Great article inviting bad/ boring comments = deletion? September 7, 2014 7:07 AM   Subscribe

This deleted post linked to an article on Israel battle tacticts inspired by post-modern philosophy that I found truly fascinating. Now, I guess the poster should have known that the comments would be 10% good faith discusion of the article and 90% standard Israel-Palestine axe grinding ... but for that to merit deletion is just a variant on the heckler's veto.

Regarding the article: who knew that military academies are teaching post-modern philosophy, to say the least of integrating it into tactical battlespace doctrine? Who knew that the IDF made a point of not using roads or doors as a means avoiding ambush? (The US Army and Marines approach to avoiding ambush after the disastrous first years of the Iraq occupation was to keep using the roads but with MRAPS rather than Humvees to withstand the ambushes better.)

The hecker's veto is problematic, and inconsistently applied. Many other kinds of posts can be relied upon with a high degree of confidence to produce a minimally interesting conversation, and yet are not deleted. The fact that minimally interesting Israel-Palestine conversation is two-sided, and not one-sided (dots and reminiscences for celebrity deaths, chearleading for the nth gay marriage decision, etc.) shouldn't really make a difference.

Solution? Maybe for really interesting articles that we know aren't going commented upon well or interestingly, a "comments deactivated" option?
posted by MattD to Etiquette/Policy at 7:07 AM (193 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Now, I guess the poster should have known that the comments would be 10% good faith discusion of the article and 90% standard Israel-Palestine axe grinding ... but for that to merit deletion is just a variant on the heckler's veto.

But this approach removes from the poster any responsibility for considering the framing and content of their post. The concept of the heckler's veto works best for situations where the actual dynamic is one of an otherwise accommodating large crowd and a heckler who is ruining it for everybody; if the crowd in general is likely to have a negative response to something, that's not heckling, that's just plain not liking a thing.

Not every case where something is received poorly is a variant of the heckler's veto, if the heckler's veto has any meaning. To try and put "don't accede to the heckler's veto" as a high priority in general here is to say, basically, that a priori all posts are good if anyone thinks they're good, which is fine for a personal or small group blog or a heavily editorially curated publication but not so much in a place like this where there's a great big heterogeneous crowd driving the dynamic.

Maybe for really interesting articles that we know aren't going commented upon well or interestingly, a "comments deactivated" option?

I really don't feel comfortable with this idea, no. Like, I get where you're coming from, but it's changing the fundamental functioning of the site—this is a place where someone posts a link or links and then there's a discussion thread attached—in service of stuff that doesn't fit well with that function. The more site-appropriate (if in some cases understandably more frustrating) answer is that not every possible link or post is going to work very well specifically for the front page of Metafilter. And that's okay. This is a generalist site but it's not literally the be-all, end-all of the internet; some stuff works better here than other stuff.

Regarding the article: who knew

To be super clear, this Metatalk is not a do-over for the thread itself. I realize you may be trying to broach these "who knew" things as simple rhetorical bullet points about stuff you thought was interesting or discussion-worthy, but it also reads like a discussion prompt right here and that's a no go.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:17 AM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cortex, I think my point is there was nothing inherently wrong or inviting of low-quality discussion with the framing of this post.

Had the article been focused on teaching at the Russian army higher school for ground tactics, and its implementation in recent conflict in Ukraine, it probably would have been framed verbatim the same, and it would have attracted an interesting discussion, because their aren't many (any?) Ukrainian nationalist vs. ethnic Russian irredentism axe grinders on MeFi.

This leaves the only thing as problematic about that it was about Israel and Palestine, and that's only problematic because MeFites generally can't be trusted to discuss it civilly?
posted by MattD at 7:26 AM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


MetaTalk, at least, remains a safe space for posts with minimally interesting and repetitive comments. This is very well-trodden ground, and settled law on MetaFilter: I/P posts are generally toxic on the site, all the more so with a reduced mod staff. The need to have non-toxic comment threads is core MetaFilter, and that's not going to change. MetaFilter need not accommodate all possible posts.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:26 AM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Had the article been focused on teaching at the Russian army higher school for ground tactics, and its implementation in recent conflict in Ukraine

I actually think that a discussion of tactics and ethics about Russia/Ukraine would be pretty bumpy too, though maybe not quite as much so; and we've had several threads about the Russia/Ukraine situation in the last while, including one about a week ago, so it's not a very compelling example as we'd likely have deleted it as "hey, please include this in this open thread on this subject" to boot.

Which I realize you may want to counter by saying that it was just an example and not about that specific context, but that's actually kind of the big thing: we can't get rid of the context. And the context on I/P stuff is not just that there's a couple grumpy people who ruin it for everybody, it's that it is broadly a great big contentious clusterfuck of a topic in general and one we've had a fair crop of posts on in the last several months and there's no reasonable way to take a "yeah but let's all just ignore the context and also maybe just not have comments on the post" approach to that.

I'm not arguing that there aren't potentially interesting things to discuss in the linked article. I just think it's unreasonable to mistake "there's some potentially interesting things to discuss" for "this is a good idea for a post to the front page". Stuff posted to the front page should be interesting and often discussion worthy, but that's more in the Necessary column than in the Sufficient column. Context matters a lot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow, that's a good article. If I were trying to post it, I think I'd probably hold onto it until I could combine it with one or two more links on other ways that military/governmental organizations have appropriated stuff from the human sciences, because it's a pretty common issue. Weaponizing Anthropology comes to mind, and social network analysis was a pretty dry topic in the late 80s, but not anymore.

I know that some people see single-link posts as the ideal, and I realize people who want to argue I/P issues may go for it even if it's not the central focus of the FPP. But maybe--maybe--just a little more stuff around it would provide non-I/P cues and topics that cooperative participants or mods could redirect toward.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:45 AM on September 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


The fact that minimally interesting Israel-Palestine conversation is two-sided, and not one-sided (dots and reminiscences for celebrity deaths, chearleading for the nth gay marriage decision, etc.) shouldn't really make a difference.

This is true and especially needs to be addressed, IMO. In my experience Metafilter "not doing topic X well" is sort of code for "there are substantial numbers of people around who do not hew to the progressive orthodoxy and may be vocal about it."
posted by eugenen at 7:46 AM on September 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


I sort of agree with both MattD and cortex. I think there are lots of posts that generate uninteresting comment threads, and that's fine, as long as the content itself is interesting. I think the problem is that these I/P threads -- even when the post, like this one, is more contentful than "Look at the TERRIBLE THING that the people I DON'T LIKE did this week!" -- do tend to produce comment threads that are not just uninteresting but actively irritating / toxic. (I didn't read the comments on this particular one so I'm not talking about this thread in particular.)

So I get why the mods want to delete these. But I also am with MattD in feeling like it's a shame we can't have them. I'm not sure there is a solution, to be honest. I thought the Salaita thread actually went pretty well -- but of course that's a thread about an issue that's only tangentially about the actual war. Maybe that's as close as an FPP can safely come, I don't know.

I don't think we should ever have a "comments deactivated" option for posts about anything. I think it wouldn't feel like MetaFilter and would lead to many boring MetaTalk threads where people complained that they were silenced all their life because the mods allowed an FPP to go up without allowing them to grind their axe against it in response. I get why you suggested it, MattD, but I don't think we should do it.
posted by escabeche at 7:48 AM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


In my experience Metafilter "not doing topic X well" is sort of code for "there are substantial numbers of people around who do not hew to the progressive orthodoxy and may be vocal about it."

I actually don't think this is true, given that the other canonical topics this phrase gets attached to are circumcision, fat acceptance, and pet declawing, none of which really have a "progressive orthodoxy" attached to them.
posted by escabeche at 7:50 AM on September 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


I thought the Salaita thread actually went pretty well -- but of course that's a thread about an issue that's only tangentially about the actual war.

And, to be clear, from the mod side it was a fractious mess that generated a ton of heat and basically would not stay away from the surrounding context even as something that was notionally of interest for ethical/academic/process reasons notionally independent of the specific subject of Salaita's tweets. Not necessarily a "we shoudn't have had a thread about this" thing, but definitely a thing where the actual practical moderator/community costs are a factor that are easy I think for folks to sort of not account for if they didn't personally end up bearing them. So it's tricky.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ha, OK -- was there a lot of stuff deleted from that thread? It's testament to good modding that I didn't even notice; I thought we were just all behaving ourselves.
posted by escabeche at 7:56 AM on September 7, 2014


So it's tricky.

What's so tricky about it? It's the same user every time.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:41 AM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


. I thought the Salaita thread actually went pretty well

The Salaita thread was used as an excuse by a handful of people to some pretty nasty, biased arguments. I do not think it went "pretty well." I often make comments in heated I/P threads, yet didn't in that one -- a thread that was only tangentially about I/P -- after seeing a number of people make statements and excuses about the situation that I thought were just plain awful and by extension terrible for Metafilter.
posted by zarq at 9:17 AM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


''there are substantial numbers of people around who do not hew to the progressive orthodoxy and may be vocal about it."

I kind of think this is way oversimplified, there are plenty of things that don't really break easy into the dichotomies of progressive/conservative (let alone 'orthodoxy', quelle horreur!) that are contentious. I think I/P largely falls into this catagory, which is what makes it so challenging.
(I say that as a pretty committed partisan for liberal ideas)

To the broader issue though, I'm sort of thinking that something is not working correctly here. I believe he majority of people can/do engage OK with (or just avoid) these threads. And so it is a vocal minority that essentially triggers topic aversion at the cost to the majority. I think the fighters should not merely have comments deleted but either barrered from the threads or day banned if they ignore a warning.
This would mean some rigid guidelines of what 'fighting' means to MF, and I know strict rules by and large is kind of gauche on MF, but as it is now, bad behavior by some has essentially crafted policy that affects all.
posted by edgeways at 9:58 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm curious, cortex, did the post itself get flagged, or were nasty, heavily flagged comments overwhelming the thread?

I know that seems like an academic point, since either reason makes sense for nixing the thread, but I feel like the former supports the argument that the "heckler's veto" is a valid concern (while the latter supports the "We just don't do I/P well here" position).

We have lots of single-link posts that are just fine. I get that this is a contentious issue; that post didn't have an obviously provocative framing or read like an outrage post to me. I wonder if people are proactively flagging threads like this without giving them a chance simply because of the I/P aspect?

Also, just as a data point, IMO deactivating comments on Metafilter for ANY thread is a terrible idea. We say people come here for the links, but Metafilter is more than just an aggregator, it is a forum for discussion as well.
posted by misha at 10:07 AM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is true and especially needs to be addressed, IMO. In my experience Metafilter "not doing topic X well" is sort of code for "there are substantial numbers of people around who do not hew to the progressive orthodoxy and may be vocal about it."

Thank you for such a perfect example of the sort of reasoning that really does make threads go wrong. In about eight directions at once as the beleaguered victims rail against their own view of site "orthodoxy".
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:23 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The article is more than 8 years old, on a frequently changing topic. That alone calls into question why it should be a single-link post right now. Of course, an 8-year-old article can be a good post. But I think it would make sense to have a somewhat higher standard for a possibly outdated article. I don't know enough about Israeli military strategy to know whether it's actually outdated, and most people reading this aren't going to know, so it might have been better to have at least one link with more current information.
posted by John Cohen at 10:37 AM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I could live to be 170 and I'll never understand why the freaks are tolerated. It was said a couple years ago or so that a handful of people were trashing I/P stuff with their strident nastiness.

I noted more recently in an I/P thread that Joe in Australia went to far as to include breitbart links.

Why not deal with a few jackasses so the rest of us can share thoughts about these things?
posted by ambient2 at 10:43 AM on September 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


The article itself made the point I made, that there was a basic tension between conceptualizing battle tactics in terms of postmodernism, and the brutal and unchanged reality of war on the ground. I was in the army twenty years ago and we were taught that in urban combat you go through walls when possible just to reconfigure the battle space to avoid chokepoints and booby traps and generally avoid accepting the battlefield as you find it. The use of opaque, handwavy jargon to disguise the effects of this is an unavoidable aspect of examining it.

I think the flaw in the post was leaving it at that article because any discussion of discourse versus practical reality, hung on I/P conflict, is going to turn into a discussion of that specific conflict. A broader post highlighting the same in other armies of the world, applied to other conflicts, might stand a chance. Perhaps something framed around postmodernism as taught in staff/general colleges around the world, or other unlikely topics to be found there.
posted by fatbird at 11:02 AM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


there are substantial numbers of people around who do not hew to the progressive orthodoxy and may be vocal about it.

This explains threads about Apple, at least
posted by shakespeherian at 11:03 AM on September 7, 2014


The "progressive orthodoxy" thing does not ring true to me at all. Anything involving cops, guns, bikes v. cars, religion v. politics, BDSM - all these make for often incredibly contentious threads, with decidedly not progressive people given every benefit of the doubt to continue participation. Rather, I think "Metafilter doesn't do X well" means "X will kick off the same cycle of the same back-and-forth barbs from the same users and this shit is tiresome."
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:03 AM on September 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


And just to clarify, I think it is predominantly a good thing that decidedly not progressive people are given the benefit of the doubt. I just think us "not doing something well" actually means we tend to spin our wheels in the same mudbogs of shouting and gnashing of teeth when the topic arises.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:12 AM on September 7, 2014


You missed indoor/outdoor cats.

And honestly while it can sometimes be the same people, I often almost feel like there's an assigned contrarian threadshitter. It's usually only one person doing it at a time, and it's as if they got a letter and sighed realizing they had jury duty.

When it gets interesting is when it's a super long thread, and someone finally gives up... And within 10 comments or so if the threads still moving fast someone else will have taken up the contrarian threadshitting helm.

There's also of course, the people who are the wildcards like the Borg and can show up anywhere any time to make a huge splash and derail the whole thing into being about themthemthem, but that's a seperate problem.

I generally agree that you could eliminate like 75% of this by banning 10-ish people though, or giving them like a week off every time they started doing it.
posted by emptythought at 11:12 AM on September 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm curious, cortex, did the post itself get flagged, or were nasty, heavily flagged comments overwhelming the thread?

Post only got flagged a little; a few comments in the thread got flagged as well. I haven't kibitzed about it direclty with restless_nomad so I can't report her specific thinking, but I'm guessing it's similar to my take looking at it (and if it had popped along during my shift I'd have deleted it as well): melange of factors including flags, comments, flags on comments, recency of surrounding topic, history of surrounding topic on the site, and the unlikelihood of the notionally separate core topic actually remaining firewalled from that surrounding topic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:20 AM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


The post was also a double.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:22 AM on September 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm going to chime in and say thanks to cortex and the mods for deleting this post.

When I go back and read the post, the shitposting starts almost instantly by people who most assuredly haven't read the link and who don't have much to add. In threads on contentious topics, I consider shitposts to be ones that aren't thoughtful, that add nothing to the discussion, and that ramp up the controversy by making the discussion more emotional or more tangential.

So let's look at this thread (and please keep in mind that this is my opinion, an I realize others might disagree).
  • Posts 1 and 2: Thoughtful. Not a bad start!
  • Post 3: OK.
  • Post 4: Joke post.
  • Post 5: Shitpost. Sarcastic response that ramps up the tenor of the discussion.
  • Posts 6-8: OK.
  • Post 9: Shitpost. Dragging in "ethnic cleansing" which again ramps up the tenor of the discussion, and a post that is trawling for favorites.
  • Post 10: Borderline.
  • Post 11: Shitpost. "I am so mad about this." Adds absolutely nothing to the conversation except ramping it up.
  • Posts 12-15: OK.
  • Post 16: Shitpost, and the shittiest post in the thread. Godwin reached in just 16 posts, and the conversation is now ramped up irreversibly as Hitler and the Nazis are in play.
  • Post 17: OK.
  • Post 18: Shitpost. Commenters have now begun fighting with each other about tangential topics, rather than about the link's subject. The thread is now a general I/P fight thread.
  • Post 19: OK.
What makes this even shittier is that some of these names are the same names that love to pop up in these topics, spouting the same points over and over again.

