Words that are not okay for minorities. May 24, 2014 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I object to the multiple uses of 'whackadoodle' to describe the mental illness of a young man (who yes, killed half a dozen people) in this thread.

It is not acceptable to refer to a queer man as a faggot.

It is not acceptable to refer to someone of African ancestry as a nigger.

It is not acceptable to refer to someone with mental illness as 'wackadoodle.' We're people, just like you, who happen to have diseases. It's on par with calling someone with epilepsy 'spastic.'

It's not okay. Can this stop please? Thanks. Or you can just read my amazingly similar previous post on the topic. Contributing to stigma helps nobody.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering to Etiquette/Policy at 2:29 PM (226 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Without addressing the substance of your argument, which I have no problem with, I need to point out that going forward we really, really need you to a) flag and b) move on, instead of starting an argument in the thread. You did neither, and then you brought it straight here, which generates an order of magnitude more work for the mod team, which we will shortly not have the staffing for.

The flag button is there for a reason. Please use it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:34 PM on May 24, 2014 [143 favorites]


It shouldn't have been an argument in the thread. It should have been an 'oops, sorry.'

And yes I brought it straight here. As suggested by the person using the offensive term.

So now that we're done with criticizing me, can we please discuss how problematic that use of language is? Thanks.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:36 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I wasn't actually requesting a Metatalk thread, only saying if you wanted to keep arguing about it that it belonged here rather than there.
posted by Justinian at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


So now that we're done with criticizing me, can we please discuss how problematic that use of language is? Thanks.

It's important that we point out the ways in which things are going to need to be adjusted at Future MeFi and that is part of r_n's job.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:38 PM on May 24, 2014 [89 favorites]


It seems to me that part of the reason mental illness is often untrested is because it is so badly stigmatized, and comical phrases about mental illness contribute to that stigmatization. And when you consider that mental illness, when it is lethal, is most frequently lethal to the person with the mental illness -- through suicide or self-medication -- it seems like the least we can do is respect that it is a struggle for people and not make that struggle harder.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:40 PM on May 24, 2014 [28 favorites]


It is not acceptable to refer to someone of African ancestry as a nigger.

This is a pretty problematic going-nuclear sort of move to make rhetorically. I totally agree with you that people are often anywhere from flippant to shitty about how they talk about mental illness, but I really, really wish people would stop and think harder about pulling something like this because it profoundly undermines and distracts from the "let's talk about what actually happened in this situation" aspect of the conversation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:41 PM on May 24, 2014 [100 favorites]


I think Justinian could have avoided this whole thing by a simple apology in the thread.
posted by ambrosia at 2:41 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


Can we discuss the actual problem here, which is allowing insulting slurs to be used against mental people, when MetaFilter as a whole has taken a big stand against things like sexism, racism, misgendering, etc?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:41 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Cortex I was pointing out usage of words that are not acceptable on MetaFilter, which run a wide gamut.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:42 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure, if I thought it deserved an apology. But I don't think fffm is correct and several other people with diagnosed mental illnesses have said they agree. That said, I don't expect this will be an issue going forward.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


fffm, the point is that we have a system to combat those sorts of things, and you didn't use it. Metafilter is not magically an ideologically-pure place - it is actively moderated with the assistance of the community. I appreciate that this is a sensitive topic for you, but talking about how we talk about things includes talking about how to use the tools available, including how to frame a MetaTalk to get the results you want.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2014 [40 favorites]


No actually the Metafilter related actual problem is that if it had been flagged enough or a moderator notified, it would have probably been removed. But instead it became A Thing.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


We should call crazy people just crazy.
posted by Pendragon at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


If someone was going to the doctor or a psych for depression, schizophrenia or any other mental health related illness, I would applaud him or her for getting the help they need.

You kill 6 people, you pretty much open up the possibility of being called a wackadoodle by society regardless of your condition.

Also, that Norwegian mass murderer, wackadoodle.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:45 PM on May 24, 2014 [29 favorites]


I can see your point, but the analogies are flawed. I think it would be closer to calling a person who is missing limbs and consequentially had a car accident which killed 6 people a "gimp".

But anyway, I still think the analogy isn't terribly well matched -- such are analogies.

However, if someone doesn't agree with you, I don't see how an unconditional apology is required. Because why should I pretend to be sorry if I'm not? Apologizing just for offending you comes off as a "non-apology" which is even more criticized around here. Immediately asking for an apology is special snowflake entitlement IMO.
posted by smidgen at 2:46 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


This very much needs to not turn into a secondary discussion of the Elliot Rodger news or shooting violence. And it would be just plain keen if folks who want to say "yeah, but crazy people!" in some form or another would think twice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:46 PM on May 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


Ah, Justinian, I see. It's okay to be insulting and hurtful if some other people say it's not insulting and hurtful?

I'm pretty sure that's the exact opposite of how MeFi works.

Not helping, Pendragon. Not helping at all.

Wow. hal_c_on, just wow. The whole point is that your condition isn't an acceptable basis for insults and slurs that affect a whole lot of people.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:47 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


However, if someone doesn't agree with you, I don't see how an unconditional apology is required.

I never said that was required. I said that an 'oops, sorry' would have ended the issue decisively.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:48 PM on May 24, 2014


MetaTalk should have a cooling off period. This is a worthwhile discussion that will be a shitshow because of the way this was framed.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:48 PM on May 24, 2014 [27 favorites]


It's definitely a thing being talked about.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:49 PM on May 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


Hey, now that it's opened up to the community maybe you could let the community think and talk about it a little bit?
posted by MoonOrb at 2:49 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


fffm; I'd say it depends on a lot of factors. Like, for example, if something could reasonably have been forseen to have been insulting.
posted by Justinian at 2:50 PM on May 24, 2014


The craziest shit is how six women died, and you make it about you.
posted by four panels at 2:50 PM on May 24, 2014 [93 favorites]


When a fellow human being asks that you not use a word, it is profoundly uncool to double down on the use of that word while explaining why it's not really offensive to that fellow human being.
posted by Etrigan at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2014 [64 favorites]


Double down on it? Re-read the thread.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


including how to frame a MetaTalk to get the results you want.

One of those things that is both art and science.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Unless you're saying that the mere fact of disagreement is insulting, I guess.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


You don't think it's reasonable to see that calling someone with a disease 'wackadoodle' is going to be insulting?

Alright, forget this. This is the same old "I'm going to defend my right to insult huge groups of people because Reasons."

What's that saying? Check your privilege, Justinian.

The craziest shit is how six women died, and you make it about you.

Sigh.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:54 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


What in hell makes you think that I don't have a diagnosed mental illness, fffm? Also "check your privilege" is pretty deprecated here.
posted by Justinian at 2:54 PM on May 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


Poorly framed or not, this thread suggests to me that this is a thing that is worth discussing, because it isn't the framing that is causing members to say "no, it's perfectly okay to call crazy people derogatory things." I realize this guy did something unspeakable terrible, but "whakadoo" or whatever doesn't mean "crazy people who do unspeakably terrible things" it means "mentally ill people," and even if a feware okay with the phrase, others aren't and have said so, and we should respect that.

That being said, I don't think the mods disagree with this, and so flagging these phrases will likely get them removed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:55 PM on May 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


FFFM, what you're saying is "well if the other user had immediately reacted in the way I deem appropriate, it wouldn't have been a problem." Obviously, for a site this size, that approach isn't going to work. You should have flagged the comment. End of story. Regardless of how inappropriate the term was, fighting about it in the thread is the wrong answer. Use flags. Use flags. Use flags.

Ok.

Justinian, the thread was obviously going to be contentious. So framing your argument as a sort of dismissive "well obviously he was [blah]" and then using sort of whimsical-at-best terms for MI was a bad move. Opting for less possibly combative framing and word choice would have been a way better choice to make.

On preview: in the context of the thread, I don't think it's hard to foresee that someone, for some reason, would take exception. It wasn't a great comment, you're capable of better. Own it.
posted by kavasa at 2:56 PM on May 24, 2014 [36 favorites]


Double down on it? Re-read the thread.

Re-read this thread.
posted by Etrigan at 2:56 PM on May 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


What in hell makes you think that I don't have a diagnosed mental illness

On the web, nobody knows if you're mentally ill if you don't tell them. I'm Jewish, but if I decided to be comically antisemitic without context, I'd expect it to be deleted.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:56 PM on May 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


Well, yeah, I don't see what more FFFM wants here. I said I disagree but that it isn't going to be an issue moving forward. For me, anyway, I can't control other peoaple's action.

kavasa: Sure, I see that. But I don't think FFFM is satisfied with saying it was probably not the best word choice.
posted by Justinian at 2:57 PM on May 24, 2014


The fact that you think it's okay to call a mentally ill person 'wackadoodle' is a clue, Justinian.

Either way, whatever. Haters gonna hate, rationalizers gonna rationalize.

And what Bunny Ultramod said.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:57 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Re-read this thread.

Oh, ok, you are taking the mere fact of disagreement as insulting?
posted by Justinian at 2:58 PM on May 24, 2014


Wow. hal_c_on, just wow. The whole point is that your condition isn't an acceptable basis for insults and slurs that affect a whole lot of people.

Yeah, nobody said that hey think he's wackadoodle for being under the care if mental care professionals.

I think he's wackadoodle for killing 6 people. That's fucked up.

What's that saying? Check your privilege, Justinian.

