You sound just like a _____! September 8, 2014 4:29 PM   Subscribe

There is currently a practice across Metafilter, especially within Metafilter proper (the Blue) and Metatalk (the Grey) of making personal attacks against other users that I feel undermines the community aspect of the site. The attacks I am concerned with most often take the form of ugly insinuations that the user is deliberately derailing, trolling or using common tactics which are allegedly known to be popular with (in alphabetical order, thee could be more, these are all I could think of when I set about making this thread):
  • Anti-Semites
  • Bigots
  • Conservatives
  • Misogynists
  • MRAs
  • PUAs
  • Racists
  • Redditors (specifically, usually The Red Pill subreddit)
  • TERFs
  • Transmisogonists

In Metafitler threads, these insinuations already skirt the edges of the guidelines governing the site, and so do not usually go further than that, though the insinuations themselves are often enough to cast a member of the site in the worst possible light. [Note: Though there is a common adage that saying someone is guilty of racism or sexism is not the same as saying that person is a racist or sexist, there is indisputably a negative connotation to a user being accused of racist or sexist behavior in a thread, and that connotation exists even if/when that accusation is unfounded.]
In Metatalk, the greater leeway for commenting allows users to make accusations even more openly and we have heated exchanges where a user is defending himself/herself while other users chime in to give their opinions and share their own biases for/against the accusations being made as a result. There’s also the problem that these accusations often come within longboat Metatalk threads ostensibly about other issues. So the member in question may not even be participating in the thread when this talk is going on, or be unprepared to defend himself/herself because the accusation was unexpected.

Technically, it is already against the guidelines to attack someone personally on Metafilter, and on Metatalk one is expected to start a thread specifically about the other user rather than comment in an existing thread.

In practice, though, while sometimes users in some threads are advised to start a new Metatalk thread about a “problem” user, or take the issue to Mefi mail, just as often the personal attacks are allowed to stand, and moderation can be anywhere from non-existent to laissez faire to diligent. Users and mods may delete why that discrepancy exists, but that is the way these situations play out historically. This has the result, which may be intended, of intimidating the accused into leaving the thread or the site altogether.

The mods are overworked and overwhelmed as it is, and I don't blame them for wanting less drama on the site. Even telling other users to take their grievances to Mefimail in cases like this, though, given that several Mefites indicated in a previous Metatalk that they have received Mefimail that felt like harassment in the past, does not seem like the ideal solution to the problem. And, again, the Metafilter policy is technically against harassment of other members, but what constitutes harassment is also open to interpretation and we do not have an official policy laying out precisely what constitutes actionable harassment as far as I know.

Opting out of Mefimail is one avenue, but that seems to put the onus for dealing with ugly accusations with the accused (in effect, blaming the victim) rather than on the accuser to, to put it bluntly, shut up or prove their case.

It is my personal feeling that every user who has ponied up that $5 (or slipped in during free sign-ups!) should feel comfortable interacting with all aspects of the site, and not have to make special accommodations to avoid users who are breaking the guidelines, anyway.

Whew. Okay, after that long wall of text, the obvious question is, "If this is really a site problem, what do we do about it?"

My proposed action would be that all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default. If users sincerely believe that someone is attempting to troll, is a member of hate group, or is engaging in behavior that is against the site guidelines, those users should be willing to name the person in question and make a case on Metatalk to support that position. That puts the onus on them, where I feel it belongs.

This solution goes along with the already accepted practices of deleting threadshitting comments from the beginning of threads, or automatically deleting comments which consist of nothing more than crying “fake”.

But, that's just my solution, and I am open to any suggestions about dealing with this specific problem and maybe you all can come up with better ones.

Please help keep this discussion productive by not focusing on how you may feel about me personally. I put a lot of thought and effort into composing this post, and my goal in posting this is not to point fingers at anyone but to help make the site more welcoming and inclusive for ALL of us. Thanks, everybody!
posted by misha to Etiquette/Policy at 4:29 PM (1297 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

My proposed action would be that all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default.

I disagree, mainly because it's sometimes helpful to stop someone and say "hey this part in your comment where you said this thing? That sounds kind of racist/anti-semitic/etc" to get them to rethink or make sure they explained what they meant. I've been called several things on your list and it's been a learning experience for me personally. Instant deletions for even inferring something like that seem a recipe for disaster.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:33 PM on September 8, 2014 [111 favorites]


There's a lot of post here, but I want to address a couple specific things up front specifically regarding mefimail stuff because I feel like you've sketched out a pretty incomplete picture there.

Even telling other users to take their grievances to Mefimail in cases like this, though, given that several Mefites indicated in a previous Metatalk that they have received Mefimail that felt like harassment in the past, does not seem like the ideal solution to the problem.

If folks are receiving what they feel like is harassing mefimail, what they need to do is let us know about it, ideally right when it happens or shortly thereafter; we can go from there, work with them to look at what was sent if they're willing to forward it and look at history of the sender's interactions on the site and proceed accordingly. We can't do anything about the stuff we don't hear about, which ends up being frustrating for all involved if it comes up after the fact.

No one is required to take something to mefimail, or to keep talking to someone they don't want to talk to. It's basically always a suggestion to take something out of a thread, not an actual order to continue it. It just needs to continue, if it's going to, elsewhere, and mefimail is the nearest elsewhere for two people on the site having a conversation that doesn't need to be public.

Opting out of Mefimail is one avenue, but that seems to put the onus for dealing with ugly accusations with the accused

Block the specific user is a much more directed approach and is what we general recommend. Opting out of mefimail is a much more blunt tool and not really the solution for any problem other than "I don't want to get any mefimail from anyone". Which someone is welcome to make as a choice, but it's not the standard suggestion.

Again, folks letting us know via the contact form about mefimail or other offband communications they're uncomfortable with or feel are harassing is always okay and is generally the best way to followup with that sort of thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:36 PM on September 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


I agree with mathowie (which I only just this moment noticed could be pronounced "math-owie," which was my experience from trig through calculus). It is a learning moment to be told that something you have said sounds not-so-great, and there are times it is worth mentioning that the things someone is saying fit within a not-great pattern.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:39 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Then it seems as if the tension is where the line is drawn between "hey, you're coming across as ___-ist and you might want to examine your behavior here" and "we all know that you're engaging in typical ____-ist bullshit with that kind of argument," which is really not as great, maybe.

It could be the answer that even the latter kind of statement is the kind of thing that leads people to careful self-reflection, but I kind of think that it isn't.

But, I'm not a fan of deleting those kinds of statements anyway because when people engage in bullshitty behavior it's okay to call it out as whatever kind of bullshitty behavior that it is.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:44 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I solve this issue by realizing that my statements are correct (or incorrect) regardless of whether others think I am *ist. It's easier that way.
posted by saeculorum at 4:46 PM on September 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


the insinuations themselves are often enough to cast a member of the site in the worst possible light

I disagree with this. For one thing, I very very rarely (if ever!) see someone accuse someone else of saying something problematic without cause. And second, even if someone did make a shitty accusation, that's not going to taint my view of the accused. If X makes an unfounded comment about Y, I think less of X, but I don't think less of Y.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:47 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


My proposed action would be that all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default.

And I agree with Matt's comment above about this. Instituting an iron-clad rule for this seems like a poor approach to the problem; people can certainly make comments within that definition that are problematic or deletable, but that doesn't make all comments that meet that definition inherently problematic or deletable, setting aside even the subjectivity involved in identifying whether a given comment meets the definition. Broad "if X, then always Y" rules are basically anathema to the way the site functions.

I think more practical is to focus on the stuff that's actively egregious or is specifically escalating or overly aggressive in context; "this comment in particular is a problem because [specific content and circumstances]..." is a more useful starting point for us to take action on than "this comment is a problem because [policy litmus test]".

Personally choosing to flag stuff you find problematic is generally fine in any case, but one of the realities of this place is that people don't necessarily agree on what's flaggable; we see some users who flag a lot of stuff that no one else is flagging, and with as many eyes as there are on the site that usually means the individual user is expecting something different from the site than the bulk of the userbase rather than that that user's the only person who read the comments in question.

Where flagging feels like it's not getting a result someone's hoping for, they can write to us at the contact form or broach it in Metatalk to explain the situation in more detail, but again there's always the issue that preferences and tolerances are enough of a personal and subjective deal that the answer to a more detailed presentation of the problem is gonna still be "no, not really actionable" just like a flag was.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:51 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


[Note: Though there is a common adage that saying someone is guilty of racism or sexism is not the same as saying that person is a racist or sexist, there is indisputably a negative connotation to a user being accused of racist or sexist behavior in a thread, and that connotation exists even if/when that accusation is unfounded.]

I hope to god if I say something racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted there will be people in this community to tell me I have done so. I recently re-read a thread from 2007 and mother of fuck even that short time ago certain aspects of commenting are hard to look at now. That's not the site today in part because people are brave and considerate enough to call out bigoted behavior, and the people saying such things are mature enough to listen and learn. And this community absolutely is big enough to do that. Silencing criticism of each others' behavior because of fears of not saving enough face is how we become morally stagnant a d entrenched in whatever imperfect moral territory we are at the moment. We all benefit when shitty behavior is called out in a productive manner, and the vocabulary of that is necessarily going to be unpleasant to some.
posted by griphus at 5:12 PM on September 8, 2014 [128 favorites]


And just to be clear, in my tenure here I have absolutely said gross things and been called out (whether personally or as part of a group) and learned why the things I said hurt people even if I never had the intention of doing so. I'm a better person for it even if I may have been fuming when it happened and even if some people here thought less of me for it.
posted by griphus at 5:15 PM on September 8, 2014 [43 favorites]


Comments along the lines of "what you said sounds racist/sexist/antisemitic/etc." can create all kinds of strong emotions, but I think they're acceptable because either 1) they're on the mark, or 2) they're off the mark and other people refute them.

What I would like to see go away is the slimier "that's a common tactic of racists/sexists/antisemites/etc." I usually see this used against someone who hasn't actually said anything racist/sexist/antisemitic/etc., but they are disagreeing with a commenter and the commenter wants to paint them with that brush anyway. There are times when people say racist, sexist, antisemitic, etc., things, and use common tactics. When that happens, people don't bring use the "that's a common tactic" counter. Instead, they attack the sexism/racism/antisemitism/etc. So "that's a common tactic" pretty much exclusively shows up when people haven't actually said any of the stuff they're getting tarred for.
posted by Bugbread at 5:25 PM on September 8, 2014 [18 favorites]


In fact, rereading misha's original post, I think that's exactly what's she's talking about.
posted by Bugbread at 5:32 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


misha: Technically, it is already against the guidelines to attack someone personally on Metafilter...

My proposed action would be that all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default. If users sincerely believe that someone is attempting to troll, is a member of hate group, or is engaging in behavior that is against the site guidelines, those users should be willing to name the person in question and make a case on Metatalk to support that position. That puts the onus on them, where I feel it belongs.

Metatalk guidelines against attacking someone personally on Metafilter are specific. "Members are expected to respect each other's privacy in certain basic ways. Members' profile page information is not visible to search engines and should not be brought over to the rest of MetaFilter. Similarly, copying and pasting MefiMail to any other part of the site without the writer's permission is a bannable offense." No bringing off-site drama here. No doxxing.

In addition, this means no trawling people's histories to attack them. (From experience, raising a single example seems to be okay to the mods, but not digging up many comments. I once went through a person's comment history to defend them against an unfounded attack in MeTa, and that also seems to have been acceptable. Once.) The mods already delete personal attacks, even if they're not particularly nasty.

What you are proposing would require at least some of those guidelines to be lifted. People would not only be calling out their fellow mefites by name, they would have to be able to publicly reference their posting histories, and provide examples. Especially if they are highlighting a pattern of behavior. They might want to publicly reference something in a person's profile. People who have done this in the past have had those comments deleted.

Saying, "there are a few people I think are X on MeFi because they espouse Y or Z opinions" is a general statement and not a personal attack. It allows people in the thread to address what has been raised without specifically singling anyone out. I don't think encouraging people to single out individual mefites is a wise idea.
posted by zarq at 5:33 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


The overwhelming gist I am getting from this post is a confusion of criticism with attacking. I've made some shitty comments in the past because of unexamined assumptions and privilege and folks here have called me out on it-- and thank sweet Christ they did, because I'm not sure exactly how else I'm supposed to go about examining my otherwise-unexamined assumptions. Sometimes these callings out are harsh but I don't think I've ever seen them disingenuously deployed as a silencing tactic or etc.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:34 PM on September 8, 2014 [49 favorites]


shakespeherian: "I've made some shitty comments in the past because of unexamined assumptions and privilege and folks here have called me out on it-- and thank sweet Christ they did"

Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but those aren't the kinds of comments that misha's talking about, no? If you say something shitty, and someone says "that's shitty, and based on unexamined assumptions and privilege", that would be OK under misha's post.

She's talking more about things like you say something you honestly believe and someone says you're actually just trolling. Or you say something because you think it's important/interesting and someone says you're saying it to intentionally derail the thread. Or you say something because you believe it and someone says that your comment was deployed as a tactic, commonly used by a hate group.

She's not (and, misha, correct me if I'm wrong) talking about you saying something shitty and people saying "what you said is shitty, and here's why..."
posted by Bugbread at 5:40 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


We're all smart here, and all comments are on display freely. If you're 'accused' of bigotry that isn't there, your fellow members will be able to judge for themselves.
posted by Conspire at 5:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


> t is my personal feeling that every user who has ponied up that $5 (or slipped in during free sign-ups!) should feel comfortable interacting with all aspects of the site,

This is a ludicrous idea; where in life does anyone feel comfortable interacting with all aspects of anything? It doesn't work that way, and I can't believe anyone seriously thinks it could. And what griphus and shakespeherian said about the importance of taking criticism on board and allowing it to change your worldview; that's one of the great things MeFi does. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but see above.
posted by languagehat at 5:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [21 favorites]


Yeah, mathowie and cortex have missed the mark here. This isn't about when a person says things that, for example, sound ___ist. This is about when a person says things that don't even sound ___ist, but someone else seeks to discredit the first person by saying, that's the sort of thing that __ists say.

I'm all for calling people out when they say things that sound anti-semitic/bigoted/misogynistic/racist/transphobic. This isn't that. This is bullying with a thin veneer of anti-___ism.

I could give a more concrete example if wanted.
posted by grouse at 5:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


What I would like to see go away is the slimier "that's a common tactic of racists/sexists/antisemites/etc."

I see what you mean, and I have seen people do that in a nasty way, but I still really like to know when I'm saying something that unintentionally supports the arguments of sexists/racists/anti-semites/etc or sounds like I might feel that way myself, and I don't think that kind of comment should be automatically deleted because it's extremely useful feedback. If I am saying something that is a common tactic of racists without intending it, I want to know it so I can express myself differently. Whether people express it in-thread or not, if I sound x-ist, a lot of people are going to dismiss my comments and possibly even be hurt, depending on how bad it is, and I would rather that be up-front so I can clarify instead of being blissfully oblivious to the possibly-unpleasant connotations of my comment.

I remember back when "not all men!" was really coming to prominence as a derail, I got into it with a couple of commenters here because I said something that sounded uncomfortably close to "not all men" even though I was saying it for all the right reasons. Pardon my paraphrasing, but the argument was about normalizing shitty behavior, and someone misinterpreted my "well, not all men think it's OK to do this, so it's not as normalized as you [the person defending shitty behavior] think it is." Someone thought I was not-all-menning and we exchanged a few words; I was a bit surprised to be misread but ultimately, I'm glad it was brought to my attention, because I want to express myself clearly and I certainly don't want to have people think I would make a "not all men" comment. I'm glad I had the opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding.
posted by dialetheia at 5:44 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I could give a more concrete example if wanted.

Please do, because when a person says things that don't even sound ___ist, but someone else seeks to discredit the first person by saying, that's the sort of thing that __ists say is not something I've felt to be a noticeable problem, and I have been a participant in some pretty damn contentious threads.
posted by griphus at 5:46 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


My proposed action would be that all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default.

I disagree, mainly because it's sometimes helpful to stop someone and say "hey this part in your comment where you said this thing? That sounds kind of racist/anti-semitic/etc" to get them to rethink or make sure they explained what they meant. I've been called several things on your list and it's been a learning experience for me personally. Instant deletions for even inferring something like that seem a recipe for disaster.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:33 on September 9


I don't agree and don't have a valid reason to do so, but I do hint a bit of the reasoning that a PUA would have. Not that I'm saying that Matt is a pickup artist. But he's just saying stuff that pickup artists say so it makes me wonder.

So yeah. Maybe thats what misha is talking about.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:47 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


OK griphus. I'm thinking of when people say things like this:
okay so you know when someone is like THERE ARE NO ___S ON METAFILTER

and we're all like yes there are

or at least there are people who use that type of argument constantly

like idk maybe ___ is actually well-meaning but i have heard that shit from so many ___ advocating jackasses on reddit that i've run out of patience for it
posted by grouse at 5:47 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


In Metafitler threads

godwin
posted by Sebmojo at 5:48 PM on September 8, 2014 [29 favorites]


I absolutely agree with your quote, grouse. There are necessarily people of all swaths here and we are not magically immune from the presence of this acronym or the other.
posted by griphus at 5:49 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


mathowie, please consider that you are never going to be bullied out of a thread here. misha's trying to help regular members who don't receive any deference or benefit of the doubt regarding their intentions.

That said, I don't think delete-on-sight is a good policy for very many kinds of posts.
posted by michaelh at 5:50 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh, you're not the only one who has seen this pattern.

It's a coping mechanism. It's much easier to dismiss what someone has said (and what they will say in the future) by mentally transforming them into this unthinking caricature. Saves a lot of time. "Of course you would say that, you're a intactivist/heathen/Zionist/feminist/Catholic/anti-Semite/Libertarian/TERF/Protestant/etc."

Just a light touch of dehumanization, giving you some confidence that the person you're talking to is no more than a mouthpiece for a cloud of copy-pasted memes and emailed talking points. You can then be as crappy to them as you like and your counterargument needs no more effort than the derisive snort you get at seeing a bumper sticker for an opposing sports team.

It's a very disappointing behavior to see when people are so eager to dislocate their shoulders patting themselves on the back for being open-minded and nuanced and the like.

What to be done about it? As a site policy, I don't know. Typically, when a community reaches a critical mass of that sort of thing, you start to reach echo chamber levels and that's rarely a healthy thing.

I don't have any solutions for you, I can only say that, yeah, you're not the sole person who has been picking up on that.
posted by adipocere at 5:51 PM on September 8, 2014 [26 favorites]


I absolutely agree with your quote, grouse. There are necessarily people of all swaths here and we are not magically immune from the presence of this acronym or the other.

I agree that there are bigots of all stripes here. That doesn't mean it's OK to respond to something that doesn't even sound bigoted with a "bigots use that kind of argument constantly".
posted by grouse at 5:56 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


griphus: "Silencing criticism of each others' behavior because of fears of not saving enough face is how we become morally stagnant"

Characterizing moderation and the creation of spaces where people can feel comfortable without being attacked as "silencing" is a common tactic of MRAs.
posted by Bugbread at 5:58 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah, mathowie and cortex have missed the mark here.

I know I was following on Matt's comments where he mentioned specifically "hey this sound pretty X-ist" challenges, but to be clear my comment applies more broadly, very much including the territory misha's talking about, and that's the definition I was referring to. It's one thing to say "stuff in this territory can be problematic", which I think is totally true and worth working on, and saying "anything in this territory is inherently problematic and should be flagged for deletion" which is very much over-reaching and is suggesting what would be a bad policy for the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:58 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry, griphus, it just made too perfect an example. Apologies, again.

(And, no, I don't advocate auto deletion or anything. Flagging, at best, or "I guess we just kinda have to put up with it" at worst.)
posted by Bugbread at 5:59 PM on September 8, 2014


Characterizing moderation and the creation of spaces where people can feel comfortable without being attacked as "silencing" is a common tactic of MRAs.

The suggestion in the post is that such comments be insta-deleted.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2014


I agree that there are bigots of all stripes here. That doesn't mean it's OK to respond to something that doesn't even sound bigoted with a "bigots use that kind of argument constantly".

Yes, and the person in question specifically went out of his/her way to say that they did not necessarily agree with the argument. I'm with grouse; I hate this kind of rhetoric on MetaFilter.
posted by lalex at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I agree that there are bigots of all stripes here. That doesn't mean it's OK to respond to something that doesn't even sound bigoted with a "bigots use that kind of argument constantly".

They're no magnetic north for bigotry. What I think is sexist someone who wrote it may not, or they may not have meant it in sexist fashion. But there's sexist words on the page and that shit shouldn't be left to stand, otherwise we'd still have the phrase "I'd hit it" (and variations thereof) with as much regularity as it did taking up space on the blue in every FPP about an attractive woman.
posted by griphus at 6:01 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


...shouldn't be left to stand...

Well, not literally in each and every case, a whatever-it's comment sparking a constructive discussion is a worthwhile contribution if only in retrospect.
posted by griphus at 6:03 PM on September 8, 2014


shakespeherian: "The suggestion in the post is that such comments be insta-deleted."

Wait, I thought the suggestion was for flagging (though I am very confused by the expression "flagged for deletion by default")
posted by Bugbread at 6:03 PM on September 8, 2014


Can I make a request? Can people please not do the ironic-joke thing here? It's making some of these comments sort of hard to follow.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:04 PM on September 8, 2014 [28 favorites]


My proposed action would be that all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default.

Not deletion, and I think misha might be on board with me on this with some reflection, but yes with viewed in context for what they are. If the accusation is weak, and somebody takes offense, the big problem here is the original accusation and not the person who responds to it poorly. At baseline, both parties need to be talked to if the topic gets derailed by those dynamics. We should not pretend it's a one sided problem in all cases.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:05 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


"flagged for deletion by default"

I don't understand this, either, since flagging is an action done by members and deletion is an action done by moderators, and default sort of implies something that happens automatically. So I'm not even clear how this is supposed to work, even if everyone agrees that the rhetorical device under discussion should be discouraged.
posted by scody at 6:06 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


If the accusation is weak

This is the problem with that policy, though - it puts the mods in the role of adjudicating what is and isn't a valid claim of x-ism.
posted by dialetheia at 6:06 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


If the accusation is weak

This is the problem with that policy, though - it puts the mods in the role of adjudicating what is and isn't a valid claim of x-ism.


They already do that, and I think they do a good job finding the middle ground. We do have to understand and appreciate that they won't always be perfect though.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:09 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking of when people say things like this:

Which was, for the record, something that as a mod I found to be a pretty obnoxious way to frame a comment and totally not a model of ideal commenting behavior. So I'm right there with you: as an example of a lousy way to structure a comment, I think it's worth pointing at. I don't think it's something that is ever going to rise to the level of being inherently deletable—few things around here are—but it's worth talking about why it's not great for conversation regardless.

But beyond that there's sort of a double bind here in talking about but not talking about a specific comment in a specific situation, so it may be useful to look at this more in terms of a pattern of examples across the site rather than just one from a recent, charged discussion, especially if part of the goal is to have this be a discussion of general situations on the site rather than just stuff involving specific principals to that and/or this thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:09 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Characterizing moderation and the creation of spaces where people can feel comfortable without being attacked as "silencing" is a common tactic of MRAs.

Sure it is, but there's an important distinction between genuine criticism and accusations and I do not think there is an overabundance of genuine criticism which goes into the territory of a personal attack to be deleted without question.
posted by griphus at 6:15 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure it is, but there's an important distinction between genuine criticism and accusations

Genuine question, do you think grouse's example is one of genuine criticism, or one of accusations?
posted by lalex at 6:18 PM on September 8, 2014


I realize that anyone posting actual examples of such behavior is setting themselves up for nitpicking, but this post is so vague about its complaints that it seems each poster so far is interpreting it in a different way, which is unlikely to lead to useful discussion.

Can misha give some examples of what she's talking about?
posted by jaguar at 6:19 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]



Genuine question, do you think grouse's example is one of genuine criticism, or one of accusations?


I have no idea what sort of comment that is referencing. Also I absolutely do not offer myself up as an authority on what precisely should be deleted and why.
posted by griphus at 6:20 PM on September 8, 2014


Click on "example", I think, to understand lalex's question.
posted by uosuaq at 6:22 PM on September 8, 2014


Oh wait sorry I didn't realize it was responding to the one above it. I think that comment is appropriate enough in its context to not be flagged for deletion by default (whatever that means.)
posted by griphus at 6:23 PM on September 8, 2014


Griphus, sorry, I guess I'm being super unclear today — I wasn't really leveling an accusation against you of being an MRA, I was just making a concrete example of the kind of comment approach being discussed, since hal_c_on's example didn't make a lot of sense to me and I didn't realize there was background behind grouse's example.
posted by Bugbread at 6:23 PM on September 8, 2014


I wasn't really leveling an accusation against you of being an MRA

I was not assuming you were. Hopefully this speaks to my point.
posted by griphus at 6:27 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was not a great example of what an MRA might think. It was a pretty common attitude. That said, it's a good example of what I am trying to get at here. It didn't implode the thread because waraw did not respond to it. Maybe he saw it as a valuable insight on his comment. Maybe he found it offensive and held his tongue. Maybe he stopped reading the thread. It's up to him to let us know if he wants, but what he did not do was go on offense and cause a big derail over it. If he had though, the ideal response from moderators will note the responsibility from both parties.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:32 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, whatever kind of way we're talking about it, I disagree with the across-the-board deletions of this kind of comment. Because I've noticed that if it is being used in a "I noticed Sid says [foo and baz], and that's just the kind of thing a [schmeh] would say" kind of attack (the way I think misha meant it), but the attacker is way off base, you'll get a whole shit-ton of people coming in to say "whaddafuck are you talking about, Sid is nothing like that". And that's a) cool, especially if you're Sid, and b) can hopefully hint to the attacker that maybe they've Mistaken Something there.

And it also says something about the attacker who'd make this kind of argument. At least, maybe it could to Sid - if someone's told Sid he sounds like a [schmeh], but his past history kind of gives lie to that, it could remind Sid - and anyone else - that maybe the person who made that accusation has a Particular Perspective, and Sid may remember to take what they say with a grain of salt in future. Especially if there are people in the thread saying "I don't think it's fair to say whether or not Sid is a [schmeh], or whether or not Sid isn't a [cheeble]".

Someone telling Sid he's a [schmeh] in MeMail, though, I'd just block if I were Sid because who needs that. But I don't want to see it deleted, because I am also paying attention to who says Sid is a [schmeh], and I have my own opinion about what Sid is, and if I disagree with them about whether Sid's a [schmeh] it can inform what I think about everything else they say, and that's helpful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


[foo and baz]

Cowriters on Moulin Rouge for those who are unaware.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:38 PM on September 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


I would say the issue is not necessarily that the mods don't delete these sorts of things (since I am a non-deletionist) but that they don't delete these sorts of things but will delete responses to them if those responses are heated. Like you can say all kinds of nasty and aggressive things to people but so long as you use a certain kind of language and don't curse you're okay.

Either personal attacks should be allowed or they should be deleted. They shouldn't be allowed so long as they don't include certain language and disallowed if they do. An honest "fuck off" is certainly a lot less poisonous to conversation than some of the stuff that seems to pass muster.
posted by Justinian at 6:56 PM on September 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


An honest "fuck off" is certainly a lot less poisonous to conversation than some of the stuff that seems to pass muster.

An honest "fuck off" can also be pretty trivially written without the fuckoffery, is the thing. It's sort of a weird distraction to treat this like a thing where there's only two possible kinds of comments in an exchange, a problematic fuckoffery-free comment and a fuckoffish reply, and that there's some fundamental injustice in the latter being deleted as if that's the same thing as holding that a reply to the initial comment is prohibited.

Which, I understand where it comes from. I thoroughly understand being upset at someone saying something unfair or unkind or misrepresentative or just plain wrong about my own actions or motivations. And a righteous "well, fuck you" can feel like the only thing in the world that fits. But it's still not workable, and it's entirely possible to route around that. I rewrite, I walk away for a while, I find some way to put some distance between my need to reply and my instinct to say one of the few things that will routinely get a comment deleted. Because however righteous a bit of fuckoffery may feel, it's still a nuclear escalation of a conversation. "But they were being a dick" doesn't change that, and I'm all for talking about the initiating dickishness but it needs not be framed in terms of why someone was unfairly prevented from getting their Fuck You on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:03 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


There are all sorts of ways to imply something without stating it outright, and the example mentioned, indeed the tactic misha's post is about, isn't that rare. It's a very common internet arguing tactic to accuse people of something but with plausible deniability baked right in.

It's tough, because it also usually looks a lot like someone trying to draw a parallel without explicitly linking things; the 'I'm not saying you're [x] but that sounds like an [x] argument' can be seen as either a legitimate comment or an insinuating dismissal, and it usually takes a fair period of time before you can feel like you know which users mean it in which way.

As with all these sorts of criticisms, I don't think anything more than a 'please mods pay attention when people do this, as it's bad for the site' can be offered, because there's nothing to build a rule on except opinion of intent. But yes, I think it's bad for the site, and I do see it occasionally and it's the sort of thing that it's easier to flag and let slide, even if it doesn't get deleted, because confronting the insinuation directly usually is a derail and almost always leads to the heat-level of a thread rising.

Unfortunately, there's also the way people will use accusations of bigotry to bolster 'their side', because the person they're disagreeing with can't just have a different opinion or view, they have to be morally wrong as well. Not only that, but getting aggressive at another commenter wouldn't be well-received - unless that person is actually being bigoted, in which case there's a lot more leeway in what you can say to them and a lot more support of your position. That's becoming increasingly common as well, and even when ignored can be a toxic presence in a thread that will last as long as the site does.
I wish there was a better solution for eradicating that kind of argument, because it has an unpleasant way of lingering and devalues calling out actual bigotry, but it's a particularly pernicious tactic that has a high success rate, so it's not going anywhere.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:17 PM on September 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


I've actually had responses of mine deleted - even though I haven't used any cuss words, though. While I understand that even snark can get too excessive to be productive (probably so the case with my own deleted comments), I have often wondered at why the angry comments to a contentious statement get deleted - but the contentious statement stays.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I agree with mathowie's initial comment. The proposal in the MeTa is unworkable and, even if it could work, would silence legitimate debate far more completely than the auto-deleted shouty comments ever could. Like griphus, I don't think this particular kind of comment is such a large problem on the site that it requires such a drastic solution, and like Drinky Die, I think the mods generally do a good job finding a middle ground when judging what is and is not a bad comment.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:20 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Because I've noticed that if it is being used in a 'I noticed Sid says [foo and baz], and that's just the kind of thing a [schmeh] would say' kind of attack (the way I think misha meant it), but the attacker is way off base, you'll get a whole shit-ton of people coming in to say 'whaddafuck are you talking about, Sid is nothing like that."

I agree with this, but I draw some different conclusions from it. In your example, one of two things are possible. First, that this was a rare or isolated incident — Sid isn't like that, this accusation of being like a whatsist isn't something he's likely to hear very often. Or, second, it's a common incident because Sid's accuser is someone who indiscriminately makes accusations of whatsism. In either case, this really isn't any skin off Sid's nose because either it's an isolated incident that onlookers aren't going to take seriously or it's not an isolated incident, but something regular for Sid's accuser, who does this all the time and to lots of people — which will also mean that onlookers aren't going to place much stock in it.

But then there's the possibility outside your characterization: that it is an accurate accusation and Sid's a whatsist. In that case, Sid's going to hear this a lot. And Sid's going to think this is a really big problem that requires big adjustments by others to make this not be an issue for him because he'd rather not be thought of that way, although it's true.

Finally, let's consider a remaining possibility in keeping with your characterization that Sid isn't a whatsist, but that for some reason he nevertheless gets accused of being a whatsist all the time. People say he keeps saying or doing things that whatsists say or do. Let's stipulate that he doesn't agree with whatsist ideas, he doesn't associate with whatsists, he doesn't do demonstrably whatsist things, and yet people keep mistaking him for a whatsist.

And maybe this is because whatsists all have a notable habit of wearing purple shirts, shaving their heads, and singing sea shanties. And, dammit, Sid is the son of a sailor, prematurely bald, and his favorite color is purple!

You might ask, why does Sid so frequently hang out with people who dislike whatsists and yet wear purple shirts and break into sea shanties around them? Well, it's probably because he's sure that he's not a whatsist and he's annoyed that he keeps being mistaken for one and, by god, no one is going to stop him from wearing purple shirts and acting like a jolly merchant sailor from the nineteenth century.

And, yeah, we can be fairly sympathetic to this because that's a normal human response. It sucks, really, that those whatsists have screwed this up for Sid.

Even so, we should keep in mind, and one would hope that Sid would keep in mind, that given that whatsists are wandering around beating up old women and spitting on people's food and hanging out at the Korova Milk Bar after a hard day's home-invading ultraviolence, people are going to be naturally suspicious of people who look like and behave like whatsists. And that, when this is pointed out to someone like Sid, when he jumps up on the table and pounds his chest at the terrible, terrible injustice of a world in which he can't spontaneously launch into sea shanties while dressed in purple and pleads that surely, surely, the most important thing here is that we become very, very cautious about saying that someone sure does seem like a whatsist because, apparently, Sid's hurt feelings are the sine qua non of a just society, it turns out that folks aren't convinced or sympathetic and wonder why in the hell Sid can't just get some different fucking shirts and sing his songs at home, in private?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:22 PM on September 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


....I'm confused - is it okay for Sid to wear purple or not?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


No. Purple is so 2003.
posted by bswinburn at 7:26 PM on September 8, 2014


While I understand that even snark can get too excessive to be productive (probably so the case with my own deleted comments), I have often wondered at why the angry comments to a contentious statement get deleted - but the contentious statement stays.

It depends a lot on the situation, but one scenario that comes up sometimes is like so:

1. Someone makes a contentious-to-the-point-of-being-deletable comment.
2. Circumstance is such that either people don't actually flag/email about it promptly or something is going on that prevents a very fast response to flags/email (very busy day, very fast moving thread, etc) and so the replies to the contentious original comment are broad and intertwined enough that yanking it and all the responses is impractical.
3. People keep responding to it since it stuck around but do so in variously aggro or crappy ways that aren't improving the situation, and some of that stuff gets deleted.

The alternative there is to just grant people carte blanche to go nuts about something contentious; we could choose to not delete anything because the instigating comment was crappy. That doesn't seem to me like a remotely workable approach.

But then since we're deleting stuff that people feel reasonably righteous about, it can feel understandably frustrating to folks: why is this more righteous thing being deleted when that less righteous thing is being allowed to stay? Where's the per-comment justice?

The answer is pragmatic and so kind of unsatisfying from within the situation: trying to salvage a thread isn't the same thing as trying to aid that sense of personal justice or righteousness. Sometime you can be right and still not actually be helping, basically, when your goals aren't the same thing as the goals of the site guidelines.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:28 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich: "In either case, this really isn't any skin off Sid's nose because either it's an isolated incident that onlookers aren't going to take seriously or it's not an isolated incident, but something regular for Sid's accuser, who does this all the time and to lots of people — which will also mean that onlookers aren't going to place much stock in it."

I guess I'm not just enough of a people-rememberer, because I don't really assume that if it's an isolated incident for Sid that everyone else is going to know that, and know it's not an accurate assessment of Sid.
posted by Bugbread at 7:30 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


"....I'm confused - is it okay for Sid to wear purple or not?"

Probably not while singing sea shanties, without a hat, and especially not at a gathering of a lot of people who have bad associations with a particular Gene Kelley movie.

Also, purple makes his skin look mottled.

"I guess I'm not just enough of a people-rememberer, because I don't really assume that if it's an isolated incident for Sid that everyone else is going to know that, and know it's not an accurate assessment of Sid."

Yeah, but for people like yourself, who don't remember such things, they won't remember this assessment of Sid later, either.

So either way, people-rememberers or not, it's not that big a deal for Sid beyond the moment.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:35 PM on September 8, 2014


It might be in Sid's head... and might keep him from being in any way active in the future... regardless of whether the assessment that one time was true... and I feel like that's where misha was going. Not calling out people who are consistent in their behavior but stigmatizing a one off statement that a person didn't agree with.
posted by one4themoment at 7:39 PM on September 8, 2014


stigmatizing [them based off of] a
posted by one4themoment at 7:40 PM on September 8, 2014


Not calling out people who are consistent in their behavior but stigmatizing a one off statement that a person didn't agree with.

Sometimes the behavior is more consistent than it might seem at first glance, though, like the example from the recent thread. Even if the person might be making their first comment in that thread, it's usually not their first comment on the site, and some people have burned through more benefit of the doubt than others over the years. Whether that should be disclosed or explained in the call-out comment or not, I'm not sure. It's against site policy to explicitly go back and litigate past comments that way, but I can't be expected to ignore those memories when I'm trying to decide how I read your comment, either. None of us gets a brand new day with every comment.
posted by dialetheia at 7:51 PM on September 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yeah, but for people like yourself, who don't remember such things, they won't remember this assessment of Sid later, either.

Not always. They are the sorts of accusations that stick in the mind, being as they are more than 'Sid likes purple' or 'Sid is bald', but 'Sid is a bigot'.

It's also the sort of thing which gets assumed to have a 'no smoke without a fire' aspect to it, where if Sid's being treated as a bigot or called a bigot, then it is not uncommon for that to be accepted, even if the reason he's being called a bigot is because he talked about how much he liked his purple shirt and he didn't think that made him a whatsist, and someone answers with '#notallwhatsists, I see whatsists get defensive about that sort of thing all the time'.

I think Sid-as-descriptor is getting away from me...

The thing is, there is bigotry. Loads of it. But that doesn't mean the default should be, 'If someone's behaviour is called bigoted, they should just accept it's probably true and do some hard thinking,' but instead that it's worth checking that the claim has merit.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:51 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


An honest "fuck off" can also be pretty trivially written without the fuckoffery, is the thing.

True enough. I certainly don't mean to say that we should encourage people in disagreements to say things like this. I only meant to say that it's quite possible to be extremely venomous and aggressive in such a way that there is no obvious prima facie deletion reason. Which makes it very difficult to respond to in a non-intemperate manner. With which I have trouble and, sure, should work on. Just making the point that something can appear to be civil without actually being so and those sorts of comments are much more difficult to deal with (I would presume) from a mod perspective than the other sorts.
posted by Justinian at 8:10 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sometime you can be right and still not actually be helping, basically, when your goals aren't the same thing as the goals of the site guidelines.

I often think of the mods as harried parents who just want some peace and quiet, damnit, is that too much to ask?

Purple is so 2003.

Shut up! Purple is awesome! (Tho I do prefer a Tyrian purple to the more ordinary grapey one.)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:34 PM on September 8, 2014


I agree very much with Gadge's take on things: it's a problem in some threads, on some topics, with some users. We see it in grouse's example, we see it when Joe accuses yet another member of the community of anti-Semitism.

I do think this :Not only that, but getting aggressive at another commenter wouldn't be well-received - unless that person is actually being bigoted, in which case there's a lot more leeway in what you can say to them and a lot more support of your position. That's becoming increasingly common as well,

Is true, and I feel it is a... Not failing but slip up by the mods. It does not help that users typically targeted by this are not necessarily as aware of site norms, or as eloquent or socially adept, or disinclined to push back or as well known, necessarily.

The contempt and scorn levelled at some users on this site is, however understandable in some cases, unedifying, unpleasant and largely unquestioned. Questioning it will garner you accusations of supporting a sexist or whatever, and of being one yourself. Ask me how I know! There is a... Conforming aspect to the condemnation I am uncomfortable with, as if sympathising with somebody means sympathising with those views or the views projected onto them.

I don't think it's nice when the community bands together to drive someone from a thread or the site through aggression and anger (I am not positioning myself as innocent, here). And I do feel the moderators will give mefites more of a free ride if they are part of a majority opinion, a site "personality", or positioning a personal attack as one against racism, or sexism, or whatever.

I don't know what can be done besides general discouragement, however. It's challenging when the target can hold genuinely distasteful opinions or has a prickly personality, and they often do.

I suppose I think the mods sometimes let things escalate if it's... For a good cause I guess you could say. I think this causes more work in the long run, and also pushes some threads in pretty bad directions.
posted by smoke at 8:57 PM on September 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


I feel like there are two different categories of *ist-calling that are being conflated here. The type that I personally don't have a problem with are the "that thing you said is problematic for this reason," or "that thing you said kind of sounds *ist for this reason." Those type of comments are frequent and can lead to helpful self-reflection. In those cases, one person is trying to let another person know that they have a possible blind spot. The accused may not respond well, but the initial accusation was made in good faith. The other type of comment, however, seems to be a result of clever MeFis who are well versed in exactly where the mods draw the line, and will orbit just outside the border. For example:

Person A: I believe X.

Person B: I'm always surprised to see that there are still people who hold the moronic belief X.

or

Person B: It's completely moronic that some people still think X.

or

Person B: I've known many morons in my time who fully believed X.

or

Person B: It seems that there are some covert morons on MeFi who actually do believe in X.

I don't feel that those type of comments are meant in good faith. They seem to be an act of border dancing by people who are MetaFilter topography experts. Most MeFis aren't so oblivious as to not see the veiled insult, and they don't always react well. Usually, the reaction crosses the line and is deleted while the well concealed dig stands.

My disconnect here is that I don't know if there's anything that can be done about this. The perpetrators aren’t breaking the guidelines in an actionable way, even if approximately everyone can see under their veils.
posted by Shouraku at 8:58 PM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I appreciate the mods' thoughts, wouldn't support a moderation equivalent of writing tickets for going 52 in a 50 zone.

That said, with "Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site," I have been surprised more than a couple times to see what came across as people absolutely hammering other people.

(And those comments were up long after they were made so I assumed enough time had passed that they would have been deleted if they'd been deemed inappropriate.)
posted by ambient2 at 9:00 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another thing that makes this hard is that while there are some cases where the entirety of a comment is "That's a common derailing tactic in discussions of X", in a lot of cases the comments containing the accusation are really long and otherwise very good. I have no problem with flagging a drive-by accusation-by-association, but I can't really bring myself to flag some excellent five paragraph comment that has a little turd floating in it.
posted by Bugbread at 9:10 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I really think that assuming good faith gets rid of a huge majority of these problems. I'm kind of astounded to think that people are reading the site and assuming that other users are consciously thinking, "What can I get away with here?"

Some of them are, probably, but assuming that's their main intention seems like it would make MetaFilter a very annoying site to read.

Assume people are trying to express the thoughts in their head in a straightforward way. Sometimes we all fail at that task, but it's not necessarily some giant conspiracy.
posted by jaguar at 9:12 PM on September 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


I really think that assuming good faith gets rid of a huge majority of these problems. I'm kind of astounded to think that people are reading the site and assuming that other users are consciously thinking, "What can I get away with here?"

To clarify, I think that the number of people who are purposely casting veiled insults is much less than the number people who are calling out legitimate issues (just in a not-so-great way). Yet, it only takes a few buns in the air to start a food fight.
posted by Shouraku at 9:17 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


If people assumed good faith we may never see the kind of "Oh this is the kind of tactic we'd expect from a ____-ist" comments in the first place, I'd argue.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:19 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


If people assumed good faith we may never see the kind of "Oh this is the kind of tactic we'd expect from a ____-ist" comments in the first place, I'd argue.

But some of those comments are in good faith. I don't know if I've done it here, but I've certainly said to friends or in discussions, "I don't think you're sexist, but the comments you just made echo sexist comments I've seen elsewhere and you may want to rethink that argument." And it's not some passive-aggressive power play, it's just a way of acknowledging that everyone is allowed to disagree but everyone also has blind spots, and if someone's been arguing for Point X but suddenly says something that seems very anti-X, a heads-up might actually be appreciated.
posted by jaguar at 9:23 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


jaguar: "I don't think you're sexist, but the comments you just made echo sexist comments I've seen elsewhere and you may want to rethink that argument."

That's not what we're talking about here, to my knowledge.
posted by Bugbread at 9:28 PM on September 8, 2014


That's not what we're talking about here, to my knowledge.

Given that misha has not given any examples, I have no idea what we're talking about. We seem to be talking about every individual user's pet peeves.
posted by jaguar at 9:29 PM on September 8, 2014 [37 favorites]


I learned about the tone argument here on Metafilter, possibly in exactly the way the OP objects to -- somebody says "I'm not against [x] but when so and so says [y] they really need to do it in a different way or risk alienating [z]" and someone else said "yes, but that's a derailment and a common tactic of people who are against x -- criticizing the way the messages about [x] are delivered."

And probably the person who said they were not against [x] doesn't believe themselves to *be* against [x] and they think they're getting lumped in with the anti-x'ers, and if they're feeling a little defensive they can go straight to "gosh, can't *anybody* say *anything* about [x] anymore?"

But man, finding out that the tone argument (as one example) is a *thing* that commonly happens, to lots of people, is honestly one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It cast a different light on so many of my experiences and frustrations, it helps me better understand the way certain situations play out today. It's one of the most useful things I've ever learned, and it would be terrible if those types of comments were auto-flagged or auto-deleted.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 9:33 PM on September 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


...I'm sorry, but, honest question here: if you have no idea what we're talking about, why are you engaging in this discussion? I mean, I would understand if your position is "No, I disagree, I do think that's what we're talking about, and here's my opinion". But "I have no idea what we're talking about, and here's my opinion"?...I don't get it.
posted by Bugbread at 9:34 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think I'm understanding each individual comment to which I am responding, otherwise I wouldn't respond. I have no idea if these individual discussions are in any way close to what misha is complaining about, and she hasn't clarified. So it seems pointless to say "That's not what we're talking about here," because, as a whole, we seem to be talking about any comment that criticizes another comment for being any form of -ist, some of which are going to be worthwhile and some of which are not.
posted by jaguar at 9:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


And I really, really, really hate the contention that saying someone's statement is -ist is somehow "a personal attack," and I have a very vested interest in making sure that assumption is not taken as a given, because the idea that being called a racist is worse than experiencing racism, for example, is extremely toxic. It tends to drive away people from marginalized groups, and it precludes in-depth discussions of topics related to race (gender, etc.). MetaFilter would be a much, much worse place if such an assumption gained ascendency.
posted by jaguar at 9:46 PM on September 8, 2014 [46 favorites]


On the "why I'm commenting" part: okay, that makes sense. Thanks.

On the "what are we talking about" part, misha didn't give examples, but did say "insinuations that the user is deliberately derailing, trolling or using common tactics", so I figured that was what the topic was. So if somebody says "what you said sounded sexist", that wouldn't be covered within this post. If somebody says "what you said was a deliberate derail", "what you said was trolling", or "what you said was a common tactic", that would be covered by the post. So your example, of "I don't think you're sexist, but the comments you just made echo sexist comments" wouldn't be included. "I don't think you're sexist, and what you said in itself isn't sexist, but saying non-sexist stuff like that is a common way of deliberately derailing..." would be included.
posted by Bugbread at 9:51 PM on September 8, 2014


because the idea that being called a racist is worse than experiencing racism, for example, is extremely toxic

This is true. However, this frequently comes up if this topic is broached, and it's a false dichotomy. The choices aren't 'being called a racist' and 'experiencing racism', it's 'being called a racist for valid reasons' and 'being called a racist for invalid reasons'.

So what you fear isn't what's actually being considered.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:52 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


And I really, really, really hate the contention that saying someone's statement is -ist is somehow "a personal attack," and I have a very vested interest in making sure that assumption is not taken as a given, because the idea that being called a racist is worse than experiencing racism, for example, is extremely toxic.

To be fair, I think that there's a difference between saying "your statement seems -ist for Reasons," and "Well, I've known plenty -ists who believe that same thing."

I don't think that anyone here is advocating that -ist statements not be called out, nor do I think that is what misha is suggesting.
posted by Shouraku at 9:59 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


The choices aren't 'being called a racist' and 'experiencing racism', it's 'being called a racist for valid reasons' and 'being called a racist for invalid reasons'.

Except that's not always a distinction users make, and misha wrote:
Note: Though there is a common adage that saying someone is guilty of racism or sexism is not the same as saying that person is a racist or sexist, there is indisputably a negative connotation to a user being accused of racist or sexist behavior in a thread, and that connotation exists even if/when that accusation is unfounded.
She later says that if we believe another user is "a member of a hate group" we should not address that in thread but instead make a separate MeTa about it.

All of which sounds like a much larger complaint than "Don't accuse others of trolling."
posted by jaguar at 9:59 PM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I dunno. Maybe this is just one of those situations in which it seems really clear to me that a commenter meant Foo, and it seems really clear to someone else that they meant Bar, and so there's an impasse.

But, is anyone in actual disagreement on the issues being discussed here?
As far as I can see, we've got a few interpretations of misha's post:

1) Is it ok to say "what you're saying sounds Xist"?

As far as I can see, everyone is in agreement that that's either okay or to be desired. Unless I'm missing someone, nobody's saying it's not ok to say "What you're saying sounds Xist". It could just be that the people who think it's not OK are not addressing this interpretation in the first place.

2) Is it ok to say "what you're saying/doing is a common tactic of Xists"?
This can be broken down into 2 further types:
2a) "You didn't say anything which sounds Xist, but what you said is commonly said/used by Xists"

As far as I can see, everyone talking about this issue is saying it's bad. It could just be that the people who think it's OK are not addressing this interpretation in the first place.

2b) "You said something that does sounds Xist, and which is commonly said/used by Xists"

As far as I can see, that's being addressed as part of point 1, so people all seem to be OK with it. It could just be that the people who think it's not OK are not addressing this interpretation in the first place.

So are there any disagreements on positions with regard to these interpretations? Or are we discussing yet other interpretations that I just haven't picked up on? Or are we having one of those "Chocolate cake is an excellent desert!" "You're wrong, potato chips are an excellent snack!" "You're both wrong, Beethoven was a great musician!" discussions?
posted by Bugbread at 10:05 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or are we discussing yet other interpretations that I just haven't picked up on?

misha has made many statements in the past that make me think her request is larger than the way many here are interpreting, which is why I have asked for clarification from her, and which is why I think all the tea-leaf-reading without that clarification is a bit pointless.
posted by jaguar at 10:16 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


If in some case where I was pretty sure I wasn't an X, someone accused me of being an X (either genuinely or as a tactic), and I couldn't bear to let it stand, then I hope that I might be cool-headed enough to preface my reply with something like "My apologies for giving that impression. I may have expressed myself poorly, and I'm also willing to be corrected if my thoughts or behavior were off the mark." A better alternative might be to not respond until it boils over into MeTa, where the same apology might be even more appropriate, unless by chance the community thinks the accusation is garbage.

Does that address the issue here? It wouldn't be a diplomatic fib or a non-apology, because--though I'm not always successful--I really do try to start with the frequently useful thought "Don't blame the reader."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:20 PM on September 8, 2014


Well it's certainly not a distinction you made, jaguar, because the part of misha's post you quoted specifically refers to "if/when that accusation is unfounded", and also described it as a "connotation" rather that a direct description. So bringing up the idea that being called a racist is worse than experiencing racism, for example, is extremely toxic, something I know I completely agree with, and I would guarantee misha does as well, just seems, well, a derailing tactic, because it's not at all what's being discussed.

As for the second point, there have often enough been comments on the Blue and the Grey on gender topics that the active userbase includes a bunch of MRAs, who are listed as a hate group, with the connotation being that any disagreement experienced can't be due to anything other than other users being MRAs.
So I believe misha is saying something akin to what I believe, which is that if you honestly think that someone is a member of a hate group on MetaFilter, that's not something you just snarkily add to a thread, that's a serious problem that would be best brought to the mods' attention, possibly even called out of MeTa. Otherwise it's likely unfair hyperbole that serves to make the person/people you're disagreeing with out to be misogynist bigots of the highest order rather than just someone who doesn't agree with you, and that's something I think it's understandable people will react poorly to if it's unfounded or based on a severe misreading.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:22 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


What misha proposes doesn't seem workable to me, because I read the OP as saying something like "There are certain bad faith accusations that are made around here, and those bad faith accusations should be autoflagged for deletion (whatever that means)."

I don't disagree with the first part: I think sometimes people do make these kinds of statements in bad faith. They're not meaningful attempts to ask people to address biases in their actions or words, they're rhetorical weapons.

The second part is sort of a non-starter. How do you know bad faith except from the context? I'm not sure how any automated, one size fits all approach would map onto this problem in any helpful way.

The answer to this seems to be the answer to many MeTas: post less in bad faith; assume good faith in others.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:30 PM on September 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


You know, this seems like a really important discussion, but one that is going to be difficult as hell without examples. Otherwise we're just going to be discussing imagined hypotheticals. The thing is, it's against the guidelines to attack a user personally. We could discuss whether calling someone an raciest/sexist/MRA/etc is an attack or a statement of fact, but I'm not sure if that's the conversation that misha is alluding to.

and which is why I think all the tea-leaf-reading without that clarification is a bit pointless.

Pretty much this. I feel like every example that I can think of in my head has at least five exceptions, or is just a pet peeve.

What I would like to know, though, is where the border is between a personal attack and calling out a raciest/sexist/somethingist statement. This is something that I've never been completely clear on, as there is just so much space between "you're a fucking misogynist" and "that thing you said sounds sexist." Though, this may not be an answerable question.
posted by Shouraku at 10:34 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is a problem and I think this kind of thing would be a step in the wrong direction for the community.
posted by fleacircus at 10:46 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I wish there was a "....ugh" flag.

I mean, i would flag some of those comments with it too, but i would flag this thread itself with that.

jaguar: Can misha give some examples of what she's talking about?

Yea, really.

If it's get to propose your own rule day, how about no one gets to make a vague callout thread like this unless they're going to post some concrete examples and call some posts, or people directly out on the carpet? Because as it is, i think i have an idea of what you're getting at here misha, but it's also my idea. There's been some good posts in here so far of what people think you mean, and some of them are pretty on point as far as something that could be a problem. But it's what they think, not what you think.

And honestly, i find bomb drop and walks like that way more annoying than the sort of thing you're calling out like this. If you're going to call something out, you can't just do it in a vague passive way and then walk. That is WAY more annoying of a behavior i see on this site than anything you discuss in your post.


And, that said, i think it would be very much throwing the baby out with the bathwater to trash these types of posts in general. Are some "I think i see XYZ behavior in your post" type of posts not really that high quality? yea.

Do a lot of people still, to this day, on this new and most of the time much nicer metafilter still post some seriously flatulent garbage that absolutely needs to get called out? YES. This thread is the digital equivalent of one of those big dumpsters that it takes a special truck to drop off at a construction site.

Do i agree with you that i've seen callouts which seemed like some kind of slimy personal attack to discredit someone they didn't agree with? absolutely. But i see a hell of a lot more bullshit that deserves to get called out than i do that behavior. I think it's actually a lot more rare than you're making it out to be.

Not every callout is a bad thing, and i honestly find myself more irked by the people on here who seem to think that a direct callout is some violent act than i do with the actual callouts, even the occasional shitty ones.
posted by emptythought at 10:56 PM on September 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


But i see a hell of a lot more bullshit that deserves to get called out than i do that behavior. I think it's actually a lot more rare than you're making it out to be.


I'm having a hard time phrasing this statement. Do you mean that people calling others out as a method to discredit them is much more rare than people calling out legit bullshit in an legitimate but less-than-ideal way? If so, I agree, but I'm not sure that's what you're saying.
posted by Shouraku at 11:07 PM on September 8, 2014


Hey, I left this a bit vague because I am trying not to point fingers at specific people, but the issue is essentially the habit of users conveniently putting ugly labels on people they are in disagreement with.

This Meta is not intended to keep anyone from criticizing someone's argument specifically but to to try to stop this habit of nastily labelling people, by having a policy of flagging and deleting those comments, at which point users are welcome to take the comments to MetaTalk and make a case to support the labelling if they want to.

So, no silencing, just a higher standard that doesn't allow for ugly name calling or guilty-by-association inferences on the Blue.

Please remember that I am not against criticism of a user's argument, rather I am against the tactic of characterizing the user with a negative appellation. See halcyon and grouse's great examples up thread, that is exactly the stuff I am concerned with.

I feel like some of the comments, especially those of the mods, are making this case:

1. It is helpful and constructive to characterize others as bigots, homophobes, sexists, etc, as it is always for their own good and serves to better educate them, and
2. If I see someone accuse someone else of being a misandrist, a misogynist, an MRA or a PUA, etc. I should not say anything against that characterization, or expect that accusation to be deleted, whether or not there seems to be any foundation for the accusation, because (1).
3. The only acceptable response when you personally are labelled in any of these ways is to stay silent or to apologize unreservedly, because otherwise you would be derailing the thread, and also (1,2)
4. Any attempt to deny such characterization just means you are defensive, and being defensive means you are guilty of whatever it is you have been accused of, because (1,2,3,) plus again with the derailing by defending yourself.
5. These accusations are always made in good faith, anyway, because (start all over again with 1).

Please help me understand how this entire line of reasoning does not at least condone, if not outright encourage, members calling people racists, sexists, and worse for no good reason?

The whole house of cards falls apart if everyone isn't well-intentioned and on their best behavior all the time already, which is just not realistic, and the circular reasoning practically incentivizes the people who aren't arguing in good faith to just continue using the same ugly tactics because they can do so with impunity.
posted by misha at 11:13 PM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


gadge emeritus, at the risk of causing the thread to eat its own tail, that is not the best site to link to.
posted by Corinth at 11:16 PM on September 8, 2014


I'd suggest using this SPLC link instead for showing that MRA groups are often considered hate groups, especially since the SPLC is the organization referenced by that site anyway.
posted by Corinth at 11:22 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Misha, I'm not seeing the mods make case 2, 3, 4, or 5, and even case 1 only if you put in qualifiers like "often" and "sometimes" and "partially" and stuff.

As for non-mods, I'm not seeing anyone make case 2 or case 5 (the closest you get is people saying "assume good faith", but not "everything is always in good faith"). Cases 3 and 4 are really iffy: I haven't seen anyone say them in this thread, but I've seen some people take that approach in actual contentious threads.

But, y'know, there are people who say "Stay concise!" and if you're concise, there are people who say "Give more detail and explanation!" As incredibly frustrating as that is, they're not the same people. So the existence of a few people shouldn't really be used as evidence of general support for a line of reasoning, because a few people will always be saying anything. What the mods think, and what the majority of MeFites (or majority of MeTa participants, or what-have-you) is more important, and I'm not really seeing the mods or the majority making cases 2, 3, 4, or 5.
posted by Bugbread at 11:36 PM on September 8, 2014


I'm having a hard time phrasing this statement. Do you mean that people calling others out as a method to discredit them is much more rare than people calling out legit bullshit in an legitimate but less-than-ideal way? If so, I agree, but I'm not sure that's what you're saying

before the slinky goes any further down the stairs, bingo, this is exactly what i mean.

I think that false accusations in any context are way more rare than people generally make them out to be. But here, i think there's essentially no harm in them as noise other than being "annoying". And flushing them down the toilet with the legitimate ones, even the less than perfect legitimate ones, would be a net loss.
posted by emptythought at 11:40 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


1. It is helpful and constructive to characterize others as bigots, homophobes, sexists, etc, as it is always for their own good and serves to better educate them, and
and the rest of the bullet points

If this is really what you took away from the responses in this thread then um, wow.

i don't even really know what to say, but you are literally doing exactly what you described having a problem with. You've taken what someone and/or others have said and completely misrepresented it.

If i didn't know you from a long time of posting on here, i'd seriously assume this was a troll. I'm completely serious.

Just. What?

I mean i understand what you wrote, it just seems totally silenced all my life and i don't see the mods or anyone else making that sort of point here.
posted by emptythought at 11:46 PM on September 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


1. It is helpful and constructive to characterize others as bigots, homophobes, sexists, etc, as it is always for their own good and serves to better educate them, and
2. If I see someone accuse someone else of being a misandrist, a misogynist, an MRA or a PUA, etc. I should not say anything against that characterization, or expect that accusation to be deleted, whether or not there seems to be any foundation for the accusation, because (1).
3. The only acceptable response when you personally are labelled in any of these ways is to stay silent or to apologize unreservedly, because otherwise you would be derailing the thread, and also (1,2)
4. Any attempt to deny such characterization just means you are defensive, and being defensive means you are guilty of whatever it is you have been accused of, because (1,2,3,) plus again with the derailing by defending yourself.
5. These accusations are always made in good faith, anyway, because (start all over again with 1).