So... you say "fine, I know there's lots of shitposting, but what about this heckler's veto thing." I'm a good user, mods! There are lots of good users here! Don't let the bastards grind you down, let me keep my post up, and let's try to have a good discussion here!

This situation is not an example of the heckler's veto, by the way, but I digress- I get your point. I feel your pain, but practical considerations matter.

Metafilter is not the platonic ideal of websites and discussion forums. We may have lots of good users, but we have some jerks, some people who actively hunt for favorites, and some people who dominate discussions even though they have little or nothing to offer. We have a lot of fantastic "power users." But some of our popular posters rack up thousands of favorites by doing almost nothing but chiming in with off topic jokes, posting nasty or sarcastic takedowns, or taking part in other general pandering to the crowd. Others have axes to grind, and grind them constantly... anywhere they can.

We're better than most other sites. This is a great place to visit thanks to a lot of great users and a good staff, but it's not perfect. And, we have limited resources and a limited mod staff.

In an ideal world, either two things would be the case.
  1. We'd have a user base full of thoughtful people who wouldn't barge into threads after reading links, who would put time and care into what they post, and who wouldn't trawl for favorites. You could post topics on whatever you want, and so long as it's framed thoughtfully, you'd get great replies. This is the internet, though, so this is not going to happen, ever.
  2. We'd have a massive mod staff who would have the time and energy to closely moderate these threads, deleting shitposts vigilantly, sending out all kinds of emails and messages to explain their actions, and banning members who continually engage in the same shitty behaviors. Unless the site is going to start requiring a substantial monthly subscription fee, or unless Matt et al are willing to accept volunteer mods (which probably wouldn't help much), this isn't going to happen.
Sans either of those far-fetched solutions, the staff has to be practical.

If a topic will result in shitposting by the same groups of users, taking up a bunch of the mod staff's time dealing with piles of flags and contact emails, it's just not practical to leave it open. Ain't nobody got time for that.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:50 AM on September 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


I also hadn't read the thread until now. I'm actually sort of impressed that an israel-related thread only needs to get to two screens of length on my computer before joe in australia shows up to shitpost in it. Does he get paid for that? Does he have some kind of keyword notification set up?
posted by emptythought at 11:57 AM on September 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Another practical option is to ban problematic users. I don't follow this topic closely enough to know, but if it really is a dozen or so people who repeatedly and predictably wreck things, maybe they should just be booted.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 11:59 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


As Old Man McKay says, this deleted post's comments had the usual ignorant claims of Israeli land grabs in Gaza (for territory abandoned to the Palestinians by Israel 9 years ago in the vain hope of peaceful coexistence), ethnic cleansing (not just wholly inaccurate but offensively hyperbolic) and the usual Holocaust godwinning.

But sure, let's only focus on Joe.
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on September 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Joe's naked partisanship is pretty toxic and a big reason why I/P threads aren't so great.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:10 PM on September 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Hmmm. I perceive there to be a small minority of pro-I commenters, of whom Joe in Australia is the most frequent commenter. But I don't perceive his partisanship to be greater than that of pro-P commenters, but just of the different side. Without these pro-I commenters I feel that I/P threads would just be "isn't Israel just AWFUL?" "Yeah!" "Me too!". I have not exhaustively examined lots of threads to confirm this feeling "scientifically".

I have no problem with not having I/P threads, mind, given limited resources. I just wanted to comment that I personally value pro-I commenters, of whom Joe in Australia is one. Of course, he may be having every second comment deleted by the mods....
posted by alasdair at 12:18 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Joe's naked partisanship is pretty toxic and a big reason why I/P threads aren't so great.

We are talking about a thread which was not started by JiA, and in which JiA's only post was to complain about somebody crapping in the thread with a "but Israel is like Nazis!" comment. And somehow this thread has become about him?
posted by escabeche at 12:50 PM on September 7, 2014 [17 favorites]


Joe's naked partisanship is pretty toxic and a big reason why I/P threads aren't so great.

As opposed to the comments that compare Israel to the Nazis which are full of nuance and generate even-handed, level-headed discussion?

Comments like these seem to prove the OP's point. Comments that go against the generally accepted Mefi view are "toxic", while those that are similar in tone and hyperbole but in agreement with the Mefi-majority viewpoint don't get similarly singled out.
posted by The Gooch at 12:53 PM on September 7, 2014 [19 favorites]


The subject of that FPP (military use of postmodernism) is really interesting. Arguments about settlements and nazi comparisons and so on are not just uninteresting, but are so boring and toxic as to correctly merit deletion of the thread. There are definitely people here who are so invested in one narrow viewpoint (from either direction) that they bring it into any tangentially related discussion, and that dynamic seems unstoppable. It's a terrible pattern and right now the only mechanism seems to be to limit the number and frequency of those discussions, which of course prevents some interesting FPPs.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:13 PM on September 7, 2014


Joe's naked partisanship is pretty toxic and a big reason why I/P threads aren't so great.

I agree that he can be toxic at times. However, Joe has never been the only commenter who is nakedly partisan on this issue. He's not the only one who voices offensive opinions or outright attacks other users. He doesn't typically drop angry one-liners into those threads, but others do. Artw's comment in the current deleted post is a good example of the latter. It doesn't add to the conversation. It just blows things out of proportion and makes decent conversation harder. With regard to Joe, comparing Doctor Fedora's sentiment to blood libel could only make things worse. Disagreeing with DF was possible without saying he was making an antisemitic argument.

It would be great if people tried talking with each other in those threads rather than staking out positions, assuming the worst of each other and never giving an inch.
posted by zarq at 1:21 PM on September 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


But I don't perceive his partisanship to be greater than that of pro-P commenters, but just of the different side.

I dunno, he literally made a bunch of shit up and made a bunch of unsubstantiated claims in the recent long thread. It borders on trolling and shitstirring when you aren't just representing the other side, you're setting up strawmen or just making completely cardboard claims just to "make your point" or whatever.

There's a big push here to do the "both sides" thing, and it's honestly pretty crap. The people who take the "minority" or "contrarian" or whatever you want to call it sides in these threads often do it in a really uncouth, dishonest way where any means justify the ends to them or something.

I won't say never, but i've very very rarely seen people who take what you're painting as the "standard" mefi position on things use those tactics.

I would also file corbs bizarre performance art threadshitting in the ferguson threads under this, with stuff like the "throttled a woman store clerk" and the mcdonalds derail. Nothing substantial to grab onto? Make outrageous shit up! blow tiny details way out of proportion to drum up outrage!

If people really want to excavate into this enough, i can actually go back to that recent i/p thread from just before all this ferguson stuff happened and dig out specific examples. Because yea, it's pretty much his MO to write checks with his keyboard that his ass can't cash.
posted by emptythought at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't always agree with JiA and don't always like his responses, but I have to say I am glad for his continued participation in these threads, despite the fact that he is immediately piled on every single time no matter what he comments. Even here, where he hasn't commented at all.

Look, we get it, a large number of people here are not just Pro-Palestinian but actively, angrily anti-Israel, to the point that any argument from a different perspective - even simply contradicting false information - is guaranteed a mass of sarcastic, rude, often ad hominem responses. These generally get deleted fairly quickly, but it keeps many people quiet here. This is a hard site in general to hold an opposing viewpoint from the majority, but in I/P posts it gets not just toxic on the topic - it gets personal. The Salaita post was an interesting topic that was repeatedly derailed by a mass of GYOB and ganging-up responses from the OP and a couple others any time anyone had a perspective on Salaita's tweets that the OP disagreed with - it was only a good discussion from the perspective of what I thought was the main thrust of the FPP (should he have been fired / did he have a binding contract). As an I/P post it was a ridiculous shitshow.
posted by Mchelly at 1:29 PM on September 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


The post was also a double.

The link in the old post is broken, btw.
posted by homunculus at 1:30 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


"progressive orthodoxy" is an oxymoron, and only used by people following a regressive orthodoxy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:34 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just want to add that there is a spectrum between banhammer and impunity, i.e., a night off, 72 hour probation, being asked to recuse themselves from threads about X, and so forth.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:49 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would also file corbs bizarre performance art threadshitting in the ferguson threads under this

We may want to let folks know they're being discussed in this thread if we're gonna do this kind of thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:49 PM on September 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


I won't say never, but i've very very rarely seen people who take what you're painting as the "standard" mefi position on things use those tactics.

Spend more time in religion threads. And some atheism-related ones. Happens a lot.
posted by zarq at 2:02 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


A shame there's no mechanism to automatically alert people who have posted in a deleted thread that a related metatalk post has been opened.

Note to Team Mod: not a pony request.
posted by zarq at 2:11 PM on September 7, 2014


I thought the article was a lame excuse to provide intellecutal cover for violence. My comment which arrived too late as the "This has been deleted" red thing came up was this:

I remember watching Gulf war one live on I think, CNN, back when they used to let journalists be there. There was commentary from a former colonel or general or some such. There was an armored vehicle shooting toward the camera which means that it was shooting at US troops. People were hiding on the lee of a raised road.

The armored vehicle went inside a two-storey tin warehouse and the news people asked what was going to happen next, the former military person said, and I'll never forget this, "If there is a military reason for us to be in there it will happen."

The on scene news crew left the camera on top of the raised road - all this live from maybe a half of a mile away. After a while there was a lot of yelling to put your head down and the warehouse building was utterly destroyed via an air attack. The shock wave almost blew the camera over even at that distance.

It was the most exciting thing I've ever seen.

This article fucking sucks. There is an art of War but the result of all wars is that you kill people and break shit, nothing more, and any attempt to define combat philosophically rather than physically is bullshit.
posted by vapidave at 2:12 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm actually sort of impressed that an israel-related thread only needs to get to two screens of length on my computer before joe in australia shows up to shitpost in.

I am staunchly, staunchly anti-Zionist and about as Jewish as a haggis. I am often frustrated by Joe's contributions in I/P threads. However, he was responding to someone equating Jews and the Jewish state with Nazis - which is, actually, totes offensive. He was, and always is, civil in his disagreement and the only insults he levels at other mefites are accusations of anti-semitism as means of dismissing arguments.

Yes, it would have been better if he had flagged and moved on, but I completely understand why he did not - and I would struggle myself if someone was comparing my country to the nazis in a glib and ignorant one liner.

It does a disservice to Joe, and the two or three other zionists we have that regularly participate on Metafilter to pretend that they are the only source of the problem with regard to IP posts. Cortex is right: the community as a whole does not do I/P well. If Joe et al disappeared tomorrow, there would certainly be furious agreement in I/P threads; but the quality and tone of many comments would be a bloody embarrassment to this place.

It is certainly an emotive issue, but Joe and co are not the only ones incapable of reining themselves in.
posted by smoke at 2:53 PM on September 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


This is true and especially needs to be addressed, IMO. In my experience Metafilter "not doing topic X well" is sort of code for "there are substantial numbers of people around who do not hew to the progressive orthodoxy and may be vocal about it."

I strongly disagree with this statement. In my eyes, "MetaFilter doesn't do topic X well" is shorthand for "some people get really heated on topic X, and engage others in a very confrontational manner and make things personal, which is not how MetaFilter operates, and can be a huge pain to moderate effectively."

There are a number of topics of conflict that people get people excited, and some of these have very clear factions on MetaFilter. Sometimes it's a vocal majority vs a vocal minority, sometimes the vocal opinions are split. Regardless, these are topics that 1) will continue to evoke strong feelings for some people, 2) won't be resolved in the foreseeable future, and 3) will continue to generate new events and news coverage. With all that, the moderators have to figure out how to manage threads on those topics and still stay on top of everything else on the site. With I/P and other such topics, it's often easier delete threads when there's an early sign of strife than try to keep everyone calm and collected and keep the discussion on topic.

As users, we can always flag it and move on, close the thread and go for a walk if we feel we're being pulled in, take it to MeMail, or find other ways of reacting besides responding in-thread to comments we feel are too much. Personally, there are a number of topics I don't get involved with, because I know they'll just be fast-paced, aggressive discussions, where I can't quickly sort the noise from the content, and I have nothing of substance to add. I get riled up and want to start shouting, too, but I realize it won't help anything, especially the moderators' efforts to manage the thread. MetaFilter is not the only place to have discussions, even if it is often where I prefer to discuss broad topics of the world at large.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:00 PM on September 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


The article was 8 years old, and I'm fairly sure had been posted before.
posted by empath at 3:26 PM on September 7, 2014


> The article was 8 years old, and I'm fairly sure had been posted before.

Don't bother to read the thread or anything.
posted by languagehat at 3:42 PM on September 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


In my eyes, "MetaFilter doesn't do topic X well" is shorthand for "some people get really heated on topic X, and engage others in a very confrontational manner and make things personal, which is not how MetaFilter operates, and can be a huge pain to moderate effectively."

I've long enjoyed gawking at contentious conversations here and elsewhere on the Internet, and one thing that seems to be generally true is that when people get really heated they will find a fight to have in these threads. If that's with someone who substantially disagrees with them, so much the better, but if that's not available, there will be someone who agrees almost entirely but has some sort of quibble, and as soon as there's a quibble, there's an opportunity to holler at someone on the Internet.

I feel like there are some less-than-ideal dynamics that make this sort of situation so common on the Internet, but I'm not sure there's much that can be done about it at root. Pretty much everyone with a substantial history here has been both the person spoiling for a fight and the quibbler in different threads. I know I have, and I've made comments I regret in each role. The best we can hope for might well be the situation we have now, where fight-starting threads are carefully monitored and sometimes nipped in the bud just for their potential to start yet more infinitely rehashed fights that solve little and alienate people.
posted by Copronymus at 3:48 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


If I were King of the Discourse, the phrase "I/P" would be forever banished. It's like if threads about sexual harassment of women were insta-deleted as overly contentious "M/F" material. It's like we were talking about two rival football teams instead of real things that actually happen and have complexity.
posted by threeants at 4:18 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Abbreviating doesn't mean dismissing.
posted by Etrigan at 4:35 PM on September 7, 2014


Yeah, I feel like the use of "I/P" is mostly just indicative of the frequency with which the subject has come up over the years; "the ongoing conflict within or regarding the region and people of Israel and Palestine" is a mouthful the thousandth time you type it out.

We used to use SLOE a lot in deletion reasons, and not to be dismissive per se of single like op-eds; it just came up an awful lot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:42 PM on September 7, 2014


threeants: "It's like we were talking about two rival football teams instead of real things that actually happen and have complexity."

I have never heard people talk about sports teams by referring to their initials. And I've heard plenty of initials be used when discussing very serious things. MRI. RIP. DOA. SIDS. AIDS.
posted by Bugbread at 4:46 PM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


given what's going on over there right now. it seems trollish to post a thread basically saying "isn't it interesting how Israel is conceptualizing conflict/training its soldiers etc".... it just seems trollish and distasteful.
posted by jayder at 4:51 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, people refer to plenty of college sports teams in particular by college initials, or more generally by abbreviations. So too agencies, programs, networks, protocols, movie stars, drugs, TV shows, etc. I think the core thing is that initialism and abbreviation tell us basically nothing about disposition toward referents in general, only about frequency and length of references.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:54 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thank God He gave us the word "toxic." What an goblin-ridden place the internet would be without it!
posted by jfuller at 5:06 PM on September 7, 2014


I don't participate in these posts because, although I have a moderate opinion, I'm not willing share it only to get into a knock-down drag-out fight with the extremely vocal members who would disagree with me. This would be true regardless of what opinion I hold. It's too bad that it has to be that way. It's an interesting and complicated subject. Those of us who aren't out for blood would like to be able to have an interesting and complicated discussion about it.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:52 PM on September 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


It does a disservice to Joe, and the two or three other zionists we have that regularly participate on Metafilter to pretend that they are the only source of the problem with regard to IP posts.