Dude, you took this horrible situation where 6 people died and you are turning it into a soapbox for your ideas. You know who I expect to jump on this Santa Barbara tragedy? The fucking NRA. They will be piggybacking this situation too.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


If it's an argument between just the two of you, instead of a larger discussion of Metafilter, maybe it should go to MeMail.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


this is a pretty weird metatalk
posted by Packed Lunch at 3:00 PM on May 24, 2014 [38 favorites]


Jesus Christ can you two just MeMail each other and then hug it out or something?
posted by MoonOrb at 3:00 PM on May 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't see what there is to MeMail about, really.
posted by Justinian at 3:01 PM on May 24, 2014


"wackadoodledoo" said the insensitive rooster to the dude with the unspecified mental illness diagnosis, thus beginning the inevitable move to outright ban the existence of all poultry everywhere, forever.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 3:01 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


I never said that was required. I said that an 'oops, sorry' would have ended the issue decisively.

Uh huh. Yeah, thanks for informing us that usually when people agree, there is no issue to debate. I agree!
posted by smidgen at 3:01 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Then how about just dropping it?
posted by MoonOrb at 3:01 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Re-read this thread.

Oh, ok, you are taking the mere fact of disagreement as insulting?


No, I am -- as stated -- taking hal_c_on's multiple comments that use the word in question as much as possible as insulting.
posted by Etrigan at 3:02 PM on May 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

kavasa: Sure, I see that. But I don't think FFFM is satisfied with saying it was probably not the best word choice.
Maybe not? Oh well, I guess? The mod team is shrinking. I guess my attitude in your situation would have been "it's free for me to say sorry and move on," even if at that moment I didn't think I'd done anything especially over the line. We as average users are going to have to take a little more personal care in keeping threads from turning to poop, and leaving our honor undefended sometimes will help with that.
posted by kavasa at 3:02 PM on May 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


Well, yes, I was fine with just dropping it in the first place. But that's easy for me to say since I wasn't the upset one.
posted by Justinian at 3:03 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kavasa: That's a very good point. We should all pitch in to make this an easier to moderate place.
posted by Justinian at 3:03 PM on May 24, 2014


Yeah, nobody said that hey think he's wackadoodle for being under the care if mental care professionals.

I think he's wackadoodle for killing 6 people. That's fucked up.


I'll just quote what someone else said:

When a fellow human being asks that you not use a word, it is profoundly uncool to double down on the use of that word while explaining why it's not really offensive to that fellow human being.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:04 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


No, I am -- as stated -- taking hal_c_on's multiple comments that use the word in question as much as possible as insulting.

Oh! Sorry, I thought you were talking to me rather than hal_c_on.
posted by Justinian at 3:04 PM on May 24, 2014


FFFM, as with the previous thread about the use of "schizo," this is a discussion that really does need to happen, but this is not the way to do it. It should be a conversation, not a take-all-comers fight, and I think that can happen if you let it. I also think you were in the right here, but you have to let other people say their bit. And given the site-related events of the past week, you have to understand where the mods are coming from when they're talking about how to do this.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:04 PM on May 24, 2014 [42 favorites]


Thanks kavasa for saying it a lot better than I did.
posted by ambrosia at 3:05 PM on May 24, 2014

It is not acceptable to refer to someone of African ancestry as a nigger.

This is a pretty problematic going-nuclear sort of move to make rhetorically.
No shit. Apples, oranges, and orders of magnitude, how dare you write something as cluelessly offensive as that. Forget the 'let's talk about the problem, not me' self-administered Get Out of Jail Free card. You shot your foot off with that one. If any apologies are owed, that sentence deserves its own.
posted by y2karl at 3:06 PM on May 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


I think we've agreed in the past about being sensitive to others' feelings, and I'd prefer it if people were more considerate about mental illness.

That said, this is a clear case of where FIAMO is a better solution than opening a MeTa which is framed poorly.

I'd vote for the MeTa queue to be put in place while we figure out the mod load in Future MeTa.
posted by arcticseal at 3:06 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


how dare you write something as cluelessly offensive as that.

Saying it's not okay to use certain words about certain people is... offensive now?

I'm out, you guys have fun justifying why it's okay to insult mentally ill people. Removed from my recent activity.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:08 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anyway. It sounds like Justinian has no intention of using the word anymore. I don't really care if he agrees with the larger point or not -- that's his business, and he is free to believe as he wishes. My concern is that the phrase, and other phrases that seem to mock mental illness, might make this a place that is not especially welcoming to people with mental illness, or people in general who don't like to see mental illness mocked, even unintenionally.

That's been resolved, and if similar cases in the future are flagged but not acted on, maybe that's when this discussion needs to happen.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:08 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm glad I get to stand in for everyone in the thread or in the past who has used the term (or similar). It makes me important.
posted by Justinian at 3:10 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


You're the one who said it in the thread and you're the one who suggested taking it to MeTa. Don't act like a martyr when you built your own cross.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:12 PM on May 24, 2014 [15 favorites]


Just wondering, is the initial comment the sort of thing that would or would not get deleted in the future? Or is that one of those "we don't do hypothetical" type questions?
posted by Justinian at 3:13 PM on May 24, 2014


Are you kidding, BU? I didn't suggest taking it to Metatalk, I said it belonged in Metatalk rather than the thread if fffm wanted to argue about it! Which is absolutely true. Don't give me crap for trying to prevent an in-thread argument.
posted by Justinian at 3:14 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh, so you should've flagged and moved on. In any case, maybe it's time to take a step back and let the thread play out for a bit?
posted by nobody at 3:16 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just wondering, is the initial comment the sort of thing that would or would not get deleted in the future? Or is that one of those "we don't do hypothetical" type questions?

If it had gotten flagged before the MeTa had popped, definitely. I was actively reading the thread and hadn't made it that far down before both a ton of flags has landed on the meta-discussion and this thread had been opened, rendering it moot.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:16 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


When a fellow human being asks that you not use a word, it is profoundly uncool to double down on the use of that word while explaining why it's not really offensive to that fellow human being.

This applies to someone saying "don't call me Indian, call me Native American".

You are applying it to: "don't call the guy who killed 6 people wackadoodle, because I'm going to pretend that this phrase has been used against my people over hundreds of years unfairly to subjugate us"

What you are doing is offensive. I hope you understand that.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2014 [37 favorites]


I'd vote for the MeTa queue to be put in place while we figure out the mod load in Future MeTa.

YES. Treat every day like a holiday weekend, which this weekend actually is in the U.S. (bonus: pie for everyone!) (2nd bonus: enjoy.)
posted by scody at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2014 [15 favorites]


Yes, he's applying a general phrase of mockery about mental illness to one specific mentall ill person. The fact that it was applied to a murderer doesn't now make the phrase itself okay.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:20 PM on May 24, 2014 [15 favorites]


Oh, so you should've flagged and moved on.

That's more or less what I did, yes.
posted by Justinian at 3:20 PM on May 24, 2014


You are applying it to: "don't call the guy who killed 6 people wackadoodle, because I'm going to pretend that this phrase has been used against my people over hundreds of years unfairly to subjugate us"

No, I'm pretty sure I didn't say that or draw the parallel that fffm did. I believe I said, as you quoted, that replying to "Please don't use X word" with "X X X!" is uncool. Don't take that to mean that I agree with everything else someone else has said.
posted by Etrigan at 3:22 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


The fact that you think it's okay to call a mentally ill person 'wackadoodle' is a clue, Justinian

No, not really. You don't have to be mentally ill to be wackadoodle as demonstrated by most of the Tea Party. Being mentally ill and being wackadoodle overlap in this case, but that doesn't make them equivalent.

Signed,

Mostly mentally ill with occasional moments of wackadoodle
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:26 PM on May 24, 2014 [47 favorites]


I object to the multiple uses of 'whackadoodle' to describe the mental illness of a young man (who yes, killed half a dozen people) in this thread.

The word 'whackadoodle' does not currently appear in that thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:26 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The fact that it was applied to a murderer doesn't now make the phrase itself okay.

You've made a lot of sense in this thread. But is wackadoodle being applied to the person because of the actions (murders of 6 people), or is the word being used simply because the person has mental health issues?

The test would be to bring in a person who has mental health issues, and a person who has killed before, and to find out who would be called that term.

I'd call a murderer a wackadoodle regardless of mental health issues. I wouldn't call someone with mental health issues a wackadoodle, unless he killed.

I hope that helps.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:26 PM on May 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Justinian, you may have flagged but not so much moved on. Moving on might be okay.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:27 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dude, you took this horrible situation where 6 people died and you are turning it into a soapbox for your ideas. You know who I expect to jump on this Santa Barbara tragedy? The fucking NRA. They will be piggybacking this situation too.

That's a silly analogy. He's not using the event that happened as a soapbox -- he wasn't even talking about the event itself here. He's saying that the term whackadoodle is disparaging and offensive and please don't use it as a synonym for mentally ill. You're essentially saying that he shouldn't get offended by something because there are greater tragedies in the world? There are almost greater tragedies in the world. That doesn't mean we can't still make the world a nicer and kinder place.

I don't understand why, in the face of saying that a particular word is hurtful or offensive, that it takes so much effort and emotional toil for people to say, "Hey, sorry about that. I'll make an effort not to do it." There's a lot of bad stuff out there. Why not try to make it a better place to be?
posted by diamondsky at 3:27 PM on May 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


Metafilter: The word 'whackadoodle' does not currently appear in that thread.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:27 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I hope that helps.
It really doesn't help the site very much at all, no.

Again, it's a thread about a murder spree. It is seriously better to approach these sorts of things with kid gloves.
posted by kavasa at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2014


You don't have to be mentally ill to be wackadoodle as demonstrated by most of the Tea Party.

But is wackadoodle being applied to the person because of the actions (murders of 6 people), or is the word being used simply because the person has mental health issues?

"Whackadoodle" in this case was specifically used to mean "mentally ill," not to mean "deeply weird , out of touch, or politically bizarre." Or, at least, in context, that's sure how it came across.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


The word 'whackadoodle' does not currently appear in that thread.

That's because it wasn't spelled with an h in that thread.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:30 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd call a murderer a wackadoodle regardless of mental health issues. I wouldn't call someone with mental health issues a wackadoodle, unless he killed.

Chris Rock doesn't do that joke anymore for a good reason.
posted by Etrigan at 3:32 PM on May 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Whackadoodle" in this case was specifically used to mean "mentally ill," not to mean "deeply weird , out of touch, or politically bizarre." Or, at least, in Context, that's sure how it came across.

Oh. Well I can't get with that, then. I thought it was applied (and later deleted), because of their actions as a murderer, not specifically to mean "mentally ill".
posted by hal_c_on at 3:32 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here's the original comment, and it is in response to one user worrying that we are rushing to declare the killer mentally ill.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll just put this here, and note that it is from March of this year. I wonder if that's some kind of record for the shortest amount of time between "word gets officially added to dictionary" and "word is considered offensive, should no longer be used". But we can do better, Metafilter - new goal, get everyone to stop using a word for being too offensive before it's added to the dictionary.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Justinian, you may have flagged but not so much moved on. Moving on might be okay.

Uh, flag it and move on generally refers to arguing in-thread, not responding to a Metatalk specifically addressing one's comment.
posted by Justinian at 3:38 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, nobody said that hey think he's wackadoodle for being under the care if mental care professionals.

I think he's wackadoodle for killing 6 people. That's fucked up.


Using a slur for people with mental illness to describe a person who just killed a bunch of people relies on and reinforces the misconception that mental illness = dangerous. You're enthusiastically supporting a stigma that harms a lot of people.
posted by Mavri at 3:38 PM on May 24, 2014 [45 favorites]


There are a lot of words that aren't in the dictionary that we probably would have better conversations if we avoided.

If whackadoo just meant whacky, I'd have no issue with it. If people use it to mean whacky, I won't flag it. It's not a word that exclusively or originally means mentally ill.

But, in threads that touch on mental illness, it's probably a word that will create problems.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:40 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not cool with "wackadoodle" meaning "someone who killed because they're mentally ill" either. It's cutesy and dismissive like we're throwing our hands up in the air about the nutty neighborhood cat lady and her cat lady ways.

What Mavri said pretty much.
posted by daisystomper at 3:41 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


fffm, this is not a great way for you to pursue the agenda you are pursuing. Getting all up in everyone's face every time you feel personally affronted because something apparently hit a nerve for you as an individual, even though it was not directed at you as an individual, has a tendency to be counterproductive.

That is not intended as an attack or a criticism. It is intended to say if you have an agenda to see this get better here on metafilter, another strategy would better serve your purpose.

I am homeless. I am quite open about that. I have not started any MeTa's about how homeless people get discussed. I have been in confrontations where things were, in fact, directed at me as an individual. In this Ask, I intentionally waited to reply because my first kneejerk reaction was along the lines of "WE ARE STILL HUMAN AND HOW DARE YOU..blah blah blah." Some of those points were better covered by other people before I did finally reply the next day, which made it much easier for me to give a good reply and not get all het about how the ask was framed.

You might consider adopting a similar strategy going forward, especially as, come June 1st, the mods simply will not have the time and other resources necessary to patiently indulge stuff like this.
posted by Michele in California at 3:41 PM on May 24, 2014 [22 favorites]


I'd vote for the MeTa queue to be put in place while we figure out the mod load in Future MeTa.

I agree.

The underlying issue in this meta may be worth discussing (the use of one or more terms for the mentally ill), but:

a) the framing of this post was appallingly shitty (at this point I'm all for a ban on people using seriously offensive terms ironically or to make a semi-related point);

and b) the post was made by a person with a pattern of tantrums and marching out of the room, which is fine in its own way but a queue would allow the mods to schedule the meta for a time when they have the time and energy to handle the free-range grar.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:42 PM on May 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


I don't understand why, in the face of saying that a particular word is hurtful or offensive, that it takes so much effort and emotional toil for people to say, "Hey, sorry about that. I'll make an effort not to do it." There's a lot of bad stuff out there. Why not try to make it a better place to be?

Because it's presumptive. "This word makes me feel hurt and offended" is a very different statement from "This word is hurtful and offensive". There is reasonable basis to disagree with the universality of someone's reaction.
posted by kafziel at 3:43 PM on May 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


Maybe the reason I laughed at the term "wackadoodle" when I read that comment in the thread is, as someone with a diagnosed mental illness, that I didn't think the term referred to those with mental illnesses. I.e. I didn't take it personally because I didn't assume it referred to a group to which I belong. I, myself, have used the term in reference to a mass shooter, Jared Loughner, after the 2011 Tucson shooting that involved Gabrielle Giffords.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:46 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'd vote for the MeTa queue to be put in place while we figure out the mod load in Future MeTa.

I think the ability to post a MeTa without needing to be pre-approved is a core functionality of this site and I'd be sad to see that revoked on a longer-term basis. Lots of examples over on reddit of what can happen to online communities when they don't have the outlet to freely discuss moderation.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:51 PM on May 24, 2014


I think the ability to post a MeTa without needing to be pre-approved is a core functionality of this site and I'd be sad to see that revoked on a longer-term basis.

I don't disagree, and I don't think anyone else on the mod staff does. However, MeTa is a high-touch part of the site, and we may end up needing to do some load-balancing just so we can actually interact properly while managing the rest of the site. In this case, for example, this MeTa could safely have been held until Monday when more people were around than just me.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:55 PM on May 24, 2014 [21 favorites]


Because it's presumptive. "This word makes me feel hurt and offended" is a very different statement from "This word is hurtful and offensive". There is reasonable basis to disagree with the universality of someone's reaction.

Yes, exactly. If fffm had said "can you please not use that word because it makes me feel bad" I would have said "sure, no problem." Fffm said "that word is like calling someone a faggot". Literally. Which I think is inflammatory, wrong, and insulting to huge numbers of people.
posted by Justinian at 3:55 PM on May 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


I wonder if that's some kind of record for the shortest amount of time between "word gets officially added to dictionary" and "word is considered offensive, should no longer be used".

And it turns out that the dictionary definition is "An eccentric or fanatical person."

Given that the shooter was indeed an anti-feminist, pro-misogyny fanatic, the word seems quite appropriate in the context in which it was used.

The people getting upset because they assume "wackadoodle" to be a slur against all mentally ill people are the ones using the word incorrectly. Would you also flag/delete comments that contain the word "niggardly" because some people misunderstand what that word means too?
posted by Jacqueline at 3:59 PM on May 24, 2014 [35 favorites]


That's because it wasn't spelled with an h in that thread.

Goddamn it, peeplple!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:00 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm out, you guys have fun justifying why it's okay to insult mentally ill people. Removed from my recent activity.

This is a pattern - somewhat juvenile and super unhelpful to the mods. I'm pretty sure you actually will continue to read this thread (as you have "bowed out" of several others only to bow back in), and I would urge you to think about how and why you interact with the site this way. This "new day" and the way you interact with the site now is not very different from the "old day". Your hyper-confrontational and extremely bristly approach is a bit problematic, dude, even when you are "right".
posted by smoke at 4:00 PM on May 24, 2014 [83 favorites]


I agree with you Jacqueline but given the week the mods have had (and the huge workload they are facing in the future) I'm inclined to give them a lot of slack on deleting stuff which might cause problems even if I think it shouldn't cause problems. At least until everything shakes out. We can always argue about it once things have settled down.
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just another fffm show. I'd have given him a timeout just for the actually offensive words below the fold. I don't find the term wackadoodle particularly offensive, considering its recent increase in usage in politics. I have my own flavor of mental illness as well, and this word feels apt to me.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:05 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


(argue about site policy with regards to deleting things simply because they might cause problems, I mean, not this specific example).
posted by Justinian at 4:06 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wackadoodle is a word that means weird or eccentric, not crazy. It is not a slur, and using it as a synonym for mentally ill – in this case, homicidally so – is weird and generally inappropriate. It was a FIAMO moment.

The bigger problem I have with the comment is that it does armchair psychoanalysis. Deciding "this person is mentally ill" because of YouTube videos and arguing for this is worse than misusing a term.
posted by graymouser at 4:17 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


MetaTalk is back!
posted by planetesimal at 4:19 PM on May 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


I'm not big on closing threads, but here's a great opportunity for that self-policing we've been talking about lately. We could respond to RN's totally reasonable mod observation ("this MeTa could safely have been held until Monday when more people were around than just me") by deciding, since this discussion isn't super-urgent and the OP has left anyway, to lighten RN's workload and wrap this up.
posted by cribcage at 4:20 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Just to be clear, if someone tells me that a word bothers them, I will stop using it (see: past MeTa where I referred to Westerners), especially if the offended person is kind enough to explain why the word is problematic*. Yet, it's strange to me that people are being expected to have inherently known that this word was, in fact, A Big Deal.

People know that the n-word and the f-word are slurs because the social contract has evolved to include them as pejoratives. I have no idea how someone was supposed to divine that wackadoodle was offensive to a non-zero sum of people, or that this issue should exist without disagreement or discussion. I mean, the definition of the word is: an eccentric or fanatical person. Had FFFM not said anything, I would have taken it at it's definition. Are people saying that the killer was, in fact, not a fanatical person? (serious question)

I would say that most MeFis who see this thread probably won't use the word. I would guess that the mods will delete flagged versions of this that come up. Outside of that, I have no idea what else can be done.

Now, if this is actually a veiled discussion for: "MeFi needs to be more sensitive to people with mental illnesses," that's totally different, and a discussion that should be had. But this rage over the fact that wackadoodle isn't well known and accepted as a pejorative is mystifying.

*and yes, I realize that it's a kindness, and that no one is required to educate us.
posted by Shouraku at 4:21 PM on May 24, 2014 [12 favorites]


cribcage: Works for me.
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on May 24, 2014


Shouraku: Yeah, I mean, there are mods who have used the word wackadoodle here on Metafilter.
posted by Justinian at 4:24 PM on May 24, 2014


He slaughtered six or seven women in cold blood and apparently had some seriously fucked up views about women in general. What he did, and what he espoused was sure as hell not normal. Normal people don't kill their fellow human beings.

Dude is not a victim and to hell with treating him respectfully. He had severe psychological problems. "Crazy" seems like an appropriate descriptor. It's a shame no one locked his psychotic ass up before he murdered a bunch of women.
posted by zarq at 4:29 PM on May 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


This is an unusually terrible meta.
posted by elizardbits at 4:32 PM on May 24, 2014 [85 favorites]


I don't think the concern is so much for the feelings of the deceased shitbag killer as much as it is for people with mental illnesses in general.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:38 PM on May 24, 2014 [23 favorites]


thus beginning the inevitable move to outright ban the existence of all poultry everywhere, forever.

I knew this day would come.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:44 PM on May 24, 2014 [42 favorites]


Zarq, I don't think anyone is offended on behalf of the guy that did the killing. They are offended by the use of that word as a synonym for mental illness because of the way it makes people with mental illness feel marginalized.

Yes, exactly. If fffm had said "can you please not use that word because it makes me feel bad" I would have said "sure, no problem." Fffm said "that word is like calling someone a faggot". Literally. Which I think is inflammatory, wrong, and insulting to huge numbers of people.

I think that's fair and reasonable, Justinian. I am not personally bothered by the word wackadoodle in some contexts, but using it as a substitute for mental illness bothers me. To be honest, my larger issue is with the way mental illness is treated as a joke and an opportunity to mock people, when it can often be such a painful and destructive force. I'm not saying that was your intention. I'm just explaining how it came across to me in thread. I personally would appreciate people making an effort to be more thoughtful about that.
posted by diamondsky at 4:45 PM on May 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


Isn't "eccentric" (which is in the definition of the word) often used as a code-word for "harmlessly and mildly mentally ill"? Not necessarily disagreeing with you, diamondsky, I just think that's a very subtle and fine line to draw.
posted by Justinian at 4:49 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I knew this day would come.

First they came for the Large Metal Chickens, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Large Metal Chicken.
posted by arcticseal at 5:21 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


It is a fine line and it lands in a different place for different people, as demonstrated in thread. I would try hard not to get angry with someone for falling on the wrong side of my personal line. I still find myself unintentionally offending other people sometimes. Who doesn't? But I also think it's fair to bring it up and ask for people to keep an eye on it.

To your specific question, I'm not bothered by eccentric because it actually strikes me as an attempt to be kind and not over-stigmatize someone who deals with mental health stuff. Wackadoodle used as a synonym, on the other hand, seems a lot more mocking and like an attempt to make fun of it. Does that make sense?

I try to use kindness as my yardstick when I can.
posted by diamondsky at 5:23 PM on May 24, 2014


I guess I'm just at a loss as to how this suddenly became a hugely problematic thing when the same word has been used dozens and dozens of times on Metafilter in the past by many of the site's most respected members including at least one mod (admittedly not acting in an official capacity). I feel like it really came out of nowhere.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Did they use it to mean mentally ill?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


You can search the site for "wackadoodle" if you want and see all the usage.
posted by Justinian at 5:36 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm just at a loss as to how this suddenly became a hugely problematic thing ...

Because someone objected.
posted by Etrigan at 5:37 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, exactly. If fffm had said "can you please not use that word because it makes me feel bad" I would have said "sure, no problem." Fffm said "that word is like calling someone a faggot". Literally. Which I think is inflammatory, wrong, and insulting to huge numbers of people.

Well, actually, wackadoodle is more the equivalent of calling somebody sissy, ultimately derived from derogatory notions about a specific outsider group generalised to a point where few of us are really aware of those connetations when we use it, unless we're called on it.

The difference being that the idea that these sorts words, though seemingly inoffensive, can actually be hurtful or dangerous and symptomic of a lack of respect is pretty much accepted here when it comes to language rooted in homophobic stereotyping of gay people, but we're only starting to learn to do the same with regards to mental illness. Or indeed disabilities of any kind.

So fffm may have been slightly strong in his original objection, but he had a point. And while he perhaps should've done better by flagging and moving on, your response to him isn't without blame either, though you're apparantly not the only one who thought that fffm was only worried about the murderer being insulted.

Again there, just as Metafilter has learned that it's not okay to call a woman a bitch even if she's Ann Coulter, so it should probably learn not to use slurs against mentally ill people when describing murderers.

Even if they are mentally ill.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:37 PM on May 24, 2014 [17 favorites]


The question at hand is whether "wackadoodle" is a slur, Martin. You can't assume your conclusion.
posted by Justinian at 5:39 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]




You can search the site for "wackadoodle" if you want and see all the usage.

Well, you're the one suggesting that your use was fine because others have used it the same way, inclduing a mod. But you explicitly used it to mean "mentally ill," so how about you link to the example you speak of, instead of expecting others to do your work for you?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:40 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


(There is, I think for many people a distinction between crazy and mental illness, just as there is a difference between dumb and learning challenged, but it might be hard to see the difference when you're in that second category...)
posted by MartinWisse at 5:40 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or rather, there are probably two issues: One, is it a slur (to which I think the answer is definitively NO) and two, should we refrain from using it anyway if someone asks to which the answer may well be "sure, it doesn't cost anything to be nice."
posted by Justinian at 5:41 PM on May 24, 2014


Martin, that wasn't cool.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:42 PM on May 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


The question at hand is whether "wackadoodle" is a slur, Martin. You can't assume your conclusion.

See, this sort of thing is why fffm became angry, Justinian, where it's clear that you chose not to engage with a comment in favour of splitting hairs or deliberate misunderstanding.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:43 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's not splitting hairs, it's the entire point of this discussion! If the word is a slur then obviously no-one should ever use it.
posted by Justinian at 5:43 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Or rather, there are probably two issues: One, is it a slur (to which I think the answer is definitively NO)...

You realize that you're essentially saying "No, you aren't allowed to be offended" here, right? Especially since at least one person has consciously used the word in a derogatory manner in this thread.
posted by Etrigan at 5:44 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, no, fffm was clearly offended. "Allowed" doesn't really enter into the discussion.
posted by Justinian at 5:45 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Then argue against my comment, rather than dismiss it. Why isn't it a slur when it's clearly aimed at "crazy" people?
posted by MartinWisse at 5:46 PM on May 24, 2014


Well, it depends on if you're using the word "slur" in the technical sense of any pejorative or the colloquial meaning of an offensive and bigoted pejorative.
posted by Justinian at 5:48 PM on May 24, 2014


fffm was clearly offended

...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:48 PM on May 24, 2014


So if a word offends someone and is also used derogatorily by someone else, how is it not a slur if only in that (this) instance?
posted by Etrigan at 5:49 PM on May 24, 2014


Can we discuss the actual problem here, which is allowing insulting slurs to be used against mental people

I realise this is a typo and it should probably read "mentally ill people", but in terms of irony it just made me laugh a LOT.

I think MeFi is really good when it comes to being respectful of people with mental health issues. You can't expect people to know what you personally find offensive until you come across it, at which point it seems like it would be better to calmly explain why it's offensive rather than being deliberately inflammatory about it. I won't use whackadoodle (not that I did, it's very American; I prefer the local term "looper") because I agree that casually calling people some value of "mad" reinforces negative stereotypes. But that's in spite of the framing of this thread, not because of it.
posted by billiebee at 5:50 PM on May 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


You keep referring to a usage in this thread. Do you mean hal_c_on? Because it's hard to keep track.
posted by Justinian at 5:50 PM on May 24, 2014


That seems a distinction without a difference; isn't a pejorative always bigoted and offensive?
posted by MartinWisse at 5:51 PM on May 24, 2014


Of course not. You yourself called Rodgers lots of things, none of which I would consider bigoted. Misogynist, etc. But that's certainly pejorative.
posted by Justinian at 5:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Anyway, as mods in this thread have said that if it had been flagged and not escalated, they would've deleted it, it seems on MeFi anyway wackedoodle is a proper slur.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:52 PM on May 24, 2014


I don't disagree, and I don't think anyone else on the mod staff does. However, MeTa is a high-touch part of the site, and we may end up needing to do some load-balancing just so we can actually interact properly while managing the rest of the site. In this case, for example, this MeTa could safely have been held until Monday when more people were around than just me.

This seems sensible! This was a situation where two people seemed to be intent on fighting over something orthogonal to the (emotional and upsetting) subject matter of the thread. If that fight had to be had right that very minute, it could have been done by memail. Nothing would have been lost by holding this thread, which was obviously going to be a bad-tempered car crash, overnight, or over the weekend, with both people involved asked not to refer to it if they wanted to carry on contributing to the FPP discussion.