This "summation" is, frankly, a crude caricature of numerous points that have been raised here, though I don't know if this is because you've sincerely misread/misunderstood what people are saying when they happen to disagree with you, or whether you are intentionally using a straw man as an argumentative tactic to discredit the people who disagree with you (that is, by ascribing to them positions that they do not actually hold) and thus derail the discussion from the actual merits of their points.

Either way, this sort of misrepresentation makes it far more difficult, not less, to have a thoughtful, good faith discussion of the issues you purportedly wish to discuss.
posted by scody at 11:57 PM on September 8, 2014 [35 favorites]


I feel like some of the comments, especially those of the mods, are making this case:

I honestly don't know how you got to basically any of this from what Matt or I have said in here. Over the years between Jess and I in particular I know we've had to note a few different times that it feels like you have made statements about how Metafilter works and about what the mods are or aren't or have or haven't been doing that are at weirdly stark odds with the actual state of things, and this comment feels like it's basically another round of that.

That's not to say you can't say your piece in here or whatever and if folks can get some useful discussion out of this thread, great, but it's basically impossible to know how to engage with this stuff with you when you're describing moderation positions that are so at odds with what we've actually said over the years. I feel like you have expectations for us and for the site that are fundamentally unmeetable when your description of how you perceive what we say and so is so irreconcilable with what we actually say and do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:01 AM on September 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


misha, I also can't see cases 2, 3, 4, or 5.

I'm really trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, and understand where you're coming from, but I think that in this case I really need some examples. I understand that you don't want to shine a spotlight on any one person, but it's really hard to see what you're getting at, at this point. I mean, I agree that sometimes people covertly attack others using labels. I lurk on many contentious MeFi threads, and can't bring myself to claim that everyone is always acting in good faith with the callouts, but cases 2, 3, 4, and 5 seem really foreign to me.

before the slinky goes any further down the stairs, bingo, this is exactly what i mean.

Thank you for clarifying, emptythought. Just wanted to be sure.

I think that false accusations in any context are way more rare than people generally make them out to be. But here, i think there's essentially no harm in them as noise other than being "annoying". And flushing them down the toilet with the legitimate ones, even the less than perfect legitimate ones, would be a net loss.

Noise is a good descriptor for this, IMO. As I said previously, most of (what I believe to be) callouts for the purpose of discrediting, seem to be borderline and semi-veiled. They may be really annoying and kind of shitty, but also rare.

To be clear, I have seen elegantly phrased versions of "everything you've said has made me believe that you're a fucking -ist," but those seem so uncommon that they're almost just crappy noise. Most of what I see is of the "this thing you said is problematic and we need to discuss it" type, and I think that it's very important for those type of callouts to remain.
posted by Shouraku at 12:02 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


misha, it feels a little as if you're frustrated that you see little agreement or acceptance of your proposal and you're deliberately misreading call the comments as a result. I don't think anyone is saying what you think they are, and I kind of wish you'd try a little harder here. I started out taking your proposal at face value and now I'm having pretty serious doubts.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


To me, the issue with misha's 5-point case starts with #1: as you've recognized, there's a huge difference between peering into someone's soul and labeling them a *-ist and pointing out that the language someone has used, in this particular instance, happens to carry a great deal of baggage that's commonly associated with *-ist groups.

That baggage is usually unhelpful to the point you're actually trying to make, tends to derail any hope at a discussion, etc... Calling it out by saying "actually, that language is problematic to me because it is associated with a long line of..." is a way to invite the poster to move past their thoughts as originally expressed and perhaps clarify what they are really trying to say, or at least engage more deeply with the topic.

I don't know where #2-5 are coming from as well. Point #3 is especially a mystery to me. It is, to be sure, a punch in the gut to be accused of being insensitive, let alone racist or homophobic or whatever, but remember: we're talking about a couple of sentences worth of words on a computer screen here. If you can try to assume good faith in the person calling you out (and heck, assume good faith even if you think it's undeserved), then maybe we can all learn something from the experience.
posted by zachlipton at 12:27 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk: [S]omeone was unfairly prevented from getting their Fuck You on.
posted by riverlife at 12:59 AM on September 9, 2014


Metafilter: the plastic.com it's OK to like

...wait, I'm doing this wrong
posted by Bugbread at 1:03 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Okay, everybody, it is past 4 AM here already and I am exhausted. I am hearing all of you who say I am way off with my 1-5 list. I am starting to doubt my capacity to think at all at this point and will willingly concede my impressions there could be way off the mark.

I appreciate everyone who has come into the thread so far with an open mind and made helpful and insightful comments, especially the many (more eloquent than any of mine have been) from Bugbread and gadge_emeritus in particular.

I also just want to say for the record that I have no recollection of kicking languagehat's puppy or anything and honestly don't know what is his deal with me lately. Languagehat, feel free to Mefimail me or whatever.

Oh, and though I feel that grouse and lalex and hal_c_on gave good examples, I saw that jaguar and emptythought unsurprisingly want more from me specifically and I will get on that.

Okay, I am not ignoring anyone, but I really do need to get some sleep right now, so I will try to be more coherent in the (late) morning. G'night all.
posted by misha at 1:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Corinth, fair enough. I didn't investigate the site much, just checked it linked to the SPLC and said what I knew the SPLC said. I didn't look to see how 'rad' the radfems were, so apologies for that.
posted by gadge emeritus at 1:38 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sometimes slimy tactics, like insinuating someone is racist/sexist/other-ist without reason, look very similar to:
a) useful tactics such as pointing out that someone has said something which could be construed as -ist and inviting clarification so as to reach greater understanding; or
b) perfectly legitimate naming of actual racist/sexist/other-ist statements.

But firstly how are flaggers or the mods supposed to determine the subtle difference between these tactics in time to insta-delete them? Especially in a fast-moving, contentious thread. It's possible to tell the difference, if you're familiar with both posters and have read the entire thread and are well-versed in the tactics and history of the -ist group within the context of the current topic. It's also possible without that knowledge if you continue the discussion. But that takes time and thoughtful consideration. Killing the comment on sight is not a practical solution to the problem.

And secondly, is this really enough of a problem that something must done about it? Is it so awful to have a false accusation made about you and have to clarify your position? I've been called all sorts of names online and offline, and it makes me angry but doesn't otherwise affect my life when the slur is false. I've dealt with far worse tragedy and danger in my life, and this sort of thing just doesn't rate.

Name-calling isn't nice, but it's not as bad as aggressively attacking MeFites for their race, sex, orientation, class or some other factor that is intrinsic to their being. It's not as bad as death threats, or doxxing, or calling people truly offensive slurs like the n-word or the c-word, or other things which lead to banning from the site.

I just don't think "it's not nice" is sufficient reason to enforce a resource-heavy (and maybe not even technologically possible) solution for something I don't believe happens all that frequently.
posted by harriet vane at 2:15 AM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


And on further consideration...

It is my personal feeling that every user who has ponied up that $5 (or slipped in during free sign-ups!) should feel comfortable interacting with all aspects of the site...

This is impossible. There is no way that every user can feel 100% comfortable with every single thing that every other user might say on this site.

Metafilter is not a 'safe space' for victims of oppression (in the way that activists understand it), which will protect users from encountering racist/sexist/other-ist opinions. Really offensive stuff, or persistently aggressive people, will be removed after the damage has been done, but we all understand that we might read things which are offensive to us.

But by the exact same token, all Mefites must understand that they might get called out for writing offensive things, whether they intended to be offensive or not. It's part of the price you pay for not having your posts and comments screened by moderators before they're allowed online. You can post your opinions, but other people are allowed to respond to them as they see fit. If you want to interact with 100,000 members of this site, you have to anticipate a range of opinions and conversational tactics and not insist on the site being cleaned up to match your own personal standards of conversation.

I don't want to condone crappy behaviour, but it can't always be prevented. The Mefi terms of service do not guarantee you will be addressed in a way that doesn't hurt your feelings, whether you paid five bucks or not.
posted by harriet vane at 2:40 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


For the record, I'm against comments being flagged for deletion by default.

Is it so awful to have a false accusation made about you and have to clarify your position? I've been called all sorts of names online and offline, and it makes me angry but doesn't otherwise affect my life when the slur is false.

Except the clarification process can go on for hours and turn into pretty nasty interrogations. I've rarely seen those exchanges go like:

A: (stuff)
B: That sounds []ist, A. You're using an argument just like [group].
A: Ugh. Didn't mean it that way. I meant (sTuFf!)
B: S'cool.

Plus, if certain people start tossing around false accusations, their phalanx of favoriters will believe it even if it's false.

I just want people to flag jerky comments more often. Even if you generally like the person making the comment or if they're a MetaFilter darling or a part of the self-appointed Junior Mod Squad.
posted by kimberussell at 3:53 AM on September 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


II also just want to say for the record that I have no recollection of kicking languagehat's puppy or anything and honestly don't know what is his deal with me lately.

Is there a deleted comment somewhere or is that in reference to this? Because if that comment ventures into the arena of personally motivated attacks on character, you should really examine where you draw your own personal line between attacks and criticism and consider how much of the pattern of unjust personal attacks you are seeing across MeFi are meant or, more importantly, taken as such by most others.
posted by griphus at 5:07 AM on September 9, 2014 [23 favorites]


What we really need around here is a cabal.

That and an auto-fill script for contentious threads where every comment is prefaced automatically with: "So, what I am hearing you saying is [perceptive restatement/stereotyping generalization/ nasty implication]. .... Could you clarify your meaning?

Also: I infer from your implication that you picked up from my tone that [AUTO-DELETE WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE!] and maybe you should consider that not everyone is you.
posted by spitbull at 5:14 AM on September 9, 2014


[S]omeone was unfairly prevented from getting their Fuck You on.

I don't have a view on my any of the larger points raised by this thread, but I definitely feel like I've been unfairly prevented from getting my legitimate Fuck You on in the past.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Plus, if certain people start tossing around false accusations, their phalanx of favoriters will believe it even if it's false.

There is always the option to turn favorites off, which shunts the phalanx disappear into an alternate dimension that is invisible to the naked eye. Clothed one too.

My proposed action would be that all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default.

What's does even mean? There's no flag for deleting things, so enabling it by default won't work.

Be careful of strictly technical solutions to social problems. You'll usually just make more work for someone, while jerks figure a way around any technical fix in seconds or less.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:32 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I do think that there can be a lack of nuance in discussions of various -isms on Metafilter. I say this as someone who gets pretty het up pretty fast about calling out racism or sexism or whatever when I see it, to the point that the mods have deleted comments of mine and told me to cool it on more than one occasion (for which I am sorry.) I also say this as someone who chose to take an extended break from Metafilter because I made a crappy comment, apologized for it, and was then roundly castigated when trying to talk about nuance related to what I agreed was my shitty comment. I'd like to find a way to have a constructive conversation about that lack of nuance, and it's something that I have put not a little bit of thought into over the past couple of years, but, I can't figure out how to really frame it appropriately so that it doesn't seem like stupid anti-PC whinging or victim blaming. I think a good conversation could be separate from those things, but I wouldn't want it to devolve into those things.

This conversation is certainly not the kind of conversation I'm talking about trying to have. I find it absolutely maddening that we've gotten to a place in our general culture, and not just here at Metafilter, where suggesting that someone said something racist or sexist, or suggesting that they are using rhetoric commonly employed by racists and sexists, is somehow taken to be worse than being a victim of sexism or racism. It's as if we expect people of color or women to just wait while we [society] tries to get it right, when most people aren't even trying. It's a ludicrous and deeply deeply perfidious position. It's basically a lie people tell to allow themselves and others to continue to be racist or sexist or whatever.

The thing is, anyone who is paying attention should see racism or sexism (etc.) everywhere they look. One is either supportive of that, or not, but I don't think most folks on Metafilter are unaware of the problems. Further, I think that people here are smart enough to use dogwhistles and care to argue for racism and sexism being acceptable and even good. I very rarely see accusations that people are doing that deployed just to "get" other people. Even in the one concrete example brought forward in this thread, to which I was a party, the person who protested the notion that there are MRAs on Metafilter has a long and distinguished (?) history of (what I would characterize) as both valid and gratuitous objections to callouts of sexism.. This is someone who I actually have met and like in person, and he and I know that we disagree about this, but there it is. I am not saying he is a sexist but he should certainly know how he comes off here. The mods already know how he comments, trust me. If someone is nakedly advancing hate, the mods take care of it. If someone is being rhetorically sly or clueless, it's a much more nuanced thing. I'm not sure why it's so problematic to say that there is the appearance of impropriety. That is very clearly not the same thing as saying that the person is improprietous.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 AM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


I definitely feel like I've been unfairly prevented from getting my legitimate Fuck You on in the past.

I think that may be a fair characterization. That said, I also think the site is better for it.

For me personally, I feel there is a certain amount of utility in telling people that the words they are using are

1. maybe not getting their point across
2. are also the words that people who they may very much not agree with use to describe their positions and it might be good to be mindful of that

So for a random case that was not discussed here, sometimes people in a thread about racial issues will talk about states rights. States rights is a thing and a thing that people may think applies in this conversation. However it's also really useful for them to know about the Southern Strategy and the deeply entrenched racial politicking that happened surrounding it so that people know when they talk about states rights, there's actually a history to that set of words and it's a racist history. There are better and worse ways of getting that point across.

I think it's a point that needs to be made. People who are not racist don't have to suddenly lock step and provide their anti-racist bona fides, just say "Oh I didn't know that" or "Oh yeah but when I say states rights I mean THIS not THAT" (and good luck with that, but you're welcome to try, but you now know that some people feel that this has been used by racists in the past for specific political ends). It gets really tough because we have a lot of people here who have fairly sophisticated understandings of racial and sexual and gender politics and we could all learn a lot from them. However, they have to have conversations with some people who are sort of on the 101 (or earlier) level and people everywhere along this spectrum can have trouble getting into other people's heads to figure out why, for example, someone you didn't think was racist said something that sounds kinda racist. And if you happen to be someone who has been on the receiving end of this sort of stuff a lot, your patience may have already been worn thin.

My analysis, as a user only, is that it's on the people who are trying to make themselves understood to get good enough at reading the room to be able to get their complex positions across. It's on "the room" to try not to be assholes when someone, especially someone from a non-MeFi-mainstream position, is trying to talk. That said, there's only so many times you can say "Hey, saying "I'd hit it" is offensive and sexist to me" before you get to up your responses to tell people you think they are sexist because they seem to not care what you, and others, think.

And you're welcome to not give a shit what other people think about you. But you should nominally be here to have a conversation with people who are Not You and you should show some willingness to do that even if it means having the conversation at a level that is not your usual level. This is not the same as mods telling people to tolerate intolerance, but it is the same as trying to have good faith readings of others' comments.

1. It is helpful and constructive to characterize others as bigots, homophobes, sexists, etc, as it is always for their own good and serves to better educate them

Your interpretation of the mods' words and especially actions seems at odds with what they actually do.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [32 favorites]


I see the move this FPP is making as part of a wider attempt to cordon off sexism and racism (et al.) so that the categories only cover the most egregious and egregiously acute examples.

This interpretation carries quite a bit of explaining power: it both explains why someone would be so very, very offended at being called out for potentially ____-ist behavior (if you take the words to legitimately apply only to the most horrific offenders, then you'd take such a call out to be explicitly implying you're equally monstrous), and explains why someone would be prone to thinking most of such call outs are not only inappropriate but also patently being made in bad faith.

So...it's an understandable position to be coming from (it's pretty much the standard conservative mindset, as unhelpful as it is to point that out), but it's also a position that explicitly erases the way sexism and racism and classism are pervasive. Which explains why doubling down on such a position is going to come off as itself implicitly condoning sexism, racism, and classism to those of us here who don't share that worldview.
posted by nobody at 6:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


Is this thread because of the end of this thread?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on September 9, 2014


Empress, I saw this thread as an attempt to sift out a bit of crayz was going on about and present it in a less passive-aggressive way than he did. misha has laid out what she thinks the problem is (vaguely at first but clarified upon prompting) and proposed a solution. I don't agree with any of it, but it's certainly more respectful than crayz's version. Plus the previous thread has turned into a Feminism 201 level discussion, last I saw.
posted by harriet vane at 7:02 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


OmieWise, I love you, man.

It's on "the room" to try not to be assholes when someone, especially someone from a non-MeFi-mainstream position, is trying to talk.

The thing is, every time someone complains about some in the room being assholes, they are told by staff that their complaint is unfounded. I don't want more deletions either (though I'd love more people to flag), but what misha and a bunch of other people are talking about is definitely a thing that happens. I'd love if, for once, the moderators here just unequivocally acknowledged it as such.
posted by 0 at 7:02 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I also just want to say for the record that I have no recollection of kicking languagehat's puppy or anything and honestly don't know what is his deal with me lately.

Is there a deleted comment somewhere or is that in reference to this?


I think she's probably referring more to stuff like this and this.

Which maybe are examples of sort of the flip side of this MeTa, i.e., not so much "your argument is associated with [bad *ism]" as "your argument is incompatible with [good *ism]."
posted by torticat at 7:04 AM on September 9, 2014


That said, there's only so many times you can say "Hey, saying "I'd hit it" is offensive and sexist to me" before you get to up your responses to tell people you think they are sexist because they seem to not care what you, and others, think.

I kind of disagree with this. If you (general you) are having this conversation with the same person over and over again, feel free to tell them to shove off with their sexist douchebaggery. But if you are having the conversation with five different people, then if if you reach the end of your patience with person number five you should just step back and go bitch about him on tumblr or twitter (if it's not linked to your Metafilter profile of course). But if it's not the fifth guys fault that you ran into the other four people and it doesn't give you license to get all "you are clearly a sexist sexist from the clan McSexism of the town Sexistville."
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:07 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


if it's not linked to your Metafilter profile of course

Nah, even if it is. Your Twitter belongs to you.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:10 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


But if you are having the conversation with five different people, then if if you reach the end of your patience with person number five you should just step back and go bitch about him on tumblr or twitter

Except those five people are often in the same thread, and presumably can read your earlier comments, too.
posted by jaguar at 7:11 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


clan McSexism

family crest: weasel, rampant, upon ceiling of glass
posted by Greg Nog at 7:15 AM on September 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


motto: Vere,
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


and it doesn't give you license to get all "you are clearly a sexist sexist from the clan McSexism of the town Sexistville."

This is, again, the weird idea that pointing out bigotry is somehow mean.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [36 favorites]


I don't want more deletions either (though I'd love more people to flag), but what misha and a bunch of other people are talking about is definitely a thing that happens. I'd love if, for once, the moderators here just unequivocally acknowledged it as such.

See, I think I know what misha is complaining about too, and I think I saw some of what prompted the complaint in the thread I linked to.

You will note, however, that I didn't say I actually saw the behavior in the thread, but rather that I saw what prompted the complaint in the thread. What I'm getting at is -

Oh, hell, lemme bring Sid back in to give an example. Hi, Sid!

Now, Sid posts stuff. Sid has some opinions about stuff - and some of those opinions are kinda strong, but kinda out-there. Let's say, Sid really likes vintage-rules baseball. And Sid can get cranky about how we aren't doing vintage-rules baseball any more. But...eh, that's just Sid.

Except now here's Nancy. And Nancy thinks that Sid's just nuts. And whenever Nancy reads Sid's posts, she says things like "that's the kind of things that a baseball-originalist would say."

I have no idea if "baseball-originalist is a thing, but let's pretend for the moment that it is, and let's further pretend that in baseball circles, it is a bad thing to be called a baseball-originalist. And so Sid is upset that he got called that. He doesn't want to totally turn back all the rules, he just said he likes watching the teams that ARE doing vintage rules ball. He doesn't want to totally reform the whole NBA, he just thinks their games are boring compared to the guys who DO play vintage ball. What's the big deal? And Nancy then says "I get it, but that still makes you sound like a baseball-originalist."

And so they go back and forth, with Sid feeling put-upon for being called a baseball originalist.

The thing is, though - what I suspect is making Sid upset is the belief that "Nancy's calling me a baseball-originalist, and I"m not, and that's turning everyone against me! That's bad!" But what Sid may NOT be considering is that a lot of the people may be like Hank - who thinks that "okay, I disagree with Sid about vintage rules, but I also think Nancy is overreacting to what Sid's saying too." And what Hank is actually thinking whenever he sees Nancy tell Sid he's an originalist is "Nancy's kind of going too far."

So, if Sid knows he's really not an originalist, and it's only Nancy who keeps calling him one, then Sid doesn't need to worry as much about Nancy convincing Hank thus - because the odds are that Hank isn't going to agree with Nancy.

So therefore - deleting Nancy's comments outright wouldn't necessarily do anything except make Hank all mad at the mods because "that's a little excessive", and it wouldn't help Sid at all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, hey, if the guy who jokes about cutting people's dicks off says there's no problem …
posted by 0 at 7:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


"you are clearly a sexist sexist from the clan McSexism of the town Sexistville."

But...there's no denying that if you follow your clan's family tree back just a few jumps (and probably fewer) you will find absolutely overt and undeniable-to-even-an-MRA sexism. We don't think of those ancestors/recent-relatives as indecent because we tell ourselves that they were of their time, things were different then, the whole world was more sexist, there was no way they could know better.

The larger point is that it's kind of silly to think that our current milieu won't be seen the same way a couple generations hence, that we won't be looked at in hindsight as tacitly accepting a whole bunch of bigotries to pretty much the same extent that our ancestors were.

Otherwise, how lucky we are to be living at the end of history! At the exact moment at which all these injustices were finally eradicated from the fabric of society after centuries of neglect!
posted by nobody at 7:30 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is, again, the weird idea that pointing out bigotry is somehow mean.

Defending racism, homophobia, misogyny and sexism by saying that an accusation of bigotry is worse than actual bigotry because it preempts debate has been the "in thing" in certain conservative circles for a while now.
posted by zarq at 7:31 AM on September 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


Well, hey, if the guy who jokes about cutting people's dicks off says there's no problem …

Let me guess, you were captain of the debate squad in high school, right?
posted by griphus at 7:31 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


That sounds a lot like something a dick-cutter would say.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:31 AM on September 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


I think the focus on misha's methods of remediation — which are indeed flawed — is missing the point, perhaps deliberately so. The point is the problem.

Just so there's no confusion, an example will be provided.

Person A say something. Person B says, "That sounds like evo-psych from TRP," which might as well "Get thee behind me, Satan." "That sounds like evo-psych from TRP" isn't a refutation, it's a dismissal purely on associative grounds. There's no count-evidence provided. You could have a dozen Nobel prize winners dancing around Person A's statement in a circle for support, it doesn't matter because "it sounds like evo-psych from TRP." The dismissal is purely emotional, rather than factual. One need only assemble a legion of the appropriate boogeymen (pedophiles, drug dealers, terrorists, and money-launderers is always a handy list), then draw a line to them. And with that line, the sacred geometry has been made; I grant thee license to depart.

I have been a part of a variety of Internet communities since the late eighties and let me assure you, this is a symptom of how communities die from a peculiar sort of success. The disease is something between the auto-immune disorder of over-weening self-righteousness and the Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva of orthodoxy. I have seen it kill Usenet groups and IRC channels and various forums. Victims are often seen with a smug expression on their face before it freezes that way, forever.

The only cure is humility, true humility, not the false modesty of "I have so much to learn about X!" Maintain a little doubt in your heart about that which is dearest to you. Critique yourself not less harshly than your opponents du jour. When you feel a bit triumphant, thrust your hand into a bucket of icewater.

You could be wrong.
posted by adipocere at 7:32 AM on September 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


But - adipocere, you aren't allowing for the possibility of the bystander looking at person B and thinking "Person B is overreacting". Which happens quite a bit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I also just want to say for the record that I have no recollection of kicking languagehat's puppy or anything and honestly don't know what is his deal with me lately.

My deal with you is that while you seem to be a smart person with interesting things to say, you have a very tiresome approach to anything having to do with issues of sexism that can be boiled down, doubtless a bit unfairly, to "I'm a feminist, but a lot of feminists hate men and hate other women who they think aren't feminist enough, like me for example, and I think [insert example of sexism being discussed] isn't getting a fair shake, and also my sons are great guys and I'm raising them feminist, so how dare you question me?" You have kept this up for many years now despite frequent attempts to engage you about it and make you see it is not a productive way to approach either sexism or MetaFilter, and it's irritating as hell. As is this rambling endless MeTa post with its bizarre recommendation that comments should be "flagged for deletion by default." I do not dislike you personally and my comments should not be construed as personal attacks; they are expressions of an irritation that I'm pretty sure is not confined to me.
posted by languagehat at 7:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [60 favorites]


I think she's probably referring more to stuff like this and this.

Which is two comments, neither of which are really off the mark. Which is, I think, the source of a lot of confusion in both that thread and this one. For example, unless I'm missing something, misha seems to believe that there are enough people that believe consent is kind of optional to constitute what is often shorthanded into "rape culture," and yet at the same time she claims that being told that (despite evidence showing it to be largely true) physically rocked her to her core and made her extremely defensive. Maybe I'm wrong, but that seeming cognitive dissonance, when combined with occasionally arguments that often are used by the groups she's describing, is where a lot of the pushback she characterizes as unfair is coming from.

On preview: languagehat obviously puts it better than I could.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:40 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: This is, again, the weird idea that pointing out bigotry is somehow mean.

While you've created a pretty effective strawman to dismiss a point you don't like, you're not addressing an argument that anyone has actually made.

The premise is that there are false and/or unwarranted accusations of bigotry. (By the way, this would be the logical place to disagree without being dismissive: you can disagree that this is really happening.) The claimed problem, is not that it is "mean", but that it's used as a cudgel against non-bigoted arguments.
posted by spaltavian at 7:42 AM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


(I accidentally deleted a line at the beginning of my previous comment stating that even that parody of a supposedly beyond-the-pale accusation is really just a flat statement of fact with some singsong flavor thrown in. I'm bothering to add this here because it otherwise might not be clear how what I managed not to delete was relevant to the core issue and not just a statement of principles.)
posted by nobody at 7:48 AM on September 9, 2014


(By the way, this would be the logical place to disagree without being dismissive: you can disagree that this is really happening.)

Good point, I've been granting far too much of this post's premise as a given without any good reason. In that case: I disagree that this is really happening. I'm sure it has happened a few times over the years but it is not a widespread site problem that happens frequently.
posted by dialetheia at 7:50 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah there seems to be a lot of accusation of a thing happening and very, very little to substantiate it. There were maybe two or three comments linked in total, all of which were from one thread earlier in the week.
posted by griphus at 7:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


The claimed problem, is not that it is "mean", but that it's used as a cudgel against non-bigoted arguments.

I guess if pointing out bigotry isn't in and of itself unkind (which I don't think it is), I'm not sure how it functions as a cudgel rather than as an argument which can be argued against. I mean, this whole thing is just an elaboration of saying 'He played the race card,' as if bringing up bigotry somehow 'wins' the conversation.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:55 AM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure how it functions as a cudgel rather than as an argument which can be argued against.

It's not a particularly interesting argument to read because neither side can actually establish anything. If you go back and forth with it the mods will ask you to stop because it's derailing and goes in circles. That's how it functions to shut down an argument. It makes it about the person rather than their words. People should feel free to make the accusation if they really feel it's warranted, and people should defend themselves when it happens, but it should end there.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:01 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like I've seen it too, misha, but I have no links because when I see it I pretty much abandon thread so I don't get all angry. Personally my least fave is "sounds like a tone argument", which was dropped on me once and really got my jimmies all rustled up. Well is it or isn't it? Don't just throw that out there and then not stand behind it. Whatever, though. I still stick around, it's just a minor annoyance at worst and probably not far from the truth a good amount of the time.
posted by Hoopo at 8:08 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Tangential comment:

Hoopo, consider the phrase "got my jimmies all rustled up" officially stolen. Thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on September 9, 2014


I've been told my arguments make me sound like a member of a shitty hate group. I was like "you're right, it sucks that this topic is so hard to discuss because of the real, hateful, dangerous bigots who use similar arguments and I sorry I inadvertently reminded you of them."

Place the blame where it belongs, instead of on the victims, have a little empathy, and the problem largely disappears.

Conversely, act as though your right to say anything no matter how it comes across is being infringed upon by the victims of systemic bias and hate, and the problem is suddenly much bigger.

In other words, get some perspective and respond respectfully and sympathetically instead of making it about your need to be right/perfect.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:11 AM on September 9, 2014 [44 favorites]


Well, hey, if the guy who jokes about cutting people's dicks off says there's no problem …

If we're going to dismiss people's points because of one ill-considered joke made in the past, well, I've been making ill-considered jokes here since 2005, so go ahead and dismiss this one as well.
posted by maxsparber at 8:28 AM on September 9, 2014


Why are you assuming it was a joke
posted by shakespeherian at 8:30 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because only nihilists threaten to cut off a man's johnson.
posted by maxsparber at 8:33 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


consider the phrase "got my jimmies all rustled up" officially stolen.

it's a thing on Reddit, not sure if that ruins it for you. Every now and then they do come up with something good though.
posted by Hoopo at 8:41 AM on September 9, 2014


A question: what the dickens is a 'TERF'? Never heard that one before....
posted by easily confused at 8:42 AM on September 9, 2014


Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. There was a huge, highly contentious MeTa about this a while back.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:43 AM on September 9, 2014


it's a thing on Reddit, not sure if that ruins it for you.

It started on 4chan I think. I picked it up from SRSers making fun of them. It's still a great phrase!

what the dickens is a 'TERF'?

It stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
posted by dialetheia at 8:44 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a "....ugh" flag.

Down at the bottom: ughther.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:48 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not a particularly interesting argument to read because neither side can actually establish anything. If you go back and forth with it the mods will ask you to stop because it's derailing and goes in circles. That's how it functions to shut down an argument. It makes it about the person rather than their words.

Every time I've noticed it, it becomes "about the person" because the person making the pointed-out-as-bigoted comments responds as if it were a personal attack -- with something along the lines of "I can't make a bigoted argument because I'm not a bigot!" -- rather than clarifying their original comment.
posted by jaguar at 8:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


I've noticed that plenty often too, but it's not every time.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2014


Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist..... sigh. Okey-doke, if it's okay with y'all, I'm just gonna stick with whether someone --- some person, no further breakdown needed --- is or is not a feminist.
posted by easily confused at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


RationalWiki link for anyone interested in the term's negative connotations.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2014


I hope he doesn't remember this as well as I do, but quite awhile back I made a comment in MetaTalk which implied that a previous incarnation of Ivan Fyodorovich had made a comment with anti-Semitic overtones.

This was objectively untrue, though I didn't see that at the time, but it was very wrong of me to suggest such an awful thing without a firm basis in any case, and I regret it deeply.
posted by jamjam at 9:04 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not saying that anyone here is a 4chan poster, but talking about "rustled jimmies" sounds exactly like something a lot of them say.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:07 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


According to ancient wisdom haters are going to hate.

Ironically, the type of over-policing suggested in the post strikes me as the same stripe of bullying shutdown.

Many many times I have seen people use moral outrage as a type of privilege, troll apparently for lolz, act like big babies, and push people around. Sometimes there is a cabal.

I say we work it out in the thread every time.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:09 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that anyone here is a 4chan poster, but talking about "rustled jimmies" sounds exactly like something a lot of them say.

And that's a great example of why that kind of comment can be constructive: I would like to know when I sound like a 4chan poster, even if I choose to say it anyway. That is valuable information to me.
posted by dialetheia at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm not saying that anyone here is a 4chan poster, but talking about "rustled jimmies" sounds exactly like something a lot of them say.

It sounds like something out of an old Western. Or 50's noir film. Or....

"I shot a Jimmy Rustler in Phoenix just to watch him die."
posted by zarq at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


And that's a great example of why that kind of comment can be constructive: I would like to know when I sound like a 4chan poster, even if I choose to say it anyway. That is valuable information to me.

Yeah, seriously. If I used the jimmy-rustling phrase and someone said "Hey, I don't know if you know this, but that's a 4chan shibboleth -- I'm a bit surprised to hear that come out of your mouth," I would very much want to know that!
posted by KathrynT at 9:18 AM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Despite the framing and so on - in terms of silencing there's been a tacit approval of little swarms of users here as an aid to moderation since matt put his recumbent bicycle away.

It's not needed and should stop.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wait, so you're saying reddit stole a thing from 4chan? Psh, like that would ever happen
posted by Hoopo at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, I am a 4chan poster. My oldest file from 4chan is from May of 2005. I remember when you could post a .gif of Mister Hands to /b/ for surprise linkage and it would stay up for over a day. Jimmies have been rustled for years now.

*places his hands to his ears, curling all fingers but his indices down, those extended up like horns, then begins prancing and capering about* BOOGEY BOOGEY BOOGEY!
posted by adipocere at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, seriously. If I used the jimmy-rustling phrase and someone said "Hey, I don't know if you know this, but that's a 4chan shibboleth -- I'm a bit surprised to hear that come out of your mouth," I would very much want to know that!

The thing is, it's also a ShitRedditSays shibboleth, because they appropriated it as an ironic joke at the expense of 4chan and reddit. That's where I first heard the phrase, and that's the forum I associate it with. It can represent completely opposite political extremes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


So it's basically ironic 4chan-ism?
posted by jaguar at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Making assumptions about people because of their choice of idiom is exactly the problem. Rustled jimmies has nothing to do with actual point being made, so even a polite "hey I don't know if you know this..." is derailing what the person is actually trying to communicate. And, that's if it's polite, which is rarely is. It is far more likely to take the form of "slither back to 4chan where you came from, misogynist; we don't want your dog whistles here."
posted by 0 at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Making assumptions is a problem, adding information and asking questions is not.

"You are an Xist! WTF?" wouldn't count.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2014


and it doesn't give you license to get all "you are clearly a sexist sexist from the clan McSexism of the town Sexistville."

This is, again, the weird idea that pointing out bigotry is somehow mean.


I think that whether calling someone a -ist is an attack or a statement of fact would probably be a good thing to have in its own MeTa. Many of the problems in this thread seem to boil down to what is an attack versus what is just neutrally pointing out bigotry. Frankly, I'm not even sure where the mods fall on this, and would really like to know.
posted by Shouraku at 9:45 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's worth noting that the Rustled My Jimmies exchange just now was, like, a paragon of politeness. Hoopo used it, Empress said she liked it, Hoopo said "oh heads up it's a 4chan thing", and then people talked about where and when it's been used in the last few years. It was respectful, chill, and maybe the most interesting thing to have come out of this MeTa.

This thing 0 made up:
"slither back to 4chan where you came from, misogynist; we don't want your dog whistles here."

would probably be a pretty messed-up comment, if LITERALLY ANYONE HAD MADE IT
posted by Greg Nog at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2014 [53 favorites]


hee! newbs are so cute!
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:54 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


This thing 0 made up

You are correct that that's not what happened in this case. You are mistaken, however, if you don't believe similar things have been said to me and others many times.
posted by 0 at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thing is, every time someone complains about some in the room being assholes, they are told by staff that their complaint is unfounded.

Except that this is bullshit, and it was bullshit when you trotted it out in the other recent Metatalk thread too.

I totally understand someone's frustration with being on the low-headcount side of some asymmetrical argument in a thread, and I've said as much any number of times while talking about this stuff. It sucks to feel piled on. It sucks to feel like you're in a no-win dynamic where you either take on all comers and get grief for that or you walk away from it and feel like you're being forced to concede or legitimize the position of people who are disagreeing with you and being uncharitable or unkind about it. That's a thing, it's a completely understandable thing for which I have a ton of sympathy. The idea that the mod staff is routinely let alone consistnetly dismissive of that is just pulled from whole cloth.

In practice, what we're likely to do is just not prioritize the avoidance of that bad feeling above everything else involved around here. We're likely to try and deal with a pile-on or take-on-all-comers thing by telling everybody to cut it out. We're likely to acknowledge that it sucks when people are being jerks while also trying to talk about why perpetuating a bad dynamic just because you think other people are jerks is not workable. In practice we're going to have to tell someone sometimes, publicly or privately, that even if they're frustrated, they still have to be part of fixing a pattern of behavior that they're contributing to. Even if it's not all their fault. Even if it sucks to deal with other people being jerks.

Failing to declare that weird room dynamics are 100% the fault of the room and that someone feeling piled on is inculpable and has no agency or responsibility in the situation is not the same thing as dismissing as unfounded all concerns about pile-ons and crappy room dynamics. It's just wildly, gallingly frustrating to see you trot this out repeatedly as if the contrary were true. Your apparent contempt for a lot of the site and of the moderation here is your business to sort out, but your inability or unwillingness to see the grey areas in this stuff or hear our actual responses to stuff is not something on which Metafilter policy or practice is ever going to turn.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


"This was objectively untrue, though I didn't see that at the time, but it was very wrong of me to suggest such an awful thing without a firm basis in any case, and I regret it deeply."

I don't remember it and I'm sorry you feel bad about it, because it's not a big deal.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:59 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, if so many are convinced that this is a non-phenomenon, how about those in the "yes, it is happening" camp simply link back to this post whenever this sort of thing is spotted in the wild?

This proposition should rustle not a single jimmy, for if the phenomenon does not actually occur, no links would be made. It's risk-free.
posted by adipocere at 9:59 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


The blue isn't really for that, though if you see something you think is an example of bad behavior there is always the contact form.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:00 AM on September 9, 2014


You are mistaken, however, if you don't believe similar things have been said to me and others many times.

To be fair, you do say an awful lot of genuinely shitty things.
posted by griphus at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


I actually don't say an awful lot of anything. I've made under 500 comments here total in 2 years.
posted by 0 at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Failing that, you circle around apologizing for awful behavior without ever actually apologizing for it, making other people's strong reactions to your obviously implied position look weird and unfounded. Which is great, because argument by "I'm not touching you!" is really fun and not at all tiresome.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


BONKERS STATUS: CLONKED
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


> You are mistaken, however, if you don't believe similar things have been said to me and others many times.

The dark implications that there is ample evidence of feminist posters viciously bullying politely-argued alternative viewpoints will remain tiring and transparent until any such evidence is produced.

I readily believe you have specific instances in mind. Maybe you're worried that you're misremembering, or even misrepresenting, these instances, and thus they wouldn't prove to be the strong examples you'd prefer people to presume?
posted by gilrain at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2014


Oh man, speaking of posting to 4chan, I just remembered that like six years ago, one of the mods was like, "i want internet-joke-related t-shirt ideas for ROFLcon!" and I suggested the Pretty Cool Guy thing that was getting posted on /b/ a lot at that time, and then she made the shirt! And then I naturally slithered back to my misogynist pit of turd-goblins while mefi's mean feminists laughed at my cut-up dick.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:17 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Actually, the "rustled jimmies" thing is a good analogy. Allow me to adopt it thusly -

It's worth noting that the Rustled My Jimmies exchange just now was, like, a paragon of politeness. Hoopo used it, Empress said she liked it, Hoopo said "oh heads up it's a 4chan thing", and then people talked about where and when it's been used in the last few years. It was respectful, chill, and maybe the most interesting thing to have come out of this MeTa.

It's also not the kind of remark which I suspect is prompting this MeTa.

It's also worth noting, too, that O's reaction to the adoption of this analogy was:

It is far more likely to take the form of "slither back to 4chan where you came from, misogynist; we don't want your dog whistles here."

Now, here's the thing.

No, I haven't actually seen anyone say that kind of thing. But I have indeed see them come close - like, "okay, you say you're not on 4chan, but that comment did sound kinda 4chan-y, and it's interesting that you consistently say 4chan-y things."

The thing is, though, is that I've also noticed that it always seems to be the same people who do make such "that sounds like a 4chan thing" arguments. And they do seem to make them about things that I don't think sound 4chan-y anyway. So if someone were to say "hmmmmm, that sounds suspiciously 4chan-y" I'd be thinking, "uh....no, it doesn't. Oh, wait, it's [so and so] saying it, that explains why they think so, they think way more things sound 4chan-y than actually do. okay, never mind." So there's no need for the person thus accused of being 4chan-y in this instance to worry, or at least not as much need as they think, because what they are afraid is a comment that is A Slander On Their Name is coming across to everyone else more like "oh, there goes [so and so]".

And to speak more literally about the analogy for a moment - the fact that "rustled my jimmies" originated on reddit and/or 4chan bothers me not in the slightest, and if I heard that anyone made a vast judgement about my character based solely on my adopting a particular phrase, I would think them very, very silly indeed, especially when I have a 5-year history on this site which contains a much fuller depiction of my actual thought.

So maybe this is the takeaway - we shouldn't get so hung up on the exact words someone is using to try to slag you off, because people do a pretty good job of re-interpreting someone's exact word choice based on context.*

*the exceptions, of course, being universally-understood-to-be-discouraged words or words-which-a-given-group-has-said-they-prefer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


and it doesn't give you license to get all "you are clearly a sexist sexist from the clan McSexism of the town Sexistville."

This is, again, the weird idea that pointing out bigotry is somehow mean.


A couple of points:

1) It's not mean, but it is an attack. Acting like it's not isn't going to get us to a non racist future. Or rather, telling people who feel like it's an attack that they shouldn't feel that way isn't going to help get rid of racism. Telling people that they shouldn't feel what they feel never really helps anything.

I was watching a documentary about the March on Washington and one of the things they mentioned was that when protesting black teenagers in Birmingham got attacked with dogs, sprayed with hoses, and thrown in jail and all this was showed on national tv it changed the national view of racism and was a big part of changing the way whites viewed racism in the south.

Thankfully, getting attacked by dogs is no longer necessary to fight racism, but internet activists seem to have just skipped over the process of redefining racism/sexism in popular culture to include the "small" stuff and instead and just rushed to the accusing people of racist and just expecting them to roll with it.

2) Just because someone says something racist/sexist/prejudice doesn't mean that they are. And you should actually talk to them a little about what they said, before jumping to the racism accusations. I understand why people don't, but that's not a good thing and shouldn't be encouraged.

There were posts a while ago about one black person who went to talk to klan members and another who was trying to talk to some neo-nazis in Europe. While talking to them they managed to be civil and keep the insults to themselves. I know not everybody is capable of that, but I don't believe people are incapable of treating someone who says "I'd hit it" as an actual person and not an a member of the sexist hivemind.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I also just want to say for the record that I have no recollection of kicking languagehat's puppy

languagepuppy! Speaks 10 different animal languages including Pig latin, meow-meow, whalesong and Beatle (he studied under Lennon). So cute and just the thing to take to the zoo. But let's be honest: who here HASN'T kicked that smart-assed little pooch at least once? I mean I can hardly speak any Human, but fido is always going on about the untranslatable beauty of aardvark poetry. It burns me up! I say MeFi needs a no-pets policy. Vote #1.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [35 favorites]


I was watching a documentary about the March on Washington and one of the things they mentioned was that when protesting black teenagers in Birmingham got attacked with dogs, sprayed with hoses, and thrown in jail and all this was showed on national tv it changed the national view of racism and was a big part of changing the way whites viewed racism in the south.

Thankfully, getting attacked by dogs is no longer necessary to fight racism


August 2014 welcomes you.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


Hey everybody, example! This example is being used because it is from this thread, and I do not believe it is being made ironically, and it does just the type of thing I am talking about.

Defending racism, homophobia, misogyny and sexism by saying that an accusation of bigotry is worse than actual bigotry because it preempts debate has been the "in thing" in certain conservative circles for a while now.

See how this works? First, I guess because I made a thread discussing a sitewide problem of people making false accusations, I am now considered to be

Defending racism, homophobia, misogyny and sexism

And that mischaracterizations leads to implying I am....duh duh duh--A Conservative!

I know I am going to have people say, hey, what's the problem with being called a conservative? Some of my best friends are conservatives!

But the comment itself is ridiculous. Nowhere have I defended racism or bigotry, and I have certainly never intimated that accusations of bigotry are worse than actual bigotry. So it doesn't matter if that is something conservatives do anyway!

Oh, and there's a misapprehension in the thread, I think, that my problem with this tactic is that i think it is mean to call someone bigoted, and so I am in favor of letting bigotry go unchallenged because it hurts people's feelings to be called bigoted.

NO. THAT IS NOT WHAT I AM SAYING OR WHAT I BELIEVE.

My actual problem is that it is dishonest to label someone a bigot--or an MRA or a PUA or whatever--just because they disagree with your specific position on a specific detail of a specific instance, in order to discredit that person and shut them down. And that this is an ugly tactic that happens way too frequently on Metafilter specifically

So, what I am hearing in this thread is that the best response when that happens is not to flag comments like the one above (and, in actual practice, much worse comparisons) and not to delete them, but just to ignore them and assume that rational people know I am neither defending racism and bigotry nor a conservative? Because sure, I can do that.

But is there any argument that this is a pretty ridiculous debate tactic on the face of it, that it can be frustrating and even intimidating especially to new members to deal with, at least?

And if the person doing this has a habit of using this tactic to shut down other people's dissenting opinions (which I don't think zarq does at all), are we okay with that?

Because I feel that it is like a micro-aggression; over time it wears people down. I think it strongly contributes to site burnout and people leaving. And no, before anyone goes there, not because they are racists, sexists, or bigots, but because just seeing that same situation play out so often even when you are not the target is depressing and starts to tarnish your entire view of Metafilter.

So my answer is no, but if yours (general yours here, meaning people in this thread) is that this is a perfectly fine tactic for people to use, that's okay, but I would like to know why you feel that way.
posted by misha at 10:35 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Also, if you want an example of what mischa is talking about the see the response to The World Famous in this thread. He was coming at the discussion about harassment from the point of view of an employment lawyer, which would have been an interesting perspective to have in the thread. Instead a lot of people jumped on him because he wasn't in line with the feminist perspective in thread and they were reading his comments from the "he said something that could be read in a sexist way so clearly he is one" point of view.

I've copied the second half of one of the comments he made in the thread toward the end: (I asked him to talk about harrasement more from a legal point of view).
Bolding is in the original comment.
nooneyouknow, I'm afraid to go into detail here describing the breadth of conduct that is regularly called "harassment" in my line of work, as I'm concerned people will then pile on me again, accusing me of drawing false equivalence with Matthesen's situation, which would not be the case.

Part of the reason we, as employment lawyers, conduct regular sexual harassment training for employers is that people have vastly different understandings of what the term means and what constitutes sexual harassment - though most problems arise from people setting the bar way too high, not way too low.

In Matthesen's case, she says WisCon leadership gave the subcommittee an account of the harassment that, although found to be harassment, "downplay[ed] the physical contact significantly enough to make the account grossly misleading." Just using the word "harassment" does not convey severity or even convey the speaker's understanding of the meaning of the term. I've seen people nearly fired over incidents described as "harassment" that I can assure you nobody here would consider worthy of any discipline whatsoever, but that was, nevertheless, inappropriate. Again - because I have no faith in MeFites anymore - I am not saying what happened to Matthesen was not severe sexual harassment. By all available indications, it was not only extremely severe, but was sufficiently severe that it is wholly insufficient to merely refer to it as "harassment." Based on her own account, it at least included physical contact so severe that even characterizing it as sexual harassment could, without all available detail, be "grossly misleading."
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:40 AM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


"My actual problem is that it is dishonest to label someone a bigot--or an MRA or a PUA or whatever--just because they disagree with your specific position on a specific detail of a specific instance, in order to discredit that person and shut them down. And that this is an ugly tactic that happens way too frequently on Metafilter specifically.

You seem amazingly certain of what's going on in other people's heads.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:40 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Misha:

I have a pretty good idea what you're talking about and who your'e talking about. And to be honest,

1) I think they're overreacting themselves, and
2) What they're saying isn't even an attack on anyone, it is a statement of their own beliefs.

I agree with you that it is dishonest for someone to label you an MRA just because they disagree with you. But I'm not seeing them say "Misha, you sound a lot like an MRA". What I'm seeing is them say "I believe [blah blah blah] because I'm not an MRA".

Which is....kinda different. I mean, I hear you that it sounds like the implication is "and anyone who doesn't agree with me Is an MRA", but...that's not what they're saying, and it also is making them look a little strident.

To use the example you post above, too -

First, I guess because I made a thread discussing a sitewide problem of people making false accusations, I am now considered to be "Defending racism, homophobia, misogyny and sexism"

No one said that you did that. We're talking about a thing that happens. If it's not something you're doing, then you don't have to worry about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 AM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Just because someone says something racist/sexist/prejudice doesn't mean that they are.

I don't care what someone 'is' in their heart of hearts. I care what someone does and how it affects other people.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


See how this works? First, I guess because I made a thread discussing a sitewide problem of people making false accusations, I am now considered to be

Defending racism, homophobia, misogyny and sexism

And that mischaracterizations leads to implying I am....duh duh duh--A Conservative!

I know I am going to have people say, hey, what's the problem with being called a conservative? Some of my best friends are conservatives!


misha, I'm going to say this as gently and as politely as I possibly can:

If you do not understand the context within which something has been said or who is being spoken to and why, it's actually okay to read it over a few times before commenting out of anger. Or to ask questions of the original commenter rather than getting your rant on. Or to read the link to determine why I think that actual bigotry (punching down) might be more damaging than an accusation of bigotry.

You should not have taken my comment personally because it was:
a) not about you
b) didn't mention you
c) not a response to you
d) had nothing to do with you personally or in any other way
e) did not make any assumptions about your political leanings
and
f) in a way, actually supports your initial argument.
etc.

No one has called you anything. You asked that people not make this about you. I did not. This is not about you, misha.
posted by zarq at 10:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [39 favorites]


RE specific examples -

Do we not have the means to alert mods? Has this not happened in the past? Have the mods not said stuff happens, flag it and move on, some complaints have merit and we address those, never hurts to take a break, and etc.

I think it's useless to act as though specific examples or it didn't happen. Anything someone wants to say happens, I've probably done it myself.

Phrases like "increasing frequency" and "well-known trend" make me think the poster needs to take a break.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:54 AM on September 9, 2014


Also, if you want an example of what mischa is talking about the see the response to The World Famous in this thread.

That is a pretty good example of the problem as I see it. TWF's original comment was confusing and the requests for clarification were reasonable. It should not have turned into more of an interrogation after that though because he just ended up repeating himself. R_N handled it with the right note...

[Come on, folks, drop it already. If TWF hasn't explained his position well enough already, he's not going to. ]

posted by Drinky Die at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've also seen this same issue happening Metafilter. It's a problem and it's driving people away.

Phrases like "increasing frequency" and "well-known trend" make me think the poster needs to take a break.

This sort of tactic too.
posted by unixrat at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


misha, but the thing is, between the choice of "automatically delete those statements that might cast people in an unfair light and make their proponents open up a MeTa where they make a well-reasoned case for their position" and "respond to the comments in thread of just ignore them," the latter is a much, much better choice for the site.

So even if it's true that the statements are unreasonable or unfair and misrepresent you and your point of view, your solution to that problem kind of sucks.

Aside from not knowing how to easily discern good-faith commenting on ___-ist type behavior from bad-faith rhetorical shenanigans, your proposal to shift the burden of proof gives disproportionate weight to the feelings of people who are upset about being called ____-ist.

Being called out as ____-ist is going to feel crappy and uncomfortable whether it's done in good faith or not, but your proposal would be some sort of weird prior restraint on people who want to make these arguments.

I think the better alternative, is when you're being accused of something that you believe to be unjust or unsupported, either (a) ignore it or (b) give a thoughtful response.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Spoken like a true Yankee's fan..
posted by k5.user at 11:02 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know, a lot of Mefites do not come to the grey.

I have thought more than once that it would be really helpful to Matt and the mods to survey the members, maybe notifying them with a banner similar to the funding one. And one question I would put on the survey if I were a mod (I know, your worst nightmare) would be:

Do you avoid threads on certain contentious topics?

With a follow-up question of:

If so, which ones and why?

Because I think the majority would say that yes, they do avoid certain threads.

And I think the majority answer to why would NOT be "Because Metafilter is full of racists and bigots," but something more close to, "Because those threads are dominated by angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say."

Which I think is sad, because a lot of contentious threads end with some amazing and productive discussions that go on for a long while. But not many people want to stick around that long in what feels like a hostile environment.
posted by misha at 11:05 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Also, if you want an example of what mischa [sic] is talking about the see the response to The World Famous in this thread.

nooneyouknow, I read from The World Famous's first comment in that thread down to the mod note ending the back-and-forth, and while I saw some people interrogating his somewhat muddled-sounding position on things, I saw no one even suggesting that he's an anti-feminist, let alone sexist, an MRA, etc. I saw him (and you) responding in-thread as though heavier things were being thrown his way, and things didn't even escalate much from there, except that eventually he started getting a bit sarcastic.

It kind of seems that everyone's behavior was pretty much fine, including yours and his? Did I miss something?
posted by nobody at 11:08 AM on September 9, 2014


"Because those threads get bogged down in people who think being told "Hey, that sounded pretty sexist." is a personal attack and a microaggression on the same level as actually experiencing day to day sexism."
posted by FritoKAL at 11:09 AM on September 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


Also, if you want an example of what mischa is talking about the see the response to The World Famous in this thread.

You know, I was actually sympathetic to The World Famous in that thread, and had to leave it after someone was an asshole to me over MeMail. But I think the issue there was much much more nuanced than what misha claims to want to talk about in this thread. People were taking issue with what he said, and what he was saying was not something that most people wanted to engage with precisely because of the nuance. I especially don't see in his comment quoted here, where he admits that his area of practice is very specific and at odds with common understandings of harassment, that his position backs up the notion that he's being labeled unfairly.
posted by OmieWise at 11:10 AM on September 9, 2014


I agree, Drinky_Die, that restless_nomad handles situations like those well in my experience, and I do appreciate her even-handed approach.
posted by misha at 11:10 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The imaginary answers to a hypothetical survey of the site members is no reason to feel sad, misha. After all, they might not back up your argument perfectly, too!
posted by gilrain at 11:11 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Actually, I regret that and am resisting misusing the edit window. I apologize, misha.
posted by gilrain at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2014


"Being called out as ____-ist is going to feel crappy and uncomfortable whether it's done in good faith or not, but your proposal would be some sort of weird prior restraint on people who want to make these arguments."

A bug ... or a feature?

"And I think the majority answer to why would NOT be 'Because Metafilter is full of racists and bigots,' but something more close to, 'Because those threads are dominated by angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say.'"

You seem amazingly certain of what's going on in other people's heads.

And now you're speaking for them, too.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


And I think the majority answer to why would NOT be "Because Metafilter is full of racists and bigots," but something more close to, "Because those threads are dominated by angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say."

Not everyone has a valuable or educated opinion. Not everyone has an opinion that should be treated with courtesy. Not everyone has an opinion that reflects the facts of the matter and not a severe misinterpretation of what is actually happening in a thread. Not everyone finds themselves welcome everywhere, nor should they. And I have no doubt a person with an ignorant opinion is made uncomfortable when that is pointed out to them. That doesn't make a thread where that happens necessarily full of angry people who don't want to listen.
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


But I think the issue there was much much more nuanced than what misha claims to want to talk about in this thread.

That's an interesting way to word that. Could you maybe elaborate on why you phrased that the way you did?
posted by misha at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2014


"Because those threads get bogged down in people who think being told "Hey, that sounded pretty sexist." is a personal attack and a microaggression on the same level as actually experiencing day to day sexism."

Yes, I can thinking of at least three specific instances wherein a user whom I consider to be a pretty good ally for a lot of things said something shitty-- well-meaning, but shitty-- because of unexamined privilege and when he was called on it instead of saying 'Oh fuck, you're right' he stomped out of the thread saying something along the lines of 'BUT I'M AN ALLY! AND NOW PEOPLE ARE SAYING I SAID A SEXIST THING'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:16 AM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


This is not about you, misha.

Well, can she still be worried about her thread being derailed? Several people are hammering out how to graciously accept being told you said a racist/sexist thing, when misha's concerns are comments that are being labeled so undeservedly.

But this is also a pretty good example of how the "if it's not true, don't worry about" thing doesn't really play out:

Your comment she responded to was riffing off a false characterization of someone responding to jessamyn's comment.

That comment included the comment "there's only so many times you can say "Hey, saying "I'd hit it" is offensive and sexist to me" before you get to up your responses to tell people you think they are sexist". Well, yes, that's true, but that has nothing to do with misha's post: she's not asking anyone to be nicer about calling out actually sexism. And if you follow the chain of quotes further up, it wasn't really what was being talked abotu.

But now, way down the , we've lost the plot, and we're back to how people who say problematic things should be open, not defensive, and we've basically defined what misha is talking about out of existence. It's snowballed, and now you feel okay lecturing her on why punching down is worse than accusations of bigotry (which I'm pretty sure she would agree with!) but it also has nothing to do with what she's been saying.

It's not a perfect example, but I doubt this thread will really address misha's concerns much, (even if only to disagree), and it's not going to be fixable through "clarifications". We're now at the "how can you compare this to real bigotry?" part of the thread.
posted by spaltavian at 11:18 AM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


A bug ... or a feature?

Where you stand depends on where you sit, right? Being called out for something like this unjustly sucks and isn't a feature. Being called out rightfully is an appropriate thing.

Which sort of gets down to why I'm not in favor of misha's proposal, because I understand her argument as wanting to recast the balance here so that we err on the side of protecting the feelings of people who feel unjustly accused of ___-ism rather than erring on the side of protecting the ability to call someone out as _____-ist.

So even if I can appreciate that it's occasionally a thing that happens here that people are tarred with an ___-ist brush in bad faith, I think we should change nothing, the system works.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't avoid contentious threads because they're "dominated by angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say". I avoid contentious threads because, generally, I don't want to read them. I have other things going on- or not, even. Sometimes I just don't care. Isn't the ability to avoid contentious threads a feature, not a bug? I agree that it's worthwhile for all threads to be less contentious overall, but assuming things will never be perfect, why should people feel compelled to participate in heated threads?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


And I think the majority answer to why would NOT be "Because Metafilter is full of racists and bigots," but something more close to, "Because those threads are dominated by angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say."

Actually, in my case it'd be more like "those threads attract the same one or two people who don't shut up and hammer the same damn points over and over and it gets tedious" or "those threads are dominated by angry people and I don't got time for that".

I don't need every last thought in my head to be heard. I have my own blog when I feel like I need What I Have To Say To Be Heard.

I accept that you may think this. I wouldn't be so sure it's the majority.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Misha, here is a thread where your first comment accuses other commenters of being insincere, claim you are "disgusted" by their reasoning, and throw in some out of the blue weirdness about how you're a better/different brand of feminist than the rest of Metafilter. I attempted to respond in good faith, primarily to say that everyone else was also speaking in good faith, and your response was to ignore the content of my reply and call my attitude sexist.

Can you see why it would be discouraging to attempt to engage with you after that?
posted by almostmanda at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


You know, misha, I don't want to be one of the people who just wilfully dismisses your observations and feelings, and I do think that there are instances of "I'm not saying that you're an asshole, but you act and sound exactly like an asshole," on MeFi. But I think that it's worth realizing that there are varied responses to this, ranging from "bless you for letting me know that I sound and act just like an asshole; now I can lean to stop doing that!" to "hey, what the heck, you just called me an asshole!" These things are open to interpretation and aren't against site guidelines. I'm pretty sure that all of us have been called a -ist at some point on MeFi. It's happened to me, and helped me tremendously, which is why I find it hard to agree with outright auto-deleting such accusations.

I don't want to completely dismiss your claims, because I don't believe that every callout on MeFi is done in good faith; to argue so would be very naive. But if you start attempting to delete callouts, you're not only requiring that the mods be put into the difficult position of trying to determine what is an attack versus what isn't, but also risk silencing people who are actually making really important statements about -ists.

My point with all of this is: yes, there are rare people on the site who can be pretty slimy in various ways, but banning their crap could also have the negative effect of banning stuff that we really need to keep.
posted by Shouraku at 11:21 AM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Well, can she still be worried about her thread being derailed?

Sure! She should voice that concern rather than accusing me of stuff I'm not actually doing.
posted by zarq at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Misha, that's not what "microaggression" means. I did a big post on what it does mean about a month ago if you need more information. If people repeatedly calling out marginalizing behavior and dog-whistles wears you down, imagine how wearing it would be to deal with those behaviors all the time.
posted by NoraReed at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


> And what Hank is actually thinking whenever he sees Nancy tell Sid he's an originalist is "Nancy's kind of going too far."

If a lot of Hanks don't actually say so in the thread, though, we're back to "the lurkers support me in email."
posted by jfuller at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


If a lot of Hanks don't actually say so in the thread, though, we're back to "the lurkers support me in email."

I was getting more at "Sid may want to just let Nancy's stuff stand and ignore it."

Although, if you think Hank should speak up:

If people repeatedly calling out marginalizing behavior and dog-whistles wears you down, imagine how wearing it would be to deal with those behaviors all the time.

Nora, let's let misha's complaint be the focus this time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


...and throw in some out of the blue weirdness about how you're a better/different brand of feminist than the rest of Metafilter.

Honest to god misha I could probably pull up more examples of you doing exactly that than I could the sort of harassment you claim is infecting the site. You are no more innocent of touting bona fides for rhetorical points than the people you're accusing of doing so.
posted by griphus at 11:29 AM on September 9, 2014 [28 favorites]


but that has nothing to do with misha's post: she's not asking anyone to be nicer about calling out actually sexism

There's no governing body that determines what "actually sexism" or "actually racism" or "actually any-ism" is. Which means that each individual user is likely to have a slightly different definition, and is certaintly going to have a different tolerance for when they think an -ist statement should be challenged.

So if I think someone's comment is actually sexist, and you don't, who gets to decide if I'm calling out "actually sexism"?

The most expedient thing to do in that case is for the commenter and I to hash it out. Which is what is currently happening on MetaFilter.
posted by jaguar at 11:30 AM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Several people are hammering out how to gracious accept being told you said a racist/sexist thing, when misha's concerns are comments that are being labeled so undeservedly.

There is often substantial disagreement about how deserved or undeserved such accusations actually are, which is the crux of the issue here. You're arguing that the (uncommon) false positives for x-ism are such a problem that we should restrict comments that attempt to make any identification of x-ism if it's possible that it would be unfounded, which would have the unintended effect of also restricting true positives; while you are not explicitly saying that, it's implicit in your argument because everyone has different thresholds for what constitutes x-ism. You want to draw a hard line along that gradient and say "everything less x-ist than this is an unfounded accusation!" but the person making the "accusation" just has a lower threshold than you for what constitutes x-ism, that's all.
posted by dialetheia at 11:30 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Me: But I think the issue there was much much more nuanced than what misha claims to want to talk about in this thread.

Misha: That's an interesting way to word that. Could you maybe elaborate on why you phrased that the way you did?


Sure. I'm not sure what's interesting about how I worded it, but I said it that way because to my reading, what goes on with The World Famous in that thread is quite different, and more complex, than the sort of blunt accusation that you are identifying in this thread as being so harmful to discourse. Essentially, The World Famous comes into a thread where people are 1) outraged, and 2) using a common and accepted definition of harassment, and proceeds to attempt to talk about it A) dispassionately, and B) as an issue and term of art. In addition to that, he suggests that details of the event are central to any decent understanding of it because of his position vis a vis both A & B. So, people took him to task for it, and he understandably pushed back and then ended up what seems like kind of disgusted that his way of viewing the situation was being seen as either insensitive or sexist. Of course, from the standpoint some well-meaning people in the thread, asking for more details, or using a term of art in place of the well established and accepted definition of harassment, was essentially reiterating the problems with how women are routinely positioned when talking about harassment they have experienced. This is, indeed, a place where more nuance might have resulted in a different conversation, and I say this specifically as someone who was taken to task for saying repeatedly that I thought that more details of the event were really necessary to have a full conversation about what happened and the response to it. Indeed, I considered making a MeTa thread to try to have a conversation about it (see my first comment in this thread), but did not think of a way to make that conversation productive.

The situation, as a whole, though, is very different from someone disagreeing with The World Famous and just sort of saying that he's a sexist or sounded like a sexist and calling him an MRA for saying what he said.
posted by OmieWise at 11:32 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


And I really, really, really hate the contention that saying someone's statement is -ist is somehow "a personal attack," and I have a very vested interest in making sure that assumption is not taken as a given, because the idea that being called a racist is worse than experiencing racism, for example, is extremely toxic.

You know, this doesn't have to be a one-zero proposition. While it is completely true that racism is way, way worst than being accused of being a racist, for example, it is also true that being called a racist does come with tangible negative consequences - of dismissal of views, of isolation, of shunning, of antagonistic behavior and low social capital. So when you say that someone is being "-ist", it is not a personal attack, I absolutely disagree. I have very rarely seen it said in a helpful "hey, you may be unaware this is sounding this way", and think it's mostly said in a "That sounds like this YOU ASSHOLE."
posted by corb at 11:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Sure. I'm not sure what's interesting about how I worded it,

Not to speak for Misha but I would imagine the wording part was referring to

But I think the issue there was much much more nuanced than what misha claims to want to talk about in this thread.


That use of "claims" can read as an accusation of being disingenuous.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 11:39 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have very rarely seen it said in a helpful "hey, you may be unaware this is sounding this way", and think it's mostly said in a "That sounds like this YOU ASSHOLE."

Confirmation bias. My impression is pretty much the opposite of yours.
posted by Lexica at 11:39 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


dialetheia: You're arguing that the (uncommon) false positives for x-ism are such a problem that we should restrict comments

To be clear, I am not. Misha is. I agree with her identification of the problem, but disagree with her proposed solution. But many commentors are reacting as if misha asked they we be nicer in calling out bigotry, which is not what she requested.
posted by spaltavian at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


You seem amazingly certain of what's going on in other people's heads.
And now you're speaking for them, too.


Sigh. "I think" is pretty much the opposite of being certain of anything, Ivan. How would you prefer I word an opinion?

If I thought the outcome was certain, I would not have suggested that a survey of all the members might be a helpful way to find out what the actual spectrum of opinion IS.

Despite my best intentions, I also think this thread is becoming more about me than the subject of the thread, so I am going to take a break and step away from it for a while.
posted by misha at 11:42 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


For the record, a lot of the time the bad things corb is mentioning aren't happening because someone accused someone else of being, for example, racist, but because that someone else said something racist. People can recognize bigotry and judge people for it all by themselves, though it often can be nice to know other people saw the racist thing happen too, since living in a white supremacist society tends to lead to a lot of gaslighting on that sort of thing.
posted by NoraReed at 11:44 AM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


To be clear, I am not. Misha is. I agree with her identification of the problem, but disagree with her proposed solution. But many commentors are reacting as if misha asked they we be nicer in calling out bigotry, which is not what she requested.

But don't you feel that the practical consequence of her solution would be the same? Under misha's proposal here, only those comments which are super nice about pointing out bigotry would avoid automatic deletion, and the maker of every other comment pointing out bigotry would have to file a complaint with the Court of MeTa where they could build an argument explaining why the comment was actually pointing out bigotry and not some bad faith rhetorical gambit.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:52 AM on September 9, 2014


There's no governing body that determines what "actually sexism" or "actually racism" or "actually any-ism" is.

This is right but oversimplistic. There are indeed actions, comments, and attitudes that are objectively sexist or racist. The problem arises from two facts. First, no bright line exists between black and white, the objectively horrible comments and the objectively okay ones. Those two extremes are separated by a swath of gray filled with subjectivity and disagreement. Second, we have users whose attitude is that comments they perceive to be too grayish-black should be answered with snark and discourtesy.

That's the problem. If you removed either of those, the problem wouldn't exist. You can remove the first by driving away users with dissenting viewpoints on where the lines should be drawn, or you can remove the second by having moderators say that discourtesy is never okay, and if you see a sexist or racist comment you should use a flag or the contact form. Those are the solutions. I don't see either one happening. We can decide as individuals how to be the change, and in that regard talking about it is worthwhile.
posted by cribcage at 11:54 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


If, after starting a metatalk thread that attracts more than a hundred comments , you don't find a consensus emerging around your own opinion, speculating that a survey of the user base would surely turn up a silent majority that agrees with you (but that doesn't frequent metatalk) is probably not going to make your opinion seem more reasonable. It looks even less reasonable if you try to frame the purpose of that hypothetical survey as being in some nebulous way helpful to the mods. For goodness sake!
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


That use of "claims" can read as an accusation of being disingenuous.

Oh, I see. I didn't mean to suggest that at all, and I'm not sure why I phrased it that way. I can see where it might look like an accusation, though.

(I thought maybe misha was responding to my use of the word nuanced.)
posted by OmieWise at 12:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


If, after starting a metatalk thread that attracts more than a hundred comments , you don't find a consensus emerging around your own opinion

I agree with what you're saying about the survey, but These threads tend to involve the same set of people making a whole lot of comments so the number of them is kinda proof of nothing
posted by Hoopo at 12:08 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


So, what I am hearing in this thread is that the best response when that happens is not to flag comments like the one above (and, in actual practice, much worse comparisons) and not to delete them, but just to ignore them and assume that rational people know I am neither defending racism and bigotry nor a conservative? Because sure, I can do that.


1) Disagree in-thread, in a way and to an extent that does not derail the thread.
2) Ignore it.
3) Flag it
4) Email mods@metafilter.com asking why it hasn't been deleted.

I mean, there are probably a few other options before "subtweet on MetaTalk", but I find I usually tap out at 2 or 3.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Second, we have users whose attitude is that comments they perceive to be too grayish-black should be answered with snark and discourtesy."

But, contrary to what many people want to think about the world, the vast majority of the actual stuff that actually makes the world a worse place in terms of these isms are the "grayish-black" stuff. If we limit our snark, discourtesy, and anger to people in hoods burning crosses but endeavor to be generous to those who generalize about "those people" in, say, Ferguson, then we're reinforcing the status quo that says that all this grayish-black stuff that does 90% of the work of the injustice is acceptable.

Focusing on only the most egregious, unambiguous examples of institutionalized injustice while insisting on the benefit of the doubt for everything else is how this shit is normalized.

The bar has become "does unambiguously racist thing from obvious racist intentions" and everything else — everything else — is met with hurt, outraged claims of unfair criticism with the implication that all such criticism is the bigger problem.

I am incredibly fucking sick of it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [49 favorites]


If we limit our snark, discourtesy, and anger to people in hoods burning crosses but endeavor to be generous to those who generalize about "those people" in, say, Ferguson, then we're reinforcing the status quo that says that all this grayish-black stuff that does 90% of the work of the injustice is acceptable.

No. Silence is not consent. We should not be assumed to be agreeing with people simply because we are refraining from actively mocking them. Do you really think it's impossible to oppose the status quo without snarking at everyone you think is over the line?
posted by corb at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


If we limit our snark, discourtesy, and anger to people in hoods burning crosses...then we're reinforcing the status quo that says that all this grayish-black stuff that does 90% of the work of the injustice is acceptable.

Two things. First, I think you're overestimating the societal consequence of MetaFilter chitchatting. Requesting civility here isn't reinforcement any more than being a dick to somebody here constitutes positive action, and thus it's a weak justification for behavior in the room a person is affecting. Second, you're exaggerating my comment. I don't see anybody saying you should "focus[] on only the most egregious, unambiguous examples." (That's the kind of misparaphrasing that comes off as bad-faith.) If you're conflating those, then it sounds like you're implying the only way to address problematic gray-area comments is with snark, discourtesy, and anger. Which isn't the case, so if you find yourself feeling that way then maybe remember you're not the only person available. Let someone else try.

I am incredibly fucking sick of it.

When you came back to MetaFilter, you made a few comments about how you wanted to participate this time around. I thought they were good sentiments, and I hoped other people might feel persuaded to adopt the same attitude. I think those sentiments were relevant to this discussion. That's all.
posted by cribcage at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


we don't want your dog whistles here

I also note that the "dog whistles" commentary is some of the worst examples of this kind of stuff. Saying, "I think you are dog whistling this other, far worse thing that you did not actually say, so I'm going to talk about what I'm pretty sure you meant to say" is almost guaranteed to start a contentious discussion.
posted by corb at 12:42 PM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Do you really think it's impossible to oppose the status quo without snarking at everyone you think is over the line?

Impossible, no. Profoundly less effective, yes. I'm increasingly convinced that the single best way to contribute to the elmination of bad behavior is to speak up when it happens.

A long time ago...I'm not sure how long, but probably better than 15 years ago, me and my to-be-wife were at a 4th of July day concert in a local park and got approached by some asshat circulating a petition to get gay marriage banned by the local state constitution. That was long enough ago and I was ignorant enough that the idea seemed "ridiculous" to me, rather than just "hateful", because the idea of gay people getting married hadn't ever occurred to me as even a possibility. My wife, however, although not really any more clued in than I was by experience, instinctively understood what was at stake, ethically, and said (more firmly than I would've thought her capable of) "No. We DON'T agree with that idea."

And now it's years later and suddenly it's less and less acceptable to be a homophobe. Due, I think, primarily to the collective effect of a large number of people, most of whom had a lot more skin in the game than either my wife or myself, speaking up to say that that shit is unacceptable.

I'd like to see that tool deployed a lot more often, in response to a much wider variety of bad social behavior. I do not believe, and I do not think that anybody else who pays enough attention to the world could believe, that there is any risk at all of that going "too far". There's no such thing as "too good" or "too just".
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:49 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry, but this is bugging me:

that's not what "microaggression" means. I did a big post on what it does mean about a month ago if you need more information. If people repeatedly calling out marginalizing behavior and dog-whistles wears you down, imagine how wearing it would be to deal with those behaviors all the time.

Nora, the word "microaggression" will not be lessened simply because someone used it in a different way than you intended in that post.

And yes, you are (correctly) using it to refer to one kind of marginalizing behavior, but misha and corb are allowed to use the same word to refer to a different kind of behavior without your initial reference being diminished. Because there are a lot of different kinds of microaggressions; women don't have a lock on being oppressed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


It's good for the community when people point out when other posters are making arguments that rest on racist or sexist assumptions, or that further racist or sexist goals. Deleting such observations would make this community a lot worse, since it would create a space where such racist or sexist arguments thrive.

Silence may not equal consent, but enforcing (or even requesting) silence in the face of racism or sexism is profoundly misguided.
posted by burden at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Spaltavian summed it up best for me.

That thing with The World Famous was pretty obnoxious.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


women don't have a lock on being oppressed.

Did NoraReed say anything like that in this thread? She doesn't seem to have said it in her big microaggressions post.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:56 PM on September 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


Thank you for posting the link to that Rustic Etruscan. I have been trying to find the thread for the last ten minutes, and was just about to memail NoraReed to ask for the link.
posted by Shouraku at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2014


I've had offline discussions about this with fellow mefites and we just dont recommend the site anymore to anyone because of how nasty and quick to labelling the discussions can be.

There is no way it can be moderated as far as I can tell. Certain long standing members have been free to insult not only individuals but the entire community at will, and if you bring it up directly, your comment will be deleted for being fighty. It's just the way it is, and has been for quite some time.

It used to be largely you're a conservative, you're a liberal, you're biased but now you're guaranteed to be labelled, regardless of nuance in your point, and indeed, the more nuance you attempt, the more you'll be labelled.

We all may well have views with implications that we are not aware of. I can well remember when very young being set straight about a number of things and not very much older, being reminded that some pretty awful viewpoints prosper (this happens daily and I'm astounded by some of the outrageous and crazy things still being done and said in the world). But I very rarely see deplorable viewpoints here, but the noise in threads makes it seem our members are a bunch of close minded, racist, chauvinist, inconsiderate total assholes.

It's obvious there is no middle ground. It's obvious that those of us who are apparently assholes and those of us who are not are so far apart in how we express our points-of-view and so divorced from each other in real life that there is no chance of resolution as far as I'm concerned.

Things are too quickly framed in marxist, imperialist, feminist, patriarchy, matriarchy, trans, homophobic, corporate, etc, and on and on that if you don't frame your own views in any of these types of frameworks, or appear not to fit within them, you're going to be labelled. It can't be avoided.

It's not YouTube comments level thankfully, but it's often nasty and I would not recommend this site to anyone anymore. Not that that matters. It takes all kinds. Many have no to little issues with the site and for those that do, they'll either take and contribute what they can or leave.
posted by juiceCake at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Did NoraReed say anything like that in this thread?

I'm honestly not sure why else she would make the "imagine how wearing it would be to live with that all the time" simply because misha used the word "microaggression" in an alternate fashion than nora habitually uses it in.

Words are allowed to be used by more than one group.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's good for the community when people point out when other posters are making arguments that rest on racist or sexist assumptions, or that further racist or sexist goals.

It surely can be. But half the question is how to point it out. I'll cite an example of attempting to practice what I'm preaching: here, in the Jennifer Lawrence thread. Someone made a comment that I think most of us would agree is gray-area problematic. (Gray area = not deletable.) We can all imagine clever snarky #calloutthesexism replies that would have put that fellow in his place, boo-yah. But I chose to respond evenly and his answer was, "Point taken, fair enough." Later he talked about rethinking his attitudes based on the thread; and while I'm sure that was mostly due to others' comments, I felt like our small exchange went much better than it would have with snark.

Maybe I'm beating a drum. I'll step back awhile. I hope my point stands.
posted by cribcage at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


It's not YouTube comments level thankfully

Not remotely, right? I mean, invoking YouTube comments makes it seem like there might be some sort of equivalence between the two, but there really is none, either than both being comments in the broadest sense of the word. Hell, even the fact that you're able to post what you just posted kind of militates against what I presume to be your larger point.
posted by OmieWise at 1:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although, while I'm at it, I always kind of mentally note that these kinds of stories about how things were better, and less contentious, in the old days are only possible if one erases all the casual sexism, racism, etc that was part of the site not too long ago. Sure, maybe it was "better" for a certain subset of users, that subset which can no longer recommend the site, but that leaves out a lot of people.
posted by OmieWise at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, microaggressions refers specifically to a pattern of minor slights that occur in the context of bigoted assumptions in society.

In other words: NoraReed was not saying that only women can experience microaggressions and only in the context of sexism, but she was saying that using the term to refer to minor aggravations/disagreements/misunderstandings that do not have a basis in wider patterns of oppression is inaccurate (and, IMO, damaging, since it then becomes easy to dismiss people who are referring to the more specific definition as merely being annoyed.)
posted by kagredon at 1:13 PM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


kagredon: fair enough, but that was still an awfully heavy-handed way of making that point, I thought - and I agree with Nora about how women are so often shafted.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hear what you're saying, cribcage, but I'd point out that even in your example, the poster who wrote "point taken, fair enough" went on to post several more times in that thread without deviating an iota from the position that you criticized, as far as I can tell. I don't think this is a good example of an even answer achieving much of anything.

More generally, "incivility" and "snark" are very much in the eye of the beholder. I think it would be a terrible idea to require that posts pointing out racism or sexism meet some elevated civility standard that is different from the standards generally required on this site.
posted by burden at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2014


I'm honestly not sure why else she would make the "imagine how wearing it would be to live with that all the time" simply because misha used the word "microaggression" in an alternate fashion than nora habitually uses it in.

Words are allowed to be used by more than one group.


Words are allowed to be used by more than one group, but when intersectionalist terms of art like "microaggression" are turned against the purpose they originally served, it should make our eyebrows rise a little.

On preview, what kagredon said.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


Yeah, true story: my partner, whom I introduced to Metafilter when we got together, was recently shocked when she unknowingly clicked through to an older thread (2004, IIRC). Her description was of shock and, surprising herself, betrayal. After she realized it was an old thread, she told me the story. I recall one phrase exactly: "It was just like the rest of the Internet!"
posted by gilrain at 1:21 PM on September 9, 2014 [31 favorites]


As far as the 'being called a bigot makes people think you're a bigot and is super bad!' line of reasoning:

This is a big community. I have a pretty good memory for names, but I don't always pay attention to them. So a one-off accusation of bigotry really won't stick. What will stick is when I repeatedly see the same people behaving in the same way - I remember the pattern of behavior rather than individual instances. So if you (universal you) repeatedly get told that you're behaving in a bigoted way, it's up to you to decide if the people for whom you feel you are speaking would be more inclined to give you a fist bump for your bold stance, or avoid your eyes and speak in leaden tones about the low pressure system moving in from the southwest until you left. There are people here I'm certain stay for the imaginary fist bump of support in their fight against the perfidious SJW jimmy wranglers, others not so much.
posted by winna at 1:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


she was saying that using the term to refer to minor aggravations/ disagreements/ misunderstandings that do not have a basis in wider patterns of oppression is inaccurate (and, IMO, damaging, since it then becomes easy to dismiss people who are referring to the more specific definition as merely being annoyed.

I think that any time the aggravations have a basis in wider patterns of harassment, it is still an accurate term, even if the harassment is not against a group thought of as "oppressed."

It's also important to remember that Metafilter does not reflect the world outside. It is made up of people who think that they are the minority, because they are familiar with the outside world, but are instead, here, often actually the majority, and thus comments about who has the power in the real world are irrelevant - Metafilter is a distinct social entity with distinct mores and behavioral oddities.
posted by corb at 1:28 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also I could have sworn there was some weird red jelly candy called jimmies but on looking for it I can't find it. I must abandon the image this thread has given me of someone soberly playing cowboy by herding a bunch of knock-off jelly bean candies around a tiny corral made from toothpicks while someone else uses tweezers to play the rustler.
posted by winna at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2014


My 2 cents, having not read a lot of the comments above:

I am with matthowie here (and cortex and anyone else who sided with them).

This is not Minority Report. People should not be punished for what they have not actually done yet just because we "psychically" see that in the future they will (or whatever). It is much, much, much more toxic to a community to take a policy of all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default. This is the sort of thing done in communist countries where everyone was reporting on their neighbor and everyone had a file and everyone lived in fear. (I have been on a list like that. Oh, god, it was not a healthy place.)

You have to start from an assumption of innocence, not guilt and also allow for a grey zone, no matter how insightful you are or how long your history is with a person or there is no hope of a safe, civilized environment. I had two incidents on the job involving men talking to me in a manner I felt was a problem. In one case, I got quietly moved to another team and just avoided him. He had done nothing worthy of being reported to HR but I smelled trouble. More than two years later, he was fired. The rumor mill indicated it was either for an illicit affair on the job or for sexual harassment. I could believe either or both. But, you know, they had to have actual evidence of actual wrong-doing, not just my feeling of "I smell trouble." My sense of "I smell trouble" was sufficient for me to take pro-active measures to avoid him and that's it. Had they fired him right then and there, that would have scared the living shit out of me.

The second individual got reported to HR and I suspect he was sent to sensitivity training. He and I eventually rebuilt bridges and got along okay. I think it was a growth experience for him. I never thought he was a terrible, evil person, just a young guy who was doing what men do and hadn't really thought much about how that impacts women. Some men are just kind of ignorant. In those cases, trying to help educate them is a better path forward on trying to create a better world than handing them their head on a platter.

Yeah, I get that "whispers and innuendo" are often far more damning than outright accusations, in part because you can't usually directly defend against them without looking crazy. But the people who are deeply, deeply toxic are sometimes very talented at learning The Rules and playing by The Rules and defending their toxic shit. So when you take the approach of what cortex described above as "policy litmus test", you only empower people like that. (This is part of why lawyers get such a bad rap: They are often arguing that it is okay because it technically wasn't illegal, which sometimes has them defending really shitty things. So that should clue you that hard and fast rules don't, by themselves, force people to behave better.)

Last, I will note that on some episode of X-files, when someone got to have three wishes from a genie, one of them was for "world peace." So all people on the planet promptly disappeared. The genie explained that, hey, if all the religions and whatever couldn't solve it, what makes you think I can? Conflict is very often situational, not "personalities"/personal, and it is never going to go away. Eliminating conflict is a terrible goal if metafilter wants to continue to operate as a community. The better goal is to find better ways to lubricate inherent social friction (cuz sometimes friction with sufficient lubrication is actually Fun -- or so I hear, though I can scarcely remember such a thing).

It can be done. There are studies and what not about how that kind of thing gets done, though, as a species, we are also breaking new ground because, historically, it has never before been possible to have the large scale, highly diverse communities enabled by the Internet. Thus it is guaranteed to be a bit of a bumpy ride. If you try too hard to eliminate all bumpiness from the site, you will kill the community. And then all the mods will be looking for jobs and we won't have a place to hang anymore.
posted by Michele in California at 1:30 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also I could have sworn there was some weird red jelly candy called jimmies but on looking for it I can't find it. I must abandon the image this thread has given me of someone soberly playing cowboy by herding a bunch of knock-off jelly bean candies around a tiny corral made from toothpicks while someone else uses tweezers to play the rustler.

'Jimmies' is another name for chocolate sprinkles, like you would put on ice cream.
posted by selfnoise at 1:31 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also I could have sworn there was some weird red jelly candy called jimmies

Are you thinking of little chocolate sprinkles that taste a little like dust? They're known as "jimmies" in New England! They are very nice on ice cream.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cue every New England mefite breaking their fingers in a mad frenzied rush to post about jimmies
posted by Greg Nog at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


The Perfidious SJW Jimmy Wranglers

Is this what other cabals are like? My cabal leader is really falling down on the job.
posted by Corinth at 1:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Are you thinking of little chocolate sprinkles that taste a little like dust? They're known as "jimmies" in New England! They are very nice on ice cream.

Cue every New England mefite breaking their fingers in a mad frenzied rush to post about jimmies


True story - I think the "jimmies"-vs.-"sprinkles" line is somewhere in Rhode Island. We grew up calling them "sprinkles" in Eastern CT, but whenever we went to visit my grandparents on Cape Cod my brother and I had to remember to switch to "jimmies" so Grandpa would know what we were asking for when we went to the local ice cream shop and he was getting us a cone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's also important to remember that Metafilter does not reflect the world outside. It is made up of people who think that they are the minority, because they are familiar with the outside world, but are instead, here, often actually the majority, and thus comments about who has the power in the real world are irrelevant - Metafilter is a distinct social entity with distinct mores and behavioral oddities.

I might be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure most of the major US minority groups are also minorities on Metafilter. Women, GBLTQ folks. Non-Christian theists. African Americans, Latins, Asians and other racial minorities. NRA / Gun rights proponents. Libertarians. Etc.

There are a handful of exceptions where the majority in the outside world would be a minority here. I suspect there aren't that many. Catholics. Stridently right wing conservatives. There are probably others.

Metafilter is a distinct social entity with distinct mores and behavioral oddities.

Oh, definitely.
posted by zarq at 1:45 PM on September 9, 2014


You all are right - jimmies are those weird sprinkles sullying the purity of the ice cream or cuppycake.

It would be a very challenging game to rustle them - you'd need the tiny size of tweezers.
posted by winna at 1:52 PM on September 9, 2014


There are a handful of exceptions where the majority in the outside world would be a minority here. I suspect there aren't that many. Catholics. Stridently right wing conservatives. There are probably others.

But the earlier implication that because they are a rhetorical and community minority on Metafilter they should be treated as if they are like an oppressed minority in the rest of the world is kind of ludicrous. Certain types of people can be thin on the ground at Metafilter and 1) their absence can actually be a good thing, and 2) they can still be reacted to as if they hold the real power in the world (because they do.)
posted by OmieWise at 1:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Metafilter is a distinct social entity with distinct mores and behavioral oddities.

But those mores and behavioral oddities aren't totally alien to newcomers. The "outside world," insofar as I'm even willing to accept that term, absolutely influences how things work on this forum. Otherwise, it would be a complete coincidence that "I'd hit that" was the old scum-sucking standard.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


jimmies are those weird sprinkles sullying the purity of the ice cream or cuppycake.

YOU TAKE THAT BACK SPRINKLES ARE AWESOME
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on September 9, 2014


I think the "jimmies"-vs.-"sprinkles" line is somewhere in Rhode Island

I grew up in suburban Baltimore and we used both names. I used to sneak them directly out of the jar because it was the sweet thing my hippie mom kept in the house.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2014


posted by drjimmy11

I'd listen to this guy, he's obviously an expert on jimmies.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:01 PM on September 9, 2014 [26 favorites]


In my opinion, jimmies are really for soft serve... they stick really well and add some pizazz to the blandness. They end up adding a weird texture to hard ice cream that I don't care for.
posted by selfnoise at 2:01 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


It is made up of people who think that they are the minority, because they are familiar with the outside world, but are instead, here, often actually the majority, and thus comments about who has the power in the real world are irrelevant

Comments about who has the power in the real world are relevant when the comments are addressing the real world, though--right?

To the extent the comments are addressing MetaFilterWorld only, it's still relevant who has the power in the real world, because people's experiences with the real world distribution of power inform the perspective they bring to MetaFilter.

I'm inferring that you're trying to make an argument that certain minority groups in the real world have elevated status in MetaFilter and it's actually the majority groups in the real world who are in the minority here--but it's hard to know how much weight to give this argument unless we're actually talking about specific groups, I guess. So making a sort of general "it's worth noting" kind of statement doesn't seem to me to add much value here. I mean, yes, it's noted, but...so? (if that makes sense).
posted by MoonOrb at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


selfnoise is wise and discerning!

I must nail my anti-jimmies flag to the mast. It should make you all happy, though, because it means more weird little wax bits available for you to strew on your frozen milk emulsion.
posted by winna at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


They end up adding a weird texture to hard ice cream that I don't care for.

I love the texture! Far more so than flavor, in fact. The firmness of the ice cream beneath keeps the bumpiness of the jimmies pressed against one's tongue in a solid rough layer, like it's wearing chain mail!
posted by Greg Nog at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


greg this is the wrongest you have ever been
posted by poffin boffin at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


They end up adding a weird texture to hard ice cream that I don't care for.

What's your take on chunks inside the ice cream?



I have totally done chocolate sprinkles on chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate sauce and crushed-up oreo cookies on top of that with chocolate whipped cream becuase I WAS HAVING A DAY SHUT UP
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:13 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


They're called hundreds-and-thousands, guys.
posted by maxsparber at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


What's your take on chunks inside the ice cream?

Chunks are okay as long as they aren't really hard... I also don't really like frozen fruit pieces; sometimes you end up with a weird piece of frozen fruit skin stuck to some tooth somewhere, way back.

I don't know, I think as an ice cream maker you really just have to exercise your best judgement on which textures are actually going to be pleasant to unexpectedly encounter.

The best chunks inside ice cream are: Brownie Bits, the little peanut cups, and the chocolate bits in mint chip ice cream. But I always have that one as a shake and then the bits are waiting for me after I finish the shake as a nice bonus dessert.
posted by selfnoise at 2:17 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the idea with the microaggressions thing is that it is a word with a specific meaning that was created to apply to a very specific kind of marginalizing behavior and you don't get to just use it for whatever you want and get mad when other people don't a) agree with you or b) accept your weird-ass wrong definition as correct. Or, I mean, you can, because ~freeze peaches~ or whatever, but people are gonna confused and/or assume you're an asshole and/or assume you are confused.

Oh, and if anyone wants a new reason to pile on me, I spent like half my life thinking "jimmies" were basically sno-caps, except with rainbow sprinkles on top, the kind that went on ice cream. So, you know, little hemispheres with rainbow sprinkles (the hard kind, not the soft waxy kind) attached. They were a favorite ice cream topping but very few places here had them so I always got them when I could.

Anyway, if I went into an ice cream parlor and said "I want jimmies", meaning sno-caps, and got waxy sprinkles or waxy chocolate sprinkles or whatever instead, I would be the one in the wrong, because I used the word "jimmies" wrongly. Except the word "jimmies" wasn't invented by a group of confectioners marginalized based on their skin color and using it to describe what in reality are sno-caps isn't co-opting an intersectional term and I might be stretching my metaphor a bit far now
posted by NoraReed at 2:23 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Oh, and if anyone wants a new reason to pile on me, I spent like half my life thinking "jimmies" were basically sno-caps, except with rainbow sprinkles on top, the kind that went on ice cream.

These are nonpareils.
posted by selfnoise at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the lack of prevalence for jimmies as sprinkles comes from the slang of jimmy hats for condoms.
posted by corb at 2:28 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It is made up of people who think that they are the minority, because they are familiar with the outside world, but are instead, here, often actually the majority, and thus comments about who has the power in the real world are irrelevant

I disagree with this vehemently. If people have managed to carve out a tiny spot in one tiny little little corner of the web where they aren't in the minority (and again, most of the groups in question STILL ARE in the minority on mefi), that doesn't mean that anyone who disagrees with them is automatically an oppressed minority simply because they're outnumbered.

This kind of argument relies on eliding the distinction between people in classes subject to societal prejudices or structural discrimination, vs people who are in the numerical minority in a given situation. Just because you're outnumbered and a minority in the relative-frequency sense of the term in a given situation doesn't mean you're a Minority in the structurally-oppressed sense of the term.
posted by dialetheia at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


All of this sounds like the sort of thing ice creamists would say. If any of you philistines had any sense, you'd be talking about the ineffable glories of frozen custard.
posted by scody at 2:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


These are nonpareils.

And they are delicious.

Empress, some day I hope you come down here to Florida, and visit the beaches and all that stuff of course but also so we can have like a scavenger hunt for the ultimae chocolate experience. Because yes, some days just really scream for chocolate.

Did I mention the candy shop in old downtown has homemade chocolate covered potato chips?
posted by misha at 2:34 PM on September 9, 2014


I wonder if the lack of prevalence for jimmies as sprinkles comes from the slang of jimmy hats for condoms.

Wait, what? My head just exploded. I have never heard of this.
posted by misha at 2:35 PM on September 9, 2014


This is like 300 comments of GRAR and obviously hasn't gotten anywhere, so why don't we close this up and all go get ice cream cones dipped in jimmies? It would be delicious and productive and put us all in a better mood.
posted by The Michael The at 2:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because I feel that it is like a micro-aggression; over time it wears people down.

Am I the only one who noticed the "like" in there? Saying something is in some ways similar to something else is not some crazy asshole way to demand redefinition.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's worth noting that Fortune 500 CEOs are far less well represented on MetaFilter as they are in the real world. Certain members accustomed to considering themselves among the oppressed classes in the outside world might be shocked to find that they, not the Fortune 500 CEOs, are the ones in the hegemonic position here.
posted by nobody at 2:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


This will probably get swallowed into the void that is this thread, but I'd like to propose the term "Gender Jerk" in place of "misogynist." Some schools of feminism have made practically every problem a potential example of misogyny, since, once you introduce the concept of major world cultures being fundamentally anti-female, misogyny can be seen as a root-cause of any conflict involving gender.

But what we usually mean by calling some random asshole on a forum a misogynist is that they are being a jerk in the realm of gender. Sometimes people are jerks. Doesn't have to turn into yet another 1000 comment + thread about misogyny in culture. "You are being a Gender Jerk" works fine.
posted by deathpanels at 2:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's worth noting that Fortune 500 CEOs are far less well represented on MetaFilter as they are in the real world. Certain members accustomed to considering themselves among the oppressed classes in the outside world might be shocked to find that they, not the Fortune 500 CEOs, are the ones in the hegemonic position here.

"Hegemonic"? Really? Do you think that might be overstating things a bit? I mean, I never had any idea I was so powerful!
posted by dialetheia at 2:42 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the idea with the microaggressions thing is that it is a word with a specific meaning that was created to apply to a very specific kind of marginalizing behavior and you don't get to just use it for whatever you want and get mad when other people don't a) agree with you or b) accept your weird-ass wrong definition as correct.

That is not how language works, even in languages that have regulating bodies (which English does not). "Blueprint" originally meant a copy of a technical drawing made through a particular photoreactive process that made the paper blue, but now the term is informally used to refer to any such technical drawing of any color scheme. "Enormity" originally meant "extreme evil" but now generally means "hugeness". And so it goes.

There is no language police. When enough people "accept your weird-ass wrong definition as correct", that becomes the new definition.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:43 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or ... you could just use "misogynist" or "sexist," since the people who get Extremely Fussy over those words would certainly get Extremely Fussy about "Gender Jerk." This is a substance problem, not a word problem.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


Then the dudes we're calling "Gender Jerks" will start flipping their shit over that instead of "misogynist". Seriously, the kind of dude who gets his jimmies all a-rustling over being called out on sexist behavior tends to do it over anything, no matter how gentle and ladylike you are in pointing it out. It's part of why I stopped trying to be nice about it and the other part is I stopped giving a shit about the feelings of those who would try to suppress, oppress, and subdue me and my kind and soon I will have the collected tears of enough oversensitive manbabies to complete the ritual and leave this puny earth-flesh behind also they didn't listen to me when I was nice either
posted by NoraReed at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I wonder if the lack of prevalence for jimmies as sprinkles comes from the slang of jimmy hats for condoms.

Wait, what? My head just exploded. I have never heard of this.


What, jimmy hat? It's been used as slang for condom (and plain old "jimmy" is a slang term for a penis) for around thirty years, if not longer.
posted by palomar at 2:47 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I went with my Gay-Straight Alliance in HS where they gave out condoms called JIMMY KAPS: THE OFFICIAL KONDOM OF HIP-HOP KULTURE
posted by NoraReed at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I wonder if the lack of prevalence for jimmies as sprinkles comes from the slang of jimmy hats for condoms.

Wait, what? My head just exploded. I have never heard of this.
"

Much to my surprise, the earliest citation I can find for "jimmy hat" as condom or "jimmy" as penis is in 1988, but I have a hard time believing that BDP was the originators of the phrase. But since jimmies as sprinkles is attested to 1947, it's unlikely that the genital slang influenced the sprinkles-vs-jimmies regional divide.
posted by klangklangston at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


When enough people "accept your weird-ass wrong definition as correct", that becomes the new definition.

Not to argue the particular point here, because I agree with Drinky Die that the "like a micro-aggression" phrasing misha actually used removes most of the problem, but this is actually a really good reason for people to correct incorrect usage: if they don't, the meaning of the term can drift and become much less useful. If I want to be able to use the word microaggression and have people know what I mean, I have an interest in maintaining its current usage.
posted by dialetheia at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you think someone is being racist, sexist, age-ist, homophobic, or otherwise transgressing, speak up. But sometimes, when I see people speaking up, my reaction is Who made you the judge? This is a community. Give people the smallest shred of a break. Be civil. You may have every right to be fighty, but give some thought to being thoughtful and articulate.

No, we aren't going to have specific comments automagically deleted. No, we aren't going to have a specific, approved vocabulary. We think of ourselves as smarter and more interesting than the rest of the web. Well, be smarter, be a better writer, manage your rage. Respond to members of your community as if you were going to see them in person tomorrow, instead of as if you are an anonymous username on a website.

Some of the callouts are funny, clever, sarcastic, etc. You are a special snowflake, and your assessment of others surely has some logic and merit, but just take a little effort to be human and remember that the commenter is human. It's not sexy, it probably won't get favorites, but it actually builds community.
posted by Mom at 2:57 PM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]



No, we aren't going to have specific comments automagically deleted.

But MOM
posted by sweetkid at 2:59 PM on September 9, 2014 [30 favorites]


By the way, Jessamyn is a really good example of this.
posted by Mom at 3:01 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I did say you can use it however you want, so if people want to use it to mean "small aggression", that's their prerogative, but people might get confused. It's my prerogative to think that co-opting social justice terminology is kind of an assholey thing to do and may make them at least a microasshole.
posted by NoraReed at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Gender Jerk" just makes me think of jerking someone off, and I'm pretty sure that we don't need a term that's meant to reference something horrible like sexism, inspiring happy thoughts.
posted by Shouraku at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2014


"Because those threads are dominated by angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say."

Which I think is sad,


I think though, this comment illustrates the ephemeral nature of the issue, in some ways. I think we can all safely agree that those hot-button threads on particular political issues make up a minority of the posts on any given day. We can further reduce that number because many of them do, in fact, go quite well, and only the most retiring wallflower would be reluctant to participate. Which really leaves a small number of threads where this kind of thing becomes an issue.

I don't personally find it sad - because the glory of metafilter is that if there's a post or topic you don't like, well nevermind, something else will be along shortly to entertain you. I don't really feel that anyone has a 'right' to participate in particular posts. I think mods should facilitate and where necessary enforce good dialogue, but when you get into grey areas - as the phenomenon in this post most assuredly deals with - there's a lot of wiggle room and I think it's quite reasonable to feel, "eh, I don't really care for those kind of convos" and leave it at that. It's really the best solution oftentimes, I feel.

I mean, There are certainly many types of posts I do not read, or skip the comments on because they are simply not for me. And there can be a variety of reasons for it. And I know people feel the same about some of my posts; no harm done.

Given the difficulty in monitoring this issue, responding to it in a timely way, and parsing the discussion, I feel like the process you lament above is actually perhaps the best outcome (when coupled with regular ad hoc modding) - and I can certainly see why the mods would feel it is, as it dramatically reduces workload and headaches for them, with the very marginal cost that a small number of users feel they can't/shouldn't/don't want to participate in what? maybe one in thirty posts.
posted by smoke at 3:03 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Gender Jerk makes me think of a boy with a buzz cut in a paper hat mixing up fizzy concoctions of wonderful gender identities, made to order. Maybe ice cream thrown in there. That dairy smell and half-gale of the parlor air con. Also, red, loopy-backed chairs.
posted by gilrain at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's my prerogative to think that co-opting social justice terminology is kind of an assholey thing to do and may make them at least a microasshole.

Nora, no offense dude, but this is the kind of framing that I think is way less than ideal, because - to me at least - it reads like a snide way of telling Misha that you think she is an asshole, and it may be exactly this kind of comment that Misha and others are railing against. The mods won't delete it, as you're not exactly calling her an asshole, but you're implying she is an asshole in a very clear way, because you're saying 'if someone says X, they are being an asshole' - and someone did in fact say X like ten seconds ago.

Forgive me if you were making a deliberate joke or being flippant, but I think someone referred to like that may not take it that way. It's not the end of the world, but surely you can see how comments like that can be easily misinterpreted or serve to escalate emotions in challenging threads.
posted by smoke at 3:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


It's worth noting that Fortune 500 CEOs are far less well represented on MetaFilter as they are in the real world. Certain members accustomed to considering themselves among the oppressed classes in the outside world might be shocked to find that they, not the Fortune 500 CEOs, are the ones in the hegemonic position here.

Firstly, I wouldn't be so sure. If we even have one F500 CEO, they're better represented than in the world at large. Still slim, but there you go.

Secondly: for real? Fortune 500 CEOs are poorly represented in the world at large compared to, say, people who work at McDonald's. And yet I feel pretty comfortable saying that the Fortune 500 CEOs have the larger share of economic power.
posted by kagredon at 3:16 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"There is no language police. When enough people 'accept your weird-ass wrong definition as correct', that becomes the new definition."

That's true, but a technical term usually retains its technical meaning in technical contexts and it's entirely appropriate for people in such contexts to insist upon the correct usage of a term-of-art.

I've written about "passive verb" in this context. Some linguists get all het up about the technically incorrect popular usage of "passive verb" to describe constructions with obscured agency, but I think that the usage is popular because it's useful in everyday speech and while I find the inclusion of "verb" in the term/phrase in this popular context to be, nevertheless, something that it's reasonable to object to because it's misleading and, importantly, implies that the speaker/writer is discussing grammar authoritatively, I otherwise don't have any problem with popular usage of "passive" in this context even though grammatically there's usually nothing passive about the sentence.

But if I'm in a discussion about English grammar, which includes linguists and other experts on grammar, then it's entirely appropriate for people in that discussion to be persnickety about this.

MetaTalk isn't an academic forum, true, but there's enough expert participation here, as well as the weight of ongoing education and discussion of technical terms within the context of this stuff, that I think it's fine to expect technical accuracy with the term microaggression.

Furthermore, making this whole argument mostly moot, is the fact that the term microaggression isn't even remotely moved into popular usage and remains almost wholly within the context of learned, technical discussions.

"Nora, no offense dude, but this is the kind of framing that I think is way less than ideal, because..."

Although I agree with you that there's some problems with NoraReed's statement, her complaint itself is very valid and her frustration about it is very valid. Because, yes, a lot of assholes do appropriate social justice terminology as a tactic with which to oppose social justice and defend injustice, it's fucking obnoxious, not the least because they always are so smug about how clever they think they are in doing so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:19 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


"Secondly: for real? Fortune 500 CEOs are poorly represented in the world at large compared to, say, people who work at McDonald's. And yet I feel pretty comfortable saying that the Fortune 500 CEOs have the larger share of economic power."

I assumed the original comment was ironic. It wasn't??
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I assumed the original comment was ironic. It wasn't??

I went back and read it with my HAMBURGER goggles on and now I feel like probably it was. Sorry, nobody!
posted by kagredon at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


HAMBURGER goggles

Apple product thread is on the blue, dude.
posted by griphus at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's my prerogative to think that co-opting social justice terminology is kind of an assholey thing to do and may make them at least a microasshole.

It be most galling to see the sacred incantations turned against our own brave warriors. Who could have foreseen this?!

MetaTalk isn't an academic forum, true, but there's enough expert participation here, as well as the weight of ongoing education and discussion of technical terms within the context of this stuff, that I think it's fine to expect technical accuracy with the term microaggression.

The rest of the web will have moved on to the less technical usage, and then we'll be like that guy with the shiny Laser Discs.
posted by amorphatist at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


the mods won't delete it, as you're not exactly calling her an asshole, but you're implying she is an asshole in a very clear way

This is almost exactly what I'm talking about. Nora was very careful to frame her comment in such a way as to avoid the delete button but if misha came back with "You're an asshole, NoraReed" that would get deleted. Despite both comments simply being ways to call the other person an asshole.
posted by Justinian at 3:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


The rest of the web will have moved on to the less technical usage, and then we'll be like that guy with the shiny Laser Discs.


No, not really, because this isn't about "technical" usage. It's more akin to rich white dudes calling themselves, say, "oppressed minorities" and then claiming that the "academic" meaning of "minority" no longer applies. More generally, the idea that terms relating to oppression, misogyny, racism, etc are "technical" or "incantations" is exactly the problem - it's only "technical" to people who don't have to deal with actual microaggressions or sexism or racism on a daily basis.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 3:30 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Because, yes, a lot of assholes do appropriate social justice terminology as a tactic with which to oppose social justice and defend injustice,

While others use social justice terminology with the assumption that the people presenting these important moral ideals actually mean what they say, and are rather taken aback when they're told "oh no, none of these rules apply to how I treat you!" And those people often roll their eyes at this sort of assumption that anyone who treats said terminology as actually meaningful is sneakily trying to undermine it by applying it to The Wrong Sort Of People.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:32 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


her complaint itself is very valid and her frustration about it is very valid

I do not disagree with the existence of this phenomenon, I disagree with phrasing it in a way that could be read as calling another member an asshole and asserting that they are an opponent of social justice. It would have been trivially easy to rephrase that comment on a less inflammatory way.
posted by smoke at 3:32 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Justinian, I just see that as consistent with what's long been the way things work here, which is to distinguish between calling someone a name and labeling their behavior.

The thrust of NoraReed's comment is largely on the behavior of appropriating the term of microaggression; it's not so much an indictment of the entire person.

Saying "this kind of behavior is asshole behavior; you are engaging in asshole behavior" skates about as far up to the line as you could probably go here, but seems to be to be clearly on the okay side of the line.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


"But if I'm in a discussion about English grammar, which includes linguists and other experts on grammar, then it's entirely appropriate for people in that discussion to be persnickety about this."

I'm kind of grateful that this thread moved fast enough that I didn't have the opportunity to die on the infer/imply hill.
posted by klangklangston at 3:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was saying that co-option is an assholey thing to do in hopes maybe folks would come up with better, less assholey framings that don't try to compare the struggle of, say, having an underrepresented opinion on the internet and having people read your comments and judge you for them with, say, institutionalized marginalization. In case anyone isn't aware, that kind of tactic is used pretty regularly by all sort of folks, from the toxic voices of right-wing American talk radio to many groups of bigots online (including, most recently, the men who're harassing Zoe Quinn and others).

Those tactics should be avoided or used carefully and with finesse if you don't want to come off as an asshole.

Happy?
posted by NoraReed at 3:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


"While others use social justice terminology with the assumption that the people presenting these important moral ideals actually mean what they say, and are rather taken aback when they're told "oh no, none of these rules apply to how I treat you!" And those people often roll their eyes at this sort of assumption that anyone who treats said terminology as actually meaningful is sneakily trying to undermine it by applying it to The Wrong Sort Of People."

I would take this more seriously if you would state your argument, provide examples and be clear about your terms, because as it stands this seems to be based on fairly nebulous assumptions and amount to veiled implications of bad faith and hypocrisy. I assume that Misha favorited it to use as an example of the vague argument by indirect insult she started the thread with. This is especially true because it doesn't seem like you're actually referring to the subject that Ivan and Nora were, but rather making an oblique statement that's tangentially related.

This does highlight a central problem of her complaint: That the ambiguity and interpretation of the comments mean that it's pretty impossible to categorize them as a single problem and proceed to solutions. That lack of clarity and multiple examples of clear misconstruing have further weakened her argument in terms of how she framed her problem and her proposed solutions.
posted by klangklangston at 3:46 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Even if I had not said like a microagression, which I did, how am I appropriating a term I am not allowed to use, or being an asshole by using it? I don't understand why NoraReed feels that she has ownership of a word because she made an FPP about it.

When the term was first coined, it was defined by a more narrow range, and specifically referred to racial microaggressions. Nowadays, the term is used by other groups who feel they are equally marginalized. That happened because those other groups felt they could identify with what the word meant, so they felt they had a right to use that term as well.

I am sure NoraReed knows that; this is the path by which microagression came into common use among feminists. I guess you could say we appropriated it, too, if you think that way. But that's just how language works, that when a term comes up that people can relate to, they begin using that term.

So my analogy was a comparison that I felt people here could relate to, and know what I meant when I used it.
posted by misha at 3:52 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Those tactics should be avoided or used carefully and with finesse if you don't want to come off as an asshole.

I think there's a significant difference between warning someone that their rhetorical tactics might be perceived in a certain way ...and doing a big wink-wink nudge-nudge "ya know who else said things like that?" to the room at large.
posted by neroli at 3:52 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's also important to remember that Metafilter does not reflect the world outside. It is made up of people who think that they are the minority, because they are familiar with the outside world, but are instead, here, often actually the majority, and thus comments about who has the power in the real world are irrelevant - Metafilter is a distinct social entity with distinct mores and behavioral oddities.

I am very confident in asserting that Metafilter is made up of people who totally know how the "outside world" works. We have to deal with it every day, pretty much all day. It's a delight and a privilege that we have this little corner of the world that will treat us with respect. Metafilter is not magically divorced from the outside world. It is, as you point out, made up of people who are familiar with it. Metafilter does, indeed, reflect the world outside. That marginalized voices have a louder presence here is not unremarked. We get to have discussions here that are absolutely shut down every where else, precisely because those marginalized voices get to have their say.

It's special, and none of us is unaware of that fact.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:09 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


nobody: So...it's an understandable position to be coming from (it's pretty much the standard conservative mindset, as unhelpful as it is to point that out), but it's also a position that explicitly erases the way sexism and racism and classism are pervasive. Which explains why doubling down on such a position is going to come off as itself implicitly condoning sexism, racism, and classism to those of us here who don't share that worldview.

I feel like everyone who wants to support this general movement towards the curtailing of calling things out should have to read this comment, and wait 30 seconds before they can post something in response to the thread.

Because in the general railing against of calling out this stuff, this is implicitly what you are saying and doing. This was my point.

splatvian: While you've created a pretty effective strawman to dismiss a point you don't like, you're not addressing an argument that anyone has actually made.

The premise is that there are false and/or unwarranted accusations of bigotry. (By the way, this would be the logical place to disagree without being dismissive: you can disagree that this is really happening.) The claimed problem, is not that it is "mean", but that it's used as a cudgel against non-bigoted arguments.


So are you saying you haven't seen people on here make the point or inference they were bringing up? because i've absolutely seen callouts discussed as something rude/violent/mean on here before, and that chestnut seems to have even popped up in this thread. It's not a strawman, and it's not coming out of nowhere. Misha may not have directly gone down that road in her original post, but it's a theme that's getting wink-nudged in here if not directly discussed.

And it's definitely one of my frustrations with this site, and something i've encountered on here before. It's been directly stated in MeTas in the past where more than one person thought it was mean/rude/out of line.
posted by emptythought at 4:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Although I agree with you that there's some problems with NoraReed's statement, her complaint itself is very valid and her frustration about it is very valid. Because, yes, a lot of assholes do appropriate social justice terminology as a tactic with which to oppose social justice and defend injustice, it's fucking obnoxious, not the least because they always are so smug about how clever they think they are in doing so.

But there is no indication that misha was deliberately mis-using the word in such a fashion.

I think that this is a big part of the dissent - there is "[foo] said [baz], and that obviously was an attack on [me or what I believe in] so I'm gonna grar" going on on ALL sides, when there isn't much indication at all that [foo] did say [baz] as an attack. And when you have a few posters who often inadvertently say things against each others' [baz], they lock horns a lot, and it just reinforces ill feeling and...you get this.

But - to bring this within shouting distance of the point - that's ultimately why a universal ban like the one being called for isn't a good idea, because - maybe someone isn't saying [baz] against you or about you, maybe they're just saying [baz] because it's a thing that happens out in the world.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Nowadays, the term is used by other groups who feel they are equally marginalized.

I don't think most intersectional feminists would say that these are "equal" oppressions, since generally attempting to compare stuff like that is apples and oranges; equating different forms of oppression is sort of a no-no anyway. The trick is to learn to compare and learn intersectionally without co-opting, which is what I, as a feminist who is trying to be more intersectional, try to do, and it can be a tricky line to toe. But it's also generally bad to compare personal experiences based on your behavior to experiences based on identity, especially marginalized identities, because it comes off as really callous. If someone calls you a jackass because they don't like the way you wear your pants, that's different from if they call you a jackass because you're a woman/lgbt or queer person/member of a non-majority religion/POC/etc. You don't immediately grok that experience because of the pants incident.
posted by NoraReed at 4:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


That's true, but a technical term usually retains its technical meaning in technical contexts and it's entirely appropriate for people in such contexts to insist upon the correct usage of a term-of-art.

This begs all sorts of questions.

Like, who decides the meaning of a technical term anyway?

Who is Ivan Fyodorovich, and how does he know so much about language?

And does the statement quoted above assume in its premise what it is trying to prove?

(Personally, I think the last question is the very best kind of question begging.)
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


it's also generally bad to compare personal experiences based on your behavior to experiences based on identity, especially marginalized identities, because it comes off as really callous.

Except that for many, they are talking about identity, and get called out for being behaviors, which is just what people are upset about in other contexts. When you say something is a behavior, and not an identity, you are making a judgmental comment about someone else's expressed identity. You are saying that you get to be the arbiter of what is and is not identity - and I hope that you, as someone who is generally pretty solid on a lot of fronts, can see how problematic that is or can be or has historically been.
posted by corb at 4:33 PM on September 9, 2014


Those tactics should be avoided or used carefully and with finesse if you don't want to come off as an asshole.

Perhaps a bit more finesse and care on your part would be a good thing.

You called misha an asshole, using a weasely workaround to avoid getting your comment snipped. If you are Ok with coming across as being an asshole yourself, so be it. But please stop lecturing us as if you are somehow above it all, and aren't doing the very thing you are accusing others of.
posted by nacho fries at 4:34 PM on September 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


Except that for many, they are talking about identity, and get called out for being behaviors, which is just what people are upset about in other contexts. When you say something is a behavior, and not an identity, you are making a judgmental comment about someone else's expressed identity. You are saying that you get to be the arbiter of what is and is not identity - and I hope that you, as someone who is generally pretty solid on a lot of fronts, can see how problematic that is or can be or has historically been.

not if the behavior is "says offensive/rude stuff on the internet and then takes offense when people call them on it"

then it is not problematic to distinguish between them, it is a good distinction

unless you're going to get all "what does anything ever mean anyway" which we can but really, let's just not
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:58 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


and corb, you could say I'm strawmanning or whatever, but since you didn't identify what behaviors or identities you're even talking about I'm responding to what norareed obviously (IMO) meant.

so I would be happy to hear a behavior that you both genuinely think fits with what norareed is saying and that you consider a valid identity similar to being, say, female or Hispanic or any number of things that we can't actually take off when it suits us
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:00 PM on September 9, 2014


And I think the majority answer to why would NOT be "Because Metafilter is full of racists and bigots," but something more close to, "Because those threads are dominated by angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say."

You know, I agree with this to some extent, but the best solution for me to just not engage. I no longer make time or energy to deal with angry people who don't want to hear what I have to say on the internet. I used to like it more, I'm the one who changed, I don't think the site has changed that much in terms of hospitality to different ideas (or lack thereof).

It's still usually worth it for me to read most threads but if I have an opinion that differs from the herd I'll almost always just think about it on my own and talk about it with my wife or some friends or something, "Here's what people on Metafilter are saying about this, here's what I think about it, what do you think?" Maybe that's something you could try, misha.
posted by Kwine at 5:00 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I would be happy to hear a behavior that you both genuinely think fits with what norareed is saying and that you consider a valid identity similar to being, say, female or Hispanic or any number of things that we can't actually take off when it suits us

Sure, though not among the ones misha noted above. I think that some identities tend to go along with certain beliefs - you see this a lot with, say, religious identities giving rise to certain political beliefs, or geolocational regional peculiarities giving rise to certain political or social beliefs. I'm trying hard to think of an innocuous one that won't start people fighting, but the closest one that comes to mind is the rural/urban divide. There are some beliefs and behaviors, particularly around personal space, that come from being raised (and identifying) as rural, and some beliefs that come from being raised (and identifying) as urban. But if I were to call those behaviors out, I would be deriding something that is a natural consequence of someone's identity.
posted by corb at 5:23 PM on September 9, 2014


so what you're saying is that if anything a person does or says is culturally based (that's literally everything everyone does and says) then it's not something we can dislike or criticize because it's not cool to criticize someone just because they're, say, a woman?

again, that standard seems so broad as to be meaningless.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:27 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


You called misha an asshole, using a weasely workaround to avoid getting your comment snipped. If you are Ok with coming across as being an asshole yourself, so be it. But please stop lecturing us as if you are somehow above it all, and aren't doing the very thing you are accusing others of.

If I wasn't okay with people thinking I'm an asshole, I would probably not be a feminist. But please, go on with your attempts to read my mind and intentions. Maybe if you keep trying you'll get less bad at it.
posted by NoraReed at 5:47 PM on September 9, 2014


the young rope-rider: again, that standard seems so broad as to be meaningless.

It would certainly provide cover for to express views that are flat-out bannable offenses around here.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:52 PM on September 9, 2014


What if I was raised to astroturf and spam? WHAT NOW, CORTEX?

seriously though, there are interesting moral/ethical discussions to be had about culpability and culture, but this is not one of them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:54 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


so what you're saying is that if anything a person does or says is culturally based (that's literally everything everyone does and says) then it's not something we can dislike or criticize because it's not cool to criticize someone just because they're, say, a woman?

I mean, like, all sorts of incredibly awful behaviors and beliefs are passed down culturally-- damn near all of them, really. We can probably still criticize a dude for being a racist fucker even if he learned it at his daddy's knee and has never known anything else.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:54 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


1. It is helpful and constructive to characterize others as bigots, homophobes, sexists, etc, as it is always for their own good and serves to better educate them

MetaSlander might be more viable than I thought.
posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


If I wasn't okay with people thinking I'm an asshole, I would probably not be a feminist.

What on earth does "people thinking you're an asshole" have to do with "being a feminist"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Publicly expressing feminist opinions tends to get a lot of people to hate me, though usually they tend to use more gendered and homophobic slurs, not the more harmless cusses. They even actually tell me I am those things, instead of saying that I am engaging in bad behavior, which is what I actually did here.

Regarding the cultural thing, I think the big thing to watch out for is hypocrisy and stuff where certain marginalized groups end up unduly singled out or stereotyped for marginalizing behavior-- the whole "white feminists trying to save women from the hijab" thing is the classic cliche on that point; you also see this a lot in the way people talk about misogyny and homophobia in rap music versus other genres, since that's often a dog-whistle-y way to say racist stuff, or just a reflection of a racist rejection of a certain genre of music.
posted by NoraReed at 6:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


"If I wasn't okay with people thinking I'm an asshole, I would probably not be a feminist. But please, go on with your attempts to read my mind and intentions. Maybe if you keep trying you'll get less bad at it."

Hey, as someone who generally agrees with you and generally likes to be told when I am coming across as an asshole, you're coming across as an asshole here and you're undermining your point because of it.
posted by klangklangston at 6:11 PM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


That makes total sense to me. I feel like I have to be a little okay with some people thinking I am an asshole to be assertive about my feminist beliefs sometimes. I mean, if I turn my beliefs into actions and words. That said I think there are asshole feminists and non-asshole feminists and I strive to be more of the latter.

I would be deriding something that is a natural consequence of someone's identity.

Historically when we've been at this rodeo with you, you've used this because you're unhappy that people are talking smack about Libertarianism. I don't know if that's what you're alluding to here now, but I'd like to again mention the born with vs. choice distinction. I know everyone doesn't hew to those distinctions.

An an example from my own life: I live in the country. I can move to the city and I don't assert my right to whatever personal space I might think that I deserve based on my country preferences, I cuddle up on the subway with everyone else because I'm aware that whatever my preferences are, they are preferences (albeit strongly felt ones), not born-with characteristics that I can not change. People make a good and compelling argument for religion being in a grey area here. People no longer have to make arguments about gender preference being in this category, thank jehu. The jury may still be out on some other identity-stuff but these are things people can talk about specifically and not have to sort of hand-wave about stuff.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


What on earth does "people thinking you're an asshole" have to do with "being a feminist"?

I think the gist is that identifying as a femist can lead to being labelled as unpleasant, so if people do that in a different context or reason, it's water off a duck's back.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:14 PM on September 9, 2014


Publicly expressing feminist opinions tends to get a lot of people to hate me, though usually they tend to use more gendered and homophobic slurs, not the more harmless cusses. They even actually tell me I am those things, instead of saying that I am engaging in bad behavior, which is what I actually did here.

See, but I don't see that anyone called you out for doing anything specifically feminist, though. I only see callouts for doing something assholish. So why introduce feminism when someone's just referring to jerkishness?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

What on earth does "people thinking you're an asshole" have to do with "being a feminist"?

Sanctimoniousness tends to provoke.
posted by deathpanels at 6:32 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


So does being female, oddly enough.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:34 PM on September 9, 2014 [46 favorites]


I'm not saying that we can't criticize views. But "you are a bad person for having this view" when it is a totally normal view culturally does not seem okay, and also seems unnecessary. You can correct or counter without being mean.

In terms of identity, there's a lot of thought around how the "born that way" pieces were constructed, and how they can even be detrimental. For example, it shouldn't matter if sexual preference is born or chosen for people to be treated humanely. Race, as Edward James Olmos points out, is constructed. There is only the human race. But you still shouldn't be awful to people because of what they choose to identify as.
posted by corb at 6:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


See, but I don't see that anyone called you out for doing anything specifically feminist, though. I only see callouts for doing something assholish. So why introduce feminism when someone's just referring to jerkishness?

Well, one thing it does is draw an implication that the people who are saying these things about her are doing it because she's a feminist, not for any other reason, say based on her behaviour and words instead.

Which relates to one of the aspects of this post, which is handy.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


The last discussion involving "microagression" didn't go well and so far this one hasn't either.
People cannot reasonably be expected to recognize "microaggression" as a (poorly-chosen, in my opinion) term of art that means something other than what it looks like to a competent English speaker who hasn't been studied Charles Pierce or Mary Rowe or what have you. If I coined the term "minihotdog" to refer to the occasions which someone makes fun of another person for recycling plastic, it wouldn't really be fair of me to call people out for saying "you mean those little vienna sausage things in the cans?" Just sigh, and explain what *you* want the term to mean, and move on.

That said, I still get irked at comments like "This begs all sorts of questions." You can only beg the question, dammit.
posted by uosuaq at 6:41 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's true, but a technical term usually retains its technical meaning in technical contexts and it's entirely appropriate for people in such contexts to insist upon the correct usage of a term-of-art.

I was very careful to use the technical term of "blueprint" in my comment. In any event, what is "entirely appropriate" for a group of would-be language regulators to do does not change the fact that language usage cannot be enforced by fiat.

is the fact that the term microaggression isn't even remotely moved into popular usage and remains almost wholly within the context of learned, technical discussions.

It's pretty popular on Tumblr, which is what I associate the word with. I don't think of it as an academic or technical term at all. The top Google hits for "microagression", after the Wikipedia article, are two links to the same Tumblr page and a Buzzfeed article (2.6 million views). When your technical, learnèd term of art is featured on a page with "19 Texts That Prove Drunk People Are The Absolute Worst" in the sidebar, your term has gone mainstream.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:44 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


But - to bring this within shouting distance of the point - that's ultimately why a universal ban like the one being called for isn't a good idea

Thanks for keeping this on point, EC. I really do appreciate how you are engaging with me and others in this thread. I am perfectly okay with anyone disagreeing with my actual position.

I didn't really want a ban per se, I just thought this stuff (putting labels on people instead of engaging with their arguments in good faith), should be taken to MetaTalk.

I would also be delighted if anyone else could come up with an alternative approach they think would work rather than that, though, when this happens.

For those of us who do think this is a problem, can we maybe all agree to use the same flag, so that when the mods see that flag it is a little more obvious as a heads-up or something?
posted by misha at 6:45 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


What on earth does "people thinking you're an asshole" have to do with "being a feminist"?

Sanctimoniousness tends to provoke.

So does being female, oddly enough.

posted by jessamyn (retired)

Jessamyn, so do you feel that in this case the people who are upset with NoraReed in this thread are singling her out just because she is female? Because I don't understand your comment otherwise.
posted by misha at 6:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's unreasonable to hope that at least most of the people entering a social justice thread will be familiar with at least some social justice terminology and that if they aren't, they might look at the handy links provided that explain it; if someone means something other than the standard, accepted, googleable definition, the burden is on them to explain it or use another term. There's a lot of issues with jargon that come up quite often, but I don't think that there is nearly as much of a vocal minority in, say, science threads calling for people to stop using the technical definition of "theory" as there are in SJ threads about SJ, feminist and sociological terminology. (Granted, this isn't nearly as bad here as I've seen in some places. My kingdom to never have to explain the sociological definition of "minority" again.)

Whether or not misha was using it correctly or whether her using it in a simile is appropriate or is committing the faux pas I was trying to explain with my pants jackass metaphor is a somewhat different issue, which I think we've probably tread fairly well by this point (or at least I've been as clear as my exhausted and poorly-medicated brain can be today, maybe other people have new stuff to add).
posted by NoraReed at 6:56 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


While people should obviously flag whatever they think needs to come to the attention of the mods, I'm really opposed to a flagging cabal. I can recall accusations in Metatalk of secret flagging cabals in the past and they were generally considered a bad thing. That they are now being publicly organized here is odd and somewhat disturbing.
posted by immlass at 6:57 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Because I don't understand your comment otherwise.

Misha, you're happy endorsing that comment implying that both NoraReed and feminists in general are "sanctimonious"?
posted by nobody at 6:57 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am pretty sure that Jessamyn is saying that you don't have to be sanctimonious to attract hostility for being a woman on the Internet, much less for being an outspoken feminist.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:01 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


If you're talking about the favorite, nobody, I think it's unwise to assume anyone uses favorites as endorsements. People use them for bookmarks or whatever. I know misha's favorited a lot of comments of mine that she's taken issue with in discussions.
posted by NoraReed at 7:03 PM on September 9, 2014


I don't think it's unreasonable to hope that at least most of the people entering a social justice thread will be familiar with at least some social justice terminology and that if they aren't, they might look at the handy links provided that explain it; if someone means something other than the standard, accepted, googleable definition, the burden is on them to explain it or use another term.

I guess I just plain disagree there. Most or at least many people are probably just entering *a thread*, without thinking "this is a social justice thread, I'd better study up". I think if the term of art in question were something like "heteroparasemiology" or "1,4,5-para-benzyl-3-diachromate" it would be reasonable to expect them to recognize it as a term of art. Micro-anything is not obviously a term of art; you take the "micro" and apply it to the "anything" part (which in this case is the poorly-chosen "aggression", ordinarily implying intent to harm) and you figure you know what it means.
posted by uosuaq at 7:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


"I'm not saying that we can't criticize views. But "you are a bad person for having this view" when it is a totally normal view culturally does not seem okay, and also seems unnecessary. You can correct or counter without being mean.

In terms of identity, there's a lot of thought around how the "born that way" pieces were constructed, and how they can even be detrimental. For example, it shouldn't matter if sexual preference is born or chosen for people to be treated humanely. Race, as Edward James Olmos points out, is constructed. There is only the human race. But you still shouldn't be awful to people because of what they choose to identify as.
"

This is a terrible, self-interested argument.

1) "Totally normal" is a bad metric for deciding whether or not a viewpoint makes someone a bad person. Roughly 40 percent of whites believe blacks aren't as hard working, and roughly a third believe that blacks are less intelligent. (GSS questions on race). Those beliefs are more popular than the ones you're ostensibly being critiqued for, but I feel no hesitation saying that people who think that blacks are less intelligent are bad people.

2) There are views that you have espoused that if adopted broadly would lead to direct, life-threatening harm to fellow members. That they take offense is not surprising.

3) Conflating racial and sexual orientation identities with a political identity is making a category error that serves to minimize and undermine legitimate expressions of oppression from people of those racial and sexual orientation identities in order to associate your drubbings with the immorality of attacks on those identities, and that co-option or misappropriation is itself offensive for people who struggle to have their identities seen as legitimate.

Bad logic, self-serving emotional appeals and blithe disregard for other people's feelings on this matter make it likely that people will not extend to you a compassion or self-awareness that you are unwilling to demonstrate on your own.
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [31 favorites]


"That said, I still get irked at comments like "This begs all sorts of questions." You can only beg the question, dammit."

I'd disagree, in that I think you can make an argument that simultaneously assumes more than one conclusion, i.e. begging questions rather than begging a single question.
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 PM on September 9, 2014


uosuaq, I literally had no idea what you were talking about, so I googled "term of art" and learned that was another way to say "jargon"; I didn't try to disassemble it and assume it was something related to, say, art. This was not an unreasonable burden to put on my shoulders. I do not see how it is unreasonable to expect someone to do the same thing with the word "microaggression", no matter what issues you have with its particular choice of prefix and/or its etymology.
posted by NoraReed at 7:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am pretty sure that Jessamyn is saying that you don't have to be sanctimonious to attract hostility for being a woman on the Internet, much less for being an outspoken feminist.

Yep. I don't know deathpanels well enough to know if they were making a joke or being sort of a jerk about feminists being sanctimonious. So I figured I'd just outline the (to me) obvious crappy part of this whole mess which is that you don't even have to be outspokenly feminist to get a bunch of people giving you random shit, you can just be female.

And I should be clear, I'm not being a mopester about it. I am fine. I'm just saying if you have two... let's say mods, and one is female and one is male and they do more or less the same job on the same website to the same degree of competency, the female one will get more shit and more random aggressive (and sometimes sexualized) crap about it. Doing the same stuff. In the same way. And that's too bad. So whether deathpanels was taking the piss or not, I am not.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [43 favorites]


NoraReed: "I do not see how it is unreasonable to expect someone to do the same thing with the word "microaggression", no matter what issues you have with its particular choice of prefix and/or its etymology."

The only definition I know for "microaggression" is the one from your post, but I can't see what's so surprising about people misinterpreting its meaning because they think it's a regular word. Like, earlier you said "microasshole", but it never occurred to me that I should Google it to see if its a technical term. It just seemed obvious from context. Thinking "microaggression" is a non-technical term doesn't seem so farfetched (as opposed, say, to "synechdroital" or "plarf" or "fourth wave bifurcism" or the like).
posted by Bugbread at 7:17 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


You did more.
posted by one4themoment at 7:18 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just thought this stuff (putting labels on people instead of engaging with their arguments in good faith)

You still haven't engaged with the point (made many times up-thread, and in many similar MeTa's) that telling someone, "Your comments are like something an X-ist would say" is not the same as labeling someone an X-ist. I don't know if you're just ignoring that point, or if you really can't see that there is a difference, but there is a difference, even if the person being "called out" feels, in the moment, upset and hurt and defensive.


For those of us who do think this is a problem, can we maybe all agree to use the same flag, so that when the mods see that flag it is a little more obvious as a heads-up or something?

This idea seems oddly, bizarrely, close to an actual cabal/conspiracy, with Seekrit Speshul Meanings for Certain Flags by Certain Users.

Plus, herding cats.

Plus, there's already the contact form if you think the mods might want/need some clarification on why you object to something.

Plus, just from various mod comments in various MeTa's, I feel pretty confident that they can & will pick up on patterns, if certain users flag certain things on a regular basis, so I don't see why there needs to be some kind of pre-arranged signal flag.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Bugbread spelled it out pretty well for me...thanks Bb.
posted by uosuaq at 7:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm just saying if you have two... let's say mods, and one is female and one is male and they do more or less the same job on the same website to the same degree of competency, the female one will get more shit and more random aggressive (and sometimes sexualized) crap about it. Doing the same stuff. In the same way. And that's too bad.

Amazingly, we even had pissed off dudes emailing us naming every female mod and outlining how they wronged them on the site, but would say that restless_nomad was doing a great job (because her name is listed as Jeremy on her profile, they assumed she was male).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [71 favorites]


klangklangston: Then you'd be begging *the* questions, still full stop. The kids these days are all "this begs the question: what about blah blah blah?" But I know you're just messing with me.
posted by uosuaq at 7:26 PM on September 9, 2014


I greatly admire your commitment to controlled scientific experiments, r_n!
posted by tonycpsu at 7:27 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Meh. Petitio principii doesn't really translate to begging or questions, at least as far as I recall from my terrible schoolboy Latin, so I try not to be prescriptivist about it. And besides, Spaceman was pretty clearly quipping up there.
posted by klangklangston at 7:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Goddammit, give me a question! Please!! I'm begging for it!!
posted by Bugbread at 7:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only definition I know for "microaggression" is the one from your post, but I can't see what's so surprising about people misinterpreting its meaning because they think it's a regular word.

My first post about the term, though, was taking issue with the way that misha was using it, which I thought was incorrect (in retrospect it's only sort-of incorrect, and mostly is just committing the SJ faux pas of comparing one's feelings about how people react to one's behavior to how people react to one's identity, combined with what I thought was an attempt to co-opt a SJ term to use for other purposes), and telling her where she could find more information about what it actually means if she wants more information on what it means and how to use it correctly, because it seemed a bit silly to try to explain it in-thread when I already put a post together full of people who are smarter than me explaining it.

The idea that calling people out for saying bigoted things (or just for things that sound bigoted, or are often dogwhistles for bigotry, or are common arguments made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs) wearing the people being called out down basically pushed all of my buttons, because it felt like an attempt to equivalent the actual mentally draining constant shit-wading that is actually dealing with microaggressions with being told that maybe you sound like an asshole/racist/homophobe/misogynist/etc. Maybe misha didn't intend it to write it like that, but it was like a single paragraph seven-layer-dip of half the things I hate most about social justice discussions, especially here, and I kind of flipped my shit over it.
posted by NoraReed at 7:39 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


"Amazingly, we even had pissed off dudes emailing us naming every female mod and outlining how they wronged them on the site, but would say that restless_nomad was doing a great job (because her name is listed as Jeremy on her profile, they assumed she was male)."

Now I'm idly wondering how many of my comments each mod has deleted. I will say that mods whose names start with J are probably more likely to have wrongly deleted my brilliant epistles and sat cold-hearted to my entreaties. They have cost the world much, those J-named mods. And yet, posterity will only be able to infer what other works of genius I would have left — surely, Aristotle's Comedy is nothing next to the lacuna of Klang's 11 Reasons Your Arguments Are a Volcano of Diarrhea.
posted by klangklangston at 7:40 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Begging the question" is without, uh, question a terrible translation of petitio principii. (I could swear I used to know the original Greek phrase, but I may be imagining things.) It's unreasonable to expect people to interpret the phrase as they do, rather than "asking for your interlocutor to grant the assertion you're supposed to be trying to prove". Because it doesn't jump out at people as a term of art.
posted by uosuaq at 7:41 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think this has come a long way from "People call other people names" (paraphrasing...) to "People who deserve to get called names are going to get called names, for their benefit" (again, paraphrasing) to "People are/aren't feminists" (see the paraphrasing comments)...

And I don't think misha really intends for all "This person is that type" to be deleted... which a lot of people took issue with. Seems to me just wants the ganging up on someone to stop.

And I don't think "Ignore it" is an answer... because if the majority are the only ones that feel safe to speak then they're the only ones that will.
posted by one4themoment at 7:44 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Oh and speaking of terrible translations of Latin philosophical phrases -- "the exception proves the rule" should really be something like "one can infer the rule from the stated exception", as in, if the sign on the shop door says "closed Sundays", you can infer that they're open the rest of the week. I thought that was kind of neat. But I digress.)
posted by uosuaq at 7:45 PM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Seems to me just wants the ganging up on someone to stop.

If that is the real goal here, that is something I can get behind. I didn't see that in the way the MeTa was written, but if that is the fundamental issue here, I am for that and I know some things that work. (But I am a bit busy and have not been able to follow this entire MeTa closely. Also: Y'all mods with J names are too easily confused in memail. My eyesight is TERRIBLE and I sometimes have no idea whom I am talking to, just some name with a J and..oh, wait, it's the OTHER J, not the one I thought. Eek.)
posted by Michele in California at 7:48 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you're talking about the favorite, nobody, I think it's unwise to assume anyone uses favorites as endorsements. People use them for bookmarks or whatever. I know misha's favorited a lot of comments of mine that she's taken issue with in discussions.

I'd noticed the favorite earlier, but my comment suggesting endorsement was more about how misha's failing to understand jessamyn's reply seemed to speak to misha literally not being able to comprehend why someone would find the "sanctimonious" comment ire-worthy.

(It sure feels like there's just a big fundamental disconnect between misha and the posters whose views and comments I tend to find kinship with. This thread is so frustrating. Like: is misha maybe using the phrase "good/bad faith" in a different way than what's commonly accepted? Does she realize that saying someone's accusation of [___-ism/micro-assholery/whatever] is being made in bad faith is literally a claim that the person making that accusation does not believe the accusation to be merited but is making the accusation anyway? Does she really believe that the people she's arguing with are just slinging things around to win at debate club? So yeah: fundamental disconnect. Sorry for the mini-rant.)
posted by nobody at 7:48 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


(I've heard "the exception proves the rule" used similarly to that in a sociological context in regards to deviance, where you know what is appropriate behavior based on inferring not to do from the people everyone's avoiding/pointing and laughing at/throwing in jail/etc. It's not the only way you're supposed to figure that out, obvz. But I thought it was an interesting use of the phrase.)
posted by NoraReed at 7:50 PM on September 9, 2014


Amazingly, we even had pissed off dudes emailing us naming every female mod and outlining how they wronged them on the site, but would say that restless_nomad was doing a great job (because her name is listed as Jeremy on her profile, they assumed she was male).

Lady Mod Stealth Mode.

This is so fucked up. People are so fucked up. Ugh.
posted by zarq at 7:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

So does being female, oddly enough.
Snappy one liners aside, the point of this thread, if it has a point, which I'm not sure it does anymore, is that something akin to Godwin's Law seems to take over certain MeFi threads. I've noticed it. Other people have noticed it. Is it a problem? Yes/no. Pick one. Some people say yes. Others say no.

Personally, I don't like it when a thread that could otherwise be home to a civil discussion turns into someone forcibly "educating" someone else in the thread. In fact, the practice of "educating" via cross-talk comment is openly advocated my some MeFites. Yet this is in clear violation of the guidelines which explicitly discourage cross-talk.

Speaking extemporaneously, the thing that makes most of the web suck for discussion is the tolerance of cross-talk. See: YouTube. To the OP's original point, it does seem odd to me at times that such derails are given clemency by the mods. I get it, mods are human, and sometimes a comment is walking the line between topical and tangent, but it still bugs me, on occasion.

There. Now I'm done.
posted by deathpanels at 7:58 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Seems to me just wants the ganging up on someone to stop

Perhaps a productive way to do that would be to not literally request people who share her views to start ganging up.
posted by griphus at 7:59 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Yep. I don't know deathpanels well enough to know if they were making a joke or being sort of a jerk about feminists being sanctimonious. So I figured I'd just outline the (to me) obvious crappy part of this whole mess which is that you don't even have to be outspokenly feminist to get a bunch of people giving you random shit, you can just be female.

Agreed.

Conversely, though, it is also possible for someone to be giving you shit and have it NOT be about you being female, but rather because it is because you did, in fact, do something shitty.

And, it is possible for people to be saying something about how a particular kind of behavior is shitty, and even though they're saying sometimes people on your team do it, they may not be talking about you personally.

Can I get some agreement on all that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


you know what is appropriate behavior based on inferring not to do from the people everyone's avoiding/pointing and laughing at/throwing in jail/etc.

That does seem like the "correct" use of the phrase, yes. Nowadays you mostly hear it used to excuse a real exception to a proposed rule, sort of a "well *that* Scotsman doesn't count" kind of thing. It's another one of those terms of art that aren't obvious because they look like plain English.
posted by uosuaq at 8:03 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


griphus, that's true but when people feel personally ganged up on, which is a seriously threatening thing to be on the receiving end of, it is really common to try to marshal forces to their own defense.

Yeah, it just puts out the fire with gasoline, but if this is the real issue underlying this meta, then this (your accusation) is not the best approach to trying to find a solution. The current mefi policy tends to be to tell the person being ganged up on to shut up and act like it is their fault. That seems to be getting better but there is a long history of it. So it won't be solved overnight.

I am tired and it is late for me and ....whatever. I am not in a position to talk about what does work. But this does not.
posted by Michele in California at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Seems to me just wants the ganging up on someone to stop

Perhaps a productive way to do that would be to not literally request people who share her views to start ganging up.

There is precisely nothing wrong with suggesting people flag comments if they have a problem with them and it's bizarre the way the suggestion is being treated.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


mathowie: "Amazingly, we even had pissed off dudes emailing us naming every female mod and outlining how they wronged them on the site"

Oh, god, I really have to work on remembering names. When I read this comment, I thought, " 'Every female mod'? You mean, both of them?" because I remember the mods as being "Cortex, Jessamyn, LobsterMitten, and the other one". I just went to the FAQ and found out that (not counting Matt and PB, 'cuz they're a bit different) MeFi at peak had seven mods! Who knew! I mean, besides probably every other goddamn person on MeFi, who remembers names...besides them, who knew!

(vacapinta, restless_nomad, taz, goodnewsfortheinsane, I'm sorry! Sincerely!!)
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Idk. Flags are only seen by the mods. Saying that she is literally calling for people to gang up seems to be reading that comment unfairly and deliberately reading it in a spirit in which it was not intended.

Wasn't the suggestion just to agree on a common flagging reason?

I'm feeling a little bit like you're playing Gotcha with her here just because she can really get under people's skin sometimes.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Drinky Die: "There is precisely nothing wrong with suggesting people flag comments if they have a problem with them and it's bizarre the way the suggestion is being treated."

Yeah, the mods have always been super clear that flagging does not automatically lead to deletion. The mods have also repeated quite a bit that if you have a problem with something, you should flag it, not just ignore it, because flagging is the mechanism used to draw mod attention to things. We've had lots of threads where people have said "If you see people making boyzone comments, flag them!" and "If you see people making racist comments, flag them!" I'm not real clear on why in this case saying "Hey, guys, when you see this behavior, flag it!" is being seen as terrible.
posted by Bugbread at 8:09 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Conversely, though, it is also possible for someone to be giving you shit and have it NOT be about you being female, but rather because it is because you did, in fact, do something shitty.

Sure, maybe. I guess I'm totally confused why this is something that would need to be part of this discussion, but I think it's part of people wanting to tell NoraReed she's rude? Because otherwise it seems sort of a weird direction at this juncture. Yes, sometimes people get mad at people because they're assholes and not because they belong to a disliked class of people even if both things are true. That said, this is a dicey path to take when you're talking about people who already get a bunch of shit about things because it just winds up sounding like more shit. Which, I think, is the original dicey path that was being discussed here, how to differentiate and do so in a way that makes the person saying "Hey you sort of sound like a jerk here" not be the aggressor in trying to have a conversation about a difficult topic.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Conversely, though, it is also possible for someone to be giving you shit and have it NOT be about you being female, but rather because it is because you did, in fact, do something shitty.

Sure, and I don't think NoraReed's comment was contesting this. As I read it, she was basically saying "I've been called a lot worse than an asshole, so it didn't faze me." I mean I don't think she agreed with you that she was in the wrong, but I also didn't read her as saying that this specific criticism was brought on by her being female or a feminist, just that those experiences made her get used to harsh criticism.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:14 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


For my part, I had no trouble at all reading that comment of NoraReed's as "if you're going to stand up for feminist causes, get used to some slings and arrows".
posted by uosuaq at 8:17 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


it's bizarre the way the suggestion is being treated.

There were accusations of a cabal of flaggers a couple of years ago in Metatalk and it was pretty shitty. I'd be happy to discuss specifics privately.
posted by immlass at 8:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure, and I don't think NoraReed's comment was contesting this. As I read it, she was basically saying "I've been called a lot worse than an asshole, so it didn't faze me." I mean I don't think she agreed with you that she was in the wrong, but I also didn't read her as saying that this specific criticism was brought on by her being female or a feminist, just that those experiences made her get used to harsh criticism.

I guess, if that's the case, I'm not seeing why not just say "I've been called worse than what you're calling me so whatever", rather than (and I am paraphrasing because my keyboard sucks) "I've been called worse by virtue of being a feminist so whatever". Yes, it's true that women get more shit then usual, and feminists doubly so, but if all you're trying to say is "I don't care if you call me a jerk because I've been called worse," why add "because I'm a feminist" if the discussion wasn't actually about feminism to begin with?

Actually, though, I'm realizing I'm bringing some of my own frustration to the thread, from watching some of the same people have the same arguments with each other, and neither realizing that it's only because they're both just rubbing each other the wrong way rather than either one or the other being "right" or anything. Usually I just sigh and move on, but today I lost my temper a bit and spoke up, and I think I shouldn't have and I'm seeing that made things worse. So, I'm sorry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just want to say that I find the expression "to rustle jimmies" adorable, and am saddened that it connotes 4chan and reddit, even as I understand why it does.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:46 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wait, is that what everyone's mad at me for with that? You thought I was introducing feminism with that? What did you think the whole thing about SJ and microaggressions was about? I mean, I used queer shit and race and stuff in my examples and stuff but all this SJ shit ties together. I wasn't bringing up feminism out of the blue, one of the things talked about in the original post was trying to get people like me to stop calling people out when they make the same tired MRA arguments we've heard 10,000 times already.
posted by NoraReed at 8:55 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


FWIW NoraReed, I ain't mad, so it can't be "everyone."
posted by sweetkid at 9:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


NoraReed, I have favorited a lot of your comments, actually, most of them because I agree with them. I do, however, wish you would stop mischaracterizing what this thread is about. It's been explained by me in the post, by several people within this post, and again by me, and yet now you say, "The idea that calling people out for saying bigoted things (or just for things that sound bigoted, or are often dogwhistles for bigotry, or are common arguments made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs)". [Just as an aside, When someone says something like that, it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place? What, do you subscribe to their newsletter? But then I figure, oh, they are just trying to think of the most hateful way to discount someone else's opinion and that's what they came away with.]

The real issue, of course, is that people who are NOT saying anything bigoted are being accused of belonging to those Bigotry Fan Clubs because it is easier to cast aspersions than actually engage with what they are saying when they disagree with you.

It's really annoying that you are being flippant and mischaracterizing what this thread is about, and what's more the fact that you're still doing it after hundreds of comments makes me feel like you are not even trying to take part in the discussion with a smidgen of good faith.

Which ties in to my next point. I felt, and EmpressCallpygos did too, if I am reading her correctly, that the criticism you were getting had nothing to do with you being a woman or a feminist.

When Jessamyn said that just being a women is provocative, it seemed like she was disagreeing with that and that people were calling you out just for being a woman. Which, if I actually thought they were, I'd be pissed off about, too.

That's why I asked jessamyn to explain where she was coming from. I appreciate her response, and I'm glad she made it, because it gave me a glimpse at what it is like to be a woman mod here. I think it is shitty that she got so much flak, even more than the other mods do, when in my experience, even when we disagreed, she was always willing to go the extra mile to be helpful.

Sometimes I would just basically write jessamyn to say, I feel like everyone thinks I am being an asshole in this thread, can you please tell me why so that I can stop doing whatever assholish thing I am doing?, and she would. She'd be frank, but she usually found a way to do it that didn't make me feel worse about myself in the process, too.

I don't think I ever wrote to Jessamyn without getting some kind of response, despite her being incredibly busy with all kinds of site nonsense. I wish she didn't have to deal with all that seixst crap on top of that.
posted by misha at 9:08 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


one of the things talked about in the original post was trying to get people like me to stop calling people out when they make the same tired MRA arguments we've heard 10,000 times already."

*Sigh.*
posted by misha at 9:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Just as an aside, When someone says something like that, it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place? What, do you subscribe to their newsletter? But then I figure, oh, they are just trying to think of the most hateful way to discount someone else's opinion and that's what they came away with.]

misha, this is the very definition of reading someone in bad faith. You're assuming that NoraReed couldn't possibly mean what she says and is just saying things to be a jerk to people. Not to speak for her, but like me, she probably knows the common arguments made by bigotry fan clubs because she's outspoken on social media about feminism and other isms and those arguments are lobbed at her constantly. If you want to talk about these things on reddit or twitter or even on metafilter, you are virtually guaranteed to hear their arguments in extensive detail. If you're the class being targeted by bigots, it's pretty tough to be ignorant of their arguments and tactics because you're bombarded with that stuff all the time.
posted by dialetheia at 9:21 PM on September 9, 2014 [47 favorites]


The real issue, of course, is that people who are NOT saying anything bigoted are being accused of belonging to those Bigotry Fan Clubs because it is easier to cast aspersions than actually engage with what they are saying when they disagree with you.

misha, if that's the case, how are you suggesting that we tell the difference between a user saying a bigoted thing and a user saying a thing that sounds bigoted? Because I think that's the distinction you're making here? And short of telepathy, I'm not seeing how addressing those two comments differently would work.
posted by jaguar at 9:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Just as an aside, When someone says something like that, it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place?

It's not a particularly interesting answer. They (bigots) tend to state their opinions loudly and everywhere possible, including in the media, in government, on the internet where everybody can read them, and directly to people the subject of their ire.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:23 PM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


misha: "Just as an aside, When someone says something like that, it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place? What, do you subscribe to their newsletter? But then I figure, oh, they are just trying to think of the most hateful way to discount someone else's opinion and that's what they came away with."

Wow, that's uncharitable. How about "they read the comments on pretty much any site other than MetaFilter?" I mean, I know plenty of common arguments made by bigots just by reading the comments following any article about having to do with "women" and "games" on any gaming site.
posted by Bugbread at 9:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


Conversely, though, it is also possible for someone to be giving you shit and have it NOT be about you being female, but rather because it is because you did, in fact, do something shitty.

Sure, maybe. I guess I'm totally confused why this is something that would need to be part of this discussion, but I think it's part of people wanting to tell NoraReed she's rude?


This is kind of what I've been talking about. Calling NoraReed a rude asshole would likely get a chiding or deletion, so people are dancing around that border without actually saying the precise words. Again, I don't think that anyone's comments should be deleted, or that this type of behaviour should be banned, but to deny that this is a Thing That Happens Sometimes seems a bit naive.

Note: I don't believe that NoraReed is a rude asshole, not at all. This is just the most recent example of what I think is being alluded to in the OP.

Note2: I am in no way implying that all callouts are instances of border dancing, or that callouts should never happen, or that they are never made in good faith. On the contrary, I think that most have good intentions, possibly even this example (I've been wrong before).
posted by Shouraku at 9:26 PM on September 9, 2014


it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place? What, do you subscribe to their newsletter?

Jesus H. People link to and quote from those sites/comments right here on metafilter when in relevant discussions. It's not secret; there's at least two posts on the front page right now that I can think of where people are quoting shitty shit from bigoted shitheads on other sites. Your implication that it must be otherwise is really weird and unpleasant.
posted by rtha at 9:32 PM on September 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


How about "they read the comments on pretty much any site other than MetaFilter?"

Hell, I'd put "in possession of the usual five senses, lives in place where she can read the language" and "has, at at least one point in her life, been outside" for many of the standard Bigot Club arguments

mostly I have had them yelled at me by their proponents though
posted by NoraReed at 9:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


But then I figure, oh, they are just trying to think of the most hateful way to discount someone else's opinion and that's what they came away with.

This is bad faith.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [33 favorites]


The real issue, of course, is that people who are NOT saying anything bigoted are being accused of belonging to those Bigotry Fan Clubs because it is easier to cast aspersions than actually engage with what they are saying when they disagree with you.

For the record, though, people in this thread have also been attempting to point out that sometimes what you may be seeing as "being accused of belonging to those bigotry fan clubs" isn't even about anyone in the thread.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:40 PM on September 9, 2014


Paraphrasing a long dead friend:

"The ends do not justify the means. The ends are the means. An asshole is an asshole is an asshole -- I don't care whose t-shirt they're wearing."
posted by philip-random at 9:40 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


[Just as an aside, When someone says something like that, it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place? What, do you subscribe to their newsletter?]

It's been said but I want to add my observation: I know how those arguments go because I follow the news ("legitimate rape" and "aspirin between the knees" are well-known examples from the misogyny playbook; public discussion of Ferguson has a million racist tropes) and I engage with terrible people I'm related to or otherwise can't avoid. What bubble do you live in, that you can avoid bigots?

But then I figure, oh, they are just trying to think of the most hateful way to discount someone else's opinion and that's what they came away with.

Well, bless your heart.
posted by gingerest at 10:04 PM on September 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


frankly I find the idea that saying statements are bigoted is the most hateful thing I can come up with sort of insulting, like, how uncreative is that? I am an inventive and talented woman! If hate was my intent, surely I would have come up with something much more interesting than "yo dude that's racist"
posted by NoraReed at 10:30 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


This idea seems oddly, bizarrely, close to an actual cabal/conspiracy

What someone way up there called the self-appointed Junior Mod Squad, the people I've come to think of as Metafilter's Mall Cops are so quick to appear in MetaTalk posts, tell people How Things Should Be.

I would not be shocked if I came to learn that they're communicating via IM or some such, letting each other know when there's a new MetaTalk post.
posted by ambient2 at 10:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


ambient2: "I would not beshocked if I came to learn that they're communicating via IM or some such, letting each other know when there's a new MetaTalk post."

I dunno if I'm part of said Mall Cops squad, but in case I am: my secret is RSS.
posted by Bugbread at 10:41 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I dunno if I'm part of said Mall Cops squad, but in case I am: my secret is RSS.

It's not just a cabal, it's a cabal of hipsters.
posted by amorphatist at 10:49 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is there any other kind?
posted by MoonOrb at 10:53 PM on September 9, 2014


I don't care to belong to any cabal that would have me as a member.

And I felt that way before that was a thing.
posted by amorphatist at 10:58 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


My secret isn't RSS, it's hitting REFRESH on the Metatalk main page every 15 seconds while sobbing uncontrollably.
posted by Justinian at 11:40 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I see the comments that people know what Bigoted Hate Group members say because they deal with them every day. Not clueless people or people who are obnoxious, but seriously, bigoted people. Every day. That is not my experience. I am sincerely sorry it is yours.

I am a woman, so I guess I could interact with bigots every day online, if I hung out on The Red Pill subredit or whatever, but I don't. So I am insulated in a way you all are not, and that does give me a level of privilege that you all, who have no choice, don't have.

After hearing jessamyn's experience, now I am wondering, is one of those places where you deal with bigots on Metafilter? Because I haven't really seen the hateful bigots here and that is why I feel the accusations tossed around here are a bad thing.

I'm trying to think of a hate group, to explain what I meant up in my other comment in a way that makes it clearer.

Okay, one hate group mentioned in this thread earlier was TERFs.

I know from reading threads here on Metafilter where people have discussed them that TERFs are very hateful towards transgender people. I have, however, never met a TERF in real life to my knowledge, meaning I have not personally interacted with someone where they espoused that hateful attitude. There was an anonymous user in a thread once who may have been a TERF, and it was very upsetting to a lot of members here that the mods, who didn't realize that, granted that user anonymity. Point is, I don't know any TERFs and I would never want anyone to think I was a TERF.

If I were in a thread where someone said hateful, bigoted stuff about transgender people, I would have no problem with that behavior being called out. It SHOULD be.

Now, say I am in a thread where someone is NOT engaging in ugly bigoted behavior. If another member said to that person, "You sound like you might be a TERF," then, yes, my reaction would be to feel that the accusing person was saying the most hateful thing they could come up with. It is a straight-up insult to be called a member of a bigoted hate group like that without cause.

That is what I meant by my comment up thread, that when someone makes an insulting accusation like that without a REALLY good reason, the only excuse I can think of is that they are lashing out in a hateful way at that other person by calling them the most hateful thing they can come up with.

I am sorry if my thinking that way sounds like I am engaging in bad faith. I feel like I do engage in good faith, and it is only when I witness that tactic that my attitude changes; I am reacting to a bad faith argument.

If you did spend your whole day having TERFs stalking you, I can see being pissed off and not wanting to put up with that crap. I am stuck between understanding why you might be so fed up that you would say something like that to someone without really having a good reason, and feeling like if you know, firsthand, how awful a TERF can be, the last thing you would want to do is wrongly accuse someone else of being one.
posted by misha at 11:59 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it's because they actually have a good reason to believe someone is a TERF, for example, even if you don't see it. What you think of as wrongful accusations are not wrong, it's just that you lack experience with identifying it when it's present.
posted by harriet vane at 12:03 AM on September 10, 2014 [30 favorites]


corb: In terms of identity, there's a lot of thought around how the "born that way" pieces were constructed, and how they can even be detrimental. For example, it shouldn't matter if sexual preference is born or chosen for people to be treated humanely. Race, as Edward James Olmos points out, is constructed. There is only the human race. But you still shouldn't be awful to people because of what they choose to identify as.

Seriously? Race as a grand idea may well be socially constructed, but it's not like a given person can just decide 'hey my blackness is totally a social construct' and then stop being black. Things being social constructs does not make them in any way less real or meaningful.


Tanizaki: It's pretty popular on Tumblr, which is what I associate the word with. I don't think of it as an academic or technical term at all. The top Google hits for "microagression", after the Wikipedia article, are two links to the same Tumblr page and a Buzzfeed article (2.6 million views). When your technical, learnèd term of art is featured on a page with "19 Texts That Prove Drunk People Are The Absolute Worst" in the sidebar, your term has gone mainstream.

Yeah, but I bet most of those Tumblr and Buzzfeed articles or whatever are using the term as it has been described here, and not simply to mean any small aggression. So in that sense, the term-of-art definition is now mainstream, which in fact makes co-opting the term to refer to any small annoyance rather than as a way to describe and conceptualise societal oppressions even less defensible.


misha: Just as an aside, When someone says something like that, it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place? What, do you subscribe to their newsletter?

Just as an aside, personally, I do subscribe to an awful lot of fucking awful newsletters, and read fucking awful sites, because know your enemy. Many of my friends are academics and do research which involves reading awful Fan Club forums and things, and we talk about this sort of stuff. So yeah, a lot of us do the whole 'know your enemy' thing.

But then I figure, oh, they are just trying to think of the most hateful way to discount someone else's opinion and that's what they came away with.

That is not what engaging in good faith looks like. Hell, it's not what actually engaging with what is being said at all looks like.

The real issue, of course, is that people who are NOT saying anything bigoted are being accused of belonging to those Bigotry Fan Clubs because it is easier to cast aspersions than actually engage with what they are saying when they disagree with you.

An awful lot of us are suggesting that this 'real issue' is in fact not an issue, because it doesn't really happen. People are then suggesting that this disconnect in perceptions might be occurring precisely because you are not seeing the bigoted thing being said in the first place, and that you might be better able to see that if you actually took the call-outs seriously, rather than proceeding from an assumption that the call-out is wrong and made in bad faith.

After hearing jessamyn's experience, now I am wondering, is one of those places where you deal with bigots on Metafilter? Because I haven't really seen the hateful bigots here and that is why I feel the accusations tossed around here are a bad thing.

It totally is, and I'd suggest that the reason you're not seeing it may be partly related to the above point as much as what you're suggesting.

Now, say I am in a thread where someone is NOT engaging in ugly bigoted behavior. If another member said to that person, "You sound like you might be a TERF," then, yes, my reaction would be to feel that the accusing person was saying the most hateful thing they could come up with. It is a straight-up insult to be called a member of a bigoted hate group like that without cause.

Ah, now we're getting to what I suspected this thread was intended to be about all along. I have not seen accusations of 'TERF' lobbed around mefi without cause. You may well disagree, but you may also not necessarily be the person best placed to identify TERFs, TERF logic or tropes, what with not having to deal with them all the fucking time like anyone who is out as trans on the internet necessarily has to. So maybe when someone throws 'TERF' around and you just don't see it, rather than dismiss that person out of hand, perhaps look at the situation and the thing it was a response to, and try and see where the 'accusation' came from. Do this enough times, and the common factor might just become apparent.
posted by Dysk at 12:13 AM on September 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


Sure, but you just acknowledged that jessamyn might have more experience with online misogyny than you, so she might recognize a misogynist trope more easily than you. The same thing works for your TERF example. Like, if I point something out as TERFy, it's because I do think it's TERFy. But you've already forgotten the jessamyn lesson by just assuming that I, as somebody who has probably had more encounters with with those groups than you, might do that "without really having a good reason."

While I understand what you're generally trying to communicate in this MeTa, I think the the occurrence of this happening in complete bad faith - someone maliciously raising these concerns, knowingly "without really having a good reason" - is rare. If you focus your efforts on that type of this situation, I don't think you can expect much to change, because A) it doesn't seem like a common iteration of the behavior and B) people already deliberately choosing to engage in bad faith aren't going to voluntarily remove a trolling tool from their trolling toolkit.
posted by Corinth at 12:18 AM on September 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


I guess I could interact with bigots every day online, if I hung out on The Red Pill subredit or whatever

Speaking just for myself, I recognize a lot of the patterns and tactics of bigots because I sometimes forget my vow never to do so and read the comments on a youtube video, or an editorial in the local paper, or a blog post from someone who doesn't spend 90% of her time moderating comments, or almost anywhere on the web where people are allowed to leave comments. I'm only interacting with them in the sense that I'm exposed to them, but boy howdy are they not shy about exposing themselves.

I'm not exposed to a lot of TERF arguments (that I know of) because that's a pretty specific bigotry and I don't think I hang out on a lot of sites where that would rise above the noise floor of the more general sexism, racism, ableism, etc which permeates literally every other un- or under- moderated online forum I can think of. People are, by and large, awful, and when there's a space which doesn't seem awful I'm guessing it's not necessarily because the people there are better than average; it could be that the moderation is better than average. Or that I'm just not tuned to the awfulness yet.

I'm 40, and I'm amazed and ashamed at how clueless I've been until pretty damn recently. How clueless I'm sure I still am, for that matter. The background radiation of toxic assholism has always been there, but because I'm a straight-ish, white-ish, American-ish, middle-class male, I haven't had to pay attention to it. I thought I was cynical ten years ago. Hah.

But, yeah. I'm not subscribing to Bigotry Digest, or anything. I'm just paying more attention than I used to. It's been hard to miss since I started making an effort not to be blithely ignorant.
posted by hades at 12:21 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


misha: "I see the comments that people know what Bigoted Hate Group members say because they deal with them every day. Not clueless people or people who are obnoxious, but seriously, bigoted people. Every day."

You see some people who say every day. Not every once in a while, but, seriously, every day.

And you also see folks like me (hi!) who see seriously bigoted comments maybe, say, every month or so, when I'm dumb enough to read comments on either gaming sites or YouTube videos. But, y'know, once a month or so is around 10 times a year. And over the last decade, that's about 100 times (conservative guess). Plus reading comments on MeFi where people talk about certain things bigots say, and I think "Hey, that's the same kinda thing I saw the other day on XYZ". So let's say another 100 there.

So after reading something 200 times or so, yeah, you get to noticing patterns. Don't need on a mailing list or to be wading into Tumblr fights on a daily basis for that.

(Note: before anyone accuses me of only noticing bigotry online, and being blind to all the bigotry in daily life, keep in mind that I don't live in a Western country, so while I see a ton of bigotry in daily life, the actual arguments used are very different. So my "that's what bigots say [in English]" experience is limited to online stuff.)
posted by Bugbread at 12:28 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


One way we might chart a path forward is to heavily frown (collectively somehow maybe via Skype??) on rhetorical tactics that seek to paint a person as a thing instead of dealing with what they said.

There's a big difference in my eye between "that's the kind of thing assholes do" and "that's a pretty shitty thing to say." One is indirect and personally accusatory, the other is direct and deals with the issue itself: what was said.

And it deals with misha's original complaint as well: no more "this sounds like something an MRA would say" (which, while ostensibly about the argument is defo a round about way of calling the other person an MRA). Instead: "your argument is mysogynist."

The big difference is that, yeah, people get defensive when you call them a shitty thing and, yeah, it makes sense that it'll become about how they are/n't that thing. If we confine ourselves to discussing what is said, and not what one person thinks that means about the other's being or self, I think we'll have a generally higher level of discourse.

Note, however, that prologed contact with a particular person's bad behavior might give you an idea of what they are -- if shit keep coming out of the same hole, you might start to wonder if it isn't in fact an asshole. But that's I think a more serious case that is also more rare and will require a different level of intervention.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:30 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it's because they actually have a good reason to believe someone is a TERF, for example, even if you don't see it. What you think of as wrongful accusations are not wrong, it's just that you lack experience with identifying it when it's present.

This gets at precisely what I'm saying above: what value the accusation that someone is a thing over "that's a shitty, trans-phobic thing to say"?
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:34 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


This gets at precisely what I'm saying above: what value the accusation that someone is a thing over "that's a shitty, trans-phobic thing to say"?

Because the trans-exclusion TERFs preach and practice is quite a different beast to your run-of-the-mill transphobia, actually, it is incredibly useful to distinguish the two both for understanding where they come from, how they operate, and which groups they are likely to find supporters in, and for dealing with them practically. Saying something is TERFy is not the same as calling the person saying it a TERF. Calling an argument a matter of TERF logic is addressing the argument, even if I can see how it would be possible to mistake it for a comment about the person behind it.
posted by Dysk at 12:43 AM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


(Not to say that the precise pull-quote you used couldn't be phrased a little better, but it simply does not necessarily work to just sub in 'transphobic' for 'TERF')
posted by Dysk at 12:45 AM on September 10, 2014


I think there is value in pointing out not just that something sounds misogynist or transphobic (or etc.) but also fits a particular pattern of concrete misogyny or transphobia. There's a big difference between generic transphobia in blog comments and the specific rhetorical tactics of TERFs. For one, the former tends to be more varied and free-form, requiring varied and free-form responses. The latter tends to be a collection of discrete arguments that have often been specifically addressed in detail previously, both in academic work and in, say, feminist blogs. So at least in one respect, pointing out that something sounds like a TERF argument is a signal that it's more of a settled debate with a broad consensus behind the designation and a community response, and that more information is probably easily available elsewhere and it might be less necessary to go over it specifically in the thread.

Also, just personally, "that sounds like something an MRA would say" (although there are definitely better versions of that) comes across as more gentle to me than "your argument is misogynist," because I'd rather the initial blame be aimed at my wording than my argument. There are definitely kinds of bigotry with which I am less familiar, and I can easily see myself saying something in earnest ignorance that someone closer to the subject recognizes as a dogwhistle, and I'd like to know about that so I can avoid it in the future and maybe give similar phrasing extra scrutiny myself when I'm reading about the topic.
posted by Corinth at 12:52 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Dammit, Dysk!
posted by Corinth at 12:55 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


An awful lot of us are suggesting that this 'real issue' is in fact not an issue, because it doesn't really happen.

Well, damn. The way the thread was going, about the most I was hoping for was that at least some people who generally don't ever acknowledge this as happening would acknowledge that this isn't something that's made up, that this does in fact happen, and it's not claiming that being called a bigot is as bad as experiencing bigotry.

But no, back to 'this never happens' and 'but they are pointing out bigotry, you just can't see it'. Which, par misha's latest comments, might in fact be true for her in some instances, but isn't true for everybody who agreed with her that this is a thing that happens that also is bad for the site.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:59 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


'Accused of bigotry when none was on display' is not quite the same as 'accused of bigotry in bad faith', though. The former might happen (very occasionally, it's certainly not fucking often) but I don't think the latter does.
posted by Dysk at 1:02 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


After hearing jessamyn's experience, now I am wondering, is one of those places where you deal with bigots on Metafilter?

This is literally what I have been saying repeatedly with varying levels of frustration, cusses, exasperation, rephrases and occasional caps for at least two MeTa threads, and that's just this week. I am not the only one who has been doing so.

I have a pretty good eye for it because I took a lot of classes on intersectional type stuff and I've had a lot of good teachers and I try to follow marginalized voices so that I see what I'm missing from my position of privilege because I want to be less of an awful cisgender white person if possible.

But misha, it's increasingly sounding like you just don't know what a lot of marginalizing behavior looks like and so instead of trying to see what's being pointed out you're assuming some kind of plot to discredit disagreeing points of view. Just because you can't see this stuff doesn't mean it's not there: dog whistles are called that because not everyone can hear them, so they go over most people's heads. Your explicit and repeated denial that this stuff happens then looks, to me at least, like some alternating combination of bad faith posting, oftentimes the kind that comes with an anti-SJ agenda, and missives from bizarro-world. The former is at best frustrating, the latter confusing.

And it deals with misha's original complaint as well: no more "this sounds like something an MRA would say" (which, while ostensibly about the argument is defo a round about way of calling the other person an MRA). Instead: "your argument is mysogynist."

These groups have very specific strategies and talking points; rando misogynist douchebro 47 is gonna have a different vocabulary and set of opinions and talking points than an MRA. Additionally, pointing out these sorts of things can often give names to the origin of certain kinds of behaviors and rhetoric, which can then be looked up if someone wanted to know more or see the answers/refutations of those points.

Bigotry has all sorts of origin points and even if, say, some douchey redditor who thinks men fucking is gross has homophobia in common with the street preachers with the anti-gay signs that sometimes hang around my alma mater, they're gonna have pretty sets of things to say about why gay folks are bad.

The other purpose calling that out is to say if there are people who are members of hate groups or Bigot Fan Clubs or whatever around that hey, we see you, and maybe this person posting this just got roped into your rhetoric or maybe they're one of you, but you're not going to manipulate this conversation, on metafilter and off it, from behind the curtain. It's a bit harder for these folks to get away with that kind of manipulation here than on places like Twitter and Reddit, but organizations like Stormfront do try to do that kind of crap, and considering all the Zoe Quinn stuff this week, a lot of us are at least a little shaken and a little paranoid, since that was a pretty ad-hoc hate group that really managed to successfully mislead a lot of people about its purpose and drove a few voices out of their homes and their industry. We're scared, and we're tired, and most of us have already lost at least one online home to this kind of encroaching marginalizing behavior. (Here, this is really the least important reason, it's just the one that's most relevant to The Greater Internet World At Large so it's at the top of my brain.)
posted by NoraReed at 1:09 AM on September 10, 2014 [30 favorites]


"Calling NoraReed a rude asshole would likely get a chiding or deletion, so people are dancing around that border without actually saying the precise words."

I don't think that dancing is happening.

NoraReed's an adult, she can be told she's coming across as an asshole. And specifically, she was getting derailed from the legitimate points that she was making by the urge to make snarky rejoinders, a pox that hits a lot of us here (including me).

I understand the point that you're trying to make, and I agree with it somewhat, but I don't think that was a particularly good example as you phrased it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Interesting how people calling out NoraReed's behaviour as asshole-ish was largely uncontroversial, but NoraReed herself suggesting that the behaviour of misappropriating the term microaggression might make you a microasshole caused an outcry*. I'm not sure what that says exactly, but I think it's worth discussing.)




*most of this outcry ignored the micro- prefix and so was actually accusing NoraReed of doing something literally a thousand times worse than what she was actually doing, too! :P
posted by Dysk at 1:21 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


NoraReed: you want to use "manbabies" on metafilter? REALLY? Be a grownup and leave that kind of flame bait on reddit, where it belongs. You sound like some kind of 14 year old tumblr fanatic, and you're better than that.
posted by disclaimer at 1:28 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


And I'll say it: NoraReed: you're being a rude asshole.
posted by disclaimer at 1:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Made that last comment before my morning coffee - the jokey aside should obviously say million, not thousand. Somewhere, my old physics teacher is shaking his head sadly.)
posted by Dysk at 1:55 AM on September 10, 2014


If you have a better word for the kind of dudes who flip their jimmies over stuff like the mere existence of the word "mansplain", disclaimer, I would be happy to hear it. I was using "testerical" for a while, but it was pointed out to me that it was cissexist, so that's off the table.
posted by NoraReed at 2:09 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


You (general you) may think I am missing all this because I just don't know what to look for and I don't have experience studying up on tactics racists, sexists, etc. use. Maybe that is true, and sometimes I miss the more subtle stuff.

I can tell you that I know when some guy is sexually harassing me or being a creeper or hating on me for being a woman, though. I have experienced that. I do not have that problem here on Metafilter. I haven't had anyone say I should know my place just because I am a woman here, or harass me with sexualized language, or tell me not to get hysterical.

The criticism I get here on Metafilter that directly relates to my gender comes when I am told that I defend men too much instead of taking the women's side (implying all women think the same and that we are not on the same side as men, which is pretty contrary to feminism as I understand it), that I am an ignorant feminist because I have not read specific feminist papers (which denies my own lived experience), or that I am a traitor to my own sex. And the people who do that feel they are the good guys standing up for women.

If I call them out, do you think they will apologize for any of that, and say, yep, that does seem like sexist behavior on our part?
posted by misha at 2:41 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Misha, I have no academic training in feminism and I don't get told off by any feminists onsite. I often agree with the criticisms of your participation because you don't *just* defend men who are saying awful sexist shit, you throw in accusations and insinuations about how all feminists are horrible except you. It appears to me as though what you really want is a pat on the head from someone for not being one of "those" feminists. I can link examples if you like, I'm on a mobile now.

Sexism on Metafilter is about more than telling women they should know their place (see cortex's tales of how he gets complaints about the female mods) or using sexualised language (see the Cooter clock incidents). It's also about an insidious victim-blaming attitude to both members and women mentioned in FPP links. It's about people who question long-established statistics on rape, equal pay, and so on. It's about complaining that we've gone "too far" with equality, or that we don't think about men enough when discussing issues like childbirth. Open your eyes, for goodness sake.
posted by harriet vane at 2:53 AM on September 10, 2014 [41 favorites]


There's more to feminism than the sexual harassment you've experienced, in the same way that there's more to racism than the Ku Klux Klan.

The men who tell you off here might be doing it because you don't seem to listen to women, I don't know. They're not doing it because they're sexist, so you won't get an apology for that. They're doing it because they think you're wrong, and they often present logically supported arguments which you then blithely ignore or misinterpret.
posted by harriet vane at 3:00 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can we try to rein this in to discussing the issue(s) at hand, and not a new referendum on misha and feminism?
posted by Bugbread at 3:04 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Agreed. Please stick the topic of the post. We aren't doing another never-close free-for-all everyone-chat-and/or-fight thread.

This was the suggestion: "all comments inferring, implying and down-right accusing other members in the way I have outlined above should be flagged for deletion by default."

Please continue to discuss this and related and /or alternative ideas on this topic and drop the personal stuff.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:30 AM on September 10, 2014


Is there anything to discuss, though? (This obviously has never stopped anyone from discussing anything on the Internet before, of course, but...)

"Flagged by default" doesn't really mean anything actionable - people flag based on their individual judgments. "Deletion by default" likewise - deletions take place based on mod discretion based on guidelines they interpret singly and collectively.

You can't force users to flag, or moderators to delete. Saying that something should be "flagged for deletion by default" just means "I want to be able to flag this and confidently expect it will be deleted", which is something the mods cannot possibly guarantee except in egregious cases.

So, the question here is "does this rather vague, unexampled set of possible speech acts constitute a set of things that should be identified as egregious to the point that any flag will lead to a deletion?". And the answer is "no".
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:18 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Metatalk: Those two extremes are separated by a swath of gray filled with subjectivity and disagreement.

Everyone here needs to get high more often. This is Mount Frijole weather station signing off.
posted by spitbull at 4:34 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think norareed is being an asshole. She's blunt, she curses, meh. It's a different style.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:39 AM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Now, say I am in a thread where someone is NOT engaging in ugly bigoted behavior. If another member said to that person, "You sound like you might be a TERF," then, yes, my reaction would be to feel that the accusing person was saying the most hateful thing they could come up with. It is a straight-up insult to be called a member of a bigoted hate group like that without cause.

First, saying you sound like something isn't the same as calling you that thing. It can be indistinguishable, but it's not identical. Second, you're not a mind-reader, so your assumption that people are purposefully being "hateful" is not well-supported by the evidence at hand. Third, you're essentially accusing a ton of people here of being hateful/insulting based solely on your assumptions. Isn't that the kind of insinuation, accusation, whatever that you were suggesting be instadeleted?

And finally, your implication that people here hang out at the Red Pill is obnoxious. No, actually, sexist stuff happens in a lot of places. But please, do say more about what people are doing to bring sexism into their lives.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:48 AM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


She's blunt, she curses, meh. It's a different style.

It's hard to define what an asshole is exactly (that would be a fun meta), but I can say that many of the times I have been perceived as an asshole it's because I was too blunt and cursey. It's often perceived as a very rude style.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:30 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


> If you did spend your whole day having TERFs stalking you, I can see being pissed off and not wanting to put up with that crap. I am stuck between understanding why you might be so fed up that you would say something like that to someone without really having a good reason, and feeling like if you know, firsthand, how awful a TERF can be, the last thing you would want to do is wrongly accuse someone else of being one.

The choices you have offered here leave no room for the person with actual knowledge (that you admit you lack) to be correct in their call-out. It presumes that someone who says here on mefi "Hey that's a TERFy argument to make" must be wrongly accusing the other person. You're always asking people to act in good faith, but you don't do that here; you don't give the benefit of the doubt to someone with more experience and knowledge than you have with that particular rhetoric. That sucks.
posted by rtha at 5:49 AM on September 10, 2014 [26 favorites]


Yeesh. I didn't notice this thread until late last night, and it took me this long to read through it (which I'm trying to do, especially with contentious threads).

First, saying you sound like something isn't the same as calling you that thing. It can be indistinguishable, but it's not identical.

This is really the crux of the post, to my mind -- this assertion in the opening of the post
[Note: Though there is a common adage that saying someone is guilty of racism or sexism is not the same as saying that person is a racist or sexist, there is indisputably a negative connotation to a user being accused of racist or sexist behavior in a thread, and that connotation exists even if/when that accusation is unfounded.]
asserts that the two are synonymous, and then goes on to argue that the former should be forbidden on that basis. I am really opposed to that line of reasoning, because its endpoint is blocking people's ability to call out racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and so on. Because there is no way to identify offense that won't provoke defense. I'm sometimes annoyed by the circumlocution required to say "that's a sexist comment" or "that's kind of a sexist comment," or "that sounds like a sexist comment to me," but I accept it because, at the end of the day, like Elizabeth I, I don't presume to look into Mefites' souls.

Suggesting that the circumlocution is too rude, however, is pushing the issue off the table all together, and it's a trend, like the idea that it's worse to be called a racist than to say racist things, that I cannot support.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:03 AM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, while NoraReed is sometimes direct to the point of abrasiveness, I find her comments for the most part insightful, honest, and well-argued, so I'm for her participation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


The choices you have offered here leave no room for the person with actual knowledge (that you admit you lack) to be correct in their call-out. It presumes that someone who says here on mefi "Hey that's a TERFy argument to make" must be wrongly accusing the other person.

misha said: If I were in a thread where someone said hateful, bigoted stuff about transgender people, I would have no problem with that behavior being called out. It SHOULD be.

She demonstrably did not argue such accusations must be wrong accusations. She argued that they can be wrong, and when they are it's an insulting and counterproductive thing to do. The issue she is running into is that she may not be the right person to judge which is which as you point out on the knowledge front.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:08 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


(I don't think that is a major problem if she sticks with flagging when she sees bad behavior along these lines so the mods can apply their own judgement, but it can be if she responds in thread and causes a further derail.)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:11 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I learned about the tone argument here on Metafilter, possibly in exactly the way the OP objects to -- somebody says "I'm not against [x] but when so and so says [y] they really need to do it in a different way or risk alienating [z]" and someone else said "yes, but that's a derailment and a common tactic of people who are against x -- criticizing the way the messages about [x] are delivered."

it's funny how the tone argument is widely said to be a "silencing tactic" on mefi ... but somehow a "framing argument" (like in.crayz's recent MeTa) is somehow A-OK, where people immediately attacked his post as being poorly "framed" which to me is just as much of a silencing tactic as the."tone" argument ... if not more so.
posted by jayder at 6:17 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Even most of the people that agreed with the thrust of his post agreed that it was poorly-framed, so I don't know what relevance that has here.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:21 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


She demonstrably did not argue such accusations must be wrong accusations.

Where did she leave room for the accusation to be right in this:

If you did spend your whole day having TERFs stalking you, I can see being pissed off and not wanting to put up with that crap. I am stuck between understanding why you might be so fed up that you would say something like that to someone without really having a good reason, and feeling like if you know, firsthand, how awful a TERF can be, the last thing you would want to do is wrongly accuse someone else of being one.
posted by rtha at 6:26 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but I bet most of those Tumblr and Buzzfeed articles or whatever are using the term as it has been described here, and not simply to mean any small aggression. So in that sense, the term-of-art definition is now mainstream, which in fact makes co-opting the term to refer to any small annoyance rather than as a way to describe and conceptualise societal oppressions even less defensible.

Instead of betting what they say, how about reading those Tumblr or Buzzfeed articles? You'll find hipsters holding up handwritten signs of egregious slights such as "Do you speak Asian?" (I have been asked this - I didn't start a blog about it) or tweeting at the oppression of "People loudly complaining how fat they are when they are the same size or smaller than you."

To the extent it was ever learnèd academic jargon, it is now describes events that, if the Tumblr kids are getting it right, have a fair amount of overlap with #firstworldproblems. Defensible or not, that is reality and saying "indefensible" won't change it.

"Oh, you're a lawyer? Do you do any slip-and-fall work?" I felt confused, marginalized, othered. #microaggressions
posted by Tanizaki at 6:28 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am stuck between understanding why you might be so fed up that you would say something like that to someone without really having a good reason

I think this is the crux of the issue, really. Getting fed up does not make you snap at people for no reason. It makes you snap harder at people when there is reason to do so. It's not like "grah, had to put up with sexist/homophobic/racist/transphobic shit all day, I'm gonna fuckin' let loose on the next person I see!" it's more like "grah, had to put up with sexist/homophobic/racist/transphobic shit all day, the next person who gives me any of that will fuckin' get it!".

So yeah, people being upset and maybe overreacting as a result doesn't mean you've not done anything wrong.
posted by Dysk at 6:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Misha's comment last night actually spelling out an example using TERF is illustrative.

Some observations:

[Note: I'm going to write "sexist" and "sexism" here instead of "___-ist" and "___-ism" just out of a sense of aesthetics. Please read as though I were referring to any sort of bigotry.]

1. As taz quoted a few comments up, this FPP is not about the precise level of rudeness communicated by the language someone uses when referring to someone else's comment as sexist. Misha's comment from last night makes clear (and I think this was almost clear from the beginning) that the distinctions some people are trying to helpfully make between "You are acting like a sexist" and "Your comment sounds like something a sexist would say" and "Your argument makes some seriously sexist assumptions" and "Your argument is inextricably informed by sexism" and "You probably don't intend this because you're probably a decent person but the way you're arguing belies a certain amount of sexism" are beside the point, since even the most mild formulation is going to be taken as though they are just (quoting misha now) "lashing out in a hateful way at that other person by calling them the most hateful thing they can come up with," namely: complicit with bigotry.

2. Misha and others have made clear that their complaint is not about situations in which the person being told their arguments are sexist has actually made a sexist remark. Misha has even gone as far as to say that such arguments "SHOULD be" called out.

3. Misha's (and other's) perspective is that:

    a) many benign comments are being called out as sexist.
    b) these comments are in fact so obviously divorced from sexism that the only way she can reconcile them being (obviously erroneously) called out is to assume that they're being called out in bad faith -- which is to say that the person calling them out as sexist is lying when they say they believe sexism to be an animating principle of the supposedly offensive comment.

4. Let's take as a given that no one is in fact arguing in bad faith, that metafilter feminists (et al.) are not just slinging sexism allegations around to smear those who disagree about certain smaller points and that misha (et al.) is not being willfully blind to even the possibility that sexism informs the comments she sees as patently neutral.

5. The crux of the matter, then -- the true and absolute central issue here, at the heart of both the FPP in the the first place and of the terrifying amount of communication disconnect as the thread goes on -- is what counts as sexist (racist, transphobic, etc). There's really no avoiding this.

6. And the disconnect here is huge.

    a) For misha (et al.) sexism appears to be something acute, obvious to anyone who sees it. A comment worth being called out as sexist seems to be restricted to those that are patently hateful. To be called out as sexist is to be called out as vile and monstrous, which is why unfairly tarring someone as sexist is itself such a hateful, vile act, worthy of flagging and deletion.

    b) For those misha takes issue with, sexism is something pervasive and structural. It infects all aspects of society, and it can take a strenuous mindfulness at times to avoid recapitulating some of those sexist structures. Just like you don't need to be a Klansman -- nor even to have ever made a hateful, racist remark in your life -- to find yourself perpetuating, say, racist hiring practices, you don't need to be a frothing-at-the-mouth woman-hater to perpetuate a whole array of milder (but still serious, with concrete effects on people's day-to-day lives) forms of sexism.

7. I think a) and b) (especially the end of b) demonstrate why this disconnect is foundational, and why someone in misha's position, taking as a given that only the most obvious, hate-spewing comments should count as sexist or are worthy of being called out as sexist, is going to be read as not only being hostile to others' feminist perspectives but also hostile to some basic tenets of feminism.

8. And it makes sense that misha would be taken aback at a response seeing her as hostile, since she's just talking (right now, at least) about what counts as offensive in an internet comment, but others read her comments and feel the weight of all the assumptions her comments make about how sexism/racism/etc. operate, how she seems to deny the very possibility of someone doing racist/sexist things unintentionally, from a lack of mindfulness rather than from overt hatefulness. (Because, in case this isn't clear, if you understand sexism/racism/etc. as something you can perpetuate inadvertently, then obviously being called out for a racist or sexist act isn't necessarily to be called a monster.)

Conclusion: This is an intractable disconnect unless someone moves at least a bit. My opinion is that the onus is on misha (et al.) to not necessarily agree with the standard feminist take on how sexism operates, but to at least see others' accusations of sexism as coming from within that framework, and thus to see how it's at least possible that these accusations are a) made in good faith, and b) possibly accurate from within that framework.

[Addendum: it's comforting to hold up certain easily circumscribable positions as monstrous (Klansman, TERF, MRA) because doing so lets us ignore the ways in which we ourselves are probably perpetuating some awful stuff. Everyone we love gets to be obviously decent as long as they're not one of those easily identified monstrous types. And god forbid someone suggest any of our opinions are informed by some of the same structural forces as those which animate those monsters.]
posted by nobody at 6:33 AM on September 10, 2014 [40 favorites]


it's funny how the tone argument is widely said to be a "silencing tactic" on mefi ... but somehow a "framing argument" (like in.crayz's recent MeTa) is somehow A-OK, where people immediately attacked his post as being poorly "framed" which to me is just as much of a silencing tactic as the."tone" argument ... if not more so.

Tone as a silencing tactic means that the audience chooses to dismiss the wider concerns because of tone. Cortex immediately leaves a note in regard to the poor framing that acknowledges that misrepresentation of difficult topics is something worth talking about. And then we had 1000 comments that followed during which crayz had all opportunity to communicate his message.

The existence of "tone argument" as a thing is not an excuse to be extremely rude if you are on the right side of a debate, and it is unfortunately sometimes used that way, it means that the existence of that rudeness does not mean we get to avoid difficult debates entirely.

Where did she leave room for the accusation to be right in this:

She left room for the accusation to be right in what I quoted and in her own admission of a lack of knowledge about what TERF even looks like. The paragraph you are quoting followed her stipulating that she was talking specifically about hypothetical cases where the accusation was wrong and without cause.

Now, say I am in a thread where someone is NOT engaging in ugly bigoted behavior....
posted by Drinky Die at 6:33 AM on September 10, 2014


Tanizaki, other than the lawyer thing, the examples you gave are legit microaggressions - small but in aggregate constant manifestations of structural oppressions. Western society does indeed have problems with both racism and fat-shaming, and those things are part of that.
posted by Dysk at 6:38 AM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


If anyone wants a good example, there was just one yesterday:

Zed: that's been proposed a number of times. It's a standard "want" for the MRA types. [...]

A single mention of paternity tests is met with the immediate "Well, that what MRA-types want".
posted by unixrat at 6:44 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The paragraph you are quoting followed her stipulating that she was talking specifically about hypothetical cases where the accusation was wrong and without cause.

Which she can't know, as she acknowledges, because she lacks experience. But she won't give the benefit of the doubt to the person with that experience. I mean, immediately following where she says she doesn't know about TERFs, she says Now, say I am in a thread where someone is NOT engaging in ugly bigoted behavior. My question is: how does she know it isn't ugly, bigoted behavior if she doesn't know the rhetoric? Maybe she imagines that it *must* look a particular way, and anyone who isn't using those words can't be a TERF and it would be wrong to call them that. But she'd be incorrect in this case because of her lack of experience with it.
posted by rtha at 6:45 AM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


I really don't see anything in any way problematic about the comment you've linked, unixrat - it's pointed out that something is a standard MRA talking point, with a brief reference as to why, and it's entirely distinct from an accusation of being an MRA. Certainly, I would not like to see that flagged by default for deletion or whatever.
posted by Dysk at 6:47 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I agree with you on that rtha which was the point of my "stick with flagging/don't derail" comment above. I think we are on the same page. One thing I would note though is that she was just using TERF as an example of what she sees as a wider trend, so I suspect she may be thinking more of other areas where she does have that knowledge despite using TERF as the example there.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:48 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


If anyone wants a good example, there was just one yesterday

It was someone who was talking about MRAs as a third party, didn't characterize the commenter or their view as anything, backed up their point with a brief but logical description of their issue with the approach, then agreed with some of the points the commenter described. If that is what is being considered a "good example," then the fundamental disconnect here comes down to whether or not to silence discussion of these viewpoints entirely. Which is what a lot of people were concerned was the point in the first place, and much digital ink was spilled assuring them wasn't the case.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:57 AM on September 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


it's pointed out that something is a standard MRA talking point, with a brief reference as to why

Yeah that might be a good example for this since sfred was not calling out Zed, just alerting them to the fact that MRA-types have paternity tests high on their platform as stuff to agitate for. Not that there aren't valid reasons to want paternity testing in a variety of circumstances, but it's worth understanding the context in which some people (especially online) lobby for them. I'm pretty sure sfed wasn't calling out Zed at all and their comment was just meant to be brief and informational. Those types of comments should be okay to make. If people think they're getting called out by them, they should inquire. This is all doable.

For those misha takes issue with, sexism is something pervasive and structural. It infects all aspects of society, and it can take a strenuous mindfulness at times to avoid recapitulating some of those sexist structures.

Yeah this comes back to the fact that sexism/racism/etc have a sort of mainstream definition (mainstream predjudice) and a more academic one that adds power into the mix (and is more insidious) and we seem to cross-talk about this every single time it comes up.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:59 AM on September 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


If anyone wants a good example, there was just one yesterday

Yeah I don't think there is anything wrong with that one.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:59 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's a good example in the sense of "an example of that kind of comment being done well". If you're gonna do a "that kind of argument is used by..." comment, do it like that example.
posted by Bugbread at 7:04 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh please. MRA wasn't even part of the discussion. It has nothing to do with the point being made except to tar it with "this is an MRA talking point."

The attacks I am concerned with most often take the form of ugly insinuations that the user is deliberately derailing, trolling or using common tactics which are allegedly known to be popular with [...]:

* MRAs


Exactly what is laid out above.
posted by unixrat at 7:06 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


misha, something that's been very helpful to me in explaining how well-intentioned people can nevertheless act in ways that support racism, for example, is looking at how colorblindness tends to perpetuate racism, even if the people pushing a "color-blind" belief system are doing so out of the belief that it's a way to end racism.

Intent matters, but so does effect. And many, including me, would argue that effect matters more than intent.
posted by jaguar at 7:09 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Exactly what is laid out above.

You mean except for the "ugly insinuations that the user is deliberately derailing, trolling or using common tactics" part?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:11 AM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


unixrat, you don't think an awareness of the context of something is useful? "It's been raised before. It's a standard MRA talking point." very succinctly explains why something has come up as an idea but not generally gained much traction (with a brief nod toward the reasons behind both the MRA support and general feminist opposition to the idea), in my opinion.
posted by Dysk at 7:11 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's an insinuation made to connect an idea to an unpopular platform.

Or to say, "It's an idea that has had a lot of backing and politicking and still failed."
posted by jaguar at 7:13 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's an insinuation made to connect an idea to an unpopular platform.

No, it's letting the person know that they need to add context or clarification to their comment -- are they pushing a crappy agenda or are they talking about something different and simply inadvertently echoing crappy talking points? Someone above (I think Jessamyn) used the example of states' rights also, which if you are going to bring it up needs to be done so in a way that is clearly and explicitly not part of the crappy agenda within which it is often used.

There have been repeated comments here about how awful it is to be called a racist. I've been called a racist plenty of times (including here on Metafilter not all that long ago). Once in a while it's been totally correct, sometimes it's because I spoke inelegantly and hence said something that was taken poorly, and sometimes it's because the accuser is half-baked. Each of those is a learning experience in a different way, but what it has never done is hurt me in any way. I deal with it and move on, no different than being honked at while parking or whatever. This ridiculous exaggeration of the impact of being called a racist (or other __ist) is just a rhetorical move to prevent people from being able to label crappy behavior correctly and simply isn't the big deal that some people like to claim.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:14 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not remotely, right? I mean, invoking YouTube comments makes it seem like there might be some sort of equivalence between the two

Yes to not remotely. Invoking comparison with one type of comment and another type of comment online is where there is equivalence. If you disagree that's fine, but to me, a comment online can be compared to another comment online and contrasted.
posted by juiceCake at 7:14 AM on September 10, 2014


This is a terrible thread because it's all about misha. Despite her cookies being delicious in the most recent cookie swap, she is not why I go to this site everyday, and I think that by her not linking to specific examples early on in the thread, we have devolved to making this all about her rather than about the alleged behavior at large. At this point in the thread, the comments are mostly namecalling and "clarification," which I think are hard to read, and hard to care about. It's just ridiculous to me that you thought this thread would go in a different direction from this one when you clicked post. No issues have been resolved, and people's feelings have been hurt.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:15 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


FWIW, here's the full quotes from both Zed:
Part of me thinks paternity verification when a birth certificate is issued should become standard so the children don't spend their whole lives with medical decisions influenced by fallacious family history. The rest of me is sure it'd cause more human suffering than it prevented.
and sfred (emphasis in original):
Zed: that's been proposed a number of times. It's a standard "want" for the MRA types. The problem is that legally paternity is defined socially not genetically. This would move the law towards a genetic definition, lots of reasons for that, some of which you allude to.
Context matters.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:16 AM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Zed: that's been proposed a number of times. It's a standard "want" for the MRA types. The problem is that legally paternity is defined socially not genetically. This would move the law towards a genetic definition, lots of reasons for that, some of which you allude to.

...versus...

Zed: that's been proposed a number of times. The problem is that legally paternity is defined socially not genetically. This would move the law towards a genetic definition, lots of reasons for that, some of which you allude to.

Had Zed made any sort of reference to MRAs or 'Men's Rights' or anything, I could see that sentence being topical. Instead it's tossed in out of the blue on Zed's point.

Look at the second paragraph - where the MRA sentence has been removed. That directly addresses the point Zed is making, without bringing MRA into it.
posted by unixrat at 7:20 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Someone with a better understanding of the intricacies of grammar might be able to explain this, but the phrasing "the MRA types", with that "the" at the start, makes it feel like it's making a special effort to say "unlike yourself".
posted by Bugbread at 7:21 AM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


Look at the second paragraph - where the MRA sentence has been removed. That directly addresses the point Zed is making, without bringing MRA into it.

...and misses a whole lot of context for it, such as why people might react to it the way they do, or why it doesn't get brought up much in certain circles, or just even just to inform that hey, there are actually groups nominally working to that end.
posted by Dysk at 7:26 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I agree that the sfred's comment appears to be distancing itself from calling Zed an MRA, but the comment itself is still tangential at best. Zed wasn't saying that paternity results should be on there for any reason relating to legal paternity. Zed wasn't even saying that paternity results should be on birth certificates.

Either way, I would just ignore that comment. It added nothing of great value, but it didn't break any rules, either. There is certainly no policy to be drawn from comments like this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:30 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Look at the second paragraph - where the MRA sentence has been removed. That directly addresses the point Zed is making, without bringing MRA into it.

And also removes the who and why it has been proposed and/or opposed, among other reasons (on preview: what Dysk said). Nor does it insinuate anything about Zed (ugly or otherwise), or accuse them of deliberately derailing/trolling/using MRA common tactics. The insistence on this being such a great example does nothing to convince me that the concern around no discussion at all about it is misplaced.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:33 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah this comes back to the fact that sexism/racism/etc have a sort of mainstream definition (mainstream predjudice) and a more academic one that adds power into the mix (and is more insidious) and we seem to cross-talk about this every single time it comes up.

Oh, hm, framing it as mainstream vs. academic makes it sound like the onus should be on the academic to make sure they're speaking clearly to the mainstream.

But -- apart from whether a disclaimer every time might be useful -- it sure feels like misha (and whoever else) just never hear that distinction no matter how many times it's been clarified. In fact, I think they outright reject it?

And I guess it doesn't help the cross-talk situation that what you're calling the mainstream take on things is, in actuality, a political stance, and that to the academic position it's clear that restricting what counts as bigotry to only the most egregious examples is downright insidious, since it seems incompatible with understanding that, for example, racist hiring practices might be common even in an office culture that wouldn't tolerate racist hate-speech.

Which doesn't sound so academic.
posted by nobody at 7:51 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is a terrible thread

I don't know that it's "terrible", but this is a MeTa with a number of derails, non sequiturs, and misinterpretations which do not flow from plain text reads, let alone good faith reads. There is no value in pooping up the thread with any sort of "report card" as to who may be doing what. The point is, one can't blame misha for others' behavior: if the problem was really chiefly that she didn't provide any examples, then people would have just said "nice examples duder" and faffed off. Either way, the topic of the thread was not "how good is this thread", so let's set that aside.

I disagree with misha that there is literally a significant problem on MetaFilter of people making bad faith accusations of *ism. I disagree that there should be any sort of blanket ban on saying somebody sounds *ist, or whatever.

Nonetheless, I do think that many people on the internet, including some people on some occasions on MetaFilter, display problems with interpreting and responding to people with whom they disagree. This is a generically human problem; it is not tied to any particular value system. If you cannot think of a few times in your life when you yourself have unfairly interpreted someone or some remark, then you are undoubtedly a big offender.

The only policy to be drawn from this is to pretend that everybody on this website is some sort of human.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I feel like "borderline racist idea" was tossed in a little cavalierly here, though not up to the level I would flag. Mostly because Phaedon and I are not fully understanding what the other is arguing here, not bad faith.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:54 AM on September 10, 2014


Which doesn't sound so academic.

Yeah no, I am totally with you there. I think this is really the struggle. Saying that racism is "only" prejudice is basically, to me, helping maintain a system where an awful lot of racist actions (some big, some microaggressive) are still allowed to happen on a regular basis and everyone gladhands each other about having vanquished racism and all the people of color and allies are like "The fuck?"

So the real issue is that it's a more politicized opinion to say that everyone who lives in a society that has grown and prospered as the result of racist policies and actions is benefiting from this. And also to say that everyone has a regular level of reality-checking themselves that should be obligatory to make sure they're not continuing to perpetuate some fairly serious bullshit.

So I only mean "academic" in terms of "people have studied this shit, there is data" and not academic like "Eh, it's all just academic" And I personally think it's important that people be aware of the academic level of this discourse because there is science and there is data and we can show that these things are happening.

But we never get to this point if we're hung up on "I don't like it when you imply I might be racist by living in Vermont because it's the whitest state in the US" (as a local personal example to leave everyone else out of it) even though my feelings matter, especially to me, they are often tangential to whatever was being discussed (usually institutionalized racism of some stripe) and I should be able to step aside and just listen and manage my tangential feelings on my own, or via another path.

But part of privilege is that we, privileged people, can get so hung up on our feelings being the ones that matter THE MOST--and having a support network that often backs us up--that it can be tough to see our own insistence on our view of things as part of the problem. I can be part of the problem in sometimes not meeting people at their level and trying to extrapolate, not just trying to jam my own interpretations of things down their throats. That said, if people reject this view outright, we're really at an impasse. I think the mods do a good job, I don't think the proposal on the table here is useful. I think people have to get used to sometimes acknowledging that they may say or do some things that sound to other people like bad things to say and do. And we muddle forward.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:04 AM on September 10, 2014 [30 favorites]


> It's really annoying that you are being flippant and mischaracterizing what this thread is about, and what's more the fact that you're still doing it after hundreds of comments makes me feel like you are not even trying to take part in the discussion with a smidgen of good faith.

No, you are the one mischaracterizing what this thread is about; it's very clearly about your feelings being hurt because people repeatedly tell you you're talking in an ignorant and unhelpful way about feminism, and all that "long wall of text" is just an attempt at what they used to call bafflegab, hoping that people will be confused enough not to notice what's actually on your mind, because that would make you look like just another MeFite who's making a MetaTalk post to complain that people were mean to them.

> I am sorry if my thinking that way sounds like I am engaging in bad faith. I feel like I do engage in good faith

Of course you do! Everybody feels like they engage in good faith! The only way to be sure you're actually engaging in good faith is to pay attention to what others are saying and make sure you're responding to that rather than to some other thing the straw men in your head are saying. I strongly urge you to try it rather than continuing to assume anybody who disagrees with you is being dishonest or is mad because they think you peed in their cornflakes.
posted by languagehat at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2014 [29 favorites]


Now, say I am in a thread where someone is NOT engaging in ugly bigoted behavior. If another member said to that person, "You sound like you might be a TERF," then, yes, my reaction would be to feel that the accusing person was saying the most hateful thing they could come up with.

Really? This is seriously your reaction? Even if we leave aside the huge issue of you saying "I do not perceive bigoted behavior here so it is clearly objectively Not Happening" and assume you are 100% right that the behavior is not bigoted, it's really the "only excuse [you] can think of" that they're saying it in order to insult the other person?

Even if you feel totally confident in your belief that there's no bigotry, and don't allow for the possibility that different people can see things differently (and that there might be reasons why you don't see bigotry that's really there), your response is not to think "wow, it looks like that caller-outer is jumping to conclusions/is oversensitive/really ought to give others more benefit of the doubt," but instead "that caller-outer clearly must be saying it as a calculated move because it's the most hateful insult they can think of"?

Do you limit this reaction to certain people or certain types of call-outs, or is this really your default reading of any MeFite who says "You sound like you might be a ____" when you have concluded the other person clearly isn't a ____?

If this is true, I am having a hard time even wrapping my mind around how you see people here and what you imagine our minds and motivations and thought processes to be like. It seems like a sad way to interact with MetaFilter (and the world in general.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:33 AM on September 10, 2014 [21 favorites]


No, you are the one mischaracterizing what this thread is about; it's very clearly about your feelings being hurt

I really wish everybody could avoid telling people what they feel, which is occurring back and forth here. It's hard to honestly explain the importance of assuming good faith when you aggressively deny the person you are talking to is acting in good faith. Walking away is an option if you can't reply without telling someone what they feel and what is going on in their heads.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:42 AM on September 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


Everyone here needs to get high more often.

By printing out these threads on paper and smoking them a page at a time.
posted by zarq at 8:52 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


[yeah, things are getting a bit heated here, I'd like everyone to take a step back and reconsider how their comments add to the original points being made in the post please.]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:00 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think mine added greatly to the general point of the thread: Tanizaki complained that he was being othered and marginalized as a lawyer in a stream of conversation that was about misappropriating social justice language in bad faith, specifically after NoraReed had pointed out that this is a bad faith asshole move. I also brought it back to one of the criticisms of Misha's post, that frequently people have a history of being assholes about this and giving them the benefit of the doubt is at best counterproductive opposed to pointing out that they're being a great big asshole about this, as is their habit. It's a relevant counterpoint.
posted by klangklangston at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


It could be a fun challenge for you to try it without using the word asshole at all.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


this comment does not relate to the original points at all. but it *is* decidedly unheated.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:06 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I realized this morning that my explanation of how I, someone who doesn't subscribe to Bigotry Weekly expressly to hear what the talking points are going to be, recognize tactics and phrasings commonly used by bigots was awfully self-referential as-is. So here's a hopefully better explanation.

Sometimes when I'm reading a thread, here or elsewhere, a particular phrasing catches my eye because it's odd in some way. Maybe I can't articulate what's odd about it, but pattern recognition is something humans seem to be good at biologically. Maybe I don't think anything of it the first few times I see it, but as I start to see it more often, I start remembering who it is that's using it. Again, maybe this isn't something I'm doing intentionally, but it happens. Maybe something about what they're saying sounds vaguely *ist to me, but it's plausibly deniable and I'm not an expert in *ism, so I don't feel comfortable tying that behavior to that *ism. But I file that phrasing away as something this group of people uses. Later, people in that group are much more openly saying things that I _do_ recognize as *ist. Now, in hindsight, that weird phrasing they were all using starts to have an explanation, which is that it's something *ists do. Is that the right explanation? Maybe not. Maybe they all just happen to have the same logical-fallacy-of-the-week desk calendar, and the fact that a bunch of them turn out to also hold unpleasant viewpoints is a coincidence.

Or maybe they're better at keeping a lid on their *ism but the behavior strikes me as so odd that I ask someone else if they've noticed it, and they are someone who subscribes to the *ist newsletter because they want to know the enemy. And they can tell me that, yes, it's a specifically odd behavior that *ists engage in, and here's a link to more information so I can educate myself.

Either way, this doesn't require that I hang out on StormFront or The Red Pill myself. It just requires that there be an identifiable pattern that I notice, followed by an explanation for that pattern.

So while it might sound like what I was saying was "I know that X is something *ists say because A, B, and C say it and they're *ists, which I know because they say X", there's more to it than that. There's another data point: "I know that X is something *ists say because A, B, and C say it, and I know they're *ists because they also say Y, which is unambiguously *ist."

Of course, that blurs the distinction between "X is something *ists say" and "if you say X, you are a *ist". But I'm kind of ok with that, honestly. If someone consistently says things which read as *ist, despite people pointing out that that is a *ist thing to say, at what point is it ok to conclude that they don't just ignorantly say *ist things but are in fact themselves *ist? Maybe my threshold on that is low.

(NB: when I say "file away", I don't mean I am literally writing an Enemies List, which is an accusation I've seen folks levy here. It means I remember things, because that's how my brain works and I can't help it.)
posted by hades at 9:09 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


By printing out these threads on paper and smoking them a page at a time.

Just "say no," kids. This plan will do your lungs no good at all. Even if the cool kids like zarq say it's cool.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:12 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think mine added greatly to the general point of the thread: Tanizaki complained that he was being othered and marginalized as a lawyer

I didn't complain about that.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:19 AM on September 10, 2014


For the kids we have MetaTalk Threaded Pony™ Bubble Gum Cigarettes. Now with a 'Special Snowflake Request' temporary tattoo in every box.
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I didn't complain about that.

Not sincerely:

"Oh, you're a lawyer? Do you do any slip-and-fall work?" I felt confused, marginalized, othered. #microaggressions
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:25 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


(NB: when I say "file away", I don't mean I am literally writing an Enemies List, which is an accusation I've seen folks levy here. It means I remember things, because that's how my brain works and I can't help it.)

As dialetheia noted way up above, it's not like you get a brand new day with each comment. So, while I tend to disregard talk of "enemies lists," I think most regular commenters, if pressed, could identify half a dozen Mefites of a particular viewpoint with very little effort. It is, indeed, how our brains work.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know, I also see what misha is talking about as a problem, but recognize that autodeletion is never going to be a viable solution. But here are some that could be:

1) Having mods be more willing to drop a note in the thread asking that people focus on arguments rather than people

2) Have mods note who is doing this a lot and talk to them

3) Have mods be more willing to delete "you are a monster" type commentary
posted by corb at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Have mods be more willing to delete "you are a monster" type commentary

This will be enormously frustrating in threads where FAMOUS MONSTER participates, though.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


corb, those are all time-intensive solutions on the mod side to research and track every thread where they come up, and note it on every user with a history of behaving that way in those threads -- what I'm saying is we're doing the best we can as mods but hope people can maybe treat each other better to help with the gap.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh, hm, framing it as mainstream vs. academic makes it sound like the onus should be on the academic to make sure they're speaking clearly to the mainstream.

Of course it's on the academics. It's up to the speaker to understand the audience and form a message that reaches them. If they fail to do that the fault is with them.
\
That said, if people reject this view outright, we're really at an impasse.

(I think you are just talking about Metafilter in this comment but I'm extrapolating to society in general.)

Then you try again using different phrases, framing, etc. It took the people selling Febreeze a long time and several tries to find the correct marketing message that would actually sell the product. But anti-racists meet resistance to their message and they just throw their hands up? If you are trying to do anti-prejudice work then you are in this for the long haul. If your current approach isn't working, go back to the drawing board and try again.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:40 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


> By printing out these threads on paper and smoking them a page at a time.

Vaping is what the cool kids are doing these days, or so they say.
posted by rtha at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Have mods be more willing to delete "you are a monster" type commentary

They often do. What they can't do is manage situations where someone says "It's a standard 'want' for the MRA types." and someone else hears "You are a monster." because literally if someone said "You are a monster" it would be deleted. And so we talk about other examples that aren't actually like this in some pretty major ways (I used to read the mod inbox, I know the difference between what people specifically said and how it feels to other people) but when people lobby, they lobby for fixing things that aren't actually things that are happening.

Expectations should be (and usually are) set appropriately, but moving that line requires more than just a general feeling that there is a problem. Mods need evidence that there's some actual large-scale problem that is getting in the way of the site operating how it should be operating, not just information on how it could work better for any one person or group of people if that's not also a larger-scale problem.

I think you are just talking about Metafilter in this comment

Yep. I feel that there are systemic problems with online discussion forums that sometimes stifle fruitful discussions of social inequality and so moving to other spaces felt like a better use of my limited time for making the world a better place.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


I think that suggestion number one in corb's comment is complicated by the fact that highlighting an argument as one that often comes from ____-ist camps is in an important sense focusing on arguments rather than people. In fact, my understanding of the thrust of this thread is that misha and others would like MeFites to engage with people where they are rather than rhetorical patterns they recognize.

But it can take a lot of work to dismantle an MRA- or TERF-style argumentative tactic from scratch on the spot (more work than a generic misogynist or transphobic comment), and one useful function of sincerely pointing out these things out when you see them is that you're communicating that this work has been done elsewhere if anyone wants to check on their own, so that maybe the thread then doesn't have to be all about that.
posted by Corinth at 9:49 AM on September 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


I'm surprised that a small mention of MRAs was enough to get unixrat all het up. That seemed like a pretty normal comment, and didn't seem intended to call Zed an MRA at all.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:07 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


The problem with that, though, Corinth, is twofold - first, you're identifying it as an argument that comes from certain camps, whether or not it actually is, because as you say, it is difficult to dismantle those arguments from scratch, and if you can identify them as coming from those camps, you don't have to do that hard work.

But when you do that, you're not actually engaging with the arguments being made. What you're doing is signaling to everyone in the thread that this person or argument is a member of a bad class, and can safely be devalued or disregarded. As you say, so the thread doesn't have to be about that argument.

And that's where the problems with that rhetorical tactic start. First, you are indicating that you don't actually care what your fellow Mefite is saying, that their words and views are so lowly that they don't even get to be discussed. Secondly, you're willing to tar a person with a possibly inaccurate brush, just so that you don't have to see an argument that bothers you.

Can you wonder why this upsets people?
posted by corb at 10:13 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


corb: “Having mods be more willing to drop a note in the thread asking that people focus on arguments rather than people”

misha doesn't seem to think there's much of a difference, though.
posted by koeselitz at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised that a small mention of MRAs was enough to get unixrat all het up.

It seemed to me to be a clear cut example of the type of behavior that this discussion was about. Don't make this about me.
posted by unixrat at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


But when you do that, you're not actually engaging with the arguments being made. What you're doing is signaling to everyone in the thread that this person or argument is a member of a bad class, and can safely be devalued or disregarded. As you say, so the thread doesn't have to be about that argument.

Not necessarily. You could be saying "this argument has a pedigree of which you may not be aware." People who are arguing from good faith but weak knowledge might be very concerned to discover that the arguments they are pertaining have implications. They may not want to discard the argument, but they could very well want to ask themselves how their argument differs from those of the related group.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


That's definitely one reaction. But other people have said that they appreciate these things being pointed out, which is also the case for me. If I say something ____-ist on a topic, it absolutely helps me if someone points out that my thought wasn't novel, that it's been thoroughly addressed, and that I should avail myself of the context to be sure that's an argument I want to make or that there's not a less problematic way to state it. It's important to me that I continue to learn and improve about this stuff, and it's also important to me that I do this by taking the lead in my own education. If someone points me in the right direction, I can find the resources to do this without tasking someone else with handholding me, which I know can be exhausting.

It seems like there is, again, more a difference in how people interpret these comments, and less an inherent problem with the comments themselves. I think it's smarter and more workable to address the interpretations - emphasizing that they are almost always made in good faith, encouraging people not to take it personally, etc. - than to ban them altogether.
posted by Corinth at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


First, you are indicating that you don't actually care what your fellow Mefite is saying, that their words and views are so lowly that they don't even get to be discussed.

There are certain arguments that I think really shouldn't merit discussion.

With regard to TERF talking points: Telling someone here that their self-identified gender / sexuality is a lie would qualify, such as asserting that a trans women is really a gay man, or a trans men is a lesbian. Fearmongering that trans people are somehow dangerous or perverts would too.

It's not just trans issues. There are probably statement categories in any controversial topic that would merit outright dismissal by others in the community. Blaming rape victims for their sexual assaults, for example.

This is not necessarily the same as asking questions. Asking questions, even if they contain offensive assumptions, can usually be challenged and addressed.
posted by zarq at 10:42 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Mods need evidence that there's some actual large-scale problem that is getting in the way of the site operating how it should be operating, not just information on how it could work better for any one person or group of people if that's not also a larger-scale problem.

That makes sense. My problem is that I have a terrible memory and I am double-plus-ungood at searching for specific comments, so I have trouble making a case even when I feel there is a larger-scale problem. It's weird because my googlefoo skills overall are fine, but text searches are my nemesis. Making up hypothetical examples just doesn't work, as this thread demonstrates; people want to see the real thing and I don't blame them.

I really don't like the idea of keeping lists of users and their comments, either, to put together and make a MetaTalk post, though! That feels like a nasty road to go down. I meant what I said about not wanting to point fingers at certain people, because that is antithetical to my goal of a more positive, inclusive community.

Honestly I think my terrible memory has helped me focus on the words instead, so I really don't want to start knowing names. Then I might start rolling my eyes and being all, "Oh, it's sprinklecupkittyface AGAIN. What nonsense is that jimmy cap* spouting now?" Which is toxic.
__
*Yay, new euphemism!
posted by misha at 10:42 AM on September 10, 2014


you're identifying it as an argument that comes from certain camps, whether or not it actually is

A key word you're ignoring in what you're responding to, corb, is "sincerely": one useful function of sincerely pointing out these things

If someone is sincerely pointing out that an argument comes from a certain camp, I think we can agree that it's more likely than not that that argument actually is something that camp uses. If it were being said without any reason other than "I don't want to talk about this, so this should shut them up", then it wouldn't be sincere.

What you're doing is signaling to everyone in the thread that this person or argument is a member of a bad class, and can safely be devalued or disregarded. As you say, so the thread doesn't have to be about that argument.

I thought Corinth was pretty clear that this was about the argument, not the person. You're making it about the person again. And you're misunderstanding why the argument can be disregarded. It's not because the argument is bad. It's because the argument has already been had a bazillion times before, and we're not going to break new ground by going over it yet again.

their words and views are so lowly that they don't even get to be discussed

Again, this is not about the views being "lowly" or "bad". It's about them having been thoroughly addressed already.
posted by hades at 10:46 AM on September 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


"Oh, it's sprinklecupkittyface AGAIN. What nonsense is that jimmy cap* spouting now?" Which is toxic.

It's not toxic, it's part of being engaged in a community. People know who you are, and there's nothing wrong with that as long as you're still willing to keep an open mind that people can change. That doesn't mean giving everyone 100% of the benefit of the doubt every time, though.
posted by dialetheia at 10:47 AM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


corb: “And that's where the problems with that rhetorical tactic start. First, you are indicating that you don't actually care what your fellow Mefite is saying, that their words and views are so lowly that they don't even get to be discussed. Secondly, you're willing to tar a person with a possibly inaccurate brush, just so that you don't have to see an argument that bothers you.”

You assume that any comment of the form 'your argument Y sounds like argument X' is "indicating that you don't actually care what your fellow Mefite is saying." That's a remarkable leap in logic, and it seems to me that this leap is the crux of the issue here. It's certainly the same leap that allows you to make your second point; there is no sense in which 'your argument Y sounds like argument X' is "tar[ring] a person with a possibly inaccurate brush," except by a fallacious inference – that is, if you assume that means the same thing as 'YOU are one of THOSE PEOPLE (who make argument X).'

I think that's the crux of the issue because that's a logical leap that misha makes in the post above, and in general it's a leap she makes often in discussions of this issue. She sees "that sounds like a sexist argument" or even "that is a sexist argument" and hears "YOU ARE A SEXIST." But that is not what those comments mean. And the distinction is incredibly important.

We can't dictate to people that they are not allowed to correlate arguments or talk about what arguments sound like. If we did, general discussion would be almost impossible. Yes, sometimes people say "that is a sexist argument" and mean "you are a sexist." The correct response when people say "that is a sexist argument" in that way is to say "no, it's not." There is no other solution.
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on September 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


Honestly I think my terrible memory has helped me focus on the words instead, so I really don't want to start knowing names.

Huh. I guess I always figured that getting a sense of who people are (or at least how they're likely to behave in the future) from what they say and do was one of the things that makes a community a community. Online or otherwise. I'm not sure I could deal with each comment and interaction being context-free, having to evaluate everything fresh every time, without the benefit of history. It sounds exhausting. I'll have to think about that.
posted by hades at 10:57 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Yeah this comes back to the fact that sexism/racism/etc have a sort of mainstream definition (mainstream predjudice)
> and a more academic one that adds power into the mix (and is more insidious) and we seem to cross-talk about this
> every single time it comes up.

Sort of? Jeez. The earliest OED citation for "racism" is 1902. The etymology of "racialism" goes back well back before that, into the 1800s.

All that cross-talk (here and a huge number of other places) is an object lesson in why it's a bad idea to take over and attempt to redefine a word that already has a well established meaning, and a long use history for that meaning.
posted by jfuller at 10:58 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


If the idea is just to alert the person, why not memail?
posted by corb at 10:58 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


If the idea is just to alert the person, why not memail?

Because there might be other people unfamiliar with the situation who could benefit from it? Or might find the resulting conversation interesting, enjoyable, or educational? MetaFilter would lose most of its value if half the conversations were going on between individuals on memail....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:01 AM on September 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


If the idea is just to alert the person, why not memail?

Because it's useful to have discussions publicly so other people can learn from them too. We're social animals. We learn from observing each other's behavior and conversation. There may be two people actively involved in a discussion and ten or twenty others reading and taking it in. It may be very useful for some of those others to know that a particular argument or line of reasoning has certain resonances or echoes.

I feel like this part of the discussion has been had over and over again in many different threads.

(On preview, beaten by GenjiandProust.)
posted by Lexica at 11:02 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


If the idea is just to alert the person, why not memail?

Cuz if you don't know someone well or already have friction, that tends to go badly.

That's a really tricky thing to do. People tend to be uglier in private than in public. If there isn't already trust and respect, taking the conversation private is dicey.
posted by Michele in California at 11:03 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm willing to accept it if someone calls me an asshole, or claims that I'm engaging in assholery. But if you claim that my statement is sexist, then I'd like to see why you think so. If you use the term sexist (or any other __ist) as an alternative to asshole, you can eat shit and die, because I won't try to engage you in any meaningful way; here in Mefi, I don't usually feel inspired to post a riposte. I try to distinguish between having my toes stepped, and when it's simply a case of someone pissing on my shoes.

I don't favor deletions in general. The blue has tighter restrictions than askmefi, but looser restrictions than the gray. This is not always easy to navigate. Certain topics generate complex threads of discussions--several concurrent conversations. Misunderstandings abound. Those among us who keep track histories of commenting by any given person have a different level of participation than I do.

I regret that the mods have had to thin their ranks. In the past they've been able to help sort this sort of stuff out, even at the expense of mod-solidarity. More of the burden lies with we who write this stuff.
posted by mule98J at 11:09 AM on September 10, 2014


Aside: For years and years, I was using a certain idiom incorrectly. In particular, I had somehow reversed two similar-sounding idioms in my head, and apparently the world was too polite and/or horrified to correct me.

The phrase I was trying to use wasn't exactly a flattering remark. It loosely translates to "This person was pestering me."

The phrase that I was actually using was, at best, a disgusting sex act; and at worst, violently misogynistic.

The all came to a head about two years ago (names have been substituted):
Me: Yeah, I was a little annoyed, because Sue "_____"
Friend: Dude. You shouldn't say that about Sue. That's ridiculously offensive, and doesn't even make sense coming from you – you're gay.
Me: I know you and Sue are close, but she's been nagging me constantly. I don't think it's rude to call that out.
Friend: .... that's not what you said.
Me: ???
Friend: That phrase, um... means to... [INSERT ARISTOCRATS JOKE HERE]
Me: ..................oh god.
Basically the conclusion is that Jessamyn is right. Properly-articulated call-outs can be fine, and it's probably a good thing to talk to your friends when they're doing something offensive.

However, name-calling is almost always bad, and can quickly turn discussions toxic.
posted by schmod at 11:10 AM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


why it's a bad idea to take over and attempt to redefine a word that already has a well established meaning, and a long use history for that meaning.

I'll take that up with my comrades at the monthly Language Police meeting.

More charitably, there is social utility in refining the meaning of words over time, and sometimes political utility. It's a living language and just like "he" was, according to the people who wrote the dictionaries (who were mostly men, and white men at that), a perfectly decent word to refer to a person of indeterminate gender, it turns out that once we studied it, people didn't really see it this way in their minds' eyes; the use of the word in that way was reinforcing the pre-existing gender biases in the society. So, the word usage changed over time, as people became aware, and society changed.

And in general with language changes, people can be quick or slow to adapt to changes and some people may decide they don't want to change. Which, hey, you get to do that in a free country but you don't get to ignore the fact that the world around you is changing. So queer gets reclaimed and people argue about whether gamers who call each other fags are homophobic people, or just reflecting a homophobic society, and how much that distinction matters.

You are not wrong about what the word means, but I am not wrong either. Context turns out to matter quite a lot and it's much more challenging if you can't just dismiss others' arguments because they're not using your dictionary.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:18 AM on September 10, 2014 [22 favorites]


My Internet here was out for a few days, leaving me unable to participate in the bulk of this discussion, but I would like to second how hostile this site can be for anyone who bucks the established liberal orthodoxy.

By noting, for example, that victimhood does not confer sainthood, and the mere fact of having been a victim should not make all subsequent scrutiny of a person verboten.

It should not be beyond the realm of reasonable discourse, for example, to suggest in the comments to this post that Mrs. Rice's decision to marry her husband after the elevator assault and try to minimize its effect on his career might have been at least partially motivated by the large sums of money involved. I don't consider it the most likely possibility myself; it's more likely that (a) this was an isolated incident of physical abuse, since repented of and forgiven, or (b) it was part of a pattern of abuse breeding codependency.

But merely mentioning the possibility, as at least two people did (one comment was left intact; at least one other was summarily deleted without explanation) is not "beyond disgusting."

I also wanted to mention the uselessness of "arguments" largely or entirely composed of #NotAll[opt. adj.][noun], which were widely deployed in the same post, though I note the moderators have since removed most of them.

At best, they are an opaque shorthand for a legitimate criticism that (seeing as comments here are not limited to 140 characters) should just be written out. At worst, they are a form of mockery; whether the person thus targeted understands and learns from such a comment is of secondary importance to providing a platform to laugh at them.
posted by The Confessor at 11:19 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


though I note the moderators have since removed most of them.

If moderators have started removing "#notall__" comments that's kinda huge and earns them loads of good will in my book.
posted by 0 at 11:25 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Confessor: But merely mentioning the possibility, as at least two people did (one comment was left intact; at least one other was summarily deleted without explanation) is not "beyond disgusting."

This is a value judgement, isn't it? Some people were beyond disgusted by the insinuation, others weren't. desjardins didn't call for anyone's head for saying it -- she was just registering her disapproval of that sentiment, and several others chimed in to agree. Opinions differ. Where's the problem?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:30 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The person who posted the initial comment also came back to explain that he did not intend for the comment to be read that way and apologized for the poor wording of his thoughts. It was very civil all around.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


"By noting, for example, that victimhood does not confer sainthood, and the mere fact of having been a victim should not make all subsequent scrutiny of a person verboten."

It should make subsequent scrutiny of a person more delicate, especially in the areas that coincide with how they were victimized. Otherwise, one risks doing harm for no benefit.

"but I would like to second how hostile this site can be for anyone who bucks the established liberal orthodoxy."

Meh. Bucking the established liberal orthodoxy doesn't confer sainthood, nor does it exempt one from not making situations worse by doggedly defending the right to interrogate a third party's victimhood, especially around people who have also been victimized and had their victimhood similarly interrogated.
posted by klangklangston at 11:41 AM on September 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


Next April Fools, you guys should implement every awful, terrible pony idea people have had. I want to see some threaded comments, grep-based auto-deletions (or pop-up warnings about possible dangerous phrases please include begs the question and everything on that don't say x tumblr in addition to the OP's list) , visible flag counts, disfavorites, 20 minute delays before anyone can comment in a thread, auto-memails when a comment is deleted (-_-), stars by user names acc to favorite/comment ratios, 24pt titles on the blue, all of it.
posted by fleacircus at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


Every day one random user is granted mod privileges.
posted by griphus at 11:58 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just make it look like Reddit for the day. That has the advantage of covering almost everything you describe.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:00 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


jfuller: Sort of? Jeez. The earliest OED citation for "racism" is 1902. The etymology of "racialism" goes back well back before that, into the 1800s. All that cross-talk (here and a huge number of other places) is an object lesson in why it's a bad idea to take over and attempt to redefine a word that already has a well established meaning, and a long use history for that meaning.

What you're saying sounds sort of reasonable on the face of it, but I'm not sure appealing to 1902's sense of what counts as racist or sexist is such a rational turn. 1902 would tell you that it's eminently reasonable to argue that the country would be better off without allowing women to vote. 1902 anti-racism was asking "Is It Time for the Negro Colleges in the South to Be Put Into the Hands of Negro Teachers?" Unless you're arguing that segregation wasn't racist except for when it was being perpetrated out of outright malice?

(Disclaimer: I understand that you don't intend to say that segregation wasn't racist. Obviously. But for 1902's definition of racism to be relevant I'm not seeing how to avoid that history. I get that you sort of tripped into that without intending to.)

(Separately, but following along from that: I'm not sure how to square misha's delineation of what should count as a *ist comment, worthy of being called out as such, with the fact that we all probably agree that it would be okay to call out as racist a comment calmly advocating for segregation, even it were well-meaning and non-hostile, and even if we all agreed that the person making that comment was generally a nice person?)

(I.e., if you are a white american, your great-grandmother was almost definitely racist by any standard put forth today. But she probably wasn't a monster. Your great-grandfather was almost definitely an out-and-out sexist by even the most restrictive definitions you can think to put forth. And he probably wasn't a monster. If they were alive you'd probably still have them over for holiday dinner.)
posted by nobody at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Every day one random user is granted mod privileges.

I will continue to agitate annually for a King of the Bean mod lottery at the end of which the randomly selected temporarily modly-empowered mefite is sacrificed to the horned god in exchange for a fruitful harvest.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:04 PM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


may the odds be ever in your favor
posted by MoonOrb at 12:12 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Every day one random user is granted mod privileges.
24 HOURS LATER:

mathowie: "Wow. Not only did we have an unrecoverable crash of the whole site, but the servers storing the backups are on fire."

cortex: "I told you not to start with zarq."
posted by zarq at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


mod lottery

The original code comments for the mod lottery had been lost long ago, and the comment box now resting on the page had been put into use even before Old Man Mathowie, user 1, was registered. Mr. pb spoke frequently to the userbase about coding a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the comment box. There was a story that the present box had been made with some code snippets of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been coded when the first admins uploaded files to make a website here. Every year, after the mod lottery, Mr. pb began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done. The comment box grew cruftier each year: by now it was no longer completely ColdFusion but also XML, and in some places Ajax or Ruby.
posted by griphus at 12:18 PM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


zarq is our most random user.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:21 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


The following users disagree:

/dev/random
a random user
AnotherRandomUser
bertrandom
eurandom
J Random Loser
jrandom
philip-random
Random Amber
Random Person
random thoughts
random_poster
Random_Tangent
random00
random1destiny
random78s
random95
randomaggression
randomblondeboy
randombodega
randomdeanna
randomDirtPattern
randomfan
randomgirl
RandomGradStudent
randomination
RandomInconsistencies
RandomInteger
randomizer
randomjourney
randomkeystrike
randomlife
randomname25
randomnfactor
randomnity
randomnoun
randomosity
randomstorenet
randomstriker
randomsurfr
randomthoughts
randomyahoo
ThatRandomGuy
third word on a random page
posted by Chrysostom at 12:27 PM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Mod Lottery?
*draws*
Hey, my paper has a black dot on it! Do I get to be mod for a day?
posted by pointystick at 12:55 PM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Do I get to be mod for a day?


...sure...

*commences handing out of stones*
posted by MoonOrb at 1:01 PM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Genuine (respectful) question for Corb, who said, in this thread:

And that's where the problems with that rhetorical tactic start. First, you are indicating that you don't actually care what your fellow Mefite is saying, that their words and views are so lowly that they don't even get to be discussed. Secondly, you're willing to tar a person with a possibly inaccurate brush, just so that you don't have to see an argument that bothers you.

In the I/P thread (I know, I'm really sorry to bring that contentiousness here, but it seemed a propos!), your comment at 1:16 PM on August 7 included this, in response to a comment by dejah:

I do not think that you are an antisemite for wanting your home and the home of your grandfather back. You have every right to fight, in every way you know how, for the home and rights that you want. But the people who have not experienced this loss, who claim that they are only expressing noble high ideals about people never being forced off their homes, who claim they only object to the idea of settlements or seizure and redistribution of land - those people, I think, have some antisemitism within them. Or why would they not call for the return of the other lands and homes seized? Why only Israel?

I apologize in advance if this comes off as pedantry (and I know it can be a bit cruel to selectively pull quotes from other threads as I'm sure we're all--myself definitely included--guilty of saying things that sound funny out of context). But, to reuse your comment above, "Can you wonder why this upsets people?" (And that comment did upset people in that very contentious thread.)
posted by faux ami at 1:37 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know how some states have recently decided to give their electoral votes to whoever wins the national popular vote? Well, if I get selected as mod-for-a-day, I hereby promise to assign my win to #1 quidnunc kid. I invite you all to join me.

Also, schmod, would you please memail me the word you were (mis-)using? I've got a reasonably gutterish mind but I haven't been able to figure it out.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:42 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


2emailthatsmuttome
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:48 PM on September 10, 2014


I'll bet it was "Belgium."
posted by Chrysostom at 1:53 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Faux ami: mainly, because I was talking to dejah about other people, not to dejah about other people. But I'd happily take some more deletes of my imperfectly expressed thoughts in exchange for less of that stuff out there.
posted by corb at 1:53 PM on September 10, 2014


because I was talking to dejah about other people, not to dejah about other people.

Did you miss a somewhere in there? Or am I being dense today?
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:00 PM on September 10, 2014


Or am I being dense today?

I don't think you're being dense today, you're being dense today.
posted by Drastic at 2:02 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ugh, sorry! The last someone should have been dejah. I'm from my phone with no coffee.
posted by corb at 2:02 PM on September 10, 2014


Corb, fair enough. But perhaps you'll agree with me that the comment came across as tarring "other people" with differing opinions as anti-Semites and denigrated their viewpoints in the very way you're arguing against here! (And I recognize that we all get carried away in contentious threads and say testy things that sound worse than they were intended.) Thanks.
posted by faux ami at 2:08 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are certain arguments that I think really shouldn't merit discussion.

I agree with this. However, it's easy to disagree about which arguments those are, and it's clear that users here draw that line in different places. Considering the mods are usually fairly hands-off when it comes to containing topics, instead trying to just make sure the discussion on said topics goes well, who gets to decide which arguments are the ones that can be dismissed?
posted by gadge emeritus at 2:35 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


who gets to decide which arguments are the ones that can be dismissed?

Each user gets to decide that for themself, just like each user gets to decide what to flag as a personal attack that's outside the guidelines. And realistically, in terms of what gets declared over the line, it'll be some combination of flagging and mod judgement.
posted by immlass at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2014


2emailthatsmuttome

I am also super curious about this!
posted by en forme de poire at 3:02 PM on September 10, 2014


Each user gets to decide that for themself, just like each user gets to decide what to flag as a personal attack that's outside the guidelines.

Yes, of course. It's a subjective position. One of the points of this post was to suggest that there are users whose broader idea of dismissable arguments, and how they respond to them, aren't good for site discussions. This has a lot to do with how this opinion gets treated as a fact, that because they believe a particular argument to have no merit is to give them the go-ahead to blast other users with both barrels.

The thing is, most of the time I will agree with other users who are doing this, because I agree with a vast majority of the userbase on a vast majority of the dismissable arguments, and a well done demolishing of bigotry or even just wild stupidity is bloody satisfying. But I also think there are greyer areas where what is being dismissed doesn't warrant it, or is based on a misreading, sometimes an aggressive misreading, of what was actually written.

So saying 'some arguments are just bad though' is true, but there is more valid disagreement about which ones are the just bad ones than some other users accept.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:12 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another request for a briefing on the mystery insult.
posted by Bugbread at 3:28 PM on September 10, 2014


Gadge: Sure, but if we're going to say that there are indeed some valid reasons to make statements that relate someone's argument to an argument favored by some specific group of people, aren't these edge cases just going to have to be hashed out in the thread itself (or possibly their own MeTa threads), among the users who disagree and the mods, on a case-by-case basis?
posted by en forme de poire at 3:28 PM on September 10, 2014


No, because I have developed a program which always understands every situation perfectly and which can be relied upon to offer the one true solution to every disagreement.

Sure, it's still in beta testing - right now it's just a Coby tablet playing a slideshow of butts - but it's getting there.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:33 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I THINK I GOT IT!

BUGGERING / BUGGING
posted by Justinian at 3:35 PM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


uh, the mystery insult. I hope that was clear.
posted by Justinian at 3:35 PM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah I was gonna say that would be a pretty different slideshow
posted by en forme de poire at 3:38 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah I was just so excited I had to post RIGHT AWAY.
posted by Justinian at 3:40 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Buggery can have that effect on people. (I assume?)
posted by NoraReed at 3:50 PM on September 10, 2014


Depends whether "post" is also slang for something else?
posted by en forme de poire at 3:51 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


That sounds right, though we were promised something violent and disgusting, and it's just a fancy word for anal.

Though, this being MetaFilter, maybe schmod was referencing "buggery"s origins as an insult thrown at the Catharists, and schmod was deploring Pope Innocent III's violent persecution of the Albigensian Cathars as "violent and disgusting". But I'm just saying what we all were thinking, right?
posted by benito.strauss at 3:56 PM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


That's just what a credente would say.
posted by winna at 4:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


en forme de poire: Well, that would at least acknowledge there's room for disagreement, which in some ways would be progress.

And as a sometime participant in buggery, I can't see saying that someone's being buggering you instead of bugging you as being ridiculously offensive. Which I suppose means there's clearly a sexual act involved in the mystery insult, and that I'm just as curious as the others as to what the actual idioms are.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:10 PM on September 10, 2014


"Pushes my buttons" vs "punches my donkey"?
posted by hades at 4:23 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really want there to turn out to be at least 5 or 6 possible phrase pairs that would work in that situation.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:25 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was kind of hoping it would turn out to be "a doggy dog world" rather than "a dog eat dog world." I know that doesn't fit the story, but that is what I was imagining.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:35 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Though, this being MetaFilter, maybe schmod was referencing "buggery"s origins as an insult thrown at the Catharists, and schmod was deploring Pope Innocent III's violent persecution of the Albigensian Cathars as "violent and disgusting". But I'm just saying what we all were thinking, right?

Well, I think you mean the Bogmils, not the Cathars, but it's an easy mistake to make, right?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:44 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: just a fancy word for anal.
posted by neroli at 4:49 PM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


sigh
posted by The World Famous at 6:04 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


sneeze
posted by Bugbread at 6:30 PM on September 10, 2014


Here's an example of what misha is talking about (if I understand correctly).

Here's another (this one's about me).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:33 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's another (this one's about me).

Without slogging through the rest of that thread for more context, that looks like a fairly decent example of how I see the problem. Understandable you might have misspoken or been misread at first, but after clarification the conversation should have moved on a bit faster. Also JG, when you are misunderstood it can be better to not post as many short comments but to take time to gather your thoughts. (I am super bad at taking that advice.)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:46 PM on September 10, 2014


(Separately, but following along from that: I'm not sure how to square misha's delineation of what should count as a *ist comment, worthy of being called out as such, with the fact that we all probably agree that it would be okay to call out as racist a comment calmly advocating for segregation, even it were well-meaning and non-hostile, and even if we all agreed that the person making that comment was generally a nice person?)

I have read this three times and I have no idea why you would be unable to square anything?

If I saw a comment calmly advocating for segregation I would say, "Separating people based on skin color is racist."
posted by misha at 7:25 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the examples are useful, Joseph Gurl. Thanks for posting 'em. I can give you my take:

The first, Madonna-related one reads to me like what's at dispute is whether straw's read on the subtext of an article linked in the post and written by a non-mefite is on target or not; it seems like there was basically a discussion of whether a quoted phrase from the article was or was not trafficking in some casual misogyny, with straw starting that discussion by asserting it was and then folks talking it out mostly in disagreement with him.

So I think it's a good example of the idea of someone making the argument that something that was said resembled stuff that's produced by misogynistic cultural forces. I doesn't seem like a good example of someone on Metafilter taking a swipe at someone else on Metafilter on the basis of a specious "that's what an x would say" comparison. So a good example of the structure of the kind of assertion I think this post's text is talking about but not a good example of that structure being deployed in the way the post is concerned with. I also feel like the ensuing conversation in there is an example of people, including the initial commenter, collectively doing a decent job of talking it out civilly, so as far as that goes it seems like Metafilter more or less working well even if starting from a bumpy spot.

The second one, with the discussion of aedison's detainment at the Canadian border, seems like it gets closest structurally to the post's issue with this comment early in the exchange, responding to your earlier comments:
"it's reasonable to expect to be treated like shit" is like half a step away from, and very often (though yes, i understand, not on purpose right now while you Joseph Gurl are saying it, but very often overall & in general) paired with, "well, so you were treated like shit, so what? you should have known you would be treated like shit. why are you upset about something you should have expected? so naive"
Which again fits some of that structure of "what you said resembles what an x-ist says" but doesn't fit as well the idea that it's being used as an accusation of another mefite in the conversation—there's the at-pains parenthetical disclaimer that they're specifically not meaning that there—so as an example of what the post describes it also seems off the mark to me. That said, the conversation from there goes back and forth some more in an increasingly heated way and I can totally understand your frustration at being on the receiving end of a bunch of heat over what "reasonable" was supposed to mean and why you were broaching it in the thread. It was a hard thread all around, for sure. But I think it's worth drawing a distinction between a heated exchange where a variation of that structure occurs, and a situation where that structure is actually the specific sore spot.

I am obviously reading this from my perspective as an outside viewer and not from yours as a party to the exchange, so maybe I am seeing less weight on that specific part of the exchange than you are. To me it reads like a more general and sort of slowly increasingly heated misunderstanding/disagreement about the usefulness of discussing "reasonable"ness as excusability vs. risk assessment in a conversation where a lot of people were feeling raw about the surrounding context, rather than a situation where the structural "this is like something an x-ist says" thing plays a central or accusatory role, basically.

Which, I feel like I'm dissecting this stuff more than I would normally really want to and I want to be clear that I'm trying to parse them as rhetorical situations rather than talk about how you should or did feel about those exchanges, but if we're talking about the idea of that structural comparison-as-attack/judgement/diversion as stated in the post, I think part of what is worth looking at here is whether that specific thing is an issue rather than whether things in throwing distance of that occur in the context of larger disagreements or heated exchanges or people being unkind/uncharitable to each other on the site. Because there's no denying that people are sometimes uncharitable or that we have heated disagreements, but if a specific rhetorical structure isn't actually central to that in a significant (vs. merely rarely extant) way, then coming up with a rubric for restricting or banning that structure is not a useful thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:29 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, that's actually really helpful, Cortex, and I think I'm mostly in disagreement, although "heated exchange" strikes me as euphemistic: I was never remotely heated or escalating in that thread--I even offered hugs--and even after I bowed out I was again raked over the coals and repeatedly held up as an example of excusing transphobia, something I repeatedly and unequivocally stated I was not doing.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:35 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sorry, didn't intend it as euphemistic, was just trying to keep a long comment a little bit concise. I meant heated as in "people got hot", not "everybody was equally increasingly hot" or anything like that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:40 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


if you are a white american, your great-grandmother was almost definitely racist by any standard put forth today. But she probably wasn't a monster. Your great-grandfather was almost definitely an out-and-out sexist by even the most restrictive definitions you can think to put forth. And he probably wasn't a monster.

My great grandparents were Christian missionaries in Korea back when it was just the one Korea. Based on their memoirs, paintings, and family stories they were actually super-progressive on racial issues. My great grandmother had more higher education and spoke more languages than my great grandfather, and from what I've heard was in every way his equal in their mission. My great grandparents were eventually run out of Korea for agitating against the abuse of the locals during the Japanese occupation (family legend includes a few stories that end in "...and it's a miracle they didn't get shot for that").

They raised my grandmother, who went on to be run out of Florida (along with my grandfather) for being a civil rights activist in the 1950s. She later became the first female principal in her school district.

She raised my mother, who not only was a civil rights activist and a hardcore feminist, but was also one of the first women drivers hired by UPS. She was originally a schoolteacher but quit all that to move to Cleveland and become a truck driver as part of the International Socialist Organization's deliberate incursion into the Teamsters Union in the 1970s. My mother built a multi-racial, bigender coalition (I've seen the pictures) to strike for a better contract and then later to expose corruption in the Teamsters Union.

So at least some of us whiteys can claim heritage from a relatively long line of not-awful white ancestors! :)
posted by Jacqueline at 7:55 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


mine were slaveowners.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:17 PM on September 10, 2014


I'd like to apologise to misha and the mods for contributing to a derail last night - I lost my cool and started taking things personally with misha. I flagged myself and stepped away from the keyboard. It's difficult for all of us to bridge a gap in understanding and I don't always succeed in keeping to the Jay Smooth tactic of addressing the content and not the identity even though I try because I think it's the best way forward.

But I keep coming back to MeFi because I think on the whole that we're nice people here who care enough to get angry when we see injustice, even if we don't always agree on what it is or what to do about it.

I guess that comes back to the original topic. I don't believe we can have a site-wide policy for disagreements about whether someone is unfairly accusing others of being sexists, etc. It depends so much on prior education, personal experience, the topic under discussion and whether the commenters involved are tired or struggling to communicate for other reasons.

We can only agree to assume people are acting in good faith even if they're angry, to be specific and give details when we say we disagree with someone, to ask for clarification when we think someone is speaking in good faith but maybe doesn't have the same context as us, and also to ask for clarification if we think we've been unfairly tarred with a big brush. No mind-reading or piling-on, admit when we're feeling frustrated - just generally narrowing down the scope of the disagreement instead of broadening it to include every thing that's ever pissed us off on the topic.

Oh and remembering what jessamyn said about the two general ways people define -isms, bringing it up seems to help people establish a point of reference when things are getting confusing.
posted by harriet vane at 8:26 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sorry, when I typed "I think I'm mostly in disagreement" above, I meant "I think I'm mostly in agreement." I should not post in haste.

Anyway, thanks again, Cortex.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:12 PM on September 10, 2014


"So at least some of us whiteys can claim heritage from a relatively long line of not-awful white ancestors! :)"

I think that's missing the point of what he was saying. Think about it this way: When you read earnest things that you wrote in high school, you almost certainly espoused ideas that your current self would say were racist or sexist or homophobic. You are not a monster. We've made progress on many social attitudes even in the last 20 years or so.

Because of that, even if your great-grandparents were super progressive, they probably believed some pretty dubious shit about social roles. That's not necessarily enough to make them awful, but it's important to acknowledge that hey, those views were shitty and given that we have the opportunity to not make those mistakes as well as the foreknowledge that we will be judged by history.

And I'm not trying to dig into you — it was cool hearing about your family — but contrasting 'your ancestors were bigoted by today's standards' with defending your family as 'not-awful' is an example of how conversations can degrade based on misreading. You might not even intend to come across as defending against a charge that hasn't been made, but rather are just taking an opportunity to talk about something you value, your heritage. But it's something to be aware of, especially in a broader discussion about bad faith and bad feelings.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 PM on September 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


I think she's just braggin' on her interesting family, man.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:33 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


misha: I have read this three times and I have no idea why you would be unable to square anything?

If I saw a comment calmly advocating for segregation I would say, "Separating people based on skin color is racist."


Yeah, sorry, that last parenthetical of mine was me getting caught up in the extended logic of my earlier points and reading too narrowly something I thought you were implying earlier. I wish I'd deleted that before hitting Post.

I still think that the central crux of the issue here is that your sense of what counts as *ist (or maybe even what can count as *ist) is fundamentally narrower than those of the people you tend to be in disagreement with (because how else could you so strongly assume not only that they are wrong about their assessment but that they're obviously lying about their own sense of things -- i.e. making those claims of *ism in bad faith), but it was silly for me to suggest that it could be so narrow as to not include segregation, even if advocated for by a well-meaning, decent-seeming grandparent.

Sorry about that!
posted by nobody at 9:55 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


When you read earnest things that you wrote in high school, you almost certainly espoused ideas that your current self would say were racist or sexist or homophobic.

Nope. I was never racist or sexist or homophobic because I was raised by people who weren't racist or sexist or homophobic before being not racist or sexist or homophobic was cool. :P I guess that's the upside of being raised by Socialist revolutionaries? (The downside being that they were wrong about almost everything else regarding human nature and how the world really works.)

The most I can be found guilty of from those days is being in denial of structural discrimination and believing in the meritocracy, because as a Libertarian I thought the free market would magically eliminate all forms of discrimination. (I have since accepted that a lot of people are irrational, plus inherited institutional discrimination still causes otherwise rational people to behave in irrationally discriminatory ways.) And even back then, I was only guilty of believing that everyone else was as non-racist/sexist/homophobic as I was.

The main thing I look back on and cringe about is when I used to joke about the "tranny crack whores" in my old Las Vegas neighborhood. Thankfully, the many discussions of trans* issues on MetaFilter over the years have since taught me that "tranny" is a slur and I now actively call others out on using it. (Anyone else notice that the Drudge Report now uses "transgender" or "trans" instead of "tranny"? While I can never know for certain that the switch is due to me personally haranguing him for several months about how "tranny" is a slur and how as a journalist he should be following the AP Style Guide, the timing certainly fits...)

I think she's just braggin' on her interesting family, man.

I come from a long matrilineal line of uppity women. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 10:14 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


"a lot of people are irrational"

and

"human nature"
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:21 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


My mother built a multi-racial, bigender coalition (I've seen the pictures) to strike for a better contract and then later to expose corruption in the Teamsters Union.

Just as an aside, I don't think that word means what you think it means...
posted by Dysk at 1:00 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ok, Metafilter, I'm ready to make an oath. It won't be hard to follow, because I am already doing it, and I would guess others are too, but:

1. If and when I say that I think something you said is racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic et al., it will be because I genuinely believe that to be the case and not because I am trying to score points with an illusory liberal cabal;

2. If and when you say that you think something I said is racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic et al., I promise to believe that you are addressing my statements in good faith and not because you are trying to win the argument with superior outrage, whether or not I agree with your claim;

3. I will in all cases believe that I am having a conversation with sympathetic adults; and when I begin to be convinced otherwise and have no point to make other than a belittlement, I will instead flag and move on.

I shouldn't have to say any of that -- it should be assumed as a courtesy if nothing else -- but apparently some people think that calling something one says racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic et al. is some kind of trump card.

Do you have any idea, at all, what happens to you when you decide that, of the one thousand things that happened to you today, you just can't let this one go? Do you understand what the cost is? Do you understand that you expend social credibility; that the only way to call out one thing as objectionable is to ignore a hundred other things, because otherwise you're the person who won't shut up about gender or sexuality or whatever? That any one of those hundred things hurt just as bad, but you had to make a choice, for most of us unconsciously, to bleed as each one goes by, for the sole reason that you need someone to hear you when you do speak up? That even these made-up numbers are off, because anyone who decried this shit ten times a day on this site would be a pariah, and they still wouldn't have called out 90% of the things?

Do you think that person is somehow winning? Do you think people don't have anything better to do than make themselves visible and vulnerable for no good reason? Do you think this is any fucking fun?
posted by Errant at 3:07 AM on September 11, 2014 [38 favorites]


Wow, that's something.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:17 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Nope. I was never racist or sexist or homophobic because I was raised by people who weren't racist or sexist or homophobic before being not racist or sexist or homophobic was cool. :P I guess that's the upside of being raised by Socialist revolutionaries? (The downside being that they were wrong about almost everything else regarding human nature and how the world really works.)"

Really? You haven't grown at all in understanding racism, sexism or homophobia since high school? You never cracked jokes that would be over the line now? I was raised by really progressive lefties, folks who knew Fred Hampton through Proviso East, and I was raised in a predominantly black neighborhood, and I know I've believed some stuff that's racist, sexist or homophobic by today's standards. It's also true of pretty much everyone I know — if you're an exception, you're truly rara avis.

I've also read a lot of primary documents from the history of the labor movement, not least since my great-grandfather was a socialist revolutionary (he missed the Haymarket riots because he was testing dynamite in the Chicago dunes). There's a tremendous amount of outmoded racial ideas, sexism and homophobia (with the last two often linked) in there. I mean, Dr. Martin Luther King jr. was a total male chauvinist who believed that a woman's place was in the home. The mythology of a progressive past is powerful, but too often it's a golden haze that prevents dealing with people as they actually were.
posted by klangklangston at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2014 [24 favorites]


I don't trust when people say they've never been or are not certainly not currently racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. It means they have a rigid, imaginary list of what is and isn't -ist, and aren't willing to engage in open discussion or hear people out.
posted by sweetkid at 8:44 AM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


She's admitted making transphobic jokes and being in denial of structural discrimination in general and having to learn better, it's not like she's claiming to be perfect. Can we maybe move on here?
posted by Drinky Die at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Drinky Die, my comment was more in response to the general topic of the thread and the idea that people think they are or are not -ists, fundamentally, and that it's a big deal to point out that sort of behavior.

I don't know, move on however you want to.
posted by sweetkid at 8:54 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I will in all cases believe that I am having a conversation with sympathetic adults; and when I begin to be convinced otherwise and have no point to make other than a belittlement, I will instead flag and move on.

Yet, you then go on to belittle us by suggesting we don't know our own minds. Beginning with "Do you have any idea, at all..." and concluding with "Do you think this is any fucking fun?"

We aren't children. We don't need to be spoken down to from on high.

And yes, I do think it is fun, in the sense that questioning the status quo, pushing back, arguing points, and debating what it means to be an ethical person in the world (and online) is a deeply interesting and engaging activity. To me, that is fun. What takes the fun out of it are people who try to box others in with their presumptions of superior knowledge and rightness. It's tiresome and unfun.
posted by nacho fries at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


nacho fries, I read the paragraph you single out not as "You don't know your own minds," but as "You don't know what it is to belong to an oppressed group." Which latter may not be a correct reading. If it is, it might not be true of you. I don't know.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:16 AM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


Also I feel like it's exactly the point that when people who are part of oppressed groups speak out against -isms (especially when they speak out one time out of the 25 times they notice such things, the exhaustion of which Errant speaks to), they're accused of putting people in a box, limiting fun, being "on high" or "righteous," etc and collecting/playing some set of fun cards.

I mean, as a woman and nonwhite person, I promise you no one gave me cards for that. For class, cis, ableist privilege, etc, I have those privilege cards. But I have no anti-privilege cards.
posted by sweetkid at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2014 [17 favorites]


I have been making jokes about finally getting my Gay Card since I joined the local gay "social club" bar, but it's actually overwhelmingly gay men and I don't actually identify as straight-up gay but as queer, bi or pan, depending on who I am talking to.

I do, however, have an actual physical card in my wallet. I put it behind the one that says I am a member of the Universal Life clergy.
posted by NoraReed at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2014


If I'm reading Errant correctly, they're saying that apparently some people do think that this is just a game or something to people who get upset, or that they're only getting mad for attention. Given that a lot of these conversations involve accusations of those getting upset as trying to score points or just wanting to look cool to other MeFites, Errant has a valid point.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:30 AM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


What takes the fun out of it are people who try to box others in with their presumptions of superior knowledge and rightness. It's tiresome and unfun.

It's true, it is tiresome and unfun when I get treated like I can't have interpreted my own experiences correctly - that is a box I have been put in my people who presume to have superior knowledge of my life.

It's tiresome and unfun to be picked apart like I'm an academic exercise instead of a person.

I'm supposed to show infinite patience and a willingness to be an educator but some of this shit gets really, really old. People think they make statements or ask questions that have never been made or asked before and then get their noses out of joint when the response is "yeah, here's links to the last 87 times we've talked about this."

Sometimes we don't know our own minds; sometimes we do say stupid shit out of ignorance and carelessness (and sometimes, yes, out of knowing malice). Sometimes someone is going to take exception to that. If that is a definition of taking the fun out of it, then maybe it wasn't that fun.
posted by rtha at 10:11 AM on September 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


I think, though, that as sweetkid points out, very few of us have 100% all day everyday get-out-of-jail-free privilege cards. No, not even that rich white guy, who, for all we know, clawed his way up from abject poverty while working tirelessly for racial equality all of his life.

Many of us belong to one or more marginalized groups. So when someone climbs up on a pedestal to rail against how no one else could possibly understand what it is like for them, that person is going to get some pushback.

It's not a very effective tactic, alienating your audience, if the purpose is actually to educate and inform them about specific instances of injustice, which is what most threads are by their very nature about.

Sure, put the situation in context by pointing out that, for example, kittens have been targeted by alligators since time immemorial and so we need to recognize that they deserve special consideration, but maybe don't then go on to paint your entire audience as alligator sympathizers and yourself as the one true kitten high priestess.
posted by misha at 11:11 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


misha, you're being really condescending.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:19 AM on September 11, 2014 [20 favorites]


I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that "no one else could possibly understand what it is like for them". I have heard people say, completely legitimately, that they are the expert on their own experience and that people who are not members of the same marginalized group don't have that experience and so should shut the fuck up and listen; I've also seen people who are members of one marginalized group say that they understand the experiences of another in a way that isn't compassionate or empathetic but instead is an attempt to position themselves as an expert on whatever the topic at hand is (IE "of course I'm a great feminist ally, I'm a gay man", stuff like that).

The idea that anyone is climbing on a pedestal seems kind of absurd to me. The idea that we're actually always trying to educate and inform is also bullshit, sometimes we're just, you know, talking. Sometimes to each other. Sometimes we're intentionally preaching to the choir because being in the choir can feel really fucking lonely. A lot of the stuff that I make, write and say is intentionally alienating to straight men, for example, because it's not fucking for them, and if they want something that is for them, they are welcome to look at every other aspect of our culture.
posted by NoraReed at 11:20 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


Actually, alligators primarily prey on fish, and wild—rather than domesticated—mammals. They play important roles in the ecosystem, not the least of which is the slowering of the North American Nutria Invasion.
posted by 0 at 11:27 AM on September 11, 2014


misha: “but maybe don't then go on to paint your entire audience as alligator sympathizers and yourself as the one true kitten high priestess”

If you ever need your house painted, let me know; I have a feeling it'd be mighty easy. I'd just touch the paint onto one small quarter-inch of the siding, and you'd say I'd painted the entire structure in one stroke with the broadest brush in the world.
posted by koeselitz at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


this differentiates them from crocodiles, who primarily live on Archer Sterling's fear
posted by NoraReed at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Many of us belong to one or more marginalized groups. So when someone climbs up on a pedestal to rail against how no one else could possibly understand what it is like for them, that person is going to get some pushback.

That isn't what Errant did. He asked for understanding. His rhetorical questions, though sharp, point to "Imagine yourselves in my shoes. Imagine yourself in a marginalized person's place."

but maybe don't then go on to paint your entire audience as alligator sympathizers and yourself as the one true kitten high priestess.

That isn't what Errant did. He asked for understanding. You, meanwhile, portray yourself as Metafilter's one true feminist all the time. Please practice what you preach.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:31 AM on September 11, 2014 [22 favorites]


"Many of us belong to one or more marginalized groups. So when someone climbs up on a pedestal to rail against how no one else could possibly understand what it is like for them, that person is going to get some pushback. "

Marginalized groups aren't fungible, and even within marginalized groups, there's a wide swath of different experiences. I don't think Alan Keyes's opinions on sexism are particularly valuable just because he's black.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


shut the fuck up and listen

Listen, yeah. If you shut out oppressed voices you can't possibly have an informed opinion on their issues. Shut the fuck up? No, it's a site for conversation with a diverse audience and offering that other people need to just shut the fuck up and listen to you is not gonna work out.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:34 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Given that a lot of these conversations involve accusations of those getting upset as trying to score points or just wanting to look cool to other MeFites, Errant has a valid point.

So I see this as a problem. But I also assume the best of other posters. I don't think they're trying to be awful human beings or just trying to look cool. I think they genuinely believe, when they say these things, that the person making the posts or the viewpoints they express, are poison.

And I think as a result of it, they express themselves in ways like if they saw someone standing around on a street corner starting to load a rocket launcher - kill it, kill it with fire.

And this is, at least ostensibly, not a site for killing other posters and their ideas with fire. It's a discussion site, where we're supposed to focus on ideas and civil discussion, and not on individuals EVEN IF WE DO THINK THEY ARE THE DEVIL.

And that's the part I think that gets forgotten.
posted by corb at 11:36 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


misha, you're being really condescending.

Not just condescending, but doing a damn good job at reinforcing the idea that concerns about bad faith in this MeTa and ones like it are completely justified.

Just in the last two threads alone, you've made similar characterizations after being told that's not at all what is being said or implied. If you don't trust that the people telling you that are being honest with you, and you flaunt that mistrust repeatedly, then none of this matters. It looks like we can't convince you to trust us because you apparently you don't want to trust us, and every time you tell us that you really want to, you turn around and mock us for it. It's a stupid, annoying, and counterproductive Lucy-and-the-football situation. Like Errant, I'm starting to wonder if this feels like a game to you.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


No, it's a site for conversation with a diverse audience and offering that other people need to just shut the fuck up and listen to you is not gonna work out.

this would apply a lot more if white dudes weren't socially conditioned to be basically incapable of shutting the fuck up even when they have no idea what the hell they are talking about
posted by NoraReed at 11:40 AM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


It applies because if you want a venue where you can make anybody you want shut the fuck up you can get your own blog. This isn't it.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:42 AM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


I don't think I ever said that I wanted to make everyone do anything. It'd be nice if, sometimes, straight, cisgender white dudes would consider shutting the fuck up and listening, because the more privileged you are, the less likely it is that you've learned to stop bloviating and/or mansplaining, and because gendered conditioning in most patriarchal cultures expects men to be louder and more long-winded than women. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of the time when you're talking about marginalization, marginalized people have personal, lived experience and so have more things to say.
posted by NoraReed at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


Here are some examples of what I see - with posters suggesting other people's ideas, and by extension them, are awful, monstrous, vile, or disgusting. To this end, I've searched Metafilter for some of the common words used, and here are a few. These are all things that I think would not have been deleted, despite being, to me, pretty clear attacks on other posters because of their thinking or commenting. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
posted by corb at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2014


It applies because if you want a venue where you can make anybody you want shut the fuck up you can get your own blog. This isn't it.

But there's a meaningful difference between expressing one's belief that certain people should just shut the fuck up and actually expecting that to be the case. Like, saying here on MetaFilter "I think you should just shut the fuck up and listen" might not make you popular here, and it might make people uncomfortable, but it's just, like, someone's opinion, man. Asserting that MetaFilter should be a space where people must STFU and listen...well, yeah. You'd be really disappointed if you expected that out of MetaFilter and you'd be better off with your own blog, but I don't think that's what's being said here.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


My apologies, I misread the implications of "should shut the fuck up" as a suggestion of something that should be enforced.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2014


It applies because if you want a venue where you can make anybody you want shut the fuck up you can get your own blog. This isn't it.

That wasn't NoraReed's demand. She is asking for people who don't know what they are talking about to voluntarily stop typing and start paying attention to people who do. "Shut the fuck up" might not be the more delicate was to phrase that request, but it is a request nonetheless, and it is, in fact, useful to know when it is a good time to shut the fuck up.
posted by maxsparber at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


corb: “Here are some examples of what I see...”

Your first example does not appear even to mention or quote any other posters here.
posted by koeselitz at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ah, and belated I see you already got the point. So I shall now shut my damn trap.
posted by maxsparber at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I join you, NoraReed, in welcoming more bloviating white dudes to consider listening quietly more often. Zombieflanders, you with us? Shakesperian? Klang? Mr Sparber? I offer to STFU in any vaguely feminism-related thread as long you do likewise.
posted by 0 at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Go ahead and lead by example there, champ.
posted by maxsparber at 11:55 AM on September 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


Sorry on the first one, I assumed "Jontron was posting some vile shit" to be about an actual user.
posted by corb at 11:57 AM on September 11, 2014


I have heard people say, completely legitimately, that they are the expert on their own experience and that people who are not members of the same marginalized group don't have that experience and so should shut the fuck up and listen

I've basically stopped visiting Metafilter to stop discussing anything other than pure entertainment (and honestly, I'm very nervous about posting this here, as I'm sure there will be blowback) because I'm really sick of being told that, as a woman, I'm not, in fact, an expert on my own experience, that I'm somehow supporting the patriarchy because I've never personally experienced some things that other women have experienced (despite the fact that I'm not saying their experiences aren't valid, just that, maybe others have different experiences, that different experiences are possible), and that I am part of the problem simply because my personal experiences don't match theirs.

It's not just bloviating white dudes who get told to STFU. Sometimes it's women telling other women.
posted by anastasiav at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


corb: “Sorry on the first one, I assumed ‘Jontron was posting some vile shit’ to be about an actual user.”

Well, I see your search term, I guess. All of your other examples are people calling comments (not commenters) "vile." Are you suggesting that any comment that says another comment is "vile" should be deleted? I doubt we've ever deleted comments on any side for that reason.

This is the same thing we were talking about above. If someone says "that comment you just posted is vile," that's not something that crosses the line into personalizing the argument. That line is important – it should be the line we pay attention to when we gauge what is and is not a personal attack. (This seems pretty definitional.) We can argue about whether a particular comment is "vile" or not. The conversation stops being productive at exactly the moment when we start arguing about whether a person is "vile" or not.
posted by koeselitz at 12:02 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


corb, none of those comments appear to be clear attacks on anybody. #5 is a clear attack on St. Alia's comment, but the only thing obviously uniting them is strong wording. If this kind of thing is the basis for this MeTa, then let's just close it up now.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:03 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


in exchange, here is one "Take the vile comment this person made in an earlier MeFi thread" and a "I wanted to highlight this to show how vile a comment this is."

NB: I am not stating anything about the vileness/unvileness of said commentary, just that telling other people that their comments are vile, even if you think they are and even if they actually are does not productive discussion make, and more importantly, is definitely a thing that is happening on Metafilter. I don't see a huge line between saying that someone's comment is vile or disgusting [1] [2] [3] [4] [5](judgmental terms of moral value) and saying that someone is vile or disgusting.

When you say "that comment is disgusting" you are not saying "This comment is wrong or problematic" you are saying, "I want to throw up because what you said was so awful." It is not in any way a neutral comment devoid of attack. I mean, what is even the point of using that kind of charged language other than to show how sucky you think the person saying it is?
posted by corb at 12:08 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


These are all things that I think would not have been deleted, despite being, to me, pretty clear attacks on other posters because of their thinking or commenting. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

What?? All those posts include the word "vile." Is that word not allowed or something?

When you say "that comment is disgusting" you are not saying "This comment is wrong or problematic" you are saying, "I want to throw up because what you said was so awful."


This is just weird and made up.
posted by sweetkid at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [20 favorites]


0: There are a decent number of decent men, many of whom are white (since there's no race field in profiles and I don't want to make guesses based on profile pictures, if those are even provided) who post in gender threads; they usually do so by supporting women's' claims to their own experience, backing us up when we're being gaslighted, pulling some of the educational load when dudes show up asking to be educated, stuff like that. I can't see into their heads, obviously, but I suspect that some of them do so in an attempt to allieviate some of the harm that their gender does in the world at large and in internet discussions in particular.

Regarding corb's "vile" thing, I don't see much worn with those, but the common word reminds me of talking to SmarterChild on AIM and having him refuse to talk to you if you swore at him until you apologized, except there were some non-swear words in there, like "scum".
posted by NoraReed at 12:13 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I misread the implications of "should shut the fuck up" as a suggestion of something that should be enforced.

I believe she was suggesting that the gentlemen in question were out of their element.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:14 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


sweetkid, I am trying really hard here. Could you explain what you think the benign meaning of "this comment is disgusting/vile" would be?
posted by corb at 12:15 PM on September 11, 2014


Zombieflanders, you with us? Shakesperian? Klang? Mr Sparber?

they tend to make a lot of points that i agree with, and i perceive other women on this site do as well. it is nice to see men understanding women's issues. i don't comment a whole lot and i can be reading a thread and thinking SOMEONE PLEASE RESPOND TO THAT CRAP COMMENT and sometimes the people who have the energy to do that to tired arguments are allies.

at the bottom of the recent long meta there was a discussion about the label feminist and a few women had some strongly stated opinions on how they felt about whether men should use that label. the feminist men who were listening didn't get offended, a few commented that they were willing to listen and reconsider or at least strongly consider how they label themselves going forward. people can tell, especially over time, who's being respectful and who's not and all those guys you called out i find to be useful contributors and aren't a good pick for the simple "hypocrite" angle you seem to have been going for.
posted by twist my arm at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Do you think this is any fucking fun?

This is an interesting construction in this discussion, because unless I'm misreading those are rhetorical questions. You aren't actually asking. But yes, I do think that. I do think there are people who enjoy knocking down what they perceive as problematic comments on the Internet. I think there are a variety of reasons for this, depending on the person. Some people just like to snark. Others, as you say, experience a thousand slights daily and this is the most comfortable, or easiest, or least confrontational, or lowest cost context for them to retort.

Not all of those are bad things, and we can quibble over whether "fun" or "enjoy" are precisely correct terms rather than more analytical terminology about how the behavior is emotionally or socially rewarding. But if I'm understanding your point, then yes, I disagree with it. I do not think every person on MetaFilter who is calling out problematic comments feels sincerely distressed or anxious about doing so.

Understand that I'm not disputing anything about you personally. If you say that you call out things on MetaFilter not retributively but because you are hoping to make the world better, then I happily accept that. It's a positive goal, and I am sorry for any difficulty you feel in acting toward it. Ditto for anyone else who feels that way. I am certain that's a real thing that exists. But no, I don't think it is uniform. I understood the latter to be what this (admittedly unclear) MeTa is about. It, also, happens.
posted by cribcage at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


corb: “I mean, what is even the point of using that kind of charged language other than to show how sucky you think the person saying it is?”

It might actually be to express a very real personal reaction to something they read in a comment. And if people are going to express a very real personal reaction to something they read in a comment, I would really like it if they said things like "this is a vile comment" instead of "you are a vile bigot / racist / turd." As long as they do the former and not the latter, they're well within the bounds of stuff we can actually have real and worthwhile discussions about.

And if you don't think it's possible to have a real and worthwhile discussion just because (for example) you think I said something that was vile, well – how can we have real and worthwhile discussions about anything important that we disagree about?
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


These are all things that I think would not have been deleted, despite being, to me, pretty clear attacks on other posters because of their thinking or commenting. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Corb, none of those examples remotely show what you say they do. The closest is the last one, and even it is scrupulous to focus on the comment, not the person.

I mean, what is even the point of using that kind of charged language other than to show how sucky you think the person saying it is?

It's to say how sucky the comment is, not the person. You are really, really fixated on this conflation and I'm sure there are actually times where people say "your comment is shitty" as a way to say "you are shitty," but genuinely in the examples you gave that I looked at, this is not happening.

this would apply a lot more if white dudes weren't socially conditioned to be basically incapable of shutting the fuck up even when they have no idea what the hell they are talking about

Maybe "especially when," not "even when." It's a fantastic job skill (and even better in grad school) though, letting you make convincing points and look prepared in meetings and conference calls where you haven't had time to go over the material. Never, ever apologizing beforehand or being self-deprecating is key. When my partner was going through her first round of job interviews some years back we'd do practice sessions for the sole purpose of excising any deprecation or apologetics, and she'll still run things by me once in a while to check that she is hitting the right elements of the white guy tone.

I join you, NoraReed, in welcoming more bloviating white dudes to consider listening quietly more often. Zombieflanders, you with us? Shakesperian? Klang? Mr Sparber? I offer to STFU in any vaguely feminism-related thread as long you do likewise.

I'm not an expert in internet argumentation terminology, but this is the kind of "pretending to engage productively but actually being super shitty" comment that some users can be relied on to provide. There must be a term for it, but the pattern is obvious and adds nothing to the discussion.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


sweetkid, I am trying really hard here. Could you explain what you think the benign meaning of "this comment is disgusting/vile" would be?

You know what, sometimes comments are vile. Your (I include misha and 0 in this) attempt to declaw people who disagree with you by claiming you want more discourse is absurd. You're the ones telling people to shut up in the guise of encouraging civility. Civility doesn't mean no one challenges your beliefs or criticizes anything you agree with.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:22 PM on September 11, 2014 [22 favorites]


Sometimes comments are vile. I've said some vile things in my life, and it is embarrassing to have it pointed out, but if the comment is vile and I am not, I can choose not to say things like that anymore.
posted by maxsparber at 12:25 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Could you explain what you think the benign meaning of "this comment is disgusting/vile" would be?

I didn't say it was benign, I just don't think changing the meaning of "this comment is vile" to "I think you are vile" is at all helpful or what people are saying. Why twist what people are saying?
posted by sweetkid at 12:27 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


the young rope-rider: "misha, you're being really condescending."

Okay, then how about you explain to me why you think so?

I'm supposed to show infinite patience and a willingness to be an educator but some of this shit gets really, really old. People think they make statements or ask questions that have never been made or asked before and then get their noses out of joint when the response is "yeah, here's links to the last 87 times we've talked about this.


Here's what rtha said. Condensing what I said basically the point is: It's not just you. Many of us feel like that sometimes because none of us has 100% privilege. Railing at them (people [who] think they make statements or ask questions that have never been made or asked before) as if they are your enemy anyway and setting yourself up as an infallible expert is not going to be productive. So you give them context rather than calling them MRAs or whatever.

To me, that is in line with the whole idea of intersectionality, understanding and empathizing with others because of the difficulties they are facing, and that means, not only them listening to rtha and her lived experiences, but rtha not assuming the people who are asking those questions are just privileged people who could not possibly understand what she has endured.

On Preview: Wait, you do understand I am responding to rtha, the comment right above me, don't you? Why would you think I am responding to Errant?
posted by misha at 12:28 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure, civility does not mean no one challenges your beliefs - but what is added by throwing personal "you/your comment is disgusting" type things onto the fire rather than just saying what you find wrong with the comment?

I mean, I find things people say here to be awful on a daily basis, and I try very hard (and admittedly, sometimes fail) to keep it cool and stick to the substance of the issue instead of calling people no-goodniks.

Why twist what people are saying?

I'm not trying to. But I genuinely think that if people are saying that Person A's genuinely held belief is vile or disgusting, that they are saying at least a portion of Person A is vile or disgusting.
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2014


0: “I join you, NoraReed, in welcoming more bloviating white dudes to consider listening quietly more often. Zombieflanders, you with us? Shakesperian? Klang? Mr Sparber? I offer to STFU in any vaguely feminism-related thread as long you do likewise.”

Dip Flash: “I'm not an expert in internet argumentation terminology, but this is the kind of ‘pretending to engage productively but actually being super shitty’ comment that some users can be relied on to provide. There must be a term for it, but the pattern is obvious and adds nothing to the discussion.”

It's actually a trap, methinks. 0 has very carefully formulated an actual personal attack (calling a number of people "bloviating white dudes") with enough circumlocution to make it seem a bit obscure at first blush. Then, when people say it should be deleted, 0 can argue that, if we delete that, we should delete any and every comment that ever says anything negative about any of his comments.
posted by koeselitz at 12:30 PM on September 11, 2014


corb: “Sure, civility does not mean no one challenges your beliefs - but what is added by throwing personal ‘you/your comment is disgusting’ type things onto the fire rather than just saying what you find wrong with the comment?”

Sometimes it might just be to register the personal reaction. Believe it or not, there are times when it's appropriate or correct to call something vile. We abandoned it because it's not about Mefi posters, but your first example about Jontron posting "vile shit" was referring to a mocking pornographic cartoon depicting the people Jontron disagrees with all fucking each other. I think "vile shit" is probably a fair reaction to that.
posted by koeselitz at 12:32 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's actually a trap, methinks.

I think you over-thought that one koeselitz.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:32 PM on September 11, 2014


0: “I join you, NoraReed, in welcoming more bloviating white dudes to consider listening quietly more often. Zombieflanders, you with us? Shakesperian? Klang? Mr Sparber? I offer to STFU in any vaguely feminism-related thread as long you do likewise.”

They already listen quietly. The reason I know this is they don't say stupid, demeaning shit about women in "vaguely feminism-related threads." Or give voice to offensive stereotypes. They actually manage to listen to women speak about their experiences, don't try to speak for them or over them or dismiss their opinions as a group, and then try to respond when appropriate.
posted by zarq at 12:33 PM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


(I was being a little sardonic, I confess.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:34 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


On Preview: Wait, you do understand I am responding to rtha, the comment right above me, don't you? Why would you think I am responding to Errant?

Because your comment appeared to apply to Errant's. Taken as a response to rtha, it is as unfounded as it was when I took it as a response to Errant. No one did what you said they did.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:35 PM on September 11, 2014


I think "vile shit" is probably a fair reaction to that.

Sure, I even agree! But I don't get what the point is of telling someone to their face you think that they are vile. That seems incredibly uncivil and counter to the idea that you should focus on ideas and not individuals. I can't think of how that would be anything else but a reaction to the poster and possibly an attempt to strike back at them/what they said.
posted by corb at 12:35 PM on September 11, 2014


A lot of the stuff that I make, write and say is intentionally alienating to straight men, for example, because it's not fucking for them, and if they want something that is for them, they are welcome to look at every other aspect of our culture.

That, right there, is bad faith posting, period. The stuff that doesn't happen, supposedly.
posted by misha at 12:35 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I took NoraReed's comment as referring to things she does outside of Metafilter.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


corb: “... them/what they said.”

Here's the fulcrum on which we're going to be spinning for the rest of eternity, I guess.
posted by koeselitz at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why do you assume that the things that she makes, writes, and says all pertain to posts on mefi?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2014


This is the kind of thing I am talking about. In the words of Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton, "Well, that is another classic example of needless escalation while talking past each other trying to score points."

I'm not trying to call out any of the individuals involved, because it's not something unique to them. I am certainly (Dear jebus) not trying to bring that debate over to this thread. Everybody got their view points out...but then it just keeps going and going pretty much only because communication has broken down. Again, RN leaves a good note:

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 Drinky Die at 12:40 PM on September 11, 2014


That, right there, is bad faith posting, period. The stuff that doesn't happen, supposedly.

Like this entire MeTa, then.:
[Just as an aside, When someone says something like that, it usually just makes me wonder how in the world that person knows what common arguments are made by certain Bigotry Fan Clubs in the first place? What, do you subscribe to their newsletter? But then I figure, oh, they are just trying to think of the most hateful way to discount someone else's opinion and that's what they came away with.]
posted by Shohobohaum Za at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2014


I don't know, I think that NoraReed's comment was just honesty. I think this comment was pretty bad faith in that no one said anything like that and it's weird to be like "okay, this is my takeaway" like that's an honest reaction.

And yes, also about things she does outside of Metafilter (but also somewhat within).
posted by sweetkid at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


you/your comment is disgusting’

That is a bad equivalence as we've been discussing for days. Again, an attempt to silence valid critiques by conflating them with name-calling.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


think "vile shit" is probably a fair reaction to that.

Sure, I even agree! But I don't get what the point is of telling someone to their face you think that they are vile. That seems incredibly uncivil and counter to the idea that you should focus on ideas and not individuals.


Seriously, where did those comments say the person is vile, not the comment?
posted by sweetkid at 12:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


And also that would not fit my definition of "bad faith" posting, as this appears to be a position NoraReed takes out of a set of sincere beliefs, not something she's arguing just for the sake of arguing or in order to get a rise out of some people.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's bad faith to write to a non-straight-white-men audience? To think that maybe people learn some things better when they're uncomfortable?
posted by NoraReed at 12:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


Intentionally-alienating-to-straight-men posts is definitely not bad faith posting! As a straight man, I dig that some things are not for me, and feel like my confusion and bristling at posts meant to alienate me are great opportunities for me to think over my place in the world. I also don't need Linux threads explained to me, or need to read Ulysses with the Cliff's Notes right next to it, or need physicsmatt to break down every mention of gravity even though I have only the barest idea what gravity even is. People can certainly post stuff that alienates me, and I can listen in and ponder it if I want to.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2014 [21 favorites]


But I don't get what the point is of telling someone to their face you think that they are vile.

You're telling them to their face that their comment is vile. That what they said is vile. You're not telling them to their face that they are vile.

This is a crucial distinction here.

Imputing the meaning of "your comment is vile" to "you are a vile person for making that comment" is sort of the reader's problem, not the commenter's.

There's a separate question about whether using the word "vile" is the nicest or most effective way to make a point.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


corb, I know you mean well, but wow. Please stop helping me.

I think ALL those comments that you highlighted are pretty vile, yes. Really offensive, actually.

And the people who responded to them made a point of saying the comment was vile, not attacking the commenter. Which is pretty much the best way to argue.

So...yeah. Please stop helping.
posted by misha at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sure, I even agree! But I don't get what the point is of telling someone to their face you think that they are vile. That seems incredibly uncivil and counter to the idea that you should focus on ideas and not individuals.

That's *why* they are saying the comment is vile. They are trying to focus on the idea and not the individual. they are doing exactly what you want.
posted by gaspode at 12:44 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


NoraReed: “A lot of the stuff that I make, write and say is intentionally alienating to straight men, for example, because it's not fucking for them, and if they want something that is for them, they are welcome to look at every other aspect of our culture.”

misha: “That, right there, is bad faith posting, period. The stuff that doesn't happen, supposedly.”

It would be bad-faith posting if she meant "alienating" in the way I think you want or expect her to mean it. But having seen the stuff NoraReed says and posts, here on Metafilter and elsewhere, I know for a fact that when she says that some of her stuff is "intentionally alienating to straight men" she really just means that "it's not fucking for them." In the same way, Doctor Who posts are "intentionally alienating" to people who don't want to talk about Doctor Who, because, uh, people who don't want to talk about Doctor Who are not really gonna like that post at all, so apologies to them but I guess they'll have to find another post.

That's what "intentionally alienating" means in this case: stuff that's not formulated especially with the interests of straight men in mind.
posted by koeselitz at 12:46 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm not trying to. But I genuinely think that if people are saying that Person A's genuinely held belief is vile or disgusting, that they are saying at least a portion of Person A is vile or disgusting.

I think this only makes sense if you think that everything that a person expresses or believes is some kind of pure one-to-one manifestation of their soul. I totally don't agree with that. I think people (and here I absolutely include myself) pick up a lot of vile, disgusting shit just from the ambient environment of being a person operating in society, without necessarily interrogating where every single one of those beliefs comes from, whose interest those beliefs really serve, and whether those beliefs are really compatible with other values that they hold.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:46 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


misha, I'm not going to explain why because, one, you won't accept any of the premises of my arguments, which, whatever, and two, because you've repeatedly accused me in the past of a bunch of ridiculous shit to the point where I no longer have the patience to behave as though there's real communication happening between us. IOW, I have no desire to engage with you in a back-and-forth discussion considering what you seem to think I am like and I regret responding to you directly in the first place.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:47 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


misha: “And the people who responded to them made a point of saying the comment was vile, not attacking the commenter. Which is pretty much the best way to argue. So...yeah. Please stop helping.”

Really? After all this, you agree that there should be a distinction between talking about the comment and talking about the commenter? That did not seem to be the position you started from in this thread.
posted by koeselitz at 12:48 PM on September 11, 2014 [15 favorites]


Really? After all this, you agree that there should be a distinction between talking about the comment and talking about the commenter? That did not seem to be the position you started from in this thread.

In fairness, I've always taken misha's complaint in this MeTa to be about comments that go beyond addressing the argument and say things like "Well this is the exact argument we can expect from an MRA" or "If you doubt the presence of racists on MetaFilter, this comment is Exhibit A" (or whatever). Those types of comments do more than just engage with the argument and do extend to labeling the actual person.

I don't agree that it's as big of a problem as she thinks it is, and I don't agree with her proposed solution for it, but until corb's comments of a few minutes ago, I also don't think the issue was ever situations where it is obvious that someone's criticism is explicitly of a comment and not of a person.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


And also that would not fit my definition of "bad faith" posting, as this appears to be a position NoraReed takes out of a set of sincere beliefs

Because a large percentage of Metafilter members are white males, and you are saying you are intentionally writing things just to alienate them.

Please note the difference. She is not saying, "I post things that bigoted white guys might have a problem with."

It's great that Greg Nog thinks that's okay (And Greg Nog is awesome and I don't think he ever posts anything mean ever and we all, including me, could learn from him), but that doesn't make it okay.

If I came in here and posted with the intention of, I don't know, alienating all the Canadians on the site, even if one Canadian came in said she was fine with it, that would not make it okay.

She posts with the intent of alienating a large section of the userbase. That's othering and hateful of an entire class of people and--why do I even have to explain why this is not a good faith thing to do?

She posts with the deliberate intent of alienating a large section of the userbase.
posted by misha at 12:54 PM on September 11, 2014


Also, fuck the whole "civility" thing and fuck tone arguments in general and fuck the idea that people need to be able to be all articulate and nice when they talk to their oppressors about their oppression. Fuck the related shit too, like respectability politics and "ladylike" behavior. Fuck the idea that swearing is somehow bad when people get to use oppressive slurs whenever they want. Fuck refusal to engage with what people are saying because of hang-ups about what constitutes rudeness.
posted by NoraReed at 12:54 PM on September 11, 2014 [28 favorites]


Good point – thanks, MoonOrb.

And in corb's defense, it really is inflammatory when you say something like "this is a vile comment." I hope I've never said that, although I'm probably guilty of it, and probably in the worst ways – but at this point I would avoid that kind of language if I wanted to further discussion. But I think that kind of comment ("I think that comment was vile") can have a place in a thoughtful discussion, and I do think it's on the right side of the line between actual conversation and personal attacks.
posted by koeselitz at 12:54 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: I'm not trying to call out any of the individuals involved, because it's not something unique to them. I am certainly (Dear jebus) not trying to bring that debate over to this thread. Everybody got their view points out...but then it just keeps going and going pretty much only because communication has broken down.

Communication "breaking down" implies that it was a two-way exchange to begin with. That two threads were not being deliberately dominated by one perspective.

I walked away from the MeTa because repeating myself was futile and seeing two people that I normally think of as "getting it" when it comes to issues of women, poverty or race defend something so blatantly offensive was disappointing.

Also, because I got so angry while typing that I snapped a pen in half.
posted by zarq at 12:55 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


misha: “She is not saying, ‘I post things that bigoted white guys might have a problem with.’”

Read her comment for a clue as to what she is actually saying. When she said "deliberately alienating," she means she post things that are "not fucking for" the people they're alienating.

I think Spoon is a terrible band. Therefore, posts about Spoon are alienating to me. If I made it known to everyone that I can't stand Spoon, and NoraReed still went ahead and made a nice little post about Spoon just because she happens to like them, she could be said to be "deliberately alienating" to me.

I appreciate that "deliberately alienating" sounds bad. I think NoraReed knows that and doesn't care. I appreciate that this makes her more abrasive than other commenters here. But what this comes down to is this: she defined her terms, for better or for worse, and by the meaning of those terms she is not participating in bad faith.
posted by koeselitz at 12:58 PM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


Christ on a fucking cracker, misha, I didn't say I did it JUST to alienate them, but I'm not going to pander to the lowest common denominator when I'm talking about privilege and marginalization, and if they have to jog a bit to keep up, it's good for their metaphorical fucking legs. If they want me to slow down and give them their fucking ABCs, they can fucking pay me. There's a link in my profile for that.
posted by NoraReed at 12:59 PM on September 11, 2014 [18 favorites]


koeselitz, I agree that use of the word "vile" is inflammatory. But for reasons pretty much captured in NoraReed's comment just above yours I take the view that we should tolerate those kinds of (and worse) words, because the downside of trying to police one another for civility is that we risk silencing things that are important to hear.

On the other hand, I think civility is awesome and I like when people choose a more tempered approach.

Bottom line: I think people should have wide license to criticize the arguments that other people make, and that civility should be more of an opt-in type of thing rather than a you-must-behave-civilly sort of thing (within the very broad parameters that already exist here on MetaFilter).
posted by MoonOrb at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, because I got so angry while typing that I snapped a pen in half.

why were you typing with a pen in your hand though, is this a clever way of avoiding hurty hand issues, tell me all the things.

posted by poffin boffin at 1:03 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


the_young rope_rider: misha, I'm not going to explain why because, one, you won't accept any of the premises of my arguments, which, whatever, and two, because you've repeatedly accused me in the past of a bunch of ridiculous shit to the point where I no longer have the patience to behave as though there's real communication happening between us. IOW, I have no desire to engage with you in a back-and-forth discussion considering what you seem to think I am like and I regret responding to you directly in the first place.

I think your perception is completely wrong. I have no issue with you personally whatsoever.

If you do not want to engage with me that's fine. One way to keep from doing that is to not to imply nasty things about me without backing them up and THEN say you do not want to engage with me to try to keep me from defending myself. That's inflammatory and cowardly behavior.
posted by misha at 1:05 PM on September 11, 2014


Sometimes, if I stop typing to think about what I want to write next, I spin a pen on the fingers of one hand.
posted by zarq at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2014


She posts with the deliberate intent of alienating a large section of the userbase.

She's taking an approach meant to create a sense of alienation and discomfort in the reader, and leaving the reader to complete the steps. It's not a new thing (writers have used that technique on and off for centuries; it's a mainstay of avant-garde film and theater; there are pedagogical discussions of this; etc) and it's wildly incorrect (as well as weird and kind of rude) for you to hammer away at it like it's some perfect example of badness. Her follow-on comments expanded and clarified this several times over.

That's othering and hateful of an entire class of people

Are you fucking kidding me? That's like saying that someone referencing the phrase "eat the rich" is othering and being hateful to job creators. That's beyond willfully dumb and well into bad faith territory.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:07 PM on September 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


now i'm looking through my posts to see which one i think is the most alienating ever and I would have thought Jingle Cats would have won but there seemed to be more generally-dismayed confusion around the 50 Greatest Video Game Characters
posted by Greg Nog at 1:07 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, also, misha, it looks as if maybe there's a definitional disagreement here about what is "bad faith." I take "bad faith" to mean something like saying something not because you believe it but because you want to provoke your opponent.

Posting something that you actually believe but you know will probably piss someone off is, in my view, a different situation altogether. It's one of those things that for me falls on a spectrum of 100% appropriate and maybe really kind of shitty, but to me it's not "bad faith." Posting in "bad faith" is never okay; posting something that you know will probably piss other people off is okay most of the time.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:07 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


fuck the idea that people need to be able to be all articulate and nice when they talk to their oppressors about their oppression

You know, I personally find upsetting the focus that people who want other people to be articulate and nice are all oppressors who just want to sit on a pile of oppression and laugh maniacally while twirling their moustaches.

I am a woman - one that supposedly could stand your aid and sisterhood - and one who has suffered a lot from a lot of patriarchal systems. I have been raped, beaten, stolen from, suffered at the hands of terrible courts, and a host of other fun things that I could get into at length. When I ask for civility I am not doing it because I think people need to be protected. I ask for civility, because I am a woman who has experienced interpersonal violence, and is familiar with those types of words being the predecessor to violence on the part of men. I find those kinds of words upsetting, and I really value having a space, like Metafilter, that at least supposedly calls for civility and tries to make it happen. And I find it really disturbing when people try to argue that verbal violence - which, as I'm sure you know, is also considered abuse when you think of interpersonal violence - is not violent at all and is totally civil and fine.
posted by corb at 1:08 PM on September 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


And I am going to take another break, so that this does not now become a referendum on what other people think about that back and forth and taking sides or getting little digs in or whatever, and instead stays on the subject of the thread.
posted by misha at 1:08 PM on September 11, 2014


She's taking an approach meant to create a sense of alienation and discomfort in the reader, and leaving the reader to complete the steps. It's not a new thing (writers have used that technique on and off for centuries; it's a mainstay of avant-garde film and theater; there are pedagogical discussions of this; etc) and it's wildly incorrect (as well as weird and kind of rude) for you to hammer away at it like it's some perfect example of badness. Her follow-on comments expanded and clarified this several times over.

I really don't want to call out names, but I also follow some posters besides NoraReed who post these types of comments on certain topics and I've actually learned a lot from them. They've called me out on things too, and at first it kind of sucked but it made me think about how everything is not geared for my comfortable consumption all the time.
posted by sweetkid at 1:09 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


50 Greatest Video Game Characters

I am still mad about that post, almost as mad as i still am about the fresh prince shaggy dog CRIME AGAINST HUMANITy perpetrated by history's greatest monster, shakespeherian.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:10 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Regarding word toleration: I do think we should call people out if they're using oppressive language; I actually didn't know that sp*z and sp*stic were used super derogatorily in the UK (maybe elsewhere too?) until a conversation about that here, so I cut those out; if I'm doing anything like that, I want to know about it. Same with appropriative stuff.

Greg Nog, I found the horse hood post very alienating. I am not a horse.
posted by NoraReed at 1:10 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


DEAL WITH IT, BIPED
posted by Greg Nog at 1:16 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


"50 Greatest Video Game Characters makes me want to go get a front monk and pile shoes with some close friends." - Ari "Rustic Etruscan" Truscan
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:17 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


She's taking an approach meant to create a sense of alienation and discomfort in the reader

She's kinda like the Brecht Girl.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think I learned about the alienating effect the first time when I told someone I stopped reading Neuromancer a few pages in because it didn't make a lick of sense and they slowly and carefully explained to me that's the entire damn point.

So what I'm saying is that there should be more posts about Neuromancer.
posted by griphus at 1:25 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


The whole world alienates me. I envy people who don't constantly bobble about in a fog of stupefied bafflement.
posted by winna at 1:30 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


You know, I personally find upsetting the focus that people who want other people to be articulate and nice are all oppressors who just want to sit on a pile of oppression and laugh maniacally while twirling their moustaches.

Emphasis added. You are making this up. Nobody has said or implied that people who reify society's sexist and oppressive structures and language is a mustache-twirling oppressor. This is the same kind of bullshit conflation that tries to pretend that racism isn't "real" unless there's a cross burning on someone's lawn and sexism isn't "real" until somebody's ass gets pinched.

There is a whole spectrum of sexist behavior. Trying to insist that somebody pointing out sexism must be sweet-tempered and "nice" as they do so is bullshit.

I strive to be civil and usually rewrite my comments multiple times before posting to make them as clear and communicative as possible. Often I close the window without posting because I don't feel I'd really be adding value to the discussion. But I am SO DAMN SICK of this "be nice" crap I want to SCREAM.
posted by Lexica at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2014 [27 favorites]


And I find it really disturbing when people try to argue that verbal violence - which, as I'm sure you know, is also considered abuse when you think of interpersonal violence - is not violent at all and is totally civil and fine.

It's considered abuse in certain contexts, not all. Strong language is not automatically abusive.
posted by jaguar at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


And I am genuinely sorry that you experienced abuse and that strong language upsets you, but please be careful about assuming it's upsetting in the same way to everyone else.
posted by jaguar at 1:34 PM on September 11, 2014


Or, actually, about assuming that the people who are using strong language are trying to be upsetting in the same way.
posted by jaguar at 1:36 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


> Because a large percentage of Metafilter members are white males, and you are saying you are intentionally writing things just to alienate them.

As a straight white male, I know what NoraReed means and am not put off by it, and I think the attempt to paint her as othering and hateful is ridiculous.
posted by languagehat at 1:39 PM on September 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


Sorry, this may be a bit of a derail, but I want to repeat this sentiment because it is very very important to the platonic-ideal-mefi-in-my-head that I love: I REALLY REALLY like that there are a lot of posts that are alienating and opaque to me. I actually think one of the downsides to the site's age-related mellowing has been a slow shift toward making FPPs more accessible and less bizarre. I like memepool-style weirdness more than I like breaking news stories or lifehacks; I want more mefi posts that are making me go "what the FUCK" on the regular. Alienation is certainly distinguishable from bigotry, and I dig the former as the basis for mefi FPPs.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:48 PM on September 11, 2014 [31 favorites]


I actually try to avoid abusive and/or triggering language (slurs, etc), try to add trigger warnings when talking about sexual assault, etc. I just fucking cuss a lot. I'm looking up stuff about verbal abuse and shit and I'm not seeing anything like "swearing a lot when telling people they are being sexist on the internet".

I suppose if there are specific things you'd like me to add a tw/cw tag on my posts for I could do that. As someone who's been gaslighted in a lot of her relationships and is really susceptible to it and so ends up spending a lot of time and energy worrying when people deliberately misconstrue my words and who actually really needs the whole "no, that's bullshit, that's not what she said" responses I get a lot when people try to antagonize me, I can empathize a little with how that kind of history can fuck up site interactions. But I'm not gonna stop using cuss words, especially in situations where people are making awful marginalizing bigoted bullshit posts.
posted by NoraReed at 1:57 PM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


As a long time lurker (and reluctant commenter, and white dude) I just wanted to say I really appreciate perspectives like NoraReed and many others have expressed here because I don't encounter them hardly anywhere else on the Internet and in fact most of the Internet and the computer world in general seems to be chock full of bloviating, mansplaining white dudes who I wish sometimes would just shut the fuck up, sit down, put away their toys and listen for once in their lives.
posted by osk at 1:58 PM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


"I actually think one of the downsides to the site's age-related mellowing has been a slow shift toward making FPPs more accessible and less bizarre. I like memepool-style weirdness more than I like breaking news stories or lifehacks; I want more mefi posts that are making me go "what the FUCK" on the regular. Alienation is certainly distinguishable from bigotry, and I dig the former as the basis for mefi FPPs."

FREE HAMA7
posted by klangklangston at 2:01 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


and mcgraw
posted by koeselitz at 2:04 PM on September 11, 2014


You're telling them to their face that their comment is vile. That what they said is vile. You're not telling them to their face that they are vile.

That is a bad equivalence as we've been discussing for days. Again, an attempt to silence valid critiques by conflating them with name-calling.

That's *why* they are saying the comment is vile. They are trying to focus on the idea and not the individual. they are doing exactly what you want.

It must be nice to live on your Earth, but here on 616, if an idea is very tied with someone's identity they will almost always hear an attack on the idea as an attack on them. For example, there was an askme where a lady said she was a spiritual healer and was asking about physic surgery. The general response in the thread, phrased much more politely, is that psychic surgery is a scam and spiritual healing is bullshit. Now most of the people in the thread were very careful not to attack her just the ideas, but she clearly left that thread feeling attacked. All this "I'm attacking the idea, instead of the comment" seems like sophistry to me.

I mean, if someone said, oh, i don't know, "I was unemployed for six months but Jesus helped me get my new job" And I said "No he didn't, the hiring manager did." any bets how many people would get all up in my grill for attacking the idea since some Christians can't separate an attack on religion from an attack on themselves. Assuming the comment didn't get deleted first.

I'm not saying don't criticize anything. Criticize the fuck out whatever you want, but "attacking the comment and not the idea" is not a get out jail free card.


Also, fuck the whole "civility" thing and fuck tone arguments in general and fuck the idea that people need to be able to be all articulate and nice when they talk to their oppressors about their oppression. Fuck the related shit too, like respectability politics and "ladylike" behavior.

Yeah, Martin Luther King and the NAACP and SNCC etc. were on some complete bullshit when they used that tactic.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:18 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I see no issues with in that analogy whatsoever. Five conversation points to nooneyouknow.
posted by griphus at 2:24 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


It is to lol.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:24 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


FREE HAMA7

Too late!

They escaped already.
posted by jamjam at 2:24 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Martin Luther King and the NAACP and SNCC etc. were on some complete bullshit when they used that tactic.

That wasn't their method at all. They provoked white violence by violating, en masse, the dictates of white supremacist society. What are you talking about?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:26 PM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


There's a fucking difference between using god damn uncivil bastard words as bloody intensifiers and verbal abuse or personal attacks. The latter can look downright tame, even ("screw you" for example)
posted by Dysk at 2:26 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Are you referring to the Martin Luther King Jr who wrote "Letter from Birmingham Jail"? That one?
posted by gingerbeer at 2:27 PM on September 11, 2014 [16 favorites]


It must be nice to live on your Earth, but here on 616, if an idea is very tied with someone's identity they will almost always hear an attack on the idea as an attack on them.

Totally--I read the key part of the passage I quoted as "hear an attack" because the issue is the reader's perception of what is said, not what is said. This is, at the end of the day, the reader's responsibility.

We can agree there is a separate question of how to most effectively communicate with people who perceive attacks on their statements as personal attacks. But the bedrock principle is: an attack on your idea is not an attack on you, even if you might hear it that way.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:28 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think that's an oversimplification. Would you say that, for example, an attack on feminism isn't an attack on feminists?
posted by Justinian at 2:30 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't it depend how the criticism was worded? I can appreciate there is room for some gray area where it's not always clear that the criticism is of the idea and not of the person. In a way, I think that's part of what concerned misha when she launched this MeTa in the first place. But, the principle is still the principle, even if it's possible that we could conceive of situations where an attack on the idea is an attack on the person. I wasn't attempting to cover every single argument there, I was trying to state what I think the foundational principle is.

Also, I mean, I understand what nooneyouknow and corb are getting at here, but the comment/person distinction here is fundamental.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:36 PM on September 11, 2014


As a straight white male, I know what NoraReed means and am not put off by it, and I think the attempt to paint her as othering and hateful is ridiculous.

Well, as long as you know what she means and aren't put off by it (and you're some sort of authority on language I gather), well that settles it, potty mouth is happening. Never mind corb's experience ("I find it really disturbing when people try to argue that verbal violence [...] is not violent"), good to know that your straight white male ass was around to splain this one, just as it was in the last thread.

As a long time lurker (and reluctant commenter, and white dude) I just wanted to say I really appreciate perspectives like NoraReed and many others have expressed here because I don't encounter them hardly anywhere else on the Internet and in fact most of the Internet and the computer world in general seems to be chock full of bloviating, mansplaining white dudes who I wish sometimes would just shut the fuck up, sit down, put away their toys and listen for once in their lives.

If you're getting so much value from the volume of NoraReed's contributions (a few dozen comments now? it certainly feels like a lot of educatin'), I wonder if you should just fucking pay her? There's a link in her profile for that.

There's a fucking difference between using god damn uncivil bastard words as bloody intensifiers and verbal abuse or personal attacks. The latter can look downright tame, even ("screw you" for example)

Where does shut the fuck up fall?
posted by amorphatist at 2:37 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


amorphatist you are coming across really poorly here if you are hoping to get anyone to agree with you.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:39 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


nooneyouknow: “It must be nice to live on your Earth, but here on 616, if an idea is very tied with someone's identity they will almost always hear an attack on the idea as an attack on them.”

Yes, that is something that we humans naturally do, and it is probably the biggest obstacle to intelligent discussion. Shedding our personal connections ties to ideas is the only way for us to converse rationally. I don't claim it's easy, but it's necessary, on both sides of any conflict. People who make personal attacks are almost always those who have taking things too personally and failed to accept that other people just disagree. And people who see personal attacks, even when they themselves are not being attacked personally, are probably identifying too much with the ideas they present and the comments they make.
posted by koeselitz at 2:41 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Where does shut the fuck up fall?

When it's "some people need to learn to shut the fuck up" it's a strongly-worded expression of a principle also known as "step up/step back". It's not saying "shut up or we'll shut you up", it's saying "in a situation where you or people with similar opinions have traditionally dominated the discussion, consider holding your tongue so that people who haven't been heard can speak up."

Is that goddamn uncivil bastard phrasing? Maybe. Is it a personal attack? No.
posted by Lexica at 2:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is Earth-1218, not 616.
posted by NoraReed at 2:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Though I'm REALLY TEMPTED to rewrite that comment from an in-616 perspective.
posted by NoraReed at 2:43 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fuck the idea that swearing is somehow bad when people get to use oppressive slurs whenever they want.

People posting on Metafilter don't get to use oppressive slurs whenever they want. Posting on Metafilter has all kinds of rules. One of which is not abusing other users, especially when they explicitly tell you it's upsetting.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:45 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Lexica: I strive to be civil and usually rewrite my comments multiple times before posting to make them as clear and communicative as possible. Often I close the window without posting because I don't feel I'd really be adding value to the discussion. But I am SO DAMN SICK of this "be nice" crap I want to SCREAM.

Yea, and it also conveniently shimmies around the edge of the fact that it's always the people on the receiving end of any of the wrongs they're bringing up who are asked to pipe down, and be nice.

misha: I didn't really want a ban per se, I just thought this stuff (putting labels on people instead of engaging with their arguments in good faith), should be taken to MetaTalk.

That's a pretty tall order, as far as accusations of behavior go. It's also something plainly proven.

I have not, that i can remember, seen a comment that essentially just went "well your a racist ass so i'm going to ignore you" without qualifying that statement at all. MeFi as a whole is very good at going "I have a problem with what you said, and here is a play by play of the problem".

If you're going to suggest that there's a problem with people simply calling someone out heckler style and going "well you're a sexist asshole" and letting that hang in the air, then please provide some examples. Because as it is, the further you dig down into this misha, it sounds like you simply have a problem with people being called out at all if you agree with their comment. Or something.

The real issue, of course, is that people who are NOT saying anything bigoted are being accused of belonging to those Bigotry Fan Clubs because it is easier to cast aspersions than actually engage with what they are saying when they disagree with you.

Ok, so this is what we were trying to get you to clarify for like the entire thread. And it just turned into mud wrestling because you wouldn't.

So you're essentially saying that being accused of these things is being used as a silencing tactic when someone doesn't want to engage with someone elses point, and just wants to shut them up?

I realize i might sound like a broken record here, but can you show some kind of prevalance of this issue? Every single callout i've seen in the past several months has been when someone was legitimately WAY over the line, or at the very least clearly starting to paddle out of muddy waters and into the cesspool.

This really is the kind of thing, that no matter how you try and reframe it now, really comes off as "i'm tired of people getting called out!" unless you can show your work that being being falsely accused and silenced is a real problem.

Hell, if you can even show me it happening a couple times a month i'll acknowledge it's shitty behavior that deserves to be discussed. But those examples should have been in the original post, and i personally think the signal to noise ratio here is pretty great.
posted by emptythought at 2:48 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I kinda want to make sure it's totally clear to osk, a brand new poster, that amorphatist's sarcasm was phrased as though directed at osk, but was in fact purely lashing out at NoraReed.

That's clear, right?
posted by nobody at 2:51 PM on September 11, 2014


Oh, I think he was flipping his wig at languagehat, not osk.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:54 PM on September 11, 2014


amorphatist quoted both languagehat and osk, and then quoted and linked NoraReed's profile page. But it seemed like amorphatist was pretty much lashing out at everybody. Which was kind of counter to the spirit of what amorphatist was apparently trying to say, ironically enough.
posted by koeselitz at 2:55 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I should have specified: the middle two paragraphs are the ones I'm talking about.
posted by nobody at 2:55 PM on September 11, 2014


Yeah, also FYI it's against the rules to link to stuff from people's profile pages, though I don't mind at all if people want to link to my Patreon page wherever they want since, you know, free advertising.
posted by NoraReed at 2:58 PM on September 11, 2014


At the end of the day, I don't know what moderation is going to help when one poster thinks another is an asshole, and it's mutual, and they hang out in the same threads.
posted by smackfu at 2:59 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


NoraReed, the link goes to your comment about it in this thread.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:00 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think nobody just wants osk to be aware that he's not personally being attacked but is instead being used as a foil to direct an attack elsewhere, and not to feel shitty about his first MeTa comment getting used like that.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:00 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Aw crap I totally misread that link there wasn't rule-breaking there. Though, still, anytime any of my antags want to give me free advertising that's cool, smooches!
posted by NoraReed at 3:00 PM on September 11, 2014


If politeness was so fucking great, I think you guys would have convinced us of it by now through the magical coercive powers of politeness.
posted by fleacircus at 3:06 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


The value of politeness on Metafilter isn't intrinsic ability to convince people, it's in not turning conversations into difficult messes that are torture to read and hard to moderate.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:08 PM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't know what moderation is going to help when one poster thinks another is an asshole, and it's mutual, and they hang out in the same threads.

Well, see, that's what civility is good for. It means two people locked in mutual contempt can nonetheless behave in public in a way that doesn't ruin the space for everyone else. But so long as people insist that civility is nothing but a tool for power, then no, the problem can't be solved.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:09 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


ahhhhhhh I'm still mad about the 616 thing

if this was 616 I would totally not be here; I would be romancing my way into the Young Avengers via Kate Bishop and America Chavez

BONUS: those comics are Bowdlerized, so I actually wouldn't be swearing
posted by NoraReed at 3:10 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


If politeness was so fucking great, I think you guys would have convinced us of it by now through the magical coercive powers of politeness.

Seriously. Where was all of this concern for politeness in the last thread, when somebody went nutso ballistic? Apologies in advance for the mangled metaphor, but if you're going to go on about whether or not somebody else's pet ox is getting gored, you may want to remember where that steak on your plate came from first.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


The $&@! you talking about?
posted by griphus at 3:12 PM on September 11, 2014


Use fewer swears, suggests ThatFuzzyBastard
posted by shakespeherian at 3:15 PM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


Seriously. Where was all of this concern for politeness in the last thread, when somebody went nutso ballistic?

I don't recall much attitude that it was that particular poster's finest hour.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


NoraReed: frankly I find the idea that saying statements are bigoted is the most hateful thing I can come up with sort of insulting, like, how uncreative is that? I am an inventive and talented woman! If hate was my intent, surely I would have come up with something much more interesting than "yo dude that's racist"

To take this to a really meta level... it's something that actual trolls and shitposters on other sites commonly do. Bring up a grand conspiracy of "silencing" by false accusations of this, when they are in fact the ones posting garbage.

I am in no way saying misha is, but that this is novel territory to me since misha is like... a shiny pokemon or something in that she's the only person i've ever seen bring up this point who wasn't blatantly a career troll trying to don a bulletproof vest while also inciting infighting in whatever community they were trying to troll. It's in fact, the sort of thing i've even seen trolls on here do.

Basically, it's something almost no one does with a straight face. It's something people in places like /r/tumblrinaction and /b/ do when they're making fun of "SJWs".
posted by emptythought at 3:18 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thank you nobody and poffin boffin
posted by osk at 3:18 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


Oh, swearing is just one tool in the uncivil poster's toolkit. I have supreme confidence in my fellow MeFites that if swearing were taken away, people would be sufficiently creative enough to find uncivil ways to post.

also please don't take away swearing, I'm not really very creative and I like swearing, anyway
posted by MoonOrb at 3:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are a million ways to be impolite and uncivil with nary a swear word in sight.
posted by rtha at 3:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


yea and really, the last thing this site needs is encouragement towards more "well bless your heart" crypto-assholery and cloaked aggressiveness. i get enough of that elsewhere.
posted by emptythought at 3:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


those comics are Bowdlerized, so I actually wouldn't be swearing

Do we know what universe Marvel MAX happened in? That was definitely not bowdlerized.

I don't recall much attitude that it was that particular poster's finest hour.

There were a lot of "...but I get it" sympathetic noises not afforded to other people for being a lot less uncivil.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:21 PM on September 11, 2014


There are a million ways to be impolite and uncivil with nary a swear word in sight.

Yup. Swearing has very little to do with civility. I'm not sure if shakespeherian is actually confused by that or not, but just in case: Yep.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Though I'm REALLY TEMPTED to rewrite that comment from an in-616 perspective.

Please do. I'm not really into comics, always loved superhero movies and cartoons though. Sorry I got your dander, I know how it feels when someone is just wrong. No, Wonder Woman is not the daughter of Zeus and fuck you for that retcon.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"But so long as people insist that civility is nothing but a tool for power, then no, the problem can't be solved."

Find me one comment where someone says that civility is nothing but a tool for power. You're dismissing criticisms of calls for civility by mischaracterizing them. So long as that happens, you will not help solve the problem.
posted by klangklangston at 3:24 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


There were a lot of "...but I get it" sympathetic noises not afforded to other people for being a lot less uncivil.

He reacted to what he incorrectly perceived as incivility with a meltdown that goes well beyond "impolite" and was banned for it, iirc. I think it makes no sense to bring up here.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:24 PM on September 11, 2014


I think Marvel MAX was just more "adult" stuff, not a particular universe. But if I was in 616, I'd be trying to be in stuff like this because I love Kate Bishop in so many ways and we would make great lovers or BFFs (depending on her orientation) (every thread is the slash thread)
posted by NoraReed at 3:26 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is way late but I just wanted to chime in that I think "manbabies" is a fantastic insult and I didn't want that overly haughty chiding of norareed's use of it to be the last word.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:27 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


They escaped already.

~crackle~The farmer's in the dell and the ham is out of the barn. Repeat. The ham is out of the barn.~crackle~
posted by octobersurprise at 3:28 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


DEROGATORY PATRIARCHAL EPITHET would be an awesome band name.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:29 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Find me one comment where someone says that civility is nothing but a tool for power.

If we limit our snark, discourtesy, and anger to people in hoods burning crosses...then we're reinforcing the status quo that says that all this grayish-black stuff that does 90% of the work of the injustice is acceptable.

****

fuck the whole "civility" thing and fuck tone arguments in general and fuck the idea that people need to be able to be all articulate and nice when they talk to their oppressors about their oppression. Fuck the related shit too, like respectability politics and "ladylike" behavior.


I could find a million more in other threads, but I'll leave it to you to "do the work".
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:32 PM on September 11, 2014


Alienation is certainly distinguishable from bigotry, and I dig the former as the basis for mefi FPPs.

I will give you a thing in the world that is alienating! Water - it is a freaky substance. Other than mercury, no other liquid has a higher surface tension, which lets lizards and bugs run on it and is largely responsible for how plants like trees can use a vascular system to get so big. Water is both slow to freeze and slow to cool, which enables living things in it to have a relatively stable environment. Water gets more dense as it cools up to a point, then it becomes less dense, which means it is one of the rare substances that has a solid state which can float on its liquid state, which means things can live in the water under the ice - if the ice sank then anything living in the water would be covered with sheets of ice in the winter and die. Water is one of the only substances that don't have carbon that is liquid at room temperature, which has obvious benefits for living things, as well as the fact it can dissolve an enormous number of substances, making it useful for carrying nutrients to living things like the aforementioned trees.

And this strange and magical substance just lies around in huge quantities on our planet, falling from the sky and flowing all over.

That's the kind of thing I find alienating. Existence is deeply weird.
posted by winna at 3:33 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Find me one comment where someone says that civility is nothing but a tool for power.

I think there are a lot of people who have historically used the call "tone argument" to justify their own bad behavior. Like, no, you shouldn't say "I will ignore your problems because you are too angry" but that doesn't mean it's a great thing to use violent and aggressive language in the first place.
posted by corb at 3:33 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Find me one comment where someone says that civility is nothing but a tool for power.

Yeah, I mean, I say that an over-emphasis on civility is used as a tool by the powerful but that doesn't mean that's all civility is or can be. It simply means that "civility" is a more complicated thing than "not using rude words" in the same way that peace is the presence of justice and not just the absence of war.
posted by Justinian at 3:34 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is an interesting construction in this discussion, because unless I'm misreading those are rhetorical questions. You aren't actually asking. But yes, I do think that. I do think there are people who enjoy knocking down what they perceive as problematic comments on the Internet. I think there are a variety of reasons for this, depending on the person. Some people just like to snark. Others, as you say, experience a thousand slights daily and this is the most comfortable, or easiest, or least confrontational, or lowest cost context for them to retort.

Not all of those are bad things, and we can quibble over whether "fun" or "enjoy" are precisely correct terms rather than more analytical terminology about how the behavior is emotionally or socially rewarding. But if I'm understanding your point, then yes, I disagree with it. I do not think every person on MetaFilter who is calling out problematic comments feels sincerely distressed or anxious about doing so.

Understand that I'm not disputing anything about you personally. If you say that you call out things on MetaFilter not retributively but because you are hoping to make the world better, then I happily accept that. It's a positive goal, and I am sorry for any difficulty you feel in acting toward it. Ditto for anyone else who feels that way. I am certain that's a real thing that exists. But no, I don't think it is uniform. I understood the latter to be what this (admittedly unclear) MeTa is about. It, also, happens.


I guess I wouldn't say that the questions were rhetorical, really. They were, perhaps, incredulous that the answer to any one of them might be "yes", as yours is, but I was in some sense really asking. So thank you for answering and elucidating.

I can think of fairly isolated situations and contexts where something like points might exist to be scored; the one that immediately comes to mind is the kind of race consciousness-raising exercise that turns into white people decrying their own privilege to other white people in front of not-white people as a kind of confession and absolution. That happens. It doesn't happen a lot, I don't think it happens often enough to become a bulwark of common conversation, and I don't think it necessarily carries much potency outside of the workshop.

But I'm really not kidding when I say I don't get it. What is the game? Who is awarding the points? How do you win? Why would you even play it? I mean, these are semi-rhetorical questions in the same vein as earlier, but I cannot grasp the idea that anyone does this for fun or takes a profitable satisfaction in it. Maybe there's some grim release in unloading microaggression vitriol on this guy who said that dumb thing about Le-a, but I can't imagine anyone thinking that that satisfaction was worth the pain and effort. I suppose when I have a productive conversation and really engage with someone, that's rewarding, but that also almost never happens. I pretty much know I'm picking a fight even though I don't really want one, because whatever I'm saying is going to make people mad.

I can see the perspective that people with privilege can sometimes adopt the mantle of the other and speak for them. I sometimes have to make a conscious effort to shut my face once women enter the room to talk about sexism. In racism stuff, there's definitely a subset of people who believe they can exorcise their whiteness if they yell sententiously enough. I've met those people, they're kind of irritating, and if that's what we're talking about, ok I guess. There may be an antiestablishment thrill to that or something; I don't especially feel one when I'm arguing against my own privileges, but I guess maybe there could be one.

But the thing is, I don't think they're aggressively calling out things where they perceive none. They may be fast on the trigger and absolute in their condemnation, they may be too stringent for my taste, but it's not like they're saying, "Well, I'm just going to call this guy a racist and that's curtains for him! John Brown will never eat in this town again!" I do not believe that people accuse other people of being a -ist/-phobe when they *know* that that person isn't doing that at all, in order to shut down the conversation. I have never ever seen this happen. That doesn't mean it isn't happening, but again: where, how, why?

And, just because you mentioned it, let me say that I never once thought you were talking about me personally, and I don't and wouldn't take anything you said as any kind of attack. We're supposed to talk about this stuff and get worked up sometimes, but that's because we're trying. I am trying. I appreciate you trying.
posted by Errant at 3:37 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard--I'd just add that enforced or insistence upon civility could be very much used as a tool to maintain the status quo. But setting an example by being civil yourself, or genuinely asking other users to be more civil isn't. From my perspective, at least.

I think the distinction's an important one and if it's glossed over it sort of allows people to make silly, self-righteous sounding arguments like "Well I guess we can't be civil around here anymore or we're just furthering the Patriarchy." I kind of thought your comments were glossing over this distinction, to be honest.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:37 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


omg it could be the band name in an alternate universe where Kate is in a band with the rest of the Young Avengers and that's the name if her experimental side project with Clint

I guess the moral of this story is that you can get me to stop being uncivil as long as you keep dropping Marvel-related shiny objects into the thread, but once those stop:

TFB, if the best example you can come up with is my screed against social constructions that are used to dismiss marginalized voices, addressed to no one in particular but railing against repeated themes from this thread an elsewhere, I don't know what to tell you, except to avoid any anarchist or punk zines or lots of modern poetry or the entire academic discipline of sociology if you don't want to get so offended you'll have to reach for the smelling salts. Christ.
posted by NoraReed at 3:41 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


"I could find a million more in other threads, but I'll leave it to you to "do the work"."

Neither of those support your original contention that people have said that civility is nothing but a tool for power. Helpful distinguishing marks include the quotations around "civility" in the second comment, and the specific "need to" phrasing. Distinguishing comments that are against the normative requirement to be civil for productive discourse to occur from those that claim that civility itself is only a tool for power is important.

If you have other examples, you're free to post them. I'm not sure why you'd think it would be my job to support your mistaken contention.
posted by klangklangston at 3:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


This seems relevant
posted by osk at 4:04 PM on September 11, 2014 [18 favorites]


I made this MetaTalk--being careful to make it explicit and in fact rather a long-winded wall of text--and, nearly 700 comments in, koeselitz says this:

Really? After all this, you agree that there should be a distinction between talking about the comment and talking about the commenter? That did not seem to be the position you started from in this thread."

Which has been a recurring theme in this thread, the idea that I posted a Metatalk that does not in any way mean what it says it means.

That is incredibly frustrating and hurtful.

I have really appreciated the back and forth of those who are considering the problem I have outlined and responding with their own feelings about whether there is anything that can be done, or even responding to say that nothing should be done. There's been quite a lot of snark and criticism in this thread, too, but I've been trying not to respond to that and instead keep to the subject of the thread and stay positive. It's tougher than usual because my own emotions are pretty raw right now*. But I look at the narwhals and rainbows surrounding my comment box and that helps, and I read my messages and that helps too. And, when I do get frustrated and realize that I am failing at my goal, I take breaks, I listen to my Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and calm down again, and then I come back.

I put the effort in because I hoped that for the most part the people taking part in this thread are participating with good will, and giving me the benefit of the doubt that I am as well.

So, seeing that comment come up on my screen was demoralizing. That's not a troll saying that, that is koeselitz, and all this time he has been, what, just assuming I am full of shit? Wow.

I see it has favorites, too. I'm not going to click on them, and I am going to remind myself that often favorites are just used as bookmarks or for other unrelated reasons than agreement. We're a community, right? The Metafilter community.

So. NoraReed writes that she posts in order to alienate white men. I call her on it. And the majority response is not only to make excuses for her but in some cases, what a surprise, to again criticize me for thinking that it is a crappy thing to do. I am being, to pick one at random, "willfully dumb" for thinking that.

So, recapping: After nearly 700 comments into this thread, I am still having to defend against the preconception that I don't mean exactly what I say.

With perhaps three comments, NoraReed convinces some of you that she doesn't mean exactly what she has been saying.

I would ask any of you who are willing to examine your own prejudices and look honestly at how they may be influencing your participation in discussions of difficult issues to please look at that disparity and consider why that is.

__
*For the curious: I recently went off a really nasty anti-depressant after years on it, and had to do it cold turkey, which is very much a Kids Do Not Try This at Home thing, but necessary because for some reason the side effects came back full force and my immune system sucks so we can't just put taper off but I don't want to be pretty much bedridden half the time either so it was the best choice for me. Depression sucks.
posted by misha at 4:57 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


> Well, as long as you know what she means and aren't put off by it (and you're some sort of authority on language I gather), well that settles it, potty mouth is happening. Never mind corb's experience ("I find it really disturbing when people try to argue that verbal violence [...] is not violent"), good to know that your straight white male ass was around to splain this one, just as it was in the last thread.

So you're accusing me of... mansplaining? I guess?... because I said I wasn't offended by what NoraReed said? This thread is getting weirder and weirder.

> I just fucking cuss a lot.

See, I like people who just fucking cuss a lot. You could say it's my curse.
posted by languagehat at 5:08 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hope you pull through and feel better soon, misha. :)
posted by Drinky Die at 5:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am still having to defend against the preconception that I don't mean exactly what I say.

You are the one who has raised time and again the suggestion that people here who call out bigotry are doing so disingenuously not because they feel marginalized or threatened or sickened by this bigotry but because they want favourites, or because they want to shut someone up for having a different opinion. Examine your own goddamn prejudices.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:16 PM on September 11, 2014 [18 favorites]


misha: Withdrawals for Pristiq are a pile of dicks; I had to go back to Effexor because I was getting the mind-haze and dizziness withdrawals ~22 hours after a dose, so I had to either take it earlier every day or have my brain half shut off when I was on it. I'm not sure if you get the same thing I used to, but if so, maybe that's why we're all having such a hard time communicating these points to you? I'm not trying to be a dick or anything with this; I can viscerally remember how it felt to have my brain just not make connections or otherwise work the way I was used to. It fucking sucked and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
posted by NoraReed at 5:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


After nearly 700 comments into this thread, I am still having to defend against the preconception that I don't mean exactly what I say.

Misha, I don't want to make this thread about you, as you yourself have repeatedly requested it not be. However, I'd like to point out in response to this bit I've quoted from you that several times in this thread you have said a thing, and people have said 'If that is what you believe, it is bad for X reasons' and you have handwaved it all away by saying that you you've been misunderstood. For example, when you said that you assume people are just looking for the most hurtful thing to say when they tell others that their arguments are identical to those of bigots-- in other words, you do not believe that they are being sincere in this description-- several people pointed out that this was the very failure of assuming good faith that you are so concerned about.

I would still like to believe that you are participating in good faith, and that you mean the words that you say as they are said. But maybe you can understand why some folks here think that you are being, at the very least, unclear?
posted by shakespeherian at 5:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


misha, I don't think you're a liar, or being ironic, or whatever it is you think I think.

You literally said, in the original post here, that this was about "ugly insinuations that the user is deliberately... using common tactics which are allegedly known to be popular with" various unliked groups. It seems rational to draw from that the conclusion that you're worried about comments that take the form "when you say X, that sounds like the argument Y that those awful Z-ists are always using." I assumed, since I feel like I know you well enough to know that you're in earnest, that you meant that you feel like that kind of formulation can sometimes constitute a personal attack. That's what corb was trying to argue above (I think) – that sometimes that kind of association is an attack. So, yeah – I'm sorry, but I was surprised when you disagreed with corb.

That wasn't supposed to be an insinuation that you don't mean what you say. Sorry if it read that way. I just feel like a lot of us have read the post above, read the words that it says, and taken from it that you're against comments that focus on other comments like "that's a typical sexist argument" or "that is something a lot of MRAs say." And we can see a perspective from which such comments might be considered uncivil, but it seems to be the case to us that it's necessary to allow them to make sure that conversation can proceed in a real and meaningful way.

I'm sorry if I've misunderstood what the post said. I promise you I'm not trying to call you out as being deceptive or anything like that.
posted by koeselitz at 5:22 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Also, as someone who's had terrible experiences with depression and antidepressant ups and downs before, good luck, and I genuinely hope you feel better soon. You're one of the people here at Metafilter I really respect, even if I sometimes disagree with you. I don't say that kind of thing often enough, and I'm sorry for that. And I'm going to try to ease up on this thread, both because I feel like I'm probably just poking people and not doing much good and also because I have a busy night ahead of me.)
posted by koeselitz at 5:26 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

NR: A lot of the stuff that I make, write and say is intentionally alienating to straight men, for example, because it's not fucking for them, and if they want something that is for them, they are welcome to look at every other aspect of our culture.
M: [...] you are saying you are intentionally writing things just to alienate them.
NR: [...] misha, I didn't say I did it JUST to alienate them, but I'm not going to pander to the lowest common denominator [...]
M: NoraReed writes that she posts in order to alienate white men. I call her on it. [...] With perhaps three comments, NoraReed convinces some of you that she doesn't mean exactly what she has been saying.
You're the one, misha, who is putting the "just" and "in order" into those phrases. NoraReed has convinced some of us that she means what she said, not what you say she said. Which, honestly, is not that difficult, because what she actually said is right there. You are gaslighting yourself by reading her words as if they were other words instead. If you honestly cannot understand the difference between "I say things which are intentionally alienating" (read: I say things a certain way knowing part of the audience won't like it, and I'm ok with that because I'm primarily talking to the people who aren't them) and "I say things for the purpose of alienating people" (read: I'm an asshole), I don't know what to tell you.
posted by hades at 5:31 PM on September 11, 2014 [17 favorites]


If I read the alienation exchange right, NoraReed was responding to misha's comment about not alienating the audience that used an alligator/kitten metaphor as an example of alienation. It instantly gets confused because when NoraReed immediately says she intentionally alienates the audience she does not mean she is doing the thing misha described. She is using alienation differently to describe a different thing she intentionally does.

Who has the responsibility to be more clear about what they mean? Everybody. Who has the responsibility to err on the side of the better possible readings? Everybody.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:46 PM on September 11, 2014


I am being, to pick one at random, "willfully dumb" for thinking that.

That was me. My reading was that your repeated uncharitable misinterpretations of other people's comments and responses was some kind of crappy performance art, and I was being frustrated and unkind about that.

If what is really going on is some kind of medication and/or depression issue instead, then I'm definitely sorry I was unkind, but I'd also suggest that starting an FPP and engaging on complicated and emotionally-laden issues in that capacity might not be the best approach.

I wish you well and will step away from the thread at this point.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:46 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Which has been a recurring theme in this thread, the idea that I posted a Metatalk that does not in any way mean what it says it means.

Like koeselitz, i do not think you are a liar or a troll or being ironic or whatever. I simply think that despite how many words you wrote in your initial post(s), you just didn't do a good job at communicating or clarifying what you were actually getting at.

So, recapping: After nearly 700 comments into this thread, I am still having to defend against the preconception that I don't mean exactly what I say.

I think this is because it wasn't clear at first, and you sort of sailed around defining it for several more comments while also not even beginning to address that in the first place until the thread had fully lifted off the ground, and gotten airborne under its own power. That's the kind of thing you have to nip in the bud, and it really created a lot of turbulence and chop once you did jump back in.

I would ask any of you who are willing to examine your own prejudices and look honestly at how they may be influencing your participation in discussions of difficult issues to please look at that disparity and consider why that is.

I thought several times about how to respond to this that was more than just "NO U", but really, i think it's been pretty well covered in here that a large part of the problem that caused you to create this thread is your perception of this behavior, including the bizarre persecution complex-y idea that people are simply using these sorts of callouts as a club, when that is not in fact a thing that happens nearly as much as it seem to appear to you, which is obviously enough to create this thread.

I think people were so confused by exactly what you meant in your original post partially because, in retrospect after you offered some clarification, it was actually sort of a bizarre thing to paint as a large problem.



That said,

*For the curious: I recently went off a really nasty anti-depressant after years on it, and had to do it cold turkey, which is very much a Kids Do Not Try This at Home thing, but necessary because for some reason the side effects came back full force and my immune system sucks so we can't just put taper off but I don't want to be pretty much bedridden half the time either so it was the best choice for me. Depression sucks.

I've been there. I did that Thing You're Not Supposed To Do and it fucking sucked really really bad and i didn't feel normal for months, and still got the weird random jolts and stuff from it regularly for a while after(and, like 7 years later, STILL DO like once a week. ugh).

It definitely made every little thing like this, that bugged me somewhat seem WAY WORSE. things that were problems were disasters at times. things that were annoying were fucking awful.

I almost feel awkward approaching this from the angle of "maybe revisit this in a few months and see if you still feel that way" but... seriously. There were things that just killed me during that, and argumentative hills i climbed up on to die during that which basically make me just go "heh" now. Perspective of time? How shitty i was feeling then? Other stuff? all of the above? who knows, but i do think it's a fairly valid point that stuff was just grating me then.

Feel better, i guess i'm saying. And i'm sorry if i made you feel attacked. Part of me wonders if you won't think this wasn't such A Thing when you feel better later though.
posted by emptythought at 5:53 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"So. NoraReed writes that she posts in order to alienate white men. I call her on it. And the majority response is not only to make excuses for her but in some cases, what a surprise, to again criticize me for thinking that it is a crappy thing to do. I am being, to pick one at random, "willfully dumb" for thinking that. "

I think that's because you read "alienate" as "make hostile to," and others of us read it as, "estrange or make foreign." It's also a word with a significant amount of usage in philosophy, e.g. Marx's theory of alienated labor.

I have no problem with Nora making posts that explicitly disregard me as an audience member — they're not for me, not everything on MeFi is for everyone. I have no problem making posts about noise music or modern art here, despite knowing that they alienate some people.

And this is also something that frequently provokes backlash from beneficiaries of normative privilege, because one of the benefits of being the norm (which is straight, white, cis and male) is the assumption that all normal works will cater to your interests, e.g. the backlash over mainstream games including non-male or non-hetero protagonists.

Part of why I come to MeFi, and I think Greg touched on this, is specifically to see things that I wouldn't have seen in other places. Part of getting to see those things is getting to step into spaces where I'm not the default audience.

I know that you've experienced that feeling of alienation — there are plenty of media examples where there's, like, gratuitous titties or something that's clearly not aimed at you as an audience member. (And the flipside of it for many men is the insulting feeling of being pandered to. Titties rarely make a compelling plot device.)

When Taco Bell advertises as the "un-burger," they're ostensibly alienating burger fans to attract taco fans. When 95 percent of mass media is aimed at an archetype of a particularly stupid man, being alienated from that is a good thing. I hope that thinking of the "alienation" like that rather than as a hostile act will help you understand where Nora is coming from.
posted by klangklangston at 5:57 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


misha, oh man, SNRI withdrawal is god awful. I can't imagine going off cold-turkey, either -- that must have taken some real steel to get through. Hope you feel better soon.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:10 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Er, sorry, s/"have taken"/"be taking" - I think I only realized halfway through writing that that you were still in the thick of things. Either way, feel better.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:12 PM on September 11, 2014


I write a lot of comments that are meant to be against the grain for straight dudes and with it for other people. Nearly everyone else seemed to get that, though? It's because I'm SUPER MAD, like, "that's my secret, Cap" mad, that everything is supposed to be accessible specifically to straight dudes. I also take a malicious, cruel, supervillainous pleasure when these dudes get their jimmies all rustled over not being pandered to, but mostly I don't go to metafilter for that, because I'm in the Dragon Age fandom, and that's where the really high-quality "I am very angry because a beautiful renegade mage who is male hit on my character, who is also male" mantrums come out and really, who needs low-tier mantrums about that kind of shit when you can watch one of your favorite writers shoot it down and cheer?
posted by NoraReed at 6:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Though I'm REALLY TEMPTED to rewrite that comment from an in-616 perspective.

Now I just want to read fanfic depicting typical MetaFilter discussions on Earth-616 or Earth-199999.

I wonder how much the discussion of the Chitauri invasion of the latter would parallel the 9/11 thread?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I find the conflation of uncivil language and violent language both somewhat puzzling and disturbing. Throwing a cuss word in as an intensifier somewhere is not violent language. "Fuck you" and "that fucking sucks" are just not the same kind of beast. At all.
posted by Dysk at 6:15 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


I see the misunderstanding as stemming from the fact that NoraReed said she makes, writes and says stuff (although she did not say "on Metafilter") that is "INTENTIONALLY alienating to straight men". I won't presume to speak for her; I think she likely meant "I know it's going to be alienating but I do it anyway". But my guess is that "intentionally" was read by misha as "with the specific intention of", or as she put it "in order to". It's not what I would call the most charitable reading but it's understandable.
posted by uosuaq at 6:16 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Now I just want to read fanfic depicting typical MetaFilter discussions on Earth-616 or Earth-199999.

we should write totally write this
posted by NoraReed at 6:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


The power of "manbaby" (more commonly "manchild") as an insult seems to derive from the suggestion that the target is not a 'real man'. So personally I would avoid it, since the insult works by buying into a particularly toxic notion of masculinity. (The phrase "butthurt manchild", which is not uncommon, illustrates the problem).
posted by Pyry at 6:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


I prefer the nongendered "diaper baby," which not only has the usual connotations of vexatious infancy but also the specific reference to a garment that is necessary to prevent them from shitting all over the place, without which they would immediately do so with great enthusiasm.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:23 PM on September 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


is it ok if I add clarifications that their babyness comes from a masculine sense of entitlement and also an infant-like attempt to grab onto something (such as the extremely absurd social constructions around masculinity and machismo) and a propensity to scream at disproportionately high volumes when that object shatter and/or is taken away?

if not "diaper baby" and "mantrum" will suit my purposes
posted by NoraReed at 6:27 PM on September 11, 2014


I also take a malicious, cruel, supervillainous pleasure when these dudes get their jimmies all rustled over not being pandered to...

OK, I have to ask, because it has come up a few times in this thread.

What are 'jimmies'?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:28 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


INTENTIONALLY alienating to straight men

Also not presuming to speak for NoraReed, but I can totally understand going out of one's way to find things that are not easily accessible to the cultural default Cis Het White Dude. I posted an askme a while ago asking for books written by authors who are not white guys (which seemed well-received); I think it is healthy to seek out culture that is alien to the norm, and to encourage culture that is alien to the norm. As a cis her white dude I am very glad for posts that alienate me; it reminds me that, contra everything else I encounter on a daily basis, the world consists of more than my exact demographic.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:28 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


The power of "manbaby" (more commonly "manchild") as an insult seems to derive from the suggestion that the target is not a 'real man'.

I have always seen it as a clear statement that they (men) are acting immaturely, and not particularly relating to concepts of 'maleness' or 'masculinity'.

(The phrase "butthurt manchild", which is not uncommon, illustrates the problem).

I agree re 'butthurt', which has always read as homophobic to me.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:30 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've variously described some idiot complaints as "toddler tantrums" because it has more of the implications of impotent whining you would get from manbaby but skips the gendered part and remains more versatile. And babies cry for more legitimate reasons. Ultimately though it's a pretty inflammatory and childish way to communicate so I only do it when I am feeling okay with possibly giving off that perception.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:32 PM on September 11, 2014




Now I just want to read fanfic depicting typical MetaFilter discussions on Earth-616 or Earth-199999.

Earth-242, pls.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:35 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wanted the insult to be gendered because this isn't a thing I see women do, but since the prime example is the orkwankers who are trying to ruin video games because feminism rustled their jimmies and they have done the textual equivalent of pouring raw sewage everywhere because of it, maybe "diaper baby" fits better.

His thoughts were red thoughts- do an in-page search for "jimmies", there are a couple asides about it upthread that you might've missed.
posted by NoraReed at 6:37 PM on September 11, 2014


we could make a list of deletion explanations from Ultimates-verse with stuff about how we aren't allowed to have ANOTHER thin, Newsfilter-y thread about how awful Steve Rogers is
posted by NoraReed at 6:40 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, recapping: After nearly 700 comments into this thread, I am still having to defend against the preconception that I don't mean exactly what I say.

I've read this whole thing in real time and haven't commented. (On screen, anyway. I've done plenty of mumbling to myself.) All that to say, it's not necessarily like I have a dog in the fight. But, I have to say that what it looks like to me -- someone who's not caught up in the back and forth -- is that after 700 comments, you are still reading other people's comments in an extremely myopic way and then responding to their responses myopically. That's what people are reacting to. You're defending yourself against things that other people aren't actually saying. And that makes people say other things to you, to zoom out a little bit, and then you respond to those comments in a myopic, defensive, and yes, sometimes haughty/imperious/superior/one-true-feminist way.

So. NoraReed writes that she posts in order to alienate white men. I call her on it. And the majority response is not only to make excuses for her but in some cases, what a surprise, to again criticize me for thinking that it is a crappy thing to do. I am being, to pick one at random, "willfully dumb" for thinking that.

Here is a really good example. That is not what she said. That is how you interpreted what she said. People weren't making excuses for her, they were correcting your reading of what she actually meant. That wasn't criticism. It was clarification. Then, when you stayed focused on the speck of dust you thought you saw, people got irritated with your intransigence, and you felt attacked.

I tried to say all that as gently as possible. What is happening here, from where I sit, is not what you seem to feel is happening. I don't know how you're going to read this, and I have no control over how you do, so there you go. This isn't meant as an attack. It's meant as an observation. Take it how you will.

Also: Depression sucks. It eats you alive. I know this from personal experience. I also know, for myself, that if I were withdrawing or tapering down from an antidepressant, I would not be my best self in a thread like this. I'm not saying that's true for you, but it might be something to cast a sideways glance at.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:41 PM on September 11, 2014 [25 favorites]


shakespeherian, I was ruminating on this a bit more even before you commented just now, and I can definitely see how it's good to intentionally *challenge* people (contemporary artists seem to make this their mission). I still think it's easy to read "intentionally *alienate*" in a way that doesn't sound very good (compare "intentionally ostracize"), and that's how I was reading the disagreement.
posted by uosuaq at 6:44 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


That was one reason I really loved JulyByWomen. All of a sudden people were having conversations about cool things that are either gender-specific (i.e., bra fittings) or more likely to appeal to women (for instance, Anne of Green Gables). Metafilter has never felt particularly alienating to me because it's not like middle class white women are poorly represented, but a lot of the "lady conversations" are actually conversations about harassment or rape culture or domestic violence rather than cool things that happen to be of interest to women not filtered through a lens of "men can find this interesting too."
posted by ChuraChura at 6:44 PM on September 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


JulyByMutants
posted by NoraReed at 6:47 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


klangklangston: I think that's because you read "alienate" as "make hostile to," and others of us read it as, "estrange or make foreign."

I read NoraReed's use of 'alienation' more in the way misha read it, that 'make hostile to', but when she clarified her usage was more 'estrange or make foreign', then I got what she was going for. I guess there's some of us who just place it in different parts of the definition spectrum.

NoraReed: (every thread is the slash thread)
I know this is a joke, but no. Just no thank you.

emptythought: You wanted examples, and I actually think this thread is a pretty good example, because it features some egregious sexist behaviour (though I wouldn't go so far as to say MRA behaviour) but also features yoink's comments getting sucked into the outrage in the thread and being read as writing things he never did and meaning things he clearly opposed in his comments. As for the 'implying disagreement = bigotry' idea, I always thought this one was pretty clearly doing the 'people who disagree with me are bigots but I'll skirt around writing it', and the comments starting from rosswald's here are about a thread with the same tactic.

There doesn't have to be malevolence behind these sorts of comments, but I do think that things that raise the temperature of a thread are often negative for the site as a whole, and too often things are parsed for their worst meanings, which, incidentally, is one of the ways I use 'bad-faith' - not as intentionally going for an argument you don't believe in, but just looking for the worst light to cast things in. Calls for civility can be silencing, but it can also just point out that raising grar levels are bad for site, a discussion about which is perfectly suited for MeTa.

And to misha, and all the others with the anti-depressant horror stories, my sympathies. I've been through most all of those experiences myself, and they are terrible, and I hope you get through them OK.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:48 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


What are 'jimmies'?

It's an old slang term for underwear. Getting your jimmies rustled is a more male version of getting your panties in a bunch.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:49 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree re 'butthurt', which has always read as homophobic to me.

Huh. I always read it as toddler-related - like, how you might (gently!) smack a little kid on the butt and they act like you killed them. But I don't know at all the etymology of it, or if it even has a coherent one!
posted by rtha at 6:52 PM on September 11, 2014


So far the only fanfic I can find about MetaFilter is The Whelk's Hannibal AskMe fic.

So yeah, someone totally needs to write fanfic of MetaFilter discussions set in one or more of the Marvelverses.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:52 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess I'd add to mudpuppie's comment "they were correcting your reading of what she actually meant": "without trying to understand why you read it that way".
I won't defend misha's comments, although I've liked a few. But I do think mudpuppie is right that people (well, not *me* obviously, but you lot) often read and respond myopically, and that's one of the things we're hopefully working through here. I'm wondering if we shouldn't replace "bad faith" with "pouncing on the actual words used as you decide to interpret them without thinking about how they might have made sense to the person who said them".
posted by uosuaq at 6:53 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always read 'butthurt' as not really homophobic or toddler-related but more male-rape related but I have no grounding for that reading other than my own guesswork.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:55 PM on September 11, 2014


I agree re 'butthurt', which has always read as homophobic to me.

I always associated "butthurt" with those big poops that tear you open and thus leave you feeling grumpy. That's how my husband I use it, at least. It's actually an anal sex reference? TIL.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:55 PM on September 11, 2014


The previous MeTa about butthurt.

Basically, there's disagreement about why it's offensive, but some people find it so. I personally always read it the way rtha did, and would therefore put it more in the list of insults NoraReed is developing comparing others to toddlers and/or babies, but that's clearly not the only way it's taken.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:56 PM on September 11, 2014


Yeah, it seemed to really bother some people so I've been making jokes about smelling salts and babies and mixing up idioms by changing one or more words to "jimmies", which seems to be less potentially harmful.
posted by NoraReed at 6:59 PM on September 11, 2014


"Fuck you" and "that fucking sucks" are just not the same kind of beast. At all.

To some people it is though. For example, customer service reps, some can roll with you cursing if it's not directly at them. Other can't take cursing at all and will ask you to knock it off. I don't get it either, but I also don't get how people can't like cheese. I feel there has to something fundamentally off at a genetic level if you don't like any type of cheese.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:02 PM on September 11, 2014


What are 'jimmies'?

It's an old slang term for underwear. Getting your jimmies rustled is a more male version of getting your panties in a bunch.


Oh. That's somewhat mundane.

I think I will continue believing that every misogynist gamer has abducted a number of young men named 'James' and confined in them in a box, which they then shake vigorously every time they read something they disagree with on the intarwebs.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:03 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]




"they were correcting your reading of what she actually meant": "without trying to understand why you read it that way".

I don't actually disagree with that latter part. I agree that there were not a lot of efforts to dismantle misha's reactions to NoraReed's comments; to try to dig down to where they might be coming from; to attribute her (mis)reading to... what? To an unfamiliarity with conversations about misogyny? Some other source of best intentions?

I mean, like, if misha (and misha, I'm sorry if it feels like I'm "targeting" you, but you wrote the comment that I responded to, and then usouaq responded to that, and now I'm responding to him, so it's really tricky to leave your name out of it) were a brand-new participant here, and it could therefore be assumed that the brand-new user maybe didn't participate in a lot of conversations about sexism or misogyny or anything like that -- here or in real life or anywhere else -- I think the reaction would have been more marshmallow-y. But misha is not an unfamiliar face in Metafilter threads about those things. And that is great! I think more Metafilter users should be familiar faces in threads about women's issues/gay rights/stuff that matters to me a whole hell of a lot! Yayness!

But because she's not a rookie, and because she has stated her positions often enough that people feel like they know where she's coming from, there should also not be a "let's examine where misha is really coming from before responding to her comment" rule. At some point, after being here long enough and as people begin to "know" you, that requirement is off the table.

Again, misha, I'm sorry if it feels like I'm making this about you. I'm not doing that intentionally. I'm just responding to what's front and center right now.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:14 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, I didn't mean to imply that misha has a known position in threads about gay rights. I was just listing things that are important to me. Sorry if it came across otherwise.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:17 PM on September 11, 2014


Yeah, Martin Luther King and the NAACP and SNCC etc. were on some complete bullshit when they used that tactic.

That wasn't their method at all. They provoked white violence by violating, en masse, the dictates of white supremacist society. What are you talking about?


Are you serious? They provoked violence by using non-violentce and civilly violating the dictates of white supremacist society. They were all concerned about civilty, tone, niceness and respectability politics. There is a reason Claudette Colvin is not a household name and Rosa Parks is. And that reason is respectability politics.

From wiki about sit-ins: (emphasis mine)
The protesters had been encouraged to dress professionally, to sit quietly, and to occupy every other stool so that potential white sympathizers could join in.


From Wikipedia about the March on Washington:
(emphasis mine)
John Lewis of SNCC was the youngest speaker at the event.[82] His speech—which a number of SNCC activists had helped write—took the Administration to task for how little it had done to protect southern blacks and civil rights workers under attack in the Deep South.[41][83] Cut from his original speech at the insistence of more conservative and pro-Kennedy leaders[5][84] were phrases such as:

In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration's civil rights bill, for it is too little and too late. ...

I want to know, which side is the federal government on?...

The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts. Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. Congressman. Listen, fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won't be a "cooling-off" period.

...We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground—nonviolently...

John Lewis speaking in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress on the 50th anniversary, August 28, 2013

Copies of the SNCC speech were distributed on August 27, and met with immediate disapproval from many of the organizers. Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle objected most strenuously to a part of the speech that called for immediate action and disavowed "patience". The government (and more moderate civil rights leaders) could not countenance SNCC's explicit opposition of Kennedy's civil rights bill. That night, O'Boyle and other members of the Catholic delegation began preparing a statement announcing their withdrawal from the March.
Reuther convinced them to wait and called Rustin; Rustin informed Lewis at 2 A.M. on August 28 that his speech was unacceptable to key members of the March. (Rustin also reportedly contacted Tom Kahn, mistakenly believing that Kahn had edited the speech and inserted the line about Sherman's March to the Sea. Rustin asked, "How could you do this? Do you know what Sherman did?) But Lewis did not want to change the speech. Other members of SNCC, including Stokely Carmichael, were also adamant that the speech not be censored.[85]

The dispute continued until minutes before talks were scheduled to begin. Under threat of public denouncement by the religious leaders, and under pressure from the rest of his coalition, Lewis agreed to omit the 'inflammatory' passages.[86] Many activists from SNCC, CORE, and even SCLC were angry at what they considered censorship of his speech.[87]


Author James Baldwin was prevented from speaking at the March on the grounds that his comments would be too inflammatory.
Of there are interesting arguments to make about whether people like Robert F. Williams with their arguments for violent self defense made the non-violent protestor's less likely to be met with lethal violence by white people, but that doesn't seem relevant to this thread since no one is talking about violent self defense.

Now, I'm not saying Nora Reed or anyone else has to give a fuck about that as they are not participating in a national civil rights campaign. But implying that civilty, tone, niceness and respectibality politics are useless when fighting for righs is ridiculous.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:23 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


mudpuppie, I meant something more along the lines of "it looks like you're reading comment X as saying Y and responding to Y, whereas I think comment X was intended to say Z". As you say, this isn't misha-specific; I just think we often say "your response to comment X is wrong wrong wrong" and then the argument spools on; we might save some space and time by saying "your response to comment X seems like it was based on misreading comment X" -- no particular need to psychoanalyze the misreading, just to see *how* comment X could be misread, in the way that "intentionally alienate" *could* be read as "go out of my way to piss people off".
posted by uosuaq at 7:29 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's an old slang term for underwear. Getting your jimmies rustled is a more male version of getting your panties in a bunch."

The earliest reference to "Jimmies" as underwear that I can find is 1999, as a Scottish rhyming slang based off of "Jimmy Durantes" to "panties." (That seems pretty dubious, honestly. Jimmy Durante wasn't exactly current in 1999.)

Contra my previous statement (and really, a professional — Languagehat — should take over since my access to real slang reference books is limited), that same dictionary lists "jimmy hat" as occurring back to the '70s, specifically with the variant "Jim hat."

But more to the point, "jimmies" (as a variant of "jim-jams") has been used as an idiom to describe the heebie-jeebies since the mid-1800s. Since "rustle my jimmies" means essentially the same thing as the earlier usage of "gives me the jimmies," I'm gonna bet it's an outgrowth of that phrasing.

(Unless it was all Weezer.)
posted by klangklangston at 7:29 PM on September 11, 2014


"But implying that civilty, tone, niceness and respectibality politics are useless when fighting for righs is ridiculous."

No one is implying that. And while you're at Wikipedia, you might see if there's an entry on the Letter from Birmingham Jail, where King specifically addresses the other side of respectability politics.
posted by klangklangston at 7:32 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


"Fuck the whole "civility" thing and "Fuck the related shit too, like respectability politics." can reasonably be read as implying they are useless absent further clarification or understanding of the context in which she is saying those things.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


The protesters had been encouraged to dress professionally, to sit quietly, and to occupy every other stool so that potential white sympathizers could join in.

I think the fact that people from marginalized groups have to try so much harder to look "respectable" and are held to much higher standards of "civility" is 100% grade-A unadulterated bullshit and the fact that the folks from marginalized groups with other tactics ended up less popular with the privileged and therefore were less remembered in history because of this is also bullshit, especially considering that the version of history that ends up being talked about and promoted is the one that tones down radical action and anger, so a lot of the big civil rights figures end up being weirdly sanitized

One can acknowledge that playing along with the privileged people's games can get you ahead in them and still realize that those games are sick and rigged.

I don't fault anyone from marginalized groups who use the social constructs of civility and respectability in order to get the recognition that they deserve, because everyone does what they have to do in order to survive. But these constructs are used in a variety of ways, including the Derailing For Dummies "you're angry so I don't have to listen to you" tactic, the erasure of non-normative queer people for fear of "hurting the movement" by scaring the heteros, the way fat people often have to dress up far more than thin ones in order to be taken seriously and the use of everything from accusations of being to angry to the characterization of demonstrations as "riots" in order to disenfranchise, demoralize and dehumanize Black people.

Using the fact that it's possible to get people who are propped up by their privilege to places they don't deserve to be to do the listening that they should've done in the first place by using these tactics is beyond shitty, and frankly I find the way that you are attempting to co-opt these movements based on the bullshit that they were forced to engage in in order to be taken seriously is goddamn shameful. Of course respectability politics are useful. Bullshit is useful, too, if you need something to make a fire with. Doesn't stop it from stinking.
posted by NoraReed at 7:45 PM on September 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


Still useful, though.
posted by uosuaq at 7:49 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, yes, if I created a fucking zombie plague and then made a vaccine for it, the vaccine would be useful, but we wouldn't have need it if I hadn't created the fucking plague in the first place.

If there wasn't this giant, culturally enforced narrative of holding marginalized groups to different standards than everyone else and forcing people to jump through financial hoops like owning the right clothes in order to look "presentable" to be taken seriously and all that other shit, there would be no reason to do it. I mean, even if you don't give a shit about racism or sexism or anti-fat bullshit or whatever else, creating these all these ridiculous hoops to force people to jump through to prove themselves worthy of basic humanity is a ridiculous waste of human time and energy that could be spent on better things.
posted by NoraReed at 7:56 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Or worse ones.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:02 PM on September 11, 2014



Or worse ones.

What?
posted by sweetkid at 8:04 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


couldn't you say that about everything though

like "oh yes I think the hold times when you call customer service representatives at your ISP are wonderful, because they keep people from getting up to WORSE THINGS"

"thank god for DMV lines, keepin' kids off the streets"
posted by NoraReed at 8:05 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


So why isn't it a good idea to think about what the most useful approach to fixing the cultural zombie plague is? Widespread riots might have an effect, but I don't think anger and cussing get us very far. Maybe they motivate the base, I don't know.
posted by uosuaq at 8:06 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


So why isn't it a good idea to think about what the most useful approach to fixing the cultural zombie plague is?

Because it's not actually NoraReed's job to fix it, if we're still actually talking about sexism.
posted by dialetheia at 8:09 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anger sends the message that what is happening is not okay. It afflicts the comfortable. It validates oppressed people as people, with feelings, and it validates that those feelings matter.
posted by jaguar at 8:10 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Sometimes yeah, sometimes nah.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


dialetheia, if I read your comment in the uncharitable way I've been describing, it would go something like: "it's not NoraReed's job to fix our cultural problems, therefore it's not a good idea to think about what the most useful approach to fixing them is". Seriously, that's the literal meaning of what you wrote. Just making a point here. That's not how I read your comment.

NoraReed's last comment comes across to me as "shit is fucked up and bullshit and it's unfair", and I don't even know what I'm supposed to be disagreeing with there.
posted by uosuaq at 8:14 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry nosuaq, I should clarify. I'm saying that this conversation about methods is happening in the context of people chiding NoraReed about her methods because they are unproductive. I'm simply pointing out that whether or not they are productive is orthogonal to how NoraReed should behave, because she is not personally responsible for fixing sexism. Does that make sense? The conversation is worth having, just not as a means to tell one person how they should behave or respond to sexist behavior.
posted by dialetheia at 8:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of the other downsides to respectability politics is that it often plays into classism within marginalized groups, which an ultimately end up with a "you're not like THEM" situation, where "THEM" is used as a cudgel even as members of the group move upwards classwise. Racism itself was a way to marginalize white people who were of the lower classes, as initially they were more inclined to side with Free Black People who were also poor.

A similar thing happens with sexism, where certain women (white, middle class, upper class of color, etc...) receive some advantages based on various characteristics which further marginalize other women.

Part of the benefit of a more intersectional way of parsing discrimination is that one can account for how internalized sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia play themselves out within marginalized groups. The woman who first suggested the term, Kimberlé Crenshaw, was inspired (if my memory is correct) by a court case which was thrown out because the plaintiff was both black and a woman, and so it was impossible to specify how much of her treatment was a result of sexism or racism, and so no remuneration or restitution would be made since the sexism charge was reasonable doubt for it not being racism, and vice versa.

My read of a lot of the feminists on MetaFilter is that we try to be aware of the failings of the rights movements of the past so that we can build a more just future. It is useless for me to focus on the positives of Women's Suffrage while ignoring the racism that was sometimes used by it's leadership. Similarly, I can admire the Civil Rights movement while acknowledging that how both they and the wider, white-dominated culture marginalized women and women's voices.

Transphobia, homophobia, and ableism likewise are often both implicit and explicit within various social justice movements, and I personally find that unacceptable. Fixing it begins with being able to identify and discuss it, however, and often that involves discomforting the complacent, even if they are socially justice minded. I would not be the advocate I am today if I hadn't been called out for my egregious racism in my early twenties, and facing up to my transphobia radically altered my approach across multiple axis as I sought to be less of an asshole.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [17 favorites]


It's not a good idea to think about what the most useful approach to fixing things is to the exclusion of everything else. I seem to remember someone else saying this upthread, but not every single conversation about systemic injustices needs to be an activist action-planning committee meeting. It is absolutely valuable to express your own feelings, including anger and frustration and hurt, to get validation from other people who have had similar experiences and similar feelings, and to draw strength from recognizing that you're not alone, you're not crazy, and you're not just making things up.

Figuring out what to do is useful, but it's really only a piece of the puzzle, and not always the most important. Especially when it's prioritized over letting people whose feelings are always dismissed express those feelings.

Oppressed people expressing anger, in and of itself, is a radical act. It's a reclaiming of humanity. Short-circuiting that expression to focus on actions that are less challenging to the status quo is a mistake.
posted by jaguar at 8:23 PM on September 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


Sure, dialetheia, and that's pretty much what I figured you were thinking. (I was kind of exploiting your comment to expand on some earlier stuff I was saying about how easy it is to respond to the letter rather than the spirit of a comment.)
I do think there's some crosstalk here between pondering what strategies are most productive and raging (with full justification) against the system.
posted by uosuaq at 8:25 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Are you serious? They provoked violence by using non-violentce and civilly violating the dictates of white supremacist society.

100% serious. Their nonviolence was confrontational and provocative. They may have tried to put the calmest face possible on that confrontation, but it's 100% nonsense to pretend that Martin Luther King's movement (insofar as we can identify it with him) was a peaceful, calm argument that convinced white people to voluntarily concede their power through pure reason, obvious moral right, and gosh darn it, its sheer civility, as is often the pretense when people treat a bunch of bums on a message board talking about political issues that matter to them as though they were making Serious Plans For The Progress Of The Movement.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:26 PM on September 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


I recently started reading Two Cheers for Anarchism, and early on the author makes some pretty good arguments about how actual (unorganized) civil unrest, or the threat of it -- uncivility, if you will -- often has a far bigger impact than the actions of existing organizations (unions, NAACP, whatever), basically because they put the fear of God into people/government and force change to happen promptly. So I'm ready to give uncivility a place...but mainly on the street. On Metafilter I still lean towards civility.
posted by uosuaq at 8:37 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's fine. People differ.
posted by klangklangston at 8:52 PM on September 11, 2014


Their nonviolence was confrontational and provocative.

Exactly. And you can tell that it was perceived as such because they were firehosed off the streets and had their churches bombed, their volunteers murdered, and their leader assassinated. Those are not the responses of people who perceive the actions of those on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement to be civil and polite. There were 11 bombings in Birmingham in 1963 alone.

It's not that civility and politeness are useless; it's that the people doing to protesting aren't the ones who set the rules about what constitutes "enough" civility and politeness. Dr. King dressed well and spoke well and I don't think ever called anyone an asshole in public and they still murdered him. Civility and politeness are fine but they are far from enough.
posted by rtha at 9:06 PM on September 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


Seriously, if the reaction to Dr. King is being held as an example of how "civility" works, people might want to find a more convincing example.
posted by jaguar at 9:14 PM on September 11, 2014


Are you suggesting Dr. King's project would have fared better had it not emphasized "civility"?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's as though everyone hears "turn the other cheek" as a commandment to passive surrender, instead of a defiant "go on, motherfucker, do it again if you're so tough". The tenets of nonviolent disobedience are predicated on the idea that your oppressors are so rabid that they will not see how they degrade themselves and their unjust cause in every blow to your body.

I personally also believe that they are predicated on the notion that there will be a corresponding violent wing to which one may suddenly present the palatable alternative. MLK and Gandhi needed Malcolm X and Nehru. But that's a different conversation than the one we're having.
posted by Errant at 9:22 PM on September 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


I more or less agree with the part about X & Nehru. I'm less comfortable with Metafilter becoming the place for that wing (or its Internet-discourse analog) to set up shop, though, and with it becoming a place for "expressing anger, in and of itself," "radical act" though it may be. That would, after all, be a very different Metafilter, which may be why there's been some blowback to the recent spate of social justice ragefests.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:28 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Anger can be expressed kindly. It's not always "civil" (which I tend to think of as the gender-neutral version of "ladylike"), but it does not in any way require scorched-earth tactics.

It does require that people requesting intellectualization, detachment, and moderation realize that they're not automatically in the right.
posted by jaguar at 9:37 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


It requires that people resisting intellectualization, detachment, and moderation do so as well.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:41 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


What worked or didn't work for the Civil Rights Movement is pretty immaterial to how MetaFilter should be. It's not an activist or a social justice site, let alone a social movement.
posted by spaltavian at 9:50 PM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Coordinated asymmetric warfare is a little different than saying something pisses you off and has for a while. I understand the point you're making, but I do not believe this is merely a difference of degree. I'm not MLK when I ask someone to consider the ramifications of a comment, and I'm not Malcolm X because I swear a lot. There is, in my view, a place for the public venting of this accumulated negative, oppressive energy.

Having said that, I am sympathetic to the idea that Metafilter isn't or shouldn't be that place. I am on board with the idea that this site can't be all things to all people. There are a number of people throughout the years who have decried Metafilter's emphasis on civility over "truth to power" or whatever. I think it is even more hypocritical than I, a notorious disregarder of what I preach, can manage to say to one group of people, "if you don't like it, go somewhere else", and not say that to people I agree with also.

I think we have investments and connections in this weird shared space. And so it feels like a betrayal when that space rejects a comment of yours or tells you that this space isn't right for that thing. I've felt it. I went away for a while because the way we talk about Asian shit bothered the hell out of me. But this isn't just mine, and while we should always try to make it better, it has to be better for as many people as can fit into our already-guarded community.

I hope it's obvious that I'm not talking about simply accepting intolerant bullshit. But this site shouldn't be all privilege, all the time. There are plenty of other places for that. One of the compromises I have to make, as I've alluded to, is not to call out every piece of garbage I encounter. But I accept that compromise willingly, if sometimes painfully, because what I get out of this site is worth more than what I would get out of flipping out every minute.

Maybe other people don't feel as reluctant as I do to rock the boat. Maybe I'm a coward. I guess the only thing I can say about that is when I rock the boat, it's to flip that shit over because I'm done being in it. I have a very hard time imagining that anyone rocks it for kicks, because, you know, fear death by water.
posted by Errant at 9:51 PM on September 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


It requires that people resisting intellectualization, detachment, and moderation do so as well.

No, actually, it doesn't. "Detachment" as an ideal is almost always an oppressive construct. The idea that men are more "dispassionate" and therefore more "logical" on women's issues is a form of oppression. Ditto white people on racism, straight people on gay rights, and on and on. If you are here to reinforce the unjust status quo, it will be pointed out that you are doing so.
posted by jaguar at 9:53 PM on September 11, 2014 [15 favorites]


OK, jaguar, how much of this is stuff that applies to the world, and how much applies here on MetaFilter?

Because it currently seems as if you're saying that if someone is angry and oppressed, then anyone who suggests calming things down is the oppressor. This might not be an activist action-planning committee meeting, but it's also not a place for people to vent their frustrations or solidify their group. This is a community website that's not well-served by righteous anger, and especially not by anger that will be defended as a radical act of reclamation from an oppressive society. It's like you took the tone argument and went all-in on its implications.

This is not a consciousness-raising seminar, as has been made pointedly clear several times. This should be a place where suggesting people be civil isn't almost always being oppressive.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:26 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


"No, actually, it doesn't. "Detachment" as an ideal is almost always an oppressive construct."

I'd disagree with that frame — I think detachment certainly can be an oppressive rhetorical tool, but it can also be a really important part of justice, in the sense of not having a stake in either party. Those are fair examples of how "detachment" is often appealed to, but in none of those cases is the person actually detached — they all have at the very least an inertial bias toward the status quo.

I can understand wanting to rule out detachment as an ideal, not least because someone who enjoys normative privilege is often immune to the reality that actual detachment is incredibly rare for anything that matters (unconscious bias cat is unconsciously biased), but arguments like women making, what is it, 81 cents on the dollar being unfair are based at least in part on a detached ideal of wage equality: A disinterested party can see that's unfair.

Detachment isn't a valid justification for an argument, but it can still be an ideal that's not inherently oppressive.
posted by klangklangston at 10:28 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Detachment" as an ideal is almost always an oppressive construct. The idea that men are more "dispassionate" and therefore more "logical" on women's issues is a form of oppression. Ditto white people on racism, straight people on gay rights, and on and on.

Yeah but when I'm talking as a member of a group that takes a lot of shit I've had some very, let's politely refer to it as passionate, comments sent my way at times that I don't think added anything positive to the conversation. On a site like Metafilter where there are diverse views put out there even among various groups the calls for civility are often coming from inside the house. So yeah, people should step back and at least reflect in cases where they are commenting on other members. I don't think I would have been talked to the way I was if people were in a headspace where, "Maybe I'm misinterpreting what he is saying and can approach this differently," was more up for consideration.

I do take to heart the advice from the other side there too, if you are making somebody angry enough to say things that hurt you maybe it means you aren't doing a good job of communicating.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:32 PM on September 11, 2014


"This is a community website that's not well-served by righteous anger, and especially not by anger that will be defended as a radical act of reclamation from an oppressive society."

That's begging the question something fierce. In an open thread on the Blue, we're talking about Grandmaster Flash in large part because of The Message, which is pretty entirely righteous anger. And decrying something based on how it will be defended is weak sauce.

"This is not a consciousness-raising seminar, as has been made pointedly clear several times. This should be a place where suggesting people be civil isn't almost always being oppressive."

The vast, vast majority of interactions here on MeFi are civil. Even the suggestions to be civil are often helpful. But that doesn't mean that they're almost always not oppressive, and that's especially true within a lot of social justice contexts, specifically where it is someone with normative privilege typing it at someone who is talking about their marginalization.

And doing things like saying 'This is not a consciousness-raising seminar' is implying that jaguar suggested it was. She didn't. She said that she feels that detachment is almost always an oppressive ideal. By sarcastically belittling her in the same comment as calling for more civility, you're proving her point and ironically supporting one of Misha's contentions from the post.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 PM on September 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


rtha, Dr King et al weren't trying to be civil and polite to Southerners. Their audience was the rest of America that wasn't all crazy racist like the people in the South and they wanted to look good to them.

Yes, being civil, and polite and respectable isn't enough (I am sure if the Civil Rights movement would have succeeded without tv showing the brutality of the South), as "power concedes nothing without a demand." You have to state your demands and be firm about them and assertive but I think you can do that and still be civil.


it's that the people doing to protesting aren't the ones who set the rules about what constitutes "enough" civility and politeness.


I read on Kung fu Monkey that 30% of people are just crazy (the actual post was a bit more complicated than that). So say 30% of people are just hardcore racists. You don't listen to them about polities and civility. It's the 70% percent of people who are kind of racist but not that committed to it that you, should avoid trying to really piss off. Upsetting and annoying people is fine but like really trying to enrage them isn't going to help. You have to get their sympathy. I think every society has unwritten guidelines about how to protest. Pushing against those lines and even over is good. But I don't think tramping right over them full speed ahead is going to help the cause.

What worked or didn't work for the Civil Rights Movement is pretty immaterial to how MetaFilter should be. It's not an activist or a social justice site, let alone a social movement.

Yeah, but if you are fighting against sexism/racism/etc, it can't hurt to look at other movements that worked. But you're kind of right. I shouldn't this civil rights derail. So, I think I'm going to bow out of thi civil rights discussion.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:47 PM on September 11, 2014


Just assume that all of my suggestions for discussions on this site are supportive of the already-in-place guidelines, and klangklangston's last comment covered the rest of it.
posted by jaguar at 10:47 PM on September 11, 2014


Are you suggesting Dr. King's project would have fared better had it not emphasized "civility"?

I feel like this is vaguely directed at me, and I'm not sure there's any way we could know. Based on what some of the much more informed people have said on various blogs, I think the biggest change Dr. King brought about was for black people, not white people, and that is largely invisible because white people own the media and write the history books.

From what these people said, the lynchings and systematized murders following the Civil War led to quasi-slavery and vulnerability on the part of all black communities, in which any black people who attempted to build anything valuable or worthwhile would be killed if they came to the attention of the largely hostile white population surrounding them. The use of civility by the Civil Right's movement was strategic - in addition to teaching black people that they could survive widespread violence when they worked together, they played on the morality of moderate white people who liked to think that they were moral, equitable, and high minded.

The downside of that was calls for patience and politeness at the mouths of those same "allies", something addressed by King in Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The legacy was that once King was murdered the Civil Rights era was deemed "over" and right thinking people "won." This was followed rapidly by two things among the white people running things - colorblind racism ("I don't see race") which was taught to children like me, and the anti-drug and anti-welfare campaigns replete with racial dog-whistles which have implemented a new, more limited but still effective, form of Jim Crow (people convicted of federal drug offenses often lose their right to vote and while incarcerated are used for cheap labor) - and which remains enforced by periodic murders of young black men (one every day and a half).

So I guess I'm saying that now I feel like civility isn't sufficient, but it can be a valuable tool if deployed thoughtfully. I wouldn't presume to judge King and those who worked with him's choices in that area, though; my way of thinking doesn't dovetail easily with that sort of strategic thinking, and so any assessment I make would be suspect. I tend to talk people into getting away from me as quickly as they can - not always a valuable skill.

Demanding individuals not associated with the sort of organized movement that the Civil Right's period was led by is nonsense, however. One of the issues with calls for civility here is that it posits anyone who is speaking about their own experiences, when those experiences can somehow be grouped in with "social justice" is somehow representing an organized movement, and that isn't true at all - especially in discussion areas on the internet. Also, the idea of "civility" is a slippery thing; in terms of the Civil Rights movement it meant wearing suits and not fighting back when attacked, neither of which are relevant here.

I think that discussions that are this important are always messy, and nearly always involve hurt feelings on a lot of sides. I'm not sure any calls for "civility" would actually change this - it would just add another layer of dissembling on top of what is already in place. We've already wandered around the "you are not your ideas" garden, but the truth I think most of us know is that while we are not our ideas, our ideas reflect on who we are and what we believe - and most people like to think that we're Right and Good, and anything bad we do is a result of Circumstances.

Personally, though, I value the pain I felt around doing fucked up things and being called on it (or, more often, not; one of the cruelest things I ever did I got a complete pass on and didn't realize how fucked up it was until years later, much too late to make any sort of reasonable amends). It means I care, and I want to be good, and that wanting to be good and kind is more important to me than wanting to be Right, when the chips are down. It hurts, but it makes me better.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:52 PM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


It's the 70% percent of people who are kind of racist but not that committed to it that you, should avoid trying to really piss off.

I realize you're taking a break, nooneyouknow, so this is not directed at only you. But: Why? Why should I, a commenter on a site with, what, 40,000 people? In a country of more than 300 million, in a world of more than seven billion, have grave enough worries about pissing off 28,000 people, assuming Metafilter is representative of your 70% estimate, that I should swallow my actual thoughts about how 300M-7B people act?

I am very much for compromise in talking with 40,000 MeFi members about how MeFi should be run. I think it's totally silly to say that I need to compromise with everyone on MeFi about how to end worldwide oppression. I have no problems if people disagree with me -- I will state my disagreement, if I have the energy to do so at the time, but I don't think everyone is always required to agree with me -- but I will not muzzle myself as an ideological choice in order to make 28,000 people feel better about their beliefs.
posted by jaguar at 10:55 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have a hard time reading this comment as anything but an example of what misha was trying to draw attention to with her post: a bad-faith labeling of Mefites as members of oppressive groups.

Could someone guide me to a more charitable reading? Because I can only seem to parse it as something like "support for or defense of reasoned, detached dialogue is akin to gaslighting or silencing of women and is thus always a tool of the patriarchy."

I'm being sincere here and am not at all trying to pick fights with jaguar--quite the opposite. I want to be shown that I'm reading the comment wrong.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:58 PM on September 11, 2014


This is not in reference to any specific comment or commenter. I have a really stupid, Stuart Smalley thing (fuck I'm old) that I wish everyone, including me, would say every morning :

I have been and will be racist. I'm not a racist.
I have been and will be sexist. I'm not a sexist
I have been and will be homophobic. I'm not a homophobe.
I have been and will be transphobic (incidentally, the only one of those words that I had to teach my phone, because privilege). I am not transphobic.

I have been and will be intolerant. I'm not intolerant.

These things are only what you are if you dig in and make them what you are. No one wants you to be those things, except people you hate; everyone wants to believe that it's a bad statement and you're not a bad person. Sincerely. The only people working in this area, and I actually want to say "working" because they're not helping, who won't give you or me a chance are people who never were going to give you a chance. Fuck them. Who gives a shit?

You can't disappoint someone you had no hope of doing proud. You can always impress someone who is willing to be impressed by you. In the meantime, know that you're going to fuck up, and it doesn't mean that you're a fuck-up.
posted by Errant at 11:02 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well, I can explain what I actually meant. If other people read it differently, then I'm willing to accept that I failed expressing my beliefs.

In mainstream society, being "logical" and "reasonable" and "detached" about social justice issues are valued so much that anyone who can be judged as in any way personally affected by those issues are generally dismissed as "emotional" or "biased." I have often had arguments with men who thought that my being a woman automatically discounted any opinions I had on sexism, because they decided I was automatically biased. The Economist recently ran a piece arguing that someone siding with slaves in antebellum America was not presenting a balanced view of history. Often, calls for "logic" and "reason" and "balance" are used as ways of discounting lived experience.

I also think that the specter of oppressed-groups' anger is profoundly upsetting for in-power groups, because I think many compassionate members of in-power groups really recognize how valid and deserved that anger is, and because I think many not-so-compassionate members of in-power groups recognize at an instinctual level that if oppressed groups' anger was recognized and validated and honored, they'd be in deep deep shit.

However, we all live in a society, and we all need, and want, to communicate with each other. I do try, in most of my own comments, to be as honest and non-rhetorical as possible, and I think it's helpful when others adopt the same policy. I do think, however, given societal pressure on members of oppressed groups to avoid offense, to "be nice," to stay subservient, that any additional pressure to couch one's anger in a manner acceptable to The Man is helping to perpetuate the status quo.

As someone who grew up in the US Midwest where "nice" is often valued above "honest," I do not in any way assign ill intent to people hammering on "being nice." But, like the "color-blind" thing, people with good intent can nevertheless support and perpetuate negative effects. I think, in general, calls for civility -- as opposed to calls for respect -- tend to support and perpetuate negative effects.
posted by jaguar at 11:15 PM on September 11, 2014 [17 favorites]


jaguar: "Detachment" as an ideal is almost always an oppressive construct.

klang, I was using the original terminology for the most part. I would have had much less of an issue with jaguar's comment if it had even suggested that it was anger that came from their reaction to their oppression, or as you phrased it, someone with normative privilege typing it at someone who is talking about their marginalization, because that at least is context. But it wasn't placed in context, it was just anger - "Oppressed people expressing anger, in and of itself, is a radical act".
I was not attempting to decry it for how it would be defended, instead, decrying it for an implication (based on the topic of this thread) that it could be defended automatically on those grounds. I asked for clarification on context because the way that I read it it said that.

And doing things like saying 'This is not a consciousness-raising seminar' is implying that jaguar suggested it was. She didn't.

No, she implied this was "an activist action-planning committee meeting" instead, or at least that commenters suggesting civility were trying to turn it into one. Sharing and agreeing and being angry together has its value, but not nearly so much here, where outragefilter and echo chamber status are generally not good.

I did not mean this to be sarcastic, so I suppose I am not the only one who is supporting misha's original post; however, I don't think it ironic, since I agreed with several of her original points, if not her suggestions of action or many of her subsequent comments. Because while the community here has a strong pull towards certain social justice standards, this is not a social justice website, as has been made very clear by the mods.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:17 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could someone guide me to a more charitable reading?

It looks like they're just talking basic sociology to me. The way we construct "debate" or whatever rewards people who are able to detatch from what they're talking about; passion is seen as hysteria, threatening rage, a joke or even a goal if somebody is trolling to make people feel bad. This favors people with less skin in the game, aka privileged people.
posted by NoraReed at 11:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Could someone guide me to a more charitable reading? Because I can only seem to parse it as something like "support for or defense of reasoned, detached dialogue is akin to gaslighting or silencing of women and is thus always a tool of the patriarchy.""

I'm not trying to speak for jaguar, but in two different comments I both disagreed with her about her framing and pointed out why I think what you're doing misreads her comment. A big part of it is the "always a tool of the patriarchy." No one's arguing that calls for civility are always a tool of the patriarchy, but rather that many of them are, and a majority of those calls for civility and detachment within specific contexts are de facto reinforcements of the patriarchy (or white supremacy or homophobia, etc.).

Something else that I think is worth considering — and this isn't something I saw in jaguar's comment, so I'm not ascribing it — is that many of the calls to end what homophobic or racist or sexist comments here is also a call for civility. That so many outspoken women are lumped into the "uncivil" category for reacting angrily to a set of comments that often are subjectively indistinguishable by those made by people who are advancing the campaign of oppressing women, and not those folks making the initial comments, is a signal about how different rhetorical framings are constructed and those framings influence this conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 11:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thanks, jaguar and NoraReed. But I'm already well aware that calls for civility are used to maintain status quo power relationships, but I'm still a little bummed to find that jaguar believes they "almost always" serve that purpose (although in the comment above, jaguar seems to have switched to "often," I guess).

These explanations are dispiriting to me because one of the things I've found good about my time here (coming up on 14 years I think!) is how often reasoned discourse has guided discussions in meaningful, positive, and even progressive directions, and the fact that that my own attempts to maintain an even keel and a reasoned tone on here are being interpreted as patriarchal oppression seems to validate misha's complaint.

On preview: Thanks, klangklangston, as well. I appreciate your time and effort.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:27 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


"But it wasn't placed in context, it was just anger - "Oppressed people expressing anger, in and of itself, is a radical act"."

Surely this conversation gives you enough context to infer her meaning and not dismiss a fairly clear and cogent point as "just anger." Saying that "Oppressed people expressing anger, in and of itself, is a radical act" is not just anger. Describing it as such seems to preclude you from addressing it as an argument.

"No, she implied this was "an activist action-planning committee meeting" instead,"

No, she didn't. She said that "but not every single conversation about systemic injustices needs to be an activist action-planning committee meeting." You're right that she was reacting to people making over-broad claims for the utility of abstract civility, but in the specific context that discussions about systemic justice don't inherently have to have the goal of solving those problems. You missed her point or misconstrued it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 PM on September 11, 2014


the fact that that my own attempts to maintain an even keel and a reasoned tone on here are being interpreted as patriarchal oppression

Anyone's policing or moderating of their own behavior is not, and pretty much by definition cannot be, oppressive. My concern is users calling for other users to change their behavior.

I think leading by example is wonderful. I think chastising other users for their tone is oppressive. I would love for more users to be as honest and kind and open-minded as possible in their own behavior, and I would also love for more users to be less quick to take comments about their comments personally and for users to be waaaay less quick to rush the defense of users who are taking personally comments about their comments. If people would work on being honest and kind about their own anger rather than being censorious about other people's anger, I suspect we'd have much more productive conversations.
posted by jaguar at 11:34 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


"and the fact that that my own attempts to maintain an even keel and a reasoned tone on here are being interpreted as patriarchal oppression seems to validate misha's complaint."

I don't think anyone has any problem with you keeping an even tone — not speaking for jaguar, but I don't think she's cursing the lack of outsized emotion from you. The problem is in telling other people to keep an even tone (along with the frequent fallacious notion that the one most able to keep a cool tone is the one who has the better argument).
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


And with that object lesson in how jaguar's perfectly capable of explaining herself, it's time for me to bow out for a while.
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay, that makes more sense, and I couldn't agree more about that fallacious notion, of course. (And we arrived at agreement with cool, reasoned discourse!)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:37 PM on September 11, 2014


klangklangston, no need to bow out on my account; I considered posting a notice that I was happy with you responding-by-proxy for me. I appreciate your contributions, and please take care of yourself as you need.
posted by jaguar at 11:38 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


(And we arrived at agreement with cool, reasoned discourse!)

Yeah, but you know why? Because neither of us told the other that our feelings were invalid or clouding our judgment (thank you for that). So that's another benefit to avoiding the whole "Stop being angry" tact -- it generally makes the other person more angry, which is not great for encouraging reasoned discourse.
posted by jaguar at 11:40 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I have no interest in telling people how to feel or not feel. No use in doing that at all. I do think it behooves us to consider how we express ourselves, especially in a community as diverse and in many ways impersonal as this one, but I'm not the boss of anyone (on here, at least).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think part of the way I see it is also that someone being bigoted has already broken the social contract about politeness, no matter how cool their tone is when they do it, so it's ok to call out that behavior however the fuck you want as long as you aren't being oppressive doing it. Others feel differently and that's fine, but I feel totally okay both expressing my passion in a way that isn't directed and in a way that points towards people engaging in oppressive behaviors.

A big thing for me is that I'm not likely to win hearts and minds by being a Good Woman or a Good Queer, but I can stand up and take up space and yell as loud as I want that I'm here and that I'm not gonna be fucking nice about this shit so even if people are evil bigots in their hearts they might shit their traps about it around me because they fear me (or don't want to bother getting into it, either is fine). I'm not trying to bring about the badass queer cyborg revolution just by making spaces that are queer-friendly; I'm trying to at least make a little bubble around me that's bigot-hostile.

I'd make a terrible princess, you see, but a fucking GLORIOUS dragon.
posted by NoraReed at 11:55 PM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


Dragons live alone. Metafilter is crowded.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:57 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe I can shrink myself down and walk among the humans to learn their strange customs and sample their waxy chocolate sprinkles! Maybe I am posting right now from my wifi-enabled golden hoard! MAYBE YOU'RE BEING SHAPESHIFTER-IST
posted by NoraReed at 12:09 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know who alters their appearance to walk among the commoners? THAT'S RIGHT A PRINCESS!

Busted.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:13 AM on September 12, 2014


dracophobic, even

just in case anyone can't tell I am joking here

about dragon oppression, I mean, I am not joking at all about my plan to become a glorious queer dragon cyborg, I still want to do that; I would sit on the front lawns of outspoken female game devs and critics and eat the puny mortals who dare attempt to harm them

and then maybe we could have some tea or something if they were interested, those women all seem like pretty cool folks from their twitters

posted by NoraReed at 12:15 AM on September 12, 2014


I love dragons.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:46 AM on September 12, 2014


💛🐉❤️🐲💗
posted by NoraReed at 12:53 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think leading by example is wonderful. I think chastising other users for their tone is oppressive.

I do too. But what if their tone is oppressive?

somebody probably already made this point. it's been a very long and complicated thread, but generally not oppressive. The Minutemen are a great band.
posted by philip-random at 1:01 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


To some people it is though. For example, customer service reps, some can roll with you cursing if it's not directly at them. Other can't take cursing at all and will ask you to knock it off.

The fact that some people might be uncomfortable with the word fuck in and of itself does not make the use of fucking as an intensifier an act of swearing at someone, or an attack. Mefi has rules against personal attacks. That means no fuck you, no you bastard, and even no you suck. But it sure as fuck doesn't mean no bloody intensifiers, no shitting swearing, or any god damn thing like that, regardless of who tells you to knock it off.

Some people may have weird perceptions of things, but fucking intensifiers are not even remotely the same kind of beast as "Fuck you". They fall on very different sides of rules against personal attacks.
posted by Dysk at 1:01 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


my own attempts to maintain an even keel and a reasoned tone on here are being interpreted as patriarchal oppression seems to validate misha's complaint.

I agree there's a commonality between your exchange just now and the first real example of what this OP is supposedly about (NoraReed breathing fire on waraw)—both are examples of people making kind of facile deflating/minimizing/point-missing types of comments, and experiencing some blowback for it.

Explaining the blowback involves explaining how it is kind of insulting and dismissive to ignore an important larger point and score some cheap points for a contrary or unimportant point, and leads into pointing out how this is actually pretty much just like ways people get oppressed.
posted by fleacircus at 1:06 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey, I just want to thank everybody who took the time to send some 'withdrawal symptoms suck' kindness my way. I really do appreciate it. I've been tearing up over the supportive statements in this thread, too. To be fair, I have been pretty teary in general lately, but still! It's all good.

That's all I came back for, really, just to say "Thanks, y'all."
posted by misha at 1:33 AM on September 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


For what it's worth, I started Effexor earlier this year, and then I unstarted Effexor very close to that. But after having titrated up, which means ever so slowly titrating down. I don't think I could say that it was the worst experience of my life, because that category has elite competition, but I can say that I have never been so simultaneously anxious and physically helpless. That was a three month process, with lingering effects on either calendar side. I don't remember a lot of it.

I have very much disliked most of the things you have had to say, and I will probably yell at you about them sometime later. Right now, I just want to tell you that the chemical scourge up and down your spine will go away. And, that the shaking isn't bad. The shaking means you're here. Here is good. The shaking means that you still work. Maybe not not all that well; who cares. You got it. I believe in you. Stick around and come have fights with me and us. We'll get mad and yell and despise each other for our intemperate, intractable opinions. But we'll be here to be mad. I'm not done screaming at you; please know that you are worth screaming at.
posted by Errant at 1:55 AM on September 12, 2014 [14 favorites]


It's frustrating to me when people who advocate libertarian policies of abolishing social safety nets such that the poor and disabled and struggling will be forced to starve/homelessness/survival sex/or theft to survive or treat medical conditions are often on the side saying "Oh hey let's all be CIVIL. Don't use insults"

If we want to stop using hurtful statements, let's address all of them, including people who are comfortable with those who are suffering dying off or suffering and struggling in pain and misery while they are slowly destroyed by cruel fate.

So to me, if we're just talking about all being nicer to each other, I like that. I like rainbows and sparkly hearts and stuff. And skipping! Let's all be really nice and stuff. But if we can't address CONTENT that is uncivil for what it is, it makes no sense to cry out for more "civility" when advocating more people die and suffer terribly is considered "civil" discourse.

I think saying that food supports structures should be dismantled is an insult to human welfare and right to live (including MEFITES who LIVE because of such support structures) so if we're going to delete or ask each other not to use insults or to insult the state of each other comments we probably should be willing to look at forms of hate and attacks on a persons worth and social status that are worded "nicely".
posted by xarnop at 4:07 AM on September 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


And Misha- I am totally sympathetic- having a whole huge thread of people all arguing with you is overwhelming and I think a really damaging experience even for healthy people. Add being emotionally vulnerability and not thinking clearly/health issues-- and I completely believe this has been really emotionally overwhelming and difficult and possibly you haven't worded or articulated your points quite as you would have liked.

Take care of yourself, warm baths, walks, rest, painting, pretty music?
posted by xarnop at 4:24 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


And I've said it before, activism doesn't work unless you bring to the places and communities bigotry and hate are thriving and actively challenge those things when you see them. People thought all that social justice drama should be kept out of their comfortable club when it was women in the male dominated workplaces, when it was opening schools to all races. Suddenly racist and sexist jokes/ideas are not harmless they are hurting real people (and attitudes were already harming real people even if unspoken).

Creating an open forum means you might be interacting with groups you normally wouldn't and your words have more power to injure and hurt because the groups you talk bad about and dehumanize are present in front of you. Making a forum where people are allowed to say horrifically dehumanizing hurtful things that shred others insides up, is fine as long as people are allowed to respond.

And monitoring this process to make sure no insulting words are used is pointless if you're not going to delete and monitor hurtful content.

SO I think the current policy is the best that can be, essentially people get away with saying some shitty things, and others are allowed to respond to them. And say that they are shitty. Or that they sound racist, or sexist, or vile or whatever.

I have a good friend who is really into adoption reform (she got to meet the real Philomena!) and was on a panel talking about how adoption harms women who've lost children. Someone told her that she had dominated the show when a woman of color had said very little and what's more she had said "I'm not a crackwhore birthmother"- and she was trying to undo the stereotype that all women who have placed were on hard drugs or dangerous (or were actually as unworthy of their children as they were taught to think of themselves by our culture and reinforced by social workers and options counselors). But there were other women on the panel with addiction issues, and getting addiction and recovery services to moms is also part of the kind of things we're working on in terms of adoption prevention.

Sometimes we say crappy things. In her case she made a very public apology and agreed she hadn't handled it well and learned something new. She didn't say "I can't possibly be racist or benefiting from white privilege or mistreating people with addiction issues! You can't say something so mean and uncivil!" To even suggest that telling her that would have been "uncivil" is ridiculous.

People would always prefer that social justice and change happen somewhere else that it doesn't bother them than on their playground. But in our public social areas and "play groups" are exactly where things need to change.
posted by xarnop at 4:53 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think saying that food supports structures should be dismantled is an insult to human welfare and right to live (including MEFITES who LIVE because of such support structures) so if we're going to delete or ask each other not to use insults or to insult the state of each other comments we probably should be willing to look at forms of hate and attacks on a persons worth and social status that are worded "nicely".

This is so, so true. I have family who would quite literally die if it weren't for the social safety net in this country (meager as it is). Advocating for the elimination of social services because no one deserves a handout (an actual view I have seen stated here) is basically saying that you want my family to starve to death. That is not 'nice' no matter how few swears you use in expressing it. I think I'd honestly prefer swears to that; the bloodless opinion that poor people don't deserve to live if they are incapable of participating in the capitalist economy is more chilling than all the bad words in the world.
posted by winna at 4:54 AM on September 12, 2014 [23 favorites]


I think this site would be a worse place if it hadn't been for all those meTas about how boyzone it was and could people please quit saying "I'd hit it" every chance. All those meTas had a lot of anger in them, as well as a lot of patience, civility, and un-.
posted by rtha at 5:30 AM on September 12, 2014 [17 favorites]


Could someone guide me to a more charitable reading? Because I can only seem to parse it as something like "support for or defense of reasoned, detached dialogue is akin to gaslighting or silencing of women and is thus always a tool of the patriarchy."

There are a couple of answers to this:

Theoretical: Part of the problem with "rationality" and "civility" is that they always reinforce the norm. Because they are defined by the norm (which at this point is cis white male straight wealthy), they make it easier for people with (or approaching) those characteristics to express themselves and be heard and harder for people without (or tending away from) to do the same. Disadvantaged people not infrequently turn to disruptive language because accepting the norm's rules for discourse is already half-ceding the field. Yes, an exceptional speaker/writer/organizer can work around this problem, but we do not see equality when the exceptional have success, but when mediocre disadvantaged people do as well as mediocre advantaged people.

Practical 1: I have said this a bunch of times before, but "detachment" on the internet is very often poisonous to discourse, because it is very often the sign of a privileged person without useful experience coming into a conversation where people with real experience (and/or fears) about that experience are sharing their experience and feelings. The "detached person" is usually making a theoretical argument based on how they imagine the situation. This tends to anger the people whose emotions are already aroused by sharing their experiences and feelings, and unsurprisingly leads to pushback. The "detached" person is naturally hurt, because they were, after all, talking about a theoretical situation, not something that's real. And this disconnect increases bad feelings on each side, especially the longer the "detached" person tries to defend themselves.

Practical 2: Given that a lot of internet discussion arises out of "nerd culture," and "nerds" often value dispassion and intellect, there is a certain attitude that, if you can maintain dispassion while the other person gets angry, you have won. This is a toxic attitude, and prevalent enough that people see it as a tactic even when it's just the way a person communicates.

Lastly, since this behavior crops up a lot in threads where disadvantaged people are discussing their disadvantages, it is an excellent place where "shut the fuck up and listen" is really good advice for the well-meaning, no matter how combative it sounds.

Post-lastly, I am uncomfortably aware that this comment itself is cast in a dispassionate voice, and it may come across as condescending (anther problem with the style). I hope it will not be taken that way.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:40 AM on September 12, 2014 [13 favorites]


Rationality is orthogonal to goodness/value.

The other issue with rationality is that it only matters if everyone accepts the same premises. Then a rational argument is great. If you don't accept each other's premises, it's a waste of time. These premises are often simple matters of belief. Belief tends to be a product of social and psychological factors that have nothing to do with "rational" or "irrational". Studying other cultures, other languages, or history makes the arbitrary nature of these premises clear.*

So, as anyone who has ever fucked up a word problem in algebra knows, you can do all the math in the world, but if you don't start with the right inputs, the output will be incorrect. The math is important, of course, it's key, but the inputs are also important.

Focusing on "rational" thought as the key tool to achieving truth is, essentially, an argument that your premises (inputs) are valid and you only need to apply the right math in order to get the right answer. In other words, you're saying that your subjective, biased premises--which we all have--are correct enough that the conclusions that they will lead to are also likely to be correct, as long as you're "rational" enough on the way there.

However, since we live in a sexist culture, your premises are highly likely to be sexist. That makes asserting that a subject requires "rational" thought--absent an acknowledgment that the premises from which you would begin are likely to be biased and subjective-- is likely to be seen as a veiled assertion that sexist premises are self-evidently correct.

Abortion is a great illustration of how different premises lead to different conclusions, even within a similar background culture. If an embryo is a person, aborting an embryo is just like killing a person outside the womb--most people would say that it is sometimes necessary in a highly limited set of circumstances but something to be avoided even at a high personal cost. If an embryo is not a person, aborting it does not have the moral weight of homicide and it requires much less justification--some (myself included) would say it doesn't require justification at all.

Both conclusions that stem from rational (if simple) arguments, and they are vastly different.

There is an additional problem with identifying as a "rational" person. It leads one to the conclusion that you would like to set yourself apart as "rational" while other people earn the label "irrational". Since everyone is irrational sometimes about some topics (we have to be or we wouldn't be able to function) or even just because we're tired or hungry, it indicates a certain lack of awareness of one's owns limitations and biases and perhaps a magnification of the limitations and biases of others.


*there are some premises that are arguably not arbitrary but they're not likely to come up in these types of discussions
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:30 AM on September 12, 2014 [23 favorites]


the-young rope-rider makes a good point here. In fact when I used to think I didn't like "feminism" I realized that the things I didn't like about it had nothing to do with the idea of men and women being equal (which I support whole heartedly) but with the fact that the way I had seen feminism still fit within a context of valuing stereotypically male traits. Like if you just say men and women are equal and equally capable of doing the same things-- now let's expect women to act like the sterotype of men and shame them for non-compliance; then we're back to a lot of problems.

And underlying those assumption of "male" behaviors and the superiority of them was the idea that childbirth, nursing, caring for babies and children, and caregiving and emotional support work were all lesser activities (or HOLY HEROIC activities that are so divine they should be done without pay because money corrupts them!) Add all that up to the fact that there isno complimentary social safety net that would give people the choice about who they can emotionally nurture and when and in what way without it being tied to money--- you have to have a population of people who are well cared for enough, and have EXTRA TIME to do that kind of support, and it has to be funded somehow, whether it's individual husbands funding women to do all the charity work once their kids go to school, or government funds or both (AND now that we have made progress involving people of any gender who have an interest and talent for it in care work.)

I guess what I mean to say, even the things I saw being fought for in feminism that I had a problem with (pressuring more women into high power jobs that are often corrupt and exploitative to begin with, pressuring more women into the "paid" workforce where they can do something respectable with themselves for a change) etc etc a lot of it was based in the presumption that women can't be respectable, powerful, contributing members of the community without it being attached to external status symbols that often have nothing to do with ethics or actually doing good things for communities. Mind you, I want EVERY SINGLE WOMAN who naturally wants to participate and can become skilled at with training to delve into and be supported in whatever schooling or industry she wants. AND it's absolutely true that we DO need to undo the sexist and despicable ideas that women don't belong in science and industry and business, in important skilled positions-- along with undoing the despicable neglect of the reality women have been working in industries like these as underpaid laborers throughout history and the amount of disdain for their equal contributions as being less valuable and less worthy of pay. So I know some might have bristled when I said I thought I didn't like feminism and I don't like some of the commonly fought for goals that are stated most often in the media presentations of feminism-- but I love feminism, intersectional, reflective feminism that is willing to criticize ITSELF and it's own assumptions and starting points, where sometimes even things we're fighting for under feminism we're only fighting for because we accept classism, ablism, racism, or sexism against stereotypically female traits or labor as givens.

I think that might have been a bit tangenty (no red line, tangenty is a word, stop oppressing me with proper spelling reminders!). But I think the above comment is really important to keep in mind in a lot of conversations where people repeat the same things but never really hear each other or get anywhere because they are explaining one aspect of their values but not addressing that at a deeper level they have different core assumptions. Getting to the core assumptions doesn't necessarily mean you can resolve things, but you can have a better and more realistic view of each others positions and at least might have a better chance of understanding each other on a deeper level. This is a basic presumption I was taught in debate class but not everyone has had debate class (in fact it gave me panic attacks and I had to drop it eventually) and I wouldn't have thought that through without the prompt. What's more I'm pretty sure we went over that in highschool, but the refresher and reminder was really helpful. I will also add that due to PTSD issues there are very limited spaces where I can speak my mind, in fact when I had a blog I got vicious attacks regularly and so the old GYOB to tell my social justice opinions to my 20 friends who already agree with me over and over again and trolls who turn up to make horrible cruel comments is not a productive solution to getting all these unpleasant social justice conversations off the site.

I would prefer to come here and share thoughts about the magnetosphere and flux transfer events, electric bacteria, and talk about my favorite shows and fun stuff like that, the problem is listening to the way that I, as a low income single mother with disabilities who has used public assistance and aid from family, who has been sexually abused and assaulted, dealt with domestic abuse and stalking and threats to my life, who has placed a very wanted and still very much still mine child into an adoption situation (in which I respect the reality of her other mother's motherhood as well) get trash talked and have my family and my worth as a person, as a mother, as rights to define MY OWN two mothers as my own (being adopted as well).... my decisions and choices coping with extremely difficult situations of adversity being tossed about as conversation topic when my very humanity as a person are being shredded. And while I'm pointing out my own personal sensitivies, this goes for all sorts of issues that when you're with your friends talking about other people like they aren't there and they ARENT there, it might be more ok to process your thoughts or somewhat shitty beliefs about x group with supportive people-- but this can not really be that space where you can be supported and treated gently and nicely no matter what dehumanizing or cruel things you say about other people and how they should be treated or what they are worth. While this is not a "safe space" for people in marginalized groups, it's also not a "safe space" for people to learn about how awful the things they say are without their feelings being hurt or making sure they are told in a nice kind supportive way, when they already trampled on another real human beings feelings and worth as a person. Even without realizing it.
posted by xarnop at 7:19 AM on September 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


So to me, if we're just talking about all being nicer to each other, I like that. I like rainbows and sparkly hearts and stuff. And skipping! Let's all be really nice and stuff. But if we can't address CONTENT that is uncivil for what it is, it makes no sense to cry out for more "civility" when advocating more people die and suffer terribly is considered "civil" discourse.

Except, of course, that people often disagree about what constitutes "advocating more people die". Some people would argue that a social safety net, when it takes over some percentage of the economy, will impede technological and economic development, and thus consign more people to suffer and die. Some people will say that refraining from killing hostile armies will lead to said armies inflicting more suffering.

If everyone agreed on what constituted policies that would lead to suffering and death, as well as on what statements are transphobic, misogynistic, anti-Semetic, etc., then there would be less need for civility. Which is why those who don't like arguments for civility always assume that it is glaringly obvious what statements will lead to suffering, what statements are bigoted, etc.

But so long as people disagree (which is to say, always), there will be a need for a discourse in which people can submit evidence or argument for their position. And that discourse must be civil, or it will simply become the lobbing of artillery. Like these threads often are.

And by the way...

Part of the problem with "rationality" and "civility" is that they always reinforce the norm.


Nonsense. Most of the world's most successful revolutionaries and reformers have had a writing style that was passionate, but articulate. The enraged, hyperbolic tone that dominates many of these discussions is a style pioneered by the 60's New Left, among the least successful radical movements of all time, notable mainly for the profound backlash it engendered.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:45 AM on September 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


If we want to stop using hurtful statements, let's address all of them, including people who are comfortable with those who are suffering dying off or suffering and struggling in pain and misery while they are slowly destroyed by cruel fate.

Some of the loudest libertarian voices here actually experienced extremely oppressive government situations in the past so I try to be cognizant of that when replying to them. That doesn't let them off the hook for being hurtful but when you keep in mind they are doing what they are doing out of fear of suffering and misery it can help you find more common ground. Most libertarians don't think their solutions would cause more suffering than governments currently cause or are likely to cause in the future. It's not 100% FYGM out there in libertarianland.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:48 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I will add that metafilter has been the best community on the internet that tries to have good conversations and address stuff like this.. ever. Not that I've explored the whole internet, but.. seriously so many here have done fantastically at exploring stuff like this, challenging themselves, and listening to others even when it's hard. And sometimes I think even when people don't apologize in thread, I think that's ok, sometimes we're embarrassed and simply adjust to behaving better next time. So you don't always see the growth that happens in these conversations in thread-- you just a see a better community spring up afterward. I also think mefites tend to do a good job of giving people a chance to change behavior, to not demonize people who have had shitty or harmful beliefs and is very understanding of the fact that beliefs like this are so pervasive that they often even permeate the beliefs of people IN the marginalized groups. As much as it's horrific, there is an understandable aspect to genuine (not willful) ignorance and that we all have a learning curve and have different opportunities to do that kind of learning.Even with being willing to give people chances to really turn it around once they take that initiative-- that doesn't mean people can't get angry when they've been hurt and people don't have to respond to shitty comments with the love and complacency of a saint (and frankly if there were heavenly forces of compassion and justice I highly doubt they would in fact support oppressive behavior ruling while everyone nicely accommodates it, I think Jesus may have had it wrong there, or been misinterpreted whichever you will. The point is really that human judgement is not currently and likely will never be comprehensive enough to assess how much a persons harmful behavior is due to choice/will vs damage done TO them that has altered their behavior or capacity to be their full and healthy most loving self.)

And if we are to value non-judgement and turning the other cheek, why should we not do so for those who are angry and standing up about injustice? Turn they other cheek for them instead of shaming them. Just listen. Let them have their anger and say their words. If you think they are being hurtful, just accept the hurtful behavior and let them keep doing it.

If that idea, of turning the other cheek and accepting hurtful behavior bothers you, than at least be willing to consider that you may have done something that hurt someone else and that also should bother you.

There's a basic aikido technique, where as your enemy comes toward to attack, you turn so that you are facing the same direction as they are, and you stand to see what your enemy is facing and coping with and fight their battles with them, along their side.
posted by xarnop at 7:48 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Most libertarians don't think their solutions would cause more suffering than governments currently cause or are likely to cause in the future. It's not 100% FYGM out there in libertarianland."

I agree with that, but if someone is proposing "I think we should remove a safety net and let x people die to try out my new idea that will benefit the people who don't die" it should be understandable that that is seen as an attack on... those people's... worthiness as human beings and right to live. Or if you proposing a solution that you think WILL keep those people alive, it needs to reflect that you have a plan that will provide needed care of the disabled/ill/elderly, children in single and low income families etc.

Otherwise I think it's still fair to count such a proposal as an attack on the lives of others. And especially when you look at the actual economics of housing first and food access programs on overall health, child development outcomes, mental health care and management of mentally ill behaviors, increases in crimes and aggression and welfare and policing costs. I think if the economics of such proposals were discussed more in depth it would be productive. What's more, I have noticed many libertarians are expecting free labor from volunteers, stay at home parents who are totally dependent on a spouse to be filling in the gaps of human needs, or forced to put the kids in daycare at 6 weeks with an unregulated care industry that underpays for female associated care work which brings us back to much more limited options for women who are giving birth and have needs during that time period and who will have no financial options if her spouse becomes abusive or ditches her and the child. There's a lot I would be willing to talk about with libertarians if they would demonstrate a plan that accounts for preventing the deaths and horrific suffering of innocent children, the disabled, the elderly etc. And frankly even if letting people die makes things better for some of those who live-- how much better really? And what about the cost of supporting those who mourn and become disabled watching their family members get sicker and more disabled/mentally ill or dying? The costs of not caring for those inndeed are high.

I'm not saying we can't have the conversations. I just think your expectation that people should be "civil" while the big people discuss whether the marginalized people get to LIVE or not is extremely fucked up and sadistic. And... not... civil.
posted by xarnop at 8:13 AM on September 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


"Nonsense. Most of the world's most successful revolutionaries and reformers have had a writing style that was passionate, but articulate. The enraged, hyperbolic tone that dominates many of these discussions is a style pioneered by the 60's New Left, among the least successful radical movements of all time, notable mainly for the profound backlash it engendered."

This is an odd claim that relies on tendentious definitions of revolutionaries, success and civility, along with an odd sample of revolutionary and reformist rhetoric apparently only from the '60s onward. This is specifically true because most of the successful revolutions have been violent ones, and violent revolution comes with a lot of rage. Robespierre was a successful revolutionary; he also said that, "Terror is nothing else than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible." Someone saying that here would be held to be uncivil.

The majority of the world's revolutions have been bloody, ugly things. Even things that are seen as relatively innocuous, like the Jefferson line about the tree of liberty being watered with the blood of tyrants, were uncivil at the time. Likewise, while Lenin was both passionate and articulate, he was also enraged and hyperbolic, as was Trotsky. Frankly, more revolutions have looked like Islamic State than Ghandi, both successful and unsuccessful.

Including "reformers" in the statement only serves to muddy the issue — reformers are by nature attempting to get institutions of power to accede to their demands, so have different goals, tactics and rhetorical tools.

You've basically argued that because people disagree on what constitutes civility, we must be civil, then supported that with a dubious assertion about revolution and reform that's reasonably inferred to be based on a cherry-picked set of what you consider civil and successful.

And for people who know your commenting history, they know that you are frequently someone who comments to dismiss, deny and diminish claims of sexism, which is felt by many to be an uncivil rhetorical pattern. As such, there's no good reason to accept your implicit definition of civility, especially not without a concomitant recognition from you of those frequent complaints about your rhetoric as legitimate.
posted by klangklangston at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2014 [25 favorites]


If anyone is curious about GeijandProust's "detachment" machinery at work, Wikipedia's handling of Chelsea Manning produced a case study.

From former Wikipedia admin Philip Sandifer's blog, A:
This case has led to the declaration that calling out transphobia on Wikipedia is unacceptable, that trans activists are disqualified from working on articles involving trans subjects....

Which brings us to the arbitration committee, who looked at both sides of this debate and made the unequivocal decision that, in a debate between people trying to think seriously about the ethical considerations involved in being one of the largest websites in the world and a bunch of techno-libertarians playing WikiRules, the real problem was all the uppity trans activists. David Gerard, an administrator who locked the page at Chelsea Manning temporarily on the grounds that the alternative was a serious violation of Wikipedia’s policy on articles about living people, was sanctioned on the supposed basis that he did not adequately explain his reasoning, and that he was “overly involved.” This latter claim, based seemingly on no evidence beyond that David knows some trans people and doesn’t hate them, was used to forbid him from using his administrative powers on transgender articles at all.

... Beyond that, findings were issued declaring that people arguing that misnaming and misgendering were transphobic were behaving unacceptably. One such editor received an indefinite topic ban from editing or discussing trans-related subjects on Wikipedia. Another (me, actually) came within one vote of a similar ban.
B:
The sixth largest website in the world is sanctioning trans allies and Chelsea Manning supporters for being "too involved" to work on the Chelsea Manning article....

The Arbitration Committee has sanctioned people for complaining about transphobia while leaving transphobic commentary unsanctioned. It has further declared transgender topics to be subject to "discretionary sanctions," which mean that any editor who, in the judgment of an administrator, "fails to adhere to the purpose of Wikipedia, any expected standards of behavior, or any normal editorial process" can be banned after a single warning. The result of this is a clear precedent that complaining about transphobia can result in being banned.
I am not trying to bring that here, just offering an example for anyone who wanted to see such a thing in action.
posted by Corinth at 8:50 AM on September 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


I agree with that, but if someone is proposing "I think we should remove a safety net and let x people die to try out my new idea that will benefit the people who don't die" it should be understandable that that is seen as an attack on... those people's... worthiness as human beings and right to live.

I've seen that sort of phrasing before, not on Metafilter but it wouldn't surprise me if it has popped up here. There is a belief among many libertarians that many forms of taxation are theft and they consider it a two wrongs not making it a right situation to steal from them to support others.

More often though people simply think libertarian policies will lead to better outcomes for more people than our current policies. They are really wrong, and I don't consider that opinion, but they aren't generally acting out of malice so I try to debate them civilly. Mostly I can't, had to take a lot of libertarian relatives off my Facebook, but that isn't an option on MeFi so I aim for civil if I engage at all.

There's a lot I would be willing to talk about with libertarians if they would demonstrate a plan that accounts for preventing the deaths and horrific suffering of innocent children, the disabled, the elderly etc.

There's been some talk of being willing to support a basic income guarantee, hopefully a sign they are starting to realize they need a more realistic plan.

I'm not saying we can't have the conversations. I just think your expectation that people should be "civil" while the big people discuss whether the marginalized people get to LIVE or not is extremely fucked up and sadistic. And... not... civil.

Okay, well we do it all the time when we discuss things like foriegn policy and when you back up a bit I totally agree it might mostly be a civil cover for a barbarian conversation but we still need to be civil for the sake of the community and the mods.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:30 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is specifically true because most of the successful revolutions have been violent ones, and violent revolution comes with a lot of rage.

Rage can be expressed quite civily, as it is in the writings of figures from Marx to Baldwin. But yes, I regard the murderousness of Lenin or Robespierre as bad things, and indicative of what happens when civil discourse is abandoned. If you consider, say, the Terror as something you wouldn't mind seeing more of, then your take does make sense.

And for people who know your commenting history, they know that you are frequently someone who comments to dismiss, deny and diminish claims of sexism, which is felt by many to be an uncivil rhetorical pattern. As such, there's no good reason to accept your implicit definition of civility, especially not without a concomitant recognition from you of those frequent complaints about your rhetoric as legitimate.

You see, the thing about civility is that it's perfectly content neutral. One can say awful things civilly, and good things uncivilly. Civility is not a heuristic for determining whether a statement is true– if that were the case, it would indeed be a tool of oppression against those with legit beef– but it is a means for establishing a ground in which a statement can be evaluated.

I frequently disagree with other's assessment of what is sexist, as to many other commenters here. That is as orthogonal to questions of civliity as my spelling. You are confusing "being civil to" with "agreeing with", and that seems like some egregious question-begging.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:36 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nonsense. Most of the world's most successful revolutionaries and reformers have had a writing style that was passionate, but articulate. The enraged, hyperbolic tone that dominates many of these discussions is a style pioneered by the 60's New Left, among the least successful radical movements of all time, notable mainly for the profound backlash it engendered.

klangklangston handled this pretty well, but I am not sure which revolutions you are thinking of where everything was handled dispassionately and civilly. The American Revolution, which had some of the best and most articulate thinkers of the 18th engaged in defending it, still involved armed insurrection (which by definition isn't very civil nor dispassionate) and plenty of heated rhetoric on (and within all sides). In the US we tend to remember this as stately august rhetoricians engaging in grave and reasoned debates, but there was an awful lot of shouting. If Ben Franklin were on MetaFilter, I bet he would have a lot of favorites, but he'd have a lot of people exasperated every time he showed up in a thread. And let's not get started on what tompaine would be like.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:50 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


If one can say good things uncivilly, yet the presumably bad Terror is indicative of what happens when civil discourse is abandoned, aren't you arguing that saying good things still leads to horrible outcomes if the good things are said in an uncivil way; and, conversely by implication, that saying bad things isn't broadly harmful if it is done in a civil manner? That seems less like civility as content-neutral and more like civility being an all-important bulwark between order and anarchy. It's certainly a point of view, but I don't know if you do mean to say that.
posted by Errant at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's frustrating to me when people who advocate libertarian policies of abolishing social safety nets such that the poor and disabled and struggling will be forced to starve/homelessness/survival sex/or theft to survive or treat medical conditions are often on the side saying "Oh hey let's all be CIVIL. Don't use insults"

The basic premise of many strands of libertarianism is that people on a local level should be allowed to create their own societies and forms of government, as long as they leave other people who want to do other things alone. So that if some people want to get together and form a communist uber-safety net, that is totally fine within many brands of libertarianism (including mine). When you hear "Abolishing safety nets", you are not hearing those libertarians accurately - what they are saying is that those who want to provide safety nets should be able to provide safety nets and those who don't should not.

Along that note, you see a lot of libertarians saying "let's be civil, don't use insults" specifically because Metafilter is a unique society that actually....weirdly....tends to, at least on the surface, follow relatively libertarian rules. It doesn't punish people who offend it, it simply shuns (temp ban) or exiles (permanent ban) them. It does say what you can do and what you can't, but only in the sense of those who voluntarily want to participate in the community, and it doesn't stop anyone from packing up and leaving to another community. It (at least superficially) offers community input. It does have final decisions being the area of Matt and his handpicked henchies, but that's totally cool within libertarian ethos. But on the surface, Metafilter has pretty clearly expressed rules that supposely center around civility. The Blue says
"Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.
A lot of the upset here is because people take it seriously. I don't think that a healthy, respectful conversation can be had if someone is disrespecting another user and just trying to mock them. I don't think a healthy, respectful conversation can be had if someone is just trying to kill someone else's ideas with fire. A healthy, respectful conversation strongly implies the marketplace of ideas - so that's what's being advocated for.
posted by corb at 9:59 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


If Ben Franklin were on MetaFilter

SIT DOWN, MODS
SIT DOWN, MODS
FOR GOD'S SAKE MODS SIT DOWN

SOMEONE OUGHT TO OPEN UP A META
posted by poffin boffin at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


You see, the thing about civility is that it's perfectly content neutral.

So you say. I mean, it's fine to have your own working definition of a term, but we've had a whole raft of comments here that contradict this assertion, which indicates that you are not the sole maker of the definition.

Not to mention that you contradict yourself, as Errant pointed out.
posted by rtha at 10:04 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


It doesn't punish people who offend it, it simply shuns (temp ban) or exiles (permanent ban) them.

People have and do totally disagree about these not being punishments.
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


If Ben Franklin were on MetaFilter

Also, as I understand it, he was quite the ladies man. So I imagine there would be plenty of mudslinging about him being a PUA, Player, MRA and so on.
posted by Michele in California at 10:11 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Rage can be expressed quite civily, as it is in the writings of figures from Marx to Baldwin. But yes, I regard the murderousness of Lenin or Robespierre as bad things, and indicative of what happens when civil discourse is abandoned. If you consider, say, the Terror as something you wouldn't mind seeing more of, then your take does make sense."

First of all, contemporary audiences didn't consider Marx or Baldwin to be civil — see the above mention of Baldwin being excluded from public speaking in the civil rights movement due to the perception that he would be too inflammatory.

Second off, I consider Lenin and the French 1789 revolutions to be successful revolutions even while recognizing that the Reign of Terror was a bad thing. Hence pointing out that civil rhetoric is not inherently correlated with successful revolution, as you implied.

"You see, the thing about civility is that it's perfectly content neutral. One can say awful things civilly, and good things uncivilly. Civility is not a heuristic for determining whether a statement is true– if that were the case, it would indeed be a tool of oppression against those with legit beef– but it is a means for establishing a ground in which a statement can be evaluated."

No, civility is not content neutral. Civility implies equal respect as citizens, and respect is not content neutral. It is disrespectful to, as a recent post in a death penalty thread did, say that it's quite OK for other innocent people to die in order to sate the desire for retribution. That fundamentally does not respect the autonomy and value of others. Likewise, it is not civil to imply that blacks or women are inferior, no matter how bloodless the tone — it evidences a fundamental lack of respect for the person. Confusing a surface tone of politeese with civility is a mistake.

"I frequently disagree with other's assessment of what is sexist, as to many other commenters here. That is as orthogonal to questions of civliity as my spelling. You are confusing "being civil to" with "agreeing with", and that seems like some egregious question-begging."

Not to be all tu quoque, but that you "frequently disagree with other's assessment of what is sexist" is not as orthogonal to civility as spelling — that's begging the question. I am not confusing agreement with civility; as someone who is experienced with both incivility and disagreement, I can parse the difference pretty well. (E.g. I disagreed with jaguar upthread a little bit, and I don't believe that I was uncivil. I have disagreed with you pointedly here, and don't believe I was uncivil. I also told NoraReed when I thought that she was undermining her points by being rude.)

As I can point to several instances within this thread where agreeing and civility are distinguished, and since my point about incivility and respect doesn't rely on conflating the two, I don't believe that you have supported your point, nor reasonably considered the points made against you. (Reasonably considering doesn't mean agreeing with them, but it does mean accurately representing them.)

Given that in this thread you have also misrepresented others' arguments as blanket condemnations of civility rather than context-dependent rejections of a particular construction of civility, it seems more likely that you are not a good judge of what civility is outside of a fairly self-serving definition, one of the central critiques from people objecting to elevating a civility rubric. I encourage you to examine your own comments and posting record to understand why this is a recurrent complaint about your participation, and examine them without defaulting to the assumption that this is because feminists et al. have no use for civility at all and that they are unfairly demanding agreement. Basically, review your previous arguments without the presumption that you're right and they're wrong and you may be better equipped for these discussions in the future.
posted by klangklangston at 10:15 AM on September 12, 2014 [20 favorites]


He just wanted to put baskets on women's heads so that only their lower bodies were visible or important. What's weird or extra-super-are-you-fucking-kidding-me-creepy about that?
posted by Errant at 10:15 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm finding it interesting that this discussion about what constitutes civility and the extent to which civil discourse is a positive/negative thing is being conducted with such, well, civility.

I don't have opinions or insight as to the relevance of the French Revolution or Civil Rights movement to our interactions on MetaFilter, but I do sometimes wish that the people who are so keen to have things be more civil around here show a lot more flex about taking offense at other people's words, and the people who are more prone to viewing civility as having little value put some consideration into whether their messages can be fairly expressed without also being an asshole about it.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:21 AM on September 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


"When you hear "Abolishing safety nets", you are not hearing those libertarians accurately - what they are saying is that those who want to provide safety nets should be able to provide safety nets and those who don't should not. "

Well, no. What's not being granted is the delusion that the free rider problem doesn't occur in libertarian formulations, and that the practical effects of these policies outweigh the fanciful theories on which they are based. It's the libertarians that aren't hearing that these arguments are false, and that the attachment to these arguments does not trump the actual effects on people, especially people right in the thread.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


"I don't have opinions or insight as to the relevance of the French Revolution or Civil Rights movement to our interactions on MetaFilter, but I do sometimes wish that the people who are so keen to have things be more civil around here show a lot more flex about taking offense at other people's words, and the people who are more prone to viewing civility as having little value put some consideration into whether their messages can be fairly expressed without also being an asshole about it."

I'm both making a conscious effort to be clear (in part because I think a lot of these arguments have a lot of nuance to them, and being bold often leads to misinterpretation) but I'm also, I think, able to use my privilege in a somewhat positive way here — for a lot of these things, while they affect me tangentially, I have the ability to step back and be detached in a way that, say, a trans person having their existence interrogated may find more difficult and shouldn't have to be as concerned with. I'm being civil because I have the time, energy and inclination to in this instance, but I think it's not something that I think is a requirement to make good contributions.
posted by klangklangston at 10:37 AM on September 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


If our goal on Metafilter is to communicate with each other (which imo, it is -- whether through links or discussion), then I don't think that we're going to do as good a job communicating if we all edit our feelings out of the discussion than if we express those feelings (as well as our thoughts). Emotions are important to communication because they give everyone hints about how important people think the issues being discussed are. Emotions communicate valuable information, too.

If someone corrects me through a joke or very lightly, I'm not really going to think much of it. I mean, I'm still going to be corrected, but I'm not really going to think through the interaction or try to figure out exactly where the other person and I disagree or try especially hard not to do/say the same thing again. I might also respond back with a joke or some bullshitty argument, thinking we're just messing around, doing the words-version of play fighting. If someone corrects me while expressing how upset they are at what I said, though, I'm going to think really hard about the interaction and what I said, and try really hard not to say it again, and definitely won't start play-fighting with them!

Point is, I'm dense, but I'm not mean. I don't want to upset people, so if I am upsetting someone, that's valuable information for me to know and I hope that they express it! For me, it can be really hard to express that stuff, and I do consciously try to be *less* abstract and theoretical in how I express things, because I think that it is counterproductive to conversation to mis-match your tone with your thoughts (though (obvs) I fail at articulating my feelings/connection with what's being said quite often!). If the situation you're discussing is sad, go ahead and express your sadness. If it's infuriating, go ahead and express your fury. If it's delightful, go ahead and express your delight. I don't think that's inappropriate, I actually think that's *more* appropriate and *more* communicative than trying to tonelessly recount everything as though it has the same weight or the same meaning for you.

Anyway, people can be disingenuous and act like they're super upset or connected to an issue that they're really not. But I actually don't think that happens very often, frankly. When people act upset on here, I think that they really are usually upset, even if it's not for a reason I can really grok or even if, after consideration, their feelings of upset are not enough to make me change what I'm saying/doing (because sometimes not upsetting someone is more important than what's being said, and sometimes what's being said is more important than the upset it might cause -- I think that's something