Nowhere did i say he, or they were the only problem. I simply singled him out. Take issue with that if you want, but acting like what i posted is saying he is the only problem is a gross misrepresentation and pretty much the beginning stages of the type of thing i was describing in the first place.

No one else posted 219 times in that thread. It was a ~1700 comment thread and i felt like i posted "a lot", and in looking i posted 15 times. 219 is a lot. That's 1/8th of the total comments in the thread.

If that isn't at least a yellow flag for taking over a thread, i don't know what is. I mean that's a completely different type of derailing than the "post one comment, everyone fights about it" variety i was also talking about it above, but i'm not misrepresenting anything or making some super unfair accusation here.


That's also part of the reason i found it amusing that other post got to 19 comments and he was already in there.
posted by emptythought at 5:53 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


given what's going on over there right now. it seems trollish to post a thread basically saying "isn't it interesting how Israel is conceptualizing conflict/training its soldiers etc".... it just seems trollish and distasteful.

I disagree, and think the mindsets, biases and training of all involved parties are worth discussing and analyzing. There are Israeli and Palestinian dynamics that might not be understood by outsiders.

For example: Israel is a small country by Western standards, where nearly everyone serves in the military. The IDF is a bit more relaxed structurally than in the US. It's less institutional. And most of those who serve are enlisted. Everyone serving in the IDF may not necessarily know each other personally, but they probably have common shared experiences. Since Israel is a country with mandatory conscription, when a soldier is captured and taken hostage that resonates strongly with the population. Which is one of the reasons why Israel reacts so strongly when that happens.

Look closely at the demographics, and things get interesting. More than 16% of the officers are from Judea or Samaria -- West Bank settlements. Which means that they are both much more likely to be religious Jews, and more likely to have strong opinions about both the Palestinians and Settlements. Note that People from Judea and Samaria only make up about 4% of the entire Israeli population. (Israel is around 41% secular. 20-25% Orthodox. The rest are some other flavor of Jewish theist.)

Why does this matter? Well, it means that the IDF is likely not proportionally representative of the larger Israeli population when it comes to religion and most importantly, relinquishing the West Bank settlements. Nor is Shin Bet, the intelligence wing. So how might the Shin Bet and IDF handle orders from on high to dismantle Israeli homes and apartment buildings holding a half a million Settlers in the West Bank?

I bring this up not to start another discussion, but to highlight just how very complex the political situation is. With many influencing factors and a lot of history that outsiders might not even be aware of. I don't think there would be anything trollish or distasteful about discussing them.
posted by zarq at 5:55 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


zarq, your example was almost an order of magnitude more words than the deleted post (246 vs. 33), thereby illustrating the importance of context and fleshing out.
posted by Etrigan at 6:32 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


let's say the Ferguson MO police department currently has some innovative policing initiative or training (not resulting from the present situation). and suppose someone posted a FPP about it, in.the same manner as the one we are discussing. it would be tone deaf and tacky and in poor taste given the present crisis, right? yeah. I consider this basically the same thing.
posted by jayder at 7:05 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was an interesting article, but the stilted, dorky, PoMo tone was somewhat impenetrable for the more pedestrian tastes of MetaFilter. I agree with the deletion: we can't handle the truth!
posted by Nevin at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2014


"Cortex is right: the community as a whole does not do I/P well."

I've never really mentioned it before, but I stay well away from those threads because they freak me the hell out. I've become angrier and angrier with Israel over the years, but a lot of people feel like they can casually say things like DoctorFedora's comment in that thread and there's often a viciousness to the anti-Israel side that makes me back away slowly. Meanwhile, the obtuseness of apologists for Israel, along with the indiscriminate charges of antisemitism, make me want to hit things. It's like a science fiction television show where someone's invented some gas that makes everyone insanely hyper-aggressive and hateful and it's been injected into the room.

I don't even know how anyone ever has productive discussion in those threads and I'm impressed when people do. But I can certainly understand why there's a very high bar on such posts and why so many people, like myself, see them as scorched territory to stay away from. And I say this as someone who frequently participates in some of the other contentious threads here.

If there were a way to make those threads go better so that the topic wouldn't be on the short-list of special scrutiny, I'd be all in favor of it. But I don't know what that would be. Anything I can think of is pretty contrary to the MeFi way of doing things (I'm thinking of zero tolerance for anything less than best behavior coupled with extreme punishment -- and that's not just how we do things here. But that might work.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:15 PM on September 7, 2014 [16 favorites]


if the crowd in general is likely to have a negative response to something, that's not heckling, that's just plain not liking a thing.

That is exactly what a heckler's veto is - when speech is suppressed to prevent a presumed reaction of the listening crowd that is expected to breach the peace. In other words, silencing speech to preserve order because society at large finds the speech's content offensive.

(the colloquial expression of "heckler's veto" to describe hecklers' silencing a speaker, as oft happened on college campuses, does not apply in this case because members cannot delete comments)
posted by Tanizaki at 8:17 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am often frustrated by Joe's contributions in I/P threads. However, he was responding to someone equating Jews and the Jewish state with Nazis - which is, actually, totes offensive.

Joe can sometimes not know when to quit, but the "Israel is like the Nazis" is basically the "She was asking for it, dressed like that" of I/P discussions, and if that's the general tone of the comments, I'm not surprised he would be pretty annoyed and pendantic after that.

That said, he is one of a short list of people who turns any narrow topic into the broader I/P topic and will not leave it alone so the thread becomes the Same Old Argument again. It's really hard to mod that sort of thing when no one is really breaking the rules but just not being the best MeFites they can be. So it's not one person, it's a lot of people. Different phrasing of posts can matter a lot at keeping this thing from happening. I think the general "the bar is higher for these sorts of posts" approach is generally a good one.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:35 PM on September 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


That thread was a completely disingenuous bit of useless spit in the wind, starting with the OP and continuing with MattD's bullshit defense of it here.

I approve of a TOTAL moratorium on I/P posts here because the axe grinders have proven they don't give a shit about "discussion" or "conversation" or this community.

The OP under discussion was exactly like publishing a cute story on "behind the scenes at Ferguson PD, the cops are reading Zizsek!" It was a tweak from the usual biggest bully on the block around here on this subject.

And here we are. All earnestly discussing how we can be more civil to each other like anyone invested in this issue on any side gives a damn about "civility."

Why do people feel their personal axe must be ground here?
posted by spitbull at 1:40 AM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


If the cops were in Ferguson were reading books that 'informed' their tactics when dealing with protesters, it'd be pretty interesting to me.

But yeah, I/P threads should have a very high standard, and that sucks (and I agree with the deletion and feel sympathy for the posters frustration).
posted by el io at 3:13 AM on September 8, 2014


These personal pile-ons are one of Metafilter's less pleasant characteristics, and I hope I should say so even if I were not the guest of honour ... again.

I do try to follow any suggestions the moderators have, but if any of you want to address me personally you are welcome to MeMail me. I promise to at least read any messages you send, and respond if it seems appropriate.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:38 AM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The need to have non-toxic comment threads is core MetaFilter.

then surely hard-core mefites will enjoy the single-link buzzfeed post.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:31 AM on September 8, 2014


Joe's naked partisanship is pretty toxic and a big reason why I/P threads aren't so great.

Joes' partisanship isn't the problem. The problem is that most of those involved can't or won't examine their own partisanship, or acknowledge a perspective different than their own as valid, and that's poisoning the discussion.

This is a deliberate attempt to shut down an unpopular but valid political opinion by complaining to the community, simply because it doesn't mesh with the common consensus. Now that's bad for the site.

In terms of single-issue hobby-horse riders, he isn't even in the top ten on this site.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:58 AM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


let's say the Ferguson MO police department currently has some innovative policing initiative or training (not resulting from the present situation). and suppose someone posted a FPP about it, ... it would be tone deaf and tacky and in poor taste given the present crisis, right?

Are you kidding? No. Insight into the mentality and strategy of the Ferguson PD would be really interesting right now. Notice how "interesting" doesn't mean one agrees with or approves of it in anyway.
posted by spaltavian at 6:13 AM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Comments like these seem to prove the OP's point. Comments that go against the generally accepted Mefi view are "toxic", while those that are similar in tone and hyperbole but in agreement with the Mefi-majority viewpoint don't get similarly singled out.

You know, I've been a member for a little over 7 years now; I lurked for a while before that; I've read at least some of the Blue just about daily for most of the last, I dunno, 5 years and often a pretty large percentage of it. I honestly have no idea what the "Mefi-majority viewpoint" even is about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, beyond "somewhat less than ideal."
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:22 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The problem is that most of those involved can't or won't examine their own partisanship, or acknowledge a perspective different than their own as valid, and that's poisoning the discussion.

The problem is the human inability to let go of issues one deems of great importance.

The machines will fix that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:39 AM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


That article is very very interesting; I'm glad to see it had been posted once before.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:07 AM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The OP under discussion was exactly like publishing a cute story on "behind the scenes at Ferguson PD, the cops are reading Zizsek!"

It would be genuinely fascinating if Ferguson PD had been incorporating Žižekian principles into their policing. I would happily read an article on such a thing, if it were real.

It's sort of a cliche by this point, but it's a cliche because it's true: MetaFilter does not handle I/P discussion well. It is a shame that otherwise interesting posts get nuked as a result. From what I can tell, it would be disingenuous to blame Joe in Australia, even if indirectly or unintentionally.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:11 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would happily read an article on such a thing, if it were real.

You shay that thish would make you happy, but is it not the case that thish "happiness" is merely a state of stability induced by ideology? Might it not be true that your desire to be "happy" is exactly the opposite? It is as I shay when dishcussing the film Finding Nemo,
posted by Greg Nog at 8:21 AM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


The problem is that most of those involved can't or won't examine their own partisanship, or acknowledge a perspective different than their own as valid, and that's poisoning the discussion.


The problem is not partisanship. To be indifferent on the matter would be inhuman. The problem is that one side is correct and the other is, through wilful, blind, and/or propaganda-fuelled ignorance, dead wrong.

There is some disagreement about which party is which.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Salaita post was an interesting topic that was repeatedly derailed by a mass of GYOB and ganging-up responses from the OP and a couple others any time anyone had a perspective on Salaita's tweets that the OP disagreed with

I don't really get what the GYOB reference is about here, because my understanding is that GYOB is kind of an unofficial guideline about the content of posts, not comments, with the operating principle being that front page posts ought to be framed in such a way that minimizes the visibility of the OP's own opinion, while comments pretty much exist precisely so that people can share their opinion on the topic of the FPP. So how exactly can comments be described as "a mass of GYOB..."?

I'm also unsure exactly what people are saying when they levy accusations of "ganging up" and "piling on". When discussing a controversial topic with a significant disparity in the numbers of people who align themselves with each side of the issue, it seems unavoidable that the smaller group wouldn't be able to compete in terms of the number of comments, and that each of their comments would draw many responses from the larger population of people who disagree with them. It's not like there's any rule on the books that you, as someone who has many people disagreeing with you, have to respond to each response, or even respond to each unique point made among all of the responses.

Look, I've certainly participated in some threads where I was representing a minority viewpoint, and though in those cases each of my comments drew many responses, I don't think I ever felt like I was being "ganged up" on, because it was my decision to continue participating, and though I was obviously attached to my viewpoint and wanted to make sure it got a fair hearing, it's not like I had any special right to have that viewpoint given equal time or consideration in the thread. Of course it's always better for discussions to have a diversity of opinions represented in the comments, but just because many people disagree with me doesn't mean that they have a duty to treat my argument (or even me personally) with kid gloves. If they think I'm bullshitting, then they should say so -- and they certainly have, at times!

Having said all of that, I did stray from my original plan for how I wanted to participate in the comments of the Salaita thread. Given how integral the Israel/Palestine conflict was to Salaita's firing, I don't think there was a way to have that discussion without at least some talk about the underlying issue of the conflict in Gaza, which is what prompted the tweets that led to the chancellor's action. Still, I was hoping to avoid personally getting into the weeds of whether Salaita was personally an ant-Semite, but also felt that I couldn't let Joe's conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism go unchallenged. It's not like Joe doesn't have a history of levying accusations of anti-Semitism at the slightest whiff of a Jew being talked about in a less-than-positive light, and while I understand that appeals to racist sympathies can be and often are done in a dog-whistley under-the-radar kind of way, that doesn't ipso facto mean that every instance of someone saying something unkind about a Jew is an expression of anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, Joe and one or two other participants kept conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. In one case, someone responded that they couldn't talk about them as separate things because they're the same for them. Well, that's just fine, but in the real world, they are distinct entities, so if you are so blinded by your personal beliefs about what it means to be a Jew that you can't separate Israel's political actions from the religious, racial, and cultural Jewish identity, then you aren't going to be a good participant in a thread about a professor railing against Israel's political actions being labeled as an anti-Semite. People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts, and "anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism" is simply a false statement that can't be allowed to go unchallenged in a thread about a professor being fired for being critical of Israeli political actions.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:45 AM on September 8, 2014


I don't really get what the GYOB reference is about here, because my understanding is that GYOB is kind of an unofficial guideline about the content of posts, not comments, with the operating principle being that front page posts ought to be framed in such a way that minimizes the visibility of the OP's own opinion, while comments pretty much exist precisely so that people can share their opinion on the topic of the FPP. So how exactly can comments be described as "a mass of GYOB..."?

GYOB has also been used here to describe threadsitting behavior in threads.

Still, I was hoping to avoid personally getting into the weeds of whether Salaita was personally an ant-Semite

Seriously?

Among other things, Salaita tweeted: "I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing." You quoted that one in the post.
and:
"At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made of the teeth of Palestinian children, would anyone be surprised? #Gaza"

Even if you hadn't quoted his tweets, they were directly related to your post. People were going to talk about them. They were incredibly inflammatory. And yeah, I'm sorry, but no matter how many times people might try to fucking excuse it on metafilter and elsewhere, the blood libel/Protocols references are quite obviously antisemitic.
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on September 8, 2014


Has anyone here actually participated extensively in the I/P threads? The MetaFilter problem isn't partisanship, or distorting facts, or having a specific viewpoint. The MetaFilter problem isn't that these threads get fighty. The MetaFilter problem is that some users are very quick to call other mefites anti-semites. I don't understand how other things are viewed as more poisonous to discussion than that.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:33 AM on September 8, 2014


The OP under discussion was exactly like publishing a cute story on "behind the scenes at Ferguson PD, the cops are reading Zizsek!"
It would be genuinely fascinating if Ferguson PD had been incorporating Žižekian principles into their policing. I would happily read an article on such a thing, if it were real.
It would be impossible to have this discussion, though, without reference to Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, and lofting it onto the blue with an innocent air of "No, no, let's keep a narrow focus on the OP so we don't get distracted by that other thing" is naive.
posted by fatbird at 9:35 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


From what I can tell, it would be disingenuous to blame Joe in Australia, even if indirectly or unintentionally.

He uses misdirection as a debate tactic often enough in I/P threads that I've seen quite a few people including myself having to correct him. Which makes it harder to discuss the topic without stupid side derails.

I'll use something from my own history as an example. Back in 2012. The links provide full context.

Jaduncan writes: "Israel holds a lot of the cards here. Their right wing should probably stop authorising new settlements and economically crushing/periodically invading Gaza if they want moderates to have any chance whatsoever of winning out."

Joe's response: "When was the last new settlement built? Wikipedia says it was in 1999, and that was evacuated several months ago."

