I think you may have pulled the trigger too quickly on this deletion September 1, 2014 3:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm too lazy to go back and delete the title pun. Anyway, this deleted post is clearly a spectacle of horror. But I don't think it's *only* a spectacle of horror. When I heard about this incident, I thought the particulars of the event had the potential to add something new to the gun control discussion in the US. And I think the Metafolk could have handled the discussion. I can understand why some topics, ripe though they may be for nuanced & thoughtful debate, are often off-limits (Palestine e.g.). But I didn't think we got that wild on the gun violence posts. Am I wrong?
posted by univac to Etiquette/Policy at 3:18 AM (117 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, we typically delete "here's an awful thing that happened" outragefilter stuff, but if someone wants to try a re-do that offers much more for productive discussion than the usual "everybody-fight!" thing, that's an option. Basically, if we are going to have a non-awful thread, the post has to lead the way for that. If it's just pointing out something horrific that everyone should be outraged about, we'll just have a bunch of furious people expressing their rage and turning on each other over any differences of opinion, however slight, and the competitive outrage thing that can get incredibly toxic for the site.

We've had a lot of gun threads that are pretty much all identical... so, yeah, if we are going to have to expend nearly constant moderator attention on yet another one, 24 hours a day for ~30 days, it needs to be more than here's a horrible thing that happened, and offer some avenues for discussion that are more fruitful than people just being really, really angry.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:34 AM on September 1, 2014 [20 favorites]


If you want to reframe it, there's a good editorial at NYT by Gregory Orr, Reflections on a Shooting Range Death, From One Who Knows about living with the guilt of killing someone as a child by accident. A post about living with the fallout of gun violence and growing up in a childhood shaped with guns would hopefully be a much more reflective and compassionate thread.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:20 AM on September 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm a lot less optimistic than you about our ability to have a productive discussion based on those links, univac. It's pretty much a textbook "thin post on a bad thing that happened," and the general course of gun threads is pretty iffy here. What positive discussion are you imagining?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:29 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


But I didn't think we got that wild on the gun violence posts. Am I wrong?

Long story short, my experience suggests that you are.
posted by Dysk at 4:37 AM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm too lazy to go back and delete the title pun. Anyway, this deleted post is clearly a spectacle of horror. But I don't think it's *only* a spectacle of horror. When I heard about this incident, I thought the particulars of the event had the potential to add something new to the gun control discussion in the US.

"Kids have access to guns in America" isn't new. "Americans are weird about and unsafe with their guns" isn't new.

And I think the Metafolk could have handled the discussion.

Let me paraphrase a conversation I've had about sixteen times on MetaFilter:
someone: "I just don't understand why Americans feel X about guns."
Etrigan: "I know a lot of people who feel X about guns, and while I do not feel X about guns, here is their way of thinking."
someone else: "But that's wrong, and here's why."
Etrigan: "Yes, I agree with you. But that is their way of thinking."
someone else entirely: "Etrigan is wrong and is a bad person for feeling X about guns."
Etrigan: "I'm not saying it. I disagree with it. I am saying that other people think this way."
yet another person: "I think it's disingenuous of Etrigan to present his feeling X about guns and then refuse to engage with people on the merits of his personally held stance."
Etrigan: ...
still another person: "I notice that we haven't heard back from Etrigan about why he's a horrible person who feels X about guns."

I know that this isn't exactly how it goes, but it sure feels like it sometimes. Metafolk are capable of having a good discussion about guns. But not starting with "Here's a shitty thing that happened because shitty people looove guns. Aren't these shitty gun-loving people shitty?"
posted by Etrigan at 5:55 AM on September 1, 2014 [59 favorites]


Sounds like a conversational gambit you might reconsider if you find such dialog unpleasant.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:29 AM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Metafilter doesn't need a post about every fucked up thing that goes on in this world. Especially if it's just another excuse for Etrigan to go on about why he's a horrible person who feels X about guns.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:31 AM on September 1, 2014 [56 favorites]


But I didn't think we got that wild on the gun violence posts. Am I wrong?

I'm not sure if "wild" is the best term, but predictable and fighty? Yes, every time.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:32 AM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


We do get fighty in those kinds of threads and there is the potential for huge pile ons if someone says something even mildly differing from the accepted wisdom that all guns and gun owners are horrible people. (this is not true, I know lots of people who shoot for sport and they are lovely, responsible people).
posted by arcticseal at 6:39 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Too lazy to delete the title pun? What does this mean?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:39 AM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Too lazy to delete the title pun? What does this mean?
The title of this thread is "I think you may have pulled the trigger too quickly on this deletion".
posted by Flunkie at 6:59 AM on September 1, 2014


Ice Cream Socialist: "Sounds like a conversational gambit you might reconsider if you find such dialog unpleasant."

Wait, answering the question in the most straightforward manner possible ("I know people who think X. This is what they say about X. I do not agree with them.") is a "conversational gambit"?
posted by Bugbread at 7:35 AM on September 1, 2014


I have noticed the same thing as Etrigan though much more broadly than just here and just guns. I don't think Etrigan is the one using a conversational gambit.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:37 AM on September 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


Reminder, folks - this is absolutely not going to become a thread about this incident or gun control in general. Please don't post links or comments in those lines.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:57 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, answering the question in the most straightforward manner possible ("I know people who think X. This is what they say about X. I do not agree with them.") is a "conversational gambit"?

Yes.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:58 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought the particulars of the event had the potential to add something new to the gun control discussion in the US.

I don't think so. This is just "Wow, some people are pretty stupid about gun safety, aren't they?" I don't see how it adds anything to the discussion at all.

A good post about the pros and cons of different approaches to gun control and how this works in different countries and jurisdictions would be different matter, but that's not what this is.
posted by nangar at 7:59 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have noticed the same thing as Etrigan though much more broadly than just here and just guns. I don't think Etrigan is the one using a conversational gambit.

Oh yeah, this is thing. Not a Metafilter thing, but a people thing, particularly on touchy subjects. People form adhoc mobs and dislike alternative lines of thought/discussion at times.

Best you can do is ask people to be reasonable, but it's people, so....
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:00 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought the particulars of the event had the potential to add something new to the gun control discussion in the US.

