. The italicized part is someone else I was replying to:
I can see both sides, actually. Discounting people who actually support this homophobic policy, does one return their badge to mark their protest, or does one keep it with the idea that the movement itself is better than the bigots running it? Do you write off the movement entirely, or remain within it in hopes of bettering it?

I wonder if these people would return their badges if the scouts announced a whites-only policy.
I'm genuinely curious if other people see this differently. To me, there isn't a moral difference between a whites-only policy and a straights-only policy.

So, one, I'm interested in getting a better understanding of why my comment crossed some kind of Metafilter line and had to be deleted. I have emailed with a moderator about this, but I don't feel like I understand exactly what line was crossed. I would also be interested in getting some kind of community feedback about this as well.

Two, I'm curious if the analogy I'm making is inaccurate in some meaningful way, or if it's more a problem because it's upsetting to people. To me, a national policy that says "no gays allowed" should be treated in a similar way to a policy that says "no blacks allowed." If people disagree about that, I am curious why.

Similarly, someone else said, "I wonder if there would be so much vitriol if the reason he was denied his Eagle Badge was because he was an atheist."

This seems to be making a very similar point to the one I was making in my deleted comment. I'm used to gays and atheists being discriminated against in America, but I think it is useful to talk about the history of such discrimination in American as it has been applied to other groups. I think that recognizing that we used to have these kind of policies aimed at blacks and Jews, among other groups, and have basically universally agreed that was a bad thing, should help to indicate that it is wrong when done to gay people as well.

A particular reason I think the analogy I used is helpful is that it raises the question of whether there is anything that the Boy Scouts could do that would cause people to sever their relationship. For some people, maybe the answer is no, that they would never give up on the Boy Scouts, and that they would always want to maintain their relationship and work to change things from the inside. I suspect for other people, there is some line that the Boy Scouts could cross that would be so objectionable that it would be better to stop affiliating with an organization that would do such a thing. If the kind of blatant racism of saying "no blacks allowed" might be enough to cause people to end their relationship (and I hope it would), my question then is why the kind of intolerance of a national policy that says "no gays allowed" is different.

To me, drawing a comparison between a policy that bans gays and previous policies by other groups banning blacks is both an apt comparison, and should be acceptable at Metafilter. I would be curious to hear other people's thoughts about this.
posted by andoatnp to Etiquette/Policy at 10:30 AM (87 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Just to be clear, this thread is not the place to have the argument we didn't want you to have in the BSA thread. If you want to talk about moderation policies and decisions, that's fine but as we told you over email you were amping up the fightiness and the rhetoric in that thread in a way that was derailing and problematic and we axed that comment after leaving an in-thread note for people to dial it back.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's the kind of thing that's an imperfect analogy and is likely to cause a big derail as people try to break it down. In culture-war discussions, hypotheticals are often faulty and troublesome reasoning tools. On the other hand, I wouldn't have thought it delete-worthy.
posted by Miko at 10:37 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since mefite Scouts like ColdChef have never given any indication of being racist or homophobic assholes - at least, they don't seem to act like it on mefi - I am willing to give them a pass for having complicated feelings about their youth/childhood and its symbols. You're apparently willing to throw them in the same bucket as people who are actually assholes and aren't shy about it.

And your points in the thread about how even being associated with an organization that does not meet your definition of being morally perfect therefore makes them also morally imperfect is...unhelpful. Are your hands so clean? At what point does perfection become the enemy of the good?
posted by rtha at 10:37 AM on October 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


So, one, I'm interested in getting a better understanding of why my comment crossed some kind of Metafilter line and had to be deleted. I have emailed with a moderator about this, but I don't feel like I understand exactly what line was crossed.

Well, I'll reiterate what I said in email: that comment felt like it was needlessly pushing toward an escalating fight in what's already a difficult thread. Jessamyn had already left a note asking people to cool it, and that comment was doing the opposite. Your previous comment re: "hateful bigots" was already pushing it a bit.

I don't have a problem with you wanting to e.g. talk about how you feel the parallels between one kind of policy injustice vs. another inform your thinking about the situation with the BSA, but there's better, more constructive ways to do that than with a gas-on-the-fire What If sort of quip, basically. Analogies are tricky things that often need some careful qualification and explanation given that they're essentially never workable across-the-board comparisons, and that goes extra for when you're talking about really charged, complicated stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:38 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your comment is so brief as to be confusing. It could be read as saying for instance: These people are only concerned with gay rights and wouldn't be concerned about racial discrimination. Or any number of things.

Your comment doesn't really get at your comment: "I'm genuinely curious if other people see this differently. To me, there isn't a moral difference between a whites-only policy and a straights-only policy."

It would have if you'd written something like: "To me, there isn't a moral difference between a whites-only policy and a straights-only policy. I couldn't see adopting a policy of "change from the inside" in that case. This case shouldn't be any different."

Instead, your comment is ambigious and at the same time invokes potentially convtroversial comparisons that might be seen as criticizing implicitly gay rights advocates.

In my experience, generally, it's OK to make potentially controversial comments, but it's better to avoid controversial and unclear comments. These comments are often deleted. Longer, clearer, nuanced comments are more likely to stand even if directly controversial.
posted by Jahaza at 10:38 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, I hadn't read the thread (just this rather misleading summary) and I agree that you were being really fighty and dismissive and this was maybe just the last in a pretty lame line of discussion. To create my own hypothetical, it's possible to imagine another commenter who explored the question you have posited but did it in a respectful way that didn't leap to assumptions about others, but that's not the way you went about it, so I can now absolutely see why you ran out of chances to push this line of discussion.
posted by Miko at 10:40 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


there's better, more constructive ways to do that than with a gas-on-the-fire What If sort of quip, basically.