My response: "In the West Bank, the settlements aren't static. They're expanding. Your own wikipedia link has links to articles that give details about various official Settlement expansion plans/efforts., which show further plans have been made to build an additional 500 homes in the West Bank. It also mentions that the IDF has covertly earmarked 10% of the West Bank for further settlement. So this month, the Israeli government has begun building 1,200 new settler homes. And lest we forget, the Israeli government also offers incentives to settlers."

Is this a terrible offense? No, it's a minor incident. But imho, it can be a pain. After the same sort of rhetorical device is used a few times, the impression given is that someone is not arguing in good faith. Worse, it's not necessary to make his points. I don't agree with him on a bunch of things, but he does know the region. He does know his history. He's not arguing from ignorance!

He's undermining himself for no reason and I find that baffling.
posted by zarq at 9:50 AM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Has anyone here actually participated extensively in the I/P threads?

Yes, and I've posted a few. Most of which turned out decent discussions, not flamewars. See my history.

The MetaFilter problem isn't partisanship, or distorting facts, or having a specific viewpoint. The MetaFilter problem isn't that these threads get fighty.

These have all traditionally been very real, very serious problems in I/P threads and the metatalk threads they spawn. And yes, they're still very real, very serious problems.

The MetaFilter problem is that some users are very quick to call other mefites anti-semites.

This is also a serious problem. And yet, as a Jew, sometimes I agree with the assessment.
posted by zarq at 9:53 AM on September 8, 2014


Coming back to the conversation a bit late here, but I thought the Salaita thread, in which I participated, had an extremely good heat to light ratio. Very few people took it to be an occasion for boring axe-grinding on Israel / Palestine. It's a great example of the ability of people to choose to engage what's new rather than what's stale on a subject where you could go either way.
posted by MattD at 9:58 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or to clarify, I've agreed with the assessment that a mefite was an antisemite twice in the last ten years. One was against someone who was eventually banned for saying something antisemitic.

I don't want anyone to think it happens frequently, or that I'm keeping a mental list. It's not and I'm not.
posted by zarq at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


It would be impossible to have this discussion, though, without reference to Michael Brown and Darren Wilson

Nobody said otherwise. Irrespective of whether or not it would actually work out on Actually Existing MetaFilter, it would nonetheless be perfectly possible to discuss such an article within the context of Brown's killing, without turning it into an obnoxious fight. Even if there were a few people who insisted on defending the cops, to whatever extent "defending" would mean in this hypothetical, there could be a way to talk about the article while also dealing with the fact that some people hold views which one may find to be stupid/reprehensible/etc. The key to peace would be realizing that an article on a Žižekian Ferguson PD would flat-out not be a good place to rehash a fundamental argument about Brown's killing.

To the extent that it ties back to I/P, the ideal would be for such posts to never, ever be treated as referenda on the fundamental argument about I/P. It just doesn't work.

All that said, on Actually Existing MetaFilter, it would be pretty difficult to get people to get on board with such an idea. As soon as one person "cracks", the rancor just floods on through. It's human nature.

...

Is this a terrible offense? No, it's a minor incident.

Meh. I'm pretty unmoved by this. Given a long enough posting history, I could find similarly sloppy research from just about anyone here, including myself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:00 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Meh. I'm pretty unmoved by this. Given a long enough posting history, I could find similarly sloppy research from just about anyone here, including myself.

Fair enough. And I don't want to go trawling through his or my history to find other examples. But apparently it has happened enough times that others have noticed and are speaking up. Where there's smoke, sometimes there is fire.
posted by zarq at 10:05 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu, I can only speak to my own reaction to your FPP. I thought the post was framed ok, if making it very apparent where you, personally, stood on the issue (unless I'm missing something, every editorial you included in the FPP shared the same basic viewpoint that it was wrong for the university to revoke Salaita's job offer). Which I suppose is fine; there is no requirement that I know of here to present "both sides" of an issue when constructing an FPP, but it was pretty obvious that you weren't coming to this issue from a neutral position even before you started commenting in the thread.

When you combine that with the fact you were a very active participant in your own thread, vigorously and aggressively debating anyone who dared to see the issue at all differently than you, I can see where the GYOB feelings are coming from. It made the post feel less like the Metafilter ideal of "This is an interesting topic that I bet Mefites would be interested in discussing" and more like "THIS IS AN OUTRAGE THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE ANGRY ABOUT!".

I also wanted to touch on the final couple paragraphs of your comment regarding the topic of "conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism", which comes up just about anytime I/P issues are discussed (and I'm sure is one of the primary reasons "Metafilter doesn't do this topic well" and "I/P posts need to have a higher standard than other topics".

Obviously, I would have no credibility if I didn't acknowledge that this happens with some frequency. In your FPP, for example, I wasn't particularly happy with Joe digging in his heels and stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the context of one particular Salaita tweet which made it (obviously) far less outrageous than it would appear on the surface.

At the same time, I think it is only fair to acknowledge that as frequently as the "Being anti-Israeli government policy doesn't make you an anti-Semite" mantra is trotted out here as a defense, some people do appear to be so vociferous in their opposition to Israel and so reflexively quick to pass off any claim of anti-Semitism as the unfair accusation of Zionists trying to conflate the two issues that some people have become unable to recognize genuine anti-Semitic remarks even when they are unabashedly obvious. In addition to your Salaita post, a few of the Helen Thomas threads from the past few years would be good examples of this, where pretty blatantly heinous remarks about Jews were given the absolute most generous reading humanly possible and twisted into "Nope, just criticisms of Israeli governmental policy" by some users.

I think it is genuinely awful that some people feel like they cannot legitimately criticize Israel without feeling like they need to drape themselves in a million disclaimers to avoid being accused of anti-Semitism. That is a terrible position to be in. Having said that, I think the pendulum may have swung too far in the direction of immediately waving off any accusations of anti-Semitism as baseless and invalid. Some of the comments in these types of threads remind me of the conservatives who laugh off any suggestion that there may be some possible racial elements to criticisms of Obama as liberal hysteria and that no, they just happen to disagree with anything Obama has ever said or done, ever.
posted by The Gooch at 10:25 AM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


GYOB has also been used here to describe threadsitting behavior in threads.

Okay, I hadn't considered that, and I confess to not ever understanding the proper definition of "threadsitting", so I checked the FAQ:
Threadsitting is when a user assumes a proprietary approach to a thread and becomes the person through which all thread discussion happens.
I've posted the most comments in the thread, so by that metric, I totally see why one might think I'm threadsitting. However, a good number of my comments were of the "add new information about the FPP" variety -- not responding to a point any other commenter was making, just trying to contribute updates to the story and include analysis that I found interesting.

Take those away and I think I'm still the most prolific commenter in the thread, and while I could offer a couple of points in my defense based on qualitative rather than quantitative analysis of my contributions, I'll simply leave it up to the mods and/or other participants to tell me if they think I was living too close to the line between active participant and a take-on-all-comers threadsitter. (FWIW, I didn't get any mod warnings about it.)

Among other things, Salaita tweeted:

Could you please read what I said before you attempt this "gotcha" bullshit? I obviously wasn't going to be able to leave the I/P issue out of my post's content -- doing so would have been an exercise in futility given how Salaita's firing was tied directly to his position on Israel. What I said is that when I posted, it was my intent not to get sucked into discussing the underlying issue in the comments . I conceded above that the topic was guaranteed to come up in the comments, but was hoping I could focus my own comments on the academic freedom angle. I was merely acknowledging my own failure to stick to that plan.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:30 AM on September 8, 2014


Where there's smoke, sometimes there is fire.

Somebody with unpopular views on a contentious issue has made factual errors in the course of heated internet arguments. Okay. This information has been properly filed away. If this is "smoke", then the "fire" would be...what? That he is willfully and purposefully tootling lie-tunes from a false-flute, rejoicing with sinister laughter through the shimmering rainbows of falsehoods which spray from the fib-honking end of his mendacity-machine?

Unless there is some special present relevance of any particular incorrect factual assertion from the past, I cannot imagine ever caring about this sort of thing. I realize that I'm more or less repeating myself, but I can think of far more egregious errors made by a number of other people on this site, on a wide variety of topics, just as I am quite sure people have seen me say plenty of dumb stuff as well.

This isn't against you at all, zarq, as I get the sense that you're just generally trying to contextualize the situation, but this particular kind of special attention paid to members is not a thing which makes MetaFilter good.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:31 AM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


In one case, someone responded that they couldn't talk about them as separate things because they're the same for them.

I think you are talking about me. I feel you are mischaracterizing what I said, and our exchange. First, I said:

"I am a Jew and I am Zionist. What I am hearing from some in this thread is that I am responsible for antisemitism, either for its very existence (because my affiliation with Judaism and with Zionism is a valid reason for some people to be bigoted against Jews) or for the tolerance of antisemitism (because my beliefs/actions mean that people don't need to consider antisemitism a real problem). This frightens me. I don't feel that powerful"

Then you said:

"...even when I and many others have fucking begged folks to stop conflating Jewishness and Zionism, you've chosen to conflate them. Your affiliation with Judiaism and your affiliation with Zionism can not be "a valid reason" because they are two distinct reasons. Jewish faith, culture, or ethnicity do not entitle someone who has these things and is also a Zionist to have their explicitly political desire to have a homeland in the Land of Israel privileged above all other political beliefs, including the political beliefs of the Palestinians, and of other non-Zionist Jews."

I responded:

"I purposely adjoined them Jew and Zionist, because they are very related things for me - not by strategic plotting but in my lived experience - and my perception is that it is the combination of them in me that makes me (in other people's eyes) complicit in responsibility for antisemitism. If I were just Jewish but not Zionist, or just Zionist but not Jewish, that leap wouldn't work. "

Well, that's just fine, but in the real world, they are distinct entities, so if you are so blinded by your personal beliefs about what it means to be a Jew that you can't separate Israel's political actions from the religious, racial, and cultural Jewish identity, then you aren't going to be a good participant in a thread about a professor railing against Israel's political actions being labeled as an anti-Semite.

I hear that you feel I could not be a good participant in your thread nor in any future threads about Israel/Palestine/Zionism, etc. But, I never ever ever said that "anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism," and I don't think it is. I also don't think I conflated Judaism with Zionism. I acknowledged the multiplicity of definitions of Zionism (among Jews and non-Jews) and the existence of Jews who identify as non-Zionist, a-Zionist, post-Zionist, anti-Zionist, etc. I don't consider their Judaism to be any less valid/real/definitive of the 'essence of Judaism' than mine.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Gooch: unless I'm missing something, every editorial you included in the FPP shared the same basic viewpoint that it was wrong for the university to revoke Salaita's job offer

Cary Nelson's post that I included a very large blockquote from notwithstanding, you are correct. I did a ton of research for the post, but couldn't find any contributions from people who agreed with the firing that weren't simply restating claims already made in Nelson's piece, or making such outlandish claims that I thought including them in the post would leave me open to accusations that I was trying to make the defenders of the firing/un-hiring look like idiots. Rather than including them out of some false sense of balance, I concluded that there really wasn't enough "there" there to them to leave them in.

When you combine that with the fact you were a very active participant in your own thread, vigorously and aggressively debating anyone who dared to see the issue at all differently than you, I can see where the GYOB feelings are coming from. It made the post feel less like the Metafilter ideal of "This is an interesting topic that I bet Mefites would be interested in discussing" and more like "THIS IS AN OUTRAGE THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE ANGRY ABOUT!".

I think the core of your criticism here is fair. If not giving equal coverage to the other side of the debate in the FPP combined with active participation in the debate is seen as "GYOB" worthy, then I accept that characterization.

In addition to your Salaita post, a few of the Helen Thomas threads from the past few years would be good examples of this, where pretty blatantly heinous remarks about Jews were given the absolute most generous reading humanly possible and twisted into "Nope, just criticisms of Israeli governmental policy" by some users.

OK, maybe my lack of context is hurting me here, since I wasn't a participant in any of those threads.

Having said that, I think the pendulum may have swung too far in the direction of immediately waving off any accusations of anti-Semitism as baseless and invalid.

Do you think there are any comments in the Salaita post that fit this description, or are you still talking about things from Helen Thomas threads in the past? If this is happening now on MeFi, then it's something I think we should all be aware of.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2014


Now I feel very naive. When I looked at the deleted post linked in the OP and its old and rather famous (in academic circles at least) topic, I thought it was going to be a "Metafilter does not do this well" thread because of "lol postmodernism do you even real, I'll be Sokaling your ass" that is also a common mantra around here. And in fact it was, immediately as the very second post. But I guess I should feel some faint gladness that there are "doesn't do well" topics that basically never go beyond commonplace and cliched bickering.

Anti-semitism, however, remains the most baffling of all bigotries for me...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2014


I should perhaps add to tonycpsu's post, above, that there is a pretty clear difference between the Metafilter thread and the discussions going on in academia and in academic blogs and newspapers, in that the discussion in academia circles almost exclusively around academic freedom, standard university practices of hiring someone, and influence of donors, and not about I/P. Here's the most recent, short and simple example of what the academics are focussing on. Of course this may be good or bad, but in any case the current discussion in academia is rather unlike the discussion we're having here and the other thread.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:16 AM on September 8, 2014


Do you think there are any comments in the Salaita post that fit this description, or are you still talking about things from Helen Thomas threads in the past? If this is happening now on MeFi, then it's something I think we should all be aware of.

I really don't know how to answer this question in such a way that doesn't break the guideline of dragging the discussion from a Metafilter thread over here (since if I were to link to specific comments I'm sure I'd get some, "You're reading it wrong" pushback), but generally, yes, there were some comments in that thread that I thought gave a few of Salaita's tweets an extremely generous interpretation.
posted by The Gooch at 11:36 AM on September 8, 2014


Salamandrous: I hear that you feel I could not be a good participant in your thread nor in any future threads about Israel/Palestine/Zionism, etc.

In the context of a thread in which there were repeated attempts to characterize words critical of Israeli political actions as being anti-Semitic, you saying that your "affiliation with Judaism and with Zionism is a valid reason..." scanned to me as an attempt to continue that pattern of eliding the very real differences between the two.

Your follow-ups show that you're aware that they're distinct entities to some other people, but that's woefully insufficient when they are factually different things. It's like that old line about the headline that reads "views on the shape of the earth differ." Simply put, your article of faith does not change the definition of a word, and just as I would not be kind to, for example, an Islamic theocracy subjugating women based on their notion that doing so is intertwined with their definition of Islam, I do not think it's acceptable for someone to say that Israel's explicitly political goal of having a homeland in a specific place is something that can be thought of as part of the religion.

I mean, you can say it all you want, and if it's true for you, that's fine, but that doesn't mean I have to accept it, or stand by idly while you say that it's debatable whether a political goal can be thought of as a valid part of a religion. The routine conflation of politics and religion is perhaps the greatest threat to civilization right now, and I personally draw the line when someone says that their political belief is a religious belief, and that by extension, an attack on their political viewpoint is an attack on the religion itself. (I realize you didn't explicitly voice that second part in the thread, but others did.)
posted by tonycpsu at 11:37 AM on September 8, 2014


Take those away and I think I'm still the most prolific commenter in the thread, and while I could offer a couple of points in my defense based on qualitative rather than quantitative analysis of my contributions, I'll simply leave it up to the mods and/or other participants to tell me if they think I was living too close to the line between active participant and a take-on-all-comers threadsitter. (FWIW, I didn't get any mod warnings about it.)