I don't believe that I agree -- the death was at a sort of shooting-as-entertainment business (if I understood correctly) and that doesn't seem to have much to do with individual possession, whether it should be allowed, or the details thereof.
posted by mr. digits at 8:07 AM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I agree that the links were not notable enough in and of themselves to make a good post on a contentious topic.

Wait, answering the question in the most straightforward manner possible ("I know people who think X. This is what they say about X. I do not agree with them.") is a "conversational gambit"?

If you don't want to end up defending beliefs with which you don't agree, don't be the one explaining them. It's almost always tricky speaking on behalf of other people (because a great deal of the time it's a way to frame concern trolling and a great deal of the rest of the time it's a bit presumptuous, so you're likely to be accused of both), and so personally I try to refrain from doing so unless the people-for-whom-I-wish-to-speak are so marginalized or demoralized that stepping in is a way of supporting them and unless the supportive speaking-for is for a belief with which I very strongly agree.
posted by jaguar at 8:20 AM on September 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


If you don't want to end up defending beliefs with which you don't agree, don't be the one explaining them.

When I notice that here, it's often seemingly being done to say controversial or offensive things without taking ownership of them. It can be a conversational equivalent of have your cake and eat it too, and allows the person to push buttons without having to answer for it.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:31 AM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm too lazy to go back and delete the title pun.

I kinda wish you hadn't been; because ugh. (The poor-taste pun also really doesn't help to support a "we could have a good discussion about this" argument.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:35 AM on September 1, 2014 [26 favorites]


And I think the Metafolk could have handled the discussion.

I don't
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:56 AM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Given how things are going here (hackles already raised over a hypothetical "conversational gambit" in advance of it even actually happening) I think there's pretty much all the evidence you need that the thread Would Not Have Gone Well.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:04 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


OK, I guess I must've missed much of the gun-issues posts. Seems like there's something approaching a consensus.

GenjiandProust, maybe "positive" isn't the right word, but I think of discussions I've had on Facebook with people whom I disagree with, and we've kind of stuck with "my reasons are better than your reasons" more than "I am a good person and you are a bad person and stupid," but then we're talking about people who are acquainted IRL and there are consequences for being extremely dickish, so yeah.

I think what I imagined could be different in a gun post is along the lines of what viggorlijah's NYT link. Different emotions than I am used to encountering in the conversation: guilt, shame, regret. I think these have the potential to be "softening" emotions as opposed to the hardening of beliefs that so often accompanies fear-based discussions. And I think that pro-gun and anti-gun arguments (to be starkly binary) are both based on fear. I know I fear an armed society, and those I know who disagree with my gun politics fear being unable to arm themselves.

Anyway, points taken.
posted by univac at 9:19 AM on September 1, 2014


> The title of this thread is "I think you may have pulled the trigger too quickly on this deletion".

I understand the dumb pun. I was calling out the disingenuousness of being "too lazy" to change it when they went on to type out the rest of the post.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yep, it's that sort of shitty framing, then commenting about, that can help drive a thread off the rails. It reads as not being very serious at all and possibly shit stirring.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm in favor of gun control (specifically, I'd like to see something similar to New Zealand's licensing system adopted in the US), but I've been attacked because I've mentioned that I know hunters, and I've seen this happen to other people for the same reason. 'Hunters are rednecks, if you know hunters, that means you're a redneck, and we hate rednecks' is about level of discourse that happens on MetaFilter about gun control. It's not just Etrigan.

Very few MeFites who participate in threads that get into the topic of gun control are interested in having anything resembling a "discussion" or "debate" about this topic. Every attempt at an actual discussion of this issue on MetaFilter has been drowned out and successfully shut down by belligerent assholes trying to make sure a discussion of gun control, and different ways of implementing it, is something that never happens here.
posted by nangar at 9:48 AM on September 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


We're kind of meta-ing this Meta, but I've settled on: If you want to make a serious point here, you should not say that clever thing you came up with about it. It just doesn't work. Joke or Point, choose one.

I don't think anyone really wants to defend it, so can we agree with BrandonBlatcher that this Meta starts off with poor framing, and go on to have the (hopefully) useful discussion about the gun post, and whether or how it could go well?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:49 AM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you don't want to end up defending beliefs with which you don't agree, don't be the one explaining them.

When people ask "Why do people think X?", I occasionally believe that they're actually asking for an explanation (when it's not obviously rhetorical), for the same reason that I occasionally ask "Why do people think X?" -- because I genuinely don't know and genuinely want to know.

Do you believe that MetaFilter is a better place when people don't bother trying to answer those questions?
posted by Etrigan at 9:54 AM on September 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


Possible re-frames:


  • One policy implication that I find is interesting is how age, maturity, responsibility, and physical capability are figured in when considering legislation that curtails civil liberties - especially for minors. Like, it's generally accepted that you're just going to have to wait before you can legally consume alcohol. Maybe firearms can wait, too.


  • The emotional "I feel, like, way shitty about killing someone accidentally" from the above-mentioned link.


  • How minor (in the eye of the beholder, I know) tweaks to the legislative status quo could save X lives per year. (e.g. you must be this tall to fire the Uzi).

    Meh? Dunno.

  • posted by univac at 10:06 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    When I notice that here, it's often seemingly being done to say controversial or offensive things without taking ownership of them. It can be a conversational equivalent of have your cake and eat it too, and allows the person to push buttons without having to answer for it.

    Principle of charity, please. It's possible to discuss an opinion in the abstract without believing in or defending it. Talking about controversial topics is hard enough without this kind of hostile attribution bias.
    posted by Skorgu at 10:09 AM on September 1, 2014 [23 favorites]


    None of those re-frames seem likely to prevent the thread from turning into the exact same US gun control argument that has been had dozens and dozens of times on the blue before.

    I'm not sure that such a re-framing is even possible, and I'm not convinced at all of the case for why this event has the potential to add something new to the debate and a post about it is desirable, as opposed to creating a lot of heat, very little light, and a ton of extra work for the moderators.
    posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:24 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Do you believe that MetaFilter is a better place when people don't bother trying to answer those questions?

    I think it's a much better place when people who actually think X come in and explain why they do think X.

    Because if you don't think X, and you present a "Here's what a person who thinks X told me they believe" explanation, then... what? If there are follow-up questions you can't generally answer them, because you're not a mind-reader, so then the questioner gets frustrated, and it escalates emotionally without being particularly informative intellectually.

    It's a big community. There is likely an X-thinker who can explain X-thinking better than someone who doesn't think X and is relaying secondhand information.
    posted by jaguar at 10:27 AM on September 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


    I'm fine with the deletion. I do think the subject of the FPP is worth talking about, but with scarce moderation resources, there's nothing wrong with setting the bar being higher for the most contentious topics (2A, I/P, etc.)

    That being said, I do think there are serious problems with the "this is how X people, who I don't agree with, think" genre of comments. It's usually sold as a "hey, there aren't enough X people around here, but I know some of them, and I know their arguments, so here's my window into how they think for the benefit of the discussion."

    Obviously, there's nothing wrong with that in the abstract, but several times, I've seen the discussion go south because the person channeling someone else (in this case, 2A absolutists) interprets a point aimed at their argument (the argument they're channeling, not the one they personally hold) as an attack on them personally. It happened in this thread, which I hope is not one of the "sixteen times" Etrigan is talking about, because the conversation went much differently than how he's characterized it in the conversational template above.

    He did offer a disclaimer here that this is how it feels sometimes, and it seems to me that if you're going to interpret people attacking the argument you're putting forth on behalf of others as an attack on you personally, maybe you ought to not make a habit of channeling those arguments. I say this as someone who greatly admires Etrigan's commentary in 99.9% of all cases, but also thinks that there's a very high degree of difficulty involved in echoing someone else's beliefs and also dispassionately stating those arguments without taking offense when someone engages with them.
    posted by tonycpsu at 10:29 AM on September 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


    And if you really want to present an argument you don't agree with in an intellectually honest way, then go seek out the most persuasive article you can find written by someone with the opposing viewpoint, and post that. That way you're at least not putting words in someone's mouth.
    posted by jaguar at 10:30 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Or putting someone else's words in your own mouth, as it were.
    posted by jaguar at 10:33 AM on September 1, 2014


    What's 2A?
    posted by univac at 10:40 AM on September 1, 2014


    Sorry, 2nd Amendment.
    posted by tonycpsu at 10:42 AM on September 1, 2014


    competitive outrage thing that can get incredibly toxic for the site

    Good god, yes. And is totally a thing here, IMO. I wish we could have less of that in general.
    posted by ctmf at 11:01 AM on September 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


    I think the idea that the deleted post wouldn't have broken new ground is ludicrous (which comes within an eyelash of being an anagram of 'ridiculous,' I just noticed).

    I certainly wasn't aware of anything like a business which calls itself 'Bullets and Burgers' and offers gun theme park excursions featuring hands on experiences with advanced automatic weapons, and is designed to appeal to children of families visiting one of the prime tourist destinations in the world, for example, and the very existence of which reveals a hidden and disturbing world.

    And I would've taken the opportunity of the thread to mention the probable public health consequences of allowing children even to be around that much gunfire, considering that most cartridges are primed with mixtures including lead compounds as a major ingredient (causing the lead to emerge as part of a fine airborne soot), and the few that aren't rely upon a chemical known to cause hypothyroidisim in many women, and associated with lowered IQ in the offspring of those women.
    posted by jamjam at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


    I think it's a much better place when people who actually think X come in and explain why they do think X.

    Because if you don't think X, and you present a "Here's what a person who thinks X told me they believe" explanation, then... what? If there are follow-up questions you can't generally answer them, because you're not a mind-reader, so then the questioner gets frustrated, and it escalates emotionally without being particularly informative intellectually.


    I think that in that case -- and in yours, in this particular discussion -- the "questioner" is not looking for an answer, but an argument.
    posted by Etrigan at 11:16 AM on September 1, 2014


    How do you get to an answer without an argument, unless you're assuming that your argument is the answer?
    posted by tonycpsu at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2014


    Again, seriously, we're not discussing the specifics of this case here.
    posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:20 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    I took that admonition seriously, r_n, but I didn't see how to substantiate the claim that the post was doing something genuinely new without saying as much as I did.
    posted by jamjam at 11:26 AM on September 1, 2014


    How do you get to an answer without an argument, unless you're assuming that your argument is the answer?

    Allow me to reiterate:
    "I just don't understand why Americans feel X about guns."
    "I know a lot of people who feel X about guns, and while I do not feel X about guns, here is their way of thinking."

    That is the answer. It's not an answer to the question "Should Americans feel X about guns?" or to the question "Is it good to base public policy on people feeling X about guns?", because neither of those was asked. If someone wants to say, "No, that's not the way of thinking by people who feel X about guns...", that is arguing with my answer. I don't recall that ever happening to me here.

    Also, I said "argument" rather than "discussion" for a reason.
    posted by Etrigan at 11:34 AM on September 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


    Well, if we're having a discussion, and you're adding context by contributing your impression of what people believe about that discussion, why do you take offense when people then engage with those beliefs? "Etrigan is wrong and is a bad person for feeling X about guns" never happened in the exchange I linked to, not even allowing for the fact that you are paraphrasing. My point here is that if you're going to do this, you have to accept some responsibility for things going off the rails if you're going to be hyper-sensitive when people engage with the argument you brought to the thread.
    posted by tonycpsu at 11:41 AM on September 1, 2014


    Or, to put it more simply, people have a right to rebut arguments they disagree with, even when the person who contributed them doesn't believe them.
    posted by tonycpsu at 11:43 AM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    It's a big community. There is likely an X-thinker who can explain X-thinking better than someone who doesn't think X and is relaying secondhand information.

    But if most MeFites are Y-thinkers, that lone X-thinker is unlikely to bother with an explanation. Not when it means arguing with ten people at the same time, of which one or two may be outright assholes. This is a problem with any forum where views tilt one way or another; I've been on both sides of it, here and elsewhere. So "I don't think X, but here's what I gather from folks who do" may be as good as you're able to get sometimes.
    posted by in278s at 11:50 AM on September 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


    "Etrigan is wrong and is a bad person for feeling X about guns" never happened in the exchange I linked to, not even allowing for the fact that you are paraphrasing.

    "If there were no cost to doing nothing, then I could see your point, but the cost of opposing background checks and magazine size restrictions is human life."

    You then defended calling it my point and accusing me of not caring about human life with "It's a point you made, so I called it your point.", which by that point I saw as an intentional misrepresentation. If you don't see how saying "your point" makes it sound like you're saying that it's my opinion as well, especially when you're using the emotional argument of "the cost... is human life.", then I just don't understand how to make you see things from my perspective.
    posted by Etrigan at 12:10 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    "I just don't understand why Americans feel X about guns."
    "I know a lot of people who feel X about guns, and while I do not feel X about guns, here is their way of thinking."

    That is the answer.


    That's part of the answer, and my point is that if someone wants more information, you're not in a position to offer it, so you're not giving a very good answer. And if the person just wants to argue, then you've gotten yourself involved in an argument defending a belief you don't personally hold.

    There's no advantage to your being the one to answer the question.

    But if most MeFites are Y-thinkers, that lone X-thinker is unlikely to bother with an explanation.

    As I said earlier, that's a great time to link to an article written elsewhere explaining the beliefs. People who actually care about learning the opposing viewpoint will read it, people who just want to argue won't, and that's absolutely no different than people who will engage in your summary of the opposing viewpoint in good faith and those who won't, but, again, you won't be roped into an argument defending a belief you don't personally hold.

    Jumping in to be The Explainer is almost always prompted by ego; it's something I often fight against in myself, too, this need to feel like I always have the answer and I am uniquely good at presenting that answer in a way that others will understand. And if my ego's leading the impulse to respond, it's likely going to get bruised if someone doesn't immediately recognize my brilliance, and now I've gotten myself roped into an argument defending a belief I don't personally hold. Which is silly, so I try to avoid it. It is very very very likely that whatever argument I'm trying to summarize has been better explained somewhere else by someone who can better defend their own points -- quite often, on Metafilter, in that very thread -- so I let them do it, even if it means I don't get to put on my The Explainer superhero cape.
    posted by jaguar at 12:12 PM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


    Etrigan: and accusing me of not caring about human life

    I did no such thing. When I said "your point" I was referring to the point you made, in defense of the argument you put forth. Just because it's not a point you personally agreed with, or an argument that you personally believed in doesn't mean I was wrong to describe them as "your point" in service of "your argument", because in that thread, those were your points and your arguments. I never said they were your opinions or your beliefs. This is precisely why I think doing this sock-puppet-ish thing of making someone else's arguments is a horrible idea, and I'm pretty sure that the mods have weighed in to officially frown on doing it for these reasons.
    posted by tonycpsu at 12:20 PM on September 1, 2014


    That's part of the answer, and my point is that if someone wants more information, you're not in a position to offer it, so you're not giving a very good answer. And if the person just wants to argue, then you've gotten yourself involved in an argument defending a belief you don't personally hold.

    Did you notice how I used "someone" and "someone else" and "yet another person" and suchlike in my original comment? That's because the first scenario you offer has never been a problem (for me, at least) -- yes, sometimes people have legitimate follow-up questions, and those people are never the problem. It's when some third party comes in, spoiling for an argument, that it wrecks the atmosphere of genuine inquiry and reply that had existed.
    posted by Etrigan at 12:21 PM on September 1, 2014


    Etrigan, when it becomes a consistent problem that you feel personally attacked because you are in threads trying to explain what you believe to be the viewpoints of other people, when you don't even share those viewpoints yourself, is it time to consider how it's gotten to a point where this has happened more than once?

    If they're not viewpoints you share, why even get invested enough to try to bring these hypothetical voices into the conversation? And if you do get pushback, why continue to engage?

    If you are frustrated that now you're being identified with this viewpoint that you don't actually share, don't step up to be a mouthpiece for it in the first place: let someone who actually believes those things come in and speak for themselves. But once you do find that you've made your point of representing this viewpoint is in the thread, then your work is done? When someone says "oh Etrigan I see you believe that xxxxxx" can't you just walk away?

    I feel like this isn't a thing that's happened just once with you or you wouldn't be bringing it up in this thread as a problem--and that's what's making me wonder why you feel compelled to speak up for the Voiceless People Who You Actually Disagree With.
    posted by MoonOrb at 12:23 PM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


    jaguar, thanks for your explanation! You have presented it in a way that I can understand!
    posted by in278s at 12:24 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    It's when some third party comes in, spoiling for an argument, that it wrecks the atmosphere of genuine inquiry and reply that had existed.

    And on contentious topics, that is always going to happen. Always. It happens when I'm presenting arguments in which I do believe, and it's tiresome, but at least I'm invested enough in my own argument to continue clarifying it. It is absolutely just not worth it for an argument with which you don't even agree.

    So if you don't like it happening, you have total control over stopping it. Or else you need to develop almost superhuman-level skills of ignoring people who are misreading you.
    posted by jaguar at 12:24 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    in278s, I see what you did there...

    My cape is flapping majestically in the wind, though.
    posted by jaguar at 12:26 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    I think it's a much better place when people who actually think X come in and explain why they do think X.

    When you're in the minority it's not always worth the bother to explain your point and get piled on. Again. This is a very left-leaning site. If you're waiting for the people who believe different from the general metafilter consensus to come in and defend their belief systems, you aren't usually going to get it. It just gets all echo-chambery.
    posted by small_ruminant at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


    If they're not viewpoints you share, why even get invested enough to try to bring these hypothetical voices into the conversation?

    Because sometimes people are actually legitimately asking (and again, those people are almost never the problem). And the chance that someone will respond to that same question with something like "Because they are dumb Rethuglican rednecks who like having sex with their guns" is pretty high here. I think it's better for MetaFilter to have the occasional reminder that there is actual thought behind nearly every position held by millions and millions and millions of people rather than an echo chamber of "Gosh, I don't know why they're all so stupid. Must be because they're stupid."

    And the thing I described doesn't happen every time. It just happens a lot more in gun discussions than in other discussions.

    And if you do get pushback, why continue to engage?

    Did you read the last two lines of my pretend conversation? Sure, I wish I was able to not respond when I feel I'm being attacked personally. Sometimes I even succeed. But victory laps really do happen here.
    posted by Etrigan at 12:38 PM on September 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


    Etrigan also hates Rocket Raccoon.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:41 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    If you're waiting for the people who believe different from the general metafilter consensus to come in and defend their belief systems, you aren't usually going to get it. It just gets all echo-chambery.

    Yes it does, and that's the main reason I find it so hard to argue against deletions of potentially controversial posts these days.

    Big threads with long stretches where most comments are mere minor variations on prior attacks on an unpopular comment are a waste of time, attention, and goodwill, and make me think less of the participants -- not that I haven't been one myself on all too many occasions, to my regret.
    posted by jamjam at 1:10 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    Etrigan, I did read what you wrote: I think I'm suggesting here that the problem you're perceiving here is much more an Etrigan problem than a MetaFilter problem.
    posted by MoonOrb at 1:14 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    MeFi is better when we have dissenting viewpoints and offer some extra protection for them, but I really don't think we have a dearth of pro-gun commenters on the blue. The raw numbers skew in the gun-control direction, of course, but there are many people in the "I'm a gun owner who supports reasonable restrictions" camp, and also many in the absolutist "cold dead hands camp." I keep hearing that it's so hard to be part of the minority on the blue, but I keep seeing them making their points in gun-related threads. Some make good points, some don't -- no different than any other particular issue or viewpoint.

    Now, if you really want to contribute a point you don't see them making, then that is your right, but people also have a right to respond to that point, and short of everyone else being forced to include boilerplate about "I know you don't actually believe the point you're making, but if I could respond to that point...", I don't know how to avoid these kind of misunderstandings, so you have to share the blame as someone who chose to play devil's advocate / sock puppet for a viewpoint you don't share.
    posted by tonycpsu at 1:21 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    I've had Etrigan's problem a number of times on different fora. And I totally get what he says. People should be able to take an explanation of a third party's opinion at face value, they just never do.
    But jaguar's The Explainer superhero explanation is absolutely true in my case. I love it!
    I've actually stopped trying to explain other people's positions because I realised I was trying to get something out of it that was just never going to happen. "Thank you Omnomnom for helping these opposing groups understand each other better!" Yeah, right. Instead, my getting involved just led to confusion and negativity directed at me, because people WANT to argue with an opposing viewpoint, of course, what else, and who else are they going to argue with except me?
    posted by Omnomnom at 2:39 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    Well, you're contributing the opposing viewpoint. People get to respond. That doesn't mean you're then under obligation to defend the opposing viewpoint that you don't agree with -- you could just let it go, right?
    posted by tonycpsu at 2:42 PM on September 1, 2014


    The worst is when you bring up hunting in any way and then the vegetarians AND the guns-are-evil-no-one-needs-one absolutists go apeshit in stereo.

    I actually think we do better at Israel/Palestine than we do at gun discussions, although since both tend to happen here in the wake of horrific tragedies and crimes, I think you can't discount the venting function such conversations serve. Which makes it unsurprising that a mostly like-minded Metafilter membership generally finds outragefilter satisfying. But it doesn't really serve the purpose of advancing a discussion the way, say, the long and painful debates over gender and sexuality have actually shifted the site culture in noticeable ways over the last few years, making them arguably quite worthwhile despite the angst they generated at times.

    That ain't gonna happen with guns. I have no objections to a very high bar for gun threads.
    posted by spitbull at 2:45 PM on September 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


    Tonycpsu, sure, I could let it go. All in all, it just didn't seem worth wading in at all.
    posted by Omnomnom at 2:49 PM on September 1, 2014


    When I heard about this incident, I thought the particulars of the event had the potential to add something new to the gun control discussion in the US.

    At Sandy Hook, twenty innocent kids got murdered and no one — zero people — with any real influence to do anything about it stepped up, grew a pair, and did anything useful. What could Metafilter possibly add with such a thread, that would have any meaningful impact on any subsequent murders? The gun people control the narrative. The rest of us are just target practice.
    posted by Mr. Six at 3:38 PM on September 1, 2014


    Etrigan: "I know a lot of people who feel X about guns, and while I do not feel X about guns, here is their way of thinking."

    We can speak for ourselves, thanks.
    posted by Jacqueline at 4:28 PM on September 1, 2014


    But if most MeFites are Y-thinkers, that lone X-thinker is unlikely to bother with an explanation. Not when it means arguing with ten people at the same time, of which one or two may be outright assholes.

    I think corb and I have both demonstrated our willingness to argue with ten (or more!) people at once. :)
    posted by Jacqueline at 4:30 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    But I don't always bother. Maybe 30% of the time. So there's a contra vote.
    posted by small_ruminant at 4:35 PM on September 1, 2014


    Perhaps because I don't live in the US, and I'm not surrounded by a lot of things other MeFites are, I'm always happy when someone jumps in with a "Here's what this group of people who doesn't post to MeFi believes and part of why they do what they do" comment. Note: I am not talking about gun control, as I seldom read gun control posts. There are lots of great "Here's why ISIS believes X" and "Here's why Sovereign Citizens believe X" and "Here's why voters in Country Y believe X". Almost always, these comments are taken at face value (people don't start jumping in with "You, person who made that comment, are obviously a supporter of cutting people's heads off!!") Requests for additional information are phrased as follow-up questions ("Huh. Ok, if A were true, that would make sense. But how do they reconcile that with B?") as opposed to challenges ("That's fucking stupid, because what about B?!")

    There are just some topics, however, where that same kind of comment is taken a totally different way. My guess is that it's on any topic where the reader has people around them who really believe it. If you talk about ISIS's beliefs, the reader isn't thinking, "That asshole Bob in the cubicle next to mine is an ISIS supporter. I'm going to give him a verbal smackdown by proxy!" But if you're talking about US politics or MRA or the like, there's a high likelihood that the reader actually knows people who agree with that position, so they see the explainer as "one of them", hence the attacks.
    posted by Bugbread at 4:40 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    Seriously, Etrigan, if you are ever worried that there aren't enough pro-gun-rights people in a thread to explain our own viewpoints and thus you feel like you have to jump in an explain them on our behalf, please feel free to page me to the thread by shooting me a MeMail. I don't always look at even the titles of every thread on the blue, but I always check my MeMail.

    I can't speak for the other pro-gun-rights MeFites, but I imagine that there are at least a couple others willing to do this. And I imagine that most of us would prefer to present our own beliefs in our own words instead of having the thread primed by someone else presenting what he/she thinks we believe on our behalf before we even get there.
    posted by Jacqueline at 4:45 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    There might be something to that, Bugbread. There are a lot of people on metafilter who don't seem to be able to understand why a person would keep people in their lives who felt so differently about the world than themselves. (See the recent Andrew W.K. thread.) People who are friends and family with people that far to the right, who don't denounce those friends and family's views particularly, could be seen as suspect themselves.
    posted by small_ruminant at 4:47 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    Except, Jacqueline, it's not just gun rights. There was some of it going on in the thread about nuns. It often shows up in the abortion threads. There are a lot of topics that metafilter isn't great at.
    posted by small_ruminant at 4:48 PM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


    And I imagine that most of us would prefer to present our own beliefs in our own words instead of having the thread primed by someone else presenting what he/she thinks we believe on our behalf before we even get there.

    I don't pretend to speak for you or any other MeFite. I speak for people that I know, based on what they have told me they believe. I've had a lot of these conversations.
    posted by Etrigan at 4:53 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    It depends on the topic, of course. And how much time has passed between the question and the answer. As Jaqueline has pointed out, gun control is apparently an issue where there's no real need for "They believe X" comments, since there are people who readily give "We believe X" comments. On other topics, that isn't always the case.
    posted by Bugbread at 5:05 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    As Jaqueline has pointed out, gun control is apparently an issue where there's no real need for "They believe X" comments, since there are people who readily give "We believe X" comments.

    Yes, people like corb, who said (in that same thread that tonycpsu linked above):
    I personally appreciate Etrigan doing it - it lets me calm a bit to know that someone understands my perspective at least a bit, even if they don't agree. And I think that someone like Etrigan doing it really helps keep the tone of the conversation even.
    I'm okay with other people saying, "Well, here's why I feel X about guns." I really am. I'm not setting myself up as The Sole Arbiter on it, nor am I speaking for anyone who's here and capable of speaking for themselves.
    posted by Etrigan at 5:17 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    Good point. I guess this is just another gray area: you have folks like Jaqueline, who don't like it, and folks like corb, who do like it. So if you do it, it will make some people happy, and some people unhappy. If you don't do it, then you won't make anyone unhappy, but you won't make anyone happy either.
    posted by Bugbread at 5:25 PM on September 1, 2014


    Good point. I guess this is just another gray area: you have folks like Jaqueline, who don't like it, and folks like corb, who do like it. So if you do it, it will make some people happy, and some people unhappy. If you don't do it, then you won't make anyone unhappy, but you won't make anyone happy either.

    Related?
    posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:36 PM on September 1, 2014


    Happy or unhappy, sock-puppeting someone another group's viewpoints is fraught with peril, and one ought not to be surprised when misunderstandings happen, and recognize their own contribution to the misunderstanding.
    posted by tonycpsu at 5:44 PM on September 1, 2014


    tonycpsu: "sock-puppeting someone another group's viewpoints"

    Sock-puppeting?

    tonycpsu: "one ought not to be surprised when misunderstandings happen, and recognize their own contribution to the misunderstanding."

    Really? Even if you're really clear and explicit, and other people misunderstand you, you're still partially to blame just for having said anything whatsoever?

    Or by "recognize" do you just mean "recognize"? In which case I think there's no disagreement here. Etrigan's initial comment does not express surprise (in fact, it's the opposite of surprise, lamenting how common something is). And it's not a lament that "when I have not commented or done anything, this bad thing happens", but that "when I have made this kind of comment, this bad thing happens". So he/she is recognizing his/her own contribution.
    posted by Bugbread at 6:10 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    I'm a marksmen, and have been shooting paper targets at ranges for years. Frankly, you couldn't pay me to enter one of those threads, as I'm almost 100% sure that most MeFites really don't care about either my feelings or opinion, but would salivate over the opportunity to have a target for their individual catharsis.

    Those posts seem to work very well as cathartic outlets, but not so well as discussions. Both have their merits, I would imagine.
    posted by Shouraku at 6:20 PM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


    Bugbread: Sock-puppeting?

    Well, the people who hold those viewpoints aren't there for us to talk to (or weren't specifically making those arguments in that thread) so Etrigan was standing in for them. Call it echoing, projecting, whatever.

    By "recognize their own contribution to the misunderstanding", I mean that it's kind of unreasonable to take offense when people refer to the viewpoint he's projecting as "his viewpoint." For the purposes of that thread, it *was* his viewpoint, because he was arguing it. Not just putting it forth initially, but also defending it in several subsequent comments. The more you do that, the more you own the viewpoint -- not as in "you believe it" but "you are choosing to defend it."
    posted by tonycpsu at 6:26 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Shouraku: Those posts seem to work very well as cathartic outlets, but not so well as discussions.

    If you have "arrive at a consensus" as the only success criterion for a discussion, then every gun thread on MeFi has indeed failed, but that's not how I define success. I've had very rewarding interactions with people on all sides of the issue, and have learned a lot. Having the discussion forces you to question your assumptions, to go find supporting links for your beliefs, etc. Then the other person can try to refute those claims, find their own supporting data, etc. Yes, there's the usual working of the refs and complaining about citing biased sources, but that doesn't mean we aren't incrementally moving the ball forward.
    posted by tonycpsu at 6:42 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    "I notice that we haven't heard back from Etrigan about why he's a horrible person who feels X about guns."

    You aren't horrible, just demonic.
    posted by octobersurprise at 7:18 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    At Sandy Hook, twenty innocent kids got murdered and no one — zero people — with any real influence to do anything about it stepped up, grew a pair, and did anything useful.

    That's one way to look at it. Another is that no one found anything to do that was useful in preventing more of the same while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
    posted by in278s at 8:07 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


    If you have "arrive at a consensus" as the only success criterion for a discussion, then every gun thread on MeFi has indeed failed, but that's not how I define success. I've had very rewarding interactions with people on all sides of the issue, and have learned a lot... Then the other person can try to refute those claims, find their own supporting data, etc. Yes, there's the usual working of the refs and complaining about citing biased sources, but that doesn't mean we aren't incrementally moving the ball forward.

    This sounds very lovely, and if the discussions were actually as respectful as you seem to suggest, then I would probably participate as opposed to just lurking. However, what you're suggesting hasn't been my experience.
    posted by Shouraku at 8:15 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    I didn't say they were always respectful, just that they were productive. Obviously such a divisive issue creates some nasty exchanges, and I've certainly been on the giving and receiving end of those from time to time, but I still feel like I got something out of them. I guess this is just one of those "your mileage may vary" situations.
    posted by tonycpsu at 8:31 PM on September 1, 2014


    ...but I still feel like I got something out of them.

    I get that by lurking on those threads. YMMV
    posted by Shouraku at 8:39 PM on September 1, 2014


    I go on the internet on my own time. Spending it having rancorous interchanges with people isn't my idea of an afternoon well spent.

    Anyway, it usually ends up with the two or three most invested (not the most informed) people battling it out with "you're wrong!" "no, you're wrong!" because everyone else has rolled their eyes and moved on to the next thread.
    posted by small_ruminant at 9:41 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Is what we're talking about playing the Devil's advocate? (And if so, I am even more than usually disappointed that Etrigan doesn't present the arguments in rhyme.)
    posted by gingerest at 10:03 PM on September 1, 2014


    That's one way to look at it. Another is that no one found anything to do that was useful in preventing more of the same while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

    I'm not going to rehash another gun control debate, but every other way to look at it is that you guys always own the direction of conversation at the end of a barrel of a gun. So my point was directed to the OP, that a Metafilter thread needs to meet a higher standard, simply by virtue of the proven fact that there is virtually nothing that anyone can say on an Internet thread that will do anything to stop every senseless slaughter by gun users. You guys own the discussion, every single time and no Metafilter thread is likely to change that insane fact.
    posted by Mr. Six at 10:11 PM on September 1, 2014


    Metafilter threads don't change insane facts; insane facts change insane facts.
    posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:15 PM on September 1, 2014


    There are a lot of topics that metafilter isn't great at.
    posted by small_ruminant at 4:48 PM on September 1 [+] [!]


    I agree.

    I agree because it feels like the site is dominated by people who are extremists, intolerant, blindingly argumentative or attention junkies who live to spew drivelsnark all over the place.
    posted by ambient2 at 10:17 PM on September 1, 2014


    I'm not going to rehash another gun control debate

    I'd say you're not doing a great job of avoiding that, but whatever. I'm curious to know, though, when you say "you guys" you mean who exactly? Gun owners? Anyone who thinks gun ownership by private citizens should be legal?
    posted by in278s at 10:21 PM on September 1, 2014


    Another is that no one found anything to do that was useful in preventing more of the same while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

    More fundamentally, the problem is no one even agrees on what "preventing more of the same" and what "respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners" means. "More of the same" can mean anything from mass shootings to incidental accidents while "respecting rights" can mean anything from the right to have and use some kind of firearm within clearly regulated parameters to the right to have and use practically any kind of firearm in practically any way, practically anywhere. "People sure like to shoot shit up" is the closest we'll get to a consensus. We even can't arrive at the terms of discussion; we won't come to a conclusion. Not societally, certainly not here on an internet forum.

    Which leaves catharsis and fantasy as the objects of most of the metafilter discussions of this topic.

    But it's all much too grisly to contemplate on a monday morning so let us instead seek our consolation in the Beat Farmers.
    posted by octobersurprise at 6:47 AM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


    tonycpsu: By "recognize their own contribution to the misunderstanding", I mean that it's kind of unreasonable to take offense when people refer to the viewpoint he's projecting as "his viewpoint." For the purposes of that thread, it *was* his viewpoint, because he was arguing it. Not just putting it forth initially, but also defending it in several subsequent comments. The more you do that, the more you own the viewpoint -- not as in "you believe it" but "you are choosing to defend it."

    This is not true, but this viewpoint is a MetaFilter problem. One doesn't have to share a viewpoint to disagree with flawed arguments against it. In fact, flawed arguments against something I oppose are just as bad as the flaw arguments in support of something I oppose.

    Defending a stance you disagree with from an argument you find lacking doesn't make it your viewpoint, it means you are interested in honest debate. Which really isn't your thing, given you called it sock-puppeting.

    Dip Flash: When I notice that here, it's often seemingly being done to say controversial or offensive things without taking ownership of them

    I think you're confusing "ironic racism" or something with what Etrigan is talking about; the linked example above is something no one can honestly say is an example of "being done to say controversial or offensive things without taking ownership of them".
    posted by spaltavian at 7:00 AM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


    spaltavian: This is not true, but this viewpoint is a MetaFilter problem. One doesn't have to share a viewpoint to disagree with flawed arguments against it.

    Of course not. Going beyond that and taking offense when it's called "your point" is where I draw the line and conclude that you're being unreasonable. If you choose to defend someone else's viewpoints that you brought to the table, you're owning that viewpoint for the purposes of the discussion we're having on MetaFilter. Calling me out (albeit not by name) many months later for attributing it to you (since you're standing in for the people who actually hold it) is silly rules-lawyering.
    posted by tonycpsu at 7:16 AM on September 2, 2014


    I agree because it feels like the site is dominated by people who are extremists, intolerant, blindingly argumentative or attention junkies who live to spew drivelsnark all over the place.

    Maybe so, but the same is true of the rest of the web, or any large social gathering. The loudest and most attention seeking will be heard most and will often dominate discussion, pushing others out, and competing to see who can come up with the best snarky takedowns. MeFi is not a special snowflake website that is free from these common sorts of challenges.

    That won't change, ever. Not possible. The fact that things aren't worse in that regard is a testament to the mod staff's efforts.

    In my mind this thread (and the one a few posts up about the celeb picture leak) are just further reminders to stick with my "don't bother reading any threads on contentious issues" policy.
    posted by Old Man McKay at 7:31 AM on September 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


    We all feel X about guns. That's what's so great about X. If there were more X in this world, we'd all get a long a lot better.

    huh, that sentence works in a totally different context too!
    posted by Naberius at 10:18 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Etrigan: still another person: "I notice that we haven't heard back from Etrigan about why he's a horrible person who feels X about guns."

    If every single person who ever did this could just get banned, the site would be a better place.

    You should get maybe one warning for pulling that shit. It's the most childish form of "hah, see, checkmate! i declare victory!" and the propensity for it to happen is why, at least imo, a lot of shitty arguments continue past their expiration date simply because people know that gravedancing will happen.

    I mean, i realize the ideal condition would be to just not care, but i think that's a lot more to expect from people than just not letting them asshole like that.

    The number of times i've responded only because someone horribly misrepresented what i had said, and people had started to respond to that representation and call me an asshole...
    posted by emptythought at 3:29 PM on September 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


    I agree because it feels like the site is dominated by people who are extremists, intolerant, blindingly argumentative or attention junkies who live to spew drivelsnark all over the place.

    Has anyone called the authorities to rescue ambient2 from whoever is holding a gun to his head and forcing him to browse Metafilter?
    posted by kagredon at 6:30 PM on September 3, 2014


    metafilter: love it or leave it!

    God, guns and guts made metafilter free!
    posted by small_ruminant at 7:09 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


    You're probably better off watching videos of prisoner lashings anyway.
    posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 7:16 PM on September 3, 2014


    metafilter: love it or leave it!

    I'm not saying Mefi should be immune to criticism, I'm saying if I thought this place was dominated by "extremists, intolerant, blindingly argumentative or attention junkies who live to spew drivelsnark all over the place", I would choose not to come here, and AFAIK everyone else here (who isn't a mod) can make that choice with similar ease. Why hang out in a forum where you so completely disdain the conversation?
    posted by kagredon at 9:03 AM on September 4, 2014


    emptythought: If every single person who ever did this could just get banned, the site would be a better place.

    How often does this actually happen? Or are these comments getting deleted and we're just not seeing them?
    posted by tonycpsu at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2014


    a lot of shitty arguments continue past their expiration date simply because people know that gravedancing will happen.

    I had never heard the word "gravedancing" refer to this particular shitty behavior, but it's perfect.
    posted by Kadin2048 at 11:24 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


    How often does this actually happen? Or are these comments getting deleted and we're just not seeing them?

    I would say that every 300 comments or so, the chances of it happening double. The contentiousness of the thread also plays a part, I've seen it happen before the thread hit 200 comments before.

    Basically, if it's something a lot of people have a strong opinion about, or a few users have a very strong opinion about, it's pretty likely to happen. Some threads go entirely by without it happening(the ferguson threads from what I've seen and remember have been pretty good about it). Some seem to do it when they've barely even hit 100 comments.

    I wouldn't say I see more than maybe one solid instance of it a month, maybe two on a bad month... But it's absolutely A Thing That Happens.
    posted by emptythought at 12:16 PM on September 4, 2014


    It also occasionally happens across threads -- I remember someone demanding that Lance Armstrong's MeFi defenders answer for their crimes when Armstrong finally admitted to doping.
    posted by Etrigan at 1:18 PM on September 4, 2014


    I remember someone demanding that Lance Armstrong's MeFi defenders answer for their crimes when Armstrong finally admitted to doping.

    Oh, that was me.
    posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:26 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


    I second what I said previously. I appreciate thoughtful commentary by the opposition on what they believe the minority opinion is. If they're wrong, I'll say so - but they may well be right. And their measured, reasoned, attempt at civil discourse often acts to draw poison out of the thread and let the platonic ideal of the Metafilter conversation shine through. It makes me feel I'm being heard, it makes the opposition feel that the argument is not necessarily just coming from a shit-stirrer. It is good in all ways, and I'm sorry that people are making Etrigan feel shitty about it.


    You know, even though he is wrong on everything else. ;)
    posted by corb at 4:16 PM on September 4, 2014


    I concede that this style definitely does have some positive benefit, but there are also significant downside risks that can lead to rancorous derails, even when there's nothing close to this going on. The tactic of adopting some other group's beliefs for the sake of argument has significant drawbacks, regardless of what the actual viewpoints are, so I hope people will keep that in mind if they decide to use it in the future.

    It's simply not practical to constantly be saying "if I could respond to the people you're channeling, I'd tell them...." If you're adopting the argument for the thread, then it's your argument in the thread. You own some of the risk of it going to shit.
    posted by tonycpsu at 4:46 PM on September 4, 2014


    I think a lot of the reason it goes badly is that it often is emerging when people are already enraged - and it is really, really hard to dial back rage just when you think you have a target - to avert the killing blow on the downward stroke, as it were. You're angry about something (not specifically you), and here comes someone who is explaining just that thing as though it is reasonable, and a part of the hindbrain says AHA FUCK YOU I CAN NOW TELL YOU TO YOUR FACE HOW STUPID YOU ARE.

    That impulse is the destructive one, because it doesn't want to listen to reason, it has no interest in whether the person speaking is professing their own beliefs or not, it just wants to smash those beliefs into the ground and watch them bleed. But the thing is, it's not really healthy even if those were someone's own beliefs. Arguing with people while trying to smash their ideas into the ground and watch them bleed does not a good conversation make, even if it is understandable.
    posted by corb at 9:04 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Well, what you're describing doesn't in any way resemble what happened in the thread I linked to, but you're certainly entitled to your opinion about the more general pattern.
    posted by tonycpsu at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2014


    Can't you say that applies to any discussion, though? As far as I know, it's always true that arguing when you are already enraged and succumbing to the instinct that says AHA FUCK YOU I CAN NOW TELL YOU TO YOUR FACE HOW STUPID YOU ARE will always make a bad situation worse. It reminds me of something I heard when I was in my teens, maybe a quote from someone wiser than me, that went something like "There's never a situation so bad that losing your temper can't make it worse."

    It's good to acknowledge that arguing when you're enraged is likely to make things go badly, but that seems to me to not address the question, which in my view looks something like, "How much responsibility should one bear for a conversation going poorly when one espouses a viewpoint that isn't theirs?"

    It seems to me that in the calculus of added discussion value vs. potential to derail and fuck up a discussion, representing a viewpoint that isn't yours doesn't really fare that well. Mostly I think this is because the risk of fucking up a discussion is inordinately high. Which is to say that I think the responsibility for doing this rests substantially on the person who's attempting to do this. It of course doesn't excuse people for being dicks, and the discussion would be a lot better if people weren't dicks.

    It just seems to me that confusing and frustrating your interlocutors is a natural consequence of attempting to represent a viewpoint that you don't actually hold, and it also seems to me that there's not that much value added in saying the equivalent of "I don't actually know what these people believe but here's what I think they do." It can be tempting to want to add this, and it might even feel like it's being helpful. But really, it's not.
    posted by MoonOrb at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


    I like when comments cover or ask something new in a thread. That's mostly why I post. Countering explanatory comments is fine as long as it does not devolve into a personal attack (outside of meta talk discussions of perspective and such).

    Can we pm mods about potentially making threads before making one?
    posted by halifix at 8:19 PM on September 11, 2014


    Can we pm mods about potentially making threads before making one?

    Always. (Use the contact form, please, so you get whoever's actually on duty, but yes, go for it.)
    posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:15 AM on September 12, 2014


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