Quoted for truth. andoatnp, why did you wait until now to really explain your stance? Dropping a one-liner bomb that effectively (through analogy) changes the subject to such a pre-charged topic is not a good indication of your desire to talk about the history of discrimination in America.
posted by carsonb at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your comment is so brief as to be confusing.

Hmm, it didn't occur to me that there was anything confusing about the analogy that I was making, but that is useful to consider.
posted by andoatnp at 10:43 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't so much seem like a comment for discussion but a drive by shit stirring.

I know that wasn't your intention, but that is what it looks like to me (even if I definitely see your point)

The argument you make defending your point here should have been made in the thread if you wanted to make the point at all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:48 AM on October 5, 2012


I know it is a sensitive topic, but that post seems pretty squarely on the outragefilter side of things anyway. Poor kid, but not a great thread really.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's the kind of thing that's an imperfect analogy
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on October 5


Oh Mod... I mean God... protect us from imperfect analogies.
posted by Decani at 10:59 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


You started attacking people in the thread that disagreed with you and pretty much called them bigots:

Maybe your problem is that you want to affiliate yourself with hateful anti-gay bigots.
posted by andoatnp at 10:36 AM on October 5 [+] [!]
------
You still get to keep your memories and experiences and life lessons even if you send in your Eagle Badge as an act of protest. It doesn't change who you are and what you accomplished to stand up to anti-gay bigots.

Eagle Scouts talk about how much they learned and how it molded them into such a good person, but apparently they can't take a difficult action to show their opposition to the disgusting bigots that are running the Boy Scouts.

posted by andoatnp at 10:55 AM on October 5 [+] [!]

You know that line you shouldn't cross on Metafilter? The one where you attack other posters instead of their arguments?

Look behind you.
posted by zarq at 11:06 AM on October 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm with Miko (and, on preview, zarq) -- I was surprised that this comment was deleted, until I read your first three comments in the thread. So I don't think you should try to understand what's wrong with the analogy, so much as try to understand what already went wrong before that comment.

You wrote: "Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?" "Maybe your problem is that you want to affiliate yourself with hateful anti-gay bigots." "... Eagle Scouts talk about how much they learned and how it molded them into such a good person, but apparently they can't take a difficult action to show their opposition to the disgusting bigots that are running the Boy Scouts."

Imagine saying these things to a group of Eagle Scouts (which is basically what you were doing), in a mean tone of voice (which is how they're going to be read, since they're pretty hostile), in a bar. I'm not sure how it reads to you, but from the outside it sounds like you're trying to start a fist fight. The comments are essentially the same as "What's your problem, buddy? You like bigots, dontcha? Being in the Boy Scouts didn't stop you from being a coward ..."

If the bartender says "folks, calm it down," (which Jessamyn did before your third undeleted comment), and instead you keep going, and then turn around and say to the rest of the bar "this is a lot like racism, am I right?", then at that point nothing good is going to come of it. You just can't have that conversation today, because you're already in a fist fight instead.

I think the analogy itself is interesting -- both the whites-only one, and the no-athiests one. I disagree with your interpretation, but it's interesting, and I wish we could have that conversation. Maybe next time?
posted by jhc at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2012 [31 favorites]


Am I understanding correctly that people think it would be ok to raise an analogy between a "no gays" policy and a "no blacks" policy in that thread as long as it was presented in a way that seemed less fighty? The analogy itself isn't inherently problematic, I would just need to present it differently?
posted by andoatnp at 11:15 AM on October 5, 2012


Bytes are cheap where I come from. I find that more words are generally better when making difficult, potentially fight-inducing points.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:16 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with jhc, if I heard people having a conversation like there is in that thread, but in meatspace (like a bar), I would almost immediately expect a physical reaction - either violence or departure.

In opposition, the last three paragraphs of your post here - not something that hits those particular notes, in my view.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:20 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I understanding correctly that people think it would be ok to raise an analogy between a "no gays" policy and a "no blacks" policy in that thread as long as it was presented in a way that seemed less fighty?

Naw, man, it actually has to be less fighty.
posted by carsonb at 11:43 AM on October 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


I can see both sides, actually. Discounting people who actually support this homophobic policy, does one return their badge to mark their protest, or does one keep it with the idea that the movement itself is better than the bigots running it? Do you write off the movement entirely, or remain within it in hopes of bettering it?

This was my comment, and I had no idea that someone responded to it.

I didn't think there was much to argue with my point -- that there are different ways to effect change, and different views on how to best go about that.

Reading your analogy here and now, I would completely agree with a moral equivalence between racism and homophobia. However, with the way the response was posted, well, frankly, I'm sensing some kind of jab back at me, that I am somehow supportive of the anti-gay position of the BSA, or even anti-gay myself.

I didn't think I needed to say this beyond what I said before, but... I'm totally against the anti-gay position of the BSA. I just think different people may have different ideas as to how to effect positive change on that.

*shrugs*
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:59 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Generally using the 'well, what if it were black people being discriminated against' is similar to invoking Hitler. No matter what your point is, drawing it in that way is going to force the ensuing discussion toward how you made your argument instead of focusing on your argument's substance.

I'd've deleted it if I were a mod.
posted by winna at 11:59 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes correct - you can make pretty much any analogy you want as long as you provide additional language that clarifies your intent.

For instance, right now it would be helpful if the questions you keep asking ended with:
"The analogy itself isn't inherently problematic, I would just need to present it differently? If that is the case I will make an effort to do so."

Else we're just going to read:
"The analogy itself isn't inherently problematic, I would just need to present it differently? If that is the case then I think that is fucking dumb and can't believe you're asking me to do this."
posted by skrozidile at 12:17 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your comment was standing on its own, I would be unable to see any reason for its deletion. You were effectively reframing the argument in a persuasive way that would make it easier for the other person to see your point of view.

Of course, since the comment you made just before that was "Maybe your problem is that you want to affiliate yourself with hateful anti-gay bigots" I think that the context may have played a large factor. That's sort of a horrible thing to say, especially to somebody who didn't insult you in any way whatever.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:28 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's sort of a horrible thing to say, especially to somebody who didn't insult you in any way whatever.

That was sort of my feeling. When I am not working here I sometimes work at a vocational high school (in the adult ed program, I don't work with kids) and there's a lot of effort made to give the students ownership of the dynamic that is created within the classroom--that everyone has to take a stand to make sure kids aren't getting harassed, or bullied, or ostracized or shamed or whatever.

When I was in there today one of the teachers had put a big sign on his door that said "YOU are responsible for the energy in this room" which I think is a decent way to get across, especially to late high schoolers, that they can really have a lot of agency over the results of their actions and/or their responses to other people.

It's basically how I feel about this place sometimes. There's nothing in the thread when it starts and all the commenters can create what eventually evolves as the thread's dynamic. In some cases one person or a few people are visibly causing the thread to go not-so-great in a way that is disproportionate to the contributions of the other commenters. As moderators we hope that a few gentle corrections can right a thread that is getting a little off-kilter. All comments are interpreted partly by the context in the thread and the context in this case was that there had been a few heated comments earlier in the thread, we'd left a note and instead of things seeming to be turning around the short and possibly ambiguous comment you left seemed to be doubling-down on the previous fightiness.

Inexact metaphors are tough enough under the best conditions (we axe these sorts of things in AskMe threads often because they're almost all fight starters and not really that eye-opening in terms of "gee I never thought of that before") and lobbed into a difficult discussion by someone who seemed to be antagonistic to people that he mostly agreed with, it seemed like a bad way to go forward. So here we are.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:37 PM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


andoatnp I don't really object to your analogy or to the deleted comment specifically but I agree that you were being pretty fighty.

I understand that you see the organization's discrimination against gays as a black and white right and wrong issue, but your obstinate refusal to accept that:

a) others see it differently
b) that the organization is not monolithic, and
c) that it's a particularly sensitive topic for many because severing ties to an organization that once brought you pride and still does a great deal of good work is not an easy or simple thing

is not really helpful or a positive way to contribute to a conversation. Several people were pretty eloquent in describing in that thread why the decision to return their badge or not was difficult, and you're refusing to treat their opposing views with respect, even if you disagree. Metafilter works because we agree to respect the views of members with whom we disagree. The newuser message is maybe clearer on this point than the mefi guidelines, but they both make essentially the same point. (I know you're not a new user but I'm just citing it as a reference.)

I thought jessamyn was pretty clear in-thread about why the fighty comments were a problem. Just dial it down a notch.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:40 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Deletion-worthy because her metaphor was inexact? Jesus.

This was bad moderation. You should stop that. You should apologize, and restore her comment, but, of course, you'll never do that. But you should, at least, stop this bad moderation.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:41 PM on October 5, 2012


Deletion-worthy because her metaphor was inexact?

Deletion-worthy because in context the glib deployment of an analogy in a way that was just going to escalate the heat- rather than light-level in the thread was bad.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:47 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


MrMoonPie: "Deletion-worthy because her metaphor was inexact? Jesus."

While I don't pretend to understand your metaphor comparing the mod in question to Jesus, I disagree with your interpretation of what happened here. "Deletion-worthy because metaphor was inexact in a way that attacked other posters, which is something to be avoided, and which would have the end result of starting a fight, not a productive discussion, especially given the previous comments in the thread by the same commenter", is what I'm seeing.

Calling it "deletion because metaphor was inexact" would be like saying "Officer, you arrested me for just walking down the street" when the reality was "Officer, you arrested me for just walking down the street with a machine gun shooting puppies and children." (Note: This analogy is inexact)
posted by Bugbread at 12:53 PM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Deletion-worthy because her metaphor was inexact?

No, deletion-worthy because it came after a string of fighty.

You should apologize, and restore her comment, but, of course, you'll never do that.

Well, logically they can't restore her comment, because andoatnp is not a her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just can't have that conversation today, because you're already in a fist fight instead.

Now, that is a good analogy.
posted by Miko at 1:05 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


andoatnp I don't really object to your analogy or to the deleted comment specifically but I agree that you were being pretty fighty.

Based on that comment, and others, I think in some ways we're having a tone argument here:
The tone argument is where someone ignores or minimises a statement because, so is then claimed, it was worded too angrily or in a manner deemed too confrontational.

This approach is a cop-out: it is a way for a commenter to try and dismiss a valid point without any further reflection on their part.

This approach is often used as a way of derailing, ignoring the actual topic of the conversation, or as a way of denying the validity of the argument and at times the legitimacy of the emotion being expressed (“You are way too angry: you can’t have thought about this rationally.”).
Here is another perspective on tone arguments from an anti-racist perspective.

I think my natural impulse isn't to worry about politeness and not offending people when discussing anti-gay bigotry, but I guess I should be more careful about that at Metafilter.
posted by andoatnp at 1:14 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was wondering why the thread itself was allowed to stay up?
posted by humanfont at 1:15 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Based on that comment, and others, I think in some ways we're having a tone argument here:

The tone argument, in the form you're referring to, doesn't really have anything to do with moderation. We are moderating, for the most part, from a mechanistic, not a moralistic perspective. If you say something in a certain way that will cause the thread to behave in an undesirable fashion, we'll discourage or delete it. It doesn't have anything to do with the point being made - we as moderators are not dismissing or disagreeing with the point being made. (Mostly - there are some outlier opinions that we stamp on for their own sake, mostly along the lines of "this person deserves violence done unto them" or egregious racism, sexism, or homophobia.)

You can certainly talk about tone being a factor on Metafilter in general - it is a conversational dynamic worth being aware of - but in terms of straight-up deletions, it's not really the right way to look at things.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:29 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


This was bad moderation.

No, it wasn't. It was a crappy comment that came on top of fighty comments. There might've been a thing to discuss there, but andoatnp seemed to find it inconvenient to be more nuanced.

I think my natural impulse isn't to worry about politeness and not offending people when discussing anti-gay bigotry,

Hi. Dyke here, whose posting history is littered with me calling assholes assholes when they're being assholes. You want to call people like ColdChef and Wretch729 assholes as if they're the head of Focus on the Family and I will object strongly to that shit.
posted by rtha at 1:30 PM on October 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


Well, someone said in that thread that " Homosexual behavior is immoral" so that thread was already over-the-top insulting and fighty. And yeah, even if you're "polite" about it or it comes from your religious beliefs, that intense level of bigotry is really shitty. I wasn't surprised to see it stay up, but I was surprised at what seemed to be a lot of moderation regarding the responses to that comment. I could be wrong, I don't know what all was deleted or left up.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:44 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


andoatnp, I'm going to ask a question, and it's not meant to be condescending. I actually think it's good for everyone to be this introspective.

Why did you feel as if it's necessary to not be nice to people in a discussion about ideological issues? Do you feel a loss of control over what is happening, and so you think you should bully push people towards a particular position? Do you feel a "slap in the face" with the proper analogy is going to make people change their minds? Are you lashing out a bit, because you've felt hurt yourself? Because honestly, those things won't fly in a fruitful discussion here.

I would suggest that if a response is ever run through this grid and you answer yes to any of those questions, think about re-framing it a bit. The number of people you can win over through a dialogue that allows people to adopt a position with their heart, rather than by rhetorical bullying, is a much more powerful thing. The minimum prerequisite for fruitful dialogue is mutual respect in which people are treated as equals, not forced through a rhetorical power move to change their minds. You don't win hearts that way, and rarely minds, either.

People who don't believe this generally don't trust that they have the ability to do it. We need more people who think that they can do this.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:45 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


andoatnp - I know what a tone argument is, and I actually reworded my post before I posted it because I specifically thought you might make that objection. You did anyway, so there may be some element of truth to it. I am, after all, mostly objecting to your tone. I already substantially agree with your policy preference, and I understand the assertion that the BSA's misguided policy is more offensive than anything you said in your comments.

Yet I don't agree with you and here's why:

1) What restless_nomad said.

2) "Tone argument," like all rhetorical concepts, is contextual. I think it is a more useful concept in cases where the party who is claiming "well I would agree with you/support you/stop being a dickhead if you would only be polite about it" really has no intention of ever changing their mind and just wants you to shut up. To go back to your problematic race analogy, sure tone argument applies to those who objected to civil rights workers "riling up" people who "didn't have anything to complain about" but that's not the case here. Also, there may be a time and a place for vitriol but as a method of argumentation it doesn't really work well when directed at your audience.

I think if the two positions being debated were
A = The BSA policy is wrong and therefore anyone who disagrees with it should sever their ties to the organization and
B = The BSA policy is right and anyone who questions it in a rude way is wrong because they're being disrespectful
then you might be right in calling out B for making a tone argument.

But that's not the case here. No comment that I saw* supported B and many comments took position C, where C = BSA does both good and bad things and while I personally find the anti-gay policy to be wrong I have conflicted feelings about the organization as a whole. Most of the discussion was trying to be about how to process and deal with position C, and you kept coming in and yelling about A, which isn't terribly helpful.

*except maybe the immoral one, and I'm not sure if s/he was being sarcastic?
posted by Wretch729 at 1:48 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think my natural impulse blah blah blah, but I guess I should be more careful about that at Metafilter.

I think your natural impulse is to post passive-aggressive flamebait, mischaracterize other users' thoughtful comments, and invent new enemies, justifying yet another round of feeling put-upon. It's a cycle you can end, but your natural impulses seem to override reason.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:52 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also - THANK YOU mods for the wonderful wonderful 5 minute edit window. Saving me from embarassment so much today.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:55 PM on October 5, 2012


Based on that comment, and others, I think in some ways we're having a tone argument here. ... I think my natural impulse isn't to worry about politeness and not offending people when discussing anti-gay bigotry, but I guess I should be more careful about that at Metafilter.

Here's another way to look at it: if you are rude to the people you are having a conversation with, that will limit your ability to have a conversation with them. Tone arguments can be used to shut down legitimate discussion, but that doesn't mean any time you're talking about an issue you're passionate about you get to be rude about it in someone else's space without having them shut you down. That goes for Metafilter and most other places too.

I don't know you or what you're thinking, but it seems like you're passionately angry about the BSA policy here. That makes a lot of sense. It also seems like you're passionately angry at some other Mefites who had some good experiences with local Boy Scout troops years ago, when they were children, and who agree with you about the BSA but aren't adopting your preferred tactic to encourage it to change its policy. You took the stance of browbeating and shaming them rather than trying to understand why they might choose a different tactic. That's a pretty extreme position, and from here it looks like you're lashing out at the closest target because you're upset, hitting your friends instead of your enemies.

At the point where you've been lashing out for a while in a thread ... well, unless you work hard to back away from that stance, that's how people are going to read the rest of your comments, and that's how we ended up here.

In the end, none of us are worried that you might offend people by opposing anti-gay bigotry. You offended people -- Mefites who displayed no bigotry -- by going out of your way to insult them because they weren't opposing anti-gay bigotry in exactly the way you want them to. It's up to you whether to be more careful about that, but from here it would have made for a better conversation.
posted by jhc at 1:55 PM on October 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


*except maybe the immoral one, and I'm not sure if s/he was being sarcastic?

For what it's worth, I am reading that comment as a reasonably accurate description of the BSA leadership's position, not necessarily either a criticism or endorsement thereof. Could certainly be read either way.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:59 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyway, what's the point of being impolite to people who have merely expressed sadness and some uncertainty over what choice they might make? Seriously, why is that a productive tactic? Save the snark and sarcasm and rudeness for people who are actually being dicks. There are lots of them, so you won't have to wait long.
posted by rtha at 2:06 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that is an extremely charitable reading, restless_nomad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:07 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find your deleted comment to be thought-provoking, and I'm pretty sure I'm the original guy you were calling a bigot. So, you know, bigot-calling bad, but this specific deleted comment good.
posted by BeeDo at 2:08 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that is an extremely charitable reading, restless_nomad.

You're probably right, which does sort of bring us back to the mechanistic moderation thing. Even if it's a "here's the totally logical and sensible explanation for this policy I endorse" comment, it's not something we're likely to delete. We don't actually require that people approve of homosexuality, we just require that they not be flaming dickbags about it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:22 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my opinion, there's a pretty wide gulf between what is typically considered a "tone argument", the silencing tactic, and "tone argument", the be nice-to-other-MeFites edict.

The silencing tactic is: "Maybe if you were less hysterical about wanting to be treated like a person we'd consider giving you more rights, but since you're being hysterical, I refuse to listen to how I'm trampling on your rights."

The "be-nice-to-other-MeFites" edict is: "Please don't attack other posters personally because you disagree with their analysis of how best to react to this thing that neither of you like."

If you'd led with that deleted comment and that were your only comment in the thread, I would find it a little abrasive, but I wouldn't have personally had a problem with it. As it stands, in the context of your other comments to the thread, it sounds like you're upset at the posters who have positive memories of their personal time with the BSA for not being angry about this in exactly the way you want them to be angry about it, and calling them bigots (and implying that they'd care more if this were a white supremacy thing) is really not the best way to advance your argument.

For what it's worth, I found the framing of your position in this MetaTalk pretty eloquent and thoughtful, and humbly suggest that things might have gone differently if you'd posted that in the thread instead.
posted by Phire at 2:29 PM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


You see yourself using "tone argument" to mean "I'm making an awesome point, but people have no comeback to my incisive intellect, so they're ignoring me using my tone as a pretext", but to me it looks more like, "I'm right, so I can be as much of a rude asshole as I want, and if anyone calls me out for being a rude asshole, then they're in the wrong."
posted by Bugbread at 2:33 PM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


In my opinion, there's a pretty wide gulf between what is typically considered a "tone argument", the silencing tactic, and "tone argument", the be nice-to-other-MeFites edict.

This is very important, I think. The question of tone can be used to undermine the justification criterion for someone's knowledge claim (which is bogus), or it can be used to say that conversation best happens within an environment of mutual respect. And tone, whether you like it or not, often has a lot to convey about respect. It's a question of human psychology rather than epistemology.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:37 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I'm right, so I can be as much of a rude asshole as I want..."

Isn't that the essential argument of every "why did you delete my comment" Meta?
posted by neroli at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2012


andoatnp:

I actually see the issue in the more crisp way you do - I think that staying involved in an organisation with these policies, giving it money, swelling its ranks and the like are essentially ratifying the repugnant position it has taken. My preference is to stay away from it and to encourage others to get out and stay out until they are no longer a tool of oppression validating the mistreatment and marginalisation of harmless others.

BUT.

The way you approached it wasn't useful or constructive and was too heated. I've been there. It's hard to resist. The specific comment you pointed out here isn't invaluable, but it could have been presented better...especially in the midst of the conversation preceding the remark.

Yes, it is difficult to temper the feelings that rush up when seeing bald bigotry like the BSA practices. Yes, it is difficult to scale reaction in that state and avoid friendly fire on people who are (or may) actually be on your side. Stopping right there, though, will help get the point you're making across better, allow others to take in your viewpoint without being pushed away by over-amped ferocity too broadly aimed, and keep your mind honed on the real issue rather than the messy human response surrounding it.

Otherwise, you end up polarising the situation unproductively, alienating potential allies, and giving yourself the unfortunate appearance of a willfully obtuse and insulting woe-is-me martyr. Pretty sure that's not what you're after in your experience here.

Anyway. Probably didn't explain that as well as I'd like, but it's the gist and I hope you see where I'm coming from. Again, I actually hold a similar belief to yours, but do see that the comment in question was part of a problematic participation trend that doomed it. There are many other ways this discussion type can be navigated.
posted by batmonkey at 2:40 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


andoatnp, I see your very first comment in that thread being this one, 40 comments in:

andoatnp: "Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?"

You didn't make a point, you made an accusation, which is why the tone argument doesn't apply. You just came in, guns blazing, and criticized people you hadn't met and didn't know for not turning in badges they had earned.

I'm a strong supporter of gay rights. I don't live in NY or SF or a big metropolitan area where I can hear about (and join in) protests and activism for gay rights very often; in fact a significant segment of the people where I live are much more conservative than I am.

That doesn't stop me from boycotting Chick-fil-a or supporting the pro-choice movements, but it does mean that I am not always going to be there in the front lines when these things happen. I never even knew that the American branch of the Boy Scouts was taking this anti-homosexual stance (or was mostly funded by the LDS and Catholic churches) until Metafilter brought it to my attention. I also understand some of this is a pretty recent development. So, my kids might very well have been in Boy Scouts when they were younger, except they never really took an interest in that stuff.

Now, if they had been in the boy scouts and saw this anti-gay bigotry going on, my kids would absolutely have been appalled and angry. They would have been vocal about it, too. I don't know that they would have turned in their badges, though, because that's not necessarily the action that anger would take. Lots of people go to protests, make up signs, write their representatives, sign petitions--there are all kinds of ways to voice your opposition to bigotry.

So, what you did was take the stance that person not turning in his badge = person with a problem. You were showing your own bias there, making assumptions about people who didn't turn in their badges. When called on it, you made your position clearer, but by that point people were already riled up by someone basically getting in their faces, judging them. I'm sure you can see the irony in that...

Anyway, the analogy wasn't deleted because it was totally off, but because it was made in bad faith, to bolster your position that turning in badge = good, not turning it in bad (and by this time you had lumped in everyone associated with the boy scouts with general homophobic bigotry) and likening the people who kept their badges not only to bigots, but to racists as well--honestly, how in the world did you THINK that was going to go?!
posted by misha at 2:43 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everybody knows that inexact metaphors are a Hungarian bicycle.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:45 PM on October 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


After a couple of months posting on MetaFilter I started looking at the arguments I was getting in (yeah, arguments, not discussions) and started to figure out how the GRAR dynamic worked. I started re-reading before hitting 'Post' and asking myself whether this particular post of mine was likely to increase or decrease the GRAR. (Based, I think on a suggestion made by one of the mod's.) Your comments seem likely to, or even designed to, increase the GRAR.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:05 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


While I don't pretend to understand your metaphor comparing the mod in question to Jesus

Oh come on, I understood the metaphor just fine. Jessamyn is incredibly patient with people, sometimes to the point of being self-sacrificing. And, like all MetaFilter mods, there are times on the Grey when she gets publically crucified due to false allegations of some transgression, but then rises up again and forgives those who cast stones at her. If you can't see the obvious Jesus parallel, you're obviously not looking closely enough.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:22 PM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


That's... an interesting angle on what is a very prosaic job.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


have the argument we didn't want you to have - It's so great we have these moderators around to protect us from ourselves.
posted by crunchland at 3:36 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please. This is mathowie's house. You can start all the fights you want. It's a big Internet, and a big world. You just can't start them here.
posted by gauche at 3:41 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You didn't make a point, you made an accusation, which is why the tone argument doesn't apply.

I think the tone argument clearly does apply, even though I understand why the mods deleted the comment from the user who was barging in with guns blazing at other members. Had andoatnp not barged in, angry and accusing, and instead taken time to respect the delicate feelings of the other members (note: I'm not being snarky; I understand Eagle Scouts have complicated, delicate feelings about this) while being careful to craft responses that conveyed his anger without alienating the people he was talking with, then his comment would not have been deleted.

I'm sorry, but if that's not "the tone argument" as it's understood in feminist circles, I don't know what is. Again, I understand why the mods nipped andoatnp's aggressive attack in the bud; it's how we do things here, but I'd very much like to believe it's within site guidelines to ask a MeFi Eagle Scout if they'd be able to look at themselves in the mirror if they kept their childhood badge from an organization that refused to accept black people.
posted by mediareport at 3:44 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's so great we have these moderators around to protect us from ourselves.

Jesus christ give it a rest already. You hate the way the place is moderated and take time out of your busy schedule to needle them about it every chance you get; we heard twice the first time. And the 80 bazillionth time.
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on October 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


crunchland: "It's so great we have these moderators around to protect us from ourselves."

You say that with sarcasm. I say it with sincerity.
posted by Bugbread at 3:45 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


...to respectfully ask a MeFi Eagle Scout...
posted by mediareport at 3:46 PM on October 5, 2012


mediareport: "I'm sorry, but if that's not "the tone argument" as it's understood in feminist circles, I don't know what is."

I was under the impression that the tone argument was using poor tone as a pretext for ignoring something. In other words, saying, "I'm not going to listen to you because of your tone of voice", when in reality you wouldn't listen anyway. But, as you say, had he been careful in crafting his response, his comment would not have been deleted, so it's not an example of tone argument, as I understand it.
posted by Bugbread at 3:48 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think my natural impulse isn't to worry about politeness and not offending people when discussing anti-gay bigotry, but I guess I should be more careful about that at Metafilter.

Yes. There are many communities on the internet where your natural impulses fit in quite well, this just doesn't happen to be one of them.

There have been a number of posters over the years who have brought a "anger and conflict is necessary for truth" aesthetic with them. Unfortunately they are only remembered for the angry conflicts, not for what they actually had to say.

So I guess it sort of depends on what you want. If you just want to be angry you're doing well. If you want to be heard, you should probably change tactics.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:48 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


[NOT MAGYARIST]
posted by Burhanistan at 3:48 PM on October 5, 2012


It's so great we have these moderators around to protect us from ourselves.

I'm happy they're around to protect us a from personal life so painful and restrictive that we have no outlet for the bile.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:49 PM on October 5, 2012


when in reality you wouldn't listen anyway

I've never seen that as a necessary part of the tone argument. It's often the case, sure, but not always.
posted by mediareport at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is mathowie's house.

Oh hey, I love what you've done with the den, ceiling mirrors really open up the space.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:57 PM on October 5, 2012


My general understanding of "tone argument" is "I won't take you seriously unless you change the tone in which you make your points" used as a dismissal rather than a standard. That is, there is no actual point at which the tone becomes "nice" enough for the listener to actually address the argument.

Which, again, is very much not how moderation works here, and I don't think it applies to this situation.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:00 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


andoatnp: "Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?"

andoatnp:

I actually see the issue in the more crisp way you do - I think that staying involved in an organisation with these policies, giving it money, swelling its ranks and the like are essentially ratifying the repugnant position it has taken. My preference is to stay away from it and to encourage others to get out and stay out until they are no longer a tool of oppression validating the mistreatment and marginalisation of harmless others.


The problem with andoatnp's attempt at shaming the Eagle Scouts who haven't returned their badges, and batmonkey's restatement of the underlying argument, is that they both attack the boy who got just got denied his badge more than they attack the Scouts who don't want to give up their badges, because if that's the only valid approach, what the hell was he doing trying to get that badge in the first place? He should have had nothing to do with the Boy Scouts!

Not only that, both actually buttress the bigotry of the Scouts because if gay boys and people who believe in equal rights for gays were to have nothing to do with the BSA, that would allow them to glide serenely into the homosexual free and homophobic future they can only dream of right now.
posted by jamjam at 4:02 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is, there is no actual point at which the tone becomes "nice" enough for the listener to actually address the argument.

No, it also includes the spaces in which the listener would be open to addressing the argument, but refuses to do so until the speaker behaves in a more ladylike fashion. That's always been at least *part* of the "tone argument" discussion to me.
posted by mediareport at 4:04 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I suppose that's a theoretical possibility. I've never seen that particular demand actually get satisfied and lead to any sort of good-faith conversation, but I have a skewed perspective. Occupational hazard, and all that.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:07 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's... an interesting angle on what is a very prosaic job.

Eh, you're clearly just jealous because MrMoonPie didn't compare you to Jesus. ;-)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:13 PM on October 5, 2012


"No, it also includes the spaces in which the listener would be open to addressing the argument, but refuses to do so until the speaker behaves in a more ladylike fashion."

Well, if it applies unequally to men and women, then that's a problem, but if "tone argument" applies to both men and women, and indicates being open to addressing an argument, but not wanting to get into an argument with someone rude...that sounds perfectly fine to me.
posted by Bugbread at 4:19 PM on October 5, 2012


It's less about being willing to converse and more "your point is invalid because you are angry."
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:21 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I get that this is a difficult personal decision for Eagle Scout holders, but that was a totally valid comment. Bad deletion, IMO.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:51 PM on October 5, 2012


If the idea is that the mods have rejected the argument based on its tone, I still don't see it. Deleting a comment is not the same as saying that the content of the argument is incorrect.
posted by Bugbread at 4:57 PM on October 5, 2012


I get that this is a difficult personal decision for Eagle Scout holders, but that was a totally valid comment. Bad deletion, IMO.

Do you think that the comment was deleted because it has to do with a difficult personal decision?

I'm pretty sure the rationale runs a bit deeper than that.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:59 PM on October 5, 2012


Frankly, even after reading the multiple mod justifications I remain unclear. I think it's a valid comment.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:06 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but if that's not "the tone argument" as it's understood in feminist circles, I don't know what is.

A tone argument is dismissal of an argument based on tone, regardless of the validity of the content. However, that's not why andoatnp's comment was deleted- no one was declaring his argument invalid in any way, because it doesn't even count as an argument- the comment deleted was a hypothetical question. It was blatantly ignoring jessamyn's comment in the thread for everyone to chill out, as cortex said at the beginning of this thread :

Well, I'll reiterate what I said in email: that comment felt like it was needlessly pushing toward an escalating fight in what's already a difficult thread. Jessamyn had already left a note asking people to cool it, and that comment was doing the opposite.

The deleted comment referring to "these people" was directed at other commenters who apparently weren't behaving up to andoatnp's standards. There was never any argument to begin with, just sideswipes at other users. Hence: not a question of tone argument, but an issue of continuing inflammatory rudeness after everyone was asked to be cool.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:09 PM on October 5, 2012


There was never any argument to begin with, just sideswipes at other users.

I think I was pretty clearly making an argument from analogy.

The feedback I've seen in this thread is that if I phrased my comment in a nicer way then it could have stayed, but there was nothing inherent to the analogy that I was making that would have required its deletion.

I'm aware that making an argument via analogy isn't always the best way to make a point, but I think there are some situations where it can be instructive. When the Boy Scouts have announced a ban on gay people, I think there happens to be relevant analogies that are useful.
posted by andoatnp at 5:34 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


if I phrased my comment in a nicer way

No. If you had not taken personal swipes at other posters, and if you acted like you were actually interested in having a discussion rather than scoring points.

You did a way better job here of explaining what you were thinking and wondering about and wanting to discuss.
posted by rtha at 7:11 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


There was never any argument to begin with, just sideswipes at other users.

I think it's more accurate to say there was indeed a sharp argument, but it was buried in the sideswipes at other users. I feel like reiterating that I don't mind the deletion; given the state of the rest of the stupid fucking Web, I'd rather see MeFi err on the side of too little rather than too much tolerance for overly snide and sarcastic attacks. I know some folks think the difference is only surface, but I disagree. I've had more than my share of unnecessarily bitchy comments deleted, and don't see a problem with occasionally forcing people to remember that making your point respectfully is Good For The Goddamn Site.

A quick deletion is almost always exactly what I needed at that moment.
posted by mediareport at 7:57 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder if these people would return their badges if the scouts announced a whites-only policy.

I'm going with the nuanced discussion. I don't think the analogy is necessarily inappropriate, but I can easily see how the sentence itself is a gas on the fire offering. A nuanced approach would have avoided the "these people" clause in favor of something that didn't throw a blanket over the whole troop. Inspirational essays have place. People do this all the time at rallies. Gas on the fire phrases get people to shove their clenched fists into the air and shout "right on!" A discussion of highly flammable issue on a BB like this ought to be regarded differently.

I can see how anti-gay bigotry resembles racial bigotry. But it's not racial bigotry, so I don't think I want to cast that sort of net over those Eagle Scouts. Casting the net becomes the issue, and now we've drifted into Hypothestan on roller skates.

I might have this sort of discussion in my living room, but even then I'm dealing with both gay perspectives and black perspectives, and I don't belong to either community. To my little group of friends the topic would be highly academic and theoretical. Any good that might come of such a discussion would be revealed in the way we might (or might not) come to understand problems faced by those who are affected by bigotry. Our analogies could come from our hearts, because any resonance originates in our own experiences.

Which is where we are here. Except that, here, we are enriched by the presence of people of many persuasions and life experiences. My tast is to be honest in my comments, but I ought to back up when I meet conjecture, and see what my FOS factor is before I decide to defend my position. In this forum, deletions are the way things are regulated. I don't like deletions on principal, but in fact I see them as helpful, and much much better than the reader-bayonet systems I saw on other forums, and far superior to not having moderators.

You seem reasonable. I hope your fervor doesn't keep you from seeing why the mod made her decision. Passion for one thing doesn't necessarily translate well to passion for another. You aren't really required to accept jessamyn's arguments, just her verdict. This is the first forum I've ever seen where people get a chance to ask the mods show cause, and get peer-group input for stuff like this.

Yay for the gray.
posted by mule98J at 9:54 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


but refuses to do so until the speaker behaves in a more ladylike fashion.

Really? That's the best you could do?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2012


(actually never mind, I had misread something else you had said. Sorry.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2012


I'm aware that making an argument via analogy isn't always the best way to make a point, but I think there are some situations where it can be instructive. When the Boy Scouts have announced a ban on gay people, I think there happens to be relevant analogies that are useful.

More accurately, the thing you were making an analogy about was not the thing people were taking issue with you about, so when you made that analogy it gave the impression that you were looking for a fight on a different ground.

People are not disputing you in your opinion that the Boy Scout ban of gay people is heinous. People are only disputing with you about your declaration that there is Only One True Way To Respond to this outcome, and that all those who do not do this One True Way must be in agreement with the boy scouts.

Who it is the boy scouts have banned is a separate issue from how to respond to the ban, which is the fight you perhaps you were unaware you were having.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:17 PM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since when did "tone argument" become a synonym for "civil discourse?"

Speak truth to power sure. Raise holy hell at the next BSA convention you protest.

But metafilter and Mefites are not your oppressors. We're mostly your allies. A strident tone is not necessary, effective, or self-justified if you've got a point to make here.

Tone argument schmone argument.
posted by spitbull at 5:16 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is why accusations of "tone argument" in threads is a crappy rhetorical technique. It serves no purpose when used like that, because it is pretended it is a logical fallacy, when in it's just speculation about your interlocutor's state of mind. People (not just around here) abuse it like a fucking trump card. Like privilige.
posted by Snyder at 12:18 PM on October 8, 2012


Metafilter: inaccurate in some meaningful way, or if it's more a problem because it's upsetting to people.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:28 PM on October 9, 2012


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