I want to mention in advance that I have threadsat my own threads before, including at least one about I/P. So, respectfully and with that in mind, I do think you were close to that line. Adding additional info is always good as long as it's not too biased or inflammatory, imo. Responding defensively to people who disagree with you after creating a post that already felt pretty one-sided is possibly okay when done in moderation. But personally, I thought you were doing it rather aggressively. You made 65 comments in the post and it felt to me like you were omnipresent, especially in the beginning. MisanthropicPainforest made 43 comments and most of them seemed to be angry dismissals of what others were saying. Between the two of you, it did not feel like a thread where someone could disagree with you both, without having their comments aggressively and angrily picked apart. That's par for the course with the topic and I did think some of MP's dismissals were well deserved. But still, it did feel like a lot. So between that and what I felt was whitewashing of Salaita's tweets by others, I didn't bother to comment.

Salaita was expressing both antisemitism AND antizionism. It boggles my mind that anyone here would give him a pass for using blood libel analogies. Whether he's referencing the Jewish Prime Minister of Israel or not, blood libel is antisemitism.

Could you please read what I said before you attempt this "gotcha" bullshit?

I read it. I'm not playing "gotcha bullshit." I did not understand your point until you clarified. So, thank you for that.
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


toncpsu, it sounds like you have much more interest and much more at stake than I do in defining Judaism and Jewish beliefs. That's your prerogative. I don't think you know much about my 'articles of faith' so I will just repeat that I think you are not the most reliable narrator about this thread or other I/P threads.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's the most recent, short and simple example of what the academics are focussing on.

Many mefites are academics and many mefites that are academics were in that threat talking about I/P
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:56 AM on September 8, 2014


Salaita was expressing both antisemitism AND antizionism.

Oh come the fuck on! Since you brought it up, Netanyahu is personally responsible for the deaths of many many innocent children. Saying that he would appear on TV with body parts of the children he killed is antisemitic? Salaita said nasty things about a person who is directly responsible for a large number of innocent people being killed. Keep that in mind when you throw around accusations of antisemitism.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:59 AM on September 8, 2014


The Gooch: I really don't know how to answer this question in such a way that doesn't break the guideline of dragging the discussion from a Metafilter thread over here (since if I were to link to specific comments I'm sure I'd get some, "You're reading it wrong" pushback)

I thought that guideline was more aimed at not digging up old comments just to torch someone individually, but surely, if we're discussing the Salaita part of this MeTa we should be able to discuss specific comments in a still-open thread that are purportedly dealing with the issue in a biased manner, shouldn't we?
posted by tonycpsu at 12:02 PM on September 8, 2014


Many mefites are academics and many mefites that are academics were in that threat talking about I/P

True, probably prompted by the thread. I've been following this topic pretty closely and there is a noticeable difference. I'm not drawing any conclusions from that, just mentioning that the Boghossian piece is a typical example of what and how it's discussed in academic circles.

(And anyway, Metafilter's take on it is much more diverse and that was very good, I learned a lot.)
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:07 PM on September 8, 2014


[Reminder, folks, this thread needs to not become about the political issues. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:08 PM on September 8, 2014


I mean, you can say it all you want, and if it's true for you, that's fine, but that doesn't mean I have to accept it, or stand by idly while you say that it's debatable whether a political goal can be thought of as a valid part of a religion. The routine conflation of politics and religion is perhaps the greatest threat to civilization right now, and I personally draw the line when someone says that their political belief is a religious belief, and that by extension, an attack on their political viewpoint is an attack on the religion itself. (I realize you didn't explicitly voice that second part in the thread, but others did.)

Zionism is both a cultural and a religious movement. The three major US Jewish religious sects are very strong supporters of Israel. Many teach zionism and Israel awareness in Hebrew school. Those communities have worked hard over decades to fundraise, grow, support and promote Israel as a Jewish refuge. In the 70's, 80's and 90's they helped free Jews in Russia and other areas of the world and bring them to Israel. Religious Jews pour a great deal of money, time and effort into supporting Israel as a Jewish homeland. 'Making Aliyah' is a popular religious concept, promoted by Jewish organizations in the US.

A great deal of Jewish religious rhetoric and religious and secular culture (especially in the US) is wrapped up in the idea of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Growing up Jewish, I was immersed in an ideology that encompassed Zionist politics, religion and personal philosophy.

It's fine to argue that all of that is a negative thing. To a some extent, I agree when it comes to conflating politics and religion. I believe that religion should have no place in politics. But the reality of the situation is that for many Jews, separating them isn't so simple. Not since the Holocaust. Not since religious tradition that predates Israel's founding includes prayers that we will be able to return to worship in Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

If you're going to make a post related to Zionism or argue against it as a movement, you should at the very least understand these basic facts.
posted by zarq at 12:12 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think this was an example of a post that met the quality standard required to force the mods to (unfortunately) have to put up with the difficult comments. (Aside from being a double)

I support the idea that I/P posts should have a higher bar for acceptance in general.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:13 PM on September 8, 2014


Salamandrous: toncpsu, it sounds like you have much more interest and much more at stake than I do in defining Judaism and Jewish beliefs. That's your prerogative.

No, my only interest in the topic at all is my opposition to people using their religious beliefs to privilege one set of political beliefs above another, which history has shown ends rather poorly. You can believe whatever you want, and you can even call them your religious beliefs, but I draw the line at using that to cast critics of your political beliefs as bigots. (I also acknowledge that you insist you weren't doing this, but others certainly were even if you weren't.)
posted by tonycpsu at 12:14 PM on September 8, 2014


It's fine to argue that all of that is a negative thing. To a some extent, I agree when it comes to conflating politics and religion. I believe that religion should have no place in politics. But the reality of the situation is that for many Jews, separating them isn't so simple. Not since the Holocaust. Not since religious tradition that predates Israel's founding includes prayers that we will be able to return to worship in Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

I didn't say it was simple to disentangle them, only that it's in my mind unacceptable to use the fact that you personally conflate them to levy allegations of anti-Semitism against people who are in good faith aiming their criticisms solely at the political actors. If nobody was doing that in the thread, I would have no problem at all with someone saying "my beliefs say we must return to Israel" or even defending the specific policies of Netanyahu in the last Gaza conflict, because at least those are political beliefs expressed with (mostly) political language.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:17 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Everyone who writes publicly about Israel/Palestine knows that they will inevitably be called an anti-semite if they deviate from the APAIC party line, and aren't actually in Israel (where the publicly acceptable discourse on Israel is broader than it is in the US, ironically).

I just wish I could discuss the issue on metafilter without being called an anti-semite.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:18 PM on September 8, 2014


It certainly seems like someone here has a persecution complex...
posted by Salamandrous at 12:20 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh come the fuck on! Since you brought it up, Netanyahu is personally responsible for the deaths of many many innocent children.

This is not in question. If he had said that, it wouldn't have been blood libel.

Saying that he would appear on TV with body parts of the children he killed is antisemitic?

Emphasis mine. Yes. It damned well is. Look it up. The slur is not restricted to Jews ritually using the blood of Christian children. That's just how it started. The IDF has been falsely accused of harvesting Palestinian organs, and that was blood libel too.

Seriously, man? The teeth of Palestinian children? I'm fucking gobsmacked that anyone in their right mind would see that and think, "Hey, he's being perfectly reasonable and understandable."
posted by zarq at 12:22 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd suggest taking to MeMail if you need to continue this discussion. r_n asked already. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it's worth considering that whatever the problem is, it's even worse in MeFi threads.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:26 PM on September 8, 2014


to levy allegations of anti-Semitism against people who are in good faith aiming their criticisms solely at the political actors.

I have not done this.

I do not feel that Salaita was aiming his criticisms solely at the political actors, either.
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on September 8, 2014


OK, Jessamyn.
posted by zarq at 12:27 PM on September 8, 2014


Yes. It damned well is. Look it up. The slur is not restricted to Jews ritually using the blood of Christian children. That's just how it started. The IDF has been falsely accused of harvesting Palestinian organs, and that was blood libel too.

Oh man, I did not know this at all. I thought he just came up with a gruesome metaphor on the spot. That tweet looks completely different to me now. That's fucked up, and I had no idea...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:34 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Many mefites are academics and many mefites that are academics were in that threat talking about I/P

Yes, but many academic mefites (including myself, escabeche, and Jonathan Livengood), along with non-academic mefites and mefites of unknown academic status, also brought up NON-I/P points that were quickly subsumed by a return to the back-and-forth about antisemitism. I can't speak for anyone else in that thread, but I was a bit frustrated by the fact that other facets of the case took a back seat to the tweet interpretation debate: the legal aspects; the culture of academia wrt job offers & shared governance; the chilling effect on speech; the impact on the faculty unionization campaign; the goal & effect of the speaker boycott; the role of donors/donor pandering at UI and in academia generally; the significance of this occurring in the new American Indian Studies dept at UIUC, with all UI's history of actively demeaning Native Americans (again on account of donor pressure); the ramifications for recruitment & retention in AIS, across UIUC, and in academia generally; &c &c &c.

Like Pyrogenesis, I also enjoy MeFi's diversity and I appreciated many contributions to the I/P conversation there. I just wish we could have talked more about the other academic aspects without repeatedly falling into, and then retreading, the I/P rut.
posted by Westringia F. at 1:19 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm a tiny little beginner-academic too. Junior researcher position, yay!
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


The MetaFilter problem is that some users are very quick to call other mefites anti-semites. I don't understand how other things are viewed as more poisonous to discussion than that.
posted by MisantropicPainforest


Aren't you the person (in a now deleted comment) who accused me of calling people anti-Semitic when I used the term anti-Zionist?

In the now closed Gaza-War thread I posted a link to an Arutz Sheva story and was immediately attacked, not just on the content of the story but of my motivations and desire to 'cover-up' crimes. Same thing happened when I linked to a story about Ayatollah Khamenei tweets on Israel. I left that thread because it was made very clear that arguments against the MeFi grain wouldn't be tolerated.

I was watching the IDF-PoMo thread, and it went pretty much the way expected - people posting offensive comments without even reading the article
posted by rosswald at 8:59 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I more or less disagree with your view of I/P, rosswald, but holy cow were you treated unfairly there:

-I asked you a question. What was your motivation in posting that? What does it add to the conversation?

-You're evading the question. That only happens when people know that answering a question will lay bare their motives.


-That you're not speaks volumes about why you have posted the various things you have. Defend yourself believably and you may well change minds. Scurry away as soon as what you are saying is challenged, and conclusions will be drawn. It's up to you how you wish to be perceived

These should have been deleted at minimum. It's disappointing a mod posted in that thread just minutes later and let those stand. Maybe there were worse comments that were deleted. But what's still there, specially coming from one bully, should not have stood.
posted by spaltavian at 9:15 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Thanks spaltavian - having a third-party's opinion is helpful. I think my luck in I/P threads is just not very good.
posted by rosswald at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2014


I'm with spaltavian. That was shitty. (I didn't look at that thread until just now.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2014


The level of vitriol on display in that entire thread is vicious and terrible. Jeez. So many nasty, bad faith accusations, too. Dozens of people posted made comments that only consisted of links in that thread. rosswald, you not only did nothing wrong, but shouldn't have been called out over it.
posted by zarq at 10:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree, but should add that doesn't seem to be a result of the topic, rather, its probably a function of rosswald being randomly chosen for fffm's nonsensical daily tantrum.

I should add that cortex quickly came in and told everyone to cool it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2014


Wasn't just FFFM:
--Ayatollah Khamenei tweets 9 point spreadsheet, answering "key questions about elimination of Israel"
posted by rosswald

--So what?
posted by Grangousier

--It is kind of frustrating how comments from Israeli right-wingers, insignificant or not, are breathlessly posted in this thread (sometimes even multiple times), but a comment from the head of a huge ME regional power, the spiritual leader of one of the largest Islamic sects, talking about holding a vote to expel the vast majority of Israeli Jews gets a "so what."
posted by rosswald

--probably because this is a thread about Israel bombing Gaza.
posted by MisantropicPainforest

--Which is what the Ayatollah's tweet was addressing.
posted by rosswald
Many people in that thread were being pretty intolerant towards certain viewpoints
posted by rosswald at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2014


That's intolerance?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:55 AM on September 9, 2014


Selectively challenging comments based solely on the political orientation/message seems like bad-faith participation to me. When were other comments challenged on the worthiness of their comment ("so what") and the appropriateness of it re: the topic ("this is a thread about Israel bombing Gaza")?
posted by rosswald at 11:03 AM on September 9, 2014


Personally, the Gaza-war thread was very frustrating as commentators rallied around certain comments and basically shunned others. Was the interaction between me-and-you (MP) the worst? No - it wasn't.

But after trying to become part of the conversation several times and being consistently challenged in a way that, to me, seemed highly selective, I gave up.
posted by rosswald at 11:09 AM on September 9, 2014


That's intolerance?

In the quoted exchange, those remarks did not improve the conversation. If the goal was to critically engage with that invocation of the Ayatollah, then that goal was not achieved.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:16 AM on September 9, 2014


These challenges were something I noticed in that thread, so much so that I asked the mods about it. There was an huge amount of comment deletion, often for (what I thought were) very bad reasons.

One that stuck in my mind was a link to an incident in Sydney that was front page news for a few days. Eight "males" (juveniles so very little was reported about them) gained entry to a bus taking kids home from Jewish schools and verbally assaulted them. It was a nasty incident, and not the sort of thing that one would expect in Australia. Anyway, I linked to it in the Gaza thread, as I linked to other incidents that had been sparked by the conflict. As did other people, incidentally: there were lots of links to pro-Palestinian demonstrations and things.

Anyway, I presume someone complained about it, and when I asked the mods they said it was because it wasn't relevant. But it actually was relevant: anyone who read the article would have known that the bus invaders were shouting "Free Palestine!" That bit wasn't in the headline, and I can understand that the moderators don't have time to read every linked article ... but really. Even if I had been wrong, why complain about it? Why did someone feel that news story had to be suppressed? To my mind the answer can only be: because it inspires sympathy for the "wrong" side.

So there's two things going on here. There are apparently some users who are very vigorously trying to moderate I/P threads from the back seat, which is a problem in itself. But the other effect of this is that comment deletion implicitly "punishes" the person whose message was deleted. It's not much of a punishment, but there's a cumulative effect: the mods have said that they extend less leeway to people who attract complaints. So axe-grindy people can not only silence messages they don't like, they can also ramp up the scrutiny those posters receive. And the whole process is invisible, even to the poster - if I hadn't started tracking my deletions I would never have noticed it.

I suppose it's the invisibility that rankles the most: I can't tell if a bad deletion occurs because a moderator doesn't have time to read the link, or if a user is trying to censor and a control a debate. It hurts the discussion; it hurts the person posting the comment; and it is apparently cost-free to whoever is trying to control things. The people doing it really need to stop.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:38 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


the mods have said that they extend less leeway to people who attract complaints.

That is, I suspect, a misreading of things the mods have actually said.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:23 PM on September 9, 2014


I should add that cortex quickly came in and told everyone to cool it.

No. Two examples were listed. That only happened after one of those examples.

rosswald's Khameini comment was made on July 27th at 7:33pm. The next mod request for people to behave happened on July 29th at 9:17am from taz. More than 36 hours later. Not a single person, including yourself, who was attacking rosswald for posting a link to an entirely relevant news story had a single complaint to make against anyone else who was also posting links to relevant news stories. Noisy Pink Bubbles was flooding the thread with them.