As an aside, I'd really like it if people stopped using hate speech as a rhetorical tool, but I think we've had that conversation before, and it's probably not something that can be made site policy, but, yeah - basically what cortex said.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:53 PM on May 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


Point there.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:53 PM on May 24, 2014


Anyway, as mods in this thread have said that if it had been flagged and not escalated, they would've deleted it, it seems on MeFi anyway wackedoodle is a proper slur.

Which I find an extremely dubious assertion considering the history of the word on Metafilter, I've just agreed it's not worth pushing under the umbrella of Be Nice to Eachother.
posted by Justinian at 5:54 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Martin: How about this - a slur is a term of abuse. A pejorative is a derogatory term of any kind. But not all derogatory terms are abusive. That's how I'd look at it, anyway.
posted by Justinian at 5:55 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe everyone should just take a deep breath, make a recurring donation to metafilter, and then go back to the green, blue, and white. Then we can all feel good again.
posted by alms at 5:57 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


^eponysterical
posted by planetesimal at 6:00 PM on May 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


Justinian: fair enough.

I'd say that it's one of those words that's not delete on sight, but is deleted if flagged?
posted by MartinWisse at 6:00 PM on May 24, 2014


I don't think we need an official ruling on slur-or-not status to just sort of underscore that it'd be a good idea for people to be mindful of not being flippant or lazily judgement about mental illness as a subject and as something that lots of people, including plenty of mefites, actually deal with as a personal struggle daily. If folks can work with that, I think we'll be a lot better off than trying to lawyer the issue out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:04 PM on May 24, 2014 [32 favorites]


I dunno, I read the original comment, and I could imagine it being said about any number of people who have posted strange youtube videos about their odd beliefs, regardless of whether those people were actually mentally ill or not. I don't think the word was definitely used as a synonym for "mentally ill person" just because that person happened to actually be mentally ill.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:12 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


That's kind of how I feel, 23skidoo. If someone posted a comment calling Michele Bachmann a wackadoodle it would probably get 50 favorites and nothing but laughs. I have no idea if she is mentally ill or not.
posted by Justinian at 6:15 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


I wager it will be some time before anyone calls anyone a wackadoodle on metafilter, though. So mission accomplished?
posted by Justinian at 6:16 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's kind of how I feel, 23skidoo. If someone posted a comment calling Michele Bachmann a wackadoodle it would probably get 50 favorites and nothing but laughs.

I have seen comments like that get a complaint about not calling whomever "crazy", though. The laughs just make them easy to overlook maybe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the web, nobody knows if you're mentally ill if you don't tell them. I'm Jewish, but if I decided to be comically antisemitic without context, I'd expect it to be deleted.

It shouldn't even matter if people know about your identity. If I were to post an offensively anti-Jewish comment, I'd expect it to be deleted too. Would it be a good argument for me to say, "But you might be able to correctly guess that I'm Jewish from my username!"? I don't think so. An offensive comment is an offensive comment. And I would never tell someone who isn't Jewish that he or she if forbidden from making a joke that I am allowed to make.

(As for this post, I do think we could be more sensitive about mental illness; I also think trying to get people to stop making jokey references to insane mass murderers might be a lost cause; and this MeTa obviously wasn't done in the best way.)
posted by John Cohen at 6:23 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guess i still fail to see how saying this one guy was specifically insane, eccentric, crazy or anything else is an attack on all people who have any degree of mental illness. It's not wrong to say there was something seriously wrong with him, and it seems unreasonable to extrapolate that into criticism of an entire group.

Maybe that's privilege talking. I dunno.

I'm all for erring on the side of kindness. Don't really use the word and have no intention of doing so in the future.
posted by zarq at 6:23 PM on May 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


I guess i still fail to see how saying this one guy was specifically insane, eccentric, crazy or anything else is an attack on all people who have any degree of mental illness.

It's not that, it's using a word that a lot of people see as belittling to a lot of other people (or even to themselves).
posted by Etrigan at 6:27 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


As someone who used to be mentally ill, let me say something. I PERSONALLY was not all that enraged about that word and others like it but I think it's rude and cruel to use it in general.also remember those of us who are dealing or have dealt with mental issues sometimes have a little bit of difficulty dealing with emotions.I think it would be kind to not egg people on in that circumstance.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:33 PM on May 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


It's a shame that this MeTa was so unbelievably poorly framed, because it is a subject that should be addressed for Metafilter.

And to whoever said "hey, some people said they are mentally ill and they weren't offended, therefore it's totally okay" -- no. And you know it.
posted by tzikeh at 6:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [17 favorites]


"That's kind of how I feel, 23skidoo. If someone posted a comment calling Michele Bachmann a wackadoodle it would probably get 50 favorites and nothing but laughs. I have no idea if she is mentally ill or not."

Yes, but the problem with others defending you on this basis and, amazingly, you defending yourself on this basis, was that you used the term explicitly as a diagnosis of mental illness when you were in an argument with someone who wanted to diagnose this as political extremism. Your whole argument was that this wasn't about political extremism, it was about someone being mentally ill.

So it's breathtaking to see you take the tack that your use of the word wasn't pejorative to mentally ill people and really was only about someone who is objectionably (often politically) extremist.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:36 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


That's a complete distortion of this thread. The word is certainly pejorative, the issue is whether it's a slur. Which you undoubtedly know, having read the thread.
posted by Justinian at 6:39 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


this whole topic is very difficult. I personally hold a currently-unpopular opinion about the etiology of "mental illness" that I keep my damn mouth shut about here because I know full well that it would offend a lot of people who agree with the current ideology.

So when a thread like the one on the blue comes up, I want to get in there and SCREAM about my opinions. But I instead say nothing, or something benign, because I know that a lot of people will disagree with me.

So, my point is, I do hope that we all can have the patience and foresight to say "I accept that we have disagreements. I accept that we both acknowledge the potential to offend. I accept that I will sometimes be offended by what you say, and you by what I say. Hopefully because we both understand that this comes from a differing of opinion and not actual malice, we can learn and move forward."
posted by rebent at 6:39 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Tzikeh: This is a difficult enough topic without you twisting words. I said I thought fffm was wrong and that several other people agreed. Which is a perfectly legitimate point to make in a thread like this.
posted by Justinian at 6:42 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


hey, some people said they are mentally ill and they weren't offended, therefore it's totally okay

This isn't the point. The point is there are different views on the topic and one is not more correct than the other but we must all get along anyways. So, I think it's clear here that nobody is going to call someone a wackadoodle if they are a mentally ill. Not because we agree it is wrong but because we understand it is a sensitive topic.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2014


"And to whoever said 'hey, some people who said they are mentally ill weren't offended, therefore it's totally okay' -- no. And you know it."

Right. A thousand times this. This is always true, and I hate it whenever someone of group X comes along and gives their blessing to something that another member of group X just complained about.

It's simply obviously true that on matters about (marginalized) group X, the views/attestations of experience of individual members of group X should weigh more heavily than that of non-members. But this is not a license for that individual to speak on behalf of group X, but only for themselves as a member of group X.

I'm physically disabled and also I'm a lifelong sufferer of chronic major depression and have been hospitalized for it a couple of times. So I'm a member of the "disabled" group and "mentally ill" group. I wasn't personally upset at Justinian's comment, but that certainly doesn't mean that I'm some authoritative measure of all other mentally ill people. Seriously, for anyone to think that way is deeply presumptuous. I am only mildly more sensitive to the use of language about physical disability than our cultural average, but, again, that doesn't mean that my own sensibilities are the measurement by which everyone's language use should be judged.

This works with both negative and positive directions. I'm going to be annoyed whenever anyone presumes to speak for me and my preferences and what I find hurtful in any sort of universal, authoritative fashion, whether it's that because I'm a member of a group I do and will find something hurtful, or that I don't and will not. Don't speak for other members of your/our group. Speak for yourself, attest secondhand to what other members of the group have told you, but don't universalize your own preferences and experiences to all members of the group.

In this context, I don't begrudge or minimize fffm's or anyone else's sensitivity to the word that Justinian used, I understand why someone would be upset about it. I totally agree that there's a larger social problem with how mentally ill people are depicted and discussed, and how mental illness is discussed, which includes pejoratives, and I'm upset that anyone would make an effort to push back against someone taking offense at this word in this particular context, which was clearly as a pejorative term for diagnosed mental illness. I didn't get upset at it, but at least one other person did, and for good reasons.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:55 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's probably safer to just not call anyone a wackadoodle, really.
posted by Justinian at 6:55 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


urban dictionary
posted by telstar at 6:55 PM on May 24, 2014


But this is not a license for that individual to speak on behalf of group X, but only for themselves as a member of group X.

Doesn't this apply just as much to fffm as anyone else?
posted by Justinian at 6:56 PM on May 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


I do empathize with fffm and his opinion here, but this is just an untenable example of speech-policing. I can see how someone might be offended by 'wackadoodle' if s/he really tried to be, but the reality of the situation is that we're talking about a murderer--one who killed several people.

I think if that term ever deserved a public airing, it's now.
posted by yellowcandy at 6:58 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sure, but do we have to frame it as the group containing young man who killed six people, gay men and African Americans?
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:01 PM on May 24, 2014


It's a shame that this MeTa was so unbelievably poorly framed, because it is a subject that should be addressed for Metafilter.

I think it has been addressed, broadly. Restless_nomad says here that if she had seen it before the argument in-thread and the move to Metatalk, it would have been deleted.

The response to the subject, I think, is basically "if you see what you think is offensive language - or language that is likely to derail a thread, whether or not you personally find it offensive, flag it and do not respond in-thread. If it isn't deleted, talk to the mods. If there's still something you want to discuss with the community, open a thread in MeTa".

So, if FFFM had flagged it, it would have been deleted if r_n had seen it before the metadiscussion made it impossible to excise.

('Is wackadoodle ever an okay word to use" is not a great framing, but "is wackadoodle an inappropriately frivolous term to use in such a serious and emotional discussion, to the extent that it's going to derail the thread?", on the other hand, is pretty much answered at this point.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:03 PM on May 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just weighing in: I think wackadoodle is a pretty okay word.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:04 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't think anyone has defended the framing of this Metatalk, even the people who mostly agree with fffm.
posted by Justinian at 7:04 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Doesn't this apply just as much to fffm as anyone else?"

Yes!

I don't feel like I've seen it in this example, but I can imagine him doing so.

It's a narrow line to walk. You can talk about how you are or are not offended at something because you're a member of a group that the something applies to, and the way you talk about it can be explicitly or implicitly a categorical statement about how all other members of the group feel/think (or should). Explicit arguments like this are obvious and easier to avoid, what you do is you learn to not speak for your entire group.

Implicit ones are more difficult, they're often context dependent. But they're a problem, too.

But it's very problematic for a non-member of a group to use disagreement within the group as an argument that something some members of the group finds offensive, really isn't. This is extremely common and it's pernicious.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:09 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Once again you're making the unfounded assumption that I'm a non-member of the group.
posted by Justinian at 7:10 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could you stop playing rhetorical poker with your possible membership in that group? It's shitty.
posted by bleep-blop at 7:13 PM on May 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


Goddammit, it's not rhetorical poker.
posted by Justinian at 7:16 PM on May 24, 2014


imma whackadoodle you good
posted by planetesimal at 7:16 PM on May 24, 2014


It shouldn't be any of your fucking business is what it is.
posted by Justinian at 7:17 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Feel free not to make it our business.
posted by Etrigan at 7:18 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


What 'unfounded assumption' Justinian? Were you referring to Ivan Fyodorovich's statement? I read that as a general statement, not an assumption of what group you are, or are not, a member of.

This is all so confusing.
posted by parki at 7:21 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought the word meant "most likely not mentally ill but has unusual beliefs that probably harm others" like people who think vaccines cause autism.
posted by bleep at 7:26 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Mentally ill/addict dual-diagnosis here, since it seems to be the basis of some weird authority. Besides there being much larger issues at stake here, as long as the internet has attracted outcasts and those who take interest in other outcasts' actions, the term 'batshit insane' has been used without much issue to describe folks ranging from eccentric to truly and deeply mentally ill. Sorry if this has been said to death in this thread already but there's nothing wrong with using whackadoodle to describe this batshit insane whackadoodle.
posted by item at 7:30 PM on May 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


Wow, I did not know that wackadoodle was actually in the Oxford Dictionary.

I think I technically concur that if using the term to refer to a fanatical person (TM Oxford) or a paranoid conspiracy nut (TM Urban Dictionary) because he sounded convinced that all women were conspiring against him, Justinian was correct. I do think that "wackadoodle" does give the impression that it is a more lighthearted and silly word, probably more likely to be used about describing say, something you heard on the Doctor Demento Show. And that making mass murder sound more lighthearted is where this perhaps went awry?

But in our culture, we use the word "crazy" and its synonyms to describe several situations.

Crazy level 1: someone who's publicly a weirdo, says strange things, dresses weird, or does anything out of the conventional norm. This person may or may not be rational/sane/mentally healthy, but they give the impression of being "off" somehow.
Crazy level 2: my mother described this one as "he's in a different reality." The person in this case is probably clinically mentally ill and is experiencing a different reality than the rest of us. This may have some potential to get dangerous for the person and/or those around them.
And now we have crazy level 3, which is crazy level 2 + actively killing people.

Admittedly, we don't really super distinguish between all of these words as to the levels, and "crazy" (or whatever) can refer to any of those states of mind and perception. Heck, check the thesaurus here for just how many variants of crazy there are. How the heck is one supposed to distinguish without offending someone somewhere? We don't really have a gold standard set about it like "never say the n-bomb"--heck, we don't really distinguish between levels of crazy at all in conversation most of the time. I think we probably should, but right now it doesn't seem to be something we do.

So what should Justinian have said instead specifically to have not offended?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:39 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I once used the word to describe a dude who made up a bizarre crossbreed of dog and lamb in a weird, creepy, and misguided attempt to impress women who already thought he was an idiot and I stand by that usage.
posted by elizardbits at 7:46 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


So what should Justinian have said instead specifically to have not offended?

It's less "to have not offended" than "after having offended" -- it's one thing to say something someone finds offensive, but it's another entirely to dig in one's heels to deny having given offense.
posted by Etrigan at 7:49 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


my disdain for self-appointed word cops puts me on team justinian for this one. what next?
posted by bruce at 7:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Etrigan, I'm deeply offended by your use of the phrase "dig in one's heels". I demand an apology!
posted by mstokes650 at 7:52 PM on May 24, 2014


(This thread is also making a case for preemptively closing MeTas that will obviously have no productive outcome...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:02 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Etrigan, I'm deeply offended by your use of the phrase "dig in one's heels".

Making light of other people being offended is totally as hilarious as you think it is.
posted by Etrigan at 8:05 PM on May 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


Hey, you're the one who decided that saying "I'm offended" was the ultimate conversational trump card; don't blame me for wanting to get a piece of the action.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:07 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


This callout is embarrassing.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:09 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you think of the conversation as a card game, then sure, it's a trump. If you think of it as a conversation, then it's more of a rhetorical device that people should make a decision on whether to deploy based on their audience and its stated issues with said device.
posted by Etrigan at 8:10 PM on May 24, 2014


this thread was bad enough already without people arbitrarily deciding to drag their assholes across it to express their anal glands
posted by elizardbits at 8:13 PM on May 24, 2014 [55 favorites]


Martin, you wrote "wackadoodle is more the equivalent of calling somebody sissy, ultimately derived from derogatory notions about a specific outsider group generalised to a point where few of us are really aware of those connetations when we use it" and "these sorts words, though seemingly inoffensive, can actually be hurtful or dangerous and symptomic of a lack of respect is pretty much accepted here when it comes to language rooted in homophobic stereotyping of gay people, but we're only starting to learn to do the same with regards to mental illness".

That's a bit different from saying Justinian's comment was problematic in this context. I don't think either of your assertions that I quoted are true. The word is normally used as synonym of silly. If you describe someone as "adhering to a whackadoodle political philosophy" (typical of the way the word is ordinarily used), the person whose political philosophy you're dismissing might get offended because you're dismissing it, but not because it's a slur, and almost no English speakers would think you were accusing the person of having a mental illness, because that's not what the word means.

I have a problem with people claiming to diagnose mental illness over the internet. You, fffm and Bunny Ultramod are trying to make this into a fight about the word 'whackadoodle'. There's a problem with Justinian's comment, but the fact that he used the word 'whackadoodle' in it isn't the problem.

"Whackadoodle' is about the mildest possible term Justinian could have used to describe someone as 'probably mentally ill', and one that doesn't ordinarily refer to mental illness. He may have selected it to make it clear that he wasn't offering anything like a professional diagnosis.

fffm's belligerent grandstanding and throwing around the worst slurs he could he could think of to give extra punch to his complaint are much worse than Justinian's use of 'whackadoodle'. You might think about what you're trying to do here.
posted by nangar at 8:17 PM on May 24, 2014 [29 favorites]


This thread = tl;dr

Has it yet been decided whether the word I also used for that crack-smoking Canadian mayor now a slur against mentally ill persons or not? (And, if I continue to use the word in the same manner, am I implying that all mentally ill people smoke crack or are mayors?)
posted by _paegan_ at 8:20 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


"So what should Justinian have said instead specifically to have not offended?"

I feel like people (including, suspiciously, Justinian) are not aware of the very specific context in which this term appeared.

Justinian was in an argument about whether this was terrorism and a hate crime and the misogyny was crucial (other people) or whether the misogyny and all that was incidental and that the killer was an extremely mentally ill person and that's mostly all that matters (Justinian).

It was in that context that Justinian declared the killer a "wackadoodle". He was very specifically defending his argument that the killer was very mentally ill. His use of the word was in the context of him diagnosing the killer's mental illness from his video. It was not a casual use of the term to describe someone who was really out there and hateful and whatever. The whole damn argument was about actual mental illness and Justinian's position was that the killer was clinically mentally ill, his use of the term was in the context of a diagnosis of mental illness.

That's a straight equation of "severely mentally ill" with "wackadoodle". In that very narrow context, it's clear that the implication is that anyone else who is severely mentally ill must also necessarily be a "wackadoodle" because that's exactly how Justinian used the term.

My intuition is telling me that this was more a careless rhetorical mistake in the heat of the moment than anything else. Justinian picked the most rhetorically strong synonym he had at hand for "mentally ill" because he was frustrated and wanted to underscore his point that the killer was obviously mentally ill. That's the work that this tonally-discordant choice of word is doing. It's like throwing a profanity in there. But that it was at-hand, effective, and that it seemed appropriate to him (and that he is defending it now) reveals some things. It tells us that our culture doesn't make very strong distinctions between severe mental illness, someone who rightly is ostracized, and immorality. This is what other people have been getting at when they look at how we use language to describe the whole spectrum of mental illness and how those words overlap with things which are not mental illness.

It's revealing that "wackadoodle" often doesn't mean clinical mental illness, but is pejorative and othering, and that when push came to shove and Justinian wanted to emphasize his point that the killer was severely mentally ill, he chose "wackadoodle" for this purpose. Superficially, that seems like it's at cross-purposes with his argument. You'd have thought that he'd have just written that he's watched the killer's video and he thinks it's obvious that the killer was extremely mentally ill, dangerously so. But no, he chose this particular word.

On Preview:

"'Whackadoodle' is about the mildest possible term Justinian could have used to describe someone as 'probably mentally ill', and one that doesn't ordinarily refer to mental illness. He may have selected it to make it clear that he wasn't offering anything like a professional diagnosis."

But he was emphatically arguing for a strong diagnosis of severe mental illness! His use of the word cannot be defended on the basis you're defending it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:20 PM on May 24, 2014 [45 favorites]


If you think of it as a conversation, then it's more of a rhetorical device that people should make a decision on whether to deploy based on their audience and its stated issues with said device.

I think maybe you've lost your subject in there, but yes, saying "I'm offended" is a rhetorical device which people make a decision whether or not to deploy. I completely agree! I just don't think it should necessarily always be the converstion-halting, force-an-apology rhetorical device that you seem comfortable with it being; decisions about that, in my opinion, have to be determined case-by-case on a "how reasonable is this offense?" criteria, much as you yourself seem to have [rightly] used to dismiss my patently ridiculous offense at a harmless phrase. Otherwise we hand an unchecked authority to halt and derail conversations over to whomever is the most easily offended. It's one of many aspects of modern life that seems to select favorably towards being the most easily offended, and that simply trends towards misery (and offense!) for everyone and worse communication all around.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:30 PM on May 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


this thread was bad enough already without people arbitrarily deciding to drag their assholes across it to express their anal glands

What makes you think it's arbitrary?
posted by MoonOrb at 8:30 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'll catch up tomorrow. I'm on my iPad right now, but I live to make fun. Not of people in particular, but I love to point out whe things should be a spot of humor. So it distresses me when I am pointing and laughing and then I find out I am the asshole.

To this end, a long time ago, I made some rules; I don't make fun of appearance, I don't make fun of race or gender or sexuality, I don't make fun of mental illness. This said, once you kill someone I don't feel like I need to consider your feelings. I do still consider those who may share attributes.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


This callout is embarrassing.

I do think that people in general need to have thicker skin about perceived slights. However, I basically see this callout as someone saying, fundamentally, "Hey, this terminology steps on my feelings a bit. Can we talk about how to have future conversations on this topic without treading on this sore spot?"

This, to me, is always a legitimate request in any relationship. Those on the other side of the fence, if they care, have no desire to tread on the feelings of the other person intentionally, regardless of whether or not the framing was justified or we have a right to particular types of language. Sometimes triggers just simply are what they are. For those in a close relationship with someone they communicate with regularly, this is familiar territory. We can use our freedom to freely choose to not do something that hurts someone else (for whatever reason), even if we feel that we have a right to do otherwise. The same principle transfers to other sorts of relationships, too, although there is not as often the level of intimacy that allows for frank conversations like this. We have nurtured this ability here to a great extent through our meta process, so this stuff comes out.

What tends to rankle, though, is if a person interjects moral imperatives into a somewhat subjective request, especially when it's clear that it really is not a universally applicable rule, depending on morphing views and opinions on language and its usage, and about a million other variables that make someone care or not, even if they are in an oppressed group. I think that as much as we do well to listen carefully when people say they are hurt, and to look past some of the moralizing of what is actually a personal request, we will often trip on whether someone is casting a universal judgment for something that is rightly a subjective reaction. There are definitely tone issues like this that rankle, and as much as I think anyone who has a grievance would do well to attend to these things to encourage better results, I tend to think more highly of those, in a virtue sense, who can look past them and see a hurting person who simply wants to participate in a way that doesn't make them feel like a bit of an outsider.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


I feel as though fffm handled this thread in a way that was disrespectful to the site, to the employees, and to the community. I have lost some respect.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [35 favorites]


Regardless of the merits here, I think it is pretty darn rude/unacceptable to open a MetaTalk and then bow out as soon as a few people disagree. It strikes me as something of an abuse of MetaTalk (trolling?), aside from the whole conversation of MetaTalk approval/queues in general. If I could flag a user, I would.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [34 favorites]


Language Police
Arrest this man
He's problematic
He's making me feel ill
And here's another
MetaTaaaaaaaaalk
posted by Sebmojo at 8:36 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


...which was clearly as a pejorative term for diagnosed mental illness.

This is the part that confuses me. There is a lot of "clearly" going on in this thread, much like many other similar ones. Clearly the w-word is a very offensive way of saying mentally ill. Clearly using the w-word in place of "extremely mentally ill" is a slur. I hate to be the socially uneducated pleb in the room, but this isn't clear to me at all. Not that I plan to use this word in the future, since it obviously upsets people, but I am asking this in all seriousness: is saying "that person is a wackadoodle" really a horrible pejorative or slur meant to degrade and dismiss people?

Because here is the thing, if this word is an oppressive social justice fiasco, by all means tell me. That is the kind of thing that I would really like to know. But if the problem really is: "I think that people on MeFi are insensitive to people with mental illnesses, and we need to work on it," then my opinion is that the cultural use of this w-word is becoming a derail.
posted by Shouraku at 8:41 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is like the first daily show after 9/11. We're just going to try to get back to normal, maybe have a few grars. But nothing will really ever be the same again.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:41 PM on May 24, 2014


Wow, it took only 39 minutes for OP to remove this thread from his recent activity! That's less than a quarter of the time this thread's been alive so far!
posted by Greg Nog at 8:43 PM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Regardless of the merits here, I think it is pretty darn rude/unacceptable to open a MetaTalk and then bow out as soon as a few people disagree. It strikes me as something of an abuse of MetaTalk (trolling?), aside from the whole conversation of MetaTalk approval/queues in general.

There's a strong whiff of LATER SHITLORDS going on, that's for sure.
posted by keli at 8:45 PM on May 24, 2014 [17 favorites]


I just don't think it should necessarily always be the converstion-halting, force-an-apology rhetorical device that you seem comfortable with it being

Please point out anything I've said that indicates that I believe this. I've said that reusing the word and insisting that it isn't offensive are the problems, not that using it requires an apology. In fact, I specifically said that it didn't in that first comment of mine that you quoted.
posted by Etrigan at 8:46 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The argument that there is some meaningful difference between a pejorative and a slur just makes me shake my head in wonder.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:46 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think it is pretty darn rude/unacceptable to open a MetaTalk and then bow out as soon as a few people disagree.

fffm's still hanging around favoriting recent comments; just not commenting. I don't know if that's better or worse from your perspective?
posted by mstokes650 at 8:46 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Because here is the thing, if this word is an oppressive social justice fiasco, by all means tell me."

Well, imagine if you had a child who was severely mentally ill. And a coworker, say, casually asked, "So, how is your wackadoodle kid doing?" Would that offend you? What sort of attitudes and beliefs about mental illness would that person's particular choice of words reveal to you?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:49 PM on May 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


If I could flag a user, I would.

Im not sure whether that would cut down on, or increase, the mods workload.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:51 PM on May 24, 2014


The argument that there is some meaningful difference between a pejorative and a slur just makes me shake my head in wonder.

Actually, that was part of my (apparently poorly worded) question. I thought that a pejorative was a word that was meant to show contempt, while a slur was a word that was meant to damage a person or groups reputation.

Just to be clear, I may be wrong on both of those definitions and would welcome corrections.
posted by Shouraku at 8:51 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, imagine if you had a child who was severely mentally ill. And a coworker, say, casually asked, "So, how is your wackadoodle kid doing?" Would that offend you?

Honestly? Yes it would. Frankly? I have never heard the word used in that context. As in, I have never heard it used with such mean spirit towards a child. So yes, I see your point in this regard, and maybe just haven't heard it used that way before.
posted by Shouraku at 8:55 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you're discussing someone and the context is that they have, or may have, a mental illness, and you describe them as a "whackadoodle," it's pretty fucking offensive.

If you're discussing someone and this is absent from the context, to me it doesn't seem very offensive.

This is why it's okay to call Michelle Bachman a whackadoodle. But when it comes to Rodger, when the discussion is about his potential mental illness, it's less likely to be okay. If no one had mentioned mental illness at all and said "this whackadoodle shot and killed several people today," that would seem A-okay to me.

Also, among several disagreements I have about the framing of this post is this: "whackadoodle" is quite a bit different than the N-word/f-word slurs that were given as analogies. Those words are pretty much never ever okay. Whackadoodle is unlike those words in that respect. Or, to use the example of Ann Coulter again, it would be completely okay to call her a whackadoodle, but seriously offensive to call her a cunt.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:56 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


There's two things, at a minimum, about this word. One is that it's a funny cute word. The other is that it's hyperbolic. Both are problematic in terms of how mental illness becomes stigmatized. Some of the problems mentally ill people have derive from the fact they're mocked and feared. This guy was scary as it gets, and also pathetic, and consequently mocked long before he started killing people. So it's tempting to use that kind of dismissive language about him, but it's language describing a phenomenon (extreme, sad mental illness) that includes a great swath of people who are scary only in the same way they're funny - namely that their illness is profound and expresses itself in ways that put them at odds with general society. Wackadoodle and nutbar and fruitcake aren't hateful slurs (yet - linguistic shifts happen) but they are poking fun at innocent, peaceable people with obvious mental illnesses, which is unkind.

I have a mental illness but mostly it expresses itself within societal norms (hyperventilating before a test is a little extreme, failing to get out of bed at all is a problem, but people don't shepherd their kids away from me in the grocery store. Mostly.) I am so lucky.
posted by gingerest at 8:56 PM on May 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


not that using it requires an apology. In fact, I specifically said that it didn't in that first comment of mine that you quoted.

Legitimately not sure which comment you're referring to here. Not doubting that you think you made that clear, but I just looked back at all your posts in this thread and I don't see a one I'd characterize as you saying an apology is not necessary. Link?

Anyways I guess my question is: had Justinian just completely ignored fffm's "I'm offended by wackadoodle" post, assuming Justinian did not use the word again (intentionally or unintentionally), that'd be completely okay by you? (I think that'd certainly have been the best possible result for the thread, at any rate. And probably for the mods.)
posted by mstokes650 at 8:58 PM on May 24, 2014


Legitimately not sure which comment you're referring to here.
It's less "to have not offended" than "after having offended" -- it's one thing to say something someone finds offensive, but it's another entirely to dig in one's heels to deny having given offense.
Anyways I guess my question is: had Justinian just completely ignored fffm's "I'm offended by wackadoodle" post, assuming Justinian did not use the word again (intentionally or unintentionally), that'd be completely okay by you?

Yes. As above, I've objected to A) someone saying the word over and over again while insisting that it's a fair and accurate description in the context of mental illness, and B) the insistence that it's not a slur, so objection to it isn't valid.

I'm not advocating a reconciliation commission where we seek out every use of The W Word in the history of MetaFilter and demand satisfaction. Honest.
posted by Etrigan at 9:13 PM on May 24, 2014


Here's a crazy idea:

What if people proposed topics for community discussion and people voted on whether or not they wanted to discuss it. After receiving x number of votes for, opposed to against and neutral but interested to see what happens, it's scheduled for x date.

It only gets all Thunderdome if only two champions are chosen to debate and only one result is allowed to prevail.

Now that I have expressed the recurrent opinion that some things are best left to the Thunderdome I'd like to say that words are pejorative if you know them to be mean so or have history in them being so whatever their usage. Having been harassed by words that may not technically pertain to me does not change the fact they were used in that manner, and yet words which do not have any baggage or negative connotation that have not been imbued with either mean nothing and do nothing to that effect. Case in point: see drama queen.

This topic and many others should be discussed, but not in this way, not in this manner, and not by these main opponents:

"I'm not going to say x, I'm going to say nougat, and your a filthy nougat."
"Did you just call me a nougat?! Nougat is an n word!"
posted by provoliminal at 9:15 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Now that I have expressed the recurrent opinion that some things are best left to the Thunderdome I'd like to say that words are pejorative if you know them to be mean so or have history in them being so whatever their usage. Having been harassed by words that may not technically pertain to me does not change the fact they were used in that manner, and yet words which do not have any baggage or negative connotation that have not been imbued with either mean nothing and do nothing to that effect. Case in point: see drama queen.

This, along with Ivan Fyodorovich's example, is an excellent explanation that answered my questions. Thank you both for that.
posted by Shouraku at 9:22 PM on May 24, 2014


Im not sure whether that [flagging users] would cut down on, or increase, the mods workload.

I think it would probably be reduplicating effort, no? The mods already keep notes on users, and someone whose posts get a lot of flags is likely to be on their radar.

(Also, while flagging a post means "come and take a look at this" - the added detail of the reason for flagging can be imprecise - flagging a user would probably be a much less informative action. So, the current system - mailing the mods if you have a serious concern - seems to be the most efficient way to balance ease and utility; people won't do it unless it's important enough to merit an email, and when they do the email format will guide people to provide more information than could be conveyed by a drop-down menu.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:30 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


This MeTa is excruciating. It makes me want to open another MeTa (but of course, the timing would be inappropriate) requesting that the community do their best to steelman MeTas. Try to look past the framing; once framing has been noted as shitty, move on to what the topic should have been. What is the poster getting at- and how would you respond had the poster competently represented what you can easily enough determine to be their viewpoint?
posted by Jpfed at 9:34 PM on May 24, 2014 [29 favorites]


I have two, maybe three, questions. Please forgive my use of the "w"-word but is there a difference from being a wackadoodle and being wackadoodle?

The reason I ask is because while I would protest if I were called "a wackadoodle" but I would be hard-pressed to argue the point that I am "somewhat wackadoodle" (ie kooky or odd or eccentric rather than prone to killing other people.)

Next, does [w-bomb] now equate to "so mentally disturbed as to kill other people"?

Because I don't think of it that way. I just say "they're effed up". Is "they're effed up" wrong now too?

PS this is not imperative to find out so if there are more important nuances to discuss or answer in this thread first, that's fine. I have popcorn.
posted by Mike Mongo at 9:44 PM on May 24, 2014


Histrionic mefites with a history of opening ridiculous Meta's like this one should have their Meta's subjected to Mod approval before being posted.
posted by mlis at 10:19 PM on May 24, 2014 [28 favorites]


Jpfed: "This MeTa is excruciating. It makes me want to open another MeTa (but of course, the timing would be inappropriate) requesting that the community do their best to steelman MeTas. Try to look past the framing; once framing has been noted as shitty, move on to what the topic should have been. What is the poster getting at- and how would you respond had the poster competently represented what you can easily enough determine to be their viewpoint?"

Man, I like and respect fffm a lot and agree with him more far often than not, and I'd be truly happy to see no one ever use the term again on MeFi, but I think the way this MeTa was written detracted badly from his argument.

When an OP inappropriately draws a direct equivalence between a word whose exact definition means "eccentric" to using the "N" word to describe African Americans, then the framing really does matter. Mental illnesses are not all equivalent in severity or debilitation. But if you have dark skin in this country or look like a minority you're automatically a second class citizen and will never, ever be able to be an invisible minority. And I'm sorry, but I don't think it's right to compare the two and declare they're equal.

So yes, I think it matters. Because by presenting the situation in those terms, people here have apparently felt obligated to counter fffm's hyperbole with actual facts and analysis to show that no, the term "wackadoodle" is not equivalent to one of the most hideous, nastiest racist slurs in the entire English language. So naturally, questions of severity arise and we're forced to determine whether its use in the thread was truly as problematic as the OP presented. Which offends other people here because they rightfully think their concerns are being dismissed. And man, oh man that sucks, because now at least half the thread has been about answering those questions. His framing created more problems than it solved.
posted by zarq at 10:21 PM on May 24, 2014 [20 favorites]


I feel like there's a danger of sitewide folie à deux if policy becomes to cater to the emotional needs of the inherently thinnest-skinned.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:23 PM on May 24, 2014 [23 favorites]


I mean, I think you're totally right that we should move past framing and address intent and content, Jpfed. But sometimes, the framing or a post makes that well-nigh impossible.
posted by zarq at 10:27 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I'd say that it's one of those words that's not delete on sight, but is deleted if flagged?

Our mods are intelligent human beings who can actually understand language, not bots that need to be programmed to delete comment strings containing word W when event E also occurs.

Almost any words or combination of words can be used offensively or insultingly in some context. Calling somebody "an it" is extremely insulting, and usually a slur. The words "an" and "it" are ordinary English words. It's the combination of words and the context that make it a slur. Inappropriately calling someone "dear" is a (sometimes gendered) insult in the south-eastern US, but it's still widely used as an honest term of affection, even by Southerners.

Because they're intelligent human beings who understand language, the mods can tell if given word or combination of words is being used offensively or insultingly or not, and decide whether something violates the 'don't be an asshole' policy.
posted by nangar at 10:29 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


BTW, count me in as one of the medicated wackadoodles who, crazy as it seems, has no problem with murderous loons being labeled as "wackadoodle".

Christ, of all the mental health issues in this society to get exercised about, the use of a common enough word isn't one of them. Especially in a thread about a half-dozen fucking murders. Talk about the most irrelevent, narcissistic distraction ever.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:41 PM on May 24, 2014 [55 favorites]


Respectfully, would it have been better for the mods and staff to just close this thread?

To me, the thread is less about the "whackadoodle issue." Probably not the best word or approach by Justinian, so let's flag it and move on.

It's more about fffm making another unnecessarily dramatic post here in MeTa (complete with angry replies to anyone who disagrees, and the usual requisite threat to leave the thread/site). Didn't this just happen six months ago?

So maybe it's just better to nip this in the bud and close the topic... especially moving forward with a smaller mod staff?

I especially feel like the mods ought to have closed this in light of a couple of hyperbolic words fffm used, which had no business being in this post... and that usually don't have much business being anywhere on the site. Keeping the thread open rewards this kind of behavior, too, by allowing an inappropriate MeTa thread to gather attention and get responses.

Basically, I'm all for our mods and staff playing the benevolent tyrant role a bit more often, now that things are down-sizing, and threads like this seem like a good example of where that might be welcome. There could've been a good discussion here (and I appreciate the users who have tried to steelman, as Jpfed suggests), but the framing and the user's history of repeatedly making these kinds of posts has really ruined that.
posted by Old Man McKay at 10:45 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


usernames are a window into the thinking of the users who created them. fffm is eponysterical in this context.
posted by bruce at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


So maybe it's just better to nip this in the bud and close the topic

Yeah, I think this is an issue that can definitely benefit from further community discussion, but perhaps it's better to address it calmly in a fresh post without using inflammatory slurs in the framing, and with the OP present, and preferably not on a holiday weekend. Closing this now; if someone would like to reframe and repost later, that would be fine.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:14 PM on May 24, 2014 [24 favorites]


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