So no, not "quickly." Everyone had plenty of time to try and silence rosswald.

rosswald was right: "It is kind of frustrating how comments from Israeli right-wingers, insignificant or not, are breathlessly posted in this thread (sometimes even multiple times), but a comment from the head of a huge ME regional power, the spiritual leader of one of the largest Islamic sects, talking about holding a vote to expel the vast majority of Israeli Jews gets a "so what.""
posted by zarq at 8:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's an example of the opposite problem: championing comments because of their political message. In that thread on the war on Gaza, on July 24th - so more than two weeks after it opened - we had this exchange:
When's the next Israeli settlement opening on land taken away from Palestinians in the illegally occupied West Bank?
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:45 PM on July 24 [+] [Flagged]

I think things are quite heated enough here without anyone trying to start a fight.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:06 PM on July 24 [1 favorite +] [Flagged]

Mister Bijou's comment is a classic, classic example of someone trying to start a fight. It has no relevance to the FPP except in the sense that everybody in the region has grievances. It's not even a real question; it's just a bit of inflammatory rhetoric. But lo, it has its defenders:
It's difficult to argue that the constant ongoing theft of Palestinian land, a process that's continued for decades throughout all of Israel's "peace" negotiations, is not directly relevant in this thread, but ok, Joe, if that's your point, let's see the argument. [...] posted by mediareport at 10:55 PM on July 24 [8 favorites +] [Flagged]

I really don't think we need this conversation at this time, or that you need me in it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:35 PM on July 24 [+] [Flagged]

I disagree with the former. There have been some pretty vile accusations of anti-semitism right in this thread.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:36 PM on July 24 [+] [!]
Why defend this sort of stuff? And for goodness' sakes, why was it allowed to stand? And how and why are those posters turning this back into "accusations of anti-Semitism are used to silence people" when nobody was being accused of being an anti-Semite?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:17 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Apropos of nothing else, I'm curious about why you flagged your own comments?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:25 PM on September 9, 2014


Because if a problem gets resolved any complaints about it are noise and should be deleted. That's the way I look at it, anyway, so I flag them in case it makes it easier on the mods.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:44 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'll sometimes respond to an iffy comment and flag both the original and my response for the same reason.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"And how and why are those posters turning this back into "accusations of anti-Semitism are used to silence people" when nobody was being accused of being an anti-Semite?"

I have to second this. What I see - including in this thread - are a not insignificant number of accusations of 'accusations of anti-semitism' that are being used to silence people.

I've only had one comment deleted in my 4 years here, and it was in the Salaita thread. Despite the fact that in that same thread I said clearly that I do not believe that all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic - and that I do not believe that it is, I was told by the mod that my comment was "explicitly defining opposition to Israel as anti-Semitism". I don't have my own comment handy (I know it referred to what it looked like another commenter was implying - that Israel should not exist anymore at all as a country, which is not a conversation that you can have without a discussion of anti-semitism - surely everyone can agree that any non-theoretical conversation about actually eliminating an existing country - an unprecedented event - would require a conversation about the ramifications, including the fact that Jews are still a persecuted minority in much of the world). It's possible I was either sloppy or misinterpreted. But I suspect it was flagged and flagged by people who really have no problem talking about "Israel should not exist and we should find ways to see that happen" and still feel that even that conversation would be tainted by the suggestion that just maybe some people who believe that - and the motivation to make it happen, and the aftermath to Jewish Israelis should it happen - could actually merit a conversation about anti-semitism. And that the mod agreed with that. And that's a problem.

There are people here who immediately flag any and all conversation about anti-semitism when it comes to Israel. And who try to stop the subject ahead of time by snarking about "and don't call me an anti-semite" when no one has. Despite the fact that anti-semitism - including violent anti-semitism - often goes hand in hand with legitimate criticism. It's like we are required to pretend it doesn't exist.
posted by Mchelly at 5:56 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Mchelly, you can ask the mod who deleted your comment for its text via memail if you would like to reference its content here.
posted by zarq at 6:02 AM on September 10, 2014


If you can't see how quotes from Israeli right-wingers are more relevant to a discussion of the Israeli bombing of Gaza than quotes from the Iranian leader, then you are ignorant of the context of the debate.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:08 AM on September 10, 2014


Mister Bijou's comment is a classic, classic example of someone trying to start a fight. It has no relevance to the FPP except in the sense that everybody in the region has grievances.


I agree that the comment was inflammatory. However, a thread about Palestinians as a group who are being oppressed and/or killed by Israelis is going to have people that try to present that situation in a wider context. The West Bank Palestinians are still Palestinians, not just another group of people with grievances.
posted by zarq at 6:10 AM on September 10, 2014


The fact remains, MP: no one should be trying to silence arguments they disagree with. This paired with defending an anti-Jewish slur is disturbing behavior.
posted by zarq at 6:14 AM on September 10, 2014


Oh FFS. Saying a link has no relevance to a metafilter thread is 'trying to silence arguments'?

Ok so we are not anti-semites we are just defenders of ones. Got it. That's progress!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:28 AM on September 10, 2014


Ok so we are not anti-semites we are just defenders of ones. Got it. That's progress!

No, not really.

I didn't call you an antisemite. Never have. I do not accuse people of that lightly. Go back and read my comments in this thread again, please. Carefully.

Neither of the two mefites I was referring to in this comment were you.

My position on this hasn't changed: the tweet is an anti-Jewish slur, and as a Jew, I found watching people vehemently defend it on this site disturbing. For all I know, they may be doing so out of ignorance. Or barring that, out of a misguided attempt to cast the professor's words in the best possible light. I do not assume mefites are antisemites unless they repeatedly make overtly, incontrovertibly antisemitic statements.

So no, not progress. This is progress.

Oh FFS. Saying a link has no relevance to a metafilter thread is 'trying to silence arguments'?

It wasn't just that one incident. I felt your overall behavior in the thread was, yes. Perhaps that's my own bias speaking, though.

I/P threads are difficult enough. You are capable of addressing what people have said instead attacking what you think they're implying. You can debate the facts at hand without dictating to people what they can and cannot discuss.

Also, relevant to my previous point about my never calling you an antisemite, you are smart enough to address what is actually being said without casting it as an attack on your character. If you have a problem with something Joe in Australia has said, then by all means, please take it up with Joe. G-d knows I have quite a few times. But please don't put his words in my mouth when I never said what you are accusing me of.

The Gaza thread could have been a lot better than it was. A conversation, rather than a bunch of people angrily ranting at each other. Instead, it was a mess. I'd like to see us do better, because we have in the past. Not all threads about I/P are awful. Some have been truly edifying.
posted by zarq at 7:47 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


MP, ever hear of All Quds Day? Did you read the quotes from Hamas and Iran saying part of their rocket arsenal was provided by Iran - for the Gaza war.

"Context" for all things is relative, but trying to wrap your bad behavior in the flag of moderation and engendering good discussion is disingenuous at best, a lie at worst. I am not trying to paint myself as a martyr, and in fact there is a comment in that thread that I made which I am not proud of, but as Zarq pointed out, that entire thread was rife with double standards. Only comments of a particular viewpoint were challenged so fiercely based on "context" or whatever made up reason.

Also, it is interesting that the mods can display deleted comments - again I railed against someone implying that the NYT was displaying a proZionist bias(I linked to a BBC article with virtually the same headline as the NYT), and you accused me of calling people anti Semitic to try and extinguish debate - something I found gross and contradicts your attempt to paint yourself as the silenced one. Even more frustrating was that my comment was deleted, but I then had to email Matt and beg to have your comment deleted as well.
posted by rosswald at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2014


From Mchelly in the Salaita thread:
At this point many, many people - including Jewish people, members of the actual group against whom anti-semitism is directed - have said in this thread and in Meta that many - not all - of these tweets are deeply, deeply offensive. And said why. At some point that should be accepted at face value. That there are some Jews who don't find it offensive is not a negation - there are plenty of Clarence Thomases out there who do not acknowledge racism when it's pointed out but does not fit with their political needs
I may be reading this wrong, and if so, I sincerely apologize, but can anyone tell me how this isn't saying that anyone who denies that the tweets are anti-Semitic is doing so out of political expediency, and not a sincere difference of opinion about whether the tweets were anti-Semitic or not?

The invocation of Clarence Thomas in particular strikes me as an appeal to attitudes about Thomas' image as a so-called "race traitor" or "Uncle Tom". I happen to not think very highly of Thomas' jurisprudence, but I would never say that his views on what is and isn't racist are ipso-facto reflections of his political ideology, rather than a sincere difference of opinion on what is and isn't racist.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2014


I may be reading this wrong, and if so, I sincerely apologize, but can anyone tell me how this isn't saying that anyone who denies that the tweets are anti-Semitic is doing so out of political expediency, and not a sincere difference of opinion about whether the tweets were anti-Semitic or not?

I won't presume to speak for Mchelly, but she's specifically referring to Jews who don't find it offensive, not "anyone."

I would never say that his views on what is and isn't racist are ipso-facto reflections of his political ideology, rather than a sincere difference of opinion on what is and isn't racist.

If his opinions are informed and forged by his political ideologies and vice versa, I'm not sure the distinction matters?
posted by zarq at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2014


That was a sloppy comparison on my part - I do not believe that anyone Jewish who doesn't agree with the assessment is doing so out of political expediency. I do believe that there are some people who do, that that is a thing that happens, and worth mentioning. Judaism is an interesting religion - it doesn't require much from people - you don't even have to believe in G-d - and as a result it can be defined in purely racial/genetic terms: someone with absolutely no knowledge or belief in or connection to Judaism in any way can still say they're Jewish if they have a Jewish parent or grandmother. And in my experience some people, who are not acting in good faith, claim membership in groups just to score points. Not all people. Not most people. To go back to racism, if a large number of a racial minority say "This is racist" and a small number say "It didn't bother me," do you trust the majority? Or do you point to the people who agree with you and use that to prove that the majority must be wrong? That's what I was trying to head off.

Because my point was - and continues to be - that arguing over whether or not Salaita's tweets were anti-Semitic in that thread is a derail from the topic of the post. You're not going to change my mind, and nothing I say will change yours. I was just trying to point out that among the people who disagree with you, there were many members of the actual minority group who feel attacked. And that continuing to make those arguments in the face of the evidence that we are giving you, sounds tone-deaf at best.
posted by Mchelly at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2014


I won't presume to speak for Mchelly, but she's specifically referring to Jews who don't find it offensive, not "anyone."

How does that make it any better? It completely assumes away the fact that a reasonable Jew could read the tweets and come to a different conclusion than she has.

If his opinions are informed and forged by his political ideologies and vice versa, I'm not sure the distinction matters?

Of course it matters. The underlying problem with the logic of attacking Clarence Thomas for "not acknowledg[ing] racism when it's pointed out" is the allegation of some kind of linkage of his own race and what his views should be on the merits of the case he's ruling on. Similarly, Mchelly precedes the invocation of Thomas with "That there are some Jews who don't find it offensive is not a negation", implying that for them to not be considered a Clarence Thomas when it comes to their Jewishness, they must have a specific view of what the tweets were saying.

Again, I want to believe this isn't the case, and that I'm missing a nuance here.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:53 AM on September 11, 2014


And in my experience some people, who are not acting in good faith, claim membership in groups just to score points.

I'm going to go ahead and file this under "keep digging", because at this point, what you seem to be doing (though I do note that you qualified it with "Not all people. Not most people.") is creating a linkage between some peoples' views on the tweets in question and how Jewish they are -- the implication being that some of the people who interpret those tweets in a different way than you do are simply "claim[ing] membership" just to score points. Why else note the existence of people who would do such a thing in this context?

To go back to racism, if a large number of a racial minority say "This is racist" and a small number say "It didn't bother me," do you trust the majority? Or do you point to the people who agree with you and use that to prove that the majority must be wrong? That's what I was trying to head off.

Setting aside that you haven't shown that a majority of Jews on MetaFilter (let alone a majority of all Jews) agree with your interpretation -- I personally would focus more on the content of the tweets, and note that one does not need to conclude "they are not anti-Semitic" or "they are anti-Semitic" -- one can also conclude that it is inconclusive.

that arguing over whether or not Salaita's tweets were anti-Semitic in that thread is a derail from the topic of the post

I agree, and as I've said, was hoping to not get dragged into the weeds on that topic but when someone asserts that they plainly and factually are anti-Semitic, I think it's fair to note that there's evidence that supports another interpretation.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2014


How does that make it any better? It completely assumes away the fact that a reasonable Jew could read the tweets and come to a different conclusion than she has.

Speaking only for myself here: I do expect Jewish-Americans to be more knowledgable about antisemitism than outsiders, simply because my personal experience being a Jew in this country tells me that's the case. They or their families probably had to deal with being a target of it at one point or another.

Personally, I'm more likely to ascribe ignorance of antisemitism to non-Jews than malice. They have never had to deal with someone asking to see where their horns are. Or have been spit on or beaten up for being Jewish. Or called a "Christ-killer." All of which sucks, by the way.

Three years ago I was referenced in thread on the Blue by someone who used the following phrase: "zarq, who wears his Jewishness on his sleeve and pops up in every Jew thread...." The comment was deleted. But it was brought back up in MetaTalk, where some folks said it was offensive. I defended the guy who said it, assuming he wasn't being malicious. There are lots of people in this country who have never met a Jewish person. They really don't know what's offensive.

But if a Jewish person had said that, I'd give have given 'em the stinkeye. :)

So yes, I expect Jews to know antisemitism when they encounter it. If they disagreed that the tweet were antisemitism, I would certainly expect a knowledgeable, factual response, not an ignorant dismissal of the possibility in favor of political expediency.
posted by zarq at 9:19 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Of course Jews speak from a position of more authority, but the fact that this leads you to question only the Jews who disagree that the tweets are anti-Semitic would seem to be indicative of a bias on your part. There is no lack in the FPP of Jews who believe that the tweet are anti-Semitic making fact-free assertions about the content of the tweets that can be very easily disproven by merely linking to them or quoting the context. You should insist on the same standards of evidence both for Jews that agree with you and those that disagree with you.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2014


You should insist on the same standards of evidence both for Jews that agree with you and those that disagree with you.

Oh, I do. Frequently.

Of course it matters. The underlying problem with the logic of attacking Clarence Thomas for "not acknowledg[ing] racism when it's pointed out" is the allegation of some kind of linkage of his own race and what his views should be on the merits of the case he's ruling on.

I honestly don't think Thomas is a great example. He seems to believe we should be attempting to move beyond racism as a society. My understanding is that he's expressing idealism but not necessarily refutation -- meaning he doesn't deny racism exists, but rather would like people to focus on how we treat the subject and each other.

I think one's experiences should inform one's views, logically. Sometimes, it's going to be difficult to separate the two.

I find it odd when people vote against their own interests. When those who are poor and living on government benefits will vote for Tea Party candidate who tells them that they should be cut off. When those in need of health care vote for Republicans who make overturning Obamacare a key part of their platform. When gay men and women who would benefit from equal civil rights vote for candidates who want them excluded from protections afforded to others.

It also baffles me when people who took full advantage of the opportunities afforded them by society then turn around and adopt a "Fuck You, I've Got Mine" attitude.

Intellectually, I get why this happens. I understand that people prioritize their beliefs, wants and needs. But the dichotomy between ideology and reality regularly surprises me. Shooting oneself and others in the foot strikes me as foolish.

Of course Jews speak from a position of more authority, but the fact that this leads you to question only the Jews who disagree that the tweets are anti-Semitic would seem to be indicative of a bias on your part.

No. I am less likely to think of other Jews as uneducated on the subject. So when I disagree with them about something, I will treat them as if they are more knowledgeable. Don't mistake that for passive acceptance of authority, please.

There is no lack in the FPP of Jews who believe they're anti-Semitic making fact-free assertions about the content of the tweets that can be very easily disproven by merely linking to them or quoting the context.

I've deliberately been talking about the blood libel tweet because I found it disquieting that people were rabidly defending it. It crossed a bright line.

I was not and am not interested in delving into the whole thread and being attacked. I'm sure I'll participate in different I/P threads in the future, where a back-and-forth conversation actually seems possible and a small group of people aren't doing their best to silence dissent with dismissive accusations and by flooding the thread with comments.
posted by zarq at 9:58 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


zarq: I find it odd when people vote against their own interests. When those who are poor and living on government benefits will vote for Tea Party candidate who tells them that they should be cut off. When those in need of health care vote for Republicans who make overturning Obamacare a key part of their platform. When gay men and women who would benefit from equal civil rights vote for candidates who want them excluded from protections afforded to others.

I used to think this way (pretty much the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" perspective), but then I realized it's just that "their own interests" aren't what we think they are. Sure, people do miscalculate and think that they'll be one of the lucky ones who gets to keep more of their money when they're rich, and therefore favor a more regressive tax code even though they're poor, but some of them simply don't put as much weight on their economic well-being as they do, say, preventing gays from marrying, or preventing pregnancies from being terminated. So, while I agree with you that people ought not vote this way, I understand why some of them do -- even if their views are repugnant to me.

It also baffles me when people who took full advantage of the opportunities afforded them by society then turn around and adopt a "Fuck You, I've Got Mine" attitude.

Let me be clear -- Clarence Thomas' views on affirmative action are wrong wrong wrong -- but I dislike the logic that somehow suggests he personally has a special reason why he should support it, that reason being that he's African-American. He should support it on the policy's merits, and it puzzles me that he doesn't, but I don't save any more scorn for him than I do John Roberts or any number of other conservatives who oppose it.

I've deliberately been talking about the blood libel tweet because I found it disquieting that people were rabidly defending it. It crossed a bright line.

It's not "the blood libel tweet." It's a tweet that invokes imagery that some have said was either intentionally or carelessly evocative of blood libel. This is a speculative statement that assumes several facts not in evidence. A further discussion of this would probably be best done over in the blue FPP, though, since anotherpanacea has asked exactly what evidence people have that Salaita was trying to invoke blood libel.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:34 AM on September 11, 2014


I found it disquieting that people were rabidly defending it.

Who defended it? As far as I know, we just said it wasn't anti-semitic.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:47 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest: Who defended it? As far as I know, we just said it wasn't anti-semitic.

Yeah, there's a lot of this going on. Trying to refute an argument that the tweets are anti-Semitic is not in any way a defense of their content. This kind of conflation was responsible for a lot of acrimony in the FPP, and though we're supposed to assume good faith, it becomes difficult when the people in the "it's anti-Semitism" camp keep doing this despite numerous requests to stop treating a different interpretation of what the tweets were saying as an endorsement of what the people in that camp think those tweets were saying.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:58 AM on September 11, 2014


To un-derail the Clarence Thomas mess, a better example would be the Native Americans who claim not to have any issue with the name "Redskins" used for a football team - they do exist, and are a substantial subset of the Native American population. That's great and all, but it's a part of a larger picture that's being deliberately marginalized and dismissed and "explained away" - many Native Americans and others are explicitly offended by the term, and find it unacceptably racist.

If Zarq, a Jew, tells me in good faith it's antisemitic, I'm going to take his word on it, I'm not going to tell him he's imagining things or that he's wrong to make the connection. It's not an ad-hominen attack, it's a well reasoned and communicated cultural insight those who aren't Jewish or anti-Semitic may not have picked up on. Just because I don't like the politics of the one sharing the insight, and do like the politics of those who used the slur doesn't mean I should give the slur a pass, or wave it away as inconsequential - even if other Jews tell me it's OK, he's just being oversensitive.

This applies to a wiiiiiiide milieu of people here. Mutual respect goes a long way.

Who defended it? As far as I know, we just said it wasn't anti-semitic.

Wow, I don't even - I mean, did you read that sentence? That's not even arguing semantics, it's just about the most disingenuous thing I've read in a long thread of disingenuity. Kind of the opposite of arguing in good faith. Where the hell can anyone even go with that?
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:05 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


Slap*Happy: To un-derail the Clarence Thomas mess, a better example would be the Native Americans who claim not to have any issue with the name "Redskins" used for a football team - they do exist, and are a substantial subset of the Native American population. That's great and all, but it's a part of a larger picture that's being deliberately marginalized and dismissed and "explained away" - many Native Americans and others are explicitly offended by the term, and find it unacceptably racist.

It's certainly not as incendiary an example, but it's still wrong, because the factual basis for the Washington Football Team's name being tied to a history of racial injustice is very clear, while the case that Steven Salaita is an anti-Semite is far less clear. Plausible, yes, but not at all black-and-white, certainly not as black-and-white as the Washington Football Team issue is.

If Zarq, a Jew, tells me in good faith it's antisemitic, I'm going to take his word on it, I'm not going to tell him he's imagining things or that he's wrong to make the connection.

zarq is just one Jew. Others have weighed in saying they don't think it was. You did choose zarq not because he was a Jew, but because you thought he made the best argument, right?

Wow, I don't even - I mean, did you read that sentence? That's not even arguing semantics, it's just about the most disingenuous thing I've read in a long thread of disingenuity. Kind of the opposite of arguing in good faith. Where the hell can anyone even go with that?

I see no actual counterargument here -- could you please make one instead of throwing the bad faith penalty flag?

How is it disingenuous to want a particular interpretation of what the tweets are saying to not be read as a defense of the content itself? If I say that I believe that the First Amendment protects skinheads from government reprisal for their views, am I defending hate speech, or even endorsing that particular view of the First Amendment? No, I'm simply telling you what I think it says.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2014


It's not "the blood libel tweet."

Yes, it is. It's a tweet that uses blood libel imagery. There is literally no interpretation of 'no one would be surprised if Netanyahu was to show up with the body parts of the non-Jewish children he's murdering strung around his neck' that isn't blood libel. I can't emphasize this enough. It's blatantly blood libel.

I didn't come to that conclusion by twisting his words around. Or manipulating his meaning. Or any sort of creative interpretation.

It's right there in the damned tweet in plain English.

This is a speculative statement that assumes several facts not in evidence.

Bullshit. The facts are clear.

A further discussion of this would probably be best done over in the blue FPP, though, since anotherpanacea has asked exactly what evidence people have that Salaita was trying to invoke blood libel.

Well, have fun storming the castle and all that.

Who defended it? As far as I know, we just said it wasn't anti-semitic.

Defending it as "not antisemitic" is enough. Arguing with people who said it was antisemitic, is enough. Declaring that the tweet couldn't possibly have been the reason Salaita was fired, or that the tweet couldn't possibly make Jewish students in his classroom uncomfortable, was enough.

----

I am tired of this, and uninterested in repeating myself a third time.

I have direct experience with antisemitism.

You might consider that before telling me that you know better than I what it looks like.

*walks away*
posted by zarq at 11:21 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


You might consider that before telling me that you know better than I what it looks like.

I said I had a different opinion, not that yours was invalid.

*walks away*

Peace.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:23 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see no actual counterargument here -- could you please make one instead of throwing the bad faith penalty flag?

No. You don't get a pass for gaslighting anymore, simple as that. I explained my position very clearly, and you chose to continue to marginalize and explain it away as nothing, or irrellevant, or that you have some Jewish friends who think it's OK and this should be a big fight over who's jewish friends are more right, ignoring the whole other part of the post explaining why that is arguing in bad faith

You're not defending anti-semitism, oh no. You're simply questioning that it exists when it's pointed out to you. That's the place you're at. Enjoy your stay.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


How is it disingenuous to want a particular interpretation of what the tweets are saying to not be read as a defense of the content itself?

Neither this nor the First Amendment analogy make any sense whatsoever.

People accused the tweets of being anti-Semitic. Others said they were not actually anti-Semitic. That is a defense of those tweets, against the charge that they are anti-Semitic.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy: You're not defending anti-semitism, oh no. You're simply questioning that it exists when it's pointed out to you. That's the place you're at. Enjoy your stay.

If you think I'm gaslighting, I can offer you no proof that I'm not, so we're at an impasse. If you think that I'm questioning that anti-Semitism exists, you simply aren't reading what I'm saying, or are so attached to the idea that it's incontrovertibly true that the tweets are anti-Semitic that you mistake my dispute of that fact as questioning that it exists at all.

Either way, I think we're well past the point of a productive interaction, so I'll step away here as well.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2014


I find it shockingly offensive that Jews on Mefi, and it appears Jews alone, are required to "prove" examples of prejudice directed against them are truly anti-Semitism and not just Jews being touchy or misinterpretation, in a way that would be completely unacceptable if the same type of comments were directed at literally any other minority group.

Tonycpsu, seriously, do you demand this same burden of proof when women on Mefi complain about mysogny and sexism? Do you jump into threads about racism to lecture African-American Mefites that they are jumping to unfounded conclusions when making claims of racism? Do you tell gay and bisexual Mefites that their claims of homophobia are "speculative"? Do you tell trans* Mefites that their claims of transphobia are "fact-free"? If not, I'm curious why you simply don't believe what several Jewish members are telling you, rather than demanding an endless, surely to be unsatisfactory to your standard, burden of evidence?

In the spirit of another thread going on at the moment, tonycpsu, I don't think you are anti-Semetic necessarily, but you are making a lot of comments here that are indistuingishable from what an anti-Semitic person would say. I am confident that if you were as dismissive of other minority groups claims of prejudice as you have been towards Jews, you would be banned.
posted by The Gooch at 12:01 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, that is another classic example of needless escalation while talking past each other trying to score points.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am confident that if you were as dismissive of other minority groups claims of prejudice as you have been towards Jews, you would be banned.

This may be the right point to step in and say, as a mod, that this is why this subject is an absolute fucking nightmare to moderate. No other topic has quite the degree of conflation with political thought, personal identity, and large-scale violence both current and historical. (I suspect South Africa, in the throes of dismantling apartheid, might have been as bad or worse, but fortunately I was a wee sprog and the internet wasn't really a thing for that.) It's not possible from a moderation standpoint to disentangle the various threads, and having people who take very strong positions on both sides of the issue as we do does not make anything simpler.

That said, one thing *everybody* could do is implement the "If I've said it twice, it's said and I need to let it go" rubric. This is not a subject people are going to have their minds changed on, by all evidence, and the only way to have civil conversations is to realize when you've hit one of those sticking points and walk the fuck away. I know it's frustrating, especially when you feel someone is attacking you personally (either by saying things you perceive to be anti-Semitic or by accusing you of anti-Semitism) but there is zero to gain from restating your point over and over and over again.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:31 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


sprog
posted by rosswald at 12:36 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


After reading Zarq's comment and links about blood libel I agree that the link about the teeth of Palestinian children is an anti-semitic text. That doesn't get into the major issues of whether or not Salaita should have been fired/academic freedom - nor does it point to me that Salaita is anti-semitic - he may have been so frustrated with the situation (I'm not even getting into the I/P sides) but that tweet is completely offensive. I read R_Ns comment and do see that this thread has run it's course but wanted to voice my agreement with those who do see the tweet as antisemitic.
posted by biggreenplant at 2:58 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


That said, one thing *everybody* could do is implement the "If I've said it twice, it's said and I need to let it go" rubric. This is not a subject people are going to have their minds changed on, by all evidence, and the only way to have civil conversations is to realize when you've hit one of those sticking points and walk the fuck away. I know it's frustrating, especially when you feel someone is attacking you personally (either by saying things you perceive to be anti-Semitic or by accusing you of anti-Semitism) but there is zero to gain from restating your point over and over and over again.

This isn't a "sticking point," restless_nomad. It's a defense of hate speech. The Gooch is right. If the subject had been women or any other minority, anyone acting this way and then playing transparent linguistic games about whether they were doing so would be spoken to by the mods, and then, if they continued such behavior would be rightfully given a time out or banned outright.

Been here 10 years. Never seen anything like this. The official Mod word on this subject is that the very people qualified to recognize hate speech against their kind are being told they should give up, shut up and walk away.
posted by zarq at 1:44 PM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


I haven't followed this whole discussion comment-by-comment so I might be missing something, but my impression of it has been that it's a debate over whether Salaita's tweets were anti-semitic. (And (IMO) there's an obvious case that they were, and a slimmer case on the other side where at least I can see what the larger context is supposed to be that one could interpret as more anti-Zionist than anti-semitic.) The discussion over whether the tweets were anti-semitic was relevant to the original thread, and I don't see how we could have curtailed that by insisting that one side not talk.

By now there has been a very lengthy debate in the original thread and then over again in here, with the case made in very vivid terms about why the tweets were anti-semitic. At this point it doesn't seem like the sides are closer to mutual understanding. People on both sides are very dug-in and the issues have all been aired, it seems like. Now it's just a continuing exchange of bad feelings between the same few very very dug-in people. That's how I take r_n's comment; this is getting nowhere and the dug-in people need to take a step back and accept that even being right doesn't mean you need to go around a hundred more times. The objections have been made, people can read this thread and the other and see for themselves who's credible and what they think.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:15 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


LM, it would be helpful if you had read both threads, comment by comment. Because you are indeed not understanding the problem, yet still weighing in with your "mod hat" on.

The issue is not whether a tweet or multiple tweets were antisemitic. There is no question of it because one of them was clearly blood libel. I've explained why. I've provided links to help educate people who aren't familiar with the blood libel slur, so they can learn about it.

And yet, we still have mefites defending them. Apparently they disagree that the example given is antisemitic, blood libel or hate speech. In that thread and this one. And playing ridiculous word games about whether their defense is actually a defense.

Why the hell is this being allowed? Since when do we need mass agreement that something is offensive in order for the mods to say something? Not one person on the mod team has told them that this is wrong. That defending hate speech and/or antisemitism is not tolerated here. Everyone here is being treated as if they are equally at fault. We are not.

Had they been defending a slur against women or African Americans, or any other minority, would this have been the case? Especially if multiple members of said group said, "HEY, I AGREE THAT'S OFFENSIVE AND HERE'S WHY...."? You and I both know the answer would have been no, and rightfully so.

This is not an external issue. It is an internal issue. Do you need a consensus of every Jew on Metafilter to weigh in and say whether they believe, "THIS IS OFFENSIVE" or not before that complaint is recognized? Do I have to start memailing Jews on Mefi to also ask them to speak up in this thread, so we can reach a threshold complaint level and someone on the mod team will bother to listen?
posted by zarq at 2:45 PM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am the person on duty right now, so I'm the one you get. (Although I'll be off duty shortly and you'll get someone else then.)

As far as I can tell your summary of the dialectical situation matches mine exactly. (Although if there's some particular comment/s that you think are the crux of the problem please say which ones.) There were these tweets, there's a debate over whether they're strictly speaking anti-semitic or whether there's any construction under which they can be interpreted as not anti-semitic despite having some obviously pretty nasty stuff in them. There have been extremely detailed explanations given on both sides of this debate. Including explaining why the tweets seem to be anti-semitic. So the idea that they're anti-semitic or hate speech has been propounded at length here.

I'm not sure what you are even asking for mods to do here. In discussions of sexist statements made in the media, the mods here don't step in to say "yes that was sexist" - instead members discuss it and may disagree (and some may be flat out wrong) and the mods try to keep the discussion from going off the rails. This is how moderation works here. If you're saying that the content of the tweets shouldn't be allowed to be re-printed on Mefi even for the sake of discussion (?), I think that's not a workable solution. We discuss stuff like this here and need to be able to talk about the stuff being said. This has been true in past discussions of racial slurs used in the media, for example.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:59 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


What kind of action are you asking for, zarq? Are there comments you specifically want deleted? (That is, as you surely understand, rather too late for most of them.) Do you want official word from on high that one thing or another is generally deletable? That's probably possible, although the nature of I/P threads means that without a mod literally camping the thread and reading each one as its posted, we're not going to get to anything in time to delete it because the response is so fast and overwhelming. LM above explains the complexities of that quite well.

This subject is a noise machine, from my position. Nearly every statement made is made in the strongest possible terms, and I don't personally know enough on the subject to parse them fast enough to sort through them. And I'm probably the mod with the biggest personal stake in the subject - I am Jewish, and have Israeli family. If it were a topic in which it were even possible for people to flag and move on, it wouldn't be this big a goddamned headache, but that's not the case, and so we're left trying to manage a subject in which every single participant feels personally attacked in the vilest possible terms. If you want mod intervention, please be more specific, and please understand that involving *us* means that *you* are going to have your options restricted, because you can't both wade into the fight and have us refereeing.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:00 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Had they been defending a slur against women or African Americans, or any other minority, would this have been the case? Especially if multiple members of said group said, "HEY, I AGREE THAT'S OFFENSIVE AND HERE'S WHY...."? You and I both know the answer would have been no, and rightfully so.

I don't see this policy of "Delete discussion of slurs" that you're seeing, zarq. For instance, virtually any thread on trans issues (up until recently, and even now many of them) will have sections of "That's an offensive way of speaking about the subject of the post" and "No it's not because reasons" until finally the mods say something like "Okay, let's drop it and move on." But the issue there is clearly "We're dozens of comments into this, and no one is changing their mind; let's stop wasting the electrons" rather than "You on the side of defending the slur are wrong so stop."
posted by Etrigan at 3:32 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what you are even asking for mods to do here. In discussions of sexist statements made in the media, the mods here don't step in to say "yes that was sexist" - instead members discuss it and may disagree (and some may be flat out wrong) and the mods try to keep the discussion from going off the rails.

If a group of mefites say something is an offensive sexist slur, and a couple of other mefites defend that sexist slur to the point of responding strongly to every single person in the thread who complains, would Team Mod tell everyone to stop arguing? No. You would tell the people who are taking on all comers and stirring up the rest of the thread with inflammatory arguments to cut it out.

If Salaita had used the "N" word against an African American, and African Americans in that thread were saying, "Dude's a racist" no one would tolerate mefites declaring him 'not racist' by arguing the "N" word isn't offensive. That is essentially what has happened here.

What kind of action are you asking for, zarq? Are there comments you specifically want deleted? (That is, as you surely understand, rather too late for most of them.) Do you want official word from on high that one thing or another is generally deletable?

I would like you to tell MisantropicPainforest and tonycpsu to cut it out. Publicly. Tell them them to stop announcing that something which multiple mefites have said is offensive is not offensive, and we don't have a legitimate reason to be offended. To stop disrespectfully discounting the opinions of Jews they disagree with regarding whether what is being discussed is a slur against Jews. Something which they apparently have no direct experience with.

I'm not asking you to delete comments. I'm not even asking them to walk back their statements. But for G-d's sake, when you tell everyone to cool it without acknowledging that the people they are insulting are genuinely right to be offended and speak up about it, you treating the people being slurred against as if we are equally at fault.
posted by zarq at 3:37 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't see this policy of "Delete discussion of slurs" that you're seeing, zarq.

I have not asked for comments to be deleted. That was a wrong assumption by LM and RN.
posted by zarq at 3:41 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't see this policy of "Delete discussion of slurs" that you're seeing, zarq.

I have not asked for comments to be deleted. That was a wrong assumption by LM and RN.


Allow me to amend/add: I don't see any policy of "Smack down discussion of slurs" either. As I noted, mod intervention seems to come only when the discussion has been bogged down by endless repetitions of "It's offensive!" "No it's not!" "Yes it is!" "No it isn't!"
posted by Etrigan at 3:43 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


without acknowledging that the people they are insulting are genuinely right to be offended and speak up about it

That is your right as a person. It's not your right as a Metafilter commenter. The pattern LM and I are both talking about is that of people who are offended and prefer to speak up about it than have the conversation moderated. There isn't much we can do about that. Of course you have the right to be offended, but you don't get to argue with the person and then have the Voice of Mod come in behind you and tell everyone that you've officially won.

If you think a line of discussion is offensive, or that one person's behavior is inappropriate, you (the general you) need to flag it, ignore it, and have whatever conversation you want to around it. If the community collectively seems to want to persuade the person from their views, we don't have much choice but to allow that or delete the thread. And the latter is basically the choice we usually make for I/P threads, because no one ends up persuaded and everyone ends up angry.

This is just as true in racism threads, or sexism threads, or trans threads, or whatever, but in those threads the community has collectively decided to flag the hell out of certain levels of offensiveness and let us handle them. The community has not decided that on this subject, and we can't make them. I wish we could.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:51 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: Wolfdreams01 was banned for making transphobic comments. ferdinand.bardamu was banned for making racist comments. I'm not calling for anyone to be banned. I am not calling for comments to be deleted. But the mods do address hate speech when it arises.

I am asking the mods to tell two people who have taken it upon themselves to defend anti-Jewish slurs that that's not acceptable behaviour. At best, it's alienating as hell.
posted by zarq at 3:52 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


But the mods do address hate speech when it arises.

Hate speech directed at users by users, yes. But the discussion that you're referring to is about a professor tweeting about Benjamin Netanyahu, neither of whom is a member of this site to the best of my knowledge. I keep using the construction "discussion of slurs" for this reason -- to differentiate between (to pick an example entirely at random) A) "Look, you filthy gypsy" and B) "Here's some gypsy music." "I find that word offensive." "Too bad, it's linguistically correct."
posted by Etrigan at 3:57 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: Hate speech directed at users by users, yes.

Neither Wolddreams01 nor ferdinand.bardamu were banned for hate speech against mefites. They were banned because they said things that were simply not tolerable.
posted by zarq at 4:01 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


restless_nomad: Of course you have the right to be offended, but you don't get to argue with the person and then have the Voice of Mod come in behind you and tell everyone that you've officially won.

Would you please listen to what I am actually asking for rather than making wrong-headed assumptions about my motives?

You keep repeating that this was an I/P thread. That no one could possibly find consensus. Except, what I am asking for is not fundamentally an I/P issue. It is not about consensus on Israel or Palestine. Nor is this about whether a given thread is contentious or difficult to moderate.

I am asking you to please tell those defending antisemitism on Metafilter to stop. And for Team Mod to not create false equivalences between those who are offended and those who are offending when you enforce thread guidelines.
posted by zarq at 4:08 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: But the discussion that you're referring to is about a professor tweeting about Benjamin Netanyahu, neither of whom is a member of this site to the best of my knowledge. I keep using the construction "discussion of slurs" for this reason -- to differentiate between (to pick an example entirely at random) A) "Look, you filthy gypsy" and B) "Here's some gypsy music." "I find that word offensive." "Too bad, it's linguistically correct."

As I said above, I am addressing the behavior of mefites here, towards each other within that conversation.

I have said this repeatedly.
posted by zarq at 4:19 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ok, sure. Don't defend anti-Semitism, folks! There, does that help?

Of course it doesn't. It doesn't, because this is a moderation problem. As such, I am telling you what tools we have and how we can use them. I am telling you that, currently, the tools we have are not being called for, and therefore making a blanket declaration isn't going to help. It's not me, or LM, or cortex, or Matt you need to convince, here. You need to convince the community, or that fraction of it that can stand to read these threads, that certain specific things are unambiguously anti-Semitic and should be flagged and deleted rather than responded to.

It's not an impossible task. The trans members of the site did it very effectively, and we've come a long way on that subject in the past year and a half or so. I don't think it's going to be as simple on this subject, because it's just too contentious an issue, and nothing we've done so far in the site's existence has convinced people to make use of the moderators rather than just bellow at one another - and yes, this is 100% a "both sides" issue - and so these threads are, at best, only almost unmoddable.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:30 PM on September 12, 2014


I would like you to tell MisantropicPainforest and tonycpsu to cut it out. Publicly. Tell them them to stop announcing that something which multiple mefites have said is offensive is not offensive, and we don't have a legitimate reason to be offended.

Excuse me? Care to point out where I said that what Salaita said wasn't offensive? Or where toncpus you said what Salaita said wasn't offensive? Please, show your work if you are going make up shit. I'll gladly eat my words if proven wrong.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:32 PM on September 12, 2014


Ok, sure. Don't defend anti-Semitism, folks! There, does that help?

*sigh*

How disappointing.
posted by zarq at 4:42 PM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest, you are moving the goalposts. The complaint is that you and tonycpsu told a number of Jewish members of the site that a comment we took as unambiguously anti-Semitic was not anti-Semetic. (Who defended it? As far as I know, we just said it wasn't anti-semitic.). Can you see how that could be taken as offensive to a Jewish member of the site? This is like me, a white guy, trying to lecture an African-American member of the site that he or she was wrong to take the Donald Sterling tapes as racist and then hiding behind, "Oh, I'm not saying it wasn't offensive, but it WAS NOT racist". As if I could possibly have a better gauge on the topic than someone directly affected by the comments.
posted by The Gooch at 4:59 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ok, I see zarq did use the word "offensive" which was the wrong choice of specific word to use in this case. But if you look at the content of the last 20-30 comments or so my point still stands.
posted by The Gooch at 5:08 PM on September 12, 2014


On a meta-MeTa level, zarq -- if you're so enraged that you find yourself splitting other people's paragraphs into separate replies, it might be time to take a break.

But the discussion that you're referring to is about a professor tweeting about Benjamin Netanyahu, neither of whom is a member of this site to the best of my knowledge. I keep using the construction "discussion of slurs" for this reason -- to differentiate between (to pick an example entirely at random) A) "Look, you filthy gypsy" and B) "Here's some gypsy music." "I find that word offensive." "Too bad, it's linguistically correct."

As I said above, I am addressing the behavior of mefites here, towards each other within that conversation.


Yes, that would be my example B. Which is different from example A. It is also an example of things that the mods have historically not clamped down on. And as a person who's been in your exact shoes (go ahead, check out my not-actually-random example, which I notice you participated in briefly), I am okay with them not clamping down on it. Instead, the community had a discussion, and some people appeared to consider my point and reject it. That is okay. Sometimes a community disappoints individual members. I would have been fucking aghast if the mods had come down and said "Etrigan is right -- we are disallowing that word on MetaFilter forever more, and you people who are defending it are assholes and must stop."
posted by Etrigan at 5:25 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is like me, a white guy, trying to lecture an African-American member of the site that he or she was wrong to take the Donald Sterling tapes as racist and then hiding behind, "Oh, I'm not saying it wasn't offensive, but it WAS NOT racist".

No its fucking not, because I never lectured anyone and said that they were wrong to take Salaita's comments as racist. I don't think they are racist. You may.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:59 PM on September 12, 2014


No its fucking not, because I never lectured anyone and said that they were wrong to take Salaita's comments as racist. I don't think they are racist. You may.

Oh come the fuck on! Since you brought it up, Netanyahu is personally responsible for the deaths of many many innocent children. Saying that he would appear on TV with body parts of the children he killed is antisemitic? Salaita said nasty things about a person who is directly responsible for a large number of innocent people being killed. Keep that in mind when you throw around accusations of antisemitism.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:59 AM on September 8 [+] [!]

posted by The Gooch at 6:10 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Personally I think we are all splitting a very fine hair here. I find Salaita's statement offensive, but navigating the language between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism can be difficult - especially when using inflammatory rhetoric. I doubt Salaita's intent was to be overtly anti-Semitic, but he certainly meant to be provocative and the sum of his tweets can be seen as anti-Semitic through the lens of the language of anti-Semitism, its history, its tropes.

Lord knows I have made particularly loaded statements about various world leaders (Bush and Cheney included), and its possible Salaita just meant to be provocative with no anti-Semitic intent conscious or otherwise - personally I am doubtful. Still, I have to admit it really is right on the line of anti-Semitism and I can't fault those who agree with the emotion of his statement, though his wording is obviously fraught.

I believe in 'free-speech' as a principle and in our universities, but when using a widespread social-media platform to post your "charged" thoughts on real people, countries, and ideologies there is a risk of offending people - racist or not.
posted by rosswald at 6:38 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


well said rosswald
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:46 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Since I walked away from this MeTa a few days ago, I've done some thinking about my participation in it, and because I've clearly been a part of the problem here, let me now try to be a part of the solution.

It is of course not my place to tell a Jew how to feel about the contents of a set of tweets. I did no such thing, and would never do such a thing. Of course, I can (and will!) offer my own perspective, but with the understanding that someone's lived experience trumps my understanding as an outsider. I've already said upthread that Jews speak from a position of more authority, and to put a finer point on that: all other things being equal, a Jew is in a far better position to assess whether something is anti-Semitic than I am.

This should all go without saying, but because I've been accused of somehow not being sensitive to what the people most affected by anti-Semitism think, or substituting my judgement for theirs, I figured I'd try to cover all of my bases by being explicit here.

(Are we good so far? I hope so, because here comes the "however.")

However... In the blue FPP, there were several instances where people asserted that particular tweets were anti-Semitic without looking at the surrounding context, and when presented with that context, made (in my view) very flawed arguments that this additional context wasn't enough to cast any doubt whatsoever on the idea that the tweets were anti-Semitic. (The tweet that has been called into question the most in this MeTa was not among the ones that were being discussed during this part of the discussion, though it had come up earlier in that thread.)

With what I saw as a rush to judgement on some other tweets happening in the other thread, I then saw the Netanyahu/children's teeth tweet being talked about in this MeTa as if it was an unassailable fact that Salaita was intending to draw a comparison to the blood libel myth. Of course I understand the case for that interpretation, but against the backdrop of several other tweets taken out of context that initially looked damning, I felt it was important to not take it as a given that he was referring to something that wasn't explicitly in the content of the tweet in question.

Having said that, I concede that the case for this tweet being intentionally written to invoke the specter of blood libel is far stronger than the case against the other tweets, and that at the very least, Salaita, as someone who knows the region's history well, should have been sensitive toward the fact that reasonable people would read it that way. Even if he simply intended to, say, compare Netanyahu's killing of innocent Palestinians to the imagery of a brutal warlord collecting trophies from his victims (still obviously inflammatory, though not explicitly anti-Semitic) the history of the blood libel myth (which he is of course aware of) is offensive enough that he should have taken great care to avoid making a comparison that could be read that way.

Which is not to say that I find zarq's assessment of me as "defending hate speech" as a fair one, for reasons Etrigan outlines above. Additionally, I feel that the "N" word comparison is certainly inapt, and with something like this, I think such analogies are unhelpful. Even if it was a reference to blood libel, it was an implicit one, and there are enough confounding variables that it was questionable (to me) that this was his intent at all. But, again, I now recognize that his intent isn't as important as the message that's been received, and that is a message with anti-Semitic overtones, and I also realize that if you apply Occam's Razor, it's hard to imagine he had no idea it would be read that way.

This has been by far the most difficult interaction I've had as a MeFi-ite, not only because I consider zarq to be among the most thoughtful and valuable members of the community, but because the allegation that I'm defending racist speech is one that cuts deep. I knew when I decided to go beyond defending Salaita on academic freedom grounds by responding to allegations about the content of the tweets that I was going to be tiptoeing along the line between defending his right to say inflammatory things and defending content that many people have construed as hateful, and I clearly did not do a good job of making my case in a way that made it clear I wasn't doing the latter.

I sincerely apologize for my role in escalating tensions here, and promise to pay more attention to how my arguments will be read by people with a different perspective and a more personal stake when it comes to defending against hateful speech.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:32 AM on September 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


> How disappointing.

Dammit, zarq, I hope you come back.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:50 PM on September 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


He usually does, just takes breaks when a thread is upsetting to him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


It doesn't help when a mod takes a particularly snotty and dickhole tone like that. I get the mod resources are stretched these days, but if you're learning towards a response like that, consider taking a break, mods. Sheesh.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:50 PM on September 25, 2014


« Older 96: The Great Flip-Offening   |   Help me find that comment about parenting done... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments