What do you feel uncomfortable about saying here? October 19, 2014 3:47 PM   Subscribe

In an ongoing thread a user volunteers that this has become an uncomfortable place to state certain, really, not all that weird ideas. What, if anything, are you afraid to say here? I pose this not to request debate on any issues that might arise, but to enumerate those things some of us might be afraid to even bring up. Because I think most of us were attracted to this place by the promise of free and open discussion. And it seems like the discussion isn't quite as free or open as it may have once been.

I'll kick it off:

From the current article: Maybe not everyone who has ever described a metaphysical experience is an idiot, charlatan, or dupe.

Wendy Carlos is a transwoman. Seriously, I mentioned this once and it got instadeleted because WTF? apparently some longstanding flame war of which I wasn't even aware.

Just about anything about the US civil war that doesn't suggest nuking the South from orbit

Any particular diet
posted by localroger to Etiquette/Policy at 3:47 PM (1137 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

So this is the thread where we get to say things which will anger people but in a way which is supposed to shield us from from criticism?

It's like the Festivus Airing of Grievances for Metafilter!
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on October 19, 2014 [86 favorites]


Well if that's what it becomes, then this is a major fail on my part.
posted by localroger at 3:53 PM on October 19, 2014


The sad thing is, I'm reluctant to mention either of the two opinions that I've put on my "never voice this" list.

That said, I'm not clear as to the point of making this list, what are you hoping to accomplish?
posted by HuronBob at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


Talking about Wendy Carlos vis-a-vis trans issues isn't a problem; the specific Wendy Carlos comment you're talking about didn't get nixed for talking about her being a trans woman, it got nixed because it was sort of injecting a big fight about trans issues and feminism and TERFS into a thread about cool electronic music history. You started a metatalk thread about it, we had an entire discussion.

I think it's totally okay and worthwhile for folks to talk about what they do and don't feel comfortable with on Metafilter and why, and I appreciate the general sentiment in starting a thread for that, but it kind of needs to not be premised on the idea that there's some unapproachable mystery to how moderation here works and that feels like a really poor example to throw out there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:02 PM on October 19, 2014 [31 favorites]


Many undeleted mentions of Wendy Carlos including in trans*-related contexts so... Yeah.

Because I think most of us were attracted to this place by the promise of free and open discussion.

Personally, I was attracted here because there seemed to be less (not none - see the Great Boyzone Discussions of Some Years Ago, e.g.) tolerance of people being shitty to each other.
posted by rtha at 4:04 PM on October 19, 2014 [39 favorites]


And preview fail.
posted by rtha at 4:04 PM on October 19, 2014


Point taken, cortex. I was just startled by the reaction to what I thought was an innocent comment.
posted by localroger at 4:06 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Raw milk
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 4:08 PM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Honestly, there are things I feel uncomfortable saying here. And I'm not going to write them here...because I feel uncomfortable saying them here. So I don't really get how people are supposed to answer this question.
posted by Bugbread at 4:09 PM on October 19, 2014 [57 favorites]


I'll just come right out and say... basically nothing?

Like, don't get the point of this post other than some "Silenced all my life!" thing. There's a lot of stuff i feel far more comfortable talking about on here than i do in real life with anyone i know, mostly because the vast majority of my friends are deep in the progressive/radical feminist/etc zone of thought and take many things as gospel in a way that any questioning of the zeitgeist of what is "bad", or what that means turns in to "stop playing devils advocate" or "well yea, that things bad, you just don't understand why".

I've never felt like i couldn't have a discussion about anything on here. Even really contentious shit like outdoor cats or the shoes in the house thing gets a pretty fucking civil swing.

No one gets ostracized or banned for going in to a thread where everyone thinks opinion A and saying "well, i think opinion A is wrong and i believe opinion B for XYZ reasons" unless they do it in a really shitty way, or approach it like they haven't, or aren't even willing to consider why someone would think opinion A and just want to fight.

I think a lot of the problems of "things i can't talk about here" are related to how that person was trying to engage with them. Everyone i've seen have a serious complaint about not being able to discuss something over the years was mad that they couldn't have the fight they wanted to have, or had some weird as i said, silenced all my life opinion that if 3 people replied to them disagreeing then they were being shouted down and kicked out of the bar when that's just... not how it works.

This would be a good place to drop a snarky jab at several of the long term, well known posters here who consistently have opinions in opposition with the majority who are still around, and not generally hated. But yea, "opinions you're not allowed to have here" isn't really a thing. Give it a rest.

Honestly, there are things I feel uncomfortable saying here. And I'm not going to write them here...because I feel uncomfortable saying them here. So I don't really get how people are supposed to answer this question.

I think this gets at exactly what bugs me about this thread. It's about being so brave and martyring yourself by posting something you know is inflammatory. It's like a coy free fire zone of trolling.
posted by emptythought at 4:14 PM on October 19, 2014 [23 favorites]


Does "free and open discussion" mean that every comment must be approached with understanding nods and murmuring about how valid and important it is, because it's someone's subjective feeling and therefore uncriticizable as an inalienable opinion of a sovereign individual, and if you don't do that you become part of The Consensus?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:15 PM on October 19, 2014 [14 favorites]


From the current article: Maybe not everyone who has ever described a metaphysical experience is an idiot, charlatan, or dupe.

That thread is a pretty good example of people going into great detail about things without getting all "your invisible sky wizard sucks and you should feel bad." There was a good deal of discussion of what science is, what it can and can't explain (yet), observable behavior, and so forth. It sucks that this somehow got turned into people thinking they were being personally attacked for being crazy or brainwashed, because there was almost none of that actually happening.

Well if that's what it becomes, then this is a major fail on my part.

Justinian and Bugbread have it: either not much happens, or it turns into Unpopular Opinion Festivus. And given how MeTa works, it's kind of guaranteed to be the latter.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:17 PM on October 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


I am trying not to be all predicting of doom like the wizard in an ad for Medieval Times, so I am going to try to participate in this in good faith with the acknowledgement that I think that this thread is maybe not going to go the way the poster hopes. I'm trying to figure out a non-patronizing way to ask that we please do our best to keep this thread civil and productive and this is the best with which I came up.

That said, I feel uncomfortable much more on AskMe than on Metafilter; I think there is a tendency on AskMe to attack posters and question stated premises and feel clever for figuring things out and speaking truth to Askers and stuff and that makes me really uncomfortable. Sometimes there are premises that need to be questioned but there are a lot of times where answers are just really, really uncharitable and make the worst possible assumptions about the asker and everyone else in the questions and that makes me kind of uncomfortable.

People go to AskMe looking for help, sometimes when they're confused or vulnerable or just sort of lost, and I think it would be great if we could maybe keep this in mind a little more when answering and recognize that there's a real person who is actually experiencing the real situation on the other end of this. It would be great if we could make sure we only answer when we have something of value to contribute to whomever's asking and make sure we are actually trying to help them, part of which includes treating them respectfully and appropriately.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2014 [91 favorites]


There are some places where the general MeFi consensus is radically different from my own view. In these topics, things go very badly if I insist on making a giant contrarian post in the thread and then defending my viewpoint against all comers.

On the other hand, if I make a small post being like "there are other ways that smart, empathetic people can think about this issue, for example, X" and then am very selective about who to respond to, things go fine.

If I don't post at all in threads where I know I have a tremendously minority viewpoint, things go even better.

I just remind myself that a 600 comment echo-chamber thread where people are all reaffirming something I disagree with isn't actually a threat to me, nor must I let it ruin my experience of the site.
posted by 256 at 4:25 PM on October 19, 2014 [49 favorites]


Actually, this is one of the areas I think is sort of interesting, because I get why a lot of things don't go over well, but my social groups have always run extremely liberal, and yet over the years I've noticed that the hard-science viewpoint is certainly becoming more socially acceptable than the magical-things-can-happen viewpoint. I'm not really firmly in either viewpoint's camp, but it seems to go along with how the world has become more socially accepting of my atheist friends--and less so for my pagan friends. It's a little odd, sure.

But it's a hard balance to find. And in this case, the thread that was posted seemed to me to be begging for this sort of response. It wasn't posted in the sense of "here's this interesting thing to the sort of people who believe in interesting things like this", it was "here's this thing you should believe in even if you presently don't". If someone had posted something about this that was explicitly religious in nature, it would have been deleted. Given the season, I would find those comments pretty unacceptable in a post that was, like, "here's this spoooooky thing that happened," because in context the factual accuracy of the spooky explanation is clearly a derail and even people who don't strictly believe in supernatural phenomena can enjoy a ghost story. That same post is framed as, "here is proof that ghosts are completely real" then it's going to get the same sort of responses as "here is proof that God is completely real" or "here is proof that Pepsi is better than Coke", which is to say, a fair number of people are going to object.
posted by Sequence at 4:47 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


That thread is a pretty good example of people going into great detail about things without getting all "your invisible sky wizard sucks and you should feel bad." There was a good deal of discussion of what science is, what it can and can't explain (yet), observable behavior, and so forth.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:17 AM on October 20



That was certainly my take. Certainly until someone snidely suggested that being open to weirdness without really considering rational explanations was something that "grown-ups" did.
posted by Decani at 4:49 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


jenfullmoon remarks, in the link provided in this post:

I still think there's some weird inexplicable shit going on out there that we can't explain.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:17 PM on October 19


The thing is, most scientists/rationalists/skeptics would totally agree with this. I think what some people bridle at is when folks don't seem to be considering that these as-yet-mysterious things almost certainly have a rational explanation, and prefer to cleave to a supernatural view of matters. Why does this cause bridling? Because in the long history of weird-things-that-finally-got-explained, not once has the explanation turned out to be anything supernatural. Not once. I think some of us feel that this ought to be regarded as rather more than a trend, especially when we couple this observation with that of noticing that superstition and magical thinking has not, in many cases, been terrific for humanity.
posted by Decani at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2014 [32 favorites]


Over the years I've been here, I think it's actually gotten better in terms of discussion. There's less of the boyzone pile on that used to happen, there's more thoughtful discussion of issues such as gender and less tolerance of shitty behaviour. I don't think the #JulyByWomen project would have been nearly as successful if it had been proposed five years ago.
posted by arcticseal at 4:59 PM on October 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't think MeFi's been getting "increasingly intolerant" or anything, but I think the reason that some people feel that way is that MeFi is, on the average, getting more and more liberal (from a somewhat liberal starting point). So while before you'd find yourself being the odd-person-out if you were a conservative, now you find yourself being the odd-person-out even if you're a moderate.
posted by Bugbread at 5:19 PM on October 19, 2014 [25 favorites]


I once mentioned that I worked at Fox back in the early aughts and some Firefly fan jumped down my throat for ruining his life. So I guess I'm afraid to say anything that might attract the attention of Firefly fans.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2014 [28 favorites]


There can be a "Logic good! Emotions worthless!" tint to a lot of comments, on a bunch of different issues, and that gets tiresome to me. I'm not sure it keeps me from saying things, but I have clicked out of threads with a giant eye roll (the linked example being one of them) because I didn't feel like fighting with the Engineer Brigade. It seems to pop up as an antipathy against "soft" sciences and humanities, and in my mind it's anti-intellectual in a very juvenile way.
posted by jaguar at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2014 [54 favorites]


Not uncomfortable but as a straight white male I just would not spend any time or bandwidth typing any comment on trans threads. (Is the term "straight" even allowed anymore? :-)
posted by sammyo at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't see anything wrong with wearing hats indoors.
posted by dfan at 5:39 PM on October 19, 2014 [9 favorites]


I pronounce "mefites" "meh-fit-ees"
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:42 PM on October 19, 2014 [35 favorites]


Other kin related Tumblr blogs seems.....puzzling.
posted by asra at 5:43 PM on October 19, 2014


Don't you dare ever suggest that the reason inner-city American blacks are stuck in a poverty rut is anything other than white racism, even a little bit. If you do, then you will be accused of being a racist, or even a genocidal monster.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:50 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


Anything suggesting that various people that have been approved for ten minutes' hate are not actually monsters. (Zimmerman, Republicans, libertarians, rednecks gun activists, what have you)

Any element of history that goes against what people want to believe and that you don't have 46 independent cites for.

Anything suggesting that the left is indeed engaging in a culture war with the right.
posted by corb at 5:52 PM on October 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


From a tenement window a transistor blasts
Turn around the corner things got real quiet real fast
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:52 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't think MeFi's been getting "increasingly intolerant" or anything, but I think the reason that some people feel that way is that MeFi is, on the average, getting more and more liberal

More leftist, I'd say. Liberalism is distinguished by tremendous tolerance for expression, often to a fault. Leftism is more the ideology which holds that there are particular answers to most questions, and any other answer must be shut down.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:54 PM on October 19, 2014 [33 favorites]


Today's "liberalism" is what you get when the cannibals of the far right take over the airwaves and turn the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment into a cheap, meaningless slur.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:02 PM on October 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


Ice Cream Socialist: "Today's "liberalism" is what you get when the cannibals of the far right take over the airwaves and turn the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment into a cheap, meaningless slur."

I was actually thinking more along the lines of what was called "liberalism" in the 80s and 90s, since I haven't really kept up with US media in the 00s and 10s.

But you're saying tolerance for expression (apparently the modern definition of liberalism) is...something bad? (I'm a little confused by the expression "is what you get when the cannibals of the far right take over the airwaves and turn the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment into a cheap, meaningless slur") Or are you saying that ThatFuzzyBastard's not using the word "liberalism" like the word is used today?

(Also, "cannibals of the far right"? You mean far right people who eat other far right people? Because that, again, sounds like a good thing, but I sense I'm misinterpreting you.)
posted by Bugbread at 6:11 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


For the reasons zombieflanders outlined above, I predict no good will come of this thread. I think it should probably be closed.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:14 PM on October 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


I was actually just discussing last night at a meetup that it may seem weird to say so (as making posts is often a particular leap for members, which I totally understand from personal experience) but I am more comfortable making posts on the blue than I am commenting or asking questions on AskMe. I would never ask a question that wasn't a straightforward, like, I don't know, a tech issue or something - because I wouldn't want to expose myself to the judgyness that often comes down in the answers. And posts are fairly neutral compared to comments, in my experience - since comments are often personal in a way posts can't be.

I don't necessarily agree "the discussion isn't quite as free or open as it may have once been" on MeFi. Any of us who gritted our teeth through the boyzone years, the hands-off less-moderated years, probably understands how I feel. I feel much safer participating on MeFi now than I did years ago.

But I do absolutely feel MeFi tends to pile-on to comments that don't hew to a sort of general liberal-acceptable party line, whether those comments are perceived as "too conservative" or "too radical". I consistently censor myself (by simply not commenting) & always edit my comments a few times before posting them. It's just been so unpleasant for me those times I have shared how I sincerely feel about something in a deliberately careful way (actively attempting to be as clear & neutral as possible) and still attracted negative, personally-attacking responses. I really don't enjoy having my words used as a springboard for someone else's snarky quip or points-scoring, and I do feel like often members here forget that we are all actually feeling breathing people behind our comments and not just words on a screen.
posted by flex at 6:16 PM on October 19, 2014 [35 favorites]


Any element of history that goes against what people want to believe and that you don't have 46 independent cites for.

I know exactly what you mean.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:24 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


flex: "I consistently censor myself (by simply not commenting) & always edit my comments a few times before posting them."

I shudder to think of how many comments I have spent like 10 minutes writing and editing and revising and rewording to ensure they would accurately reflect my opinion on a discussion, only to scrap the whole comment without posting because there would be no way I could phrase my opinion without someone seizing on something to distort and spin a fight out of.
posted by Bugbread at 6:28 PM on October 19, 2014 [45 favorites]


This is no longer a safe place for me to discuss why I declawed my children and elect not to vaccinate my cats.
posted by killdevil at 6:28 PM on October 19, 2014 [51 favorites]


And also how I have always identified as a sea otter
posted by killdevil at 6:30 PM on October 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


frankly, i think this site's jumping the shark - when the main theme of the fpp about those guys parachuting into the hotel swimming pool seemed to be about how privileged the jumpers were ...

debbie derail strikes again ... did you know that feline AIDS is the number one killer of domestic cats?

on preview, killdevil, it's all your fault
posted by pyramid termite at 6:31 PM on October 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


But, you know, all that said: I guess I'm not a huge optimist, because I don't think this is a really "fixable" issue. Moves made to improve this area will likely end up causing bigger problems elsewhere (return to boyzone, that kind of thing), so I think it's just something that one has to put up with in order to enjoy all the other benefits.
posted by Bugbread at 6:32 PM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's taken some time, but I've now reached the point where there are certain topics I won't read about here, despite how relevant to my interests they are, because it's no longer productive. The number of people it takes to make a thread, or a topic, untenable is remarkably few.

So those issues are ones I would say I'm uncomfortable talking about here. Though because I also agree with Justinian and Bugbread, there's really no point to actually saying what those issues are.

Then there's things I don't feel uncomfortable saying here, but am fully aware that there are specific users whose predictable reaction has to be taken into account when posting. Write a comment that's, say, anti-gun, or allows that Barack Obama is not as bad as George W. Bush, and the same users with the same comments will occur.

It's not that they're against the guidelines, but they're certainly relentless and disheartening, and it's understandable why other users might just not want to engage on those topics, or with those respondents, anymore.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:33 PM on October 19, 2014 [27 favorites]


Things have been getting less fun around here ever since we banned quonsar's pissing elephant gif and started more seriously self-policing how we express ourselves. The site's actively-commenting userbase has gotten older, narrower, and crankier over the years. This is both a cause and a result of the ongoing shift in tone.

Less fun doesn't mean less worthwhile. There's value in seriousness, and I can always go to reddit and /b/ when I need a dose of the sort of unfettered creative expression that was more common here ten years ago.
posted by killdevil at 6:40 PM on October 19, 2014 [9 favorites]


But you're saying tolerance for expression (apparently the modern definition of liberalism) is...something bad?

Really it was one of those responses that isn't really a response to anything anyone said. In truth it was an agreement with Ole Fuzzy in terms of what liberalism really means, and a lament over how that meaning has changed since I was in civics class in the early 90's.

Large numbers of Americans still listen to talk radio, which was largely taken over by the right, promulgating a viewpoint in which "liberals" are blamed for society's faults. The word "leftists" could be used but isn't, the way they don't call the party "Democratic" because hey, democratic is a good thing. It's a war of words, and the historical meaning of "liberal" is a casualty I lament greatly.

Sometimes my grief spills over into other people's discussions. Take it as an inappropriate sob, a torn hair, a rent garment.

And the cannibal thing, yeah, by that I mean rightists eat human beings, literally and figuratively. Some of the more refined rightists are vampires who can subsist on blood alone. Not the sparkly, hunky kind, either.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:41 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


the small wizened gross ones who are stuck in a rock under the hellmouth?
posted by poffin boffin at 6:43 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


What am I uncomfortable saying?

I think this place would be better if a couple-few attention junkies cut out about 90% of their attention-junkie drivelsnark.

And perhaps as hinted at in another comment, that a couple or so people who post a lot in Ask too often have nasty, judgmental attitudes and the site would be better if they reduced their numbers of comments by about 90%.

Feels safe to say individuals can have effects beyond their numbers and my view is that the effects are rarely if ever positive.

I wrestle with discomfort about what seems like a tendency to not name names.
posted by ambient2 at 6:44 PM on October 19, 2014 [43 favorites]


an agreement with Ole Fuzzy

Oops, I meant ThatFuzzyBastard. What was I thinking? This isn't the TDPRI.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:45 PM on October 19, 2014


I am uncomfortable considering how much I wish Greg Nog and JHarris were my friends in real life because they seem like extremely rad dudes overall and I feel like maybe mentioning it out loud could make things pretty awkward in a hurry

welp
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:52 PM on October 19, 2014 [39 favorites]


And I agree with ThatFuzzyBastard that there's a non-trivial amount of what read as fiercely intolerant demands for tolerance... that are scathing and arrogant.
posted by ambient2 at 6:52 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm often uncomfortable voicing my arrogant and scathing opinions, but thanks to this thread, I will try my best to power through that for the benefit of diversity of thought.
posted by griphus at 6:56 PM on October 19, 2014 [38 favorites]


Honestly, it's not that I'm uncomfortable expressing my opinion on one or two given topics so much as I'm sick to death of the same handful of posters (different ones for each) always turn up in those threads and suck the air out of the conversation about those topics eventually.

Although in a couple cases, some of the posters who always used to do so have been dialing it back. So, eh, I just play the long game.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 PM on October 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


What, if anything, are you afraid to say here?

Why would you be afraid or uncomfortable about saying something here, unless its a specific trigger from some sort of personal trauma? For any non-trauma topics, say it, and, if people don't agree with you, even if nobody agrees with you, so what?
posted by signal at 7:07 PM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


It seems a lot of people are very insecure about their opinions and don't like them being subject to criticism.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:08 PM on October 19, 2014 [32 favorites]


I've said some things in the past that probably made me out to be something of a jackass to some readers, but I don't feel like the disapproval and opposition I've received has ever made me think I'm violating taboos of some kind. I don't think I've experienced the kind of thing this post describes.

These days I mostly keep my mouth shut for reasons that have nothing to do with MetaFilter and everything to do with me.
posted by majick at 7:10 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


I read the site, but not too much because political diversity here is very weak compared to most forums. The community enforces this because even mildy divergent opinions quickly become the topic of the thread and the poster is subjected to a variety of malicious misrepresentations. The moderation style enforces this as well. Last week the (already editorialized) voter-id thread had 200 posts and exactly one poster in favor of voter id for a short time before the owner of the site dropped in to tell that person to leave because apparently the presence of even one opposing view somehow causes everyone else to stop being able to post whatever they want and that's bad. I don't even support voter-ID, but I'd rather read "everyone vs. X" than "everyone and the echo-chamber". Why even bother with comments otherwise?

I think the answer to localroger's question is "lots of things, so those people go elsewhere".
posted by Winnemac at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2014 [29 favorites]


There was that time that nice Mr. Jesus delivered the little brown baby I had with Marse Lee while Wendy Carlos played "Switched On (You're) Having My Baby."

I, uh, still feel uncomfortable talking about that.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:15 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wnnemac, can you link to the comment that is making you think the mods don't approve of a given opinion? Because I'd like to confirm whether or not it's instead, as I suspect, that the person who expressed that alternate opinion was being a jerk about it, and THAT is why they were asked to leave.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


And so it begins...
posted by Justinian at 7:21 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Last week the (already editorialized) voter-id thread had 200 posts and exactly one poster in favor of voter id for a short time before the owner of the site dropped in to tell that person to leave because apparently the presence of even one opposing view somehow causes everyone else to stop being able to post whatever they want and that's bad.

Wait, didn't someone just say something about "malicious misrepresentations?"
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:21 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's here Empress.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:22 PM on October 19, 2014


I think that anecdotes ARE data
posted by thelonius at 7:25 PM on October 19, 2014 [17 favorites]


"everyone vs. you" is a completely accurately description, and that action is totally in line with how such threads have been handled in the past. It's nothing special. I just personally don't think it's a good thing.
posted by Winnemac at 7:25 PM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here's another one: don't ever say anything nice about Christians, or say or imply that many of them are virtuous people whose faith is legitimate and deserving of respect.

On the other hand, don't ever say anything bad about Muslims, or say or imply that the atrocities committed by Islamic extremists are justified by specific readings of the Quran.

Never say anything good about the Bible or bad about the Quran.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:25 PM on October 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


Never say, "That's a crock of shit," either.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2014 [15 favorites]


signal: "For any non-trauma topics, say it, and, if people don't agree with you, even if nobody agrees with you, so what?"

AElfwine Evenstar: "It seems a lot of people are very insecure about their opinions and don't like them being subject to criticism."

I'm not a super-perfect engineer type. What people think about me matters to me. I don't do things with the purpose of people liking me, because then they wouldn't be liking me, they'd be liking my persona. But I am happy when people say good things about me, and sad when they say bad things about me. Disagreements on MeFi are often heated, and often involve indirect insults, so sometimes I don't want to comment because I don't enjoy being insulted.
posted by Bugbread at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2014 [18 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle how are you still getting that alternate universe MeFi plugin to work? The redesign broke it on my end.
posted by griphus at 7:30 PM on October 19, 2014 [40 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: "Here's another one: don't ever say anything nice about Christians, or say or imply that many of them are virtuous people whose faith is legitimate and deserving of respect."

See, there's the rub, too: It's not "never". I remember reading some thread recently which had some people making positive comments about Christians, and I was stunned that...it went totally fine. In fact, the thread generally seemed to have an overall pro-Christianity feel, which I've never seen before on MeFi. But I've seen threads where even an innocuous comment leads to a tidal wave of "Christianity is the Great Evil". Maybe it's the time of day of the posting, maybe it's specific interpersonal stuff, maybe it's the kind of people who read different kinds of posts.
posted by Bugbread at 7:35 PM on October 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think that anecdotes ARE data

The plural of anecdote is data.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:37 PM on October 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


Can I take a moment here to tell you about my lord and savior Theodore Geisel? I started this account so many years ago to spread the good word (in anapestic tetrameter, of course), but I worried about my reception given the general distrust of religion around these parts.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:39 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here's a counterpoint to my own point from another rebel since searching "vs. everyone" turns up that corb vs. everyone is halfway to being a meme apparently, which I wouldn't notice since I rarely pay attention to usernames. Metafilter is a maybe good place to learn about left-wing people.

MetaFilter gives me insights into different perspectives than the right-wing / libertarian pundits' talking points being parroted by most of my Facebook friends and IRL acquaintances. I don't mind being in a tiny political minority and ending up in the occasional me-and-corb-vs-everyone spats here because the alternative is the degeneration of critical thinking and argumentation skills that I've seen too many of my co-idealogues suffer over the years as they grow soft and complacent in their internet-enabled echo chambers.
posted by Winnemac at 7:40 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


On the blue : For me, I've always felt I could say virtually anything I wanted provided I phrase it right. I might get disagreement but have rarely felt hounded or anything. I like to think I'm fairly conciliatory and equivocal, as well as falling well within site norms where I do comment, so I'm lucky like that.

My real name is in my profile, this means that a certain level of questions and thoughts make me feel uncomfortable.

On the green, I grow less and less comfortable posting questions that aren't "recommend me foo", things that have a real quantifiable answer for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, a large number of answerers never bother to read the question fully or respond thoughtfully instead of reflexively. This happens in facty questions too, but it's easier to ignore.

Secondly, a large number of answerers bring their own baggage to a question, alert to the slightest hint of malfeasance so they can extrapolate a gotcha and then launch into an old fashioned scolding.

Thirdly, a large number of answerers lack any kind of basis with which to answer the question. For example, I asked a recent question about a habit of my daughter's; I specifically called out I was looking for answers from other parents but a tonne of people couldn't fucking help themselves and had to share with me a) their random ideas based on no experience and b) their own irrelevant experiences as kids, not parents, and the patchy memories left from that time. Mefies without children, barely out of childhood themselves some cases, have a lot of strong opinions about parenting that they love to share.

Fourthly, gross ignorance is no obstacle for a subset of users in answering. They give uneducated guesses with a blithe assurance that is completely unwarranted.

In summary, I grow more uncomfortable asking questions as I find myself feeling judged, ignored, reduced to a prop, or subjected to a lot of nonsense more frequently.

I do feel this is my problem, not the site's, as I tend to use Ask when I've exhausted all other avenues, and I have pretty good research/google skills. I don't think, though, that Ask is at its best with nuanced or difficult questions, to be honest. And I shouldn't be so sensitive
posted by smoke at 7:41 PM on October 19, 2014 [25 favorites]


Firstly, a large number of answerers never bother to read the question fully or respond thoughtfully instead of reflexively. This happens in facty questions too, but it's easier to ignore.

Not that I am remotely innocent of participating on Ask in ways which match your grievances but jesus christ I wish there was an option to include a quick reading comprehension quiz on the basics a given question required to be passed before allowing someone to answer it.
posted by griphus at 7:45 PM on October 19, 2014 [32 favorites]


Like you can post whatever after the quiz but at least the "I am totally ignoring your requirements" aspect will be explicit instead of implied.

(NB: not an actual feature request.)
posted by griphus at 7:47 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


smoke: Mefies ... have a lot of strong opinions about parenting that they love to share

With or without children, I've found this to be true. I can't think of a single post involving children or parenting that hasn't featured at least one THEY'RE DOING IT WRONG BAD PARENT-style comment.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:49 PM on October 19, 2014


Here are a few things I normally would not say here (or anywhere), but what the heck...

I stole a candy bar when I was in the fourth grade.

I once looked at my friend's mom in a way like she was not my friend's mom.

In collage, that history paper wasn't late because my typewriter broke, it was because I spilled beer on it and had to spend a day retyping it.

I once put two quarters into a $0.40 exact toll machine.

I let my kids ride their bikes in the street and go outside without a jacket on when it was really cold.
posted by 724A at 7:51 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


UNIVERSAL READING COMPREHENSION QUIZ
suitable for any AskMe question

1. Which parties recognize the Peace of Augsburg?

2. Can we still issue unrestricted letters of marque?

3. Shall the city of Bremen be included in Swedish Bremen-Verden?

4. How will the disposition of Wildeshausen effect Sweden's seat in the Westphalian circle diet?

5. Do you have an internet connection?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," please feel free to write anything you like in the comment box provided.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2014 [27 favorites]


so I tried to point out that you know some people actually did greet us as liberators and man were some of you unkind
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:01 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


Why would you be afraid or uncomfortable about saying something here

Because they may poison all further interactions you might have with the people you're talking to, or with the site in general?

Here are some things I don't talk about here

- My personal feelings about religion except where specifically asked for. Religion isn't central to my life (either pro or con) and this is different from many people here and I don't have anything to add in most cases.
- Devil's advocate positions about anything. This site is not here to satisfy my need for thought exercise types of discussions and these arguments can be seen as a bad faith way to interact
- That time I got almost-molested by the babysitter. It's a pretty difficult story to relate without the inadvertent moral implication being "see ladies, there are things you can do to avoid creeps if you would only try them!" which is not a feeling that I have about that situation (I was just lucky) and so that anecdote never helps even though it's my true lived experience.
- I don't talk shit about people who I am fairly certain would read about it here. This sometimes inhibits my expression. I am okay with that.
- The fact that I think there are some people here who are maybe bad-at-MetaFilter because they are just plain bad-at-thinking and/or bad-at-life. Nothing to be gained, I'll just talk about it over beers IRL occasionally.
- I don't talk random shit about the mods. If I cant be constrictive with my criticism, I should take a walk until I can be.
- MetaFilter's money situation
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:02 PM on October 19, 2014 [79 favorites]


"everyone vs. you" is a completely accurately description, and that action is totally in line with how such threads have been handled in the past. It's nothing special. I just personally don't think it's a good thing.

Thanks for the clarification. However, I definitely don't see that as being about the thoughts on display, but rather the sucking-the-air nature I which those thoughts were expressed. Because I've also been asked by the mods to leave a thread in the past, and it was only after I'd gotten into a huge "someone is wrong on the internet" tantrum.

The mods, frankly, don't police ideas- they police BEHAVIOR. Actually the don't som much police behavior so much as they take people outside and say "dude, you MUST CHILL."

So to return to my original claim, winnemac, that was not the mods putting a stop to a mindset.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


Why would you be afraid or uncomfortable about saying something here

Because they may poison all further interactions you might have with the people you're talking to, or with the site in general?


That. Things I don't talk about or only rarely touch upon here:

1. My feelings about adoption. People are protective of the ways they made their families and that's natural. We don't need to talk about my abstract feelings about how your concrete child joined your family.

2. My regard for faith. I do not subscribe to the widely voiced opinion that people of faith are morons and/or should be Darwined out of the gene pool.

3. My enormous religious tolerance. I'm an atheist but if you want to treat your cancer with prayer or refuse your child a blood donation, I staunchly believe you have that right in the US.

4. The fact that the abortion I had 10 years ago did not go well and resulted in a one-in-four-million end result I don't ever want to see pulled out of context and used as fodder on some anti-abortion blog. I was and remain passionately pro-choice.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:22 PM on October 19, 2014 [20 favorites]


Interesting question. Thought-provoking and I'm glad you asked it.

I would say I'd be scared to admit or express...actually, I'm scared to say it. I cannot write it out because I can envision the response. I'm not joking. I actually stopped when I thought of the feedback.

Hmm.
posted by Punctual at 8:26 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


There are plenty of things I won't say here, or rather, I guess, won't belabor here.

Any of the few issues that would put me on the side of the majority party in Congress, for example. Not weird in the context of the overall population but MeFi definitely has a consensus on many issues, and woe betide the outlier. If I'm 75% Mefi and 25% Red State, I'll keep that 25% mostly quiet.

But so what? There are issues I won't generally discuss with some family members either. I don't disown them over it.
posted by tyllwin at 8:27 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm frequently afraid to talk about how I am a disgusting slob and also all of the really horrible food combinations that are cheap and instant and gross but mostly that's because I am afraid people will judge me

I sort of regret posting that I enjoy cheese and fish combinations
posted by NoraReed at 8:30 PM on October 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


That said, I feel uncomfortable much more on AskMe than on Metafilter; I think there is a tendency on AskMe to attack posters and question stated premises and feel clever for figuring things out and speaking truth to Askers and stuff and that makes me really uncomfortable. Sometimes there are premises that need to be questioned but there are a lot of times where answers are just really, really uncharitable and make the worst possible assumptions about the asker and everyone else in the questions and that makes me kind of uncomfortable.

Yeah, I've almost stopped using Ask entirely for anything other than Suggest An Item questions because of what feels like an increased need to approach questions as, like, Encyclopedia Brown-style mysteries where you read for hidden clues and suspicious behavior. Not every question has a secret that needs to be teased out, and you will not receive a reward for divining what you think must be sinister concealed motives. Just answer the question.
posted by troika at 8:31 PM on October 19, 2014 [14 favorites]


I don't talk shit about people who I am fairly certain would read about it here. This sometimes inhibits my expression. I am okay with that.

Yeah, this is what I came in here to say. I am pretty sure a specific person reads everything I write and I'm trying to not be self-conscious about that. aw shit now I'm self conscious about this comment
posted by desjardins at 8:43 PM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


My true feelings about the word "USian".
posted by seymourScagnetti at 8:45 PM on October 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


The "Hitler had a few good ideas" posts are amusing, but I'm seeing some actual value in the serious responses and I don't think this thread is going as poorly as predicted.
posted by uosuaq at 8:46 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


Helmet laws and bike lanes. It's turtles all the way down.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, there are things. We all usually know what they are. Except that the list keeps getting longer and longer.

And if you have an Unpopular Opinion you dare to speak, you get to watch people pile up favorites for talking to you in a way that, if situations were reversed, would probably get you so flagged you'd look like Pennsylvania Avenue on the Fourth of July.

Then comes the Mystery Balance! If you keep responding, you're "taking on all comers" or "doubling down," but if you stop responding, you've "done a drive-by." Now, nobody will tell you where this Mystery Balance is, but it pretty much lines up with getting to bow out at maximum humiliation. That whole "Maoist struggle session" someone once mentioned is so painfully spot-on it's a little uncomfortable to even talk about.

Anyway, I think there's less and less to actually discuss here: popular stances will be said again and again, unpopular ones get a beat-down, so there's just not much to get into, opinion-wise, unless you just want to have a nice bristling display of self-righteousness along with the usual suspects.

I've got a little hyperbole going on here, but not much. And by "beat-down," it isn't so much the direct flaming as the usual snarkiness about someone's reputation coupled with a beleaguered person who will — with an opulent display of put-upon-ness — step forward to educate your poor, ignorant self who just doesn't know any better, gosh darn it, because the only other interpretation is that you're acting out of malice.

Lacking all hope that this will actually change anyone's behavior, I mostly mention this sort of thing out of a perverse satisfaction with watching inertia and groupthink do their thing to internet communities again and again. Cassandra would have enjoyed herself more if she had cultivated some schadenfreude.
posted by adipocere at 8:59 PM on October 19, 2014 [60 favorites]


I think the bigger issue is that too much editorial content is allowed.
posted by michaelh at 9:03 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thirdly, a large number of answerers lack any kind of basis with which to answer the question. For example, I asked a recent question about a habit of my daughter's; I specifically called out I was looking for answers from other parents but a tonne of people couldn't fucking help themselves and had to share with me a) their random ideas based on no experience and b) their own irrelevant experiences as kids, not parents, and the patchy memories left from that time. Mefies without children, barely out of childhood themselves some cases, have a lot of strong opinions about parenting that they love to share.

This is the thing that keeps me from asking questions. It's not just on parenting threads -- there are certain people who just seem to have some compulsion to answer Every Single Question -- but it's the worst on parenting threads. When I ask a very specific question about parenting a 17 month old, it's not useful in any way for me to hear someone's fuzzy memories from their experience as a 3 year old.
posted by judith at 9:24 PM on October 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


A lot of the time my hesitation comes from a bit of a different place than disagreeing with the majority: Agreeing with the majority, except for some little tiny point. So sometimes I write comments which are like "I agree with your overall argument, except A". Sometimes that goes down fine, but sometimes people just ignore the first half and seize on me as being on the other side, arguing against their general position. So I spend half the discussion arguing, "No, look, I don't believe position X. In fact, I believe the opposite of position X. We are in agreement about position X. I just think you're wrong about specific point A" and then get to listen to people who I agree with about position X tell me that I'm either lying about my position, or that it is impossible for me to believe what I believe, or the like.
posted by Bugbread at 9:25 PM on October 19, 2014 [17 favorites]


It's not that I'm uncomfortable talking about it, but I get the most pushback when I talk about privilege incurred while being Indian/Asian American (can't have privilege as a nonwhite person, as white people have explained to me), and identity issues about Indian American/Asian American-ness. It seems to be a pretty huge blind spot even with IRL white progressive friends so it's not shocking it pops up here. Mostly I don't mind writing words with my opinion on this website, and thanks to the mods I don't get horrible comments on them, and the semi horrible comments get deleted, so thanks to them for that.
posted by sweetkid at 9:29 PM on October 19, 2014 [21 favorites]


TUBULAR BELLS!
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 PM on October 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


Because I think most of us were attracted to this place by the promise of free and open discussion.

Well, in the larger scheme of things I'm pretty much a noob here, but that's not why I was attracted to this place.

"Intelligent discussion" had a lot more to do with it than "free and open discussion."

"Free and open discussion", IMO, is available all over the web, and it's usually dumb & angry & full of shitheads.

So there's that.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:41 PM on October 19, 2014 [82 favorites]


I voted #2 quidnunc kid. Sorry, man.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:52 PM on October 19, 2014 [28 favorites]


As one of MetaFilter's token libertarians, my politics are pretty far out-of-step with most of all y'all on many issues yet I'm pretty comfortable saying almost anything here that I would say anywhere else on the internet that wasn't 100% anonymous.

And there really isn't even that much I self-censor that I'd otherwise post anonymously elsewhere. The stuff I consciously avoid posting here is mostly just personal information that I don't want associated with my public identity forever and comments like "he's hot / I'd hit it" that would go against site guidelines/culture.

In my experience, MetaFilter is MUCH more welcoming of diversity of thought than most people's Facebook walls. I regularly see people get defriended on Facebook over expressing opinions that the MeFi mods and most MeFites wouldn't even blink at.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:57 PM on October 19, 2014 [13 favorites]


For example, I asked a recent question about a habit of my daughter's; I specifically called out I was looking for answers from other parents but a tonne of people couldn't fucking help themselves and had to share with me a) their random ideas based on no experience and b) their own irrelevant experiences as kids, not parents, and the patchy memories left from that time. Mefies without children, barely out of childhood themselves some cases, have a lot of strong opinions about parenting that they love to share.

I don't know, smoke; I love your comments in general, but I read -- re-read, rather -- the thread generated by that question about your daughter, and I think you got excellent answers from several of the most capable and proven people this site has to offer (and they are parents by the way), and even the person whose answer clearly irritates you in the thread I see from her answers in toto as a wise and experienced parent.
posted by jamjam at 10:01 PM on October 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not afraid to say anything or ask anything here. I have on occasion said things or voiced opinions that received a lot of pushback, but those responses were more or less respectful, well reasoned and well argued, and I generally learned things in the course of the conversation.

It's not that I'm uncomfortable talking about it, but I get the most pushback when I talk about privilege incurred while being Indian/Asian American (can't have privilege as a nonwhite person, as white people have explained to me), and identity issues about Indian American/Asian American-ness.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for being so willing to engage with issues about your experience as an ethnic Indian in a white-dominated culture, sweetkid. As someone in a similar position, I have often found your comments resonant, incisive and insightful.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:46 PM on October 19, 2014 [15 favorites]


It seems a lot of people are very insecure about their opinions and don't like them being subject to criticism.

Yes. Not on Metafilter in particular - in life generally.

One of the reasons I like this place so much is that people here are more receptive to having their views challenged, and those challenges are (more often than not) well founded and not just feelpinions.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:54 PM on October 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


And it seems like the discussion isn't quite as free or open as it may have once been.

A good thing. I would not have felt happy in the old "I'd hit it" MetaFilter.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:09 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would have to say that in my experience, the breadth of discussion has only grown narrower. Most threads seem to only be a collective cheer for what is 'approved' - Neil Gaiman, bicycles, progressive liberal politics, etc or collective boos for the hated topics - conservative politics, most religious topics, etc.

The thing is, I would tend to side with most of the popular/favorite views here, but I used to really enjoy hearing the opinions of people I wouldn't normally agree with. One could say this place is safer or less argumentative, but the arguments tended to be civil for the most part.

To me it feels like Mefi has lost the civil arguing in favor of a constant stream of self-reinforcing cheerleading.

For the reasons zombieflanders outlined above, I predict no good will come of this thread. I think it should probably be closed.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:14 PM on October 19 [6 favorites +] [!]


This to me is Mefi in it's current state - repeated calls to shut down an earnest discussion of what people feel stifled about saying.
posted by efalk at 11:23 PM on October 19, 2014 [34 favorites]


I routinely copy and save answers I think the mods will delete that are not actually that weird or offensive. This has become A Thing here on AskMe.

Mostly, comments I archive are political. The latest I had deleted was similar, but more Human Relations.

The OP posted a pretty inflammatory question about children in their child's school not being vaccinated, and wanting to use their position on the PTA to "out" children not vaccinated and ostracize them. The OP later backtracked in an update, but their original post was - wow - so many shades of not OK.

Later comments similar to the one deleted from me were Best Answered by the OP.

Here is the AskMe

The OP backed off the extremism they expressed in their update, and their "Best Answers" certainly echoed my answer, which was deleted.

Often, I post knowing it will be deleted, hoping well meaning info gets spread. I super do not appreciate censoring of "outside the box" comments, but whatever.

Here is my deleted comment from that thread. Please read the http://ask.metafilter.com/270158/Public-health-issues-and-friendship-issues-re-childhood-immunizations before you judge it:

"You are severely over-stepping your authority as a member of the PTA and I hope hope hope you rethink your impulses here.

You are in more danger of abusing your power as a member of the PTA than your children are of catching anything from their beloved playmates since, you know...

Your children are vaccinated.

You had your children vaccinated because you have this concern. You've addressed this concern by having your children vaccinated.

I'm 6's about whether alerting the mom with the six month old wasn't shit stirring or not. I'm from NYC, and right now my toddler and I live in LA. Most people with small children know that germs are everywhere (especially in big cities) and calculate those risks for themselves and their families.

Please calm down. Stop watching the news for a few days. OK?

Please don't start a witch hunt at your school.

Thank you.
posted by jbenben at 8:28 PM on October 17"
posted by jbenben at 11:49 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


If we've moved from "here's what I feel uncomfortable saying" to just general grousing about MeFi, then, my current problem is that people seem to consider posts as races to determine who can be the first to point out that the post is bad.

Post: "Whoa, check this out, this scuba diver filmed a whale fighting a giant squid!"

Comments: "The whole squid vs. whale thing is overplayed"
"Great, more Pepsi Blue for GoPro"
"The only reason he has enough money to go scuba diving is because of all the money he and his fellow capitalists squeezed out of the common working man"
"#NotAllWhiteWhales".
posted by Bugbread at 11:55 PM on October 19, 2014 [22 favorites]


For the reasons zombieflanders outlined above, I predict no good will come of this thread. I think it should probably be closed.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:14 PM on October 19 [6 favorites +] [!]

This to me is Mefi in it's current state - repeated calls to shut down an earnest discussion of what people feel stifled about saying.
posted by efalk at 6:23 PM on October 20 [2 favorites +] [!]


Hmmm. That's an interesting view, because what I see there is one user politely stating their opinion, and another user disagreeing, also politely. I also see the mods leaving the thread open, and no discussion being stifled.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:07 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh, won't somebody think of the unpopularly opinionated?

Everybody needs an echo chamber.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:30 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


localroger: “ I pose this not to request debate on any issues that might arise, but to enumerate those things some of us might be afraid to even bring up.”

See, that's extraordinarily convenient, because you then proceed to pretty much mischaracterize the positions involved and the nature of the debates you cite. But I'm not supposed to "debate" them – well, I don't need to debate the issues to point out that you're not really bringing them up in a fair way.

First of all, a general point: what exactly are you talking about here? You mention a lot of different things: a) belief in the supernatural – in this case, I guess you're talking about the snide pushback that those of us who do believe in such things get from many users when we express a particular opinion; b) the Wendy Carlos thing, which is a comment deletion – in which case I guess you're calling the mods out, or at least their participation in a changed site culture; c) another opinion which you believe unpopular, this time regarding the Civil War; d) any diet – so apparently in this case a whole subject is something that you believe Metafilter "doesn't do well," or opposes entirely, or something like that?

So we're already kind of talking about several different things here. Are you saying the mods support only one particular side of things? Are you saying that Metafilter at large hems too closely to one opinion in various matters? Are you saying that there are just certain subjects we don't do well at all, like diets? I gather it's the second one, but note that you've given examples of all three, and they are all very different.

Second, to address these points individually:

a) yes, believers in the supernatural get static on Metafilter, but believe me when I say that that isn't unique to Metafilter; nor is it at all a new thing. I remember much harsher responses to my religious beliefs five or six years ago than I ever see now.

b) cortex already pointed out above that you're really leaving out a whole slew of context on the Wendy Carlos thing. You maybe might have mentioned that there was a metatalk thread in which the mods all strenuously and carefully pointed out to you that it wasn't just a deletion based on mentioning her name. I'm not sure why you're bringing that up in this thread, as it doesn't seem to relate to the topic as you've described it at all.

c) "Just about anything about the US civil war that doesn't suggest nuking the South from orbit" – look, I have been part of several of those conversations with you, and you know that you're mischaracterizing them – right? More to the point, you're pulling your punch here! You know quite well that "nuking the South from orbit would have been a bad idea" – taken literally – would have been an uncontroversial position – right? The issue in those threads was that, as far as I could tell – trying to be honest and careful about what I thought you were saying – I think you were trying to get across the point that the Civil War was complicated, and was not a time of simple moral clarity. In conveying this point, you expressed some skepticism that the Civil War was "about slavery," full stop. As I recall, that was the point you made that many people disagreed with – not all people, but many people. And I also recall – this is important – that at least two other people agreed with you that the Civil War wasn't simply about slavery, and that it just wasn't that simple at all. They made various points. You made various points. People disagreed. That's how discussion works, and I think those conversations were pretty good. (Maybe you've had others about the Civil War here since then? I'm not sure.)

Lastly, diet – I am still not sure what you mean by that one, so I'll leave it be.

In general, though – I am not convinced that these are situations where anyone has been shouted down.
posted by koeselitz at 12:44 AM on October 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


Everybody needs an echo chamber.
Or a bosom for a pillow, at least.
posted by Wolof at 12:45 AM on October 20, 2014 [16 favorites]


One of the things that I like about metafilter is that it has some great dissenting voices. These dissenting voices often have to suffer a fair amount of vitriol directed at them, which is a shame, and sometimes they will direct that at other users as well, which is a shame. That said, it is possible, and I've seen it, for people to have conversations about difficult issues here and disagree. Which, to be honest, is close to unique, so it doesn't surprise me that it doesn't always happen.

I like to see disagreement, and see people with whom I cannot agree. I think that's ok. I think people can get a bit... hyperbolic about their disagreement. I'm thinking of a recent thread on intervention against ISIS, where the thread's opinion that any form of intervention was bad was not one to be casually disagreed with.

I also don't love the way some threads become the same damn conversation, as I'm sure I mentioned before in a comment (gun control, Isreal/Palestine excetera).

Can threads exist where only people who believe the thing talk about them? Sure, and I think the op design comes into it. If I make a (say) MLP thread about an awesome MLP thing then I wouldn't expect too many people to butt in and tell me how much they dislike MLP. However, if I make a thread about how science can't explain everything and link to a scientific american link about psychics, I might expect skeptics to turn up to have a chat about it.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:47 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Dickwolves.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:57 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think comments which break another comment down into numerous discrete chunks to reply to them piece by piece create an environment which stifles discussion. It reminds me of policy debate in high school where one of the main objectives was to get enough arguments out there that the other side would be overwhelmed and fail to respond to them all, leaving you an opportunity to pounce and claim victory. This sort of thing inspires me to abandon a lot of comments and avoid a lot of subjects altogether. Often, this happens in the context of what appear to me to be statements which simply were not, for lack of a better term, pure enough, the sort of so-called teachable moments which could lead to something interesting if the responses didn't come down on top of the poster like a ton of bricks.

I've also been thinking for a while that as a companion feature to disabling favorites, I'd like to disable usernames and replace them with user numbers, but that's probably better done as a browser extension so that you could rewrite quotes and references in comments as well as the attribution lines.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:30 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


Geez. Well, sorry - I guess I can see how that might be annoying. Breaking a comment down to respond to each part sometimes feels like the only honest way to respond to what someone actually said, rather than what I feel like they said; but I can see how that might seem overwhelming. I have a feeling it's the length of the reply that is stifling, too. I'll try to be more laconic, I guess, and less point-by-belabored-point.
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 AM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


feloniousmonk: "I think comments which break another comment down into numerous discrete chunks to reply to them piece by piece create an environment which stifles discussion."

Huh. The exact opposite for me, because any comment might have parts I agree with and parts which I don't, and detailed discussion like that feels like discussion, whereas just looking at the overall gist and agreeing or disagreeing feels like taking sides in a competition.

That said, there are some discrete chunk replies that come off as "I'm going to go line by line to show you what an ass you are", but I find that to be the minority.
posted by Bugbread at 1:44 AM on October 20, 2014 [18 favorites]


Food is boring.

New York is boring.

Microdomain experts holding forth is not the awesomest.

Death to MetaFilter.
posted by fleacircus at 1:51 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


On another note entirely, I thought the comments on the original post contrast interestingly with those on the famous my daughter sees things others can't AskMe from 2004. Evidence of a site-wide change in interpreting evidence and tolerating alternative epistemologies, or just another data point?
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


As a white man and a white American, these are a few topics I am uncomfortable posting about here:

Advanced tentacle grooming
kids these days
the Ford Pinto
my relationship with Mexican food
any post that uses the phrase "pink slime" outside of its normal context
debates involving children's toys
Waterloo (both the ABBA song and that other thing)
my being both a white man and a white American
IHOP vs Denny's threads
either my wife or my mistress
neopets
when improv is called a craft
"yiffing"
posts that do not invoke the "metafiler:" meme

That is all.
posted by gideonswann at 1:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


I should have said that it can create such an environment, because sometimes it's totally appropriate and makes perfect sense to respond to something in detail, but I often feel like discussions get caught up in a sort of proper argument for proper argument's sake feedback loop and this is a really common rhetorical device in that mode.

koeselitz, my comment wasn't made with anyone or even a specific comment in mind. I also definitely don't mean to discourage a thorough reply to anything, more the sort of debate team mentality of expecting super precise argumentation and then making the discussion about that instead of the original topic.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:56 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I make a (say) MLP thread about an awesome MLP thing then I wouldn't expect too many people to butt in and tell me how much they dislike MLP.

Maybe not "too many" but I would certainly expect some.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:57 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know, smoke; I love your comments in general, but I read -- re-read, rather -- the thread generated by that question about your daughter, and I think you got excellent answers from several of the most capable and proven people this site has to offer (and they are parents by the way), and even the person whose answer clearly irritates you in the thread I see from her answers in toto as a wise and experienced parent.

I should have been more clear, I think: I wasn't implying that people posting answers with less utility to the asker are bad people; I wasn't trying to say that I got nothing from the thread or found it valueless; and I wasn't trying to imply that all the behaviours I enumerated were demonstrated in that particular thread, far from it.

I was really just saying that I am somewhat uncomfortable posting questions, and that this discomfort has increased over time, due to my perception of an increase in a type of answering. I also called out that I felt the fault was also mine for being sensitive.
posted by smoke at 2:08 AM on October 20, 2014


Man, now I'm so glad that the only thing I don't care to discuss here is so small and insignificant that I only remembered it by being prompted by this thread. Whenever something related to postmodernism or poststructuralist philosophy turns up here, the replies are just comically inept (summary: "you obscurantist relativists, LOLSokal do you even real?"). But that happens like once in six months, so yeah, I can manage to roll my eyes that one time and move on.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:21 AM on October 20, 2014 [28 favorites]

the replies are just comically inept (summary: "you obscurantist relativists, LOLSokal do you even real?
God, yeah. This is so painfully accurate. Only I think "obscurantist relativists" overplays the sophistication of the responses these kinds of posts get from confused STEM types. It's more "I cannot see how I could immediately measure this concept. Therefore it does not exist!" See also the hilariously missing-the-point comments in the original thread arguing that the best way to deal with Shermer's claims would be to conduct a technical analysis of the circuitry of his new wife's transistor radio to see which component caused the "event." Which ignore the fact that Shermer's story is just one of many similar ones. That it follows an established narrative logic that predetermines how the story is told and how it is interpreted. The way to interpret a spooky story like Shermer's is not to conduct a micro-analysis of the technical elements involved in this one case. That approach is just going to get bogged down in detail and never reveal a broader picture. It's to look for broader patterns, to see where the story fits into a larger collective. What's needed to make sense of it, in other words, is not an engineer, but a folklorist. Someone from the GASP! Humanities.

The failure of Engineering ManTM (MeFi edition) to accept that the engineering and computer-science world view is painfully limited and cannot provide every answer is a large part of the discursive problem around these here parts.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:03 AM on October 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


Sonny Jim: "The way to interpret a spooky story like Shermer's"

The proper way to interpret it is to consider the music that was playing from the radio. Talking about why music played, or a broader pattern of spontaneous music playing is hilariously-missing-the-point. What's needed to make sense of it, in other words, is a musicologist.
posted by Bugbread at 3:24 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


confused STEM types

We call them STEMacists.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:25 AM on October 20, 2014


I am a Christian. I know many good Republicans. I know many good men. I believe my grandmother's spirit/soul/whatever shows up to visit us from time to time. I believe that the rise in ADD/ADHD diagnoses can be tied to the use and frequency of prenatal ultrasounds. My dogs are home without us for eight hours on workdays without a dog walking service and they are fine. FanFare rewatch shows should be vetted more or upvoted by the community before being allowed to take up space. Your kid isn't as exceptional as you think. Many people have never learned how to be an adult. Graduate school isn't always necessary or important. Not every period of sadness requires therapy.
posted by kimberussell at 3:58 AM on October 20, 2014 [27 favorites]

What's needed to make sense of it, in other words, is a musicologist.
Everybody needs somebody to perform musicological analysis.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:20 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the user base is so urban here that it is radically separated from the realities of how the other 10% lives. People on this site have collectively done a great job of moving beyond communication problems related to gender in the last 15 years, but there is still aggressive othering of Southern American people and rural people, and such fundamental misunderstanding of what it's like to live outside of cities that it would be comic if it wasn't so frustrating. Some of my favorite absurd comments have been the suggestions that in the future everyone will eventually have wi-fi, that having a car is optional always, and that in the future no one will live in rural areas because why would you.

There was a recent AskMe in which someone asked how to order something at a non-metropolitan Chinese restaurant and someone told them to ask for the second menu! A lot of people started saying that the asker should determine which part of China the employees were from! Where I come from the very assumption that the cooks would be Chinese sounds kind of nutty and racist, but people were serious about it.

The issue of guns is also very connected to this. Gun owners really get raked over the coals here. That's the part I'm more uncomfortable getting into and I don't want to fight about it now (or ever really so here I shut up).

I really like this site and don't mean to say anything mean to anybody.
posted by heatvision at 4:45 AM on October 20, 2014 [25 favorites]


You need to pay to replace your rude guest's shawl. Sorry. Video games are not Art. Voting for Nader in 2004 was a defensible piece of political action. We need threaded commenting on Metafilter. You should definitely raise your baby vegan. There are no real leftists in America. Chomsky was right. Law school is still a realistic option. You should probably do a PhD in History or English. Hitler and Nazi Germany are relevant to this conversation. You need to spend less time in front of the computer. Portlandia is overrated. Cycling is a waste of time. It's totally fine to eat that.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:03 AM on October 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


The issue of guns is also very connected to this. Gun owners really get raked over the coals here.

You mean, connected to the urban bias / rural life? That actually sounds like a good topic for an FPP, I for one haven't got a clue about this connection (then again, I don't even live in the US). But of course I understand that not many would want to throw themselves into this somewhat predictable fray.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 5:14 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not only are there things I'm uncomfortable commenting on here nowadays, there are entire categories of threads I no longer open. I'm glad so many people are so comfortable with everything here (truly), but I'm not one of them anymore.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:20 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Haven't read all the thread.

Yes, I think any 'woo' subjects are not treated with the same interest other subjects garner, which is a shame, because I think woo stuff is inherently cool and I like discussing it.

Religion is ok but it still very hard to come out as religious on this site IMHO never mind try to argue from a religious POV.

I've not tried it (I mostly lurk) but I *think* (open to debate, of course) that any argument putting forward the idea of doing something other than leaving an abusive or otherwise neglectful SO would not be looked on particularly favourably.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:39 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cannon Fodder: One of the things that I like about metafilter is that it has some great dissenting voices.

Well if i'm going to make a serious reply, and directly engage with this question, i'd say the one thing i feel uncomfortable discussing is that some of these so brave great dissenting voices come off as either believing really bizarre things that aren't even internally consistent ranging to utterly hypocritical, spherical cows in a vacuum type viewpoints, or seem to be playing some bizarre form of devils advocate.

There's definitely a few people on here who regularly post against-the-grain or semi outrageous replies in contentious threads that i seriously question are in good faith. It's never quite straight up trolling, but it's often something i'd characterize as a bomb drop.

It's one thing to have a differing opinion and take the time to write out a well crafted reply of why you have that opinion, or even just simply that you disagree and what your opinion is. It's another thing to engage on something that's essentially a huge derail which turns in to everyone arguing about your weird post.

This doesn't happen a ton on here, but it happens often enough that it's A Thing and i notice it. I'd definitely say this site has way less crappy behavior than anywhere else i go, but the flipside of that is the bizarre or crappy engagement with discussions stands out way more.


There's absolutely some dissenting voices on here that seem to regularly take out-there positions in a way that makes me think it's just as much about stirring the pot as having a different opinion. And sometimes i question whether they even believe what they're saying, because it stops even being internally consistent.


If i get to tear off two tickets, i'd say that calling people out on engaging with what reads to you as bad faith is seen as crappier than engaging in what, well, seems like bad faith or shit stirring. But i've already kind of died on that hill before, with my annoyance at the miss manners "the greatest rudeness is pointing out rudeness" attitude.
posted by emptythought at 5:58 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


The only thing I really self-censor on is jokes -- there are jokes you can make in person that just won't work in text and especially won't work in a varied place like this. I type a lot and then delete or close the window (and even then I'm sure a portion of what I post should have been deleted) to try and avoid that.

I think there is a tendency on AskMe to attack posters and question stated premises and feel clever for figuring things out and speaking truth to Askers and stuff and that makes me really uncomfortable

On both financial and relationship questions people tend to take a very hard line with things like "debt is wrong!" and "break up with him now!", and I can guarantee that if you could examine their finances or relationships with a NSA-style intrusiveness you'd find all kinds of hypocrisy. I read a lot of the answers to those questions more as people describing a more perfect and aspirational version of their lives and of themselves, rather than as factual descriptions of what they have actually done or will do in an identical situation.

MetaFilter's money situation

Yeah, I don't see a lot of value in chiming in on this one either.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:06 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


Fedoras are cool. For christsakes, Leonard Cohen wears them.
posted by jbickers at 6:14 AM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


Trigger, NSFW, and spoiler warnings are annoying.
You should be required to type out at least one of the questions in a poster's Askme before answering.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 6:17 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


What, if anything, are you afraid to say here?

Nothing, as being afraid implies that something bad can happen to one for discussing things here. While technically true, the chances of it actually happening are pretty remote.

Am I uncomfortable bringing up some things and generally avoid those threads? Sure, but that's true for any situation. There's certain things you don't talk about in an office or around the Thanksgiving table etc.

I have noticed I'm generally bored with Mefi these days, as we keep having the same arguments about the same stuff and there's little fun in that. Do internet sites wind up being populated by the people who most enjoy repeating certain subjects repeatedly? Do such groups self select? Does interbreeding enhance or diminish the group? Are they prey or predators? Maybe I should post this to Yahoo Answers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:19 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Does interbreeding enhance or diminish the group? Are they prey or predators? Maybe I should post this to Yahoo Answers.


HOW IS BLOGGY FORMED
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


There is a cabal.
posted by griphus at 6:22 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was thoroughly taken to task in two anonymous askmes. Apparently I hold some beliefs/done some things that are wrong according to metafilter, so I've never talked about those things again and I don't answer any askmes on the subject. It's not a big deal, I don't feel Silenced All My Life, I was just surprised that almost everyone felt I was being a jerk/weirdo about the things. I'm still not sure I agree, but I question myself enough to keep my mouth shut.
posted by desjardins at 6:24 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was thoroughly taken to task in two anonymous askmes

Me too! We should form a club!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:33 AM on October 20, 2014


I'm comfortable expressing pretty much any of my opinions here, which gives me pause, but the subjects I'm now uncomfortable talking about are personal things - the experience of depression, social anxiety, etc. - which I was much more comfortable talking about when I didn't expect anyone offline to know me by this pseudonym.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:46 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


- which I was much more comfortable talking about when I didn't expect anyone offline to know me by this pseudonym.

Yeah I think I used to talk about personal things like that more before my irl identity became pretty firmly linked with my mefi profile. Ironically, I have no issue talking about this stuff at meetups.

Once in a while I consider making a sock just to freely talk about sex, drugs and mental illness without risking it reflecting on me in a permanently Googleable way.
posted by griphus at 6:57 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh, I just thought of something I'm uncomfortable about after all -

There's a writer whose articles get turned into FPP's now and then. This writer actually went out on a date with me once, we hit it off decently, one thing led to another and we started making out - and then he stopped mid-stream and said he had to go home and feed his cats and he never called me again.

I freely admit that's all me, but that's a few FPP's I've had to just avoid because I can't get past the grumble of "oh, yeah, THIS jerk."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


There is a real Renaissance going on right now in country music. There was no "golden age" of hip hop. The Dandy Warhols are the most important band of the last 25 years. The EDM bubble will never burst. Adorno was right about popular culture. Wilkie Collins is a better novelist than Dickens. I no longer read books. It's not "shaming"; it's healthy critique. Ironic facial hair is here to stay. Skipping lunch is a great way to save money and lose weight. You are probably addicted to online gaming. Cat ownership is deeply irresponsible, environmentally speaking. You probably shouldn't use the excuse that "they're all the same pipes, right?" to do, you know, that in the shower. In retrospect, the American War of Independence was a terrible idea. There will be a digital dark age. Season 6 of Lost was the best season of Lost.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:11 AM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


people tend to take a very hard line with things like "debt is wrong!" and "break up with him now!"

AskMe Parody:

My husband and I have been married for 15 glorious years. We have 2 beautiful children. We all love each other very much. Our sex life is hot and awesome. He does 50% of the chores, has a great job, and is kind and generous. We are on the same plane money wise. I can't imagine that another person exists on this planet who is such a perfect fit for me. Except for this one thing.....his feet smell. I have brought it up a few times and he says "just deal with it". The thing is it really bothers me and I am at a loss for how to approach this. He refuses to see a doctor about it. Any advice?

Answer: I am so sorry that you are going through this. Look, if you came here to ask permission to break up with him, that permission is granted. Personally, this would be a deal breaker for me so I would DTMFA. Any man who ignores something like smelly feet after being repeatedly told that it bothers you probably doesn't respect or love you. I consider it a form of abuse. You can do better. You deserve better. Good luck and LAWYER UP NOW.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:13 AM on October 20, 2014 [60 favorites]


Things I'm uncomfortable bringing up here are generally situational - that is, some things that seem anodyne or obvious get hijacked by a couple participants and suddenly I feel like I don't want to try and argue against the tide of opinion - because it's the internet and I got other things to do.

But that's number one, a group saying something was X does not make it so. Except when it comes to the Minutemen, they truly were the greatest band of the 80's, the VU of California.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:21 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Your fitness and nutrition improvements are impressive and commendable, but statistically, you will gain back the weight you lost.
posted by almostmanda at 7:22 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


You don't know as much about that subject as you think you do.
posted by box at 7:31 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Kimberussell has inspired me. I wish everyone posted like kimberussell...so here's mine.

Children are both more resilient and more fragile than we realize, but I think we are wrong and ignorant about how to manage that. I certainly don't think divorce is this horrible life sentence of dysfunction visited upon kids that many seem to believe. I don't have kids.

I think people are super-squishy feely about animals BECAUSE we have exploited them to the point that most of us don't have much contact with them. Farmers have pragmatic attitudes towards animals because they are animals and not Disney talking characters. I hate any kind of animal mistreatment and think animals are souls just like us but the cute-ifying of potentially dangerous animals does not serve them or us.

I'm a woman, and I understand white men run the world and are privileged, etc. True true. But I think men in Western culture (and probably other cultures but I don't know enough to say) are so emotionally hobbled and handicapped that my heart bleeds for them. As a woman, I enjoy an incredibly rich and supported emotional life that most men cannot participate in or express if they are behaving according to cultural norms. I think we warp our sweet boys.

People grossly underestimate the differences in regional culture and the lifelong impacts that cultural conditioning has in the US.

Okay, this is probably MetaFilter approved, but I'll never understand why anyone cares who other people love and sleep with. Why that has anything to do with you such that you need to enact policy and stuff baffles me (I'm in the Carolinas).

We existed before our time on Earth and will continue on after our lives here. We don't remember the time before but we occasionally meet souls we "know" and it's remarkable and confusing and we skeptically chalk it up to indigestion.

I think when I dream, I'm interacting with other souls. Occasionally I dream of my sweet (dead) cat and I know I've been with him and I'll see him again.

That felt good.
posted by Punctual at 7:34 AM on October 20, 2014 [29 favorites]


I pretty much just want to second efalk's commnt above. It's hard for me to think of a specific example really, as I tend to think that in general my views align fairly well with MeFi's Approved Opinions. But I personally have a contrary streak a mile wide and a distinct antipathy for pep rallies; reading any argument tends to make me consider its counters. For the most part I wouldn't voice them, though, because on any politics-tinged subject you're singing yourself up for a few solid hours of manning your bunker while maintains a calm and reasonable tone, and for the most part it's more effort than it's worth, to me. It is one of the things that most disappoints me about MeFi, though; one of the things that gives me the most pleasure is learning to look at the world in a new way, and the "safer" MeFi gets the less likely that is to happen, because people who genuine think and believe differently than I, and the MeFi consensus, don't participate.

Sometimes in some ways I prefer reddit to MeFi these days, because sometimes it's more interesting to put up with the juvinelia of the freshman cafeteria table in order to access the passion a curiosity also present than to sit it the faculty lounge in my tweeds, back to the wall in case of stilettos...
posted by Diablevert at 7:38 AM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


It makes me really happy to hear that some people are uncomfortable expressing certain opinions on mefi; there are some that I also uncomfortable expressing, and that's great! Shame is an integral component of learning how to be a social and empathetic human being, and I dig that are some things that people here are nervous about talking about in public!
posted by Greg Nog at 7:43 AM on October 20, 2014 [32 favorites]


people tend to take a very hard line with things like "debt is wrong!" and "break up with him now!"

A few years ago this woman posted "my fiancee, who has up till this point been nothing but wonderful and who was recently put on mood-altering medication, kicked our dog." Almost everyone told her to just dump him immediately without even looking into the whole "mood-altering medication with a known side effect of uncharacteristic angry outbursts" thing.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Krav Maga is objectively the best martial art and some of the yahoos on this web site think they're being extremely funny by implying Brazilian "Jiu jitsu" is anywhere near as effective (as if) . The mods, as well, encourage this attitude.
posted by Awful Peice of Crap at 7:56 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


Honestly, I sorta feel disinclined to post most of the time these days, unless I'm coordinating IRL or making a straight-up recommendation.

I have realized something about myself over several years on Mefi (mostly posting under a different incarnation, lest you click on my username and think I have time traveled many a year since July). Namely, I tend not to comment at all unless I think I have something unique to say. That means I generally won't feel moved to post except at times when my view is contrary to other people's. I get kinda tired of being shot down. I wouldn't say I am uncomfortable, per se, but I do find my day-to-day life has improved when I'm not always vaguely worried that someone will say I am Wrong On The Internet. I sure do like Mefi though (some of my best friends are Mefites!), and I'm glad everyone here is not as anxious about criticism as I am, or I wouldn't get to read such interesting discussion.
posted by ferret branca at 7:57 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I sorta feel disinclined to post most of the time these days, unless I'm coordinating IRL or making a straight-up recommendation.

Yeah, I post a fair amount of IRL stuff which I really enjoy -- meeting MeFites, even those with whom I don't always agree on-line, tends to be great.

I also wouldn't necessarily say I'm "uncomfortable" but I tend not to post in or even read education threads at this point. This is partially because I know that I'm not always great at managing my own participation in them but also because they tend to be filled with misinformation and judgement and a lack of understanding. I get that people care about education a lot and have many opinions and that's great because education is important, but it's an area where the discussion can get bogged down in people's assumptions some of which are flat-out wrong. I'm sure it's how other people feel about a lot of conversations in their area of expertise and that's maybe something for us as a community to consider; I think there are some subjects that are addressed in such a way that those with a lot of direct knowledge or experience about them don't want to participate because they end up acting fighty or needing to address an enormous number of passionate but misinformed commenters and it can just be exhausting.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:03 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you honestly, honestly, think that BJJ will protect you in a street fight, maybe you should watch this. it's ridiculous that the mods (especially jessamyn who esposued this view continually and I'm GLAD she's gone) deleted this video from the front page. I challenge you to take me on - on the STREET - with your Poo Jitsu and we'll see what the true martial art is.
posted by Awful Peice of Crap at 8:05 AM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I challenge you to take me on - on the STREET - with your Poo Jitsu and we'll see what the true martial art is.

I have a gun that shoots claws removed from cats instead of bullets and runs on powdered foreskins instead of gunpowder. Check and mate.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:07 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Everybody has a plan until they get Poo-ed in the face.
posted by box at 8:07 AM on October 20, 2014


I'm pretty uncomfortable talking about kids/parenthood - it either seems like you're in the parenthood club or you're a childless kid-hater who will never have kids. It's kind of incomprehensible to some MeFi people that people want kids but can't have them yet, or can't have them at all, or don't want kids ever but like kids plenty, or have kids and love their kids but don't like any other kids yet most of the (mostly women) I know IRL have these sorts of things going on and we talk about it regularly.
posted by sweetkid at 8:10 AM on October 20, 2014 [25 favorites]


I'm pretty uncomfortable talking about kids/parenthood - it either seems like you're in the parenthood club or you're a childless kid-hater who will never have kids.

The way people without kids seem to always materialize in threads about kids to talk about how much more disposable income they have kind of creeps me out. The fact that having kids can actually make you poor is a terrible societal problem, not an opportunity for bragging about the international trips you get to take because you don't want children.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:12 AM on October 20, 2014 [34 favorites]


I'll just come right out and say... basically nothing?...

posted by emptythought


Excellent.
posted by mullacc at 8:13 AM on October 20, 2014


For me, anything Snowden-related.
posted by gsteff at 8:14 AM on October 20, 2014


It also creeps me out how people come to online dating threads to talk about how happy they are that they found their perfect partner 20 years ago. "I feel sorry for you losers," basically.
posted by sweetkid at 8:15 AM on October 20, 2014 [20 favorites]


I'm not uncomfortable talking about a bunch of stuff here so much as lazy, because I live with someone who agrees with my mildly-unpopular-on-metafilter opinions.

On another note, the Mao struggle session comparison is quite ridiculous. While no analogy is perfect, that one is really outstandingly bad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:19 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


I feel uncomfortable posting details of my personal life, partially because there's no guarantee it won't embarrass me if someone digs it up ten years from now, partially because sometimes details of my personal life are also private details of other people's personal lives and I don't feel comfortable sharing what isn't mine to share. I was going to say "especially because I am close to people who are also active on MeFi", but I don't think that really makes a difference come to think of it.

I feel uncomfortable participating in threads about nouvelle cuisine and/or molecular gastronomy to the point where it's just a "don't read the comments" situation for me because I feel like there is a lot of disdain, misunderstanding, and mockery around the topic on MetaFilter and I don't really feel like beating back against the tide just to be excited about things, plus there are a lot of ties to class issues once you start talking about food and I don't want to get into that either.

I also feel uncomfortable stepping into conversations about online social justice, because I've been steeped in it for years to the point where I feel comfortable pointing out abuse and hypocrisy within the culture. But if I come into a thread on MetaFilter where a lot of people are totally new to all of this, I could easily come across as hostile and anti-social justice which is absurdly far from the truth. One good example would be the fact that I'm not comfortable sharing criticisms of the Medieval POC blog, which has a lot of inaccuracies and problems. Elsewhere, the fact that I value the historical contributions of people of color and want to see them better represented is something that goes without saying, but here it might look like I'm saying let's scrap the whole thing and go home.
posted by capricorn at 8:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [21 favorites]


Hey wow missed the Mao analogy. I guess if there's one thing to attest to being able to talk about things here without too much consequence, it is being able to freely compare getting angrily talked to on the internet to hideous human rights atrocities and seeing little more than "the fuck?" in response.
posted by griphus at 8:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


One of the notable ways in which The Metafilter Consensus is maintained by the group deciding that different opinions are assigned different lines for acceptable comic hyperbole.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:30 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


On another note, the Mao struggle session comparison is quite ridiculous. While no analogy is perfect, that one is really outstandingly bad.

i dunno. remember the time we beat that one guy to death because his opinions on cat declawing were insufficiently dialectical
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:30 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


When I said "safer" in my comment above I did mean more emotionally than anything - that I feel it's safer for me emotionally to participate now on MeFi than years ago.

What do I feel uncomfortable saying? I feel uncomfortable publicly stating that I am emotionally affected by participating on MeFi - that I am emotionally affected by the responses my participation receives. We're supposed to act it it's just the internet and you don't actually know these people so it's not important enough to care about. But part of what makes this a great community is, in fact, the emotional investment people have in it, and the thoughtfulness they bring to their participation here, in my opinion.

I am absolutely affected by other people's negativity or dismissiveness or personal attacks. When I dial back my participation it's very much because I need to regulate what I spend my time, my energy and my emotions on - to take care of myself. It's on me to do that.

I am very interested in opinions different from my own so I want MeFi to be a place that accommodates a range of people's thoughts - even if I disagree, I learn a lot from the exposure to them - and it's worth it to me to treat others respectfully so that they are comfortable participating. Echo chambers do get boring. But nastiness, or someone holding forth & taking up the air in a thread, or someone using the space here to simply be provocative & troll for reactions when other people are being emotionally open & honest - this is all unpleasant to me and I don't need more of that in my life, so my ideal MeFi includes more members thinking about the affect their participation has on others (and on the people who might not even be talking - but who are definitely in the room listening).
posted by flex at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2014 [38 favorites]


MetaFilter is mostly good, but it also contains some not-good. Most of the conversational "borders", explicit or implicit, are good. A few are not-good. Such is the nature of any community ever, online or otherwise. I appreciate what MetaFilter does well, and for everything else, there are other places in the world. It does not interest me to come up with a handy-dandy list of what topics MetaFilter should handle differently, since in almost every case it's mostly a product of a few loud voices, and not readily addressed by any sort of mod action.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


It also creeps me out how people come to online dating threads to talk about how happy they are that they found their perfect partner 20 years ago. "I feel sorry for you losers," basically.

We're secretly miserable but trying to put up a good front.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


One of the notable ways in which The Metafilter Consensus is maintained by the group deciding that different opinions are assigned different lines for acceptable comic hyperbole.

As someone maybe overly sensitive to such things, I can say MeFi is generally really good about not using mass organised torture campaigns and genocide as comic fodder. It's one of the reasons I feel pretty safe here.
posted by griphus at 8:37 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is not comic hyperbole:

That whole "Maoist struggle session" someone once mentioned is so painfully spot-on it's a little uncomfortable to even talk about.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't have time to do the whole Talmud thing here, but this seems like a good place to post a quote I think of a lot when Metafilter meta-discourse comes up: "St. Paul has no such authority to license one side of a debate to fight freestyle, while requiring the other to follow Marquess of Queensberry rules" (that's Scalia from R.A.V. vs. St. Paul). The point is, viewpoint bias can be enforced in subtler ways than outright disallowing certain opinions. It can also work by strictly policing the rhetorical tactics of one side, while the other "fights freestyle."

Obviously the analogy between Metafilter and St. Paul, MN, is not a close one, and I don't think an informal community like this site has to strive for viewpoint neutrality. But it's definitely true that, if you're saying the right stuff, you can fire off rhetorical bombshells that would get you shut down if you were saying the wrong stuff. If you're saying the wrong stuff, which of course varies by topic, you have to be very careful how you frame everything, or you will attract an extremely heated community response and possibly moderation (either directly because you were out of line, or because you are the focus of a firestorm). Like flex said above, there are topics I won't address at all unless I can frame my comment extremely carefully, so it doesn't have any hooks for derailing and dismissal. This makes it hard to have some discussions.

I don't think it's a Problem, particularly. More like, it's a tradeoff. I just get irritated sometimes when people pretend that there's no tradeoff, and the only constraint on what you can say here is tone -- that you not be an asshole. In fact, there is a very wide range of tones you can take. For some sentiments, you can instantly ramp up to sarcastic accusations of fascism. For some, you pretty much have to say, "I don't even believe this myself, but . . . ."
posted by grobstein at 8:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [49 favorites]


But it's definitely true that, if you're saying the right stuff, you can fire off rhetorical bombshells that would get you shut down if you were saying the wrong stuff.

I gotta tell you, many of the "wrong stuff" posters don't understand exactly how mean I could be. Some of them are getting more restraint than they deserve from my corner of the Internet.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:07 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


It never stopped me, but it was a bit lonely critiquing Obama from the left at first. I think I got called a "troll" a few times just because my opinion was unpopular.

It's a lot less lonely now.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


The only stuff I feel truly uncomfortable talking about here is related to (surprise!) socioeconomic class and education. It's not a stretch to venture that the percentage of MeFites who have experienced decades-long stretches of grinding, intractable poverty is rather small. Still, in spite of this overwhelming lack of lived experience, there's quite a bit of pseudo-enlightened yammering done in service to what people who have always been at least moderately comfortable believe people who were born into disadvantaged communities need to do with their lives.

I think it's abundantly clear that there's still a ton of work to be done on clearing out racism and sexism from the corners here, but it's been my experience that classism is really the last big -ism to be silently/obliviously tolerated by a majority of MeFites, for no other reason than because direct experience under the thumb of intergenerational poverty is simply beyond the scope of comprehension for most of the people in the community, and it can be hard to identify slights against a population to which you will never belong.
posted by divined by radio at 9:14 AM on October 20, 2014 [48 favorites]


I gotta tell you, many of the "wrong stuff" posters don't understand exactly how mean I could be. Some of them are getting more restraint than they deserve from my corner of the Internet.

Alright you fucking bingbongs, I'm gonna fart real sneer-mad with y'all: you don't even know, not even with your biggest brains, how often you've dodged the snicker-snack of my fact-katana. Mostly I just blast Nitzer Ebb while sitting at home in my $8,000 gaming chair. I print your stupid comments on paper (paper that smells) and then I write "IS DUMB" next to your words and then I feed the paper to a dog that I don't like.

Just kidding, heh - I do like that dog.

(block-chockin' Wes Borland guitar riffs as "HE LIKES THE DOG" slaps all over the frame)

(Sticherbeast puts on Oakleys, gives a thumbs-up to each individual curved computer screen which makes up the 360 degree view, and then he spins around so fast that he becomes a jet of light which blasts itself into the sky)

(a cloud glows, and then explodes)

(golden raindrops of wisdom's light fall on the populace. Everybody puts on Oakleys and makes metal signs to the sky.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:15 AM on October 20, 2014 [26 favorites]


I feel uncomfortable saying this, but this time I will anyway:

I know it's how MeTa rolls, but the LOLs answers here are annoying the hell out of me.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:19 AM on October 20, 2014 [16 favorites]


The area where I most strongly self-censor has to do with my own experience of being female, for example, in threads where the sentiment is that "as a woman" one lives in fear of: rapists on the elevator, or catcalls on the street, and so on. Through some combination of not being super conforming in my gender identity and not being conventionally attractive and not being a fearful person in all kinds of matters, most of which have nothing to do with gender, these are just not things I am afraid of. Or in perhaps less contentious recent example, the thread on "I am here for other women". I recognize the trope "women, mothers, daughters, wives—we’re constantly at war with ourselves" but female/female competition has just not been a part of my experience. But I hesitate to speak up and say "that's not been my experience" because it runs too close to denying the experiences of those for whom these phenomena have been very real.
posted by drlith at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2014 [42 favorites]


If the moderators would put half as much effort into policing both sides of the coin, then the discussions about obesity, sexism, and racism might be worth discussing again.

As it is, it's made Mefi into the biggest 'safe space hug box' on the 'net.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


then I write "IS DUMB" next to your words

Oh, next to the username, surely.

Mostly I rant to my non-Mefite best friend about my personal least favorites.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually largely experience life in the same way, drlith, in that my own experiences with catcallers and such have been quite few and far between. But I also definitely acknowledge it is A Thing That Happens, still. Personally, if I do make "I haven't been personally confronted with this" statements, I tend to follow it up with "but I do respect it happens and I must just be really lucky" or something similar. I think it's only when someone makes a "this doesn't happen to me" statement that sort of implies "therefore y'all are wrong" that we run into trouble.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


i'd say what mine are but right now i gotta get my fat ass into the SUV and drive my cats over for declawing.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:28 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


AskMe Parody:

Clearly, the best response would be:

Watch Audition. Your course will be clear.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:37 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


More seriously:

I get that people care about education a lot and have many opinions and that's great because education is important, but it's an area where the discussion can get bogged down in people's assumptions some of which are flat-out wrong.

Education (and, now that I think of it, child rearing) is a subject that people a) have strong feelings about and b) imagine that they know something about because they have experienced education. What they have not done, of course, is provided education. They lack pretty much any idea of what goes on "behind the scenes," and that lack of information leads to some pretty bizarre conclusions. Add an entire industry bent on disingenuously propagandizing on the subject, and, well, conclusions will get even odder. There are a lot of places where people form opinions based on experience but not expertise.

Now that I think of it, a lot of the problem discussions about harassment would be easier if men realized that their experience of, say, walking on the street and a woman's experience of the same might be utterly different. We've all seen women walking around; that's not the same as the experience of walking around as a woman....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Some things that have seemed generally discouraged on the site:

• Criticizing policy by the modern Democratic Party, especially from a perspective that is socially and economically left of the modern Democratic Party

• Supporting atheism, particularly expressing assent with culturally popular atheists who criticize organized religion

• Criticizing a certain religion actively responsible for taking away legal rights from minorities

• Being critical of a culture that emphasizes ownership of tools of violence over an individual's right to live peacefully

I'm still on the fence about certain historical applications of dissent control by both the site majority and the moderation, but there is admittedly a general... consensus... about what people are expected to think and feel about specific issues, and thoughtful, fact-based divergence from that consensus is rarely encouraged or tolerated, on the whole.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:46 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I always think it's strange to allege there's a MeFi Consensus when we seem to manage to argue about everything. (Case in point: I'm now arguing about whether there's a MeFi Consensus.)

Except "Mr. Rogers was nice." So far, everyone seems okay with that one.
posted by Zed at 9:46 AM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


But I hesitate to speak up and say "that's not been my experience" because it runs too close to denying the experiences of those for whom these phenomena have been very real.

Oh man I feel the same about threads where people discuss how hellish high school is wrt bullying and whatnot. It's not so much that I feel like my way less confrontational and upsetting experience denies theirs, it's that there is just no benefit to anyone in that thread for me to say "sometimes it is different for other people who did not fit in" especially when people are being open and honest about how deeply affected they are about things that are still painful to recall.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:51 AM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don't think the problem is MetaFilter. I think the problem is that we have a small, vocal contingent of assholes and the willfully obtuse who ensure that threads about certain topics turn into shitfests.

Why do I think this? Because I think everybody reading this thread can, off the top of their head, name at least five users of that type, by name, and their particular modus operandi.

This is a problem that has existed for the entire history of the site, and I've accepted that the moderation staff are unwilling to ban users without exceptional reasons. I don't like it, but it's part and parcel of MetaFilter. I don't think anyone should be chucked off MetaFilter for having a bad day, or occasionally being a jerk. I do feel like repeated shit-stirring should be rewarded with a ban.

But I'm not a moderator, I'm not in charge, and I'm not omniscient.

My way of dealing with it is to assume that the moderators, because they see everything, have a greater insight into the value of these users, and that there's a reason they're permitted to stick around.
posted by scrump at 9:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


A search engine isn't broken just because it isn't providing as much revenue-generating traffic to someone's lifestyle business.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


An online community with thousands of members can't "police" itself in the same way that a real life social circle can. There will always be tacit rules and contours to conversations, including prevailing political stances. There will always be blustery dingdongs who will diminish others' fun. Worse, the situation might be complicated by the fact that these same blustery dingdongs can be quite enjoyable when not on their hobby-horses, or the fact that some people might actually enjoy the bluster of these blustery dingdongs, even if others greatly dislike it.

Some things you can mod away, but other things are part of the human experience. The site would not improve if I could ban the five blusteriest of the dingdongs, because there would be no universality to that rule: we could not have a site where we can just eliminate people for being annoying, especially since not everybody would agree on what that would even mean.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:04 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


The most daring thing one can do on MetaFilter is to criticize the moderation, which always provokes an epic pile-on. The moderation sucks -- it's inconsistent, sometimes bizarrely capricious.

But what the hell, no government is perfect and the alternative less so. "Love it or leave it" is Tea Party nonsense in real life, but many notable members have taken their leave over the years because of the moderation. I sympathize. That's the beauty of the internet though. Nobody makes you stay.
posted by klanawa at 10:05 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


idle thought... in every community there are subjects and topics that are uncomfortable to bring up, so it seems that if you are uncomfortable in discussing a particular topic then perhaps this really is a community.

I don't see the sign that says all opinions and topics must be treated equally. Yes, we should always treat members with some level of respect, but that does not necessarily carry over into opinions.

there are a millionbillion websites in the world not all of them have to accommodate the totality of what we are.
posted by edgeways at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Except "Mr. Rogers was nice." So far, everyone seems okay with that one.
posted by Zed


I'm not being funny. I've always genuinely believed that Mr. Rogers was hiding some deep, dark, hugely discrediting secret. I've always found him creepy.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 10:08 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pyrogenesis - for one huge datapoint, think of the response time and staffing of police. People who live in rural areas are more likely to feel they will have to defend themselves, and be correct, when the nearest police are over a half hour or hour out and may already be busy.
posted by corb at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was thinking about this thread as I walked to lunch and I realized that I would like, as respectfully as possible, to question the unstated premise I see in this which is that "people feeling uncomfortable participating in some discussions is bad". I actually think this is a pretty okay thing sometimes (though obviously not all the time).

For example, I wouldn't say I feel actively uncomfortable posting in threads about trans* issues, but I would feel sort of odd about it, and that's okay! There's really no reason my voice needs to be heard there. This is definitely true in some threads about poverty; I have no direct experience with poverty and so I feel uncomfortable trying to extrapolate my experiences into a useful comment.

Respectfully, I think there's a certain amount of arrogance in the belief that your voice should be welcome in every conversation. Sometimes, your experience just is not relevant and there's really no reason to share what you think other than the assumption that your words are always important and that people owe you their attention.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:18 AM on October 20, 2014 [76 favorites]


For example, I wouldn't say I feel actively uncomfortable posting in threads about trans* issues, but I would feel sort of odd about it, and that's okay! There's really no reason my voice needs to be heard there. This is definitely true in some threads about poverty; I have no direct experience with poverty and so I feel uncomfortable trying to extrapolate my experiences into a useful comment.

yeah, this exactly. I feel like people sometimes have this attitude in threads where they see the empty comment box and feel like it's a cocktail party and everyone's turned their head to them and said, "So what do YOU think?" and they have to fill the void with an opinion. But it's not a cocktail party and no one will be sitting around wondering what you were going to say.
posted by sweetkid at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2014 [25 favorites]


People who live in rural areas are more likely to feel they will have to defend themselves, and be correct, when the nearest police are over a half hour or hour out and may already be busy.

As someone in lives in a rural place, I really wish you would stop projecting your personal fears onto us.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:27 AM on October 20, 2014 [44 favorites]


MetaFilter: it's not a cocktail party and no one will be sitting around wondering what you were going to say.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:36 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


As someone in lives in a rural place, I really wish you would stop projecting your personal fears onto us.

Seriously and likewise. People here in my rural home tend to have guns because they hunt. Don't start a stupid gun argument here.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:39 AM on October 20, 2014 [31 favorites]


I am 150% serious when I say this. There is no topic I wouldn't feel comfortable broaching on this site.

I typically try to follow these rules:
1. DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE.
2. Pay attention to context.
3. Realize you don't have to comment on anything/everything.
4. When in doubt about being able to follow the first three rules...walk away from the site and go look at sexy stuff.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


What, if anything, are you afraid to say here?

Moist.

Plinth.

Anastomosis.

Haberdashery.

Evinrude.
posted by flabdablet's sock puppet at 10:43 AM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


I have, like, a batrillion questions about trans-gender related issues but I am so scared to ask them because 1) I don't know if what I'm asking is OK 2) I will be yelled at for not properly educating myself before asking the question. I read a response to someone who asked a question that I had thought about asking in a thread a while ago and someone replied, 'Come on, that's trans 101.' Yikes.

I don't know where to start with educating myself and I don't know what I don't know and ... yeah. The trans discussion is really important but is one that has gone unheard (my fault! i admit!) by me for so long I literally do not know where to begin. I realize these are probably just silly fears but the question was asked, so. Here we are. Also please don't yell at me I'm making myself vulnerable here and really want to learn :/
posted by Tevin at 10:48 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


If you site search "trans 101" a bunch of the posts have links titled "Trans 101" that send you to beginner-terminology and FAQ-type sites.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:50 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yo, grobstein, I both agree with you and feel like your point is quite obvious. So much so that it's usually made when people who are very used to being given tons of leeway suddenly aren't, and suddenly that imbalance seems pretty shitty. So then it's a Notable Fact and Especially Bad that some opinions are considered prima facie (sp) wrong and/or dumb and/or rude. Well, actually, that is something that is a part of pretty much any social group. Failing to notice these group preferences is likewise a basic human characteristic and not a special failing of Metafilter.

This is one of those topics which never fail to make me realize how much growing up in different cultures/moving between multiple cultures/being a class and ethnic outsider has really given me insight that a lot of people don't have into how common certain human foibles really are. And, if I may be blunt, I also have little sympathy for people who get really upset when they can't fit into a voluntary community completely without exchanging a bit of freedom. We all do it all the time in every social situation, unless we are antisocial or so powerful that other people have to put up with our unbridled freedom of expression.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Tevin, I mostly just read trans* threads for a while. I have come a REALLY long way in my understanding on the topic from just reading the threads and not even asking questions.

That said, I don't think "Come on, that's Trans 101" is such a terrible response. Sometimes people speak critically or out of frustration in those types of threads and it's not "yelling."
posted by sweetkid at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


In answer to the original question, if there is one area I frequently bite my tongue on Metafilter it is in relation to "tone". I am a person who believes tone matters and that holding the morally correct viewpoint and being on the side of angels does not give one license to be as rude, hostile, and dismissive as possible. There seems to be a viewpoint which has increased in popularity on Mefi recently which suggests that politely engaging on a contentious topic is akin to showing weakness or deference and the preferred method is to engage counterarguments with mocking and nastiness. I think this makes for poor discussion and wish it were more acceptable on Mefi to state something along the lines of "I 100% agree with your views on reproductive rights, but you're making your case really poorly here". I rarely bring this up, though, because I can predict the inevitable "tone argument" accusations and "Ooh, so you're saying if only she had only asked nicely..."-type mocking.
posted by The Gooch at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2014 [48 favorites]


I will not discuss, or in most cases even read about:

Parenting, kids, bands I like, police, wealth/poverty, suburbia, Apple, Microsoft, religion, or about a hundred other subjects. Really any subject where people tend to generalize (suburbanites all drive hummers and live a soul-less existence, amirite?, all cops are trigger happy murderers, amirite?) get super-judgmental, and make The Others out to be some sort of monsters, in most cases without even having any experience or knowledge about what life is really like for some of those Others.

I don't mind when people disagree with me, I don't mind debate, nor do I mind reading about controversial topics, as long as I'm going to learn something in the process. I'm not going to learn anything about any of those topics since the threads always turn out the same way, I'm just going to walk away hating this place. I don't want to hate this place. I love it too much.
posted by bondcliff at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Actually, this is a great example. Pyrogenesis upthread asked about the connection of rural areas and guns. I brought up one reason - less police. My husband's family lives out in meth country, this is stuff I've heard from them. This is an innocuous opinion to express in half the country, and in response to someone else. I get "don't start a stupid gun argument."

If presenting an opinion commonplace in half the country without rancor, in an informative way, counts as starting an argument, then I think it just proves the point.
posted by corb at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2014 [34 favorites]


Actually, I think I feel good about being "afraid" to say things here...that is, I think I've learned to think more strategically about conversations and since I'm naturally pretty heedless and impetuous and "but surely you want to hear my clever ideas", that's done me nothing but good.

I've also learned to feel like it's okay to refuse fights I can't win - there are threads where I just don't feel like jumping in with the [trans 101, anarchists-are-all-right, etc] and there are threads where I feel like I just don't have the heart to have that conversation again, and learning to let go - or learning to trust that other people can have that conversation for/without me is a-okay.

And I think I've learned (at least a little bit) to think to myself "wow, that was kind of a derail-y comment, I should not have posted that" or "is saying [X] really going to steer things in the direction that I want them to go", and both those things have had at least some ripple effect in my teaching and other external life things.
posted by Frowner at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


I re-read Atlas Shrugged every couple years for fun. I can't help it! It's entertaining!
posted by something something at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I do sincerely believe children need not be sensitized to violence and gore by exposure, but I'm too scared of the "think of the children" sneering meme to ever mention that again.
posted by francesca too at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


But are they good sources? Are they the 'right' sources? This is my problem: there is so much information out there I don't want to trust Google to tell me where to start. Does that make sense? Google doesn't always point to good information, or the right information. I could also Google "theory of evolution" and be directed to a Creationist website.

I get what you're saying, sweetkid, and reading threads has helped a lot (nth that for so many other issues, here, too). It's just discouraging, though I understand it's probably equally discouraging for anyone who's had the same talk over and over again to keep explaining the same things to idiots like me who don't know any better.
posted by Tevin at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know where to start with educating myself and I don't know what I don't know and ... yeah. The trans discussion is really important but is one that has gone unheard (my fault! i admit!) by me for so long I literally do not know where to begin. I realize these are probably just silly fears but the question was asked, so. Here we are. Also please don't yell at me I'm making myself vulnerable here and really want to learn :/

This is totally a reasonable reaction and I think the problem is that, looking at it from the perspective of other people in the thread, it can feel exhausting to have to explain yourself (and even, in some cases, justify your existence) over and over again. I think asking in a way that makes it clear that you are respectful of the time and attention others are granting you can go a long way. There's a difference between saying "WTF is up with this guys?" and "I am really trying to learn. Would anyone please be able to point me to some resources on X?". Also, as sweetkid says, reading trans* threads has been an enormous education for me.

You could also post a thoughtful AskMe question so that people are volunteering to answer in a space dedicated to your question instead of feeling like your question is taking away from their space to discuss other issues.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is an innocuous opinion to express in half the country, and in response to someone else. I get "don't start a stupid gun argument."

This is a bad place to have specific arguments. Please do not do that, regardless of how defensive you feel about your position.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:58 AM on October 20, 2014 [16 favorites]


Tevin, here is a thread with a "Trans 101" link at the end in small text which is a good place to start if you're looking for pre-vetted resources.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:01 AM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is an innocuous opinion to express in half the country, and in response to someone else. I get "don't start a stupid gun argument."

This is a great illustration of my point. Cultural differences exist, always have, always will. Making it out to be a huge problem with Metafilter, specifically, is not that accurate.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:06 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


I apparently don't think snooping is as bad as everyone else on Metafilter has unanimously agreed. I mean, I value my privacy, and that of others, and snooping isn't ideal, perfect behavior, but it's really not an automatically unforgivable sin either.

I feel like I often read AskMe threads where someone found out their partner cheated on them while curb-stomping a basket of puppies, but the real villain in the story is that the asker read their partner's text messages or emails or whatever. It really doesn't strike me as that huge a deal, especially if it turns out to be completely justified.
posted by fermezporte at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2014 [18 favorites]


-I get impatient when people get all jokey in threads. It's always either in-jokes or not really very fun McSweeney's type wacky humor. The only truly funny person that was ever on Metafilter was tkchrist and he's long gone.
-My belief that people who have differing political views can still be fundamentally good people and even likeable. In the end, actions count more than opinions. People are complex.
-My anti-humanist viewpoints. Humans aren't that great. They're generally pretty horrible. We're destroying the planet for all life forms. This is not something that can be seriously argued against but people get all offended when you say it out loud. Gotta stay loyal to your own species I guess.
- I think Metafilter can be pretty misogynistic sometimes. For a long time, I've noticed a tendency of when there's a piece posted by a female author, especially in the first person, it will be dismissed on the supposed lack of quality of the writing without addressing the subject matter. Meanwhile, the writing always seems fine to me.

I must say I have found this airing of the grievances cathartic!
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:10 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


Jessamyn said: The fact that I think there are some people here who are maybe bad-at-MetaFilter because they are just plain bad-at-thinking and/or bad-at-life. Nothing to be gained, I'll just talk about it over beers IRL occasionally.

And now there are ~12,000 people quietly wondering if she's referring to us.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:15 AM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


I miss that users like Faze have left, who while he often said some loopy things, said them so lyrically that I always appreciated them. I didn't always agree with his espoused viewpoints, when he espoused them, but I took no pleasure in seeing other users pick apart his posts.
posted by Aubergine at 11:21 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Whenever mods or recently former mods vaguely talk about problem users in way that's trying to illustrate a policy or point, not pick on a specific person, I take it as a given that they're talking about someone else.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:22 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


in response to someone else. I get "don't start a stupid gun argument."

I think it's good advice. We should all not start stupid gun arguments. I have many strong opinions about guns. Not tossing them in to a ton of places where they don't belong is one of the many ways I self-censor my own personal desires about what I personally want to talk about in order to make MeFi better for everyone. Not every opinion I have, even if I think it will lead to a better world, should be on MeFi. Put another way, there's sort of a checklist I have

- do I want to talk about this?
- do other people want to talk about this?
- can I foresee a conversation that could come out of this that is one I want to have?
- am I just stumping for my pet ideas and not actually having or continuing a conversation?
- have I had breakfast yet?
- am I just putting off doing other work by diving into this?
- do I just need attention and should I maybe get it elsewhere?
- would MetaFilter, in general, be improved or diminished (in however slight a fashion) if I commented?

Which reminds me that I have a class to teach.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:22 AM on October 20, 2014 [40 favorites]


*avoids eye contact, slips paper across table that says "The 'golden age' of TV is bogus and we're watching the same old trash except some of the writers know sociology 101."*
posted by gorbweaver at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


This is a great illustration of my point. Cultural differences exist, always have, always will. Making it out to be a huge problem with Metafilter, specifically, is not that accurate.

Yeah, but it's a question of what you want the site to be, and what the site thinks of itself as. Namely, tolerant, civil, sane, welcoming. You see it in a lot of the coverage metafilter gets from outside, too --- "the nicest site on the Internet" "the place where you actually want to read the comments" "like yahoo answers but useful" etc. We tend to plume ourselves on being the last sane space. A think a little recognition of the price of that --- that there's actually a fairly narrow range of opinions which are acceptable to express here, or you risk setting off a nobody-wins flame war --- is salutary. Not because metafilter is actually different from any other gathering of humans. But because it likes to think that it is.

If we wanted to, we could work a little at being you know, actually tolerant of a wider range of beliefs about stuff. I suspect the consensus on that will be a resounding "no" given that there's several paens to the joys of self-censorship in this very thread, as well as claims it's actually a great thing that expressing a countervailing opinion often results in a pile-on, because the hive mind is righteous, padawan.

For me personally, as I put it once in another grey thead, I'd rather live in Alexandria than Jerusalem, in a city where I cannot depend that my neighbors share my beliefs, where knowing other tongues than mine is useful to me, than in a holy city of the righteous, united in worship. Babble and Babylon are more interesting than Zion.
posted by Diablevert at 11:25 AM on October 20, 2014 [22 favorites]


I don't know if there are things that I'm uncomfortable per se writing about here. But there are certainly subjects that are much harder to write about here than in other venues, and sometimes that makes it feel not especially worth it.

There are definitely subjects where if you have an opinion or personal experience that is not smack-dab in the middle of the bell curve, you will be subject to a lot of less-than-well-meaning analysis and nitpicking. And once you've been on the receiving end of a few really mendacious misreadings, you realize that you have to start giving everything a second and third proofread before hitting 'post', adding parentheticals and asterisks and maybe full-on footnotes, fleshing out those edge cases, trying to anticipate the most obvious "gotcha!" responses and heading them off, linking and citing, breaking up anything that could be easily pull-quoted by someone looking to score cheap Internet Argument Points...

It's kind of a lot of work. Sometimes it's rewarding, because you feel like you've managed to express a nuanced position reasonably well, and sometimes it's not, because some jackass still manages to find that one fucking sentence fragment that you weren't sure about leaving that way and pull-quotes it, and then you feel compelled to defend yourself against some insane strawman caricature of yourself.

Metafilter is better than average, certainly. The mendacity and tendency towards hostile misreading here is *nothing* compared to what you'll find on most high-traffic parts of Reddit. But there is a slightly obnoxious tendency at times towards one-upmanship, and approaching discussions not as a thoughtful exchange of ideas but rather as a sort of game, where the object is to score as many droll bon mots as possible at the expense of folks not toeing the party line, which is, frankly, somewhat... addictive, and if you are a competitive sort of person, difficult to just walk away from. I've been guilty of participating in it, and I guess my takeaway from this particular thread is that I should try harder not to, in the hope that perhaps others will too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


I feel uncomfortable talking about physical appearance here even though it is obviously OK sometimes. But just like IRL I can't winnow the OK from not OK instances and therefore default to always not OK.
posted by Mitheral at 11:32 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter excels at allowing vigorous debate within a narrowly limited scope acceptable opinion. To use an example mentioned early in this thread (and not to debate the topic here), it is not acceptable to propose that voter ID laws might be non-evil. The acceptable debate is if those who propose such opinions should have their houses burned to the ground or demolished by wrecking balls.

(arson emits more CO2 but wrecking ball equipment burns more fossil fuels - see my tumblr for more)
posted by Tanizaki at 11:32 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm not comfortable posting what I'm not comfortable about.
posted by zennie at 11:33 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Awful Peice of Crap also why on earth are people out on the STREET in NON-camouflage pants a kind of pants design SPECIFICALLY for REALITY-based self-defense? You think a "gi" or so-called rash-"guard" is going to stop a STREET KICK??
posted by ignignokt at 11:34 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm kinda reluctant to comment on some AskMeFi questions, as it sometimes feels like I'm the lone person saying "The two of you need to at least have one conversation about the problem you've detailed and you haven't had that conversation yet so he/she may be utterly unaware of the issue" whereas everyone else is "Immediately DTMA and nuke him/her from orbit".

There's two specific topics I won't comment on any more as both led to anonymous attacks outside MetaFilter (the anonymous attackers may or may not have been MeFites; I don't know, though I suspect one was my ex-neighbor). I've also pretty much given up on cricket stuff here; no nasty stuff, just virtual tumbleweed and the occasional I-do-not-understand-cricket-how-can-a-game-that-goes-on-for-five-days-end-in-a-tie comment in reply.

But that's the downsides of MetaFilter in entirety from me. That and my humor being too forced (result: unfunny) in more than a few comments; am still not good at self-censoring. Apart from those, MetaFilter feels safe for commenting and discussion (declaration: am white, English, male, middle aged, tall, severely bearded, so my privilege is showing here). Other forums e.g. Reddit, ALA Think Tank, quite a lot of the online gaming space: nope.
posted by Wordshore at 11:34 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wish that MetaFilter was more tolerant of people for whom communicating in written English isn't so simple, for whatever reason that might be.
posted by Kattullus at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2014 [28 favorites]


Tevin, I mostly just read trans* threads for a while. I have come a REALLY long way in my understanding on the topic from just reading the threads and not even asking questions.

This, a thousand times. I have enjoyed MetaFilter a lot more once I realized that I didn't have to comment. I mean, I often do, but I also just read threads and the stuff they link to, and that teaches me something. It's not like anyone is born an expert on anything; we all have to learn. To take trans issues as an example, I suspect I came to MetaFilter knowing more about trans issues than most users because of my particular friends and life experience, but I have learned a whole lot here. There are a ton of other subjects I came knowing nothing about, and I've learned about those things, too. Sometimes, I learn that I am not really interested in that subject, and I don't read those threads, but sometimes I learn new things or get reminded about things that I had forgotten I was interested in. If the thread doesn't give you the understanding you want, the suggestion to post an AskMe is not bad, and you could always memail someone who said something you found interesting and ask them, if it's not too much trouble, to suggest a few sources that might help you get up to speed. They might not answer, and it's not their job to educate you, but I find that most people, if approached nicely, are pretty willing to give suggestions for further reading (as opposed to answering a lot of detailed questions themselves).
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


I sometimes stay out of threads (both on Metafilter and AskMe) on issues I like or have studied, if the first comments are just...I don't know, it's the same as child-raising or education threads: half-remembered anecdotes or impressions formed in a class taken years ago. I am sure I have left comments that weren't great in other threads so I'm sure I'm part of the problem, but it is frustrating because I just don't feel like taking on everyone who has posted before to say "hey actually research has changed" or "I found X article on this, can you talk more about why you think Y" or whatever. I avoid a lot of politics threads because yeah, there are some commentators I just don't want to talk to even if we share the general views; it often feels like there's no air. I do like being told when I make mistakes, and I wish AskMe did allow for comments reacting to other comments and not just to the OP.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:44 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


In a thread full of people listing their unpopular opinions, why is corb's unpopular opinion being singled out for refutation? And why is she the one who is then admonished to not start an argument, when it was the people who responded to her who actually instigated the conflict in this thread?

She merely answered a question about a perceived link between issues mentioned in someone else's comment. It might have been better to answer that side question via MeMail instead of here, but if corb's answer was off-topic then so was the question and no one seemed to object to the question being asked in this thread.

Meanwhile, corb's answer didn't attack anyone's position on the issue. She didn't even present her answer as THE answer, merely "one" answer. So why did a couple of people feel compelled to post comments disagreeing with her on that specific issue when this is clearly not a thread for arguing about specific issues?

This kneejerk gang-up-on-corb behavior is one reason that some people may feel uncomfortable posting about certain issues here. She's an example of someone who has represented the minority viewpoint in arguments enough times that her mere presence in a thread seems to provoke some people, for which she's then unfairly blamed for starting fights even when she's on her best behavior. Witnessing how corb is treated here likely has a chilling effect on people who don't want to risk incurring that sort of ongoing automatic bias against all their future comments.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:50 AM on October 20, 2014 [84 favorites]


It's been a long time since Metafilter felt like the "home" that it once did. Uncomfortable is not really a problem for me. But the value of time and effort to engage in a discussion is, especially when the discussion looks like anything but.

The weird misreadings and gamesmanship and pile-ons mentioned upthread took me elsewhere. It seems that some people, no matter what the topic, spend an enormous amount of time and energy looking for whatever +1 potshots they can pull on a hot button issue -- or person. In the present moment, I feel this most intensely in a few certain types of discussions here. It is ironic because the same people advocating the greatest care and most progressive approach in the use and interpretation of language around queer/trans/LBGTQ issues are often the ones making the coarsest and most willful misreadings in the comments of others. The resulting pile-ons feel like a weird combination of shaming and gaming rather than the educational, integrative approach that shows up with about the same frequency.

I believe the two major issues facing my generation are digital rights and of gender equality (as broadly as possible, including gay marriage, LBGTQ/trans issues, and so on). But there is only one of those two issues where I can bring something meaningful to the table on MetaFilter, both because of my own privilege, but also because of the environment here. As a result, I have gravitated toward other sites and discussions where I can grow to a more nuanced understanding and discuss progressive ideas about the things that I can most affect. I still read here, but keep my comments mostly in Ask, because I feel that even after ten years of reading, I still have something to offer there.

Things change, it's OK. We don't all have to stay for it.
posted by fake at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


1. I agree with all the posters upthread who feel that AskMe answers have gotten really judgey and dog-piley and totally un-nuanced. I think AskMe has been the largest victim on the site of the moderator crunch. And some people really need to either slow down to be thoughtful, or just shut the hell up on that section. You don't get a prize for pooping n every question.

2. I don't crate my dogs, I don't think it's necessary that all dogs be crated, and I think dogs need to be trained to use a crate, not just stuck in them for hours the first day you bring the dog home. I have mentioned this once or twice in dog topics, but I don't anymore because 1) I've already mentioned it a few times, and 2) I try not to back-chat other poster too much in AskMe.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:56 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I realize that this idea doesn't hold up because, most likely, people get things out of these discussions that I just can't see, but when I see a MetaTalk thread, I read like 50 comments, then I just want to say, "Wake up, sheeple! You don't have to spend your time this way! Go sing a song you like! Work on a project! Masturbate! Something!"

I'm mildly uncomfortable saying it because 1) that's like showing up to an Elvis Costello show and letting everyone know that he sucks and 2) what am I doing so far down into the thread?
posted by ignignokt at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I actually think corb's treatment here has been very lenient. I think there are probably plenty of other sites where she would have been banned by now. I just leave threads where she shows up, because it's not worth either slamming my own head into the wall or watching others do it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:02 PM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Site consensus groupthink is a real thing, but that dynamic redounds to the benefit of the minority contingent more often than one might think. I'm with the site consensus more often than not, but in the threads where I've been in the minority, it definitely wasn't a good feeling, so I get where some folks here are coming from.

Comments that go along with the consensus, by definition, aren't going to receive the same level of scrutiny, and I'm sure that's frustrating. Even if someone with a minority viewpoint makes a half-decent argument, there are more people on the other side of that issue who can make an equally decent counter-argument, thus the person in the minority is always at a disadvantage. Simple math dictates that it's going to be harder for climate skeptics, anti-vaxxers, etc.

Still, this doesn't entitle you to simply work backwards from your ideology and work the refs when you don't feel like supporting your position, or if you try to support your position but other members don't find your evidence compelling. I have witnessed many discussions where someone brought an argument to the table and took any request for evidence to support their position as an attack on them personally, simply for not agreeing with the majority. Once they feel like they're being attacked, they then feel absolved of their responsibility to support their argument. I've even see people going so far as to say that an attack on their position is a personal attack. Once you're at that point, where you can simply rule any argument as an ad hominem, the window for a productive discussion is closed. That way lies madness.

Majority pile-ons do happen, and I admit that I've been on the piling-on side more than a few times when I felt someone was engaging in deceptive argumentation, behavior I'm now trying to replace with simply backing away from the thread. Still, I've seen enough of this dynamic that I think it's worth mentioning here in a MeTa that's grown into yet another talk about how unfairly people holding minority viewpoints are treated. The consensus / outlier dynamic cuts both ways.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Go sing a song you like! Work on a project! Masturbate!

I'm at work right now, so can only do one of those.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:04 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


See, there's the rub, too: It's not "never". I remember reading some thread recently which had some people making positive comments about Christians

We've had plenty of productive and fruitful discussions about Christianity here, particularly when the source material and post framing are good. In particular, the posts about Slacktivist tend to generate thoughtful discussions that are respectful of religion.

On a personal level, I can unequivocally say that my views on social justice (which are more or less in line with the MeFi zeitgeist) were heavily influenced by my Catholic upbringing. I probably wouldn't stand behind a wholesale dismissal of all religion, even though I'm no longer a member of any church, and consider it to be harmful to society as a whole...

Oh, and nuns. MeFites are, in general, huge fans of nuns. Because they're awesome.
posted by schmod at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm at work right now, so can only do one of those.

It's OK, the project can wait.
posted by arcticseal at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh, also - and this is in NO WAY a comment about any or all of the other mods - but I do miss Jessamyn as a moderator on MetaFilter. Not just for her textual style of moderation, but also as a role model for how to be a considerate contributer in contentious topics.
posted by Wordshore at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Things I am generally afraid to say on Metafilter include but are not limited to...

- I'm afraid to say that I subscribe to any particular political viewpoint that is right of center.

- I'm afraid to say that I agree with any particular aspect of Christian theology. This began with "Let the peasants have their Jesus and their meth, but for god's sake stop acting like they have any place in a functioning democracy", and really just went downhill from there for me.

- I'm afraid to talk about my views on sexual orientation and gender identity.

There are many places on the web where the tenets of my worldview and the people who share them are welcome; MetaFilter is not one of those places. More to the point, MetaFilter is under no obligation to be welcoming to me or my point of view.

Once I realized that I could visit this place but that it would never be "home" to me, that made all of it much less frustrating.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


Sometimes religion threads are a crapshoot of what users are posting that hour/day (which is true of a lot of threads). Really good ones where there's a lot of non-snarky discussions are just about the best thing there is, though.
posted by selfnoise at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and nuns. MeFites are, in general, huge fans of nuns.

Or more accurately, the LCWR type of nun.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:16 PM on October 20, 2014


This began with "Let the peasants have their Jesus and their meth, but for god's sake stop acting like they have any place in a functioning democracy", and really just went downhill from there for me.

Yeah, that's a great example. If that sort of violently offensive rant were said against any other group, it would have been nuke-deleted from orbit. Why is that kind of thing allowed to stand? Because it only offends a small percentage of people?
posted by corb at 12:17 PM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


More likely because it was posted five years ago, when moderation standards were a bit different. I suspect that would be deleted today. (I still don't see anything "violent" about it but I certainly don't want to litigate a single example from five years ago)
posted by dialetheia at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


Maybe also because comparing religion to drugs has a pretty long history in political philosophy.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2014


Tanizaki: it is not acceptable to propose that voter ID laws might be non-evil

I can name this tune in two notes.

1. Many of the politicians who pushed for voter ID schemes admit that they are about disenfranchising people to win an election.

2. Disenfranchising people to win an election is evil.

Can reasonable people have different reasons for supporting it? Certainly. Does that make the policy itself, and the admitted motivations behind it to win elections, somehow less evil? Not at all.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:33 PM on October 20, 2014 [19 favorites]


tonycpsu: The mods have asked us not to have specific arguments in this thread so you might want to copy/paste your voter ID comment over here instead.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:38 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


divined by radio: I think it's abundantly clear that there's still a ton of work to be done on clearing out racism and sexism from the corners here, but it's been my experience that classism is really the last big -ism to be silently/obliviously tolerated by a majority of MeFites

I very much agree, and one reason I think that that dynamic happens so often is that sort of the central unexamined assumption at the heart of the "creative class"/upper-middle-class cultural and ideological complex is that upper middle class shibboleths and values are natural and virtuous, and that all of the other social classes are sort of defective upper-middle class people to the extent that they don't share them. That's a dynamic that naturally comes up in all sort of other dimensions of dominance as well as just social class, but MeFi as a whole seems to have by far the biggest blind spot there.

One can see this in every obnoxious thread about a poor person that gets derailed into a flurry of "but she should have just"s (the one about the lady who was struggling to afford diapers where dipshits kept jumping in to say she should have just used cloth reusables still makes me grind my teeth), but the same dynamic seems to me to be a pretty prominent feature of a great many of the AskMe questions lately where everybody starts jumping down the asker's throat.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:38 PM on October 20, 2014 [19 favorites]


I have to say I am heartened by the fact that the predicted train wreck has pretty much not materialized, and it's been a very interesting thread.
posted by localroger at 12:40 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


Jacqueline: tonycpsu: The mods have asked us not to have specific arguments in this thread so you might want to copy/paste your voter ID comment over here instead.

I already made a similar argument in that thread, but I missed the warning about discussing specifics here, and since I didn't see Tanizaki participating in that thread, I thought it was worth restating here. I don't see the point in everyone speaking in generalizations that will lead to everyone just talking past each other. If the point of this thread is to highlight the touchy issues, we ought to be able to try to find points of agreement on what those issues are, but if the mods are against talking in detail about them, I'll respect that.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:43 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


tonycpsu: I just didn't want the time you spent sourcing those links to be wasted in case your comment got deleted as a derail in this thread.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't particularly like discussions about the military here. They end up feeling very much like personalized attacks. My little brother is both US Army and awesome, and reading conversations about how soldiers deserve to die for what are ultimately the actions of our elected government is upsetting. So I try to stay out of those.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:59 PM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


More likely because it was posted five years ago, when moderation standards were a bit different. I suspect that would be deleted today. (I still don't see anything "violent" about it but I certainly don't want to litigate a single example from five years ago)

Don't kid yourself. Mods still allow that sort of violent "I'd like to kill (unpopular group)" talk (as of two weeks ago).
posted by Setec Astronomy at 1:05 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]



I wish that MetaFilter was more tolerant of people for whom communicating in written English isn't so simple, for whatever reason that might be.


I agree. I know that grammar mistakes trigger an instinct in some users, but correcting grammar (or worse, mocking it) is a derail for most topics. I self-censor my posts because of grammar concerns more than content concerns (especially if I'm on a phone and I know that communicating through typing will be difficult enough as it is).
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:08 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't kid yourself. Mods still allow that sort of violent "I'd like to kill (unpopular group)" talk (as of two weeks ago).

Did you flag that comment when you first saw it?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:19 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


reading conversations about how soldiers deserve to die for what are ultimately the actions of our elected government

I can't imagine that a comment that was specifically phrased that way would be allowed to stay (and I'd have a Big Problem it it was).
posted by schmod at 1:21 PM on October 20, 2014


I try not to discuss things that are non-trivially personal here because my public internet persona is also my MeFi persona. I slip every once in a while for a good cause, but if I ever get (god forbid) super-famous or notorious, there is one comment that I'll ask the mods to delete so I wouldn't have to talk to my father or grandmother about it.

There is also one wide-ranging topic (that tends to invoke an emotional/personal reaction in folks) that I am actually in 90% agreement with the end result most mefites would share, but the way I achieve that result varies pretty significantly. Showing my work would require multiple screens of explanation that people would either not read, take issue with, lead to pile-ons, etc. It is not worth it to me to discuss that topic on MeFi. People being "wrong" and yet still ultimately "right" is not an argument I can win and would just get me all het up. And I would rather spend my time on MeFi being useful or enlightening or helpful, not stirring the pot or starting a chain reaction of grumpy side-swiping or getting fed up with other people who don't have my (what I think is mostly eminently reasonable, with a dash of crackpot at the northern edge) perspective
posted by julen at 1:23 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thread about the Navy SEAL who was killed by a friend with PTSD at a shooting range was the end of my rope; the general contempt in other threads has kept me out of further discussions, mostly.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:24 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]




reading conversations about how soldiers deserve to die for what are ultimately the actions of our elected government

I can't imagine that a comment that was specifically phrased that way would be allowed to stay (and I'd have a Big Problem it it was).


Me too. Never seen an argument like that before. Lots of people (myself included) criticize government military decisions but are supportive of troops (veterans' benefits are one of the few things my conservative friends on FB and I agree on).
posted by sweetkid at 1:24 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I apologize if that characterization seemed hyperbolic, it pissed me off a lot.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2014


Don't join the coastguard.
posted by Hobo at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


The mods generally tread lightly when it comes to deleting comments; even noxious ones. I look at this as a feature and not a bug.

The degree to which I perceive MetaFilter as a welcoming or unwelcoming place is not a function of moderation policy; it's a function of the population and its collective world view and how that world view is articulated by that population over time.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Don't kid yourself. Mods still allow that sort of violent "I'd like to kill (unpopular group)" talk (as of two weeks ago).

Oh come on, that is obviously a joke whose humor derives from the hyperbolic misconceptions of MRAs about feminism ("feminists literally want to kill men"), not actual violence against anyone, where the other comment appears to be 100% in earnest with its extremly uncharitable characterization of Christian folks.

Honestly, given the overlap between the "silenced all my life" contingent and the "it was just a joke" contigent, I would think this would be obvious.
posted by dialetheia at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


Except "Mr. Rogers was nice." So far, everyone seems okay with that one.

next time you see henrietta pussycat, ask her where her claws are
posted by pyramid termite at 1:46 PM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


"Come on, can't you guys take a joke?" - every asshole at a party, ever
posted by Tanizaki at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


obviously a joke

Very probably everyone (or nearly everyone) who has written something to the tune of "I'd like to kill (some other unpopular group)" was joking, too, whether their comment was deleted or left undeleted. It is probably an exceedingly rare case where this kind of statement is made in earnest.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:18 PM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


I feel uncomfortable breathing in any discussion related to medical insurance in the US and personal responsibility or any discussion where anything related to feminism has been mentioned. I wouldn't dare say anything. Not because I have any sort of extreme opinions relate to either. I've learned that I am among the, what I think is far more than a handful of, people who can't seem to identify exactly where the "line that shall not be crossed" has been drawn in the Metafilter universe on those subjects. Thinking about citing an example of the kind of thing I would expect to cause a Metafilter uproar but wouldn't cause an eye to be blinked in the outside universe as I know it makes me flinch (Actually, I'm flinching right now).
posted by Carbolic at 2:18 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I apologize if that characterization seemed hyperbolic, it pissed me off a lot.

I don't think it was, but while I've seen comments similar to your example (not recently tho) I don't recall any that were not deleted quickly. I tend to avoid those threads as well as pretty much the only family I have left are all military and I have enough conflicts with them IRL that I don't want to deal with it here too.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:28 PM on October 20, 2014


Yeah, I went back to check that thread and it is about as icky as I remembered, but it is a thread from almost two years ago and also pulls in gun control nastiness.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:35 PM on October 20, 2014


I'm afraid of talking about things I don't know about on Metafilter.

asked how to order something at a non-metropolitan Chinese restaurant and someone told them to ask for the second menu

That was me. I stand by that advice. Make the people who know order for you off the menu you can't read. Metafilter has always been that way and works far better when you finally get the second menu.

"But sir, that is Ox tripe stuffed with fermented beans. You won't like it!"
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:35 PM on October 20, 2014


"The only thing I really self-censor on is jokes -- there are jokes you can make in person that just won't work in text and especially won't work in a varied place like this. I type a lot and then delete or close the window (and even then I'm sure a portion of what I post should have been deleted) to try and avoid that."

Yeah, that's the biggest one for me (outside of the regular "Wouldn't feel comfortable discussing this online/tying it to real identity" etc.). The folks I tend to hang out with, both personally and professionally, tend to have a darker sense of humor. Here there are both prim cork-sniffers and disingenuous tu quoque-ers, so I rein myself in fairly often.
posted by klangklangston at 2:48 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


... and it's really hard to convey tone in text, so people apply all sorts of intent to jokes, or miss the fact that jokes were indeed jokes, unless you pad your comment with some hamburger. Even then, people come from all sorts of backgrounds and viewpoints, so they might have a sensitive or sore memory regarding the topic of a particular joke.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm uncomfortable trying to encourage people to stop with comments like "Tea Party nonsense" mostly because it's noise that would derail a post right quick.

But the number of people who throw off one-liners at the expense of those with divergent political views, knowing that their comment will be favorited/accepted/nodded to in agreement, is disappointing.
posted by lstanley at 3:17 PM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's one thing to be welcome to diversity of opinion and to take into consideration peoples' personal experience, but it's annoying when certain people lose political arguments over and over and over because their arguments are deficient and then claim they are being censored or it's political correctness gone mad or whatever.
posted by osk at 3:19 PM on October 20, 2014 [24 favorites]


But the number of people who throw off one-liners at the expense of those with divergent political views, knowing that their comment will be favorited/accepted/nodded to in agreement

What's the exchange rate of MetaFilter favorites to reddit upvotes?
posted by Tanizaki at 3:23 PM on October 20, 2014


Jacqueline: This kneejerk gang-up-on-corb behavior is one reason that some people may feel uncomfortable posting about certain issues here. She's an example of someone who has represented the minority viewpoint in arguments enough times that her mere presence in a thread seems to provoke some people, for which she's then unfairly blamed for starting fights even when she's on her best behavior. Witnessing how corb is treated here likely has a chilling effect on people who don't want to risk incurring that sort of ongoing automatic bias against all their future comments.

I think a lot of people are just really tired of how corb regularly completely shits up and derails threads, and totally gets away with just rolling them off the road into the ditch and are a bit over sensitive about that. There is a definite history of her making threads about her that you can't really just discard and go "why did everyone gang up on her for no reason".

People may be a bit sensitive to it, but it's not like there's no context there. Hell, do you think the mods would go out of the way to shut that down if they hadn't seen it a million times in the past?

jessamyn: MetaFilter's money situation

You know, this is a good one too, but not in the sense of the actual site itself, but the userbase.

Any number of times both on the blue and the green(which has even been meta'd before) people on here painfully display the fact that this site is like, 95% middle class+. Some discussion of what money it takes to do something or deal with some life situation will come up and everyone will basically say "it's not that hard if you're not a moron and you plan ahead, jeeze" from their position of making >50k a year(or whatever the equivalent larger amount is in say NYC or the bay area) and having a decent savings account.

And then if you call this out, you get a reply from someone who wasn't being dumb about it above saying "hey, i don't make that much, bla bla bla" when that wasn't even the problem.

But really, there's quite a few people on here who are a lot more comfortable than they realize, think they aren't really, and also think that the problems of those struggling more than them with less are entirely personal failings or whatever. It's happened over and over and over to the point that i just roll my eyes and move on unless it's particular egregious or cheeses me off in some new and innovative way.

On preview, divined by radio basically had the same things to say about this.

showbiz_liz: A few years ago this woman posted "my fiancee, who has up till this point been nothing but wonderful and who was recently put on mood-altering medication, kicked our dog." Almost everyone told her to just dump him immediately without even looking into the whole "mood-altering medication with a known side effect of uncharacteristic angry outbursts" thing.

If ever there was like, a "national be a dick day" or something, i'd want to make a meta that was just "what do you think the most embarrassing response to an ask thread was in aggregate?"

Because that would totally be in there.

That also just made me think of another one. Maybe i'm just deeply cut by other internet rescue squad events that ended up not as great as everyone painted them as or even blew up in everyones faces, but i'm to this day really uncomfortable with how "WE DID IT! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!" everyone was about the whole russian-girls-sex-trafficing thead. Not so much that the problem got solved, but that everyone was all "omg i can help, i can be some random creepy person they don't know to show up and try and stop them!" and everyone was like "yea do it!". And anyone who said anything negative at the time basically got shouted down or ignored.

The whole thing gets remembered with rose colored glasses when the way a nonzero number of people participated in it was pretty stupid.
posted by emptythought at 3:27 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


So i guess to revise the thesis of my original post, there is basically nothing outside of mefi i feel uncomfortable talking about here. the stuff i do feel uncomfortable talking has to do entirely with the culture of the site, or events that have taken place here.

This kind of mirrors my experiences in real life, where i can talk to my friends about mostly anything with a couple small exceptions, but mostly can't talk to them about stupid things within that friend group or how one specific friend consistently does some crappy thing unless they bring it up first.

It seemed to me that the original premise of this post was "what things outside of mefi are you uncomfortable with talking about on mefi", or at least, that's how i took it. It seems that a lot of other people besides myself have issues discussing things that relate to the site on the site though.
posted by emptythought at 3:31 PM on October 20, 2014


I came to MetaFilter looking for interesting concepts and sources. There's often a good amount of sources, but people seem much, much more interested in snark than imaginative, often tangential discussions. I've also often been appalled by how people treat others in the MeFi community, but it seems like being right is a lot more important than being empathic. Often times, there seems to be a lot of implied nuance that one replier gets from an earlier comment. When it happens to me, it just feels like a lot of possible work to correct it. Like... a long thread equivalent to a 200-page book with just ideas/links from many users without heavy negative emotion and shaming others? I'd totally read that. That's just my opinion, though; I'm still young and trying to absorb as many viewpoints as possible, and have lots of time to waste. ... I'm sort of surprised that anyone finds MeFi completely accepting of all their beliefs.

I'm one of the people that takes 10 minutes-3 hours to make a comment, so when one of my comments gets deleted I stop visiting MetaFilter for 1-2 weeks. I'm fine with people thinking I'm wrong, less okay with abrasive comments (which, other than insightful views and lighthearted jokes, are the ones which seem to get a lot of favorites), and completely stumped by singular post deletion. I can see it happening from posts that completely seem to be flippant and/or posted out of rage without mental moderation, and I know one such post of mine easily fulfilling that criteria, but I don't understand the rest, even after an email correspondence. I'd prefer if I actually had some record of the comment for later comparison, and got shouted down by the community on what specifically is too much, so that I can improve later on. But I guess that's a sign of my privilege that I don't get enough criticism. Also, there's topics introduced in comments that are often derailments, depending on the post, but I don't see much reason why later discussion can't focus on more tangential points.

I was considering splitting the above two paragraphs into separate comments, but I think that feeling uncomfortable because of deleted comments is pretty relevant. I don't understand how jbenben is okay with posting comments with a high chance of deletion. If it serves some purpose, why not just reply with a warning about possible red herrings and derailment, and explain why? A philosophy of tossing out the good with the bad, especially considering there's a lot of motive-reading and thus personal judgment required, is one factor that makes forums bland.

Oh, and I can totally understand why someone who used to work for MetaFilter wouldn't bring up the money situation. It doesn't hurt to get a reminder when there's no conflict of interests, though, especially on MetaTalk.

On a lighthearted note...

I pronounce "mefites" "meh-fit-ees"

And now my terrible grasp of Spanish has me thinking of MeFites (with a slightly differing pronunciation) as a Mexican appetizer. This distracted me for 10 minutes reading the comments on this post.
posted by halifix at 3:39 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't really feel uncomfortable talking about any particular topics here as long as I'm arguing earnestly and in good faith. I'm glad that I have access to such a huge, diverse group of people here who are more than happy to tell me when I say something douchey. It's like having friends who would tell you if you had food in your teeth: I appreciate the honesty. When I feel a lot of trepidation to comment on a topic, it usually means that I have some inkling that my view of that topic is at least a little bit shitty and tough to defend, or at minimum I haven't thought about it enough or done enough research to have an opinion worth telling everyone about. When I believe my view is defensible, though, I have no reason to feel nervous about it because I'm happy to argue the point with those critics.

Sure, I might come in for some harsher criticism than I'd like, but those critics are equally entitled to state their opinions, just as I am entitled to remember them forever as "the person who said that stupid thing and was super mean to me." If there are specific complaints about moderation, they should be addressed, but feeling uncomfortable commenting about some topics is not automatically a site problem. Often, it's just an inherent mismatch between myself and the community, and the community is not required to meet me halfway or even acknowledge the validity of my beliefs, only to refrain from personally attacking me.

For example, I hate how threads about climate change frequently turn into unanimous circlejerks about how climate change is inevitable and we're all irrevocably fucked as a result so why bother since the denialists ruined everything for us right-thinking folk, yadda yadda yadda, so I'll often try to comment to argue against that consensus in some way. I have to come with my A-game because if my assertions aren't correct, I'll be taken to task for it. However, I don't feel silenced all my life about it if people ignore or snark about my comments, and I don't respond to every single person who disagrees with me because that would make the thread all about me, not about climate change. I can't expect everyone to STFU and accept my premises and refrain from arguing with me; just because I'm outnumbered doesn't mean I get some special protection from criticism or some special right to start making 50% of the comments in the thread. Even if people irritate me, each of my interlocutors has the right to say their piece as long as they aren't personally attacking me.

In short, "I advocate for free comfortable expression, except as it pertains to criticisms of my expression" is what I'm getting from many of these comments.
posted by dialetheia at 3:40 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think a lot of people are just really tired of how corb regularly completely shits up and derails threads, and totally gets away with just rolling them off the road into the ditch

Quite frankly, that's bullshit.

A derail is when someone gets completely off the topic of a thread. If someone posts about kittens, and you go into that thread and say, "Kittens are cool, but what I really want to talk about is ice cream," then sure, that's a derail. It's not a derail if everyone in there is talking about how great kittens are, especially the ones with fur, and you say, "Actually, the kittens without fur are equally cute." It's not a derail if you say "I find that kitten fur activates my allergies." All of these things are not derails, because they are talking about kittens. If no one wants to talk about your opinions that furless kittens are cute, people are not under any obligation to answer you.

If I have an opinion and state that in a thread - my sincerely expressed opinion, that I am trying to discuss in good faith with other people who want to carry on a conversation - it is bullshit to say that I am shitting up the thread because my opinion exists and you wish that people who have my opinion did not exist and would just go away and die quietly somewhere, or immediately upon being confronted cry, "Mea maximus culpa" and collapse into obscurity. If there's a conversation about Foo and everyone is hating on Foo, and I talk about liking Foo, it is not a derail just because you don't agree and want to get back to a lovefest of agreement.

This is especially true when the conversation in a thread is shitting on people, and the part you see as a "Derail" is "hey guys, those people aren't actually monsters."
posted by corb at 3:43 PM on October 20, 2014 [42 favorites]


I'm loth to share my personal experiences being directly involved in cases like one of the biggest news stories out there today. I've been on TV discussing it, but if I was to share in threads about it, I feel I would be attacked by folks who have never been involved in such a case, don't know the law and would just refuse to listen, despite the fact I have more experience in these matters than anyone in the userbase.

Haven't been coming by as much of late.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


Part of that, Ironmouth, I think is that some people have trouble differentiating "This is how I think things are" from "This is how I think things should be." Which I run into sometimes. But I try not to let that affect my commenting since, well, it seems like their problem rather than mine.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Sometimes it does feel like a giant echo chamber around these parts. On a lighter note ...

Subaru is not the only answer to "what car should I buy?" questions.

Tylenol is not the deadliest poison unleashed upon mankind.
posted by stowaway at 4:00 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lots of bobble heads are on TV all arguing that their position/expertise is the right one.

And corb, from my point of view you do come into kitten threads and talk about ice cream all the time. Your endless hypothetical made up "what if" scenerios are a derail.
posted by futz at 4:06 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


What's the exchange rate of MetaFilter favorites to reddit upvotes?

what is the exchange rate of something worth nothing to something worth nothing? how existential.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:09 PM on October 20, 2014


I think Metafilter would be a worse place without corb's posts.
posted by bitterpants at 4:11 PM on October 20, 2014 [26 favorites]


A reddit upvote is a bit of confetti, a MetaFilter favorite is a shiny nickel.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:13 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just want to say that as a generally non-religious/irreligious person, I've really appreciated Pater Aletheias' contributions to topics relating to Christianity.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:13 PM on October 20, 2014 [36 favorites]


Maybe we can skip the second coming of the every one vs. corb debate, at least in this post?
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:13 PM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


meh. some of her posts are fine and some of them have been really dehumanizing and terrible. whatever, I don't read them for the most part.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:14 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


There is only one topic where I really am starting to feel there is literally no way I could phrase my comments where I would not end up receiving rude comments or a pile-on in reply. It's weird because I (mostly) navigate controversial issues where I have less of a personal stake without much issue, but this one topic I have extensive personal experience with...I can't really talk about my views and I want to share them. I don't really know what to do about it, but in general I wish controversial topics could be modded so this sort of thing doesn't happen. I have no feedback on how to fix this. So, all in all a super helpful comment!

On corb, sometimes she is the problem. Sometimes the users piling on her are the problem. There was one very recent situation where I definitely read it as a bunch of people aggressively taking a "This will not stand!" position in response to her posting of an incredibly common political view. Stop it. Stop asking for her to be banned. Stop piling on. Just let her be wrong on the Internet.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:16 PM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


And corb, futz is right about you sometimes derailing with hypotheticals. That isn't the way to go.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:18 PM on October 20, 2014


Subaru is not the only answer to "what car should I buy?" questions.

A car that spelt backwards is u r a bus, is not the answer. To those questions, anyway.
posted by Wordshore at 4:18 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but it's a question of what you want the site to be, and what the site thinks of itself as. Namely, tolerant, civil, sane, welcoming. You see it in a lot of the coverage metafilter gets from outside, too --- "the nicest site on the Internet" "the place where you actually want to read the comments" "like yahoo answers but useful" etc. We tend to plume ourselves on being the last sane space. A think a little recognition of the price of that --- that there's actually a fairly narrow range of opinions which are acceptable to express here, or you risk setting off a nobody-wins flame war --- is salutary. Not because metafilter is actually different from any other gathering of humans. But because it likes to think that it is.

Tolerance is always (and has always been) a zero-sum game. This site is known as nice, female-friendly, sane, a place for relatively decent conversation for a reason. "Tolerance" doesn't even make sense as an absolute value to hold yourself to if you are dealing with more than one person.

Like, if you have one kid, you can bust your ass and do what they want and be really indulgent. Once you have two there are inevitable conflicts; you have to split your attention and prioritize. Metafilter has thousands of kids. We can't make sure they all get the exact conversation they want with people who agree with their exact opinions on everything and never say things that offend, upset, or insult them. Impossible.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:20 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


That also just made me think of another one. Maybe i'm just deeply cut by other internet rescue squad events that ended up not as great as everyone painted them as or even blew up in everyones faces, but i'm to this day really uncomfortable with how "WE DID IT! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!" everyone was about the whole russian-girls-sex-trafficing thead. Not so much that the problem got solved, but that everyone was all "omg i can help, i can be some random creepy person they don't know to show up and try and stop them!" and everyone was like "yea do it!". And anyone who said anything negative at the time basically got shouted down or ignored.

If you want to talk about this, I'm available. danreetz@gmail.com . I still think about it often, and I still talk to K. She recently met my fiancee in Moscow and showed her around.

For what it's worth, your characterization is a bit off. You're right that, many, many people offered to help or meet (me or them) or organize. And they politely asked me and others involved if it was a good idea, and we/I dissuaded them after intense discussion with people from the State Dept and the various trafficking groups (Polaris Project in particular). Nobody encouraged Kathrine to do what she did, although it did turn out to be a good way to get the girls to a safe place.

I didn't yell at anyone for saying crazy shit or even saying really ugly things like Bingo did. I think it's important to distinguish people being cautious on both sides from people making up their own "narratives" and saying the girls knowingly came to the US to be strippers/whores when nothing could be further from the truth.

Random people really did help - Pollomacho (State Dept.) and Kathrine in particular. "Random" people gave me places to sleep and shower on the way to LA. People searched for jobs for the girls and eventually helped them get home. It was a touching thing for me. If you feel that some of the back-patting was undeserved, or the "shouting" too loud, I'm sorry. I really had very little to do with that. I did give a gushing update, but I definitely never shouted anyone down, in fact I said I respect the skeptics insofar as their skepticism keeps everyone honest.

Again, I'm available to talk anytime, by phone or email or any other medium. I'm a real person who was just trying to help his friends and I'm sorry that it ended up difficult for anyone else.
posted by fake at 4:28 PM on October 20, 2014 [53 favorites]


Also, is it OK if I just want to kill and eat a person, without regard to their beliefs on race, gender, politics, or religion?


(respond by memail if you prefer)
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:29 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, is it OK if I just want to kill and eat a person, without regard to their beliefs on race, gender, politics, or religion?

absolutely not OK - you have to cook them, too, you barbarian
posted by pyramid termite at 4:31 PM on October 20, 2014


The thing that I dislike about MetaFilter is how it is acceptable to gang up on individual users like in this thread.
posted by Nevin at 4:32 PM on October 20, 2014 [25 favorites]


absolutely not OK - you have to cook them, too, you barbarian


*crumples up recipe for baby carpaccio*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:35 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


The only thing I feel uncomfortable sharing here is how many times I have actually eaten that thing that Askme tells others not to eat.
posted by kanata at 4:40 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


[Comment removed, let's keep it to a simmer with the interpersonal stuff please.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:54 PM on October 20, 2014


What do you feel uncomfortable about saying here?

OMG, too much.
1. That I work in the financial industry, or really anything remotely related to finance
2. Anything related to free markets or basic supply and demand forces (and no, I don't like Ayn Rand and I don't mean anarchist libertarian utopia nonsense, I mean Economics 101 stuff)
3. Anything slightly less liberal than the norm for Metafilter (and for what it's worth I consider myself a liberal)

Basically a lot of the time I will see a finance related thread and notice 20 people have already jumped in with "up against the wall! criminals!!" and it's like...OK I'm not saying anything. Same for any discussion where people are basically angry about free markets or supply and demand. Why subject yourself to a pile-on?
posted by pravit at 5:00 PM on October 20, 2014 [28 favorites]


For me it's not that I'm ever afraid to post anything; it's just that this is a place where if you want to discuss something in a meaningful way you need to expend the time and energy to write thoughtfully; and in engaging, to be ready to carry on in the conversation. I'm probably a bit older than the mean here, and I often just don't have the time or energy to jump in, even to what may be an interesting topic whose discussion I feel I could add to. Also, crazy-long threads (like this one) are kind of exhausting and time-consuming to follow.
I like that this is a place where things don't just go unchallenged, though a lot of times I feel like some people are way too fucking earnest and righteous. But that's okay, I can take it, and that righteousness is often challenged here as well. I used to post at Barbelith, which when it was active was maybe even a few notches above this place in having long, overly-analytical, tediously and fascinatingly dissected discussions.
Which does remind me of an example of something I won't normally talk about here, though I did there and was rightfully swatted down: the meaning in common parlance today of the word "misogyny" (vs. "sexism"). Because misogyny has generally changed in use and consequently in meaning through use (like many words), and that's interesting— but you don't bring it up in a discussion of sexism or misogyny because that's not really the fucking point of the discussion. If you're talking about the evolution of language? That's when you bring it up, and probably cause a derail, but at least it's on-topic.
posted by Red Loop at 5:04 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I thought The Princess Bride was a dumb movie. The Matrix sequels were as good as the original, which is my favorite movie of all time. The music of The Beatles is so bland and boring that it gives me a headache. I don't understand the appeal of wine. I don't think bow ties are a good look on anyone. I have effectively "won" Cookie Clicker, without cheating - got all upgrades and achievements, 400 cursors, and 200 of every other building - and it only took approximately six entire weeks of all my non-working and non-sleeping time. I almost never floss my teeth, but my dentist seems to think I do.

At some point I may create an AskMe re: when I should reveal this information to my OkCupid dates.
posted by Munching Langolier at 5:12 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm extremely fortunate in that the only things I'm not comfortable talking about here are various television shows and books that I don't like. And even then, it's mostly because I hate to be that asshole who wanders into threads full of excited people and grumbles about how the thing they love is stupid.

Oh...and I sometimes get really self-conscious about offering advice in "Stuff to do in NYC" threads. They always end up feeling oddly competitive to me, like we're all trying to out-insider each other.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:19 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've had a whole bunch of opinions pop up in my mind while reading through conversations on MeFi, and most of them, with the exception of a rare few, have not been posted due to the discomfort of dealing with reaction OR someone actually said concisely what I was thinking.

The issues discussed here, and this deals with the sexism threads mostly and there are some others that could be thrown in, deal with a subset of people that I am ***not at all*** a representative of, and this subset turns out to be not of insignificant size (actually I have and continue to run into these sorts of people IRL). I have to constantly remind myself of this, and then throw on the empathy which results in my brain settling down shortly after, realizing it ain't anything to get tied up in knots about.

Moving on, to echo what others have said above: the strongly leftist slant (not liberal, leftist), certainly puts a damper on things, and if I have a link to a legitimate article, for example, I'll just post that and leave the conclusion as an exercise to the reader.

Specifically, ever since I started working as a programmer at a federal science laboratory, I have a much deeper and ever deepening understanding as to what science is. And while there is consensus about whether global climate is changing, there's a lot of uncertainty as to what's going to happen in the future. Just to throw this in for thought: we have a lot of land-based measurements, and very few out in the open water, which covers ~70% of the Earth's surface (The Laurentian Great Lakes, for example, see map inside, represent this lack of measurement over water). That's a huge gap in recorded observations and measurement.

I could go on, but these are the two topics that stick out in my brain, and I need to scramble an egg for tomorrow.

Cheers all
posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:22 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tone argument
I have mixed feelings about the concept of tone arguments. On one hand, I hate when people are penalized because they don't have the eloquence of an orator, or because they're speaking passionately about something that they have to live with on a daily basis. However, more recently I’ve seen claims tone arguments be used as a way for people to insist that they are entitled to an audience for their rage and meltdowns. I, personally, have made it a point in my life to leave conversations where people are speaking aggressively to me, and reserve that right even if I'm chastised for silent tone argumentation. If someone enrages at me, I have no intention of lapping it up like a puppy and begging for more. My right to leave conversations that I don’t feel comfortable with is just as valid as someone else's right to rage.

Cultural appropriation
I have mixed feelings about the concept of cultural appropriation. On one hand, wearing a headdress or bindi as a fashion accessory is understandably upsetting. People from those cultures have stated why, and their feeling should be respected. However, in the case of say, Avril Lavigne making a Japanese themed music video, that fact that the majority of the people in Japan (where she is very popular) found it to be a lovely tribute should override the panicking of a bunch people in America who think that its horrific appropriation.

Tumblr
I generally think that Tumblr has provided a great space for people to explore social justice issues. However, I don't cast blanket support for every user on the site. I roll my eyes at users' lamenting that their parents are scolding them for eating diamonds, since they are an otherkin with the soul of a dragon. I also an not convinced by the argument that people shouldn’t learn Spanish as its appropriating language from the people of Mexico.

Snooping
If a person suspects that there is something ominously "off" in their relationship, but can't pinpoint it well enough to have a meaningful conversations, the fact that they snooped once and found an incriminating email is not that big of a deal to me. That situation is vastly different from a chronic snooper who uses snooping as a substitute for hard conversations. There are many situations that I can imagine where getting information on a partner's misdeeds without them knowing could be beneficial. Evidence for future legal action being one of them.

Given all of this, I would like to say that these are just my silent pet peeves. My pet peeves and a dollar can buy you a cup of coffee.
posted by Shouraku at 5:33 PM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl: For example, I wouldn't say I feel actively uncomfortable posting in threads about trans* issues, but I would feel sort of odd about it, and that's okay!

People are talking about feeling actively uncomfortable, not just sort of odd. There are also those talking about how it's often threads on topics they do know a lot about, but for whatever specified reason, they don't contribute.

So your example, while relevant to you, isn't really relevant to the greater discussion. Which is, conveniently enough, also described as a problem, albeit most often ascribed to AskMe users.


Narrative Priorities: I'm extremely fortunate in that the only things I'm not comfortable talking about here are various television shows and books that I don't like. And even then, it's mostly because I hate to be that asshole who wanders into threads full of excited people and grumbles about how the thing they love is stupid.

Most sincerely - thank you. Because too often threads about pop culture here will have an influx of, well, first there will be the inevitable 'Is this something I'd have to have a tv etc.?' comment, but there's also often people who come in to make sure you know they think whatever property you're talking about is lame and dull and only something the dumb could enjoy.
Some posts are based around a link that involves criticism, but some are based on introducing a cool property or showing something neat that has come from it. Going into, say, the recent Homestuck thread and declaring it all stupid is, while a perfectly valid opinion to hold, not really a necessary addition.

There's a few reasons I don't enjoy most media threads on MetaFilter, despite it being one of my areas of expertise. That's one of them. I'm glad for every user who knows not to do the 'your favourite band sucks' just because they think the fans really need to be told.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:35 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


The area where I most strongly self-censor has to do with my own experience of being female

Oh my god, this.

I'm female and I don't feel the heavy thumb of the patriarchy on me, and I'm getting sick of being told that somehow I've been brainwashed because -- other than not being allowed to play Little League when I was a kid -- discrimination against me for my gender is just not my lived experience. I don't live my life as a woman living in fear of violence and/or feeling constantly oppressed (and I have been the victim of sexual violence in the past). Men and women do think about things differently, and we should accept and celebrate that. I don't feel Metafilter is (or ever was) a "boyzone".

Also: I'm fat and no amount of diet/lifestyle change short of quitting my job and being in the gym 10 hours a day is going to change that. My son has autism and I DON'T think he was born that way, I think he became autistic through some environmental factor that we haven't identified yet. I don't get a flu shot because they make me sick. If you purposefully cross the border to, say, Canada, after having been kicked out for overstaying your visa, you should already know who your lawyer is going to be and prepare for the fact that you might be detained, regardless of your gender expression or identity. I don't believe in god but I do believe in ghosts and that it might be possible for some portion of our personality to survive death. Professional athletes are not overpaid. Farmers markets and "ethnic grocery stores" are not always cheaper. Sometimes people are depressed because their lives are genuinely crappy and medication might make them feel better, but it will leave them with less desire to change what is crappy about their lives. It is possible for a healthy consensual sexual relationship to exist where one partner is under 17 and one partner is over 21. I would vote for Obama again. I am not afraid to eat GMO foods, although I think GMOs are problematic for other reasons. Math is actually hard.
posted by anastasiav at 5:42 PM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


A few people have talked about not liking to engage in discussions in areas that they are very knowledgeable about, and that's one place where I'm very lucky. I talk a lot about Japan (I'm imagining a lot of grumbles and "Yeah, we know" from readers at this point). It's not because I'm a weaboo or anything, but it's one of the very few topics on MeFi where I know more than the average MeFite, and can bring something new to the table. But unlike many topics, people who don't know about Japan don't particularly pretend to know about it. Everybody has been to school (or homeschooled, I guess), so lots of people have very strong but uninformed opinions about education. Everyone was a kid, so a lot of people have strong, uninformed opinions about parenting. Guns, sexuality, bicycles, pop music, whatevers. But when it comes to Japan (and, of course, don't get me wrong, most countries), people may have uninformed opinions, but they aren't strongly held. So if someone says something that's way off, I can comment about it without having to deal with a barrage of people saying "I know almost nothing about this subject, but I can confidently say that you're wrong!"
posted by Bugbread at 5:46 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Men and women do think about things differently, and we should accept and celebrate that.

I'm so glad we have this thread. It is really thrilling.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:58 PM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


Just to be clear, I'm being sarcastic because I think it's stupid to have a thread where people can take jabs at other people with the expectation that we should just...what, let it go to prove that we are tolerant of bigotry? Wow, yay, how great and wonderful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:01 PM on October 20, 2014 [22 favorites]


A few people have talked about not liking to engage in discussions in areas that they are very knowledgeable about, and that's one place where I'm very lucky.

I need to start avoiding the (happily fairly rare) discussions of my field, because it drives me a bit bonkers to see how the most uninformed comment possible gets exactly the same weight and consideration as does one from someone who has been engaged in this exact thing for decades. And yes, I'm aware that I undoubtedly do the same thing when I comment in a discussion about, say, education, but at a super meta-meta level I think the flattening of expertise is something Metafilter does wrong (or at least poorly).
posted by Dip Flash at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Metafilter has thousands of kids. We can't make sure they all get the exact conversation they want with people who agree with their exact opinions on everything and never say things that offend, upset, or insult them. Impossible.

I don't think tolerance is an absolute good, that it's possible for everybody to have the exact conversation they want. That's silly. But tolerance of other viewpoints is, theoretically, held to be a liberal value, and metafilter is a pretty liberal place. If the motto of the joint was "Metafilter: Proudly Intolerant" I think a lot of people would bristle at that. People like to think of themselves as tolerant. People often advocate that others ought to be more tolerant, in our lovely multi-cultural, global, mixed-salad society. Having a conversation like this where we puncture our self-regard a bit on the issue is useful, I think. Tolerance is hard, sometimes. But worthwhile, I'd say.

I think tolerance is a parameter. We can choose what it's set at. If it were up to me alone, I think I'd have it so that things were a bit more free-flowing, and that people with a wider set of viewpoints felt welcome in posting. I'd be fine with a site where exasperated people could say both "sometimes this feels like a Maoist self-criticism session" and "I like my men's right's advocates like I like my BBQ, spit-roasted" and both comments would be left alone because readers would understand that there is a such a thing as hyperbole and that no one is literally advocating either genocide or vigilante murder.

There's a lot of people who would disagree with that, who value MeFi as a refuge, a "safe" space where they agree with most people most of the time and people with whom they fundamentally disagree are routinely shouted down. (Or, if you prefer, have their illogical viewpoints argued against with such cunning incisiveness that they are shamed into silence.) I find it a little too hermetic, sometimes, in that respect. Probably because I think that being able to have a genuine, fairly civil exchange of views with people I fundamentally disagree with would be a really valuable thing, one that's all too rare in real life, especially it feels like our society has become more polarized, our media more siloed.

I would like there to be such a place. I just feel like Mefi isn't it, and this thread kind of points to why. At the end of the day is on me, that's my pipe dream. If I'm in the minority on this than it is what it is. I can but put in my 2 cents here and there, and if it really drives me nuts I can drift away from the site. And I do understand, it's fucking hard as shit to keep the joint running as it is, I don't envy the mods their jobs. But hey. The grey is the place for discussing how Mefi sometimes fails to be the site we would like it to be and how we think it could be better.
posted by Diablevert at 6:06 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


I'm not seeing the sarcasm, sorry. I'm just seeing that you're busting on my shorthand comment because -- because why? You think I'm a bigot for believing there are differences in how men and women problem solve and think that are hardwired, not cultural? You think my comment is stupid?

Congrats, you've succeeded in making me feel stupid and wishing I had never commented at all and thereby (ironically enough) proven why I don't feel my viewpoint is valued here. Bravo.
posted by anastasiav at 6:09 PM on October 20, 2014 [45 favorites]


I remember being very disappointed in the discussion and handling of the FPP about the woman who wanted the Whole Foods store to stop playing Under my Thumb by the Rolling Stones. About three or four users completely took over that thread, and the resulting MetaTalk, and if you didn't agree with them completely you were completely shut down.

I've lost much interest in participating in threads about sexism and feminism because, again, it's almost always a handful of users who take over the discussions.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:10 PM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Also, is it OK if I just want to kill and eat a person, without regard to their beliefs on race, gender, politics, or religion?

Now I think I'm kind of uncomfortable admitting that I find the plots on Hannibal utterly ridiculous, and I keep watching only for the hypnotic set design and clothes....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:14 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


But are they good sources? Are they the 'right' sources? This is my problem: there is so much information out there I don't want to trust Google to tell me where to start.

I think Snarl Furillo was suggesting that you follow the links labeled "Trans 101" that posters included in the posts themselves, not that you google trans 101 and hope it returns something useful. For example, I've used this text (maybe slightly varied) on a couple of posts:
Useful resources for participating in the discussion: Ohio U's Trans 101* : Primer and Vocabulary guide; GLAAD's Transgender Media and Education Program guide.
The first page of results from a Google search for trans 101 actually seem to be non-horrible, at a quick scan, but who knows how that could change? Links included in FPPs have been deliberately selected by the MeFites who posted them, and (unless commenters are calling the links out as having problems) they're probably good places to start.
posted by Lexica at 6:25 PM on October 20, 2014


the young rope-rider: "Just to be clear, I'm being sarcastic because I think it's stupid to have a thread where people can take jabs at other people with the expectation that we should just...what, let it go to prove that we are tolerant of bigotry? Wow, yay, how great and wonderful."

If you're talking general policy on MeFi, sure, I agree in principle (though I don't know if anastasiav's comment is an example of it). It's stupid to let people spout bigotry and leave it uncountered because some sort of TV news "equal time for all opinions" policy. But in a thread specifically about what people are hesitant to say, you're upset that people can say things without giving them a smackdown?
posted by Bugbread at 6:34 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]



Just to be clear, I'm being sarcastic because I think it's stupid to have a thread where people can take jabs at other people with the expectation that we should just...what, let it go to prove that we are tolerant of bigotry? Wow, yay, how great and wonderful.


Yeah, this is a weird thread. It's like a frustration medley.

Also, most of life is talking about how sure people are about how men and women are "wired" and women are usually "wired" in ways that are extremely limiting, condescending, and incorrect to every single person's experience , so I'm glad that on Metafilter we can talk about that more critically and not just accept evo psych explanations as truth.
posted by sweetkid at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


I've been on TV discussing it, but if I was to share in threads about it, I feel I would be attacked by folks

Well there's your problem, buddy; no-one here even owns a television! That's old media. Get back to us when you're on a popular comedy podcast or retweeted by @digiornopizza. Those are some legit bona fides and maybe we'll be more inclined to take you seriously.
posted by griphus at 6:37 PM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


I've lived in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and China (in addition to California, Texas, Florida and New Jersey). Feels naive or flat-out wrong if people want to contend that there aren't some profoundly different cultural norms and tendencies out there.

It's probably as much the nature of the world as often enough the nature of the site, but all's fine and good when something like the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia is criticized, but it can seem like there's a moving, ever-murky line when one addresses other norms and tendencies, and one is much the devil if it's crossed.
posted by ambient2 at 6:55 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just to be clear, I'm being sarcastic because I think it's stupid to have a thread where people can take jabs at other people with the expectation that we should just...what, let it go

Yes.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:57 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


ambient2: "Feels naive or flat-out wrong if people want to contend that there aren't some profoundly different cultural norms and tendencies out there. "

Thank you for prompting me to go back and reread some of the Arguing Possibly Korean Neighbors (NOT RACIST) thread.
posted by Bugbread at 7:17 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed, maybe not so much with the paragraph-length links to meme pages as implicit commentary on other user stuff. Just say what you actually mean maybe if it's worth saying or leave it be.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 PM on October 20, 2014


I avoid threads about tv shows I like because I'm so fucking tired of people micro-analyzing them, being all "Oh I think it started going downhill in show 3 of this season" when it's show 5. I dunno, I guess you get some kind of points for pinpointing the exact moment where something starts declining, I just don't tend to care and it starts to ruin things for me.

The other thing, and it's related to the whole "4 or 5 posters dominating discussions" thing, is threads on libertarianism, where the same few posters - who in a lot of cases don't seem to have a realistic picture of how well they argue- make it all about them. Because every libertarian is unique, so we can't ever discuss it as a coherent movement or philosophy without dealing with each one of them. It's gotten old.

There are things that I don't feel comfortable commenting on here, but they're mainly things I don't have much to say about, so I guess it's OK. Not everybody needs to comment in every thread.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:26 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


There seems to be this opinion that tolerance and environment are fundamentally opposed. I really, really don't get it. It's not oppression when others state contrary opinions. In fact, wouldn't that be the best time for a counterargument to convince them? Just don't be a fucking prick about it. If all you can type out is disgust, type out maybe one reply, and leave the thread for a while. Unless it's blatantly breaking rules of conduct/site, no single post should be bad enough to warrant mod action. I always assume fallacy on my part if I'm getting too involved, and while no one really needs to follow that, it's helped in keeping me from saying stuff I shouldn't say. I have trouble doing this half the time, but it also helps to always try to state the qualifiers of arguments and limit their scope. We can discuss anything as long as we are sufficiently self-aware about it. (This implies that we do make some effort to check for logical fallacies and bias.)

It's like the whole "You're racist" versus "You sound like a racist." If you feel your emotions are important to the thread, please calmly say why. It's not your fault if others are insensitive or derailing, but try not to compound the problem.
posted by halifix at 7:26 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh man I have complicated ethical feelings about certain assisted fertility procedures. But I generally decide not to participate in those threads because it's not a personal, emotional issue for me and so maybe I should STFU and save my ethical ponderings for the proper venues instead of wading in with my soulless hypotheticals to someone else's agonizing pain.

Christian threads are a crapshoot, sometimes they are great and fascinating, other times they get LOLXtianed in the first five comments and borrrrrrring but I've been "publicly Christian" for a lot of years (since majoring in theology at an obviously religious school) so I usually don't have too much trouble saying, "eh, this thread is going nowhere and people are being dumb" without taking it personally. If I'm already in the thread and it goes south it's a bit harder but I try to be philosophical about it.

MY CATS CAME DECLAWED FROM THE SHELTER AND GOD DAMN I PREFER IT THAT WAY.

I think Marvel/DC comics are REALLY BORING and I wish nerd spaces spent less energy on them, but I accept that to be in fun nerd spaces I will have to listen to people going on about comics.

Neil Gaiman is pretentious and all his books are the same after you read one.

I used to feel like people could be real dicks about "flyover country" in a way that I found very offputting and exclusionary, but I decided to BE THE MIDWEST I WISHED TO SEE IN METAFILTER. I believe people now expect me to drop into flyover threads to be Iowa's biggest cheerleader and smack down anybody being provincial about THE WHOLE MIDDLE OF THE NORTH AMERICAN CONTINENT. (But really, that form of dickery seems to have fallen off.)

Brandon Blatcher: "I have noticed I'm generally bored with Mefi these days, as we keep having the same arguments about the same stuff and there's little fun in that."

I think that happens over time as you get very familiar with a particular forum's main preoccupations and more and more of them get to be rehashes of things you've already read. The same thing happens with print media. Or even with your co-workers. #JulyByWomen was great for bringing in some fresh threads with new discussions. Also a month away dealing with meat-space crises can refresh my enthusiasm. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:28 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


corb: it is bullshit to say that I am shitting up the thread because my opinion exists and you wish that people who have my opinion did not exist and would just go away and die quietly somewhere, or immediately upon being confronted cry, "Mea maximus culpa" and collapse into obscurity. If there's a conversation about Foo and everyone is hating on Foo, and I talk about liking Foo, it is not a derail just because you don't agree and want to get back to a lovefest of agreement.

This is not what i was talking about, and at the risk of making the thread a referendum on you or whatever, i think i deserve a chance to clarify what i was saying.

I was talking about things like the michael brown choked a WOMAN? derail, and also in that thread the whole "well the robbery had to have something to do with it" thing. Or, as one person put it, unjust laws are fine if they don't apply to me. Or how about the whole voter id laws aren't about disenfranchisement, they're because not enough people care enough about voting rabbit hole.

Or hell, let's rewind a bit. The whole people donating money to Zimmerman aren't racists!(in which you posted ~1/6th of the total comments, and argued a number of weird ass points like lynching not necessarily being a racist term relentlessly)

These are greatest hits, blatant examples i could think of off the top of my head. I didn't go plumbing the depths of google or anything, and there's a lot more i probably could have found simply by looking at threads in my posting history or about certain events. I didn't want to include like 30 links and get railed for having a "vendetta" or whatever either.

This isn't a difference of opinion, it's an attempt to shift the conversation in to being about something completely different but tertiarily related or minimize certain aspects of it.

To re-use your analogy, it's the equivalent of someone talking about kittens, and making a hail mary to turn it into a discussion about indoor cats vs outdoor cats when that hadn't come up at all yet. Hell, some of these examples aren't even that, it's just a straight up hijack(i'd put the unjust laws one in that category)

My definition of a derail would include cases when everyone starts replying to whatever point you brought up, or directly to your post rather than to the original content. This is not inherently harmful all the time, but the times you chose to do it are often when tensions are already high.

It's also worth noting that in several of those threads some of the most egregious comments got deleted, and only hang around as bits-n-bobs in quotes, like the "public lynching" one in the last thread. Some of these examples at the time those threads were current and active were actually worse. Hell, the voting thread has a particularly egregious rant about democracy being the secular religion of america that got nuked.


I'm honestly completely befuddled that everyone jumped to her side here, other than the whole "how dare you be mean and call someone out!" culture. Judging by the replies in those threads i wasn't the only one who took issue with this. But calling it a consistent pattern of behavior is over the line i guess?

And i mean there's also stuff like this that's just i guess, yea, an opinion in part. But it was also a complete misrepresentation of the events(as discussed here and in many other comments) early in the thread that got everyone all riled up and just... replying to that post, or that premise.

And really, that's the problem with trying to refute the "Is me expressing my opinion shitting up the thread?" bit. The context usually matters unless it's especially blatant. You have a habit of misrepresenting the facts by cherry picking, selectively quoting, or only replying to specific bits of an issue, article, or discussion in such a way that turns it in to a complete different discussion or that gives you the ability to reply to it as something it's not. It's not as simple as "well what's this?" because in the end, it is kind of subjective. Your opinion is often both inflammatory or contrarian, and also doesn't really quite make sense when you look at it for more than a little bit. But by the time we've gotten to that point, the threads become most people just replying to it.

And hell, i mean if you read any of those threads you get called out on what you're doing in that instance more than once. I'm not grinding my axe alone in the woods here, and i don't seem to have some really esoteric interpretation of what's taking place.
posted by emptythought at 7:37 PM on October 20, 2014 [27 favorites]


I've found myself, a few times entering threads about alcoholism, sobriety, drugs, AA & faith with some trepidation, but I'm ok that there may be strong feelings about these things, and people may pointedly disagree. That's their right. I've gone ahead, said my piece, and mostly been ignored, or had at very least, a useful & educational exchange of views.

Beatles & Dylan threads can be rough going sometimes, too, but if you don't get it, well I'm just sad about that, mostly. Every music thread has a "this artist sux" comment, and I made a few of those myself, years ago. Ignore, ignore, ignore, unless there's factual mis-conceptions.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:43 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


emptythought: "I'm honestly completely befuddled that everyone jumped to her side here, other than the whole "how dare you be mean and call someone out!" culture. Judging by the replies in those threads i wasn't the only one who took issue with this. But calling it a consistent pattern of behavior is over the line i guess?"

What you wrote may all be true (I haven't read the threads you link to, but your characterization matches what I've seen in the "Let's Talk About Corb" MeTa threads), but I didn't see her engage in that pattern of behavior in this thread. Yet I saw people (Jessamyn was a big surprise) jump on her because of the assumption that she must be rampin' up to engage in that pattern of behavior. So, yeah, in this thread, I'm on her side, but it's not because "how dare you be mean", it's because "she hasn't even done anything yet. Get mad at her after she commits the crime, not because you figure based on past track record that she's probably going to do it later."
posted by Bugbread at 7:47 PM on October 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


It's not oppression when others state contrary opinions. In fact, wouldn't that be the best time for a counterargument to convince them?

I have seen many many people calmly explain over and over again why they disagree with an "unpopular opinion". It happens all the time around here. They cite science and facts, and yes, even the dreaded anecdotes from lived experiences! It rarely convinces anyone who doesn't want to listen.

It would be nice if the next time one of the usual subjects drops a shitbomb in a thread that everyone would ignore that comment and move on like it never happened. One can dream.
posted by futz at 7:54 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Or, as one person put it, unjust laws are fine if they don't apply to me.

I'm on her side because that is precisely the recent situation with her I was referring to above where I feel she was simply ganged up on for stating a common opinion and I feel like most of your links are similarly uncharitable readings of her comments. I'm not gonna go in depth on them because there isn't really a way without re-arguing the topics in question. We probably just have to agree to disagree, which is also something you can do when you see any new corb comments you don't like!
posted by Drinky Die at 7:59 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've been wondering what might be useful "takeaways" from this thread, given its nature as an abstract "frustration medley" (nice phrase). Maybe "wait until something bad happens before piling on" or "stop piling on after [for example] 5 negative responses" would be good suggestions.
posted by uosuaq at 8:00 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


We probably just have to agree to disagree, which is also something you can do when you see any new corb comments you don't like!

(or corb can do when she feels her posts might be disruptive!)
posted by Drinky Die at 8:01 PM on October 20, 2014


Congrats, you've succeeded in making me feel stupid and wishing I had never commented at all

Always remember, you are not stupid. People who try to make you feel stupid are stupid.

It's not oppression when others state contrary opinions

Yeah, one of the most poisonous habits of MeFi conversation is "How can I move on when that comment is a big turd at the top of the thread." Talking about other people's ideas are literal filth and waste is pretty much illiberalism 101.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:01 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm a little confused about what you're trying to say, emptythought, because to me, that seems like much of the same. You've gone my through posting history to find some things where you think it's especially deraily - but on looking at all of those examples, it still seems like more of the "actually I don't really like cat fur that much" or "Here's why some people might hate cat fur but still like cats" rather than the "I like ice cream", with the exception that it's about issues that a lot of people feel strongly about.

In every single one of those examples you are citing, I was responding to discussion already in the thread, and talking about what other people in the thread were talking about. I was simply doing so from a different perspective that some found really upsetting. In not a single one of those cases did I show up and simply start a new tangent.

You say that from your perspective, "My definition of a derail would include cases when everyone starts replying to whatever point you brought up"

But at that point, even by your own standards - I'm not the one causing the derail. If your definition of a derail is everyone replying to me, then your issue should be with the pile-on itself, not the target of it.
posted by corb at 8:01 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


Hey guys, how's everyone doing, anyway? Seriously. I haven't been around much lately because my job turned into the job from hell a few months ago, but I just quit it & went to work for someone else. I've kinda missed this pedantic, cranky intolerant gang. I mean, I've missed youse a lot. Hi.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:05 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yo, corb and emptythought, can I humbly request that we not turn this into a discussion about corb's commenting style in general? I think you both know that there is really high potential for that discussion to take over the thread, and if you really want to discuss it with each other, it might be a good idea to take it to MeMail, or if you both think that other user input is needed, it might be better to make a separate MeTa thread about it.
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I didn't see her engage in that pattern of behavior in this thread. Yet I saw people (Jessamyn was a big surprise) jump on her because of the assumption that she must be rampin' up to engage in that pattern of behavior. So, yeah, in this thread, I'm on her side, but it's not because "how dare you be mean", it's because "she hasn't even done anything yet. Get mad at her after she commits the crime, not because you figure based on past track record that she's probably going to do it later."

corb has shown up in a few threads lately talking about what rural people want or think like she's an expert and we're a monolith when neither of those things are true. I let most of her political stuff lie because I know she annoys me and it's not my job to be the corb police and I'm trying to support a decent site culture. I know she isn't just her politics. I remember she posted a bunch of AskMe questions about planning her wedding that were really cute, and she obviously is very focused on getting her daughter a good education. I know she's a veteran and works in some kind of helping profession and that speaks very well of her. If her big hobby is posting outrageous shit on Metafilter, I'll live. But I'm only fucking human and I didn't realize how much blind fury I would feel at becoming a rhetorical weapon in her campaign against gun control, especially when her entire comment made it clear as fuck that she did not know jack about life in a rural place or what we worry about here or how the hell we live. Sorry this is so angry, but like I said. I'm only human. I'm trying my best.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:11 PM on October 20, 2014 [32 favorites]


In answer to the original question, if there is one area I frequently bite my tongue on Metafilter it is in relation to "tone". I am a person who believes tone matters and that holding the morally correct viewpoint and being on the side of angels does not give one license to be as rude, hostile, and dismissive as possible. There seems to be a viewpoint which has increased in popularity on Mefi recently which suggests that politely engaging on a contentious topic is akin to showing weakness or deference and the preferred method is to engage counterarguments with mocking and nastiness. I think this makes for poor discussion and wish it were more acceptable on Mefi to state something along the lines of "I 100% agree with your views on reproductive rights, but you're making your case really poorly here". I rarely bring this up, though, because I can predict the inevitable "tone argument" accusations and "Ooh, so you're saying if only she had only asked nicely..."-type mocking.

I agree with your sentiment. I understand 100% how tone arguments are sometimes used to silence people inappropriately while dodging the topic. That is an argument fallacy of the first order, it sucks, and it should be called out.

However, I also think that tone, in the context of good relationships, more often changes people's minds than good arguments do. Good argumentation is very important, but I would say that it is a "necessary but insufficient condition" of persuasive or even healthy discussion. MetaFilter, and any other social community, is not ideally only a repository of good arguments. It's also filled with people who have feelings, and I think that we would agree that in any good relationship IRL, we do think a lot about tone.

As a positive callout, Ivan Fyodorovich is an example of someone who I think intentionally uses careful tone in his argumentation, and a as a result, I listen carefully to what he says. I would guess that we are probably on different ends of the spectrum ideologically on a number of issues, but I always enjoy his comments because although we differ on a number of issues, he has earned my respect as someone who seems to care about the people in the discussion as much as the ideas being discussed.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:16 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


Fair point, Bugbread. I do think though that there is something there about these kinds of comments that may explain why sometimes people are afraid to make them - if they feel they'll be blamed for the responses they get, or if the responses they get are going to be really harsh and pile-on-y, as can sometimes happen. But I can totally talk about that without bringing myself up.

I leave you instead with some great commentary from time traveling adipocere about a somewhat similar situation about religion.
posted by corb at 8:17 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Bugbread: Yet I saw people (Jessamyn was a big surprise) jump on her because of the assumption that she must be rampin' up to engage in that pattern of behavior.

I see this as similar to reffing a hockey game, or any other sport where there's lots of contact. Because there are many more players than officials on the ice, the officials can't possibly see every slash or cross-check, and they can't even call every foul they do see. However, when there's a physical response from the player being slashed, punched, or whatever, it transforms from a dirty play to a potential fight.

Anyone who watches hockey will tell you that refs call the retaliation, not the initial foul, and as much as we'd love it if fight-y comments got deleted before the retaliation, that's just not feasible. The really nasty ones will get flagged and nuked, but the ones that are merely argumentative / derail-starters aren't going to draw that kind of attention (from flaggers or mods) until someone takes the bait and hits back.

can I humbly request that we not turn this into a discussion about

Of course, but I for one am going to give you some side-eye when you're taking a side in the discussion and then immediately suggest killing it as a derail. Perhaps you just now realized it was going to end up being nasty, but, to continue with the sports metaphors, it reminds me of a player who gets a punch in before asking the refs to break it up.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:19 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Bugbread: “... I didn't see her engage in that pattern of behavior in this thread

I don't know much about any "pattern of behavior," and I agree that that was off-topic. However, I think your read of the situation is slightly off. Here's what I see in this segment of the thread that seems to have kicked this off:

a) heatvision noted that the userbase's issues with rural and Southern Americans are related to our problems with gun owners, and then specifically clarified that “that's the part I'm more uncomfortable getting into and I don't want to fight about it now (or ever really so here I shut up).”

b) Pyrogenesis said that that was an interesting point, and said “that actually sounds like a good topic for an FPP.”

c) corb chimed in to explain the connection.

You see how that happened? The first person actively wanted to avoid it as a topic of conversation, because they were specifically hoping not to start an argument. The second person respected that, but was curious, saying it might be a good topic for a post. The third person just initiated a conversation. I think the third comment in this chain is the derailing comment.

So, Bugbread, when you say “Jessamyn was a big surprise,” meaning (I think) that you found her “Don't start a stupid gun argument here” comment jarring – I think you might be missing the fact that she was just echoing heatvision's request, and respecting and honoring her pointed hope that people not argue about this here just because she (heatvision) mentioned it. And since the third comment in the chain really did seem to be the one that initiated the derail, veering from "we should talk about this sometime" territory into the land of "we are talking about this now," that seems fair, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 8:22 PM on October 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


This place has some blind spots. At some point I had to take the metafilter we had and not try to make it into the metafilter I thought it should be.

If in an alternate universe there was a more rightwing Metafilter, it would also have blind spots, and the liberal mirrorimage Alia would have to make the same decision.

I have tried to point this out over the years,(the blind spots, that is) and basically was told over and over how wrong I was. I don't believe I am wrong, and there are some who agree with me, but for the most part this is an argument just not worth having. The internet is a big place, and if I get annoyed here, then it's time to hang out somewhere else for awhile and look at cat videos.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:25 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


*steps out of steam-powered glistening capsule* Hi, guys, I'm back! The machine worked!

*looks around* NOOOOOOO! Did I ... step on a butterfly when I made that comment?
posted by adipocere at 8:25 PM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


"Let's not start a gun argument here" might have gone over better, I'm guessing.
posted by uosuaq at 8:30 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


tonycpsu: "Of course, but I for one am going to give you some side-eye when you're taking a side in the discussion and then immediately suggest killing it as a derail."

I think you may be misinterpreting me. If corb and emptythought want to discuss corb's participation in this thread, that's totally cool. But it looked like it was going from this thread to how corb acts in general in other threads. That's the part I was trying to dissuade (and it's a conversation that, as far as I know, I myself have totally avoided getting into in this particular thread).

koeselitz: "The first person actively wanted to avoid it as a topic of conversation, because they were specifically hoping not to start an argument. The second person respected that, but was curious, saying it might be a good topic for a post. The third person just initiated a conversation. I think the third comment in this chain is the derailing comment, and I think that's pretty clear."

You are totally right. In fact, reappraising the situation, I think it was just the word "stupid" in Jessamyn's comment that threw me. It was like the madeleine in "In Search of Lost Time", completely changing the course of my thinking. Like, if Jessamyn had said "Guys, let's not get into a big derail about guns" I would have thought "Yeah, truth", but for some reason the word "stupid" mentally switched me onto a totally different track, even though the statement says the same thing.
posted by Bugbread at 8:33 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I prefer non-diet Coke, Bugbread. Just FYI.
posted by uosuaq at 8:35 PM on October 20, 2014


If in an alternate universe there was a more rightwing Metafilter

The more rightwing Metafilter was called Usenet. Or rather the more right-libertarian Metafilter. Same conversational styles in many ways (except unmoderated), same hot button topics on gun control, abortion, religion, foreign policy interventionism, gay rights, various economic issues, yadda yadda yada. Except the political center of gravity was radically different on some (eg gun control) but mostly the same on others (social liberalism like gay rights, atheism and religion). It was definitely Metafilter through a glass, darkly.
posted by Justinian at 8:35 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Usenet through a glass, brightly.
posted by uosuaq at 8:38 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I wish people were a little nicer to each other.

SCIENCE RAH RAH RAH is not a helpful framework for discussion (ironically, because it can be fairly authoritarian and thus anti-scientific).

My personal relationships.
posted by zug at 8:41 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


St. Alia of the Bunnies: “If in an alternate universe there was a more rightwing Metafilter, it would also have blind spots, and the liberal mirrorimage Alia would have to make the same decision.”

In the alternate universe rightwing Metafilter, I am still a total jerk, but at least I don't have this ridiculous beard.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 PM on October 20, 2014 [18 favorites]


I never visited the site, so my memory's a little vague, but I thought the mirror universe Metafilter was called Little Green Footballs or something. Is my memory totally off? (Or was it Free Republic? I just remember those two names used to get thrown around all the time)
posted by Bugbread at 8:46 PM on October 20, 2014


The boring universe version of Metafilter was Plastic.com
posted by Justinian at 8:49 PM on October 20, 2014


LGF was and Freep still is US actively right-leaning (and notably Bush-era pro-war, pro-administration), though both are also more explicitly political in their content than Mefi ever has been. Freep is more of a user-directed forum type thing as far as I know; LGF more primarily the blog (with lots of comment discussions) of one dude in particular. And in recent years apparently said dude has swung around significantly on his political identifications and spends more time than not criticizing/mocking a lot of the right-wing web folks who previously would have been bloggy allies and target demo.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:51 PM on October 20, 2014


The first person actively wanted to avoid it as a topic of conversation

Seems to me a better way to avoid it would have been to not bring it up in the first place.

On an unrelated note, discussion of koeselitz's bizarre, borderline-unhealthy preoccupation with shuffleboard pucks would be completely out of place and inappropriate for this thread, so let's avoid that as a topic of conversation here.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:56 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seems to me a better way to avoid it would have been to not bring it up in the first place.

Did you not notice the topic of this post?
posted by futz at 9:01 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


>The first person actively wanted to avoid it as a topic of conversation

Seems to me a better way to avoid it would have been to not bring it up in the first place.


Did you read the actual wording of the post?
What, if anything, are you afraid to say here? I pose this not to request debate on any issues that might arise
I mean, I was in the "this post is a bad idea to begin with, I'm surprised and pleased at how constructively it's turned out" camp, but the comment was explicitly in line with the OP's request.

(on preview, what futz said)
posted by Lexica at 9:02 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Did you not notice the topic of this post?

There's a difference between, "I'm uncomfortable expressing my love of pancakes here" and "I'm uncomfortable expressing my love of pancakes here, since most MeFites have bought into the notion that pancakes contain the blood of puppies, but I don't want that to become a topic of conversation."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:14 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't say corb debated the issue, she did discuss it though. Very fine line.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:14 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have seen many many people calmly explain over and over again why they disagree with an "unpopular opinion". It happens all the time around here. They cite science and facts, and yes, even the dreaded anecdotes from lived experiences! It rarely convinces anyone who doesn't want to listen.

Yeah, but is it supposed to? Or I guess...why would you expect it to, really? People usually come to the opinions they have about important topics though some combination of lived experience, temperament, and culture; their opinions get changed, if they ever do, centimeter by centimeter. It's a heavy lift. In a more ideologically diverse metafilter, I'd expect a wider variety of views to be expressed in a thread; I would not expect, at the end of every thread, that there would be mass conversions of the Wrong to the blessed fellowship of the Correct. I just don't think that's how people work. And so I don't see a lack of conversion as a thread failure which renders ideological diversity undesirable or pointless.
posted by Diablevert at 9:23 PM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


[Comment removed, maybe not so much with the paragraph-length links to meme pages as implicit commentary on other user stuff. Just say what you actually mean maybe if it's worth saying or leave it be.]

When did meta turn into the blue?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:27 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


As much as it manages to continue to shock people periodically, Metatalk has never been a place where literally nothing gets deleted and has for the last few years been somewhere where it's a little less "the apocalypse has come" and a little more "this is a moderated website" in terms of general practice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:34 PM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


it's a little less "the apocalypse has come" and a little more "this is a moderated website" in terms of general practice.

I think you mean over-moderated. I have to concur with several posters upthread: metafilter is quickly jumping the shark. I think you guys are overcompensating for the recent dearth of mods.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:42 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think you are reading a tremendous amount into having a nearly contentless "i am loling at two users with an eyesore of a hyperlink to boot" comment deleted.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 PM on October 20, 2014 [18 favorites]


Metatalk has never been a place where literally nothing gets deleted

Yeah I don't think I ever claimed that it was, but jesus Cortex the bar has been lowered so far. It used to be that you had to basically tell someone to fuck off before you guys would start censoring content. I guess I'm just having a grumpy evening. I know the mods jobs are not easy and your hearts are in the right place but deletions are getting out of hand in my humble opinion.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:47 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Can't win. Too much gets deleted, or not enough, or the wrong things, or or or.

I remember the days when pretty much only "fuck you you fucking fuck" comments got deleted from the grey, and those days mostly sucked.
posted by rtha at 9:51 PM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


If deleting bald hyperlinks where people can't be bothered to just use the button and format their freaking links properly is "censorship," then I would love it if the mods practiced "censorship" all over this site. As it is, they only do so when the hyperlink is many lines long, which I guess I understand, since bald hyperlinks are everywhere nowadays. Still, good god people, fix your links.

Also look up the word "content" before suggesting mods are "censoring" it. Note that "content" is different from "form." As in, if somebody had just formatted their comment in a not-completely-ridiculous way, it would never have been deleted in the first place .
posted by koeselitz at 9:52 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: metafilter is quickly jumping the shark

Shit, and I had next week in the pool for the 10,000th "metafilter is jumping the shark" comment. *tears up ticket*
posted by tonycpsu at 9:52 PM on October 20, 2014 [16 favorites]


Also: in what sense has the bar been lowered? Did people once post paragraph-long bald hyperlinks without fear of reprisal? I don't remember that ever happening, but if it did, it's a past that really ought to be left behind.
posted by koeselitz at 9:55 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also: in what sense has he bar been lowered? Did people once post paragraph-long bald hyperlinks without fear of reprisal? I don't remember that ever happening, but if it did, it's a past that really ought to be left behind.

I suggest you re-read the deletion reason. The poor hyperlinking was not the singular reason given for the deletion. I guess we can try again without the paragraph length hyperlink and see if it gets deleted again. What say you cortex?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:57 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we can have a conversation in its own right about Metatalk's historical threshold of deletion vs. user behavior and how that's evolved over time and why, and how people feel about that, and so on. Something for it's own thread, but totally doable if folks want to do something like that at some point.

For the purposes of this aside, my very short take on it is that this part of the site's value derives from something a lot more complicated than Not Deleting Things Is Good and that the good ol' days notion of basically nothing getting deleted is both a little bit distorted and to the extent that it is representative of how stuff worked ten or so years ago also not one of the healthier long-term aspects of Metatalk.

Having a place where folks can hash out stuff about how the site works, how they're feeling about it, what their experiences are here, etc, is super important and valuable. Having it take the form of an unchecked free-for-all of interuser shittiness is not. Mistaking the reining in of some small degree of that shittiness for reining in the utility of the subsite does Metatalk's role in the community a huge disservice .
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:00 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


He already said. "Just say what you mean if it's worth saying, or leave it be" is pretty darned clear. I have no idea what it was, but I totally prefer saying-what-you-mean over memes that aren't linked to correctly.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Whoops, should have previewed. Sorry, cortex.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, I'm being sarcastic because I think it's stupid to have a thread where people can take jabs at other people with the expectation that we should just...what, let it go to prove that we are tolerant of bigotry? Wow, yay, how great and wonderful.

The cognitive dissonance between this response to Anastasia--and in fact to this entire thread!--and your insistence that understanding different cultural norms has made you more insightful is simply staggering.

If you view the whole premise of this thread so contemptuously, how about you just refrain from commenting in it?
posted by misha at 10:05 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, to try to be fair to where she was coming from (I think), the premise of this thread does kind of read as 'everyone say what you've always been afraid of saying - and anyone who objects to anything anyone says in this thread is a terrible person who ought to be ashamed of themselves.' I know that's not what it said, but it felt like that to me, and it irked me, as you can probably tell from my first comment here. I really don't like situations where it's set up that certain people can say whatever they like and anyone who disagrees is a terrible person. Is that ironic? I think it probably is. Which is a source of a lot of the cognitive dissonance here, I think: the thread kind of seems to be asking for the very situation it laments.

I am glad we moved past what I was worried might happen, though.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's difficult to enumerate the things you can't really say here, localroger. You get a general sense of what you can and can't say, but figuring out which sentiments will cause a backlash (or get removed) is as much an art as a science.

In one of the many Ferguson threads, I got called a "police murder apologist" for suggesting that there's more than one possible interpretation of the physical evidence in the Mike Brown shooting. I thought that, surely, that comment would get removed, but not only did it stay, my subsequent (non-name calling) response got removed, with a moderator comment to the effect of "we've had enough police murder apology."
posted by jingzuo at 10:21 PM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


Mistaking the reining in of some small degree of that shittiness for reining in the utility of the subsite does Metatalk's role in the community a huge disservice.

I don't think that implying that lawyers are in some sense functionally trolololololols and explicitly observing that corb is the new St. Alia is really that shitty. From my perspective both are fairly accurate observations. Also, I was coming at it from the angle that historically speaking both corb and St. Alia have been treated to a fair amount of shittiness, the majority of which has not been deleted...i.e. I was trying and apparently failing to defend corb a mefite with whom I more often than not disagree, but ultimately respect.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:26 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


But I should probably just start a meta specifically about meta moderation if that is something people, besides myself, would like to talk about as this line of discussion is pretty much a derail of this thread.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:28 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ok, so since it's been posted again, my question again: Is that a malware attack site? It's getting blocked by my Avast, but is that just a false positive?
posted by Bugbread at 10:30 PM on October 20, 2014


I don't think that implying that lawyers are in some sense functionally trolololololols and explicitly observing that corb is the new St. Alia is really that shitty.

It's also super weak: you had about ten of your own words, two quotes, and a link to a meme site, all in service of taking shots at a couple other users and doing nothing else.

It's a small sliver of interuser shittiness to zero purpose. I am not suggesting it is the high water mark of interuser shittiness, the Terrible Thing That Will Not Stand; I'm suggesting it sucked, didn't need to be there, and got deleted on the collected weight of that and the terrible formatting and that "but this is Metatalk!" is a really poor counter-argument to that little bit of pragmatism because the value of this part of the site should not be just that it's where shittiness of whatever degree gets a pass.

You blinking at your comment being deleted I can deal with and understand. You representing it as evidence of the decline and fall of Metafilter is just totally ridiculous and beneath your general ability to engage intelligently about how this place works.

Also, I was coming at it from the angle that historically speaking both corb and St. Alia have been treated to a fair amount of shittiness, the majority of which has not been deleted

Zero of which was made clear in your comment. That's at a totally okay point to want to make, but you need to find a better way to make it and not hitch it onto a jab at someone else in the process if you want to successfully make yourself clear in a non-self-sabotaging way.

Is that a malware attack site?

Not as far as I know; it's long been an embed of Eduard Khil's famous TV appearance, and I didn't see any warnings visiting it for whatever that's worth. Though very-widely-linked single-serving meme sites would probably make good vectors for malware if a script kiddie up to no good was hunting for targets.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Mistaking the reining in of some small degree of that shittiness for reining in the utility of the subsite does Metatalk's role in the community a huge disservice ."

At the same time, as one of MetaTalk's historical functions was pressure release and "shittiness" is a subjective value, it can reduce the utility while simultaneously removing some of the transparency that allowed self-policing. If people have experienced what they consider dubious deletions and can't tell for themselves what was deleted, they may be less inclined to extend as much benefit of the doubt that you are correctly identifying shittiness. That, combined with low-level sniping for long periods of time from other members, may lead to a situation where mods don't understand the costs that users are seeing in the "maturing" of MeFi and MeTa moderation policy, while users undervalue the costs of the previous, more laissez-faire policy.

I'll also say that things like professionalization also distance the mods from the community and move further in a direction that many folks warned about, where we grant mods more authority to end arguments and adjudicate conflict.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm necessarily against these changes, just that I think that the perspective the mods often take — that of valuing flame-wars averted — isn't without costs itself and frequently the mod staff here is overly sanguine or defensive over mod policy without acknowledging that. (That can also be a policy decision, or a long-term cost-benefit decision, e.g. not disagreeing with other mods publicly, where the professionalism required to do this job longterm keeps you from hashing things out in a way that members can see).
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


Having taken a day to really think about this question, and having read through this thread as slowly as I could muster, I think that I feel a lot of discomfort with both "sides" of this argument — the "side" that says "we're getting shouted down, MetaFilter is home to narrower and narrower viewpoints", and the "side" that says "there's nothing wrong here, except for the same grumpy voices coming in here to complain again and again".

I want to address the "narrower and narrower" critics first, in part because I think they're being piled on more in this thread and I'd rather get my thoughts about them out of the way. MetaFilter operates on a thread-by-thread basis. Some grudges linger, particularly across individual days or weeks; if a user says something especially bad on Monday, then anything they say on Tuesday might be met with an unusual amount of curmudgeonliness or skepticism. There are users whose names have popped up here that are complaining about "groupthink", and for fuck's sake — no it's not. Some people here have said some vile shit, and if other people have a hard time forgetting that fact, I find it difficult to blame them.

My more general discomfort here is with this "silenced all my life" bullshit. As time goes on, the MetaFilter community has developed some very strong opinions in places. For instance, after the fights over "people are saying awful bullshit that stops women from feeling comfortable commenting here", a lot of users (myself included) became increasingly aware of certain attitudes that shut down a shitload of women! Suddenly, people saying those things were being greeted not by idle apathy, but by a hundred readers who kept in mind the fact that these comments cause problems, and the nature of the discussion shifted. This in turn encouraged more women posters, which is fucking awesome, and which has seen especially great strides this year.

As recently as Elevatorgate, the site was at least half comments that would now be critiqued for being popular MRA talking points. At that point there were some strong pro-feminist commenters receiving popular support, and the people espousing the MRA line were already complaining about site groupthink — despite the fact that their voices were just as loud, if not louder. It reminds me of the thing where women in discussions start being perceived as "overwhelming" or "dominating" once they're involved in just a small fraction of the conversation. And a lot of complaints from users here about there being a "popular majority" shouting everybody else down just read like, hey, I'm not used to there being a consensus against me, let alone a consensus that has been painstakingly convinced that my position is wrong or even hurtful. The majority of these complaints are from conservatives, and I genuinely think that these complaints are caused by bullshit, disproven outlooks on certain subjects which here of all general-purpose sites are treated with a certain amount of weary dismissal.

I don't think that there's a conspiracy against these users, or a bullying campaign, or what-have-you. I think that people notice the specific threads in which they clumsily insert themselves as one-person-against-the-world, and that feeling is jarring enough that they're permanently converted to the "there's a problem here" position. I can't think of any users nowadays whose contributions are roundly opposed; I can think of some who are very respected in some threads, but who uphold outlooks elsewhere that a lot of other people just find to be ridiculous. I've been the guy who gets bashed in-thread so I get that impulse, but I genuinely think that a lot of the users complaining are simply convinced that they're owed a civility which they have not earned, by the nature of their comments.

HOWEVER.

I simultaneously think that there's a problem with cliquishness on this web site, and I say this as a user who is probably indisputably a part of that clique. I love griping about MetaFilter off-site. I have certain users that cause me to grind my teeth, and IRL friends who read this site that I know I can complain to. I don't think most of those users are still active here, because (I'd like to think) the ones I really despised were sort of awful and managed to get themselves banned pretty hard; the one or two that really consistently flabbergast me I just ignore nowadays, and I think those couple are idiosyncratic to me, because the major "problem users" on this site I either don't mind or find kind of charming and lovable.

I think that a lot of users pick enemies and hold grudges and take any chance they can get to knock those users down a peg. I know for a fact that to a certain extent that sort of performed dislike is discussed off-stage, in ways that are sometimes pretty harmless/reasonable but sometimes turn into a deliberate campaign. I think that certain users have pretty engrained vendettas against particular other users, and will specifically go out of their way to critique said users while making sure their critiques come across as reasonable, so that in any one thread they seem to be entirely polite and respectful and it's only if you're the target of their critiques that they start really seeming malicious. If I'm being entirely honest — and it makes me uncomfortable as hell to admit this — I've engaged in this sort of thing in the past, again directed towards relatively idiosyncratic users. It's petty and cruel and it depends in part on having bonds with other users that make you feel safe enough to take these little jabs, knowing that you're in a position to get away with them. I also know that I'm not the only user who has done this kind of thing.

I think that a few people here who're arguing that this problem is overblown have engaged in this behavior as well, and are being disingenuous in their claims that there's nothing wrong, or that this phenomenon is a generally good thing. This makes me uncomfortable for two reasons. First, most of the people I'm seeing do that are people who I like very much, both as users and (in a few cases) IRL human beings. Second, I'm pretty strongly of the opinion that, yeah, it's not the worst thing in the world if occasionally the response to somebody's misguided argument is less than a complete academic deconstruction of their worldview, seeing as said deconstructions are a) exhausting and b) tedious and c) completely ineffective in changing anybody's minds. I generally take the opposite stance of conventional wisdom, in that I think reasonable argument frequently convinces people that their beliefs are respected, and thus entrenches them in their worldviews, whereas finely-tuned scorn can have a marvelous effect on people (and I say this because I know which of the two works better on me). I think both approaches are non-ideal, and when I disagree with people nowadays, I prefer to offer my perspective and outlook and not address the people I disagree with directly; that prevents the arguments and it keeps from entrenching people deeper into their worldview. That said, I think the occasional snark and scorn can be a positive tool.

However, there're absolutely a number of users who take a couple steps too far (I feel) towards targeting particular users with dismissals, and who do so because they're convinced that nobody else respects those users' thoughts either. Sometimes I don't even disagree with them, but other times I feel they provide an easy opening for other users to pile on, and prevent the possibility of any other response. I also think that this consensus pile-onning happens as much for the sake of a couple users' amusement as it does for any legitimate reason, and that there is absolutely a problem with people who think they are "in the right" according to MetaFilter using that sense of correctness to respond semi-maliciously toward their targets.

A part of me wants to shrug and say that this is perfectly normal behavior among communities — and it is, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. A part of me wants to point out that there's as much a problem with certain voices calling out for respect where I don't feel that respect is due, and I think that there is, and I think that some of the problematic user-targeting exists as a reaction to that demand. I think that sucks too, and I don't see it as a valid solution. The cliché answer here is to say that what's really needed is mindfulness, and consideration, and listening to other people when they're feeling upset, and allowing for a certain doubt about one's own actions. Cliché as it is, I think it's the best possible solution. The problem here is really that neither side wants to own up to their behaviors which spur the other side into feeling the way that they do, and I think that there's some amount of crappiness on both sides. However, I feel in this case that the less-examined crappiness comes from the people who I'm more inclined to like or even to side with, so as much as I'm nervous to post this, I do want to say that I think there's a problem with that sort of ganging-up on MetaFilter, and that I've been a party to it and a causer of it, and that it sucks when anybody does it, myself included.

I also think that religion uses symbolic language to examine the relationship of individuals to their environs and the purpose of that relationship, and that treating religion as anything stupider is ignoring the thing that's kept religions around for this long, while simultaneously alienating the wiser religious types and encouraging the worst kind of skeptic. This sort of anti-theism helped give rise to the misogynist shitbags currently scrambling around the Internet, and I think that a lot of people are trying to simultaneously eat their cake and have it by attacking the misogynists while behaving in the same ways that allowed that entire culture to think of itself as "in the right". Which is probably related to the other stuff I've been talking about, come to think of it.
posted by rorgy at 10:44 PM on October 20, 2014 [28 favorites]


As I say that I'd like to reiterate that I like every single MeFite that I've met or talked to privately to date, with really only one exception. The things I'm saying about either side needs to come with a huge disclaimer of: I think everybody does crappy things as a process of being human, and the only users I know of who I don't think do wrong generally have such specific and refined approaches to posting online that they only transcend criticism because they don't have quite the expressive range that most of us who use this site frequently do. I love and respect all of you, and am offering myself up as a primary example of somebody who does a lot of shitty things on this site because I am by no means exempt from wrongdoing myself. I hope that my criticisms here don't come across as judgment; I intend them only as an observation of behaviors that I think are real and sometimes either ignored or outright denied.
posted by rorgy at 10:47 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


You representing it as evidence of the decline and fall of Metafilter is just totally ridiculous and beneath your general ability to engage intelligently about how this place works.

Like I said maybe I'm just having a bad evening.

Zero of which was made clear in your comment. That's at a totally okay point to want to make, but you need to find a better way to make it and not hitch it onto a jab at someone else in the process if you want to successfully make yourself clear in a non-self-sabotaging way.

I guess we will just have to agree to disagree that this is a good reason for a deletion on the grey. Again, just to be clear, I don't want you to feel like I am attacking you personally. As I said, you guys have a tough job and for the most part you guys do a better job than I ever could.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:51 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


First off, how I enjoyed Sonny Jim's link to the discussion from so many years ago about the little girl who saw a whirly thing in her school's lunchroom; the comments were SO good, very supportive of her parents and full of great suggestions, and notably (mostly) without disparaging remarks or "scientific" snark. Reading that thread made me realize that's the part I miss about the old MetaFilter - the sense that regardless of differences of opinion, we're all about either working together or moving aside while the others do.

Times have changed and so have we, and this thread is an interesting exercise in the new way. The question being addressed involves what we find uncomfortable revealing/discussing in today's MeFi. For some reason, the expectation appears to be that the entire experience of commenting on this site should be pleasant and agreeable and never annoying or irritating. What a laugh! What part of the world does anyone live in where life and discussion and interaction with fellow humanoids isn't annoying and downright infuriating from time to time? I guess I've never been there. I fully expect any discussion with a sentient human being to be thought-provoking most of the time and downright provoking period a good part of that time.

There are many things I'm not comfortable getting involved in on a regular basis, though I'm plenty fighty when I want to be myself - yes, indeed - and sometimes I jump in with both feet. My most often avoided discussions involve feminism. I'm nearly 70 years old and worked my entire life in offices, in academia, and in hospitals and nursing homes, with loads of men and women in several different states. I started off young and pretty and yes, attracted catcalls occasionally; not a few men flirted with me, tried to get me to bed, used all the lines they could dream up - there were times when they brushed against my breasts or my rear end intentionally and then, with a wink, challenged me to do something about it. I did, loudly and clearly - that's what we did in the days before sexual harassment in the workplace laws. Now, don't get me wrong - I 100% agree with those laws and others that make the world safer for women. But here's the thing: I moved on after those "harassments" - I didn't hang around and stack them up and decide that I was being preyed upon and it was awful and I couldn't bear it because ... I simply didn't have time to think like that - I had too much to do and no mother or father or brother or husband to stand up for me. AND - I know this won't sit well, but in for a penny/in for a pound - in those days we wore miniskirts and high heels to our office jobs; we dressed in such a way as to look as attractive as we possibly could - not whorish, not revealing or cheap, but even professional dress was sexy and sharp looking. If a man whistled at me or winked, I just kept moving on. No, I don't think women are asking to be raped if they dress in anything other than sackcloth and ashes - that's disgusting and ridiculous - and it plays into the machismo thing that always identifies a knuckle-dragger.

When I was 16 I was forcibly beaten and raped while being held down by the man's father. Many women have been raped and for some of them it has undermined any possibility of happiness or stability they could hope to achieve in their lives, but it didn't have that permanent an effect on me - just because the circumstances were my own and we're all different. I was living at home with a father who was brutal and beat me with his fist and open-handed frequently and a mother who stood by and watched and said nothing - even she would occasionally get in on the act (I had scars from her fingernails for years), so I think the violence connected to the rape was kind of old hat to me, though the shock and pain from the rape itself and the persons doing it certainly wasn't old hat. I couldn't tell my parents, obviously, so I had to just figure out how to walk in the door at home without anyone noticing the condition of my clothing, get to a shower at a time which was an unusual time for me to take a shower without attracting attention, etc. and etc. I had no choice but to push ahead - that was the story of my childhood anyway.

But I cannot stand to hear anyone call RAPE when some man brushed against her breasts or patted her on the butt - I absolutely can't handle that level of stupidity. That behavior is wrong and the man is completely out of line and the woman should take whatever action she feels is necessary - but don't call it rape - believe me when I say it is not rape.

So feminism is my breaker. In general, I like men about as much as I like women. There have been plenty of each that I don't ever want to see again, but I don't hate men and I do hate the innuendo that reads that way. I avoid feminist stuff as much as I can.

As for people getting into scraps or becoming ugly or hogging threads or being too this or too that in comments, the mods do a great job with that - I'll happily leave it to them and if I'm annoyed by a thread I simply won't read it!

As for ghosts and paranormal activities, I love the old discussion much better than the current one. I honestly think some people take science as a religion - they're just as determined that nothing on earth can shake science as a Christian is about their Bible (if they even know their Bible) or their Pastor/Reverend/Priest/Glorious Leader. I guess one has to get old before they've seen so many "absolutes" in the science field that turned out to be ooooops that they no longer assume science has much of anything pegged at 100%. Science is about learning and growth of knowledge - it's not static, it's not confirmed regardless of your scientific theory because there's always something that's escaped, you see - something that's going to pop up sometime down the road and change the whole picture. With the Christian religion, they're so used to claiming that God is unchanging they're not even using their heads - the God who had us sacrificing goats in the Old Testament is not the same God who's leading your church today; if you believe your Bible, God was changed through the life of Christ - that's why Christ was sent here. Just average intelligence should recognize that God is HUGE - he's bigger than the Baptist Church - he's bigger than white America - God loves Muslims too. Aaack - religions both, Christianity and Science.

Some people have 20/20 vision, others 20/200 - that's what we can measure. Why should it be impossible for one person to be able to see thing that others cannot? There is a woman who can see something like 15,000 colors! Again, why is it so unreasonable to believe that a person might actually be able to see spirits or through time portals to scenes of the past or auras or something else? Answer: It's not impossible.

Okay - I'm out of here - sorry to be so talky. I'd like to see people be more tolerant of the trivial mistakes of others; more tolerant of the opinions of others; more aware that people are speaking through their own experience and very likely that experience differs from your own - maybe they know more than you do about some things, even; and I'd like to thank the mods for putting up with this nonsense.

I keep telling myself to stay away from MetaTalk but here I am. Just like everyone else.
posted by aryma at 11:14 PM on October 20, 2014 [36 favorites]


I know this thread has moved way way past the original post but Decani I'd like to apologize for calling you some mean names (rightly deleted) (though also kinda funny right? I've never been called a turd-spouter but I think I'd appreciate the artistry even if it stung) in that skepticism thread. Anyway. I was inexplicably awake in the middle of the night and your response to me seemed like an invitation to battle.

Believe it or not I censor myself a lot from coming in sixguns ablazin' to attack people like you Decani. & I should do it even more because it's ok for someone to be wrong, or cruel, or drive-by dismissive (the things that set off my MUST DEFEND INNONCENTS anger-hero change) on the internet. The way to counteract ignorance and negativity is with information and love not an escalation of insults (even extraordinary ones, like real primo 5 am bot mot de morte). Even if sometimes it feels like smiling into a gale of saliva, I gotta trust that someone is getting something good out of my non-hatey disengage-y positive statements of personal fact.

So in conclusion, Never Scared. Ain't Never Scared.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:08 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


And Decani if you ever come back to NY I will happily promise to buy you a beer because we would definitely have fun arguing about stuff IRL (of course I would end up not showing up to the meetup because I keep forgetting that babies actually don't like going to bars that much for some reason but that's a different story, the goodwill is there I swear it, she'll turn 21 eventually I guess how about 2034?)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:11 AM on October 21, 2014


osk: It's one thing to be welcome to diversity of opinion and to take into consideration peoples' personal experience, but it's annoying when certain people lose political arguments over and over and over because their arguments are deficient and then claim they are being censored or it's political correctness gone mad or whatever.

This.

corb: Any element of history that goes against what people want to believe and that you don't have 46 independent cites for.

If one introduces a controversial "element of history" into a conversation, that person should be ready, willing and able to cite reputable sources in support of it. When one refuses to do so, any rational listener would be correct to question the historicity and validity of said controversial element. I find the fact that Mefites tend to expect each other to cite reputable sources and develop rational arguments in support of controversial claims to be a major feature, not a bug.

Diablevert: I don't think tolerance is an absolute good, that it's possible for everybody to have the exact conversation they want. That's silly. But tolerance of other viewpoints is, theoretically, held to be a liberal value, and metafilter is a pretty liberal place.

Not all opinions are born equal, and not all viewpoints deserve the same degree of tolerance.

As I see it, the community at Metafilter tends to be intolerant of unsupported controversial claims and viewpoints/opinions, and, to an even greater degree, of arguments that smack of dishonesty and/or internal inconsistency. Again, that's something I see as a major feature, not a bug.

----

To answer the question asked by the original poster: The set of things I am uncomfortable saying here is a subset of the set of things I would be uncomfortable saying in any polite company. The set of things I am comfortable saying here is a superset of the things I would be comfortable saying in any polite company.
posted by syzygy at 3:50 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


> Stop asking for her to be banned. Stop piling on. Just let her be wrong on the Internet.

I looked up the karma outcome of getting corb banned.

You get bevets back
posted by jfuller at 4:18 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Aelfwine to Cortex:

Again, just to be clear, I don't want you to feel like I am attacking you personally.

So, you don't want to attack cortex personally, but you have no problem attacking corb personally? Hmm.

But I cannot stand to hear anyone call RAPE when some man brushed against her breasts or patted her on the butt - I absolutely can't handle that level of stupidity. That behavior is wrong and the man is completely out of line and the woman should take whatever action she feels is necessary - but don't call it rape - believe me when I say it is not rape.

Okay, I really really superreally don't think anyone on this site has ever done that, but okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh man, bevets. I know him more from Fark than Mefi. Is there a word for the thing he does? By that I mean having a pet theory/position on something and posting about it everywhere across multiple sites and talking about basically nothing else?

It's a kind of troll I both have sympathy for because the positions are usually genuine (and thus in some ways not really trolls, even though the impact is the same) and also want burnt to toast by mod fire because the mental state of the poster makes any sort of debate or moderation attempts utterly impossible. They just will never penetrate. It honestly strikes me as some sort of mental illness.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


As I see it, the community at Metafilter tends to be intolerant of unsupported controversial claims and viewpoints/opinions

That smacks rather heavily of No True Scotsman to me.
posted by Justinian at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here, hear.
posted by clavdivs at 4:41 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


He, Here, Herest
posted by Bugbread at 4:58 AM on October 21, 2014


I know it's a controversial opinion here and I'm kind of afraid to say it, but I think Metafilter needs much more clavdivs.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:21 AM on October 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


I often feel that a lot of commenters on here take things which are obviously meant as jokes waaaay too seriously. Obviously, there are a lot of jokes that are in bad taste and I'm not saying that if you don't find it funny then you should pretend to laugh but context is important. I'm often reluctant to tell someone to pull the stick out of their arse because I fear that someone will accuse me of being arseist (or indeed stickist).
posted by h00py at 5:50 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


syzygy: As I see it, the community at Metafilter tends to be intolerant of unsupported controversial claims and viewpoints/opinions

Justinian: That smacks rather heavily of No True Scotsman to me.

It's nothing of the sort. I've argued controversial positions here in the past. When I first joined the site, I leaned much further to the right than I do now. Back in those days, I never felt that I or my controversial opinions were not tolerated, as long as I could show that those opinions were based on facts and honest, internally consistent reasoning.

That didn't stop others from disagreeing with me, but I almost always found the disagreement to be reasonable and civil, and reasonable, civil disagreement does not equate to intolerance.
posted by syzygy at 6:00 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Wow, reading this thread took a long time. Some points that struck me while reading through it:

jbenben: Later comments similar to the one deleted from me were Best Answered by the OP.
[...]
"Please calm down. Stop watching the news for a few days. OK?"


I think it was that last line that made all the difference, frankly. That's what took it from a "here's the information you need" to a Cameron-esque "calm down dear" moment. As is so often the case with these things, it's not what you said, but how you said it.

heatvision: I think the user base is so urban here that it is radically separated from the realities of how the other 10% lives. People on this site have collectively done a great job of moving beyond communication problems related to gender in the last 15 years, but there is still aggressive othering of Southern American people and rural people, and such fundamental misunderstanding of what it's like to live outside of cities that it would be comic if it wasn't so frustrating. Some of my favorite absurd comments have been the suggestions that in the future everyone will eventually have wi-fi, that having a car is optional always, and that in the future no one will live in rural areas because why would you.

There was a recent AskMe in which someone asked how to order something at a non-metropolitan Chinese restaurant and someone told them to ask for the second menu! A lot of people started saying that the asker should determine which part of China the employees were from! Where I come from the very assumption that the cooks would be Chinese sounds kind of nutty and racist, but people were serious about it.


I get that a lot of what you're saying here is no doubt frustrating as hell, but as a person from a very rural background indeed, let me tell you that what you're grousing about sounds more like 'mefi doesn't understand my particular situation/background' or 'mefi doesn't understand the rural southern US' rather than a more general city/rural divide...

Mrs. Pterodactyl: I also wouldn't necessarily say I'm "uncomfortable" but I tend not to post in or even read education threads at this point. This is partially because I know that I'm not always great at managing my own participation in them but also because they tend to be filled with misinformation and judgement and a lack of understanding. I get that people care about education a lot and have many opinions and that's great because education is important, but it's an area where the discussion can get bogged down in people's assumptions some of which are flat-out wrong. I'm sure it's how other people feel about a lot of conversations in their area of expertise and that's maybe something for us as a community to consider; I think there are some subjects that are addressed in such a way that those with a lot of direct knowledge or experience about them don't want to participate because they end up acting fighty or needing to address an enormous number of passionate but misinformed commenters and it can just be exhausting.

This is pretty much how I feel about trans threads (though I do participate a lot of the time, it's just... disheartening). Everyone had an education (to at least some extent) so everyone feels like they're experts with their first-hand knowledge in a similar way to how everyone has a gender, and so feels they have lots of interesting and novel things to say from their first-hand experience.

There are people whose involvement with these topics is much more total, much more informed, and much more considered than yours. Having some experience of a thing does not make you an expert, and does not mean that you can or should just ignore people who may have much more relevant experience than you.

drlith: The area where I most strongly self-censor has to do with my own experience of being female, for example, in threads where the sentiment is that "as a woman" one lives in fear of: rapists on the elevator, or catcalls on the street, and so on. Through some combination of not being super conforming in my gender identity and not being conventionally attractive and not being a fearful person in all kinds of matters, most of which have nothing to do with gender, these are just not things I am afraid of. Or in perhaps less contentious recent example, the thread on "I am here for other women". I recognize the trope "women, mothers, daughters, wives—we’re constantly at war with ourselves" but female/female competition has just not been a part of my experience. But I hesitate to speak up and say "that's not been my experience" because it runs too close to denying the experiences of those for whom these phenomena have been very real.

I would totally love if you would speak more about this kind of thing! It's pretty much how I feel about a lot of this stuff, and I feel a similar trepidation about speaking about it a lot of the time because of how it relates both to the wider trans community as well as the issues you raise (and feeling like it's somehow putting questions marks next to my status as a woman to not have these experiences which sometimes seem universally shared amongst cis women because it is difficult to speak about contrary experiences of life as a woman a lot of the time).

corb: A derail is when someone gets completely off the topic of a thread. If someone posts about kittens, and you go into that thread and say, "Kittens are cool, but what I really want to talk about is ice cream," then sure, that's a derail.

You do this all the time in trans threads: 'we should let trans women do this that or the other' - 'but oh no, what about cis men, them suddenly doing this that and the other is terrible lets not touch the status quo!'

Trans women are your kittens, and cis men are your ice cream.
posted by Dysk at 6:15 AM on October 21, 2014 [19 favorites]


I think there's a difference between "difference of opinion" and "reinforcing oppression," and I think people on all sides need to pay more attention to that difference. I think there can often be a sense that there's a binary right/wrong, and people will jump all over anyone they see as "wrong," regardless of the level of actual harm the person seen as being in the wrong is doing or represents.

"Hey, we don't allow that sort of talk here" responses seem very appropriate to me (I realize I'm not the dictator of all things) for misogynist, sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. comments. Those statements are actions that in and of themselves harm other site members, and reinforce world views that harm already-marginalized people in the real world.

Jumping all over people for believing in ghosts (as in the linked example) just seems petty. If you don't want to talk about the supernatural in a thread from a link that's talking about the possibility of the supernatural, then either ignore those comments or skip the thread.
posted by jaguar at 6:23 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


If presenting an opinion commonplace in half the country without rancor, in an informative way, counts as starting an argument, then I think it just proves the point.

"The country" is not the world, though. Mefi is bigger than that. 'Western capitalist decadence is the root cause of all ills in the world' is no doubt a commonplace opinion in nearly the entirety of at least one country, but it's still a stupid argument to start on mefi.
posted by Dysk at 6:38 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Back in those days, I never felt that I or my controversial opinions were not tolerated, as long as I could show that those opinions were based on facts and honest, internally consistent reasoning.

So almost 15 years ago, then? I'm not sure we should really draw any particular inferences from how things on Metafilter worked a decade and a half ago. The site culture is radically different.
posted by Justinian at 6:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Trans threads are where corb has made me most upset, despite mostly otherwise welcoming her contributions on the site. I never got the sense though that she was being malicious in how she fucked up those threads. She doesn't strike me as someone who likes causing strife or discomfort.

She mainly pissed me off with various comments circling around fear of trans girls in bathrooms, those fears strike me as trans phobic, but also rooted in...it's hard to find the right word here...understandable fears of men. Trans women were caught in the crossfire, in part because of those understandable fears and also because of what I can only, even with generous readings, interpret as some at best subconscious trans misogyny.

But like, I haven't seen her post stuff like that again. I saw her trying to understand what she did wrong and improve her level of civility, even if she could not accept certain things into her own views. corb is a person who makes an effort, and I think that plays into why the mods tolerate her. They are very, very willing to work with you if you make a good faith attempt to meet them halfway. Less so if you kinda spit in their face. I have, unfortunately for myself, seen both sides of that.

But hey, I don't want to speak for anyone. I'm no expert on trans issues. I have a post-it note on my monitor now to remind me about the necessity of the space between trans and women because I recently had to be told I messed it up (Thanks, dysk) even though I make serious conscious effort not to annoy trans people. It's not easy to get everything right when the vast majority of culture is in opposition.

corb is an American rural conservative person. She has views that, when speaking in generalities, reflect that perspective. Sometimes that means her posts make her sound incredibly mean, but I don't think she is a mean person. I feel like if she hasn't already backed down from her offensive positions about trans girls, I could probably persuade her in a one on one conversation because she is sensible and willing to listen.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:48 AM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


Any number of times both on the blue and the green(which has even been meta'd before) people on here painfully display the fact that this site is like, 95% middle class+. Some discussion of what money it takes to do something or deal with some life situation will come up and everyone will basically say "it's not that hard if you're not a moron and you plan ahead, jeeze" from their position of making >50k a year(or whatever the equivalent larger amount is in say NYC or the bay area) and having a decent savings account.

I find this noticeable from two directions. One is the types of advice you note there -- "Geez, stop wasting your time trying to save for a bus pass and just buy a new Prius already, dude." But the other way it shows up is in how many AskMe dilemmas are obviously solvable with even just lower-middle class resources. If the person had access to that money, they would have solved their problem by now, and answers that don't pick up on that constraint (which is often not made totally explicit) just aren't going to be helpful, even when it is not as overtly clueless as in my made up example.

I don't know what the overall demographics of the site are, but there are clearly a lot of users here who are financially constrained (which makes sense given the state of the economy and inequality) and once you are looking for the hints and signfiers of that you see it at every turn. I agree with divined by radio that this remains a largely unexplored issue here, while underlying not just AskMe questions but also FPP discussions about food, jobs, the economy, and family life.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 AM on October 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


corb is an American rural conservative person. She has views that, when speaking in generalities, reflect that perspective.

People all over the ideological spectrum speak in generalities here. The difference is that some ends of the spectrum are made to bear a burden of proving, rather than assuming, certain things in the course of a conversation. That's just the way that it goes when there's a majority/minority having a discussion about something of importance, and you don't want to reinvent the wheel every time. It's not even-steven, and it explains why some people are reticent to wade into certain conversations. It's just insanely more difficult on some topics knowing that you will need to defend your assertions as if it's a thesis defense rather than just stepping into the flow of what many people already assume (rightly or wrongly) to be the case.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:09 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


People all over the ideological spectrum speak in generalities here. The difference is that some ends of the spectrum are made to bear a burden of proving, rather than assuming, certain things in the course of a conversation.

Context matters. It's one thing for one position to bear that burden over the other when we're arguing about, say, politics, quite another thing when a man is having the thesis-defense burden when telling women about sexism or what women's experience is.
posted by Dysk at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Justinian : So almost 15 years ago, then? I'm not sure we should really draw any particular inferences from how things on Metafilter worked a decade and a half ago. The site culture is radically different.

I'm speaking of the period starting from when I first joined the site, 14 years and 3 months ago, up until around some time in 2007. So, as far back as 7 years ago.

I disagree that the site culture has changed much in this respect in the intervening period.

I've spent a lot of time on this site, and it is my contention that a poster who holds a controversial opinion, but who is able to provide reputable evidence and a sound, reasonable argument in support of that opinion is likely to be met with civil, rational disagreement rather than intolerance.
posted by syzygy at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find myself feeling like I fit in here less and less. I can't decide if it's the site changing or me getting older, but it's a definite thing. This thread kind of amplifies the feeling.
posted by COBRA! at 7:22 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just dislike it when a thread becomes all about one person's opinion, even if the opinion is polarising. It's both boring and obnoxious. I dislike the fact that saying that can often turn Sauron's eye on to the person saying move on. Give it a rest.
posted by h00py at 7:29 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


corb is an American rural conservative person. She has views that, when speaking in generalities, reflect that perspective.

As a clarification - this is not exactly true. I was raised in NYC to immigrant parents and had, honestly, a lot of very similar opinions to most of Metafilter for the majority of my formative years. It may be tough to believe, but I thought only criminals had guns. I campaigned for Nader and got arrested for Mumia Abu-Jamal. I used to take pride, with a sneer, in never having been south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Then I joined the Army and started a transformative process of realizing I had been really narrowminded and kind of mean. I had to serve with people who were rural conservatives - the kind of people I had routinely mocked. I had to realize they were actually people, not just the stereotypes I had loved to make fun of. I might depend on them to save my life, and didn't I owe it to them in that case to take them seriously? They also "raised" my adult life - taught me what it meant to be an adult.

Then I married a rural guy and was warmly embaced by his family, who didn't really care that I had funny ideas on things. I was constantly shocked. The first time I met him, he was concealed carrying, and I was really freaked out because why would he have a gun on a date? And then he explained, and I listened. And he and his family were tolerant of what they viewed as my foibles. And I love them and so I listened even more to the things they were saying. And a lot of what they were saying made sense to me. I want them to be able to live their lives, too, in the way that they always have and the way that they want to live them.

I apologize if this is continuing making things about me, I just didn't want to appear to with my silence let something stand that made me look maybe different/better than I was without correction.
posted by corb at 7:41 AM on October 21, 2014 [18 favorites]


Folks, I understand things sort of wended that way organically yesterday but it would be good to just sort of let this stop being a discussion specifically about corb.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:44 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


I mean I guess for NYC staten island could be considered rural-ish. Do you guys even have a subway? It is a mystery.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:45 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I...right. Yes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:45 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


oMG SORRY CROTAX
posted by poffin boffin at 7:45 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's alright, I'm used to being IGNORED ALL MY LIFE>
posted by h00py at 7:49 AM on October 21, 2014


There is indeed a commuter-train-type-thing on Staten Island.

And - actually, since it's come up in this thread, this has spawned a commitment to explore Staten Island in the next couple weekends as part of an ongoing personal project. Maybe I'll do the "take the train to the end of its line and see what I see" thing.

Yay! This thread accomplished something!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've spent a lot of time on this site, and it is my contention that a poster who holds a controversial opinion, but who is able to provide reputable evidence and a sound, reasonable argument in support of that opinion is likely to be met with civil, rational disagreement rather than intolerance.

My experience has not been the same as yours, although I've been here almost the same amount of time. My experience has been that a poster who holds an opinion that is not held by by the majority is - by definition - wrong. Their evidence is not considered reputable because the poster is wrong. Their arguments are neither sound nor reasonable because the poster is wrong.

My experience has been that there is a narrow and finite window of acceptable disagreement (e.g., declawing cats may be unethical, but is it criminal?), outside of which there is little acceptance.

The only change in this general atmosphere that I have seen over time has been an intensification, primarily as the population self-selects. People get tired of the browbeating and stop participating in controversial discussions (as I have) or leave the site altogether.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:54 AM on October 21, 2014 [18 favorites]


I just want to note that I got a kind apology from The Young-Rope Rider in my mefi mail this morning.

Civility rules. That's all.
posted by anastasiav at 7:57 AM on October 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


That's at a totally okay point to want to make, but you need to find a better way to make it

This is one reason why your business is failing. This refrain is often given from on high, but the practice is that the Right Kind of Point can be made with the nastiest vitriol to much favoriting and acclaim, while the Wrong Kind of Point must meet a much high burden. Eventually, holders of the latter find something else to do.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:00 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


On the other hand, sometimes you can say things that are just bullshit and you've never really had to question your opinion because no-one has ever given you a good argument before. I hate being criticised but sometimes the criticism is valid. I'm a big fan of tact, though.
posted by h00py at 8:00 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]



That's at a totally okay point to want to make, but you need to find a better way to make it

This is one reason why your business is failing.


Wow, classy.
posted by sweetkid at 8:02 AM on October 21, 2014 [43 favorites]


This is one reason why your business is failing.

Sometimes hewing to the standard of behavior I ask of other people around here re: replying to stuff can be really constraining.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:12 AM on October 21, 2014 [72 favorites]


My experience has been that a poster who holds an opinion that is not held by by the majority is - by definition - wrong. Their evidence is not considered reputable because the poster is wrong. Their arguments are neither sound nor reasonable because the poster is wrong.

To be fair, sometimes people and the arguments they make are actually wrong. Like, not difference of opinion wrong, just wrong. It happens on Mefi on occasion, even. But I do also see week argued but non mainstream opinions given the time of day here. Both things happen. Was every opinion I've seen shouted down objectively incorrect? No. But sometimes...
posted by Dysk at 8:13 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Metafilter is losing money because Google's search algorithm stopped driving traffic to Ask Metafilter for some arcane reason, not because people are arguing in a particular way, unless the marketplace of ideas works a lot differently than I thought it did.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:16 AM on October 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Wow, that was a really awful thing to say. And in a thread where there have been some unkind things said, that's something.
posted by Kitteh at 8:27 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


DWRoelands: My experience has not been the same as yours

I'd like to be informed of some concrete examples of this happening. I don't know whether this is the place to go into that kind of detail or not, but I would be interested in hearing what you have to say.

I've just looked back over a recent post and ensuing discussion (with more than 200 comments) about a (political) topic that most Mefites seem to agree on. A few contrarians popped in to express their disagreement with the prevailing sentiment, and at least one of those has a reputation. Let's call the like-minded Mefites the Ms, and the contrarians the Cs.

This is what I saw - Ms disagreeing, for the most part civilly and rationally, with the Cs. I saw factually incorrect (yes, literally wrong) claims made by the Cs with no outside support. Various Ms provided links to neutral sources that proved those claims wrong. I saw Cs making what I consider to be derailing arguments, citing unverifiable personal anecdotes and retreating into what I consider to be ridiculous hypotheticals, as well.

Perhaps most telling, including the links in the original post, I counted 23 links posted by Ms supporting the prevailing sentiments and/or refuting the contrarian ones. Many of those were high quality links to original sources.

I counted exactly 0 links from Cs supporting any of their various contrarian viewpoints.

I think that particular discussion is pretty representative of my experience here, recently. Contrarians (some whose reputations proceed them) who are often not interested in or able to support their opinions with verifiable facts and Like-Minded-Mefites who, by and large, continue to treat those contrarians civilly, even though the contrarians haven't done the minimum amount of work one would expect from an honest, engaged intellectual opponent.
posted by syzygy at 8:29 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Rather funny how we're 425 comments in, and there have been what, two links to offending comments that are beyond-the-pale vitriolic, and none within the past five years, other than an obviously Swiftian "I'd rather kill and eat (group of assholes)?" The way people are talking about it, there should be enough of these nasty, hateful comments that they'd be easy to find in a search.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


The nastiest vitriol is also written by some users, who bemoan the site's user base and typical mores, and yet who have not found anything else to do despite hating what seems like 94% of Metafilter. It's a confusing circus tent of users and opinions, but it's worth pointing out that the author of the deleted comment had a chance to restate their comment and later commented favorably on the mods in this very thread. Metafilter: it really can be a land of contrasts!
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [16 favorites]


Tanizaki - do yourself a favor and just....go take a walk for a while.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


DWRoelands: “My experience has been that there is a narrow and finite window of acceptable disagreement (e.g., declawing cats may be unethical, but is it criminal?), outside of which there is little acceptance.”

I'm a Catholic. Most of the circles I run in, people think that's ridiculous. They are not Catholic. They don't "accept" Catholicism. But that doesn't stop us from having productive conversations based on mutual respect. The same seems to be true here.

“The only change in this general atmosphere that I have seen over time has been an intensification, primarily as the population self-selects. People get tired of the browbeating and stop participating in controversial discussions (as I have) or leave the site altogether.”

The only change? Really? I have a hard time believing you're serious about that. I've been here three years less than you, but still almost a decade, and the changes here have seemed drastic and numerous. I mean, just favorites (for example) was a massive change, no matter what anyone might think of it. Site culture mostly shifted away from the strong personalities of the past, which, let's be honest, often made it hard for less-established members to assert themselves.

I get the feeling a lot of us who've been around for a long time tend to forget what it was really like back then: we were, more often than not, part of the in-group, so we didn't notice how hard it was for outsiders to be part of the conversation. It is easier now. There are some trade-offs, though, and that is an important part of growing a community.

Tanizaki: “This is one reason why your business is failing. This refrain is often given from on high, but the practice is that the Right Kind of Point can be made with the nastiest vitriol to much favoriting and acclaim, while the Wrong Kind of Point must meet a much high burden. Eventually, holders of the latter find something else to do.”

The general assholishness of this comment aside (and, yes, it is assholish to wander into someone's place of work and pontificate about "why your business is failing") I just have to say:

Man, you guys really need to turn off Favorites counts. It sounds like it's really harshing your experience of this site. You both see highly favorited comments and think you're looking at some sort of community consensus, whereas even a comment with a hundred favorites is almost certainly getting favorites from less than a tenth of the people actually reading the thread.

If you shut off Favorites counts, you might stop seeing the site as a collection of communal biases played out on a website, and start seeing it as what it is: just a bunch of comments by various people who were only giving their personal opinion.
posted by koeselitz at 8:31 AM on October 21, 2014 [20 favorites]


In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel like almost all of the problems we're talking about here have to do with reading way too much into seemingly high favorites counts. People like Tanizaki and DWRoelands are (I think) looking at conversations and seeing certain types of comments favorited much more than other types of comments, and then drawing from this the conclusion that there's a strong community bias in favor of certain viewpoints.

But people should note: there are several tens of thousands of active users on Metafilter. Unless a comment or post gets more than ten thousand favorites, we can't assume that it represents any kind of "community consensus" at all. Twenty favorites, for example, isn't even a strong minority of readers. There are a lot more people than that on this website.

Turning off Favorites counts can really help in this situation – not to grind an ax, but it can. It really doesn't matter how many favorites certain comments get. If we act as though it matters, it will matter; but we can choose to ignore that and read and judge comments on their own merit.
posted by koeselitz at 8:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


“This is one reason why your business is failing. This refrain is often given from on high, but the practice is that the Right Kind of Point can be made with the nastiest vitriol to much favoriting and acclaim, while the Wrong Kind of Point must meet a much high burden. Eventually, holders of the latter find something else to do.”

The first part is dickish. Not sure if it's wrong, but it's dickish.

The second part is correct.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:46 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is one reason why your business is failing. This refrain is often given from on high, but the practice is that the Right Kind of Point can be made with the nastiest vitriol to much favoriting and acclaim, while the Wrong Kind of Point must meet a much high burden. Eventually, holders of the latter find something else to do.


Go back and read what you just wrote.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:48 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Folks, I understand things sort of wended that way organically yesterday"

dont u mean "wendelled"
posted by klangklangston at 8:57 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


other than an obviously Swiftian "I'd rather kill and eat (group of assholes)?"

Their death threats are real and troubling. Our death threats are high-class humor!
posted by unixrat at 9:00 AM on October 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


Not sure if it's wrong, but it's dickish

Unless the userbase has been fed a stupendous set of lies about the reason for change in site traffic, it's not just dickish, it's a piece of *incredibly* childish wishful thinking. "This is a thing about the site that makes me huffy, so it must be the reason that traffic is down."

It's especially ludicrous from a user who seems to pride himself as a tough-talking rational thinker.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:02 AM on October 21, 2014 [22 favorites]


My death threats come with a spice rub!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:02 AM on October 21, 2014


Ignore the turd.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2014


Unless the userbase has been fed a stupendous set of lies about the reason for change in site traffic, it's not just dickish, it's a piece of *incredibly* childish wishful thinking. "This is a thing about the site that makes me huffy, so it must be the reason that traffic is down."

It's especially ludicrous from a user who seems to pride himself as a tough-talking rational thinker.


Yeah, I thought it was less dickish than just unfounded and silly.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:07 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


unixrat: Their death threats are real and troubling. Our death threats are high-class humor!

I'd be very happy to live in a world without death threats, but I'm also capable of reading "I'd rather kill and eat..." as not a literal endorsement of murder and cannibalism.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:08 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don't know if it needs specifically saying, but for the record: Swiftian death threats in general are generally poorly-considered comments and are the sort of the thing that generally get deleted if we see 'em, regardless of the politics or context or whatever involved. There's just about no absolutes about deletion thresholds on stuff here and so between timing, flagging, mod availability and random whammy factors stuff that's borderline may not end up nixed, but as a basic rule of thumb we pretty heartily endorse a Don't Make Comments Wishing The Death Of Groups Of People approach to mefi commenting.

I think the "but this one time..." thing is valid as far as pointing out troubling exceptions goes, and that's fine. And the specific comment mentioned here is I think annoying and not a good comment, even if it wasn't deleted. There's a fair amount of not-good, annoying commentary on the site that doesn't get deleted, but that's not an endorsement. But it not being an endorsement doesn't mean people can't feel negatively about the fact that its around at all. It's complicated and worth talking about.

But when by far the bulk of stuff that could be reasonably described as death wishes (Swiftian or otherwise) gets deleted as a matter of course, it's somewhat unreasonable to represent a sliver of an exceptional case as definitive of a bias in how the site/mods feels about deathwishes rather than as an example of the fact that with guideline-based human moderation borderline stuff sometimes doesn't get deleted.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 AM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Also: because of the simple fact that the majority is... the majority, one would expect to find many more of these bad non-deletes made by the majority even if the moderation was perfectly objective and fair.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:16 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


On koeselitz's point, it's almost as if two dimensions of MetaFilter exist, regarding the use of favorites. I will say that turning on favorites presents the illusion of bias, and it can be difficult to tell how much is coincidence and how much is collusion. Sometimes it seems rather natural, and sometimes it's the same (group of) people shouting down the same ideas or altering the direction of conversation. And more to the point, you can't know the truth of everyone's response. Some comments are hilarious, but you'll never see me communicate this.

If you turn on favorites, you're opening yourself to being persuaded by an insincere or inaccurate point system ("I only use my favorites as bookmarks!"). If you turn off favorites, you may get the wrong impression about the sincerity of others' comments (but that was never a guarantee to begin with, and the argument here is that favorites can cloud your judgment). Beginner Mode versus Advanced Mode, one might say.

On topic, the only thing I'm "afraid" to do here is call out the troll accounts I think are prone to damaging potentially enlightening discussions. Most everyone I've disagreed with about a particular issue in the past has shown valuable expertise in some other area, so I value a particular comment's reputation more than a particular user's, but that speaks more to flags on the negative side than favorites on the positive side.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Unless the userbase has been fed a stupendous set of lies about the reason for change in site traffic

WAKE UP

WAKE UP AND REALIZE TANIZAKI'S BUSINESS ACUMEN OUTWEIGHS YOUR SHEEPLIKE BELIEF IN AD TRAFFIC

USE AN ALARM CLOCK TO WAKE YUOURSELF UP
posted by Greg Nog at 9:19 AM on October 21, 2014 [34 favorites]


I'm trying to sing that as lyrics to 'chop suey' by that band but it's not working. Please try again.
posted by h00py at 9:23 AM on October 21, 2014


WAKE UP
TANIZAKI'S CREATED ANOTHER SHAKE UP
WHY'D YOU LEAVE YOUR FAVORITES ON THE TABLE
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:26 AM on October 21, 2014 [20 favorites]


cortex : But when by far the bulk of stuff that could be reasonably described as death wishes (Swiftian or otherwise) gets deleted as a matter of course, it's somewhat unreasonable to represent a sliver of an exceptional case as definitive of a bias in how the site/mods feels about deathwishes rather than as an example of the fact that with guideline-based human moderation borderline stuff sometimes doesn't get deleted.

I think this is a bit of a misrepresentation of what the argument that is being made around this is. The argument is that a comment like the one under discussion that goes with the grain is less likely to pick up a flag. Mod response factors in to this in that you guys are less likely to see this stuff and react to it. I suspect since these sorts of comments don't cause a lot of heat, more of them get slotted into the "not great, but not deletable" bucket vs "definitely going to cause/currently causing a shitstorm", maybe not in the particular case but in more diffuse nastiness.

I don't know what the solution is to that... I would like to see more "it takes two to tango" sort of stuff and taking to task the group piling on with less focusing on the single problem user, but I can see that causing exponential mod headaches. As far as getting people to flag problematic-but-agreeable stuff in general, I think there's even less to do, but then this doesn't seem to be a thread that is very solution oriented, so just pointing that stuff out is enough.

To pick up that MeTa moderation sidebar a bit, should I be flagging problematic stuff I see in MetaTalk now? I was under the impression from past mod notes that that was worse than useless in the past, but if the bar is higher now, it seems like it would be useful again. Then again, I don't really think to flag things now.
posted by grandsham at 9:28 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is this the Purge? I have a piggymask...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


No? K Let me know when its the purge plz
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The argument is that a comment like the one under discussion that goes with the grain is less likely to pick up a flag.

Sure, and I can totally see that argument and think the reasoning is fair. I'd say that's absolutely an aspect of how more- vs. less-favored opinions on all sorts of stuff can lead to differences in average volume of flagging output or so on.

But I think there's a lot of room between "maybe there's a proportional difference between in- vs. out-group flagging production on borderline comments" and "death threats are okay against the right sort of people", and if the idea isn't to run with the latter then conflating that with the former isn't doing the discussion any favors at all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


To pick up that MeTa moderation sidebar a bit, should I be flagging problematic stuff I see in MetaTalk now?

It is okay to. We're still less likely to delete middling stuff in here than elsewhere on the site so I think keeping expectations in check about deletions is the way to go there, but there's nothing wrong with flagging something you see as really problematic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 AM on October 21, 2014


The way people are talking about it, there should be enough of these nasty, hateful comments that they'd be easy to find in a search.

Here's the problem. We all tend to only remember to the point of being able to find things directed at us. I can remember a bunch of conversations where I thought people were saying awful things to me - but if I post that, I'm making things about me again. It is actually harder than you'd think to search Metafilter for "shitty stuff said to people with minority opinions" when those minority opinions do not belong to you. The only way I could even think to do it would be to go down Metatalk for the last two years and tab out every conversation that's about something shitty someone has said and read through them all.

But when by far the bulk of stuff that could be reasonably described as death wishes (Swiftian or otherwise) gets deleted as a matter of course, it's somewhat unreasonable to represent a sliver of an exceptional case as definitive of a bias in how the site/mods feels about deathwishes rather than as an example of the fact that with guideline-based human moderation borderline stuff sometimes doesn't get deleted.

The problem with this, cortex, is that we never see what gets deleted. There's a deleted posts area that you can look at, but no deleted comments area. There's no way to see the majority of deleted comments, unless they are the subject of a MeTa and then asked for and reproduced in thread. So it's impossible to really see what's getting deleted.

In addition, there's no way to track your own flags, so that you can go back and see what got deleted of the things you flagged. So mods may even be deleting everything they possibly see - but we will never know.

Add that to the fact that mods will let even gigantic shit turds stay if they occurred twenty comments or so back in the conversation, and add to that the fact that majority viewpoints are flagged more often than minority viewpoints, and you have a problem that may be unsolveable - it's easy to find gigantic shit turds, and hard to know why they weren't deleted at the time, with the mod answer generally "Well we can't delete them NOW."
posted by corb at 9:45 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


WHY'D YOU LEAVE YOUR FAVORITES ON THE TABLE

If you left them out overnight I think you should probably not eat them.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:57 AM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


> and add to that the fact that majority viewpoints are flagged more often than minority viewpoints

How'd you determine that?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:00 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Personally, because I've asked mods why things haven't been deleted, and I've gotten "they didn't really have flags/didn't have a lot of flags." But yes, flags aren't visible, which is another problem with figuring this stuff out, because I don't know what that really means to a mod. Is not a lot 1? 0? 15?
posted by corb at 10:07 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mods have devoted an extraordinary amount of time trying to help you understand how they do their jobs. Your inability to synthesize this and make a model you are comfortable with in your head, after all this time, is not reason enough to turn this thread into yet another "But I still don't get it" exercise.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:15 AM on October 21, 2014 [35 favorites]


Here's the problem. We all tend to only remember to the point of being able to find things directed at us.

While I think it's definitely true that a given person is more likely to remember something they were directly involved in than experiences they weren't so directly involved in, I don't think it actually generalizes for everyone to the degree you are suggesting here and feel like you are building an assumption that everyone's memory works in the specific way yours does into your argument.

Lots and lots of people around here have long detailed memories about stuff on the site in which they were not a principal agent or participant. The implausibility of remembering, asking about, and talking about stuff in that capacity is pretty directly disproven by the entire history of Metatalk discussions over the years.

So it's impossible to really see what's getting deleted.

It's very possible to ask, and, again, there is well over a decade of history of people doing just that and of us talking about this stuff at length.

If the complaint is that not being able to casually have total knowledge of what's been deleted on the site means its unfair to expect people to not make specious arguments about what might be deleted-or-not, I can't support really support that.

So too with what was or wasn't flagged; you can ask. So too with the Gigantic Shit Turd issue. It's not like we have a history of being cagey about discussing this stuff in Metatalk; I can appreciate as a hobbyist datawanker being frustrated by not having access to 100% of the raw data on the site, but that specifically isn't gonna happen and the fact that we are pointedly, at-times-sorta-stupidly available to try and talk stuff out instead is the compromise we've tried really hard to make work over the years.

If it is not sufficient for you, that's okay; everybody's got their own personal preferences for and needs from the sites they spend time on. But having unreasonable expectations about a place and then premising complaints on the failure to have those expectations met is kind of a weird and hard to credit position.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:18 AM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


So mods may even be deleting everything they possibly see - but we will never know.

Add that to the fact that mods will let even gigantic shit turds stay if they occurred twenty comments or so back in the conversation


I don't understand how those two complaints can co-exist, let alone how one can logically follow from the other. If you believe the mods let terrible comments stay, doesn't that mean we 'do know' that they don't 'delet[e] everything they...see?'

Am I missing something here?
posted by cjelli at 10:18 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Turning off favourites is a good suggestion. Thanks, koeselitz. Besides creating the impression of more bias than there probably is, there's also a tendency here to play for the audience, and hiding favourite counts will make it easier as a reader to cut through that.

Related thing that I feel uncomfortable saying: some people who think they are pretty good for/at the site are actually kinda bad for the site.
posted by forgetful snow at 10:20 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I can appreciate as a hobbyist datawanker being frustrated by not having access to 100% of the raw data on the site, but that specifically isn't gonna happen and the fact that we are pointedly, at-times-sorta-stupidly available to try and talk stuff out instead is the compromise we've tried really hard to make work over the years.

Yeah, I'm sure some of this is the frustration of the intel analyst that's like "but there's measurable data why are we not measuring it!" But I think more than that, it's just an issue of transparency. Mods have been, to their credit, very responsive when questioned about why something is or isn't deleted. But that's only for specific examples and makes it hard to measure site wide tendencies.

And as far as I know, deletions aren't sorted - so if I, for example, said, "Cortex, can you give me a list of the shitty comments against conservatives that were deleted in the last six months?" I would be asking you for an unconscionable amount of work. I would be demanding that you do the work of digging through possibly thousands of deleted comments to see which ones met that criteria.

And that's on top of what seems like a reluctance to post deleted comments in entirety, possibly because by posting them, they would start the fights that they were deleted to avoid.
posted by corb at 10:26 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there a reason why flags aren't visible? Couldn't we turn them off and on like favourites?

I suppose it would cause too many derails as people jump back in to justify themselves after getting flagged, but I'm really curious about what gets flagged and why.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think turning this thread into a referendum on the mods is going to be any more productive than a pile-on on corb.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


>So, you don't want to attack cortex personally, but you have no problem attacking corb personally? Hmm.

Reading comprehension fail Empress, try again.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cut it out, please.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:55 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there a reason why flags aren't visible? Couldn't we turn them off and on like favourites?

Because the added noise and friction from having that being an open channel for metacommentary and armchair analysis far outweighs the notional utility of having it be available, basically. Which is again something I totally sympathize with the downside of as someone who likes playing with the numbers, but it has consistently felt like the right line to draw over the years.

It's a lot more useful to have discussions and critique in here be about the context and reasoning behind deletions-or-not and the shapes and patterns of posts and threads and user behavior on the site than it is to have them be about why something with x flags did or didn't get deleted when this graph clearly shows that the average threshold for deletion of similar comment cohort Q indicates it should be otherwise, etc.

I love you crazy nerds and not having to stare down actual literal bar charts every time someone is unhappy about a moderation decision is part of how that love stays alive.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:05 AM on October 21, 2014 [23 favorites]


Since we're already derailed here, I'd like to say how thrilled and relieved I am that making flags visible is not on the table. If you thought favorites-gaming was bad, just imagine the epic rules-lawyering heights we could achieve with visible flags!
posted by dialetheia at 11:08 AM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


(That's all on top of the sort of lousy issue of unavoidably surfacing a "who is getting flagged and how much" channel which would be really not great even independent of the stuff above. And the weird no-win of either surfacing who did the flagging which is a second helping of potential crappiness, or not doing so and creating a kind of asymmetry of public information about flagging behavior. Plus the pile of violated expectations that would come with surfacing any of the years of historical flag data created back when people could reasonably assume that stuff was admin-eyes-only.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:16 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


That makes a sense that hurts my love of bar graphs, but I get that. Would the same sort of concerns apply to letting users have a record of their own flags, though, similar to a record of their favorites?
posted by corb at 11:25 AM on October 21, 2014


We're not going to build a view/dump tool for flags en masse, but if a user has reasonably specific questions about flags on their comments/posts they are totally free to ask us about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:29 AM on October 21, 2014


Would the same sort of concerns apply to letting users have a record of their own flags, though, similar to a record of their favorites?

I feel like this goes against the "... and move on" part of the ethos. Just personally, I know it's bad enough when I've flagged something in a thread I'm still following, because of the ragey "ugh this comment is obviously trash why haven't the mods deleted it yet" factor; I can't imagine it being good for my blood pressure to be able to historically go back and view all the things I've ever flagged.
posted by dorque at 11:31 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


syzygy: I'm not willing to datamine thirteen years of MetaFilter content simply for the privilege of having my own perceptions of my own experiences given credence.

If that makes me one of the "contrarians who are often not interested in or able to support their opinions with verifiable facts" then so be it. We've already reached the presupposition that you are empirically correct and that I am empirically incorrect, which makes the entire conversation a horrific hybrid of "Inception" meets "Kobayashi Maru".

No thanks.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:33 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


... and I just realized that maybe you meant comments of yours that were flagged, and not things you personally have flagged, so I think I'll go make a cup of tea and try again on the reading comprehension front.
posted by dorque at 11:34 AM on October 21, 2014


Kinda sad to see this turning into corb interrogating the mods on policy. Again.
posted by Dysk at 11:36 AM on October 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


Yep. Contact form still works as near as I can tell.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:38 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


DWRoelands: “If that makes me one of the ‘contrarians who are often not interested in or able to support their opinions with verifiable facts’ then so be it. We've already reached the presupposition that you are empirically correct and that I am empirically incorrect, which makes the entire conversation a horrific hybrid of ‘Inception’ meets ‘Kobayashi Maru’. No thanks.”

Every single conversation a human being can have starts with the presupposition that they are correct. Does that really render human interaction an ineluctable nightmare scenario?
posted by koeselitz at 11:40 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


But I cannot stand to hear anyone call RAPE when some man brushed against her breasts or patted her on the butt - I absolutely can't handle that level of stupidity. That behavior is wrong and the man is completely out of line and the woman should take whatever action she feels is necessary - but don't call it rape - believe me when I say it is not rape.

Okay, I really really superreally don't think anyone on this site has ever done that, but okay.


EC, I know you, and I am sure you don't mean to come across like, "Well, I don't see that happening, so it is not a thing that happens," here, but you kinda are.

When you have been raped, and people describe things THAT ARE NOT RAPE as being rape, or even like rape, or Rapey, that trivializes rape to an absurd degree. It really gets to me emotionally, too.

In defense of aryma, I can verify that a similar situation just happened recently, like within the last few weeks or so, over on FanFare in the Gone Girl thread.

A character named Desi, who never raped Amy or anyone else in the movie, period was described, more than once, by a woman from the site as Rapey. The character's rapeyness was even being used to justify some seriously nasty things being done to that character. So, basically, a trivialization of rape AND blaming the victim besides.

When I first saw those comments, I just closed the thread in disgust.

I came back later and I feel the discussion went okay; I really made an effort to NOT respond emotionally and just question the characterization in a rational way. But, honestly, I was surprised how upset that made me. So I can understand why someone who has endured a lot in their lives might get burned out by that kind of hyperbole.

And I do see examples here, pretty often, of a woman complaining of something happening where she herself describes it as this troubling thing that happens, but by the time some commenters are through, becomes sexual harassment or even sexual assault, too.
posted by misha at 11:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah, actually though, I think men brushing against breasts and patting butts is sexual harassment and sometimes assault. I think that should be uncontroversial, but well...
posted by sweetkid at 11:47 AM on October 21, 2014 [30 favorites]


I agree with EC that aryma's objection seems to be to a weird caricature of feminism instead of to the actual thing, but it's probaby better not to get into the weeds with an argument over Why Aryma (And Now Misha) Is Wrong.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:59 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


"If you left them out overnight I think you should probably not eat them."

I have eaten
the favorites
that were on
the table

Forgive me
the joke is tired but
so easy
and so tempting
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on October 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


Corb I thank you for giving me like, the platonic example of what I was talking about. Better than anything I could have possibly linked.

It's like calling out a friend for eating food out of your fridge without asking, and then mid conversation they walk over to your fridge, pull it open, and start eating leftovers.
posted by emptythought at 12:04 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there a reason why flags aren't visible? Couldn't we turn them off and on like favourites?

Oh, man. Just imagining this is making me want to dig a foxhole.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:06 PM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm extremely afraid that if I turn off favorites I will misinterpret comments, because there's a good amount of highly favorited comments that are just references, and I wouldn't have any idea that it is one otherwise. On a semi-related note, I'm still not sure how to use "Metafilter:" to start one-liners. I basically ignore any comment that starts with it because it just throws off my reading train of thought if I don't. I have no idea what klangklangston is referencing.

Oh, and there's not really any specific topic that I'm afraid to talk about, it's just that MetaFilter is this mysterious place where the boundaries are not well-defined. I also have a tendency to post all my ideas in a single comment, like some puke-colored amalgam, just like this post. It's amusing/tiring to me that there's no removing the specific offending portions. For all my preaching about tone I don't think that's a major factor, as much as a potential contributor to snap judgments about whether to delete.

Posting is suuuper tiring. I'm not sure how some people here have such a prolific output. Seeing as I'm 25 I probably won't get it for a while. But I feel less exhausted here on MetaTalk not needing to constantly consider spending 2-3 sentences qualifying my statements to reduce potential offense.

Oh, oh, I have one terrible idea to poison the community, what about a $100 fee to see deleted comments, probably don't even need to attach the authors
posted by halifix at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2014


Oh, man. Just imagining this is making me want to dig a foxhole.

It's like, oh, is the whining about favourites getting you down? How about NEW IMPROVED WHINING! now about flags!

there could be an informercial and everything
posted by poffin boffin at 12:10 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Rapey" isn't a redefinition of various non-rape acts as rape. It's an essential component of the necessary cost-benefit equation that humans (especially women) have to make in order to live in a society with people who may or may not be rapists. People (especially women) have to be able to tell if a guy they're spending time with is likely to sexually assault them, often based on miniscule cues surrounding how that guy deals with minor consent issues. If they knew a guy had actually raped someone, it would be pointless to engage in this calculation and label them "rapey" in the first place; so "rapey" necessarily means "I am not sure if this person has committed rape, but visual and social cues indicate to me that they have a nonzero possibility of being either a potential or an actual rapist." It would be pointless, and furthermore a very bad idea, to engage in open speculation on Metafilter about whether a particular Metafilter member is "rapey;" but I think that, when talking about a fictional character, in particular in a movie in which sexual assault is suggested, it is probably a fair indulgence, maybe even a fruitful thing to talk about if we ask ourselves what cues we're reading and how reliable they might be.
posted by koeselitz at 12:10 PM on October 21, 2014 [20 favorites]


I have no idea what klangklangston is referencing.

William Carlos Williams! the poem is kind of a meme here
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:12 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


That makes a sense that hurts my love of bar graphs, but I get that.

Yeah, I get it as well. As soon as I was asking the question, I started to envisage the ways that rules lawyers would utilize the data to be a complete pain in the arse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:13 PM on October 21, 2014


I will freely admit that my flagging is about 59% HTML/display error (or oh god WHY ALL THE LINE BREAKS), 1% fantastic, and is sorted among the other categories depending on my mood when I am revolted by a comment. If we had a NO BELINDA GOOD GOD WHY flag I would use that one exclusively for that 40% of flags.
posted by winna at 12:14 PM on October 21, 2014


I think I flag out of retaliation. Whenever the mods delete one of my comments for a particular reason, the very next time I see an example of that in a comment, that fucker is getting flagged.

Then I forget all about it again.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:18 PM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


On a semi-related note, I'm still not sure how to use "Metafilter:" to start one-liners.

It's used when one sees a phrase in a post which, when taken out of context, would make an appropriate, funny, or silly tagline for Metafilter. I would tend to criticize it for being overused (despite having once written a script to harvest and randomly turn them into actual taglines), but damn if it isn't still funny when cleverly selected. At worst, they're benign.

If you want to try your hand, the only mistake I see sometimes (aside from unfunniness, which is relative) is that the phrase selected must not be edited or invented by the poster of the tagline. The fun is in cleverly taking something unrelated to Metafilter out of context and making it a tagline.

I think there's some history about the actual "a community weblog" tagline having once been, or maybe just under consideration to be, rotating and maybe the joke started as disingenuous tagline suggestions? It was before my time.
posted by gilrain at 12:21 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Then I forget all about it again.

Yet again we see that forgetting things is the secret to a happy life!
posted by winna at 12:21 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I'm still not sure how to use "Metafilter:"
posted by tonycpsu at 12:25 PM on October 21, 2014 [26 favorites]


DWRoelands: I'm not willing to datamine thirteen years of MetaFilter content simply for the privilege of having my own perceptions of my own experiences given credence.

An example or two would have been nice, but your call. I didn't have to datamine 14 years and 3 months of MetaFilter content to find a thread that gives credence to my perceptions. As a matter of fact, I didn't even have to go back a whole week.

If that makes me one of the "contrarians who are often not interested in or able to support their opinions with verifiable facts" then so be it.

Indeed, that's what it does, and I don't have time for that noise. I asked, in good faith, for some examples of the behavior you claim to have seen. If you don't have the decency to provide even one example, the version of your perceptions that you've shared with us here holds very little value for me.

We've already reached the presupposition that you are empirically correct and that I am empirically incorrect

If we have, it's only because I shared a (stripped down, anonymized) example of the kind of behavior I'm used to seeing here, whereas you flat-out refuse to do so.
posted by syzygy at 12:34 PM on October 21, 2014


I'm still not sure how to use "Metafilter:" to start one-liners.

As infrequently as you can.

If it makes any one feel better, I think a significant fraction of y'all are nuts and a fraction of that fraction is probably a danger to themselves and others in addition, yet I flag ever so rarely that it's more than likely that I haven't flagged your comments. So you've got that going for you!
posted by octobersurprise at 12:35 PM on October 21, 2014


Every single conversation a human being can have starts with the presupposition that they are correct. Does that really render human interaction an ineluctable nightmare scenario?

No.

Having one's non-normative experiences devalued for being non-normative in a conversation about how non-normative experiences are devalued for being non-normative is a nightmare scenario, to borrow your term.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


syzygy: Congratulations, you won.

Mods: Please close up my account.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:50 PM on October 21, 2014


the poem is kind of a meme here

Yes. Yes it is.
posted by asterix at 12:52 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think there's some history about the actual "a community weblog" tagline having once been, or maybe just under consideration to be, rotating and maybe the joke started as disingenuous tagline suggestions? It was before my time.

There were rotating taglines in the fairly distant past. The only other ones I remember off the top of my head are 'you're wrong! no, you're wrong!' and (paraphrased) 'the plastic.com it's okay to like.'

(The wiki has a list.)
posted by box at 12:59 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


One of the most off-putting and offensive undeleted comments I have encountered here was heavily favorited and apparently unflagged when it was fresh. I was absolutely flabbergasted that it was just sitting there in the thread hours later when I encountered it. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people had a similar experience. Turning off favorites kind of feels like a blue pill solution to me. You can hide that the community approves of some disgusting views, but it isn't going to change that it still does.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:03 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


There was a really bad faith reading today that got favorites. Blah.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:04 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


It also got a lot of pushback (that was favorited more, if it matters) and sweetkid apologized for misinterpreting.
posted by gilrain at 1:07 PM on October 21, 2014


I've been in favor of favorites for a long while, but that bad faith reading of others' comments is making me reconsider.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:08 PM on October 21, 2014


DWRoelands: “Having one's non-normative experiences devalued for being non-normative in a conversation about how non-normative experiences are devalued for being non-normative is a nightmare scenario, to borrow your term.”

Man, all syzygy and I did was disagree with you. I don't think your experience isn't valuable; clearly syzygy thinks your experience is valuable, because he actually asked you to explain or describe that experience a little more clearly. I am genuinely sorry that you find this simple disagreement to be devaluational; I hope you can avoid simple disagreements in the future and be happy.
posted by koeselitz at 1:10 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


> sweetkid apologized for misinterpreting.

They indicated they "might have misread the comment" which is not an apology at all. But it's certainly indicative of the culture here to rush to judgement then reward the misinterpretation because it sounds like speaking snarky truth to ignorance or some such.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mods: Please close up my account.

You don't need the mods to do that for you - you can quietly close it on your own from the preferences page.
posted by Dysk at 1:15 PM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I like favorites. They let me know which users have "favorited" a vile comment.
posted by agregoli at 1:16 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


We're reading that exchange differently, and I guess it's because you feel the few favorites they got indicate a much wider endorsement. I came away with the impression that sweetkid had been effectively chastised by peers for what was indeed an (uncharacteristically) bad faith reading.
posted by gilrain at 1:16 PM on October 21, 2014


True: there is value in that, agregoli.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2014


Drinky Die: “One of the most off-putting and offensive undeleted comments I have encountered here was heavily favorited and apparently unflagged when it was fresh. I was absolutely flabbergasted that it was just sitting there in the thread hours later when I encountered it. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people had a similar experience. Turning off favorites kind of feels like a blue pill solution to me. You can hide that the community approves of some disgusting views, but it isn't going to change that it still does.”

I tried to explain some of this earlier on, but to reiterate a little: I think it's essential to point out that "heavily favorited" absolutely does not indicate community sentiment or views, for all values of "heavily favorited" that we've seen so far. I have never seen a comment get favorites from even two percent of the userbase. And even aside from the fact that twenty or thirty favorites means effectively nothing whatsoever in terms of community sentiment, we need to keep in mind that people favorite things for a lot of different reasons, and many people use favorites as bookmarks, as indeed the founder of the site has said he often uses them.

So when we're trying to discern what "the community approves of," favorites are the last place that we should look. They are not an indication of the community's ideals at all. They're just an indication of some noise caused by a miniscule number of people noting that they either liked a comment or wanted to be able to come back to it later for some other reason.

There is, therefore, no obstacle to just turning off favorites and going back to gauging community sentiment in the best way: by listening to what people in the community say.

Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton: “There was a really bad faith reading today that got favorites. Blah.”

See – I have been reading that thread, and I didn't even know that there were favorites on that comment. And I'm happier because of it. Favorites don't mean anything.
posted by koeselitz at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ok, but say that when it's your comments that get the bad faith favorites treatment.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:22 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


koeselitz has said that they have favourites turned off, so they presumably won't even realise if/when that happens...
posted by Dysk at 1:25 PM on October 21, 2014


Perhaps one point is that, over time, passive acceptance and active encouragement of repeated bad faith comments made to score points begins to unfairly have negative effects on a user's interaction with others.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:28 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


There was a really bad faith reading today that got favorites. Blah.

No, It was not bad faith, that was legit how I saw the comment. I wasn't trying to score "points" (ugh) or anything else, I saw it as a snarky sort of threatening comment kind of like "he'll be lucky he HAS a career" and then another comment talked about "good PR." then a million people mentioned they didn't read it that way, so I said I might have misinterpreted. Nothing bad faith about that either. Then 2bucksplus said that wasn't how they mentioned it, but also got super worked up about a bunch of other things I was apparently insinuating, and so I apologized for the misreading, straight up. That still doesn't mean I was accusing 2bucksplus of being a rape denier or gross person, so I won't apologize for that.
posted by sweetkid at 1:29 PM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton: “Ok, but say that when it's your comments that get the bad faith favorites treatment.”

I'm not sure what the "bad faith favorites treatment" is – I agree that bad faith argumentation is bad, and I think sweetkid was probably misreading 2bucksplus' comment.

(Going To Maine is right in that thread, by the way – it sounded a little sarcastic in tone to me when I first read it, which is why sweetkid read it that way, I think. I had to stare at 2bucksplus' comment for a while to see they were probably just being straightforward.)

I just don't think this has much to do with favorites – only with etiquette in a normal conversation. If a bad-faith comment gets no favorites, that doesn't make it okay.
posted by koeselitz at 1:30 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ok, but say that when it's your comments that get the bad faith favorites treatment.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 4:22 PM on October 21 [+] [!]


Or you know, say your thing again when you make a comment based on legitimate interpretation and then get called out in MetaTalk as an example of why favorites are a problem.
posted by sweetkid at 1:31 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I took a look back at the comment I was talking about. It was not as heavily favorited as I recalled and I don't see the names on the favorites list as representative of "the community" so I'll withdraw that assertion in this specific case. Still disappointed it got any at all and wasn't seen quick enough to delete though.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:33 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you want a personal apology for a comment that was not directed at you then you might as well just come out and say so instead of continuing to harp on it despite the fact that sweetkid has explained her reasoning and sincerely apologized to the actual people involved.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:35 PM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


MetaFlter: I think there's some history
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:44 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


So when we're trying to discern what "the community approves of," favorites are the last place that we should look. They are not an indication of the community's ideals at all. They're just an indication of some noise caused by a miniscule number of people noting that they either liked a comment or wanted to be able to come back to it later for some other reason

This seems to me tantamount to saying that we need to ask all 300-odd million Americans who they intended to vote for in order to have any sense at all of who's going to win an election. Favorites are not a scientific, randomised sampling of community opinion that will allow you to predict within a tenth of a percentage point whether a comment is metafilter-approved. But they are a straw poll. They are a yard sign. And when you drive around a neighbourhood and there's 8 signs for Candidate Smith for every 2 for Candidate Jones, it's not hard to tell who's winning. Admittedly, I cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that "the views of people who favorite stuff on the site" are representative sample of "the views of people who read and comment on the site". But the idea that the views of people who favorite stuff are some wildly incongruous outlier from the views of people who read the site seems to me by far the more extraordinary claim. It's like saying that in a neighbourhood where the signs run 4-to-1 for Jones we have no idea who will win the election. People who are willing to put up yard signs are perhaps more passionate about the election than people who aren't willing to make such a public endorsement. But for every vocal activist, there are usually a lot more silent sympathisers who are nonetheless on the same side. The analogy I'm making here is not perfect --- people obviously use favourites for different reasons. But at the end of the day, they are favorites, comments people liked enough to publicly endorse. The idea that nothing can reasonably be inferred from them seems downright bizarre to me. I mean, why are the most favourited posts and comments reproduced on a page entitled "popular"?
posted by Diablevert at 1:50 PM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


> If you want a personal apology for a comment that was not directed at you

Meh. I didn't say I wanted an apology, just countering that "possible I might have misread" doesn't really read as an apology. Enjoy your favorites.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:54 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


But at the end of the day, they are favorites, comments people liked enough to publicly endorse. The idea that nothing can reasonably be inferred from them seems downright bizarre to me.

For my part, I don't think it's true that nothing can be reasonably inferred from them, but I do think it's easy to overstate the confidence and specificity with which inferences can be made. One of the interesting things I've seen in this respect is that, on the odd occasion where some comment gets both a big pile of favorites and a good volume of active pushback (this would usually be in a metatalk discussion that has turned to that heavily-favorited thing), discussion about why people favorited it does yield a complicated set of motivations including the fact that people will often favorite something because they agree with or support some aspect of the comment, rather than because they wholly endorse it.

Which is a tricky thing, because of course the binary nature of favorited-or-not makes it impossible for other readers to know the details of those fractional endorsements, and so making more general inferences of approbation isn't hard to understand. But there's a spectrum there, between "favorites mean total endorsement" and "favorites are ciphers that convey no information whatsoever", and I think its somewhere in the middle part of that spectrum where the reality usually exists. And the more charged the context, and the more complicated the comment, the more I think that's important to keep in mind.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:58 PM on October 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Well, it is true that certain things might be reasonably inferred from favorites. But Drinky Die was talking about a situation where they felt like it was so disturbing, and significant, that some people favorited a terrible comment that they couldn't conscionably turn a blind eye to the fact that the community approved of this terrible comment. My own view is that, whatever we can glean from favorites, it's not such an affirmative and absolute indicator of community sentiment that we must pay attention to that data. It is, as you say, kind of like yard signs during an election. And while yard signs during an election might be a useful indicator – say, to a campaign manager, or to someone who just finds that sort of thing interesting and wants to follow it – to an average voter like me, who cares more about what candidates actually stand for, I may as well ignore them and focus on the issues. Especially if I'm constantly finding those yard signs so disconcerting and worrisome that I spend a lot more time fretting about them than focusing on the more important things.

That has been my experience with Favorites, too. They can be indications of various things – and I can imagine some people in certain circumstances might find those indications quite useful – but personally I have found them so distracting and so disconcerting that they only get in the way of the conversational interactions I'd rather be having in threads on Metafilter. So I was sharing that experience, and explaining why I think, if people are really disturbed by the favorites they see on various comments, I think often they're just better off turning them off and ignoring that so they can get back to just hanging out and chatting with other people without worrying about the vague background indicators of the general reception of comments that favorites can provide.
posted by koeselitz at 2:07 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of the more interesting bits of 4chan (or most any other imageboard) is the anonymity, which can either be forced or merely culturally encouraged. Frequently, a user who has "tripped up" by creating a name associated with a hash in a database, will be berated for introducing their identity (and therefore reputation) into a given discussion where it simply is not relevant.

Sometimes, the opinions-about-opinions here are based more on people rather than the content of what it is they have said. "Oh, great, it's corb again" or some nonsense, rather than evaluating what it is she has typed out. Reputation has a painful second edge like that. Sure, if physicsmatt pounds out something about physics, I am much more inclined to believe it because he's a working scientist, that's his area, and he gives good comment. The downside of names (therefore recognition, and in turn reputation), though, is that too often it becomes all about the commenter rather than the comment. Some people end up developing adversarial relationships with other members (or even the site) because of this, others flee. And, finally, some begin a little too much self-censorship. "I can't really talk about that here."

Now, a lot of folks are pretty YAY FOR NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT HERE, but THAT tends to be dependent on the folks in question and we could end up with rather lot of too-touchy topics and a bunch of members who don't feel comfortable talking about certain things.

It would be nice if, whenever someone gets pretty YAY about other members self-policing about their personal THATs, consideration might be due as to how their turn could come some day, too.
posted by adipocere at 2:08 PM on October 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


If you want a personal apology for a comment that was not directed at you

I don't see anyone saying that, let alone demanding that the way you phrase it. The fantasy world or strawman you have constructed here seems not so conducive to permitting people to discuss legitimate problems on the site.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:12 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was not in favor of this post at first, because I thought it would lead nowhere good. Surprisingly, it did not for quite a long time. Then it descended into slightly perplexing vitriol and sneering, followed by some jokes, and now we have gotten to a discussion of favorites. Beyond this point lies madness.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


[guys, please take personal squabbles to mefi mail at this point]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:31 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


"...I could probably persuade her in a one on one conversation because she is sensible and willing to listen."

Speaking from personal experience, corb is indeed a delight to talk with one-on-one. She even managed to find some common ground with my Dad's hardcore Socialist revolutionary friends.

A++ would party with again.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:33 PM on October 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


Misha: if you can find me an example of someone ACTUALLY describing an incident of sexual assault as being actual rape, please link me to it. The only example you mentioned is not such an incident, from what I can ascertain.

Mathowie: some posters have MeMail blocked and so taking it to MeMail is not always an option.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:39 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


At least one person has blocked MeMails from me, if you can imagine!
posted by Tanizaki at 2:42 PM on October 21, 2014


Taking it to mefimail is a suggestion, not a requirement. Dropping it entirely and just sort of making an effort to ignore each other is also an option if both folks don't actually want to have a mefimail conversation. It's a pretty good approach for when someone drives you crazy. As a mod I am jealous of people who can exercise that option and surprised that people don't more often.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:43 PM on October 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


I turned my memail off when I stopped working here and have never looked back.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:49 PM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Is there a reason why flags aren't visible? Couldn't we turn them off and on like favourites?

OMG this would be a nightmare please no.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:51 PM on October 21, 2014


Afraid it not the right word. There are some times when it's not worth the trouble. And there are times when I cannot cite my sources (e.g., personal relationship.) I'll live. I don't feel silenced.

On the theme started by Mrs. P: One of the things I like most about MetaFilter is the likelihood that someone in the know will chime in with the best in current knowledge of cat declawing or whatever. IRL, I know some doctors and celebrities and fancy people and they stay off much of the internet because they don't want to deal with people who are just wrong wrong wrong.

I agree with the argument that there are people who do shitty things - sometimes because they're shitty people, sometimes because they are "bad at life," sometimes because they appear to be seriously troubled and struggling, and sometimes because they are just excited and amped up about the change to be loud and raging about whatever. I just don't see this as a MetaFilter problem, or as something that has steadily become worse. As many, many people have said, that's how life works. (FWIW, my default assumption is always that the more someone is willing to be loud, the more likely it is that their ego is far more important to them than whatever argument they are making. This assumption has never bitten me in the ass.)

With the pile-on AskMes, I've always taken that as well-meaning blather from people who are childishly enthusiastic about whatever agenda they have - leads to a certain amount of bad advice. Sometimes someone who has actually read the question will post a responsible answer. Sometimes not. I think those questions are outweighed by responsible answers to other questions people need answered.

If I have a beef - and of course I do! - it is that people behave as though a group that is immutable such as "Chinese" is the same as a group that is a set of people who make a choice to be a thing, such as MRAs or upper-level management at JP Morgan Chase. Making jokes about or disparaging groups that people have formed and choose to join is nothing like having an attitude about groups that people did not have a choice about. Is this new? I don't know. As far as I recall, I haven't seen anyone call this out - not mod, or poster, or member of the cabal.

My attitude may be different because I don't know anyone here IRL from meetups and whatnot. People who have some off-stage interactions may take things more personally and have different expectations.

Re favorites: I assure you, if we could downvote, the people who would receive both favorites and downvotes for me are legion. It's comment by comment with me, people. I don't play favorites with my favorites.

(Up until now, I have been afraid to say that I thought Eyebrows McGee was a man. To the point that one time I said something and then immediately thought "OMG, what if Eyebrows take that as some kind of a line! I don't want to lead on Eyebrows McGee." This was not a case of not having any solid idea of what gender a person was and then realizing I must have had some vague, internalized idea because the truth was a surprise, this was a case of having an idea in my head that Eyebrows McGee was masculine. And after at least TWO YEARS, I saw a comment about, I dunno, giving birth or something utterly tied to being a member of the female sex and living a feminine-type life, I realized my error.)

Also, I don't need a hug. If we meet, please don't hug me.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:01 PM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


There was a really bad faith reading today that got favorites. Blah.

Is this a good place to say that thread really grossed me out? because that thread really grossed me out. No one came out of that one looking great. A few people said some gross stuff about accusations for attention, other people acted like it was a massive front of pushback, some stuff felt like strawmanning, and just generally it seemed like a lot of people either approached the thread with serious preconceived notions, or jumped to those when they saw one or two replies they thought were gross(which were, imo) as the entire site agreeing with them or something because they like... weren't instantly deleted?

I don't know, even the replies by people on the side i'd usually agree with were pretty wince inducing. it's just an ugly thread.
posted by emptythought at 3:29 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ohohoh, question. (This kinda question should probably go to the mods directly, but maybe other people are having the same problem) I blocked a MeMail sender once, a long time ago. I don't remember who. I'd like to unblock them (or at least see who they are). The MeFi FAQ says "To unblock users you can go to your Contacts page on MeFi Mail and click "manage blocked senders" at the bottom of the page.", but I don't see "manage blocked senders" anywhere on the Contacts page. Did it disappear in the redesign or something?
posted by Bugbread at 3:37 PM on October 21, 2014


emptythought: "I don't know, even the replies by people on the side i'd usually agree with were pretty wince inducing. it's just an ugly thread."

Huh. I felt kinda the opposite. I think it's because (except for towards the end), it hasn't been so much about Well Known Contrarians and Well Known Protrarians fighting, but a lot of user names I've never really seen talking in general, non-issue-specific terms about why they don't comment much. Those parts, involving the Not-Well-Known Members have all been really civil, and kinda nice to hear.

The end part, once favorites and flagging got brought up, not so much.
posted by Bugbread at 3:41 PM on October 21, 2014


"I have been afraid to say that I thought Eyebrows McGee was a man"

Hahahaha, think nothing of it. As a person with a hard-to-spell and ethnically ambiguous last name in real life, I've had 36 years of practice at not being bothered by misconceptions related to seeing my name before meeting me in person! People read "Eyebrows McGee" as masculine all the time (you are not alone!); probably it saves me from some gendered hassling (especially when I'm, uh, strident), although I didn't pick it because it was gender-neutral, just because I like my eyebrows and that sounds funny with "McGee."

People feel awkward about mistaking my gender way out of proportion to how much it bothers me -- which is literally not at all. (In fact, to me, one of the things that I like about texty, picture-free metafilter is how it is easier here to deal with ideas first, "demographic data" second or not at all. Not that that's always the best way, just that it's different from meat-space and sometimes really positive!)

----

On a different topic, I mostly use favorites for comments that have a particular absurdist or nihilistic sort of humor that makes me giggle but NOBODY ELSE FINDS FUNNY (such that I am often the only person who favorited it, and none of my family or friends ever understands what I'm giggling about). If other people comb through these I suppose some of them might look like I'm supporting weird things, but really there's just a certain sort of KERMIT FLAIL absurdism in phrasing that reliably cracks me up and cheers me up when I go back through my favorites because I'm in a grumpy mood.

Elsewise I sometimes favorite because I agree in whole or in part; I disagree and want to come back to the comment later to reply (but forget and leave it favorited); or someone mentions a book I want to remember to read.

I don't pay a whole lot of attention to favorites unless someone says something really vilely offensive (and obviously not joking) and it draws a bunch of favorites, just because I'm idly curious if the people favoriting are in agreement or if they're marking it to come back later.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:42 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I didn't think the Cosby thread was any worse than most posts about a controversial topic, no. I do think it would have been better to focus on the comedy aspect of it rather than take it as Hannibal Buress doing some news reporting, but I saw it reported as the latter across all media so it's kind of understandable.
posted by sweetkid at 3:43 PM on October 21, 2014


Huh. I felt kinda the opposite. I think it's because (except for towards the end), it hasn't been so much about Well Known Contrarians and Well Known Protrarians fighting, but a lot of user names I've never really seen talking in general, non-issue-specific terms about why they don't comment much. Those parts, involving the Not-Well-Known Members have all been really civil, and kinda nice to hear.

I think emptythought was talking about the Cosby thread, not this one. Or have I misread you here?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:45 PM on October 21, 2014


I don't see "manage blocked senders" anywhere on the Contacts page. Did it disappear in the redesign or something?

I just blocked mathowie from MeMailing me and then checked the Contacts page in both the modern and classic themes and "manage blocked senders" was there. Once I unblocked him it disappeared though. Is it possible you've already unblocked them?
posted by ODiV at 3:46 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


if the blocked account is disabled or has turned off memail i bet it doesn't appear in the unblock this user thingy as something that even can be unblocked. i think you also can't uncontact a contact who has their account disabled.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:53 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was actually speaking more about the handful of users who have turned off memail altogether rather than blocking one or another individual, for the record.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 PM on October 21, 2014


"People read "Eyebrows McGee" as masculine all the time"

There was another user years ago with a decidedly more feminine Anatomy McGee name that I assumed you were riffing on.
posted by klangklangston at 4:14 PM on October 21, 2014


In other news, I think some people come off badly online and dandy in real-life because they are earnest and literal in a way that's somewhat confusing to some of us. Because we're insincere and fanciful, I guess....
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:29 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rustic Etruscan: "I think emptythought was talking about the Cosby thread, not this one. Or have I misread you here?"

Oh, you're right, I totally misread emptythought's comment, I thought he was talking about this thread, but he clearly says "that thread" multiple times. Sorry!

ODiV and poffin boffin, thanks, that must be it.
posted by Bugbread at 4:32 PM on October 21, 2014


Yeah, but Eyebrows - I very specifically thought you was a man. It wasn't like everyone else except the Young Rope Rider (whom, as I have previously mentioned, I imagine as a blind girl on a diving horse.) The rest of them, they are as bland down their as Ken dolls and Barbies - who knows what's going on with their plumbing and their inclinations.

Johnnie Dollar is probably to blame for the whole mess. And I mean the Bob Bailey Johnnie Dollar, not any of them earlier, not-fully-formed Johnnie Dollars. They's all chumps. Even if one of them was Dick Powell who Raymond Chandler said was the best Phillip Marlow.

So that's the problem with MetaFilter - and it's narrowing, for sure - the few times I assign a gender identity, I'm wrong!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel comfortable to say this now that so many comments have been made, as I hope less people are reading and this and I will not be harshly criticized. I saw this question when it came up and thought about it last night. I really love this website and how I can say how I feel without people saying hurtful or ignorant things in response. The comments I share are because I feel this is a wonderful space with the potential to become even more amazing, and hopefully my input in a small way can contribute to growth.

I am a woman of colour and I am also working class with personal experience in being "third world country sleeping on a floor eating garbage out of desperation" horribly poor (I do not feel oppressed by this fact). Now I am North American working class which is pure glamour in comparison. Even in the most troubled nations there is embarrassment to talk about such poverty so I feel Metafilter is a safe place I can share my experiences without judgement. I would like people to realize how wonderful this community is, as I can say how I feel about social issues without being seen as someone complaining, lying, being unhappy, or shaming my family and friends.

That said, currently this site does quite poorly with race and poverty issues. I agree with posters above in that this is not out of any cruelty or maliciousness, but simply due to the class of people who post here. It definitely does feel like the "echo chamber" in that most participants in threads will offer the politically correct University/College taught insight, but do not have personal insight and this shows. I believe this is a wonderful thing in many ways as it shows the posters are thoughtful and respectful and are very mindful of their words without feeling they must censor themselves. On the other hand, I see a lot of threads where there is a common sense working class / non-white person explanation and educated posters miss that and go with the worst case scenario.

Sometimes I feel in a class or race based thread, commenters are afraid to engage fully because they think they will say something racist or classist. And this is where I feel Metafilter is lacking. I would love to have a respectful conversation with contributors about race or class from the perspective of all people, including those who are not white or middle class. As our opinions are super varied. Sometimes I don`t contribute as I hate feeling like I am the lone person making a comment because others might think I am speaking on behalf of a whole group. I also suspect people with good insight are afraid to comment because of how the thread is going. They will be the lone voice saying something different. And yes, people will pick on that - especially if personal experience or emotional responses are offered instead of a logical perspective.

There are many well meaning people who will post about these issues and even if I have something useful to say I won't. In terms of poverty, the threads about cheque cashing stores (which are good things in some respects), cooking at home (which takes so much more time and money and privilege than one thinks), purchasing luxury/name brand goods and loans/debt/student loans are things I won't touch. In terms of race I don't feel comfortable enough to go into specifics but recent threads that made me uncomfortable are those about female hip hop / r & b artists and one about non Western dialects used in fiction.

In terms of gender, I feel the weirdness too but in a different way from how others have posted because of my class and race background. I find people are very cruel towards men who post with relationship questions that appear sexist but seem to me out of a sincere cluelessness. Their questions would be normal in many social circles. Like that fellow troubled by how his girlfriend did not dress up. I feel if a woman posted about how her man wore ripped jeans and metal t-shirts everywhere there would be more kindness even as posters pointed out how she could re-think things. Before I joined this site there was a guy with a dating profile who wanted help and it seems he is the fedora person people joke about here. But he seemed to me like a normal somewhat insecure man who couldn't speak the middle class lingo but tried really hard to sound like it because he wanted to meet nice people like those of us on Metafilter. People were so nasty to him. What some others called a pile-on. Actually this made me extremely wary about posting here because I was afraid what others would say. I was trying to figure out the (not immediately obvious) etiquette here even in my early days.

Meanwhile there were some apparently female posters who posted some shocking things in the Ask section of the site where they did ludicrous things with men. Posters rightly pointed out the strangeness of the poster's behavior, but in a respectful and gentle way. Why the differences... I don`t know. We should be gentle to anyone who posts.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:25 PM on October 21, 2014 [120 favorites]


Something I'd like to see... anyone have some examples of threads where someone presents a viewpoint that goes against the thread's "consensus", and it isn't a problem?

We've been focusing on cases where things have gone poorly. It could be valuable to see how it can go well.
posted by meese at 5:27 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel comfortable to say this now that so many comments have been made, as I hope less people are reading and this and I will not be harshly criticized.

I hope you will post more, because that was beautifully worded and I got more meaning out of your post than I did the many posts before it. I hope you will continue to be a contributer here.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:13 PM on October 21, 2014 [16 favorites]


I'm extremely afraid that if I turn off favorites I will misinterpret comments, because there's a good amount of highly favorited comments that are just references, and I wouldn't have any idea that it is one otherwise

One of the great joys of getting older, for me, has been becoming steadily more comfortable with not having any idea what someone is talking about or referring to. Embrace it, it's pleasant.

I also Nth the "turn off favorite counts" for everyone in general and in particular if you're someone who is bothered by something you dislike having a high number. I say this partly because I am contributing to your problem: as far as I am concerned, favorites are a poorly-named site bookmarking system. I use them to be able to find things later, whether because it seems useful or because it seemed spectacularly assholeish. You may well be looking at a number that I contributed to making higher just so I could find it later.

Since I am not the only person who thinks of them as something of personal utility, viewing them purely as votes on validity is doomed.
posted by phearlez at 6:21 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I use favorites ironically like 50% of the time.
posted by signal at 6:41 PM on October 21, 2014


Yeah, we've been down this road before. Note that you can turn favorites off in the regular view, but continue to guiltily use your profile page to see how many favorites you've received and who you've received them from.
posted by box at 6:47 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Rapey" isn't a redefinition of various non-rape acts as rape. It's an essential component of the necessary cost-benefit equation that humans (especially women) have to make in order to live in a society with people who may or may not be rapists.

I can see this going a lot of different ways depending on context.

For example, Misha's example of "called her rapey as a form of victim blaming when bad things happened to her" is deeply disturbing to me and I can see how she would find it uncomfortable. The use of "rape" to mean "I didn't like that" is disturbingly common in a lot of contexts, as is rape used in a punitive sense as a punishment for being some variety of unwanted person.

On the other hand, that's language often used to dismiss discussions of rape culture, which is a system of muddying consent and agency such that people who wish to rape and get away with it are more likely to be able to (sadly, whether the rapist is male or female - women raping men happens, and is almost always rhetorically dismissed or used as a punch line).

And I think that's one of the issues a lot of us run up against in this discussion of what is and isn't acceptable on MeFi - context matters here a LOT, and there is often an expectation both that people will be aware of a given context, and that people will be willing and able to read the tone of the thread - and that is a lot harder than one might expect.

Where I see a lot of discussions going pear shaped is around both a dearth of information about a given context, and/or a collision of different contexts where one or both people involved in said collision are unaware of the different contexts. Someone mentioned above being used to a community where "of course more PoC should be included in media and history lessons" was assumed, and thus being reluctant to join those discussions in MeFi because of the likelihood of critique being misconstrued, that's a lot about context.

The strong reaction by multiple people to Jessamyn's comment on gun discussions (which I have to admit I read completely differently from everyone, likely due to a lack of historical context) is another example of how transparent these sorts of applications of context and history are, and where they can go wrong - if Jessamyn weren't Jessamyn people would have reacted very differently.

I think there's also a huge context of people who track who they think are the community leaders and who are not, and I see that popping up a lot in this thread as a sort of unspoken axiom that, frankly, baffles me. I mean, I know who I admire and who makes me laugh a lot on the site, and who I usually do the agree/disagree dance with, and who I avoid engaging, but MeFi seems sufficiently huge to me that I can happily party in the pool while people are mutinying on the poop deck.

I had a moment a while ago in one of the innumerable rape threads where I realized I was assuming "everyone is against me" when really it was a handful of other people and I'd lost the thread of what we were discussing. I think that happens a lot, and people just remember feelings associated with different names.

tl;dr: MetaFilter is like this because people are like this.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:12 PM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


It definitely does feel like the "echo chamber" in that most participants in threads will offer the politically correct University/College taught insight, but do not have personal insight and this shows.

Excellent comment, and I second this bit. I'm a university educated woman currently in grad school, but I grew up extremely working class and in very financially unstable circumstances. I specifically remember this thread making me feel really weird, like a bunch of people commenting (whether being positive or negative about the article) viewed blue collar dudes like plumbers as some sort of exotic alien creatures, as opposed to people who are around all the time doing their thing. Whether you're saying "those people are different than me!" or "those people are the same as everyone else!" it's still "those people" that I take from that - the dreaded other. It makes me laugh a little because it comes across as "I AM A MIDDLE-CLASS BOT. I AM PROGRAMMED TO FEEL SCORN/EMPATHY. LET ME SCORN/EMPATHY YOU. DO NOT RESIST." But it also makes me not really want to comment much sometimes.

Also I hate threads about weight, fat, and health, and try not to go near them. People - you're not even wrong. You very likely don't actually know how to assess risk so maybe chill out with pretending you're an expert on how healthy other people are based on their weight?
posted by supercrayon at 7:35 PM on October 21, 2014 [16 favorites]


Metafilter: Yet again we see that forgetting things is the secret to a happy life!

I feel comfortable to say this now that so many comments have been made, as I hope less people are reading and this and I will not be harshly criticized.

This was an excellent, well-thought out comment and I hope people read it and consider it before they comment in future threads where race and class are significant issues.
posted by immlass at 7:40 PM on October 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


There are sometimes questions about my cat that I don't feel I can ask because it will come up that we let her outside (which is perfectly normal here in Australia and if we didn't we would get people telling us we were animal abusers for keeping her under house arrest), and I don't feel psychologically up for the pile on.
posted by lollusc at 10:09 PM on October 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


> Unless a comment or post gets more than ten thousand favorites, we can't assume that it represents any kind of "community consensus" at all.

Sampling doesn't require a quorum to be valid.

People like Tanizaki and DWRoelands are (I think) looking at conversations and seeing certain types of comments favorited much more than other types of comments, and then drawing from this the conclusion that there's a strong community bias in favor of certain viewpoints.

There is a strong correlation, in any given thread on this site, between the distribution of favorites and the majority stated opinion. This plurality of favorites signals what the majority opinion is, and that signal is a reliable indicator of how a comment will be treated. Thus we have a self-selecting dynamic that imparts perverse incentives onto the discourse, chills minority opinions, and reinforces community bias. IMO, the favorites system is toxic to dispassionate discussion because it raises the stakes of disagreement and brings out the worst in everybody.

It is also troubling that MeTa concerns are routinely treated with a "nothing to see here, folks" attitude by the mod team and certain popular members. There is a cabal; it is just implicit and emergent.

To address the subject of the post: I'm afraid to comment on just about anything. This site has pushed me so far to the right it's not even funny anymore.
posted by troll at 7:47 AM on October 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


^
posted by octobersurprise at 7:50 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


> this site has pushed me so far to the right it's not even funny anymore.

I found some grain of truth in most of your comment, except for that. It seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face. But take heart, most of us here aren't terribly left wing, we just play like that on the internet.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 8:11 AM on October 22, 2014


Eh, I can believe it. I went to a very leftist university, and not really in a "well-thought out leftist" sense like MeFi. While I was there, the idiocy of the folks around me pushed me somewhat to the right. After graduating and getting away from them, and dealing with intelligent people on the left, I moved back to the left. Now that I'm older, and I've experienced it before, when I see people on the far left being idiots, I just think "there are idiots of every political persuasion, it doesn't necessarily mean that their overall position is wrong", so it doesn't push me to the right at all. But I can totally believe that it happened for troll.
posted by Bugbread at 8:20 AM on October 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Being on the left instead of leaning towards the more individualist ideology of the right kind of requires you to have a certain amount of faith in the left and in other people in general. That faith can be shaken or completely broken. Mine hasn't been, but I can understand it.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:26 AM on October 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Oh, sure. I know people can adopt sliding viewpoints based on the arrogance of others, but it's something to be on guard against. Didn't really explain my point well, sorry.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 8:28 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


most of us here aren't terribly left wing, we just play like that on the internet.

I don't consider most of the opinions expressed on here to be very left wing at all. I know some left wing people, and they'd call a lot of things people say here conservative.

I feel like people have this feeling that there's the "Metafilter people" and the "Real world" people but I think that's just a feature of some people not having put much thought in their lives toward certain topics we talk about a lot here. If you have put thought into them, and done some reading and discussing, several key themes start to form and people tend to have those in common. But it's not groupthink, it's just a new-to-you way of thinking. Those exist in the real world, not just Metafilter.
posted by sweetkid at 8:29 AM on October 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


It is also troubling that MeTa concerns are routinely treated with a "nothing to see here, folks" attitude by the mod team

I feel like this is something that comes up periodically in metatalk comments about metatalk, and from the mod side it's frustrating for me because short of non-starter pony requests and really significant fundamental misapprehensions about the site or policy/guidelines or moderation practice, we try to avoid being dismissive of stuff even if we don't totally agree with it or agree with a suggested solution/remedy/etc.

It happens a lot that someone will bring up a general complaint and also a specific example or three and we'll acknowledge the worth of discussing the general thing while also talking about where one or more of those examples is poor footing for that discussion—this thread's got an example of that—but if the expectation is that that is too dismissive then there's a real problem because a useful discussion of how this community works isn't going to grow out of just shrugging and accepting some sort of significant misrepresentation of how it works.

Which, maybe we're just a little stuck in that sense, because it's basically a requirement of our jobs here to respond to that stuff but I can understand it feeling like reflexive pushback or something to someone not coming from it from that perspective. It's understandable disconnect, I totally do get that. But I think it is in fairness necessary to distinguish between us trying to be clear about specifics someone brings into a Metatalk post and us being routinely dismissive of concerns or complaints in general.

If you had something else specific you were thinking of, let me know, it's possible I'm misunderstanding the thrust of your concern here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:41 AM on October 22, 2014


Genuine question: how does the behaviour or attitudes of those on the left - or I suppose one's perception thereof - cause a shift in one's political views to the right?

I mean I can understand how one might not wish to associate with vocal leftists or something like that, but the idea that you'd change how you felt about, for example, redistribution of wealth because of that behaviour... this is strange to me?
posted by ominous_paws at 8:50 AM on October 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


I haven't found the mods to be dismissive, but I can see how someone might perceive them that way if they're expecting the mods' response to a particular complaint or concern to be a promise to rigidly adhere to a new specific moderation policy going forward.

Most moderation here is about the mods making judgment calls on a case-by-case basis in consideration of the context. While that's frustrating for those of us who prefer enumerated rules and policies, I've gradually learned to trust the mods' judgment and now prefer this style of moderation over the rules-lawyering approaches in other communities (which often lets a lot of truly horrible behavior stand).

So, while you won't often see an immediate verbal commitment from the mods to handle specific things in a specific way going forward, over time I think it becomes obvious that they are definitely taking our feedback into account and letting it inform and guide their decisions.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:54 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


troll: This site has pushed me so far to the right it's not even funny anymore.

It sounds like you're concerned about how far to the right the behavior of the lefties here have pushed you.

If the bad (in your opinion) behavior of individuals on one side of the political spectrum forces you toward the other side, and you're concerned about being forced too far, let me offer a friendly suggestion: You may want to spend a little time over at a site like freerepublic to balance things out.

I haven't spent much time over there, but based on the things I've seen in the handful of times I have visited that site, I think you'd probably need to split your time between freerepublic and metafilter at a ratio of around 1 to 500 in order to keep things in balance. A small price to pay for maintaining your political balance, wouldn't you say?
posted by syzygy at 9:03 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Often times I get annoyed by something I feel like the mods should be doing, but the more specific I get on how the remedy would be applied the more I realize it would just be impossible. I mean, how many mods are there now, three? I have no idea how they even keep up with the existing threads.

One of the things that I would guess ends up happening, partially as a result of not having infinite mods, is that comments in threads that are harsh/dismissive/personal/etc tend to get noticed and deleted if they somehow "stick out" from the others. So they got a lot of flags, or the comment deviates in viewpoint or magnitude from the baseline, or it generates a lot of harsh responses.

The problem with this is that at times we end up with these threads with a lot of really unpleasant comments but since they all agree with each other or don't stick out the thread just becomes this weird sort of public hating that it's hard to know what to do with. It's sort of a frog boiling phenomenon where the baseline of a thread just creeps in a bad direction and then the people who might have a divergent viewpoint on the subject are just like "F that!" and move on. Except for the people who like to stir the pot, and then we end up with sort of the worst possible dialogue quality.

Those threads really bum me out. Especially when I'm part of the minority viewpoint (for me, usually on religion) and I feel excluded or unwelcome, which is where I think some of the upthread complaints come from. But I think it's an illogical leap to conclude that the mods are condoning this sort of thing, there may just not be a way to deal with it all the time.

In the spirit of Festivus: I think the one thing that has always been a head scratcher for me is that the mods sometimes seem to allow a lot MORE nastiness in Metatalk, where I almost think it should be the opposite. Maybe it seems like a pressure valve thing but I know I don't think people's differences are more likely to be ironed out if the conversation is less pleasant. That certainly hasn't been my experience IRL.
posted by selfnoise at 9:06 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


> I mean I can understand how one might not wish to associate with vocal leftists or something like that, but the idea that you'd change how you felt about, for example, redistribution of wealth because of that behaviour... this is strange to me?

It happened to me, sort of. I was much more conventionally "left-wing" for a while in college (hey, it was the late '60s, it was like being anti-racist now), but when I saw the effects of what the more vocal/hardcore lefties were doing (like getting the extremely valuable History of Civilization course shut down because of alleged Eurocentrism) and the way they behaved (when I tried to discuss the strategic value of a sit-in with the people sitting in, some jerk with an armband came up and said "Nobody talk to this guy" and told me I could only talk to people with armbands), I realized that all those fine Marxist ideas about the means of production and the proletariat were going to be implemented not by angels but by jerks with armbands, and then I read up on the history of the Soviet Union and saw how badly it worked out in practice, and I wound up becoming an anarchist (which is neither left nor right, not to mention being totally ineffectual, but that's another story). So yeah, it can happen.
posted by languagehat at 9:09 AM on October 22, 2014 [39 favorites]


Thanks for the response, LH! (and interesting what a wussy centrist version of "left" I had in mind compared to yours! =) )
posted by ominous_paws at 9:16 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It happens a lot that someone will bring up a general complaint and also a specific example or three and we'll acknowledge the worth of discussing the general thing while also talking about where one or more of those examples is poor footing for that discussion—this thread's got an example of that—but if the expectation is that that is too dismissive then there's a real problem because a useful discussion of how this community works isn't going to grow out of just shrugging and accepting some sort of significant misrepresentation of how it works.

Which, maybe we're just a little stuck in that sense, because it's basically a requirement of our jobs here to respond to that stuff but I can understand it feeling like reflexive pushback or something to someone not coming from it from that perspective.


I think a waiting period would help a lot -- like, the mods won't respond to a MeTa post for the first three hours. Because when one of the first posts is a mod doing something like what you describe here, it can unavoidably poison the tone of the rest of the thread.
posted by neat graffitist at 9:21 AM on October 22, 2014


If you're defining your political views by what you see people on MetaFilter saying, you're doing politics wrong. I see a whole lot of idiot lefties saying and doing stupid things, but at the end of the day, what I believe about how the world works has nothing to do with what some idiots are saying and doing.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:21 AM on October 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


So yeah, it can happen.

My experience at Hampshire College in the late 80s was a lot like languagehat's. I am more anarchistic in practice but this winds up aligning me with lefties more often than not in terms of "who deserves rights" and that sort of thing. This is very different from agreeing with them on tactics or wanting to contribute to their causes, etc.

I think online political discourse is a lot different from offline political discourse and practice. They are both important in different ways but I sometimes feel that people confuse one for the other or deliberately obscure the lines in order to get more weight behind their words. It's a bigger topic than just this thread, of course.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:24 AM on October 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


One of the reasons I like MetaFilter is because it is only just opinions being discussed, and Languagehat has kind of sparked an illustration of why differentiating between words and actions can be important.

A similar example: I was part of a protest march in 2004 during the Republican National Convention here in NYC. It was a largely peaceful march - except for the one Black Bloc group that set fire to a 10-foot dragon puppet and thus created a 15-foot fireball in the middle of the crowd and caused a stampede of people fleeing down 34th Street and dodging cops in riot gear coming in the other direction to stop it. ....Take a wild guess where I was standing when the fire went up.

As I've said to others since - I actually find I agree with a lot of the Left's ideals, but there are those on the Left whose actions I got an issue with; doing shit like that isn't going to bring people around to your side, and is in fact most likely going to do the opposite.

So frankly, that's one thing that MetaFilter definitely has going for it - no matter what anyone says, from either side of the political spectrum, it ain't gonna do me any physical harm and I will not have to take shelter in the doorway of Macys as a result of anyone saying it - all I need to do to deflect anyone's opinion is just decide I disagree. Maybe say "I think that idea's kinda nuts" or some variant thereof if I'm feeling especially frisky.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


There are things I won't say because I don't think it's right to say them.

There are definitely things I won't say on MetaFilter because when I've said them here in the past the epic spanking I have received in response has convinced me that no good will come of further mentions.

There are also things I won't do here because I've become convinced that whatever the written and unwritten rules about doing them here are ones I don't understand:
- I will not make a first comment on any MetaFilter thread - I've had enough first comments deleted because they were seen as (and not intended as) derails.
- I will not make a post on MetaFilter - I am convinced that I can't possibly keep up with the MetaFilter firehose enough to avoid posting about topics that will be instadeleted or otherwise widely disapproved of.

I don't have hard feelings around these things. I just am unwilling to try again.
posted by kalessin at 9:32 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Back when I was a wee college froshie and the entirety of my understanding of the gay rights movement consisted of "boys like to kiss boys, that's cool" and "nobody should ever do to a person what those pieces of shit did to Matthew Shepard", I remember leaving what to me felt like a polite, genuinely participatory comment in a more radical friend's Facebook thread about gay pride parades. The comment was something along the lines of, "Personally I think that presenting an overly-sexualized image of LGBT people in garish parades is going to have a negative impact on people who haven't thought much of these issues to begin with" — a sentiment which, in retrospect, is problematic when a cis straight dude articulates it, but like I said I was operating from a super-simplistic viewpoint of "kiss whomever, don't murder anybody", and hadn't thought much more about the cultural ramifications of systematized homophobia etc etc etc.

My friend responded with a basic message along the lines of "you're not getting it," which I could appreciate, but then her friend set out to rip me a new asshole. Heteronormative this, phallocentric that, I'm bringing down the something-or-other, probably also racist, how many people've I raped, honestly I don't recall the exact details because I decided this was a friend-of-a-friend I didn't need to keep allowing into my life. The irony is, in retrospect I'd probably agree with this dude's sentiments in the abstract! I could probably write a response to myself and even include all the same buzzwords and feel proud of myself for articulating all that. But at the time, my instant reaction was a visceral "fuck this guy and anything he claims to stand for" — not out of spite, but out of a general feeling that anybody so incapable of saying what they felt without getting nasty about it had probably not thought through their own beliefs.

Time on MetaFilter has taught me that there's good reason why some people can't argue their own goddamn lives as if it's an abstract debate, and that being able to do that is a reflection of privilege in its own right. But I totally understand why people's political views would be as shaped by the people arguing those views as they'd be shaped by the actual positions themselves. We talk a lot about "dogwhistles" on the blue, about policies which mask racism or sexism, and we point to signs of the people arguing them being racist or sexist as proof that there is bigotry encoded into these political ideologies. It makes perfect sense to me that people who aren't remotely leftist see similar "dogwhistles" in the ways that leftists go about arguing their positions.

As I'm writing this I realize that there's a lot more to unpack here than I can do in a single sitting, but in the short term I don't think "this one liberal made me more right-wing" is that bewildering of a habit, and I'm not comfortable saying that when it happens, it's an entirely irrational response. Partly or even mostly irrational, perhaps. But not entirely.
posted by rorgy at 9:38 AM on October 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


I think a waiting period would help a lot -- like, the mods won't respond to a MeTa post for the first three hours. Because when one of the first posts is a mod doing something like what you describe here, it can unavoidably poison the tone of the rest of the thread.

But that allows an unproductive discussion from bad premises about the specific examples in question to effectively derail the potentially useful discussion of the actual issue.
posted by Dysk at 9:38 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


But that allows an unproductive discussion from bad premises about the specific examples in question to effectively derail the potentially useful discussion of the actual issue.

Your comment and cortex's share the premise that the mods are able to distinguish right off the bat which parts of the post deserve to be discussed and which ones are unproductive, based on bad premises, which examples are unrepresentative/"unhelpful" etc. I'm sure that's true most of the time, but even if it's only 10% of the time that the mods could actually learn something from the user base in terms of their interpretation of / response to the post ...I mean, I suspect that those are very often the same 10% that turn into 500+ comment monsters like this one. So if you weight by word count instead of number of posts, I still think my policy would help a lot more than it hurts.
posted by neat graffitist at 9:50 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


syzygy has a good point. Metafilter undoubtedly leans to the left, and it’s better to balance that out by visiting more conservative sites, rather than agitating for a culture change here at Metafilter. Free Republic isn’t the best suggestion for an intelligent conservative site, but Ricochet and The Federalist might be a good start.

As a side note, the one thing that always kept me coming back to Metafilter were the genuinely hilarious comments. I just don’t come across that many funny comments anymore, but I don’t know if that’s because I’ve changed, or if those funny people left Metafilter. Levity and humor just doesn’t seem to be as common here anymore. So many comments and posts are framed by a race-class-justice lens, and I think the site's lighter-side suffers for it.
posted by foot at 9:52 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter is still pretty consistently hilarious, I'd say.
posted by rorgy at 9:54 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are political views, and then there are the strategies and tactics that one uses to achieve their political objectives. Radical tactics may have been more closely associated with actual radicals on the left at one time, but for all the oogedy-boogedy talk modern American conservatives do about the evils of Saul Alinsky, the Tea Party movement has implemented the Rules for Radicals playbook to perfection, a fact that even the leaders of that movement have acknowledged in interviews.

I only mention this because in some of these comments, I see people conflating views and tactics, or at the very least saying they've changed how they feel about views based on the tactics people who espouse those views are using, and I just don't see how that makes any sense. I understand the inclination, but it's something we should strive to avoid.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:00 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's funny - everyone is always like "those idiots set fire to a puppet, I'm done*!" and very seldom like "those amazing people organized this terrific bookfair and donated all the proceeds to the Trans Youth Support Network, I'm in!"...even though IMO based on quite literally 25 years of various stripes of activism, I'd say that the quantity of good-to-amazing is greater than the quantity of not-great-to-godawful; and particularly so if you include the percentage of "eh, that was all right" with the good.

Partly, of course, this is because the good-to-amazing doesn't often get in the media, whereas the "lol radicals fucking it up again/lol Occupy" stuff gets lots of coverage.

But the thing is, if a couple of bad events are enough to put you off a whole way of thinking (not just off of puppet parades or platformist communists or something, which is reasonable) - particularly if the bad events were put on by college students!!!! - that might indicate that you weren't especially committed to that way of thought in the first place.

*I mean, I am completely on the side of "possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard about at a protest" on this anecdote. I was once at a radical puppetry event where people set off fireworks inside a room and one of the puppets went up in a sheet of flame...now that I know that no one died in a panicked stampeded, I love telling that story because it illustrates the absolute foolery of....well, based on a sample of two, maybe radical puppeteers? People in the vicinity of puppets?
posted by Frowner at 10:02 AM on October 22, 2014 [24 favorites]


how does the behaviour or attitudes of those on the left - or I suppose one's perception thereof - cause a shift in one's political views to the right?

I mean . . . . . this just seems like a variation on how any of us examine and understand the world?

We're all presented with a variety of different viewpoints and positions about how the world works, and how it should work, and we have to sort through them and figure out how well they actually describe the world and how well they mesh with our own framework of ethics and morality. And so if someone introduces puts forward a new-to-you idea, you examine it and think about it, and sometimes you're going to say, "Nope, I disagree with this idea."

I've gotten more liberal over the course of my life, and at some level it's in reaction to the conservative positions espoused by and policies enacted by Reagan and Bush I and Shrub and lots of other people. But I can understand how someone would examine liberal ideas, think they're wrong, and then as a cumulative effect of being exposed to more and more liberal ideas and positions they disagree with, start to agree more with conservatives than liberals.

Although I don't see how it's the community's or the mods' responsibility to attempt to manage that, however - on a really basic level it's up to each user to determine how posts and comments influence their political or cultural/social viewpoints. As opposed to some claims (like, honestly, the original post seems to imply) that MetaFilter as a website has some sort of mission to provide and nurture some kind of throughly evenly balanced mix of viewpoints.

(* on preview, tonycpsu raises a good point - I'm talking about views, not so much tactics.)
posted by soundguy99 at 10:13 AM on October 22, 2014


Whoops - Frowner, if you got the idea that I was getting away from the Left because of that incident, then I really mis-handled that story.

My point was that that incident did not put me off the ideals, it only put me off of setting-fire-to-puppets, or more generally, it put me off of causing destruction and terror in the middle of a crowd of innocent bystanders. I actually find myself nodding in agreement with several anti-globalization arguments; I just think that acts of violence are a dumb way to support any idea.

So therefore, if you catch me looking all squinty-eyed during a conversation about WGO protestors, it's not because I'm a right-wing consumerist, it's because I'm thinking "explain to me why you think torching the CEO's car is gonna make people magically agree with you on anything?" That's all.

(I actually have my own amusing tangent on that flaming-puppet thing - I was there with a friend, and at first the whole crowd was just standing there in shock looking at these two-story-tall flames leaping up out of the crowd. We were both watching along with them - and then I happened to glance over my shoulder just in time to see a flying wedge of cops in riot gear heading right towards us. And that is the exact moment that my friend - who was still watching the fire - started chanting, "THE ROOF! THE ROOF! THE ROOF IS ON FIRE!" And I had to grab his arm and drag him away all, "Okay, you are going to SHUT UP RIGHT NOW and COME THIS WAY WITH ME....")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a side note, the one thing that always kept me coming back to Metafilter were the genuinely hilarious comments. I just don’t come across that many funny comments anymore

I have to say, that's the reason I don't spend as much time around here as I used to. When the place was a boyzone, I used to find it laugh-out-loud hilarious. Not necessarily because of the boyzone nature of the place, but the lighter moderation seemed to make people much less restrained about what they would post.

MetaFilter is still pretty consistently hilarious, I'd say.

I guess humour is a subjective thing, but there weren't many laughs to be had in this thread.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:15 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


But the thing is, if a couple of bad events are enough to put you off a whole way of thinking (not just off of puppet parades or platformist communists or something, which is reasonable) - particularly if the bad events were put on by college students!!!! - that might indicate that you weren't especially committed to that way of thought in the first place.

Meh, it depends. It's fair game to see how ideologies shake out in practice, even if the observation is limited to, "wow, they're so sure that their system would create a perfect society, but they can't deal with others, or even themselves". Applies to left, right, up, down, whatever.

I do not suppose that most people would become more enthusiastic about Objectivists after reading that recent story about the Objectivist utopia which got derailed by a (no doubt highly self-interested) con job. Hell, even just the existence of the progressively less-successful Atlas Shrugged movies causes problems for Objectivism: those producers did not succeed even on Objectivism's own terms, which suggests that the worldview itself has serious problems.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:16 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I guess humour is a subjective thing, but there weren't many laughs to be had in this thread.

I've been giggling about this and the comment right beneath it all week.
posted by rorgy at 10:18 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Beyond the anecdotes I think a lot of us just recognize at a certain point that people tend to operate ethically and morally on an independant axis to their political views and it's hard to have a sense that political identities have much of a reality for most people. Not that our governmental policies aren't really important, but the people controlling those policies seem largely to be waving flags of convenience for their own benefit. So if you ended up landing well on the wheel of fortune in life you can grow old and either ignore politics or treat it as a sports rivalry, and if you land poorly you end up bitter that politics seems to exist for someone else's enrichment.
posted by selfnoise at 10:19 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Levity and humor just doesn’t seem to be as common here anymore. So many comments and posts are framed by a race-class-justice lens, and I think the site's lighter-side suffers for it.

Again, I'm pretty much a noob here myself, although I've certainly browsed through the archives, and I think there's still plenty funny stuff here (I mean, just before this MeTa there's one where people are just riffing jokes on usernames).

But it might be that stuff is somewhat more . . . . . self-segregating (?) than in the past. The lighter comments go into lighter posts about cats or spiders or someone's GoPro base-jumping video. Nobody's gonna joke in the Bill Cosby rape thread, these days.

I can't say I necessarily see that as a bad thing.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:21 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter is still pretty consistently hilarious, I'd say.

It's now pretty dour, in my view. Take a look at archives from 2006, for example, and it is much less about trying to cram didactic leftism into every FPP. Not many people back then getting into a lather about hearing the Rolling Stones played while they shopped for groceries. I imagine if there is a FPP about Pee-Wee Herman's new movie, it will devolve into how he needs to check his privilege or Conky is ableist.

I am sure this is progress, according to many.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:27 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


(I actually have my own amusing tangent on that flaming-puppet thing - I was there with a friend, and at first the whole crowd was just standing there in shock looking at these two-story-tall flames leaping up out of the crowd. We were both watching along with them - and then I happened to glance over my shoulder just in time to see a flying wedge of cops in riot gear heading right towards us. And that is the exact moment that my friend - who was still watching the fire - started chanting, "THE ROOF! THE ROOF! THE ROOF IS ON FIRE!" And I had to grab his arm and drag him away all, "Okay, you are going to SHUT UP RIGHT NOW and COME THIS WAY WITH ME....")

Perhaps I have not yet shared this anecdote here...

Okay, some years ago I went with a group of activist friends to a [local parade event downtown at which lots of families and children were in attendance]. We were meeting some of their activist buddies (who later turned out to be, as far as I could tell, platformist communists of the fringiest variety) and the idea was - as I understood it - that we were going to hop in on the [short] parade route while it was clear but well before the parade actually started and march the parade route holding a banner related to [global warming-related local issue]. Sounds fun, right? I love hopping into parades when it's reasonably appropriate, and generally as long as you're basically in keeping with the mood of the event and it's not a security fest, no one minds.

The banner was pretty non-controversial for a liberal milieu - very much in the "we need to protect [thing] by taking [action] in order to build an environmentally sound future for all!" vein. I agreed to carry one of the banner poles. My natural politics are more in the "we need to take aggressive and civilly disobedient action to achieve [thing] or we will all die and take down a lot of the biosphere with us", but heck, it's a parade.

So we're ready to start marching. (The actual parade won't start for twenty minutes or so, and the route is short so that we'll be done by the time it begins.)

People decide that we need a chant. I hate chanting, so I'm just standing there twiddling my thumbs, until I realize that the group has gone from a "save the [whales/rainforests]" idea to "humans are in danger if global warming continues" to.....and let me quote the actual language that was almost adopted...."Your kids are going to die!!! Your kids are going to die!!" Why not, right? I mean, if global warming goes forward, people's kids will die, and we have to wake up the sheeple, etc etc.

A horrible scenario played itself out in my head - frightened children, angry parents, cops. Arrest for uttering terroristic threats. Having to go through years of court dates with the platformist communists. I dropped the banner pole. "If we say that, I'm not marching," said I.

And since no one else wanted to carry the banner, we settled on something acceptably tree-friendly and off we went. We got a lot of cheers.

The whole thing did put me off a bunch of people and events, and made me definitely nervous of parades for a while, though.
posted by Frowner at 10:27 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Not many people back then getting into a lather about hearing the Rolling Stones played while they shopped for groceries.

What on earth does this have to do with leftism?
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:30 AM on October 22, 2014


People are no longer afraid to say that humor spoils threads and cool it with the one-liners and so forth. This has a chilling effect and must not stand.

Mods, please borrow Ta-Nehisi Coates' ban hammer and oust the killjoys.

Get rid of them before they fire up another puppet.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:32 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here is the Rolling Stones thread. I don't see much of a "lather" about the fact that the song was played, but draw your own conclusions.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:34 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]



Levity and humor just doesn’t seem to be as common here anymore. So many comments and posts are framed by a race-class-justice lens, and I think the site's lighter-side suffers for it.


I don't like race and gender based jokes. I agree that the lighter side appears more in cat-doing-silly-things posts. It's weird, because I feel like people are always saying, "it's funny and fun and so irreverent and controversial" like they're speaking truth to power when making sexist/racist jokes, but I find in my regular life it's more controversial to speak up about racism and sexism, and actually even on Metafilter. People just want you to stop talking and go along with the funny thing and why do you even CARE about this wow you CARE so much. Also people are either dismissive or angry to some extent. It's much, MUCH easier/less controversial to make a joke like, "Indians smell like curry" than to talk about Indian American identity in deeper ways. It's MUCH easier to be like, "yeah, we women sure are catty/care about clothes too much" than to say even one sentence about patriarchy hurting everyone and societal expectations on how women should dress and behave, and how that ends up being policed by women themselves. I can hear five minutes about how women are silly and frivolous and catty but two sentences from me engaging in that topic gets "Come ON..." and either dismissal, "but it's true," "take a joke" or anger.
posted by sweetkid at 10:35 AM on October 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was walking around listening to the radio in a kind of state of disbelief. A friend of mine walked up to me and I found out he hadn't heard about anything that had happened. I told him he had to listen and gave him one of my earbuds. He then started laughing and talking loudly about the how the "imperialist US was finally suffering the consequences of its warmongering actions", etc. I don't disagree that the US does a hell of a lot internationally that I don't agree with, but this is neither the time nor the tone for that comment, dude. And of course I didn't have the presence of mind to say exactly that in the moment.
posted by ODiV at 10:36 AM on October 22, 2014


People decide that we need a chant. I hate chanting, so I'm just standing there twiddling my thumbs, until I realize that the group has gone from a "save the [whales/rainforests]" idea to "humans are in danger if global warming continues" to.....and let me quote the actual language that was almost adopted...."Your kids are going to die!!! Your kids are going to die!!"

Okay, it's funny because it wasn't me there potentially carrying the banner. :-)

In our case, fortunately I was able to get me and my friend to dodge the cops in time, and that's also the moment that everyone else finally also broke and ran and so there was just a few second's panicked running half a block and sheltering under a Macys' awning, and then my friend wised up and realized "y'know, whatever it is that's going down, you're probably right that we should be somewhere where it isn't," and we slipped further away up the street and just made it out of the block before more cops brought police barriers clanging into place so they could calm things down before letting the march go on again.

Surprisingly, that one incident got only the briefest of mentions in news coverage of the event, which focused largely on the size and largely peaceful nature of things. I later spoke to other people who'd been at the same march elsewhere in the crowd and asked if they knew about it, and they'd had no idea. "We just knew that they stopped us for about ten minutes, we figured it was someone just trying to drive a car through or something."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter is still pretty consistently hilarious, I'd say.

Tanizaki : It's now pretty dour, in my view. Take a look at archives from 2006, for example, and it is much less about trying to cram didactic leftism into every FPP. Not many people back then getting into a lather about hearing the Rolling Stones played while they shopped for groceries.

Perhaps you've forgotten the Portabello incident of 2005? It seems to me to be a particularly relevant example: the post involves grocery shopping, plenty of replies suggesting that the poster might want to check his privilege and the poster complaining about " post flamers."

Maybe the good old days of humor were a little further back, 2004 and earlier, perhaps. What do you think?
posted by syzygy at 10:43 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


1999-2001, imo.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:45 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you've forgotten the Portabello incident of 2005? It seems to me to be a particularly relevant example: the post involves grocery shopping, plenty of replies suggesting that the poster might want to check his privilege and the poster complaining about " post flamers."

'Twas a her. :(

RIP
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:47 AM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


everyone is always like "those idiots set fire to a puppet, I'm done*!" and very seldom like "those amazing people organized this terrific bookfair and donated all the proceeds to the Trans Youth Support Network, I'm in!".

"And do they call me Rick The Bridge-Builder? They do not! But you fuck one sheep..."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:47 AM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Not many people back then getting into a lather about hearing the Rolling Stones played while they shopped for groceries. I imagine if there is a FPP about Pee-Wee Herman's new movie, it will devolve into how he needs to check his privilege or Conky is ableist.

Back in high school, I read a book about members of hate groups and their deep, lingering obsessions with the things they hate and they related it in a metaphor that I think came from some sort of psychological profile or something. I don't really remember. Anyway, it was generally about a guy who hated seeing women with any exposed skin, so he spent all his free time hanging out at beaches just angry as the dickens. He could easily have devoted that much effort to avoiding women with exposed skin, as one would think he would, but, no, this guy wanted to be mad and so he went somewhere to make himself mad and stayed to be mad.

Now I'm not in the least comparing your participation to either hate groups or weirdo misogynists, but I do often wonder why in all your wallowing you choose to repeatedly complain about being covered in shit rather than not fling yourself face-first into the muck at every opportunity.
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on October 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


Frowner, it's not about lack of commitment. At least at a certain level of political engagement, it's about tribes and communities. We all have complexities within us.

I used to be associated so much with the left that I got death/rape threats from the right. But it was my experience living as part of the left that said I'm never going back to use my organizing experience there. The sexual assaults that got swept under the rug "for the movement." The time people bad jacketed me because I attended a conservative wedding. The times people tried to enforce silence about problems. The lack of empathy. The irresponsibility.

I still believe in many of those causes, but I'm not going to spend my energy there, because those people are poison.
posted by corb at 10:51 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


trying to cram didactic leftism into every FPP.

You mean like the didactic leftism in:

Help Joe Find The Best Shirt Ever

There were angels dining at the Ritz

What It’s Like To Be Stoned At The Grocery Store

Increase Your Trumpet Range With This One (Stupid) Trick

!!!YADKCOLSPAC (International CAPSLOCK Day)

Rob Cantor has been having a very good year

"I’m actually kind of surprised that no one has made one by now." (about an artist making Doom (the video game) models.)

And that's just what's been posted today, Oct 22 2014, as of 1:55 pm EST.


Confirmation bias, much?
posted by soundguy99 at 10:56 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Take a look at archives from 2006, for example, and it is much less about trying to cram didactic leftism into every FPP

???

If you look at the archives from, say, 2013, you will find so many hilarious threads and jokes, though! Specific examples? No, you can surely tell what threads I mean just by looking. We'll wait.
posted by rtha at 10:57 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


People are forgetting that, from the very first moments, Mefi had a leftist bias:
Cat-Scan.com is one of the strangest sites I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their cats wedged into their scanners, or why, but the proletariat shortly will rise up and take control of the means of production.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:58 AM on October 22, 2014 [47 favorites]



posted by LeftistArmyOfKittens at 1:58 PM on October 22 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]
posted by sweetkid at 11:01 AM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


I imagine if there is a FPP about Pee-Wee Herman's new movie, it will devolve into how he needs to check his privilege or Conky is ableist.

I agree that there are too many leftists complaining about Conky in your imagination.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2014 [39 favorites]


"I’m actually kind of surprised that no one has made one by now." (about an artist making Doom (the video game) models.)

uh I made this post and actually I was trying to cram leftist didacticism in it. The systematized and brutal oppression of the Imps, Spectres and Cacodemons will not go unaddressed on this website if I have anything to say about it and charged political art like that will be seen as the movement's "Guernica" in the years to come.

The Monsters' United Republic of Phobos and Deimos will be victorious in its struggle!
posted by griphus at 11:10 AM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


It was a largely peaceful march - except for the one Black Bloc group that set fire to a 10-foot dragon puppet and thus created a 15-foot fireball in the middle of the crowd and caused a stampede of people fleeing down 34th Street and dodging cops in riot gear coming in the other direction to stop it. ....Take a wild guess where I was standing when the fire went up.

There have been many claims that the Black Bloc is heavily infiltrated by law enforcement if not an outright law enforcement initiative. Here's an investigative report discussing its role in the Toronto G20 riots, complete with some very interesting photos comparing Black Bloc and law enforcement footwear.
posted by jamjam at 11:12 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If nothing else comes of this thread, I do hope that "setting fire to puppets" becomes shorthand for--as "crouton-petters" has for an unusual degree of sentimentality toward inanimate objects--for the actions of activists whose short-sighted or ill-conceived execution winds up alienating people rather than garnering support
posted by drlith at 11:15 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


"It's now pretty dour, in my view. Take a look at archives from 2006, for example, and it is much less about trying to cram didactic leftism into every FPP. Not many people back then getting into a lather about hearing the Rolling Stones played while they shopped for groceries. I imagine if there is a FPP about Pee-Wee Herman's new movie, it will devolve into how he needs to check his privilege or Conky is ableist.

I am sure this is progress, according to many.


Can you back this up with evidence? From looking at the topics on 10/21/14 and 10/21/06, both are predominantly pop culture, with the 2014 example having 24 total posts with roughly 14 on pop culture with nary a bit of "didactic leftism" to my eye. In 2006, there were 21 total posts and 11 on pop culture. In 2006, there were four political posts (including Iraq War as political) and maybe five in 2014 if you stretch your definition to include things like privilege and the Hannibal Buress/Bill Cosby thread.

Or, more formally, since you make this complaint on a regular basis, I'd like to know what evidence you believe is sufficient to support it and what evidence you would accept as demonstrating that your hypothesis was incorrect. I have a feeling that your perceptions are not as objective nor as widely shared as you present them, and thus are not a strong basis for a change of policy to accommodate you.

I believe that's a reasonably charitable response to your claims, as you are someone who frequently complains about the rhetorical violence leveled against you — I'd like to extend to you the opportunity to put up or shut up.
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Looking at my scroll-bar, I gotta say I like where this thread is going.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


My point, jamjam, is ultimately that it doesn't matter who is setting fire to dragon puppets or to what purpose they are doing so, because it is still a shitty-ass dangerous thing to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is a strong correlation, in any given thread on this site, between the distribution of favorites and the majority stated opinion. This plurality of favorites signals what the majority opinion is

This is interesting, because if this is correct, it means that I recently demonstrated that the majority opinion about Metafilter on Metafilter is that Metafilter is stupid.

Or, alternatively, check your data points a bit better.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:18 AM on October 22, 2014


"I still believe in many of those causes, but I'm not going to spend my energy there, because those people are poison."

And you believe that they represent all leftists, generally?

posted by LeftistArmyOfKittens at 1:58 PM on October 22 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]"

"posted by PeoplesArmyOfKittens at 1:58 PM on October 22 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]", surely!
posted by klangklangston at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I do hope that "setting fire to puppets" becomes shorthand

My vote is for 'marionarsonist'.
posted by griphus at 11:20 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


You can't even express a single pro-dog sentiment around here without the People's Army Of Kittens subjecting you to a Meowist Snuggle Session
posted by Greg Nog at 11:20 AM on October 22, 2014 [30 favorites]


I keep saying "radical puppeteers" aloud to myself and clapping like a giddy seal.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:22 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


And wouldn't it be seizing the means of reproduction?

You know, because they're scanning cats.

Presumably for distribution and reproduction into a massive communist cat army.

Led by Chairman Meow, of course.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:22 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


If nothing else comes of this thread, I do hope that "setting fire to puppets" becomes shorthand for [...] the actions of activists whose short-sighted or ill-conceived execution winds up alienating people rather than garnering support.

How about shortening it to "Flaming Puppet Party"? ("She's not just left, she's flaming-puppet-party left".)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


My point, jamjam, is ultimately that it doesn't matter who is setting fire to dragon puppets or to what purpose they are doing so, because it is still a shitty-ass dangerous thing to do.

But what you said was:

As I've said to others since - I actually find I agree with a lot of the Left's ideals, but there are those on the Left whose actions I got an issue with; doing shit like that isn't going to bring people around to your side, and is in fact most likely going to do the opposite.

Do you really mean to imply that actions by undercover cops pretending to be leftists somehow discredit the left even when those corrupt and criminal acts by law enforcement are exposed?
posted by jamjam at 11:30 AM on October 22, 2014


"posted by PeoplesArmyOfKittens at 1:58 PM on October 22 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]", surely!
posted by klangklangston at 11:19 AM on October 22 [has favorites +] [!] Other [7/7]: «≡·


SPLITTER!
posted by rtha at 11:32 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


"posted by PeoplesArmyOfKittens at 1:58 PM on October 22 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]", surely!

surely no self respecting kittens would go to work for the People
posted by sweetkid at 11:33 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Do you really mean to imply that actions by undercover cops pretending to be leftists somehow discredit the left even when those corrupt and criminal acts by law enforcement are exposed?

My only reason for the use of the phrase "but there are those on the Left whose actions I got an issue with" was because it was the Left that was the party at hand that we were discussing. If you look at what i said in the fuller context, you will in fact ascertain that my ultimate point was to differentiate between words and actions, and that my dismissal of a given group's action may not necessarily mean I disagree with the group in their professed goals. If a group of people does a dickish thing, I simply regard it as a dickish thing, whether it was anarchists or police-posing-as-anarchists or Kang-and-Kodos-posing-as-police-who-are-posing-as-anarchists or whatever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on October 22, 2014


Moreover, I was speaking in opposition to someone who implied that the actions of people perceived to be on the Left did dissuade them from the Left altogether, so I was disputing the notion that actions by undercover cops pretending to be leftists discredit the left - because I was disputing the very idea that actions discredit ideas in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on October 22, 2014


surely no self respecting kittens would go to work for the People

the catriarchy does not allow such apostasy
posted by poffin boffin at 11:40 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


the catriarchy does not allow such apostasy

Apawstasy, surely?
posted by cjelli at 11:43 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


...The Aristocats!
posted by sweetkid at 11:44 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


And you believe that they represent all leftists, generally?

One need not be representative of a space to poison a space.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:49 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


#not all leftists
posted by poffin boffin at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I keep saying "radical puppeteers" aloud to myself and clapping like a giddy seal.

A Short History of Radical Puppetry
posted by soundguy99 at 11:58 AM on October 22, 2014


Klang, yeah, it's like TFB said. I don't have any faith that room exists for me to participate on the left anymore. Which is kind of a damn shame, because I'm an organizer with a lot of diverse experience at being highly effective, with bona fides to get into some unconventional doors and a genuine passion for a lot of causes. So I take that experience elsewhere where people are going to be cool and not stalk my personal life for signs of ideological purity. No one on the right, for example, has given me shit for marrying an anarchist or for who I invited to my wedding.
posted by corb at 12:14 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: the quantity of good-to-amazing is greater than the quantity of not-great-to-godawful; and particularly so if you include the percentage of "eh, that was all right" with the good.
posted by uosuaq at 12:22 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


> I only mention this because in some of these comments, I see people conflating views and tactics, or at the very least saying they've changed how they feel about views based on the tactics people who espouse those views are using, and I just don't see how that makes any sense.

So you feel people have nothing to do with the implementation of ideas?
posted by languagehat at 12:41 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, and I think my Alinsky example proves that I explicitly recognize that people, using tactics, lead to implementation of ideas. The point is that many of the same tactics can be and are used by people in all ideological camps, so extrapolating an anecdotal experience with a particularly assholish group of $TRIBE is fraught with peril.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:56 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


One need not be representative of a space to poison a space.

See also: why most (many?) anarchists dislike the Black Bloc and vanguardists.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:58 PM on October 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Greg_Nog: You can't even express a single pro-dog sentiment around here without the People's Army Of Kittens subjecting you to a Meowist Snuggle Session

Sounds legit.
Checks out.
posted by misha at 1:11 PM on October 22, 2014


I don't get the whole "annoying leftists/rightists pushed me the other way" thing. I mean, I was irritated when a leftish, atheist peer told me he thought I was too intelligent to be religious, but it didn't make me go "atheists are just WRONG". Likewise, trans woman-exclusionary feminists don't make me not want to be a feminist, they make me want to be a trans woman-inclusive feminist louder.

I think there is a difference between reasons why we identify as we do and believe the things we do. There is a tribal-identification quality of different things which seems to leave people as more mobile - that is, since the focus is on the identity, annoying people claiming the same identity makes the identity less valuable.

I feel like often people assume everyone is in these identity-based groups, which is where the rhetoric of "if you aren't nice to me I'll switch sides" or "these lefties are annoying, so I'm moving right!" - and it's clear from several MeTas that there are a subset of people who have legitimately had this experience, and so I want to give that experience the weight it is due.

I also want to emphasize that I personally find this sort of tribal-identification both suspect and confusing. Suspect because in my experience one has to pervert the ideals of a given movement in order to "keep" people like this, in which case the movement is hamstrung because the emphasis isn't on equal and just change but on keeping a subset of the movement happy (I think this has sent atheism in a tailspin over the past two years, for example). Confusing because I can't think of a case where I've felt this way, except for in terms of gender, where my identification with "girl" "woman" and "feminine" is fairly fraught for a lot of reasons, and that has more to do with how people treat me and how that effects me, and is an identity I can't chose in any meaningful sense anyway.

If anyone feels comfortable, I'd love to hear more about this experience of affiliation which is based on the character of the people one is interacting with. I find it fascinating and feel like there's stuff in there I'd like to understand.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:57 PM on October 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


I was once very active here. I still visit every day, but I've morphed into a lurker. Back in the day, some guy posted an AskMe question that understandably offended many people. It was something like, "Why do men choose to be gynecologists? Are they perverts? Aren't their families ashamed of them?" People assumed he was a troll and ripped him to pieces.

Maybe it's because I spent years as a teacher, but I have an almost religious relationship to questions. To me, they are sacred, and every one deserves an answer. I don't care about the intent behind questions, and I don't care if some troll is getting his kicks wasting my time, especially on the web, where regardless of the OP's intent, others might learn from serious answers. To me, the only requirement of a question is that it be answerable, and it's my duty to answer any question I can answer. Sorry, I know this paragraph sounds judgmental, but I really mean it when I say "that's just me," and I understand why others feel differently or have their limits.

In any case, I PMed the guy, saying that if was still interested, I would do my best to answer the question for him, and it turned into a year-long correspondence between us. Turns out, the question was genuine. He wasn't a troll, just a really young, really naive, really sheltered guy*. (Or he was a prankster, who duped me for a year. I doubt that's the case, given the tone of our exchange, but of course I can never prove it.) The lesson he learned here was "Don't ask questions." That kills me, and so I spent a year trying to undo the damage, but I fear all he learned from that was it's okay to ask me questions, but in general he'd be wise to just stay ignorant.

I'm now an admin on another Q&A site, and we grapple with this problem every day. There are a gazillion questions like "Do atheists think it's okay to kill children?" and some of them are trolling while others are genuine. It's painful to have to deal with the same prejudice over and over, and I don't blame people for saying, "Fuck off!" I also see the pain of the 14-year-olds, who live in small towns and are just starting to question what their parents and priests have told them--and who got slapped in the face for asking questions on the Internet. I got slapped that way as a kid in school, and it was horrible. Sometimes our culture sends a very strong "don't ask questions" message.

Every time a troll makes someone feel bad, it kills discourse; every time an innocent person gets called a troll, it kills discourse. It's a very hard problem to solve, and in my 30-something years online, I've never seen a site even close to solve it. It's the mini-version of "How do you protect society against terrorists without unfairly punishing some false positives?"

* Full disclosure: he later got kicked off MeFi for harassing someone, so he was no innocent lamb. But that was later, after he'd asked the question, and his question was genuine.
posted by grumblebee at 2:02 PM on October 22, 2014 [56 favorites]


Not answering Deoridhe's request, but sort of tangential to it and, like my prior comment, attempting to answer the OP's question: I have a little axe to grind and I've attempted grinding it around here on occasions and because Metafilter is also quite populous with skeptics, it didn't go well for me. The specific axe is that I, a formally (formerly - I'm a non-academic, non-researcher working in IT now) trained statistician and experimental physical chemist, don't always feel like a lot of science-enthusiasts are doing science in a rigorous empirical or sciency way. I don't mean here to cast aspersions on Mythbusters (I'm a big fan and even though I experience conflict about their fans, I think the show does a lot of good to promote at least critical thought if not reasonably rigorous scientific process), but while they do the science-ish, they're also TV and they can't and don't do the hundreds or thousands of trials real scientists do science with. They do 10 trials, maybe, and often not double-blind, and the statistics and their questionnaires are a little squiffy.

And as a former, formal scientist, while I appreciate the enthusiasm, I don't appreciate the really (sometimes shitty) blind blindspots we have, to whatever degree we think of ourselves as community, thinking we've got this science thing all worked out and everyone should be on board. Metafilter in general seems to be populated with folks who'd agree with the current U.S. president's stance of doing evidence-based decision-making. But like the U.S. we still make individual decisions based on not entirely defensible assertions derived from the science-adjacent data and news sources.

I stopped actively grinding the axe (here - I sometimes still do talk about it on FaceBook) because it makes no difference if I talk about it or not. Folks are not really into hearing that feedback or criticism. Folks aren't really into the idea that now that we're skeptics there's still much more to do to interact with, defend and promote actually rigorous science. And this isn't a surprise - no one likes to be told they're doing it wrong or that they need to be more careful or they need to take it farther.

And in all fairness, there are plenty of scientists who are in academia or in paid research positions who also have blind spots. They take anecdote as data. They consume marketing as scientific evidence. Part of it is that folks don't have enough time in the day and don't or can't make time to be more rigorous. Part of it is that the real legwork of science isn't sexy or cool. Just like any other job, it's deeply unsexy slogs through crushing weights of data, checking and double-checking all that your colleagues and peers do.

But that's another thing I really don't dredge up no MetaFilter any more if I can help it. The social/time sink costs are too high for so much trouble to get the message across.
posted by kalessin at 2:18 PM on October 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


I just now happened across this little review of some Bread and Puppet pamphlets, which I'll quote since it's short and I can't link to the individual bit on nplusone:
In 1963, Peter Schumann founded an experimental activist puppet theater called Bread and Puppet. At each show, performers fed the audience hunks of coarse sourdough as a reminder that art, like bread, is not a commodity or a privilege for the rich—it is sustenance! They celebrated junk art made not for the market but for the street; low art as a form of insurrection. To this day, Bread and Puppet stages shows that cry out against militarism, capitalism, and ecological destruction.

I first saw Bread and Puppet perform two summers ago, and since then I’ve been collecting booklets made by Schumann and the Bread and Puppet Press. The books are small, cheap, and quick to read; they range from four pages to about twenty, and are full of pictures. Bread and Puppet’s books, like their performances, are at once silly and profound. (Among my favorite titles: DECENT OVERTHECITY HORSEBACKRIDINGINDUSTRY AND ITS NUDIST CUSTOMERS and NAKED COP.) There are jingle books, “downsized novels,” how-to guides and more, but my favorites are their comics about Kasper, a shirtless man in a gnome hat who fights oppression in unusual ways. In one comic, Kasper teaches a rooster to speak English by feeding it the New York Times; the rooster then flies to the top of the Empire State Building and makes a damning speech about the state of art, government, and organized religion. (“WE ROOSTERS ARE HEATHENS…WE ARE APOSTLES OF NOTHING.”) In another, Kasper makes anti-military-industrial complex stone soup.

Schumann has spoken of his little books as an antidote to “Important Books by Great Minds.” Little books, he says, are for little minds, the types that make their art from society’s scraps and crumbs. I love this idea. I think of it as “vermin art”: mischievous, fringe, seemingly insignificant, but nonetheless capable of undermining the structures we take for granted. Bread and Puppet, of course, has a slogan for this: RESISTANCE OF THE HEART AGAINST BUSINESS AS USUAL.


The truth is that I actually like puppets a lot, which is why I was at the performance where people lit the fireworks, etc.
posted by Frowner at 2:22 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


If anyone feels comfortable, I'd love to hear more about this experience of affiliation which is based on the character of the people one is interacting with. I find it fascinating and feel like there's stuff in there I'd like to understand.

For the most part, I think politics is far more temperament than people would care to admit. People are drawn to certain groups because those groups espouse beliefs which reflect their worldview, their experiences, their whole approach to things. (E.g., I would say the core difference between liberals and conservatives is to do with how much of a person's fate you believe is in their control vs how much is shaped by external forces.) It's not as simple as saying, in an abstract, rational way, do I believe this axiom to be correct? It's more about: what kind of person am I? What does it mean to believe in this? How can I be good?

How many conversion stories, both secular and non-, told by the convert and the proselyterizer, start with "I met a good person who was a [x], and that made me more open to learning about [x]?" When someone you have an affinity with shares a belief in something, that can make you more open to learning about it. And I think the flipside of that is that when many members of a group exhibit a behaviour you find repugnant, that can cause you to question whether you want to belong to that group. Because there is, quite often, a connection. Everything has a price, everything has the virtues and the flaws of its qualities. The moral clarity of fundamentalism necessarily entails its doctrinaire and unforgiving nature. The Internet-famous Five Geek Social Fallacies essay is rife with examples of this: the very qualities that tend to lead one to be a geek also tend to inculcate in the user certain values, which have the nasty side effects he lays out. I think that a cogent enough social critic could write such an essay about practically any group you can name.
posted by Diablevert at 2:31 PM on October 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


I was once very active here. I still visit every day, but I've morphed into a lurker.

Okay, now this is a site problem! grumblebee, you've always been one of my all-time favorite mefites, and I doubt I'm alone in missing your participation in recent years. Your earnesty and unshakable assumptions of good faith are a credit to you and a boon to the site when you choose to participate. I assume you're just busier with your other Q/A site responsibilities, but I'm happy every time I see your username again.

I tend to agree with some of the assertions upthread that the harmfully judgmental stuff happens in AskMe, not on the blue. To the extent that great answerers like grumblebee are participating less because of that judgmental quality, we've created a negative feedback loop: answers are judgmental, so less-judgmental answerers leave the site, so now we have an even higher ratio of judgmental to non-judgmental answers, ad infinitum. I completely agree that many questions are given insufficient benefit of the doubt, and I wish that some of the more "tough love" responders would dial it back a few notches on the green.

I don't think we'll ever be able to eliminate the judgmental answers, though, nor would we necessarily want to; most of those answers are also coming from an earnest, heartfelt place, even if people are projecting their personal experiences or drawing narrower bounds on acceptable human behavior than I would probably draw.

It seems to me that the trick is to balance the judgmental folks with less-judgmental folks on any given question (since we're all different about each question; I might be judgmental on one thing, not at all judgmental on another thing) so that the judgmental to non-judgmental ratio stays relatively low, which requires people without a lot of painful backstory or narrow expectations on that question to chime in if possible. I'll take this as an inspiration to answer more often when I think people aren't being given sufficient credit for earnestness, are getting dogpiled for simple cluelessness, or are getting a lot of (still perfectly valid!) answers tinged by painful personal experience. There's no good reason to exclude those comments, but there are a lot of good reasons to supplement them with other viewpoints.

I think the rule against engaging with other peoples' answers (and the extent to which it's enforced) makes a huge difference here. If I have a solid belief that I can post whatever answer I want to a thread and not be ripped apart by other answerers, then I can post an answer that goes against the grain of the thread without much risk. However, if other answerers are allowed to engage with my comments as long as they couch it within another answer, posting a minority view opens you up to a bunch of criticism, which does have a chilling effect and reduces the range of responses that people will receive. I think that reining in the inter-answer squabbling more strictly would go a long way to reducing the pressure to post a relatively-conforming answer in those threads and thus open up the range of possible answers to include less-judgmental sentiments.

If you don't mind expanding a little on your comments, I'd love to hear if there are strategies that are employed at the Other Q/A Site (not sure if you want it 'outed' so I'm being conservative) to reduce that judgmental to non-judgmental answer ratio. I assume one big difference is the type of question being asked; many of the most difficult AskMe's, especially the relationship questions, are inherently judgment calls that almost require people to make a bunch of strong normative statements about what Acceptable Behavior should be in a given situation. I'm not sure how to get around those obstacles, but I agree that askers are sometimes (and arguably, increasingly) poorly served by the answers they receive here.
posted by dialetheia at 2:53 PM on October 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


> The point is that many of the same tactics can be and are used by people in all ideological camps, so extrapolating an anecdotal experience with a particularly assholish group of $TRIBE is fraught with peril.

Very true, but in this case I've come to believe (you will, of course, disagree, and you may, of course, be right) that there is an inherent, not just a random/coincidental, correlation between a particular variety of asshole and a particular subset of leftism (the Marxist variety, to oversimplify): the idea that there is a science of history and that it is incumbent on every socially engaged person to help bring about the shining future according to that science is fatally attractive to the kind of person who likes telling other people what to do for their own good and the good of humanity, and making them do it if necessary. Herzen (one of my heroes) knew these people well, was close friends with some of them, and he nailed it: "If only people wanted, instead of liberating humanity, to liberate themselves, they would do a very great deal for human freedom." You, I presume (given your username), see the failings of the Soviet Union (and of, not to put too fine a point on it, every other country that has tried to follow the Marxist path) as a combination of particular circumstances (the capitalists were trying to destroy them! the country was wartorn and needed immediate change! etc. etc.) that do not reflect on the value of the ideas; I don't. I think whatever the theoretical merits of the program (which I also dispute), it is inevitably going to be implemented by the aforesaid jerks with armbands (who will inevitably form a KGB given the chance), and this is not irrelevant, it is at the heart of the issue.
posted by languagehat at 2:56 PM on October 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


If you have put thought into them, and done some reading and discussing, several key themes start to form and people tend to have those in common.

Seriously, could you possibly be more smug?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:09 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay, now this is a site problem! grumblebee, you've always been one of my all-time favorite mefites, and I doubt I'm alone in missing your participation in recent years.

No, you're not alone in that. grumblebee come back!
posted by torticat at 3:10 PM on October 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


yah yah team grumblebee

(ps +1 Puppets) (For greg's scroll bar)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:14 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Seriously, could you possibly be more smug?

That's seriously uncool and uncalled for.

Sweetkid seems to me to be saying that people on Metafilter only seem different because stuff gets talked about here that don't get discussed as much in person, and actually expresses pretty well an idea I'd been working on trying to figure out how to say as I was reading the thread.

But even if I agreed that she was being smug, what on earth does a comment like yours add to the conversation? Animosity?
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


Me too - I would also love to see grumblebee join in again.
posted by kalessin at 3:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Deoridhe: "I feel like often people assume everyone is in these identity-based groups, which is where the rhetoric of "if you aren't nice to me I'll switch sides" or "these lefties are annoying, so I'm moving right!""

Maybe that happens often, but don't assume it in every case. For me it wasn't an identity thing, nor was it, like the other folks in this thread, a tactics thing. It was a shitty argument thing. My university was very leftist, and had lots of vocal leftists who were just plain illogical and made ridiculous arguments. There were very few conservatives (I can remember only two off the top of my head, though I'm sure there were more), and they were very logical and their arguments actually made sense. So after three years of hearing stupidity from one side and logical arguments from the other side, I was gradually somewhat convinced. I mean, that's the whole point of debate, right? That you present convincing arguments and thereby convince people. Don't get me wrong, I didn't become right-wing. I just moved from left to center.
posted by Bugbread at 3:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


...and, as I said, I ended out moving leftward again after graduation.
posted by Bugbread at 3:29 PM on October 22, 2014


Out of curiosity EmpressCallipygos, what was the flaming mass of puppetry made out of? I'm picturing a giant papier-mâché dragon.
posted by Shouraku at 3:52 PM on October 22, 2014


Grumblebee!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:09 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


What, if anything, are you afraid to say here?

Well, I'm sure not going to try defending GiveWell on this site again, that's for sure.
posted by painquale at 4:12 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


IANaCoP, but I'm getting from this thread recently is that we should hand off all means of favorites production to koeselitz.
posted by halifix at 4:13 PM on October 22, 2014


If anyone feels comfortable, I'd love to hear more about this experience of affiliation which is based on the character of the people one is interacting with

So, hmmm. This is harder to explain than I'd like, but it mostly falls into the fact that the ideologies of these affiliations aren't actually necessarily diametrically opposed. It's possible to believe things from both sides, in part I think because they aren't really as different as they seem.

So I can believe, for example, in Foo A and Foo B at the same time. And do! For the sake of simplicity we will say this is all I believe and I believe it equally strongly. In the real world it's more complicated, but the principles are the same.

So if I want to make a real difference on either issue, I can't just half ass it. I need to actually live and breathe and sleep and eat movement. I need to become a known entity. I need to build relationships. No man can be an island if you're actually trying to get something changed. You need to be able to get along with these people in order to work together and be at least marginally effective. Both movements are distrustful of outsiders. If I want Foo A to succeed, the other people who support it need to be able to work with me and I need to be able to work with them. The same for Foo B.

But this is generally exhausting. It's hard to really give your all to multiple campaigns at the same time. Most people pick one. And this is where the experience of affiliation comes in - often, you pick the one that makes you feel good. The one that has the most likeminded people, or the ones that are most internally cohesive, or the ones who respect your agency, or hell, even the people who feed you every time you work on something or the one that has the cute guy you kind of like. Everyone has their own preferences that influence their choice between the two competing things they want to work on. Even if they start out working on both, they usually tend, at least in my experience, to focus on one.

And if you focus on Foo A, and Foo A activists are mostly assholes, then yeah, you're going to take your enthusiasm and skill to the Foo B activists if the Foo B activists treat you better. It doesn't mean you stop believing Foo A. It just means you stop advocating for it, or hanging out on that side, or focusing all your campaigning energy there.

Sometimes, I will note, it can turn you off - particularly if the reason that people are supposedly supporting Foo A is their character or that it is the right thing to do, when you see them betray their principles, it makes you question whether anyone sincerely believes in Foo A at all. And if you have only believed in Foo A because you think that everyone for it has good ideals or that good ideals lead to Foo A, it could cause questioning.
posted by corb at 4:23 PM on October 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Bugbread: My university was very leftist, and had lots of vocal leftists who were just plain illogical and made ridiculous arguments. There were very few conservatives (I can remember only two off the top of my head, though I'm sure there were more), and they were very logical and their arguments actually made sense.

I really appreciate you sharing that experience because I hadn't though of it. It's striking to me how different my experience is, possibly because almost uniformly the people trying to talk me more right have been trying to talk me OUT of feminist thought, but my feminist thought is incredibly strongly interrogated and based on essentially beginning feminist media theory before I hit Elementary School (my feminist, rational, scientifically minded mom was very disturbed by my love of the smurfs, so taught me to analyze the show so I wouldn't internalize smart = brunette = evil and stupid = blond = good or There Can Be Only One Woman).

It makes me wonder if there's something gendered in how liberalish guys have attempted to convince me of things, because they've usually defaulted to scorn instead of argument - and shock when I didn't fall in line - so they're actually support my liberal leanings despite their identifying as liberal.

corb: So if I want to make a real difference on either issue, I can't just half ass it. I need to actually live and breathe and sleep and eat movement. I need to become a known entity. I need to build relationships. No man can be an island if you're actually trying to get something changed.

This reminds me of something mother told me once, about the differences between Republican and Democratic offices (she worked for the government, FDA, and I grew up in DCs long shadow). The Republicans were more enjoyable to work for even if you agreed with the Democrats more.

This is a huge generalization, of course, but even in something basic like sexual harassment, it's clearly evident that both sides are equally bad, and the Republican mindset culturally has a basis of hospitality which can smooth over differences within narrow boundaries - like another friend told me about visiting her Republican family and them being loving and welcoming, but knowing she and her close kin had better be out of town before dark because they were black and it was a Sundown town. They were loved, but they also had to know the rules to keep themselves safe.

Building relationships is inherently complicated, especially when we agree on some things and disagree on others - and can't truly know what is effective or not at a given point. I've been dwelling a lot recently on how comments I made in passing to clients years ago resurface in different contexts where there was a whole wealth of context I was missing. In the book Beggars in Spain, the fictional uber smart kids communicated not in sentences but in webs of meaning, whereby one could have the usually unspoken connotations included more easily. Sometimes, when I hear echoes of the question "how do we know what is right, just, and true - and what do we do once we know", I think we need a more nuanced system of discourse to try to fit in everyone's worlds.

I agree with grumblebee that we seem to be tangoing over the question of "How do you protect society against terrorists without unfairly punishing some false positives?" and, in addition, "How do you navigate complicated social dynamics and movements where people have differing levels of sensitivity and pain."

We seem to end up over these questions a lot at the bottom of these threads.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:54 PM on October 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


what was the flaming mass of puppetry made out of? I'm picturing a giant papier-mâché dragon.

Paper in some capacity, I don't think it was papier-mache. I didn't get close enough to get a good assessment of its manufacturing material.

There were about 20 people manipulating it - the thing was about 10 feet long, and it actually looked like a Bread-and-Puppet kind of thing (I've lived in New York for 25 years, I know from Bread and Puppet), but with about ten people on either side carrying it along, and it was always about 3 or 4 people-deep back in the crowd away from me as we inched along. Then when we got to the point where they wanted to set it off, all we noticed at first was that they'd suddenly stopped and huddled around it, some with umbrellas up to obscure what they were doing; people just passed them by until suddenly HOLY CRAP FLAMES ERUPTING OUT OF THE CROWD. My friend realized, when he saw the flames, that he'd thought he'd smelled gasoline as we were passing by the huddle, but he hadn't thought anything of it.

So, I'd say - paper, with the flaming part assisted by some kind of accelerant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:05 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]



Seriously, could you possibly be more smug?

That's seriously uncool and uncalled for.

Sweetkid seems to me to be saying that people on Metafilter only seem different because stuff gets talked about here that don't get discussed as much in person, and actually expresses pretty well an idea I'd been working on trying to figure out how to say as I was reading the thread.

But even if I agreed that she was being smug, what on earth does a comment like yours add to the conversation? Animosity?


Yeah, not being smug, for example, I still don't know much about trans* topics outside what I've learned here (because that is not part of my daily life), but I notice there are some themes that turn up when I study the topic here that I would have thought unusual if I'd come to the topic cold. But they're not unusual, they're born of a lot of discussion from people who have been working on this stuff for a long time. It's basically the whole idea behind "that's a 101 conversation." Just using trans* as an example but it also exists in things I don't support, like some very right wing topics, or things I have almost no experience with, like farmers' rights.
posted by sweetkid at 7:53 PM on October 22, 2014


I remember the guy who asked why men choose to be gynecologists, and I was bothered in the same way as grumblebee. I think sometimes we (not just AskMe) tend to be kind of mean to people who don't automatically fit in: who might have slightly different (often unanalysed) opinions, or who don't say things in the "right way."

Yes, sometimes those people are trolls, but I think we err too far in the direction of assuming they are trolls. Much more often I am struck by someone who I think is saying something entirely reasonable given their background, but that background isn't necessarily shared by the majority: they grew up poorer, or more rural, or in a very conservative household, or are very sheltered or isolated. And they, like all of us, are struggling to find their way and they come here and it's full of interesting and intelligent people and they want to belong and share ideas and they try to say something and get Smacked Righteously Down and it bothers me. A lot.

This happens in a lot of different kinds of threads, but especially on topics where Metafilter is a bit more out of tune with a broad swathe of America -- like feminist or trans* issues, or any discussions of privilege, poverty, or food. I pretty much agree with the dominant view in those threads but I can't stand to read them anymore, because I know it will be a lot of self-righteous posturing and almost inevitably a few naive, good-faith people just asking questions will get shut down in what reads to me as a really mean way. I don't have the stomach to wade in there and try to support them because I don't have the time or energy to become the victim of a righteous pile-on.

For instance: my dad is a really interesting, pretty liberal guy who loves ideas and debating people and talking. Since he retired he has more time and is looking for a like-minded community to exchange ideas with. Have I recommended Metafilter to him? Not a chance. He comes from a pretty poor, rural background, and though he's quite liberal for the town in which he lives, he has a lot of unexamined assumptions about all of the topics above that mean that if he came in and asked his questions and threw out some ideas in threads like that, I know he would be crucified. It would be merciless.

I don't want to subject my dad to that, so I haven't tried to encourage him to look at Metafilter. That's really sad, because if Metafilter isn't right for people like him, I think that's a big loss for the site, and indicative of something we should be doing better.
posted by forza at 8:09 PM on October 22, 2014 [43 favorites]


I can't even read questions from people with an Indian background, because answerers will often blame their background for whatever problem they are having (dating, family, etc). I asked one question once anonymously, and one answerer just flat out said that they assume my father didn't love me because I was a girl and that my father must have abused my brother.

It's gross. (And not true, OMG).
posted by sweetkid at 8:38 PM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


I can't even read questions from people with an Indian background, because answerers will often blame their background for whatever problem they are having (dating, family, etc).

Really? I haven't seen that. That's crazy.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:51 PM on October 22, 2014


languagehat: You, I presume (given your username), see the failings of the Soviet Union...

Negative on that, Houston. My username is: shortened first name, last initial, three-letter initials of my alma mater. I'm a liberal but not a Marxist by any means, and certainly not a Communist. Sorry the username threw you off.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:52 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yea I noticed it a lot and basically skip those questions now, which is sad because I think I could help, but half my answer would be like "no, #notallIndians, blah blah..."

btw thanks His thoughts were red thoughts for this comment, just seeing it tonight but I really appreciate it.
posted by sweetkid at 8:53 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The assumption of bad faith is endemic to the internet, and it's understandable. There's so much out there, and a lot of it is fake, lying, insincere, misleading, inaccurate, or bullshitting. And if you spend a lot of time on the internet, you have to develop defenses.

But then it turns out that your bullshit detector has no off-switch, so the default assumption about *everything* is that it's disingenuous. Which makes communication... awkward, because there's no room for people like forza's dad.

And it can bleed over into, not only suspecting everyone of trolling, but also trying to find the- they must be obvious! - flaws in any given piece of writing or journalism. Because almost all science reporting sucks, for example, and most other journalism is crap too.

The result is that any post about anything, the first 10 or 20 comments - at least- are probably going to be trashing the premises, or nitpicking the execution, or just questioning the necessity of any of it. Or pointing out that correlation doesn't equal causation, or that Obama is a drone-murderer, or that your favorite band/movie franchise/YA fiction/sport.restaurant sucks. Because any time you can refute a post with boilerplate, hey, that's that much less thinking you might have to do.

In fact, no matter what it is, the odds are pretty good that by smack-talking it you end up on the right side of history. So it's a pretty good bet.

But it kind of sucks for having conversations.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:56 PM on October 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


sweetkid, I am really sorry that happened to you (ugh, how obnoxious!)

You reminded me, too, of an issue I've noted over the years: AskMe answerers often don't empathize with regional/cultural/racial/spiritual/class differences very well.

There are cultures, for example, in which, even beyond reaching 18 or whatever age when legally an individual might be considered an adult, one is still expected to respect one's elders and defer to one's parents, because an individual's own interests are considered secondary to familial duty.

And here on Metafilter, a lot of people have maybe not the best relationships with their own families--for perfectly valid reasons!--and they don't really take into account the cultural bias when they see a question like,, My parents wish me to do this thing, help me come to terms with it. So the answers are, You're a grown ass person, why do what they want? And Your parents are abusive and you should cut off all ties with them!
posted by misha at 9:15 PM on October 22, 2014 [14 favorites]


And here on Metafilter, a lot of people have maybe not the best relationships with their own families--for perfectly valid reasons!--and they don't really take into account the cultural bias when they see a question like,, My parents wish me to do this thing, help me come to terms with it. So the answers are, You're a grown ass person, why do what they want? And Your parents are abusive and you should cut off all ties with them!

Yeah, it matters a lot to me what my parents think, and they don't even impose it or lay a guilt trip or something, it's just a reflexive reaction I can't even explain sometimes. I agree that people often don't seem to understand that. At the same time I try to understand that some people come from backgrounds so terrible that their parents might as well be strangers. It's tough.
posted by sweetkid at 9:22 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I couldn't agree more w. Forza and with resigned frustration I realize that the mods are okay with people being loud, nasty, arrogant.
posted by ambient2 at 12:11 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


ambient2: "with resigned frustration I realize that the mods are okay with people being loud, nasty, arrogant."

I wouldn't characterize them as being "okay" with it. More like they just recognize that there's nothing they can do without more mods, and even if they had the manpower, without creating even more problems.
posted by Bugbread at 12:56 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Much more often I am struck by someone who I think is saying something entirely reasonable given their background, but that background isn't necessarily shared by the majority: they grew up poorer, or more rural, or in a very conservative household, or are very sheltered or isolated. And they, like all of us, are struggling to find their way and they come here and it's full of interesting and intelligent people and they want to belong and share ideas and they try to say something and get Smacked Righteously Down and it bothers me. A lot.

This happens in a lot of different kinds of threads, but especially on topics where Metafilter is a bit more out of tune with a broad swathe of America -- like feminist or trans* issues, or any discussions of privilege, poverty, or food.


So the problem here is that it isn't going to be possible on that level to have a discussion of trans issues, for example, that allows people to wade in with whatever half-formed opinion mainstream media has given them, and clumsily start talking about she-males or whatever without that being incredibly hurtful and potentially triggering for trans people. So you can have a discussion that's more welcoming of the well-meaning but bumbling and vicious (in that they have internalised or are echoing relatively unexamined societal/mainstream viciousness) or you can have a discussion where trans people can actually talk about issues that affect them and their lives without being treated as subhuman (and ideally have a quick 101 link so that people can put a tiny bit of effort in and then maybe ask questions in a way that isn't frankly dehumanising).

This analogises pretty well to many other issues and topics. If you make something a friendlier space for bigots, you allow in more bigotry, and while you might educate more people doing that, sometimes we just want to have a conversation about a particular issue without having to defend our very right to exist and running through the basics (again!) in a way that is psychically exhausting and effectively equivalent to bring showered with abuse.
posted by Dysk at 12:58 AM on October 23, 2014 [26 favorites]


At the same time I try to understand that some people come from backgrounds so terrible that their parents might as well be strangers. It's tough.

If you're trying to agitate for me empathy and understanding vis a vis differing backgrounds, it might not be the best idea to start off by characterising other people's as "terrible"...
posted by Dysk at 12:59 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


(ugh, "me" should read "more" in that last comment - I'm not taking it that personally!)
posted by Dysk at 1:40 AM on October 23, 2014


This analogises pretty well to many other issues and topics. If you make something a friendlier space for bigots, you allow in more bigotry, and while you might educate more people doing that, sometimes we just want to have a conversation about a particular issue without having to defend our very right to exist and running through the basics (again!) in a way that is psychically exhausting and effectively equivalent to bring showered with abuse.

You know, I get this, I really do. I'm queer, my partner is trans, I'm a woman in a male-dominated profession... and it gets exhausting going over the same basics and answering the same dumb questions all of the time. And the things ignorant people say can be offensive, no matter how well-intentioned they are. And to some extent you do need to trade off the need for a safe space vs the need to be open to 101-level questions.

But.

I think it's telling that I gave the example of an intelligent, interesting, liberal, open-minded guy with some unexamined assumptions and a different background than the majority here, and you leapt right to him saying "she-male" and being a bigot. There is a space in between saying exactly the right things and already knowing everything vs being a bigot, and the fact that I even have to point this out is part of the problem.

My dad is not an asshole, and neither are a lot of the people who get the mean merciless mocking treatment. I'm not talking about people who go into threads and say "so you're all she-males, huh, hur hur hur" or say "you know, I think women who don't want children are unnatural." I'm talking about someone who goes into a trans* thread and says, "I think everyone should have the right to call themselves what they want to, but I don't like this 'cis' word for myself - it feels alienating" or "I don't understand how you can 'feel' like a different gender: I haven't ever felt like a man, I just am a man" or "I can see how catcalling is really annoying, and I don't do it myself, but I think people should just get a thicker skin."

I think all or most of these things are somewhat ignorant and wrong, but they often aren't bigoted or in bad faith. Many if not most even come from allies who actually agree on the main issues (e.g., people should be able to identify how they want). But despite this they have been met with derision, accusations of mansplaining, telling people to shut up, telling them to check their privilege in tones that are clearly scathing and derogatory, telling them they are trying to tell others what their experience is like, etc. etc. I think none of that does the site very good. And, reading those things as a queer woman with a trans partner... they bother me. I dislike that we are so mean.

Now, I certainly don't want to presume to tell other people not to be hurt by things that hurt them. And maybe my vision of Metafilter isn't the same vision shared by most people. If that's the case, then that's the case: I'm not the God of Metafilter. But the question was what I don't feel comfortable saying, and this is the answer...
posted by forza at 2:23 AM on October 23, 2014 [39 favorites]


I hasten to add, not everyone is mean. In fact, a lot of people are awesome. There are usually a number of people, who I respect a great deal, putting the work in to answer these people fairly and compassionately. I think there are a lot who might not have the energy or time to give those answers but who therefore just don't answer rather than decide to give mean, self-righteous, and mocking responses. That's really great too! I'm not saying every thread needs to become a 101-level thread. But it would be nice if so many didn't turn into mean-spirited echo chambers.
posted by forza at 2:36 AM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


My dad is not an asshole, and neither are a lot of the people who get the mean merciless mocking treatment. I'm not talking about people who go into threads and say "so you're all she-males, huh, hur hur hur" or say "you know, I think women who don't want children are unnatural."

Nor is that what I am talking about, though. You don't have to be an arsehole to say horrible things. You can be entirely well-intentioned and non-malicious and say "oh I think those she-male guys should get be allowed to live how they want" or some equally positive sentiment, it doesn't make it any less ugly.

And if there is a 101-style terminology link RIGHT THERE in the FPP? Come on, just take the two minutes to at least skim it. It's not a gargantuan barrier to entry, and it makes things so much more pleasant for everyone.

I'm talking about someone who goes into a trans* thread and says, "I think everyone should have the right to call themselves what they want to, but I don't like this 'cis' word for myself - it feels alienating" or "I don't understand how you can 'feel' like a different gender: I haven't ever felt like a man, I just am a man" or "I can see how catcalling is really annoying, and I don't do it myself, but I think people should just get a thicker skin."

Thing is, well-intentioned as some of those things are, they are very very hurtful. And the final example is pretty akin to the 'hurr-hurr' examples from your previous paragraph - "just get a thicker skin"? That's only a mildly more surface-level polite version of 'oh suck it up and stop complaining, the things that bother you are not important' which yeah, a problem, and should be called out. We could run through the implications of the other examples, but needless to say, there are very much ideas encapsulated within them that are hurtful, and at the very least absolutely should not stand unaddressed.

I think all or most of these things are somewhat ignorant and wrong, but they often aren't bigoted or in bad faith. Many if not most even come from allies who actually agree on the main issues (e.g., people should be able to identify how they want). But despite this they have been met with derision, accusations of mansplaining, telling people to shut up, telling them to check their privilege in tones that are clearly scathing and derogatory, telling them they are trying to tell others what their experience is like, etc. etc.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Someone may not have MEANT to be telling other people what their experience is, for example, but that doesn't mean that it isn't an unavoidable feature (on or between the lines) of what they've said. And not saying "dude, don't do that" effectively sends a signal that that shit is okay, when it isn't.

Are people sometimes unnecessarily mean? Yes, of course. They're PEOPLE. That's how it works. But that doesn't make the general principle unsound - if you're stepping into a discussion space on a topic you don't know anything about, it behoves you to learn the language, to an extent. Otherwise, people may correct your language, or point out the implications of what you've said, or other ways in which your statements may be deeply flawed or problematic. And they may not be happy about the horrible things you've said, whether you meant to or not.
posted by Dysk at 2:38 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


But it would be nice if so many didn't turn into mean-spirited echo chambers.

I have to say that I don't really see this happen, generally. If something truly is an 'echo chamber' in that there is no dissent, we can usually have a well-beyond-101-level discussion. If one or a handful of people throw the same old objectionable crap into a thread, that will get addressed, and the signal of the thread will get lost in that noise if there's enough people inadvertently being objectionable, or if even one or two people decide to double down on their objectionableness, whether out of ignorance, a defensive reflex, or maliciousness.
posted by Dysk at 2:41 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


The thing is, there are responses to give that aren't so awful to the commenters. e.g., "You may not have realised, but this is offensive for X reason" or "I am kind of hurt by this comment because of Y". People make those responses, and I think it's great. I think it is absolutely the right thing to point out where their language has implications they might not have thought about or whatever. But there are loads of responses that are just mean or mocking or dismissive, and I think that sucks.

Are such responses natural? Probably; as you say, we're all human. But if the question is what kind of culture we aspire to, then I don't think we should aspire to have those kind of responses. I think they should be regretted rather than favorited and quoted approvingly and repeated again and again.

I guess for me it comes down to the following: what kind of person do I want to be? Do I want to be charitable or mean? Do I want to try to presume good faith and honest engagement, or to respond viciously when someone hurts me, even if it wasn't intentional? Do I want to try to be kind even if I'm not feeling especially kindly?

I think we can ask the same question about this place. What kind of site do we want Metafilter to be? I don't want it to be a mean one.
posted by forza at 2:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [22 favorites]


I came here from memepool. I used to comment regularly, here and other places, but these days it feels less genuine or necessary to say things that I know will ingratiate me with strangers on the internet — or to pick fights with them, as the case may be. You could say that I am just bad at connecting with people. I think it is also possible to become too invested in a place and an identity. It renders the place somewhat insular and the identity somewhat of a caricature. Addressing the topic of the post, it pains me to say that some regulars seem to expect a level of comfort and mutualism that I think is impossible to attain and probably not desirable given the broad audience for a general interest website. Without oxygen, no fire, but also no movement. Stand back and let her breathe. Not every utterance needs to be a performance, not every reputation needs to be defended, and not every deletion needs to be reasoned. Metafilter is not the center of the universe — it remains one of my favorite websites. Love to all.
posted by dmh at 2:51 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I guess for me it comes down to the following: what kind of person do I want to be? Do I want to be charitable or mean? Do I want to try to presume good faith and honest engagement, or to respond viciously when someone hurts me, even if it wasn't intentional? Do I want to try to be kind even if I'm not feeling especially kindly?

When you follow particular topics, and you see the same problematic ideas and expressions from the same people, again and again, it becomes harder and harder to presume good faith. It starts to look more and more like someone thinks they're speaking Truth to Power by not letting [group] have their discursive victory or whatever.

Aside from that, yeah, I fully agree. I just think the scale of the problem you're referencing is often drastically overstated.
posted by Dysk at 2:54 AM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


When you follow particular topics, and you see the same problematic ideas and expressions from the same people, again and again, it becomes harder and harder to presume good faith. It starts to look more and more like someone thinks they're speaking Truth to Power by not letting [group] have their discursive victory or whatever.

I get this, and I think there are a few problematic people that I don't presume good faith of anymore. I still the best thing to do is just ignore them entirely, but YMMV.

That said... this actually reminds me of an amusing situation I was in a few years ago. I'm a professor and after a number of years of teaching, I found myself thinking angrily, "I've been teaching for so many years, and still get the same questions! Don't they learn?!?"

This is of course amusing because they may have been the same questions, but they often weren't the same people. I think it can be easy to read many of these threads and see the same questions over and over and think "How can they be asking this again?" and not actually be tracking the names of the people who are asking very well. The cumulative effect is that they can't possibly be in good faith or learning because they're just asking the same stupid shit one more time. But really, a lot of the time, it is new people -- people who probably didn't read all of the old threads (and certainly can be forgiven for not thinking they had to, or even knowing all of them were there) and are new to Metafilter or at least the topic.
posted by forza at 3:02 AM on October 23, 2014 [18 favorites]


Aside from that, yeah, I fully agree. I just think the scale of the problem you're referencing is often drastically overstated.

Yeah, we may just have different intuitions on this. We're all limited by our own experience and I'm just one person who has one viewpoint.
posted by forza at 3:04 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


A space that allows ignorant and bigoted comments, even from people who are well-intentioned, limits the discussion to the level of those people, expects people experienced with the issues at hand, including marginalized folks actively being hurt, to become educators for free, and simultaneously is less safe for those people. Asking for a safe space for the supposedly well-intentioned who won't even read a 101 link is asking for the marginalized groups under discussion to put up with being less safe. Forcing people to be polite to their oppressors is shitty, but it's also expected, so you only see it as "mean" when it's the other way around. And shit, as a professor you should really realize how insulting it is to ask people to be doing this work for free and then painting them as villains if they don't.

"Just listen if you don't know what the fuck you're talking about" isn't even that mean a thing to say. It's pretty good advice if you want to learn and also not look like an asshole.
posted by NoraReed at 4:01 AM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


Asking for a safe space for the supposedly well-intentioned who won't even read a 101 link

I'm not asking for that. I think they should read the damn link. But the thing is this: people don't turn on a dime. Even if they read a link, they probably didn't internalise and absorb it all immediately. Nobody can change their entire view around an issue in 10 minutes. They might read a link and still have questions. They might try to use the "right" words and not have internalised it and still screw it up. They might be trying their best and still inadvertently step on many toes.

to ask people to be doing this work for free

I'm not asking for this. I'm asking people who want to be mean to instead not say anything. Let the people who have the energy and desire take it on in a charitable way if you don't feel up to it.

"Just listen if you don't know what the fuck you're talking about" isn't even that mean a thing to say. It's pretty good advice if you want to learn and also not look like an asshole.

As a professor, I don't want my students to just listen if they don't know what they're talking about. I want them to actively consider what people are saying. I want them to be engaged. I want them to think. I want them to ask questions. That's the best way of learning. I also want them to be tactful and polite, but when they fail to do so despite trying their best, I gently point out where they went wrong. I don't berate them for having the temerity to even have asked.

And, yes, Metafilter is not my classroom. But I think having the same aspirational standards in both places is a good idea, for the same reasons: that's what kind of person I would want to be, both here and there. And I think Metafilter would be a better place if the culture were more like that, too.
posted by forza at 4:15 AM on October 23, 2014 [23 favorites]


As a professor, I don't want my students to just listen if they don't know what they're talking about. I want them to actively consider what people are saying. I want them to be engaged. I want them to think. I want them to ask questions. That's the best way of learning. I also want them to be tactful and polite, but when they fail to do so despite trying their best, I gently point out where they went wrong.

But as a professor, I'm sure you can recognize the difference between "wait, I thought all [foos] thought [baz], why are you saying they think [schmeh]?" and "bullshit, I know you [foos] really think [baz]".

And if you don't think the latter kind of comment crops up, try checking out a religious thread sometime.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on October 23, 2014


But the latter kind of comment is not the kind of comment I'm talking about, as I think I've taken great pains to be clear about in all of my examples.
posted by forza at 4:40 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Do you seriously not understand how demanding a group of people discussing something you are not only ignorant about but harmfully so to drop the discussion to your level and simultaneously not display any of the frustration you have incited by demanding a free education about why the thing you just said is actively oppressive is a dick move? Is it ok to walk into 300 level seminars with remedial level questions?
posted by NoraReed at 4:42 AM on October 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


Do you seriously not understand that that's not what I'm talking about? As I said, I am often in the category of people, myself, who are "oppressed" by such comments. I explicitly said I don't think every thread should become a 101-level discussion. I don't think anyone should have to explain anything to anyone that they don't feel like explaining. I said, repeatedly, that ignoring that person is always an option.

I just don't want people to knowingly be jerks to someone who is not intentionally being a jerk to them. And I mentioned that this made me uncomfortable when asked what made me uncomfortable about the site .

... and, I'm done here. I have to go to sleep (it's late at night where I am), I'm not walking off in a huff. But to go back to the original topic: this response just reinforces why I was uncomfortable with bringing this opinion up in the first place. This is why I've stayed out of those threads (until now). And why I am probably going to go back to staying out of them, being upset at them, and not encouraging people like my dad -- who could be allies -- to check them out and learn something.

If that's the kind of Metafilter most people here want, then so be it. I still really love many aspects of the site. I just think it could be better in this way.
posted by forza at 4:52 AM on October 23, 2014 [27 favorites]


You know what: forget everything I said in the third paragraph after "back to the original topic." It's not living up to my own principles of trying to be charitable, and I wish I could just delete it but I know that's not a good use of the edit window! I think this debate is good to have and should be encouraged, even if I wouldn't invite my dad to wade into the middle of it.
posted by forza at 4:56 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the love. I didn't quit MeFi in disgust, though (to be honest) I was a bit weary of the liberal bias, here (and I say that as a liberal). I am an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, feminist, but I'm also allergic to anything that smells even remotely academic (Gender Studies, etc), and there were too many references to "normative assumptions" and the like here for my tastes. But mostly I went dark here due to business. I'll try to participate more often.

The site I referred to is Quora, and it's got plenty of problems. Here, I wrote about some of the challenges the site faces. It's way newer and way bigger than MeFi, and it's woefully understaffed in terms of admins. The way we try to combat pile-ons and the like is with a Be Nice Be Respectful policy (BNBR). It's against the rules to insult anyone or his or her content. Since we're understaffed, insults slip through, but BNBR is the ideal.

As you can imagine, it's controversial and not for everybody. One interesting (and to some folks extremely frustrating) aspect of the rule is that you're not even allowed to insult in retaliation. The idea is to stop tit-for-tat flame wars. If someone calls you an asshole, you can report him to the admins, but you can't give as good as you get. It's been interesting watching people's jaws hit the floor when they realize "he started it" doesn't wash. Of course, since admins are understaffed, it sometimes happens that "he started it and he got away with it," which is unfair. We grapple with that issue daily.

Some folks are also surprised that BNBR applies in all cases--that there's really no one you're allowed to insult. "Okay, I know, I know, and I agree, but come on! Surely it doesn't apply to ..." racists, homophobes, people I disagree with, etc.

What's more interesting to me is "no insulting content." I have mixed feelings about "no tit-for-tat," especially when admins can't guarantee fairness, but I'm totally on Quora's side when it comes to banning all comments like "That's the stupidest question I've ever read."

I was surprised, when we first made the rule, to hear people say, "If you don't let us insult people's content, we can't have rigorous, intellectual conversations." A light bulb flashed over my head. "Ah," I thought. "This is a way education has failed people. They think the only alternatives are snark or hippy-dippy love-ins." They don't understand that you can rigorously point out errors in facts, logic, and argumentation without saying, "That's stupid!" which doesn't add anything, except a naked value judgement.

I sympathize with folks who are unskilled at being pointed without being insulting, because our culture is bad at teaching this. When you see examples of rigorous teachers in movies and on TV, they are almost always mean. "You dance like my grandmother! Come on! Commit to it and stop wasting my time or get off the stage!"

I am not suggesting MeFi employ a Be Nice Be Respectful policy. To me, it's great to have an Internet full of different sites for different tastes. And a site must fit its rules to its culture and its goals.
posted by grumblebee at 4:57 AM on October 23, 2014 [38 favorites]


I mean, Christ, the "thicker skin" example is such quintessential male entitled bullshit in particular that if it was socially acceptable for women to actually demonstrate our frustration with constant demands that we simultaneously hold men's hands through their education about feminism and put up with their bullshit that if we were actually allowed to laugh at them and tell them to fuck off without being afraid of violent repercussions, they might educate their damn selves to avoid looking like fools.
posted by NoraReed at 4:58 AM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


This seems like a pretty safe space to laugh at men and tell them to fuck off without violent repercussions. Does it not?
posted by Wolof at 6:02 AM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah that whole exchange with Forza and dysk and NoraReed? Is a classic display of everything that makes me uncomfortable about conversations on metafilter. Forza clearly outlined an example using his own experience and family, outlined his privilege even, and STILL got ripped up for it.

Edit: my apologies to Forza for misgendering, if I have.
posted by disclaimer at 6:10 AM on October 23, 2014 [39 favorites]


The way we try to combat pile-ons and the like is with a Be Nice Be Respectful policy (BNBR). It's against the rules to insult anyone or his or her content. Since we're understaffed, insults slip through, but BNBR is the ideal.

Huh. I hang out on a lot Quora, answering and reading space related questions and this is the first I've heard of that policy. Not a big deal, doubt I break it, but yeah, talk about understaffed.

Forza clearly outlined an example using his own experience and family, outlined his privilege even, and STILL got ripped up for it.

Yeah, pretty much. It's astonishing that people seem totally ok with doing that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:14 AM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


Edit: my apologies to Forza for misgendering, if I have.

You have. Forza is a lady, and an extremely intelligent one we are lucky to have here.
posted by Wolof at 6:15 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


This seems like a pretty safe space to laugh at men and tell them to fuck off without violent repercussions. Does it not?

That's what I mean-- this is the kind of thing that is only NOT normal because of sexism.
posted by NoraReed at 6:16 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


But the latter kind of comment is not the kind of comment I'm talking about, as I think I've taken great pains to be clear about in all of my examples.

And many in here have taken great pains to be clear that the latter kind of comment is the kind of comment we are talking about.

I do agree with you that some people do get very opinionated in here, but there are actually a few more examples of the abrasive kind of question than you'd think.

To offer a counterpoint: there actually was one great example of "doing it right" I can think of when it comes to religion - about halfway into this thread, there's a conversation amongst myself, zarq, and a couple others about how excommunication actually works. It actually starts out with a bit of "tone" on all sides, but then comes around to a place where someone who didn't know something then goes on to learn something, and it turned out quite cool. So we are capable of these kinds of conversations, and we're even capable of salvaging things where they get off on the wrong foot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:17 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I basically agree with everything Forza said. I also agree that the subsequent confrontation is an example of what happens when MeFi turns onerous.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:39 AM on October 23, 2014 [20 favorites]


It feels like some people are disagreeing with what forza has said, but a few people are disagreeing with forza about something she isn't even talking about. To wit, forza's argument seems to me to be:
"At present, some users say 'foo'. When that happens, some other people respond using approach 'bar'. And some people respond using approach 'baz'. I wish people would just use approach 'bar', and stop using approach 'baz'."
Some people are countering by saying "No, approach 'baz' is also useful". Which, fine, great, on-topic discussion. But other people are saying "If we start allowing people to say 'foo', the quality of this place will decline". But people are already saying 'foo'. Forza's whole issue is about how to respond when this happens, because it already happens a lot.
posted by Bugbread at 6:52 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, I just thought of something I normally don't feel comfortable saying, and I feel dumb for the fact that I'm about to say it:

I think tone is important.

There are lots of definitions of "tone arguments". I'm sure that arguments I've gotten into about tone qualify as "tone arguments" by some definition. Perhaps several. But one definition that comes up a lot is that tone arguments are tactics used to dismiss a person and ignore what they're saying by blaming it on their tone, and saying that if they had just used the right tone, you would have listened. To my knowledge, I have never engaged in that kind of tone argument, because I've never argued about tone with someone I disagree with. It's exclusively been with folks whose political opinions I agree with, probably because I expect better of them, while my expectations for other folks are lower. It's probably also because it doesn't bother me if someone I disagree with shoots themselves in the foot by using a tone that reduces their effectiveness at convincing people of anything. But when people I agree with use a shitty tone, it bugs me, because I feel like it's just going to discredit my side and drive people away.

Wow, that felt good to get off my chest.
posted by Bugbread at 6:58 AM on October 23, 2014 [26 favorites]


I get mildly insulted when people use the 'poor rural folk don't know any better' excuse for ignorant behavior. I grew up poor living in one of the poorest regions in the US but somehow I managed to learn about social and cultural issues. Being poor and rural are not mental disabilities.
posted by winna at 7:21 AM on October 23, 2014 [29 favorites]



At the same time I try to understand that some people come from backgrounds so terrible that their parents might as well be strangers. It's tough.

If you're trying to agitate for me empathy and understanding vis a vis differing backgrounds, it might not be the best idea to start off by characterising other people's as "terrible"...


Yeah, whoa, wow no. I meant people with self described terrible backgrounds in regard to their parents, like their parents were horribly abusive so they don't have the same sense of "family is family" as others do. I don't mean, like, some people have terrible backgrounds because I just decided I hate certain groups of people, like "down with Swedes" or something.

That's the opposite of what I was saying. Also I wasn't agitating for anything, just sharing my perspective.
posted by sweetkid at 7:42 AM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


I mean, Christ, the "thicker skin" example is such quintessential male entitled bullshit in particular that if it was socially acceptable for women to actually demonstrate our frustration with constant demands that we simultaneously hold men's hands through their education about feminism and put up with their bullshit that if we were actually allowed to laugh at them and tell them to fuck off without being afraid of violent repercussions, they might educate their damn selves to avoid looking like fools.

This is exactly the type of comment I was referring to in my initial comment in this thread. To me, this comment reads like someone just wanting to be rude and insulting, and using the moral high ground as justification. Honestly, I feel this way frequently about this user's comments, but I think this may be my first time mentioning it because we are frequently on the same general page philosophically and I suspect my rebuttal will be accused of being a "tone argument" or focusing on the "wrong" part of a comment (the minutiae of wording rather than the "larger" issue). But I really think site discussion has worsened noticably by this type of interaction becoming acceptable, regardless of whether or not the commenter is arguing for the "right" side.
posted by The Gooch at 8:03 AM on October 23, 2014 [32 favorites]


> Negative on that, Houston. My username is: shortened first name, last initial, three-letter initials of my alma mater. I'm a liberal but not a Marxist by any means, and certainly not a Communist. Sorry the username threw you off.

Whoa, my bad! Thanks for explaining, and I apologize for my assumption.

> Forza clearly outlined an example using his own experience and family, outlined his privilege even, and STILL got ripped up for it.

Yup. The whole exchange was incredibly disheartening and showed how ready some people here are to assume bad faith and beat up on whoever comes within range. On the other hand, I now have a new MeFite to respect. Stick around and keep talking, forza!
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


To me, this comment reads like someone just wanting to be rude and insulting, and using the moral high ground as justification

Not only that, it's ridiculously long run on sentence.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I feel not so much uncomfortable but very wary of saying anything remotely positive about kink or BDSM. In fact, I've stopped clicking on threads that even involve the subject, because I know the comments are going to deeply disappoint me. So in the same way I don't discuss US foreign policy with certain members of my family that I otherwise love dearly, I avoid discussions about BDSM on Metafilter altogether.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:22 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I understand why people are saying they sometimes feel the backlash against innocently-ignorant questions or comments might be a little over the top, but can someone point out what exactly NoraReed or anyone else has said in this thread that is "mean"? I don't get it. She's clearly at the far end of the Teacherly Kindness In Rhetoric scale, sure, but I haven't seen anything from anyone in this part of the conversation that has been mean. Is it just the swearing? I didn't see anyone ripping forza up, just pushing back against the culture change she wants us to have.

Should people not even try to explain why there are trade-offs involved in becoming more explicitly welcoming to people who say unintentionally hurtful things, or is even doing that "mean"? I mean, don't get me wrong, forza, it's not like I don't want your dad to comment here! But I'm definitely not prepared to place "safe place for dads to comment without ever hurting their feelings even if they say something hurtful" at the top of my Mefi priorities scale, and it sounds like that's what you're arguing for. If this was a place where people didn't receive pushback for things like "get a thicker skin" re: street harassment, many of us wouldn't spend much time here, so to some people it might sound like you're arguing that they should give up their use of the site so that your dad can use it, which feels a bit hurtful. I get that this isn't what you're saying, but there are trade-offs, and what makes the site welcoming to your dad might make the site much less welcoming to many other users, so it shouldn't be surprising that those users would push back on making this particular trade-off. To be quite frank, the entire rest of the internet is already very welcoming of statements like that, while Mefi is one of the only places I can spend time where I know that sentiments like that will get pushback.

One issue that comes up a lot is that the very mention of something being problematic is itself taken as a huge insult, so there are often few good options for how to explain "your post is problematic and here's why" without it being taken as a big mean insult. To be honest, I see that happening a lot more often than I see people really dogpiling people for innocent questions; while certainly there are some louder voices that take up more of the air in a room, the majority of commenters truly are pretty gentle in how they try to say these things, in my experience. So to me, the question is how can you point out that something sounds racist or homophobic or sexist without being parsed as "mean," when the person you're taking to is going to instantly take those words as an insult? To what extent is it my job to couch my statement of "you have hurt me with your words" in as many disclaimers as possible so as to maximally avoid offense?

For my own part, I try to be straightforward and make it clear that I don't think they're intending to say what it sounds like they said, but even that often sounds "mean" if people just aren't used to being told that it's not cool to say sexist things. There was one particularly instructive MeTa this year I think, where someone asserted that saying someone was acting sexist or racist was the worst possible thing you could say and nobody should ever say that sort of thing here because it's inherently unkind. Everyone draws their line at a different place, and while it's easy to say people should just be nice, it's important to note that there is substantial disagreement about where that line lies, and one person's kind correction is another person's accusatory screed.

I understand why it would feel unwelcoming to say something and receive anger in response, and I agree that it's best if we can try to set that anger aside and respond coolly, but that anger is also instructive in its own way. It's important that people who say "you should just have a thicker skin about things" understand that saying stuff like that makes people angry because that's part of how people learn that those aren't cool things to say. I agree with Bugbread that sometimes the tone of people I wholly agree with makes me cringe a bit, but I also don't think everyone has an obligation to approach this site as a teacher.

The Gooch, not to speak for NoraReed but I think what she was getting at is that the only reason a person wouldn't already know that such sentiments might make people angry is that those angry responses are almost always self-censored from everyday conversation. I think that's what NoraReed was getting at above - our hypothetical dad would already know that some of those innocently-held opinions were hurtful if women had free expression about these things in their everyday lives. Since they don't, he remains ignorant that those things are hurtful, which perpetuates the problem. I'm glad we can talk about those things here.

Finally, I wish that if people had issues with NoraReed they'd address it explicitly instead of pretending that her comments speak for everyone else on the site.
posted by dialetheia at 8:28 AM on October 23, 2014 [35 favorites]


I think tone is important.

Yeah. When you're in a space where we only exist as words on a screen, tone is everything. Refusing to treat tone as significant is absurd.

I wouldn't characterize them as being "okay" with it. More like they just recognize that there's nothing they can do without more mods, and even if they had the manpower, without creating even more problems.

I regretfully would characterize the mods as being okay with it. When a form of violence is both common and easily stopped by those in power, one must conclude that those in power are basically okay with it. It would not be that hard for mods to say "We are going to delete comments that we see as unnecessarily mean." They don't. Rather they allow some commenters to flourish as rhetorical Cossacks, doing the dirty work of beating up the people who don't hold to the proper points of view. They won't have unlimited punches, of course, but they'll get plenty of hits in before the mods step in and say "Okay, that's enough."

Is the metaphor of Cossack violence a little silly in the context of a bunch of words on a screen? Sure. But then, so's complaining that a bunch of words on a screen would stop being "safe" if wrong-thinkers were not subject to sufficient insult.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:32 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think it can be easy to read many of these threads and see the same questions over and over and think "How can they be asking this again?" and not actually be tracking the names of the people who are asking very well. The cumulative effect is that they can't possibly be in good faith or learning because they're just asking the same stupid shit one more time. But really, a lot of the time, it is new people -- people who probably didn't read all of the old threads (and certainly can be forgiven for not thinking they had to, or even knowing all of them were there) and are new to Metafilter or at least the topic.

I think forza may have a point, here, but I also suspect the vice-versa happens pretty regularly - people read a thread about a contentious topic and see a couple of users getting piled-on for what look like fairly innocuous comments, and think "Holy cow, those comments don't warrant that level of vitriol." But the readers don't realize that those users have a past history of being difficult in similar threads on similar topics.

I started thinking about this because it seems to me that there are a fair number of MeFites who've expressed concerns about what they perceive as unpleasant ganging-up-on who have also pointed out that they don't really notice or remember user names.

So if someone approaches every thread with this sort of "blank slate" approach, sure, I can see how an exchange can look like a vicious pile-on - but maybe it would help if they kept in mind that not everyone takes this approach, and there may be some history there that they're unaware of.

Not that I'm supporting or encouraging grudge-matches or anything. But it seems pretty realistic to me that some people do notice and remember user names and past comments. I certainly do - not in great detail, mostly, but at least a general sense of where they sit on the left-right spectrum on political & social & cultural issues and what kind of threads they tend to often comment on. And I'm certainly not keeping any kind of list or database - I'm way too disorganized for anything like that - but various impressions of users just stick in my brain from both reading and commenting in various threads.

So for me sometimes there is a sense of, "Didn't we just have this same conversation with this same person 6 months ago?" And if there's any doubt, I can always look at their comment history. I understand that it's not kosher to bring the history up in thread, but I can't deny that my remembrance of their past behavior may color how I read or respond to comments. Whereas to someone who doesn't remember or register user names & past behavior, a disagreement can look like a nasty unjustified attack.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:37 AM on October 23, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah that whole exchange with Forza and dysk and NoraReed? Is a classic display of everything that makes me uncomfortable about conversations on metafilter. Forza clearly outlined an example using his own experience and family, outlined his privilege even, and STILL got ripped up for it.

I disagreed with forza. I did so respectfully. NoraReed was more strident, but I still don't see anything other than 'forza said something and got disagreed with'. That is not a terrible thing.

"If we start allowing people to say 'foo', the quality of this place will decline". But people are already saying 'foo'. Forza's whole issue is about how to respond when this happens, because it already happens a lot.

Not doing baz constitutes allowing people to say foo UNCHALLENGED which is quite different to the situation as it is now. People say foo but get pushback, which is how we establish community norms that say foo is unacceptable. Letting foo stand unchallenged is different to what already happens.
posted by Dysk at 8:38 AM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


One issue that comes up a lot is that the very mention of something being problematic is itself taken as a huge insult, so there are often few good options for how to explain "your post is problematic and here's why" without it being taken as a big mean insult. To be honest, I see that happening a lot more often than I see people really dogpiling people for innocent questions

Yes yes yes.

the only reason a person wouldn't already know that such sentiments might make people angry is that those angry responses are almost always self-censored from everyday conversation. I think that's what NoraReed was getting at above - our hypothetical dad would already know that some of those innocently-held opinions were hurtful if women had free expression about these things in their everyday lives. Since they don't, he remains ignorant that those things are hurtful, which perpetuates the problem. I'm glad we can talk about those things here.

Even more yes. (Not to speak for NoraReed, of course.) I think some of the pushback from normally-marginalized people seems more "mean" than people are used to simply because normally-marginalized people have less power to say, "Hey, stop it," in everyday life. So there's a shock that can come from the pushback that's not necessarily due to just the words on the screen.

And "tone argument" should pretty much always just refer to the "If you were nicer, I'd agree with you" bullshit, though I've seen the "tone argument by proxy" ("If you were nicer, they'd agree with you"), which is also obnoxious.
posted by jaguar at 8:45 AM on October 23, 2014 [22 favorites]


Can I just say that the 'foo' and 'baz' stuff is making the conversation somewhat less than entirely comprehensible?
posted by griphus at 8:45 AM on October 23, 2014 [32 favorites]


It's no accident that the most dismissive and nasty comments often come from poor readings of other comments. Evidently, the ability to accurately read content and tone declines when you labor under the impression that you don't others a good faith reading, or even basic peer-to-peer respect. I'm sure that there is also a Dunning-Kruger aspect as well: the people with the most vocally rigid moral certitude are never the most accurate.

People monitor themselves not just to be "nice" to other people, but also so that they don't get so het up that they wind up getting things wrong, embarrassing themselves, whipping up vicious circles of argument through mutual and compounding misunderstanding, and generally creating an exaggerated impression to others that an entire space is one of itchy discomfort.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:59 AM on October 23, 2014 [16 favorites]


"Is the metaphor of Cossack violence a little silly in the context of a bunch of words on a screen?"

If we hew to the standard of stamping out rhetorical violence, and being compared to a Cossack brutalizing dissidents is something I see as mean, would your comment be deleted under your rubric?
posted by klangklangston at 9:01 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


dialetheia: One issue that comes up a lot is that the very mention of something being problematic is itself taken as a huge insult, so there are often few good options for how to explain "your post is problematic and here's why" without it being taken as a big mean insult... while certainly there are some louder voices that take up more of the air in a room, the majority of commenters truly are pretty gentle in how they try to say these things, in my experience. So to me, the question is how can you point out that something sounds racist or homophobic or sexist without being parsed as "mean," when the person you're taking to is going to instantly take those words as an insult? To what extent is it my job to couch my statement of "you have hurt me with your words" in as many disclaimers as possible so as to maximally avoid offense?

For my own part, I try to be straightforward and make it clear that I don't think they're intending to say what it sounds like they said, but even that often sounds "mean" if people just aren't used to being told that it's not cool to say sexist things... I understand why it would feel unwelcoming to say something and receive anger in response, and I agree that it's best if we can try to set that anger aside and respond coolly, but that anger is also instructive in its own way.


I agree with you. But I also see (and have personally experienced) the exact same thing (that I am fairly sure you are describing here as a standard-on-MeFi more-left reaction to a less-left opinion) happen from saying something apparently too radical for the "MeFi-left party line".

If I am being careful in how I say what I'm saying - only to get that backlash of anger & attempt to squash me, yell me down for daring to speak up... from people who think it's wrong to experience that from less-left opinion people! - you will forgive me if I find it not only unpleasant & unwarranted but hypocritical as well.

If part of someone's political/social justice stance is that those who don't quite "get it" should be more tolerant & open-minded of their clearly-correct-even-if-these-people-don't-know-it-yet opinions/ideas/ways of talking - then I would be inclined to expect those people extend a similar tolerance to opinions they themselves find "too far", "too harsh", "too academic", "too radical" - certainly I expect it in a way I don't from those holding less-left opinions.

If people don't practice what they preach (even if I understand why they aren't, even if of course I know that we're all human & flawed) - I'm still disappointed by it.
posted by flex at 9:06 AM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


Can I just say that the 'foo' and 'baz' stuff is making the conversation somewhat less than entirely comprehensible?

I want a find and replace script thingy to change it to an autoplaying mp3 of a moist fart sound except it autoplays for the OP and no one else.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:07 AM on October 23, 2014


For my own part, I try to be straightforward and make it clear that I don't think they're intending to say what it sounds like they said, but even that often sounds "mean" if people just aren't used to being told that it's not cool to say sexist things.

This is another thing I'd been trying to figure out how to express.

The one story that always springs to mind for this sort of thing is how controversial a local billboard was a few years back that said something along the lines of "You can be happy without God". On the drive that took me past that where several billboards for churches, one of which said "Only God can make you happy". None of those billboards were controversial.

Perception is a funny thing. This thing happens to me, and I think to other people, where I have to switch alarm sounds on my phone every month or so. At some point the alarm stops being "new obnoxious thing" and starts being "general background noise" and I'm able to ignore it. The other thing that happens is that the first time the new alarm goes off I turn it down because it just seems SO LOUD and obnoxious, and then by the end of the month I've had to turn the volume back up full volume just so it can grab my attention. I think that the same thing happens with having our views and how we express them challenged. If we're used to it, then what people are saying might seem like background noise, but for views that are pretty much universally assumed by culture, even a slightly aggressive challenge can seem like the loudest noise ever.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:08 AM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


Can I just say that the 'foo' and 'baz' stuff is making the conversation somewhat less than entirely comprehensible?

This is one of those weird things that some people are totally able to parse and some people can't. I go back and forth depending on how awake I am, but I have a chronic fatigue condition, so usually it makes no sense to me. So I think avoiding these would be best if one wants one's arguments easy to parse. Just for future reference.
posted by NoraReed at 9:14 AM on October 23, 2014


Can I just say that the 'foo' and 'baz' stuff is making the conversation somewhat less than entirely comprehensible?

Oh god yes. Could we please never say foo or baz on Metafilter again? Please?
posted by torticat at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh god yes. Could we please never say foo or baz on Metafilter again? Please?

Is it "saying" when you quote someone saying foo or baz?
posted by phearlez at 9:20 AM on October 23, 2014


I think it's only saying foo and baz if you say foo and/or baz yourself.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:21 AM on October 23, 2014


oh god now we're all doing it

it's lexical herpes
posted by poffin boffin at 9:22 AM on October 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


I can rarely be bothered to challenge the reason/emotion dichotomy.

I'm now also less likely to comment on political stuff due to my job

That's about it.
posted by knapah at 9:24 AM on October 23, 2014


I can rarely be bothered to challenge the reason/emotion dichotomy.

Because it doesn't make sense to or because you don't feel like it?
posted by ODiV at 9:26 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


torticat: Oh god yes. Could we please never say foo or baz on Metafilter again? Please?

Are we still allowed to say bar and quux?
posted by syzygy at 9:27 AM on October 23, 2014


If we hew to the standard of stamping out rhetorical violence, and being compared to a Cossack brutalizing dissidents is something I see as mean, would your comment be deleted under your rubric?

Well then we'd need some standards of what constitutes unnecessary meanness. What kind of things can't you say, even if your point is correct. What tone is acceptable.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:28 AM on October 23, 2014


If we're used to it, then what people are saying might seem like background noise, but for views that are pretty much universally assumed by culture, even a slightly aggressive challenge can seem like the loudest noise ever.

You know what else is loud? Loud things. Sometimes, people bristle at true things which out of their comfort zone; more often, people really do tire of loud things. I appreciate the fact that anti-*ist people often have to put up with all manner of tone arguments, nasty overreactions to true things, etc. On the other hand, it does nobody any good to assume that the main reason why somebody would object to something someone would say is because they're speaking truth to power. It just turns discussions into The Sorcerer's Apprentice, with the brooms replaced with snark.

...

it's lexical herpes

In my head, I am now humming this line to the tune of the old My Little Ponies theme song.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:29 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think tone is important.

I elaborated more on this above, but aside from the way that it's used as an argument fallacy to silence or oppress, I think that it's actually the most important thing.

My academic discipline relies a lot on reason and proof to receive a good hearing, and I'm still amazed at how tone and caring about relationships can do more for a cause than just about anything else in one's arsenal. My feeling is that many who don't affirm this haven't figured out how to do it well enough to care about it. Either that, or discussion isn't as much about narrowing in on truth collectively but about feeling good in the process.

That last one sounds a bit critical, but I do think there's genuinely a role for discourse that is more therapeutic than an attempt to reason to sound conclusions, and people need to feel that they can have that space at times without being criticized. Sometimes people want problem solving and solutions, and sometimes people want to tell a story and to be affirmed. The streams get crossed at times, as problem solving can sometimes be emotionally trying.

I think we would do well to be as gracious and discerning as possible as a highly prioritized virtue without sacrificing our commitment to civility and also our openness to people's genuinely expressed pain. How that happens isn't always easy, but I think is worthy of more discussion.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:30 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


I understand why people are saying they sometimes feel the backlash against innocently-ignorant questions or comments might be a little over the top, but can someone point out what exactly NoraReed or anyone else has said in this thread that is "mean"? I don't get it. She's clearly at the far end of the Teacherly Kindness In Rhetoric scale, sure, but I haven't seen anything from anyone in this part of the conversation that has been mean. Is it just the swearing? I didn't see anyone ripping forza up, just pushing back against the culture change she wants us to have.

Well, why does Nora Reed get to be the teacher, in this example? A teacher is imbued with moral authority; in an exchange between teacher and student we expect the student to sit and listen quietly and respectfully, because they are presumed to be ignorant and have come to this place, a classroom, to have their ignorance lessened.

The expections for a conversation between equals are different. Ideally, both parties go into the conversation with the understanding that though their opinions may differ, they're both intelligent, experienced people-of-the-world who have given some thought to those opinions. And so when the come at each other, they come at each other like, I hear what you're saying, but here's why I disagree. They come at each other with the understanding that they might not convince each other, that despite good faith and civil discussion one person might not win over the other because they're not just laying some knowledge on a tableau rasa, the person they're talking with has reasons for thinking like they do.

That, to me, is at least a part of it. When you come at conversations like that, that you're teaching the other person, wiping the mud from their eyes, there's something inherently patronising about it. People bristle. And especially when you come at a conversation like my pain gives me the right to be your teacher....it's tough. Most people will back away rather than argue against someone's pain. But not necessarily because they've been changed their mind. Just because they fear the eruption.

In a pure tactical sense, I do think there are a lot of small framing things that help avoid this issue. Clearly demarcating your opinion as an opinion is basically what it comes down to; you can get away with saying even stuff like "what you just said is an example of everything wrong with the world" if you put it like "I feel like what you've just said is an example of everything wrong with the world, because in my experience..." Or "to me, it seem like" or "I think that...." Making it conditional increases the effect, you allow the listener an out. "Sometimes I feel like" is even stronger. And often, you know, more true. Siths, absolutes, etc.
posted by Diablevert at 9:42 AM on October 23, 2014 [24 favorites]


Well, why does Nora Reed get to be the teacher, in this example?

What? I'm specifically saying that she isn't being teacherly. She's just sharing her opinions, which opinions many people apparently find rather abrasive. People were arguing that if people want to help others understand how they're being offensive, that they should behave kindly and teacherly for the best results, which is exactly the sentiment I'm pushing back against.
posted by dialetheia at 9:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Clearly demarcating your opinion as an opinion is basically what it comes down to; you can get away with saying even stuff like "what you just said is an example of everything wrong with the world" if you put it like "I feel like what you've just said is an example of everything wrong with the world, because in my experience..." Or "to me, it seem like" or "I think that...." Making it conditional increases the effect, you allow the listener an out.

I agree with you here, but why doesn't this likewise apply to our hypothetical innocently-ignorant commenter?
posted by dialetheia at 9:55 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hi - I'm a foo-and-baz user. And here's why.

In the past, I've had experiences where I'm trying to make a comment about HOW a conversation is happening, and have used for-instance examples by way of illustration: ("It'd be like if someone said 'green jellybeans suck' rather than saying 'i happen to dislike green jellybeans'"). But oftentimes, when I do that, people tend to get caught up in debating the illustrative examples I've used themselves ("well, green jellybeans DO suck." "No they don't!"), or even more confusing, they accuse ME of holding one of these stances ( "EC, why are you saying green jellybeans suck?") and people end up debating that rather than the point I was originally trying to make ("it doesn't matter what you think about green jellybeans or anything else, my point is that just outright saying they 'suck' isn't cool").

And thus, the use of foo/baz/schmeh, to avoid that kind of pointless derail. There's nothing to "comprehend" about what foo or baz mean, and that's the whole point. You're supposed to be looking at how people say those things.

But if anyone can think of a better way around the "why are you saying green jellybeans suck" problem, I'll happily use it. I've just been burned one too many times to not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


I've just been burned one too many times to not.

Just use X and Y or something. I understand why you use foo and baz but I'm one of the people who gets overly confused with too many variables that seem like words but aren't. To you they are obvious placeholders. To me I have to figure out if they are a thing or not before I can understand the rest of your sentence. If you'renot talking about tech (the context in which I am familiar with them) they're jarring.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:01 AM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


What? I'm specifically saying that she isn't being teacherly.

You said that she was "clearly at the far end of the Teacherly Kindness In Rhetoric scale", which had implied that she is somewhere within the realm of Teacherly Kindness, just at the far end. This had also suggested a connection with teachers to me. If that was a misunderstanding, then it is what it is.

Either way, the problem is not simply the unearned abrasiveness to a peer, but also the increasingly poor substantive grasp of forza's position. Inter-member abrasiveness may be a norm in some places, such as on 4chan, but this is MetaFilter. People on this site are generally able to express themselves well, even during disagreements. The site clogs up, the entire space tenses up, and even the substance of the discussion itself declines, when we needlessly fume at one another.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:01 AM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


I agree with you here, but why doesn't this likewise apply to our hypothetical innocently-ignorant commenter?

I think one problem is...they are ignorant that they will cause any offense so they don't feel the need to soften their language. But yeah, they should be reminded to try it in the future. Can be really tough to tell when it is legitimate ignorance or bad faith, but when it happens over and over from the same person it hardly matters which it is, the disruption to the threads just has to stop.

I mostly get annoyed at the people who know what they are doing and have demonstrated over time they know their behavior shits up threads but don't stop. And I'm guilty of it myself at times, because it's hard to use more gentle (I feel, in my view) language when one of your site pet peeves is people who absolutely refuse to acknowledge their opinion is in anything less than god's one universal truth. (I'm talking more about political stuff here, not social justice topics.)
posted by Drinky Die at 10:02 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


People were arguing that if people want to help others understand how they're being offensive, that they should behave kindly and teacherly for the best results, which is exactly the sentiment I'm pushing back against.

I'm saying that "wanting to help others understand how they're being offensive" is the problem. That it's the wrong frame, if what you're actually looking to do is encourage a wider range of views on the site, because it presupposes the idea that there's a clear line of demarcation between what's offensive and what's not which can and needs to be policed. That approaching it more like "here's why I am offended by that," emphasis on the I, might be more conducive to encouraging a wider range of viewpoints.

You are free to think that's wrong, and that encouraging people who have an opinion or two you find offensive to post to the site is detrimental to the site.
posted by Diablevert at 10:03 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


> Well, why does Nora Reed get to be the teacher, in this example?

At the risk of someone calling me creepy for mentioning comment history, NoraReed has made many comments here about wanting people to pay her to educate them in Feminism 101, and made frequent mention to undergrad courseload bona fides. And these all were definitely comments that could be considered in the tone argument argument. So, that seems like a pretty awkward way to come across on a general interest board and probably needs some sort of examination.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:06 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Is it ok to walk into 300 level seminars with remedial level questions?

So, that seems like a pretty awkward way to come across on a general interest board and probably needs some sort of examination.

Perhaps Metafilter is not a 300-level seminar room, and people who think they are 300-level seminar speakers aren't, especially when no one has been directing 300-level seminar questions to those non-speakers, and more especially when they feel obligated to "answer" in what has become a chronically toxic and off-putting way.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2014 [28 favorites]


You said that she was "clearly at the far end of the Teacherly Kindness In Rhetoric scale", which had implied that she is somewhere within the realm of Teacherly Kindness, just at the far end. This had also suggested a connection with teachers to me. If that was a misunderstanding, then it is what it is.

Yes, in response to forza's framing around teaching others as a preferable framework for this kind of discussion, and how we can kindly correct offensive statements without being jerks about it.

That it's the wrong frame, if what you're actually looking to do is encourage a wider range of views on the site

Ah, here's the disconnect - I don't think everyone on the site should have "encourage a wider range of views" as their highest value for their interactions here, and I would never frame it as people who have "an opinion or two you find offensive" - it's not about ideological purity, it's about saying hurtful things. Saying that people who have been street harassed just need to grow a thicker skin is hurtful and I'm glad that people here challenge that sentiment. I don't want to drive the person who says that sort of thing away from the site altogether, certainly, but I do want Mefi to remain a place where it is outside the norm to post things that are hurtful like that.
posted by dialetheia at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


Clearly demarcating your opinion as an opinion is basically what it comes down to; you can get away with saying even stuff like "what you just said is an example of everything wrong with the world" if you put it like "I feel like what you've just said is an example of everything wrong with the world, because in my experience..." Or "to me, it seem like" or "I think that...." Making it conditional increases the effect, you allow the listener an out. "Sometimes I feel like" is even stronger.

On the one hand, I believe there's a lot of truth to this. On the other hand--in my experience--this is a form of softening that is frequently asked of women and not men. As a woman, that makes me uncomfortable and honestly discourages me in a small way from participating in conversations where I am expected to suck up hurtful things that are said to me while worrying about the feelings of the people who are saying precisely those hurtful things.
posted by immlass at 10:16 AM on October 23, 2014 [22 favorites]


....can someone point out what exactly NoraReed or anyone else has said in this thread that is "mean"?

I actually wonder if I am misinterpreting what NoraReed was saying, but it came across as mean to me as a reader.

What bothered me about the comment and this probably refers to many other metafilter comments about the same topic, so I might be projecting things into the comment, was some of the language used, such as "entitled." I have noticed a trend to use terms like privileged, entitled, etc., to slap on the opposite group. I think at the end of the day, all of us are both privileged and unprivileged in different ways, but to label the other group as such tells them you don't have a voice in this conversation, get out. Unless you are a member of the group that is considered not privileged in whatever domain,don't participate in the conversation.

...might educate their damn selves to avoid looking like fools....

I think that everyone has blinders and will continue to learn other points of view and how to hopefully listen and not step on each other's toes throughout our entire lives. There might be times that we make mistakes, but this comment also seems to slap a label on a group (ie, you look like idiots because you haven't learned the lesson).

I personally think that it might be better to encourage discourse and conversation to learn other perspectives. I have over the years learned a lot from other people's point of view, but I don't think that it would be facilitated by being told I need to learn because I look like or will look like a fool.
posted by Wolfster at 10:16 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Saying that people who have been street harassed just need to grow a thicker skin is hurtful and I'm glad that people here challenge that sentiment.

There are ways to challenge that sentiment, and to challenge it well. But that sentiment was never a sentiment of Forza's, and she was not talking about never challenging that sentiment.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:20 AM on October 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


Nor did I (or anyone else) ever say it was forza's statement? It was one of the specific examples she gave of a comment she argued would be jumped all over here despite possibly coming from a well-intentioned place.

On the one hand, I believe there's a lot of truth to this. On the other hand--in my experience--this is a form of softening that is frequently asked of women and not men. As a woman, that makes me uncomfortable and honestly discourages me in a small way from participating in conversations where I am expected to suck up hurtful things that are said to me while worrying about the feelings of the people who are saying precisely those hurtful things.

Just wanted to quote this for truth. Perfectly said, immlass!
posted by dialetheia at 10:24 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nor did I (or anyone else) ever say it was forza's statement? It was one of the specific examples she gave of a comment she argued would be jumped all over here despite possibly coming from a well-intentioned place.

Are you saying that this comment of yours was irrelevant?
Saying that people who have been street harassed just need to grow a thicker skin is hurtful and I'm glad that people here challenge that sentiment.
You agree that nobody actually in the thread was saying this, regarding thicker skin. You agree that nobody was talking about not challenging such a statement. So, what's left?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:29 AM on October 23, 2014


I am referring to forza's comment here, where she specifies that one of the well-intentioned opinions that might be jumped on is "I can see how catcalling is really annoying, and I don't do it myself, but I think people should just get a thicker skin."
posted by dialetheia at 10:31 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Because it doesn't make sense to or because you don't feel like it?

Haha, witty.

I mainly can't be bothered because there are quite a few people here who are very strongly attached to the importance of 'rationality', and I can't be bothered debating it.
posted by knapah at 10:41 AM on October 23, 2014


Yes, I am aware. That is a comment, drawn from another person, which she cites. She said, "I think all or most of these things are somewhat ignorant and wrong, but they often aren't bigoted or in bad faith." To whatever extent we may agree or disagree with that assessment of hers, we can do so as intelligent commenters.

At no point did she describe (let alone "specify") such a comment as a "well-intentioned opinion". Misstatements and misinterpretations do not lead to better-quality discussion.

So, getting back to this:
Saying that people who have been street harassed just need to grow a thicker skin is hurtful and I'm glad that people here challenge that sentiment.
It still does not appear to be a response to any sort of in-thread position.

I wouldn't ordinarily be so persnickety, but it appears to me that this is a level of detail which you want, e.g by asking others for more specific examples of NoraReed being "mean".
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:41 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm glad we can talk about those things here.

Me too, and in particular I'm grateful for the comments from dialetheia and forza that have moved this conversation in really interesting directions. This MeTa could have been awful, but instead it's been informative.

I followed the thread for a couple days before I thought of something I had been afraid to say on Metafilter (although I'm overall familiar with the chilling effect of fearing to say something lest I be associated forever with some awful viewpoint on whatever issue). I'll go ahead and say it now: I think that Zoe Quinn is a self-admitted abuser who shouldn't be held up on Metafilter or anywhere else as a feminist hero. I think her ex-boyfriend is young and maybe misguided, but also a victim and not the villain he's understood to be. I also think (at the same time!) the way Quinn was treated by gamergaters was horrific and frightening.

If I'm wrong about this I'd kind of like to be set right. Not to derail the thread though.
posted by torticat at 10:43 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


i guess i'm reading "aren't bigoted or in bad faith" as equal to or in the ballpark of "well-intentioned opinion."
posted by twist my arm at 10:45 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't? Either way, it was still not a position of Forza's, nor did she say to never challenge it.

Dredging this away from apparent nitpicking, what I'm saying is that the weird focus on statements which aren't even in-thread positions appears to me to be an unproductive way to avoid responding to Forza's actual, and nuanced, opinions. It's easy to snark about the parenthetical thicker skins remark: certainly much easier than actually responding to Forza.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:47 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is getting a bit overly personal - I'm not sure what the "level of detail I want" has to do with anything - so I'm going to step back, but yes, I interpreted things the same way as twist my arm.
posted by dialetheia at 10:47 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, be well.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:49 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't like tone arguments. I don't think they're any more productive than the anger they seek to moderate. Moreover, I think they have the rhetorical effect, though not the intent, of telling an angry person that their anger is unreasonable or unwarranted — and if that is the intent, then I think the person making the tone argument doesn't actually materially agree with the angry person, whatever the former may claim.

That said, I've been trying to moderate my own commenting style. I don't like wasting time arguing with pedants who say they agree with my facts and reasoning, but wish I made my argument at a less audible volume. Taking a more moderate tone is simply a way of preventing objections from that angle.

Still, this is just something I'm doing for myself. I wouldn't want to jump on someone for nastily saying something that I fundamentally agreed with unless it crossed an extremely clear line.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:02 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


> but can someone point out what exactly NoraReed or anyone else has said in this thread that is "mean"? I don't get it.

She was treating forza as if she (forza) had gone on some tiresome rant about evil feminists instead of making a thoughtful and carefully expressed point, despite the fact that forza went on to repeatedly (and much more mildly than I would have done) clarify what she was saying. NoraReed never once acknowledged what forza was saying and never actually engaged with her at all; it's as if her switch got set to "eviscerate" and she went ahead full strength and never looked back. That's shitty behavior and poisonous to conversation, on MetaFilter or anywhere else.
posted by languagehat at 11:13 AM on October 23, 2014 [39 favorites]


It's easy to snark about the parenthetical thicker skins remark: certainly much easier than actually responding to Forza.

Well... and that's the easy part. What about responding to forza's dad or someone else who might actually make the "thicker skin" comment?

I think that forza's suggestion upthread is well-taken, that if you don't want to educate people "for free," then fine, just step back. If there were a risk that bullshit on metafilter would otherwise pass unchallenged then it would be a different situation. But bullshit doesn't generally pass unchallenged. MF's trans members have been exemplary in showing how this kind of patient education can take place, and I think a lot of us here could testify, on a lot of different issues, that it really works.

Also, forza, I wish you would get your dad on metafilter. Give him some background, send him some 101 links, and bring him on!
posted by torticat at 11:13 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


She was treating forza as if she (forza) had gone on some tiresome rant about evil feminists instead of making a thoughtful and carefully expressed point, despite the fact that forza went on to repeatedly (and much more mildly than I would have done) clarify what she was saying.

Yes, this exactly. Was NoraReed even trying to have a conversation or simply spouting off for her own reasons? Because it came off as the latter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:19 AM on October 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


If there were a risk that bullshit on metafilter would otherwise pass unchallenged then it would be a different situation. But bullshit doesn't generally pass unchallenged.

This seems circular. You're encouraging people not to bother challenging bullshit because bullshit doesn't go unchallenged?

MF's trans members have been exemplary in showing how this kind of patient education can take place, and I think a lot of us here could testify, on a lot of different issues, that it really works.

And a lot of MeFi's trans* members have expressed how exhausting and personally hurtful it gets to have to be continually patient and kind in order to try to educate people. People in this very thread have said they find it tiring and painful.
posted by Lexica at 11:25 AM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


... but can someone point out what exactly NoraReed or anyone else has said in this thread that is "mean"? I don't get it.

What languagehat said. What torticat said. Etc.

And for what it's worth, being yelled at and dismissed - or observing people who think that's okay - is triggering for some people.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:27 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


MF's trans members have been exemplary in showing how this kind of patient education can take place, and I think a lot of us here could testify, on a lot of different issues, that it really works.

Dollars to donuts most of them would actually disagree pretty strongly with this characterization of their experience, the response of other users (and the mod response to them), the efficacy of what you consider patient education, and even how well it is really working now.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:33 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


"Well then we'd need some standards of what constitutes unnecessary meanness. What kind of things can't you say, even if your point is correct. What tone is acceptable."

Two things: First off, there are some standards at MeFi over what you can't say even if your point is correct. We've both had things deleted for falling afoul of that line. Second, that's not really what I asked. I wanted to get a sense of where you would draw the lines and how workable a policy you were proposing.
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 AM on October 23, 2014


Lexica: "And a lot of MeFi's trans* members have expressed how exhausting and personally hurtful it gets to have to be continually patient and kind in order to try to educate people. People in this very thread have said they find it tiring and painful."

This is definitely the case for me. Yes, it's possible to respond to blunt and often shockingly rude comments, questions and assumptions -- including comments that to many may well look polite and calm but contain viciousness in their pleasant words -- kindly and with teacher's hat firmly attached, but I don't want anyone to be under the impression that it does anything but shift the emotional load of the thread firmly onto the back of the person or people having to do this.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:33 AM on October 23, 2014 [32 favorites]


Ah, here's the disconnect - I don't think everyone on the site should have "encourage a wider range of views" as their highest value for their interactions here, and I would never frame it as people who have "an opinion or two you find offensive" - it's not about ideological purity, it's about saying hurtful things. Saying that people who have been street harassed just need to grow a thicker skin is hurtful and I'm glad that people here challenge that sentiment. I don't want to drive the person who says that sort of thing away from the site altogether, certainly, but I do want Mefi to remain a place where it is outside the norm to post things that are hurtful like that.

Well, perhaps that is in the end the difference here: I am sure that hearing someone express that opinion is hurtful to you, and lots of other people. I don't particularly care, myself. I mean, I don't agree with it, but hearing someone say that does not wound me. I'm sure there's some other topic which would get under my skin but not yours. At the end of the day I'd rather risk the aggravation, and yes, even pain, of hearing someone say stuff I find offensive if it materially increases the chance that I'll also hear a bunch of stuff I find novel, or heartwarming, or insightful, or fascinating. Which I think it does. The choir all wear the same robes.

Because, in addition, I think there's actually a lot of daylight between metafilter being a place where opinions someone finds offensive are callenged and metafilter being a place where someone is afraid to post an opinion for fear of causing offense. Because like I said above, if someone says something that you find hurtful, and you respond by saying "I found that hurtful, because in my experience...." I think that you are in fact still challenging the opinion but you're doing it in a way that's a lot more productive of light than heat. But then again, as I alluded to, I tend to feel that it's not so easy to demarcate a clear bright line between what offensive and what's not, that each person will have their own barometer of that --- and ideally should be cognisant of that fact.


On the one hand, I believe there's a lot of truth to this. On the other hand--in my experience--this is a form of softening that is frequently asked of women and not men. As a woman, that makes me uncomfortable and honestly discourages me in a small way from participating in conversations where I am expected to suck up hurtful things that are said to me while worrying about the feelings of the people who are saying precisely those hurtful things.


I don't necessarily disagree with that. I'm not saying it's fair. I'm just saying I think it's effective. To be clear, I think it's an effective tactic regardless of the gender of the person employing it, though I agree that women are more often expected to be the ones in the peacemaker role. In a perfect world, there would be no gender bias in this expectation. In this world I'd rather have peace.
posted by Diablevert at 11:36 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I am finding it both ironic and hurtful that trans* MeFites are being lauded for being an example of what we "should" do when they so frequently get hurtful and insulting pushback even when they are at their gentlest. I will never forget a semi-recent MeTa thread where trans* and trans* supporting MeFites were continually described in late thread roundups as yelling and being aggressive in a way which was hurting our cause; to have that glossed over with "be patient and kind and informative like them" is maddening. It both denies that people subject to systemic oppression have the experience of being perceived as aggressive when we are assertive, and sets up an impossibly painful circumstance where those most injured by a situation are expected to cater to and protect those least hurt.

I was called a bully once for quoting and replying to someone three times.

There is an inequality in how we are perceived.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:50 AM on October 23, 2014 [29 favorites]


I am also trans*/intersex and I agree that the environment here and the expectation/demand that I/we be polite when our detractors are not is deeply burdensome and really not in good faith. It's a classic rhetorical strategy to quell dissent, and I don't appreciate it at all.

At times I've tried to make that clear to moderators and I can't say that it was with total success. I may have been heard, but it didn't seem to change mod policy. The idea that the conversational narrative and continuity is more important than deletion of hurtful, harassing, bullying comments is, to put it mildly, deeply frustrating and very difficult for me to reconcile with the stated purpose of making this place safer for a diverse population.
posted by kalessin at 11:57 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


This seems circular. You're encouraging people not to bother challenging bullshit because bullshit doesn't go unchallenged?

No, but sorry and I understand why you took it that way. I was saying, the bullshit IS generally challenged. Often in a courteous, non-threatening way, which I think is effective. No one is required to respond in a courteous, non-threatening way; but when they do it's effective for some people. Not for all; I do understand that some people take a courteous, non-threatening response as license to strike back with more bullying bullshit.

Dollars to donuts most of them would actually disagree pretty strongly with this characterization of their experience, the response of other users (and the mod response to them), the efficacy of what you consider patient education, and even how well it is really working now.

Okay. I personally have been impressed and learned a lot. No doubt I have a lot more to learn. ArmyOfKittens and kalessin--I didn't mean to characterize your experience at all, but just to say thank you for your contributions, from MY perspective. To the extent that educating me (and i'm assuming a lot of other mefites) has been painful and taken a lot out of you, I really am sorry.
posted by torticat at 12:19 PM on October 23, 2014


In a perfect world, there would be no gender bias in this expectation. In this world I'd rather have peace.

The tradeoffs are different for different people. Partaking of conversations where people shit on groups I'm a member of (women, for a start, and I know it's just as bad, or even worse, on race/class/queer/trans issues) gives me a choice of swallowing that shit while it burns in my gut to keep the peace OR being a mean bitch who issues talking points with no relevance to the conversation (cf the treatment of NoraReed upthread). Or, throwing up my hands and deciding not to participate.

Peace on Metafilter is a great thing. I'm all for it. I'm just tired of seeing the same people asked over and over to pay for it.
posted by immlass at 12:25 PM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


Re "tone," here's a list of rules I made for myself, based on observations of what has worked for me here and on other sites. (An old version is posted on my profile page.)
posted by grumblebee at 12:26 PM on October 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


Asking for a safe space for the supposedly well-intentioned who won't even read a 101 link

I've been thinking about this, and it occurs to me. Would there be value in having this kind of thing for other groups which are minorities on Metafilter?

Because often I feel like I'm in a thread with people who do not understand simple things that are common knowledge to everyone actually familiar with the issue, but they become contentious because it's presented as X person saying it or Y person saying it, rather than being a commonly sourced thing that everyone can look at and see the citations over.

Which is what other people are saying they are tired of - hearing the same arguments again and again. And those of us who are in the minority are tired of hearing the same ignorant stuff again and again.

I'm not talking about things that are defining what is morally correct. I'm talking about...oh, say, "Guns 101" containing things like "What is a magazine? What is the difference between automatic and semiautomatic fire? What is commonly referred to as an assault weapon, and what are its features?"
posted by corb at 12:34 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think it's an excellent idea, if you're making an FPP that you think might rely on some specialised knowledge, to smalltext a 101 link that you've personally vetted, either at the end of the FPP or in the first comment.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:37 PM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


I appreciate the direction these comments have taken while I've been asleep. And I totally understand that it is exhausting and wearisome and feels unfair to be asked to uphold one standard that it doesn't seem your oppressor / opponent / detractor is also being held to. I also really, really appreciate the people who have tried to be gentle and reasonable even when it takes a lot out of them.

To take an inappropriate analogy, I think the situation is something like the following. We, a collection of like-minded people, are having an interesting conversation about farts. For many of us it's such a relief to share our thoughts on farts without someone coming in and farting on us -- because of our past history we have been farted on a lot (more than many people) and it has been very freeing to have this space where that doesn't happen.

Then someone -- a nice person, but naive and clueless -- comes in and thinks "Hey! They're talking about farts! I'll take part in this conversation!" Maybe they even read some of our literature on farts first, but they still don't get or agree with everything right away, and during the course of their contribution they let out a big fart. I think it's too bad if the response to that is "You fucking oppressor! We don't actually fart here, and if you were a decent person you would have educated yourself about us! Shut the fuck up!" That's a great way to make them either snarl back angrily -- thus destroying the awesome conversation we were having anyway -- or at best leave, thinking we're all a bunch of assholes, further entrenched in their views and less willing to reach out.

I think that if someone comes into polite company and lets out a fart, it's far better to either say to them kindly "I'm not sure if you realised it, but we don't really fart out loud here" or -- if you don't have the emotional energy for it -- ignore them. They'll figure it out, possibly after farting a few more times.

I'm sure people are reading this and thinking "But that's not fair! Why do I have the burden of responding politely to my oppressor?" And, again, I agree it's hard. But you don't have to respond! I'm not saying you do: ignore them!

And more importantly: these people aren't our oppressors. My kind, bespectacled, ex-high-school-math-teacher father who dotes on his grandchildren and learns new programming languages for fun? Not the oppressor, even if he comes into a thread and does the equivalent of farting in it. The teacher and family friend who told me when I was a young adult that if I just stopped having opinions and shut up then I would be a better helpmate to some young man someday? Also not the oppressor. These people may be the recipients of a system in which they have more privilege -- but THEY aren't the oppressor: the system of thought that reinforces their privilege and way of thinking is. They are just people, like we all are.

I found that once I had that realisation the kinds of comments made by these people bothered me far less. Suddenly the person who came in and farted wasn't a faceless person wearing the Mask of the Patriarchy who wanted to oppress me: it was someone who was a victim of the system in a different way. Someone who was imprisoned in their way of thinking about things, and who, in coming into the thread, was trying to break out of their prison the only way they knew how.

Politely correcting them (I'm not saying let them go unchallenged! just be polite and respectful) or ignoring them if we don't feel up to that is helping to break down the prison. Yelling and cursing at them just reinforces the prison and further entrenches this view that they are our enemy. But they aren't the enemy, they aren't the oppressor, and treating them as if they are just reinforces the very system we want to tear down.
posted by forza at 12:42 PM on October 23, 2014 [28 favorites]


forza: "But you don't have to respond! I'm not saying you do: ignore them!"

That runs up against the other thing that's been brought up recently in this thread: that people have learned a lot about trans issues -- to take an example close to my heart -- from trans mefites posting in these threads. If all the trans mefites ignore someone being aggressively unpleasant (or just incredibly wrong) because we don't have the emotional energy to deal with it, and the conversation starts forming around that person, then the education ball starts rolling in the wrong direction.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:50 PM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


And those of us who are in the minority are tired of hearing the same ignorant stuff again and again.

Respectfully, I suspect that taking the time to add cites to your comments, 101-level or otherwise, would be a welcome change for most readers, ignorant or otherwise. I know I would welcome this change in commenting style and hope that you seriously consider it.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I would read a Guns 101 link.
posted by sweetkid at 12:55 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


forza, I agree with nearly everything you've written there, but I'm curious how often you think this "You fucking oppressor! We don't actually fart here, and if you were a decent person you would have educated yourself about us! Shut the fuck up!" reaction happens here. Do you perceive only a few of the people who comment here as presenting themselves this way, or is it more of a sitewide problem in your eyes? Do you think this happens in every thread? I guess the reason I read your initial comments differently is that I think this is a fairly limited phenomenon, and there are only a few users who really cross that line while most commenters are already doing their best to be respectful when they point out something problematic.
posted by dialetheia at 12:57 PM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


But you don't have to respond! I'm not saying you do: ignore them!

Sure! But again, to call out some behavior in this very thread: NoraReed said some kind of harsh things, maybe she farted in the no-fart zone, but a few people had to come dump on her. Why is it up to NoraReed to take it on the chin? Where's the callout for people who don't like what she said to be more civil in their address to her and to her points? And if there's only a callout for NoraReed to shut it down because she was rude and not to the people who were jerkish in response to her, what signal do you think is sent with that callout?
posted by immlass at 12:58 PM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


I've had to explain things like what "Assault Weapon" or "Assault Rifle" mean to pro-gun people in various conversations around the net and I've never shot one in my life, there really is a lot of ignorance about some basic information that a decent FAQ might be able to handle. That said, most of the time the technical jargon about guns isn't really as important to the conversation as pro-gun people can perceive it to be.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:59 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


MF's trans members have been exemplary in showing how this kind of patient education can take place, and I think a lot of us here could testify, on a lot of different issues, that it really works.

They have been accused on more than one occasion - I can go dig up the links if you want, but they're not hard to find in some of the trans*-related meTas we've had - of being mean and shrill and hateful. This is in conversations where from *my* point of view, AoK for example has been being patient and not at all shouty or anything, and she will get shit for not being patient enough. It's enough to make a cat cry.

Also: I have said, in so many words "I don't know what it feels like to be A Woman, I only know what it feels like to be me/This Woman" without getting shit about it because I'm not using it as a rhetorical device to tell someone else that their experience can't be real because it doesn't match mine. That is the context in which, more often than not, I've seen people get justifiably pissed off.
posted by rtha at 1:00 PM on October 23, 2014 [17 favorites]


NoraReed said some kind of harsh things, maybe she farted in the no-fart zone, but a few people had to come dump on her.

Who dumped on NoraReed for what she said?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:01 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


> And more importantly: these people aren't our oppressors.

But some people here think, or assume, they are. That's exactly the problem; it's fine to rage against The Man, but it's not fine to assume everyone who doesn't think and react exactly like you is The Man.
posted by languagehat at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2014 [24 favorites]


Sorry -- toddler waking up! must move! -- but very quickly:

Do you perceive only a few of the people who comment here as presenting themselves this way, or is it more of a sitewide problem in your eyes? Do you think this happens in every thread?

This may be some of where we have different impressions. I think it's a clear minority of people, but they are often the loudest / most vociferous, and in thus the majority of threads this will happen several times at least. I think most people here are awesome or I wouldn't continue to hang around! But unless you've been around for a long time, just a few mocking, mean, harsh putdowns that look like they are supported by the mods and the other members is enough to form a really negative impression about the site as a whole.
posted by forza at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


That said, most of the time the technical jargon about guns isn't really as important to the conversation as pro-gun people can perceive it to be.

Yes, this. And further, while I would like to err on the side of MORE factual information than less, in these sorts of discussions such factual information sometimes tends to end up being more rules lawyering of opposing opinions rather than "here is something you might not have known which will give you useful background on this subject".
posted by poffin boffin at 1:09 PM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


That said, most of the time the technical jargon about guns isn't really as important to the conversation as pro-gun people can perceive it to be.

I like guns, and I completely agree with this. There are specific discussions for which terminology and definitions are critically important (eg a discussion of various proposals for defining and regulating certain types of guns, say) but 99.9 percent of the time fussing about clip vs magazine is completely tangential to the actual discussion, and someone using colloquial language doesn't a) make them ignorant or b) invalidate their perspective on things like legislation, policy, and history.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I can't count how many times I've read something along the lines of "You don't know bolt action from lever action, therefore your opinion on gun control is suspect" in FPPs about mass shooting events or gun control more generally. A community standard that expects people to do 101 research could be valuable, but would need to have some leeway for people to not be grilled about irrelevant tangents that don't pertain to the underlying argument.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Toddler is being quiet for five minutes!

If all the trans mefites ignore someone being aggressively unpleasant (or just incredibly wrong) because we don't have the emotional energy to deal with it, and the conversation starts forming around that person, then the education ball starts rolling in the wrong direction.

I see what you're saying, but I don't think that will happen. Like I said, I think the majority of people here are really good at either responding well or ignoring. So not everyone will always feel like they don't have the emotional energy: there is usually someone willing to say something.

My sense is just that the people who respond by mocking and berating actually undo a lot of the good work that the respectful people like yourself are doing. Where people might have learned, instead they feel attacked and belittled and either leave or close their mind. So all your well-chosen words fall on deaf or absent ears. I would have thought that you too would prefer not to have that happen, though I'm totally aware I could be missing something and don't want to put words in your mouth!
posted by forza at 1:20 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


The tradeoffs are different for different people. Partaking of conversations where people shit on groups I'm a member of (women, for a start, and I know it's just as bad, or even worse, on race/class/queer/trans issues) gives me a choice of swallowing that shit while it burns in my gut to keep the peace OR being a mean bitch who issues talking points with no relevance to the conversation (cf the treatment of NoraReed upthread). Or, throwing up my hands and deciding not to participate.

Upon reflection, it was dumbassed of me to bring up the metaphor of peace and war; what I think I'd really like is a world where nobody thought of this place as a battlefield where every time someone gets away with saying something offensive, their side lost a point. A place full of enemies to vanquish. What I personally'd like better is the everything else room of Grover's Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum.

But that aside, I can understand the frustration of having to be polite to someone you think is a dipshit. But I think the frustration of that is actually a universal experience, one you or I might have when confronting someone we feel is being a misogynist, one someone else might have in a different circumstance. If that feeling of frustration comes up more for me as a woman, say, that's to do with the fact that the world's pretty anti-woman sometimes. It changes nothing about what's gonna work on the individual person in front of me, that I'm talking to, that I want to persuade. A whole person, a citizen of this community, with virtues and flaws, and perspectives I don't share and knowledge I don't have and yeah, maybe some dumbassed opinions about street harassment or what have you.
posted by Diablevert at 1:22 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


forza: "I see what you're saying, but I don't think that will happen. "

Yes, but, it has, literally, actually happened. It's why so many of us engage, despite what it costs us.

forza: "My sense is just that the people who respond by mocking and berating actually undo a lot of the good work that the respectful people like yourself are doing."

Please don't pit me against other trans women like that.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:24 PM on October 23, 2014 [32 favorites]


But also: if people ignore a person then the conversation won't form around them. We can continue to talk about what farts mean to us even if the scent of a recently-released fart is permeating the air.
posted by forza at 1:24 PM on October 23, 2014


Please don't pit me against other trans women like that.

Okay, sorry, I didn't mean to.
posted by forza at 1:25 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


MF's trans members have been exemplary in showing how this kind of patient education can take place, and I think a lot of us here could testify, on a lot of different issues, that it really works.

I wanted to add that my interest in how we address each other isn't motivated by a desire to use rhetoric to silence, but because I've seen people on this site who I've grown to care about in large part because they use charity and patience to respond to intolerance in a way that was transformative to me, as an observer.

Fundamentally, it comes down to a personal philosophy on how you balance personal rights to respond in the face of injustice, but some of the more beautiful things I've seen on this site have been those who respond way better than their interlocutor had any right to expect. It changed not only how I feel about what works in communication, but also about the person who responded with such kindness and patience. I think we sometimes see this as a one-on-one between a handful of people in a discussion thread, but it's a large room with a lot people on it, and we affect and encourage others by how we respond in the face of negativity. I grow to care more about a person whose life situation I didn't know about because I see something significant in their character when they don't lower themselves to a tit-for-tat situation.

I'm not saying it's not hard, because it is. I'm not saying we are all perfect and shouldn't be given room to blow it occasionally. I'm also not saying that we shouldn't hold people to higher standards if they are being miserable. I'm just saying that I really, really appreciate it when I see people being kind, even to people who don't deserve it. It doesn't always have a positive effect, and I'm sure that's part of the frustration. But I'm guessing that it does more often than not, especially to people who are observing and take something away from that interchange.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:25 PM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


The teacher and family friend who told me when I was a young adult that if I just stopped having opinions and shut up then I would be a better helpmate to some young man someday? Also not the oppressor.

I'm very much not suggesting that you need to think about that event in any way different than you do, but in my world a teacher telling a young person with their Voice Of Authority something like that is indeed oppressive. It doesn't make that person a Bad Person or deserving of attack, but it is a bad and oppressive action and if someone here did that they would deserve for their statement to be called out for what it is.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:28 PM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


I see what you're saying, but I don't think that will happen.

It does happen, though. Most recently it happened about a year ago in MeTa during an incredibly awful thread during and after which we lost about 6-7 wonderful members who could no longer stand to be here, and one terrible person was finally banned.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:29 PM on October 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


Oh, well, actually the most recent was the super terrible TERF sockpuppet incident, I think.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:30 PM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


Where people might have learned, instead they feel attacked and belittled

What I wish is that there could be universal agreement and acknowledgement over what "attacked and belittled" means. Like, when someone says - as they have, in words, on this site - that they do not consider someone to be of the gender they say they are without having gone through sex-reassignment surgery and full legal name-change, the response to that shitty thing is more likely to be characterized as an attack or as mean or as not being good education even when it's way more patient and with no swearing than I could manage.

the good work that the respectful people like yourself are doing.

This is a good example: AoK has been called out in other threads for not being patient or respectful, and has been accused of driving away people who just want to be educated. She and other trans* mefites have been accused of being awful when all they've been is angry, and justifiably so. Anger is not disrespect; anger is not cruelty; anger is not even dismissal. Sometimes people are angry, and they have every right to be, and they have every right to express that anger within the guidelines here.
posted by rtha at 1:32 PM on October 23, 2014 [34 favorites]


it is a bad and oppressive action and if someone here did that they would deserve for their statement to be called out for what it is.

Call it out: sure. Being told that this sort of statement is hurtful and can affect how the recipient views herself and etc etc? Sure. Being told "you are the oppressor! What you said is bad an oppressive! Shut the fuck up!" Even in that case, I don't think it's a good idea.
posted by forza at 1:41 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, what rtha said. If someone says something that makes me angry, and I respond in a way that communicates that anger, that is not being mean or abrasive. That is just being angry. The fact that anger from historically marginalized groups is taken as some sort of oppressive shock by the majority doesn't mean it actually IS.
posted by KathrynT at 1:41 PM on October 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


Call it out: sure. Being told that this sort of statement is hurtful and can affect how the recipient views herself and etc etc? Sure. Being told "you are the oppressor! What you said is bad an oppressive! Shut the fuck up!" Even in that case, I don't think it's a good idea.

I think we've reached the point of "citations, please". You and a few others keep asserting that people are telling others "you are the oppressor, shut the fuck up" which does not jibe at all with my experience reading MeFi. People generally bend over backwards to take the Jay Smooth "what you just said was X-ist" approach. If there actually are people jumping to "fuck you" right out of the gate, it would be useful to see some examples.
posted by Lexica at 1:47 PM on October 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


forza: My kind, bespectacled, ex-high-school-math-teacher father who dotes on his grandchildren and learns new programming languages for fun? Not the oppressor, even if he comes into a thread and does the equivalent of farting in it.

When I was in my early twenties, I drove a van to pick up clients. In most of the world, I was relatively powerless - poor, young, female, fat.

I told a black man to go to the back of the van.

In the context of the driver, in the context as a white person, in that moment I was an oppressor. Does that mean I wore a white hood on the weekends? No. But in that moment I stepped into the historical pattern of racism that was black people are less important than white people, and I was on the side of the oppressor.

I had no idea. One of my superiors educated me. I was horrified. That doesn't make what I did any less racism, or me in that moment any less an oppressor who added an undue burden to the life of a man who didn't deserve any undue burdens. He never forgave me, and I never asked him to because I didn't deserve it from him. His rage at me, his ability to dislike me without me ever retaliating in kind was the only restitution I could pay directly toward him.

The other restitution is that in his memory, I have tried to be more sensitive to systems of oppression, where I stand in them, and who I lend my power and voice in support of.

Your kind father with many his good qualities remains that person even if in ignorance he does something racist or sexist, but none of his qualities change those actions or the effect they have on others.

The reason systemic oppression is systemic is because good, kind people want to be protected from the knowledge that sometimes they do sucky things to other people because being told they did a sucky thing feels bad. It's nicer if the people hurt just shut up about it - then the illusion that there is "peace" can be maintained.

I think most people would think I'm a kind, good person they like to have around. I have been a racist and sexist and transphobic fuckwit. Most of the time I wasn't called on it because I presented myself as an ally and they were just too tired - most of the time I realize my fuckwittery because I was educating myself because I wanted people to think I was a good, kind person and I hit a list of "things allies do that hurt us" and realize "Oh fuck, that was ME".
posted by Deoridhe at 1:51 PM on October 23, 2014 [21 favorites]


"What you said is bad and oppressive" is like the gentlest, kindest, most teaching thing a person could possibly say that isn't just "thank you, sir, may I have another."
posted by KathrynT at 1:52 PM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think that if someone comes into polite company and lets out a fart, it's far better to either say to them kindly "I'm not sure if you realised it, but we don't really fart out loud here" or -- if you don't have the emotional energy for it -- ignore them. They'll figure it out, possibly after farting a few more times.

[...]

These people may be the recipients of a system in which they have more privilege -- but THEY aren't the oppressor: the system of thought that reinforces their privilege and way of thinking is. They are just people, like we all are.


Not every privileged person comes into these threads to learn. We privileged people - I'm a middle-class straight white man, hence the pronoun - will not necessarily figure out the problem, no matter how many or how gentle the cues we receive. We benefit materially by our privilege, so having the unfairness of this material benefit demonstrated to us, even very thoroughly, will not necessarily cause us to seek to end the system by which we receive it. A lot of us just don't believe that the system's results are unfair or even unequal, or that there is anything for us to learn, and will finally fall back on irrational disbelief when we exaust every counter-argument we can think of.

We might mean well, but most of us, when push comes to shove, work to keep what we get, even if it isn't fair that we get it. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

So I think reducing the system of privilege to a system of thought, as though, by convincing enough people of its injustice, we could end it forever, is reductive, even as I agree that it's probably no good to immediately go nuclear on people who come in spouting conventional wisdom and expecting it to be treated as the Sun of Reason itself. Some of us, like your teacher, really are the oppressors, whether we mean to be or not. So am I, and I don't doubt it's more often than I think it is.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:56 PM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


If anger is not allowed for me to express, I may as well stay away in totality. Like Dr Bruce Banner I am constantly living in a world that angers me with its injustice and hypocrisy every single moment. That I am able to express myself politely is because of my fantastic upbringing.
posted by kalessin at 2:20 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


But nobody's saying you, or anyone else, is not allowed to express anger! That's the disconnect here; when someone says "Anger is totally understandable, but often things go better when it isn't directly expressed," this is taken as equivalent to "You have no right to your anger," and things go straight downhill. I totally get that trans* people have to put up with all kinds of assholery, ignorant and deliberate, and I totally get that it can take too much out of you to sit around trying to decide exactly what balance of ignorance and malice is being exhibited, but none of that changes the fact that things tend to go better when people are charitable toward one another. Why is that even controversial?
posted by languagehat at 2:27 PM on October 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


Being charitable is often exhausting.
posted by futz at 2:31 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


languagehat: "Why is that even controversial?"

Because the burden of a difficult conversation is placed on the shoulders of those for whom it is most difficult.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:32 PM on October 23, 2014 [25 favorites]


You know, if you consider yourself an ally and you think the angry/aggressive comments from trans community members (or NoraReed or whatever subset of people on that day) are going off the rails, there is nothing stopping you from jumping in and doing some peer-to-peer education. You can say, "Hey, I know you didn't mean to be hurtful but a lot of mean-spirited people say (seemingly innocuous thing you said) when they really mean (horrible bigoted thing)." You can even memail then or offer for them to memail you to learn more and better understand how to constructively engage in the conversation. Be the change, etc.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:33 PM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's certainly okay to get angry. It's a fundamental human emotion. I think the discussion hinges on what we do in our anger and whether or not that breaches civility. Some people would suggest that even broaching that topic of being "appropriately angry" is potentially silencing, but I think we do (and have done) ourselves a disservice as human beings if we don't examine carefully what it means to be angry in the right ways.

I think some people fear it as a potential silencing tactic, or that it has been used inappropriately here. That should be discussed. But it's not wrong to say that there are wrong ways to be angry. I think that when we talk about civil discourse, there are ways to incorporate the corpus of human emotions into this process. That is the nuance I'm interested in trying to figure out, not whether or not people can be mad. We aren't passionless robots, after all, which is what prompts this conversation from both sides in the first place
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:36 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why is that even controversial?

Because all to often just the expression of anger is taken as an actual attack, and/or is treated as the angry person being unwilling to educate (like, ever, I guess?), or - this to me is the one that makes me want to yak hardest - as a sign that the angry person is irrational on the subject and so doesn't need to be taken seriously.

If we take a page from the book of "just ignore the people who say offensive things" mentioned earlier, then how about if people who don't like it when other people get angry just ignore that? Ignoring can work both ways, right? If the best way to deal with offensive-thing-sayers is sometimes just to ignore them, then hey, feel free to ignore angry people too.
posted by rtha at 2:41 PM on October 23, 2014 [18 favorites]


Yes. If you ignore someone who's angry at you they'll likely cool off and thank you for not escalating further. Or at least a lot of SJ activists I know would.
posted by kalessin at 2:44 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]



but none of that changes the fact that things tend to go better when people are charitable toward one another. Why is that even controversial?

Because it is inappropriately one-sided in allocating the responsibility for how a conversation plays out. Let's say that someone comes into a thread concerning the experiences of trans folk, and makes an offensive or insensitive remark. I am positing here that somebody participating in the discussion is themselves trans, and genuinely hurt or angered by the remark.

Now unless that trans person is willing to swallow their hurt or anger, if they want the offensive behavior to stop they must speak up on their own behalf, no matter what the motivations of the offending party are. The offended party has been hurt, has already been imposed upon. They are additionally imposed upon by the necessity to act in their own interest to stop someone else from being hurtful. Both of those deficits, imbalances in the relationship between offender and offendee, are structural and unavoidable no matter what motivates the offender.

It is not reasonable to compound the imbalance by burdening them with the expectation that they speak only in a gentle, charitable matter. I hear the concern that maybe the offender is simply well-meaning but ignorant, liable to be unjustly hurt by an angry response. And that's a risk. But so what? They are already (by postulation!) in the position of owing someone an apology, and our concern should be for the person wronged, not the person wronging.
posted by Ipsifendus at 2:47 PM on October 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


Speaking about this in the abstract pretty much obviates any actual precise discussion about specific shitty behavior, though.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:53 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


My foggy recollection is that some of the harshest/angriest replies don't come from the offended parties themselves, but from those who identify as their allies.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:55 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


If we take a page from the book of "just ignore the people who say offensive things" mentioned earlier, then how about if people who don't like it when other people get angry just ignore that? Ignoring can work both ways, right? If the best way to deal with offensive-thing-sayers is sometimes just to ignore them, then hey, feel free to ignore angry people too.

Yes, this. I have been trying to come up with a nice way to say this for a little while.

Also, I know on Metafilter we have FIAMO options to draw mod attention. I'm trying to flag more and harder where appropriate, but not every thread/comment where I find something problematic is worth a flag. (Some days it's still hard to swallow it.)
posted by immlass at 2:59 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


It is not reasonable to compound the imbalance by burdening them with the expectation that they speak only in a gentle, charitable matter. I hear the concern that maybe the offender is simply well-meaning but ignorant, liable to be unjustly hurt by an angry response. And that's a risk. But so what? They are already (by postulation!) in the position of owing someone an apology, and our concern should be for the person wronged, not the person wronging.

I think intent matters a lot more than that, in this context. If I stepped on your foot on purpose to injure you, no one would blame you for flipping out. If I stepped on your foot inadvertently, perhaps without even realising I'd done so, and you flipped out on me, most people would consider you to be the one out of line.

Whether or not anger is justified is orthogonal to its impact on discourse. People are extremely sensitive to being the objects of someone's rage --- when someone's angry at you, you hear the anger about ten times louder than the form in which it was expressed. You see it all over this thread ----- again and again and again, when people try and sum up critical comments in their response, their summation/gloss is far harsher in tone than the original comment. I think that's just an inherent bias of humanity --- how many times have you been in or witnessed an argument that included the word for word dialogue "you don't have to yell at me" "I'm not yelling". Whether or not the anger of the angry person is justified does nothing to alter or obviate this. It alienates. The recipient of the anger feels attacked, and the discourse gets fightier. I think that's just the way our brains are wired. It doesn't matter whether the recipient of the criticism ought or ought not to feel belittled. They will.
posted by Diablevert at 3:24 PM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

forza: "My sense is just that the people who respond by mocking and berating actually undo a lot of the good work that the respectful people like yourself are doing."

Please don't pit me against other $MY_GROUP like that.
If you think that's what forza was doing, your group has effectively immunized itself from even the most respectful and careful constructive criticism from the outside. You might want to consider that this is probably not a good thing.
posted by localroger at 3:33 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


So I think most of the arguments about the effects of certain arguments and tone/styles have already been hashed out here. But one thing I'd like to point out is that we've been incredibly polite about it relative to the internet. No one has told other people to leave the site directly (because they think the other people are not worthy of Metafilter, and not vice versa). I've qualified my earlier statements about tone as all opinions, and I've enjoyed the discussion here about that topic, but I'd hate for it to be set in stone. Consumer demand and all that. My main point is that tone is not required, but is helpful to consider. Not just in one's output, but also when reading.

I'm looking back at one FPP about great white males where I got really emotional and disgusted, and looking back at it it really wasn't bad at all. What I found most jarring to the conversation was one of my own posts, in fact... but that's slightly because the snark doesn't bite as much when you already know it's coming, as opposed to epithets invoking deities. I definitely noticed this bias towards taking the worst possible interpretation out of comments, from both "sides." Early on there was some debate about how to interpret comments, and I'm liking bugbread's handling there, but then it just became back-and-forth. We are so used to the (MeFi-)moderate opinions that we attack the outlier statements without bothering to address the other parts of comments. And then the response is to counterattack the outlying statements (or single-line snark) of the attack, and so forth. If as an observer you aren't invested in taking these worst interpretations personally, it just seems like a ton of trite surface-level debate, the type you can find all over the internet. I'd prefer deep conversations, because there's a lot to discuss about meta-thought and meta-debate.


Random suggestion #47 I have is that members can be allowed to attach short messages when flagging. The commenter can read these messages (anonymous to them), and similarly can flag these messages if they think they're not in good faith, but it's meant to be feedback for the commenter.
posted by halifix at 3:36 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you think that's what forza was doing, your group has effectively immunized itself from even the most respectful and careful constructive criticism from the outside. You might want to consider that this is probably not a good thing.

I see where you're coming from, but I think (not to speak for anyone) that the pitting-against part is about this false dichotomy between the "good, respectful" trans* folks vs. the "mean, angry" trans* folks. I know it wasn't at all intended, but there was just a hint of "one of the good ones" and I can understand how that might feel like one's "good" behavior is being used to criticize the behavior of others, including your friends, and how that might feel really uncomfortable. Both ArmyOfKittens and forza were delightfully gracious about it so it's really a non-issue, though.
posted by dialetheia at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


I don't get this latest turn in the conversation, where everyone is equating "anger" with "acting like a dick", and saying that saying "don't act like a dick" means "don't get angry" or "if you're angry, shut up". One of the things I've enjoyed in some of MeFi's 101 discussions is when someone personally affected gets really angry, and gives a really not-dicklike response, that fully conveys how mad they are, but isn't dicklike. If you're angry, and can only express your anger by acting like a dick, then let some of the people who can get angry but not act like dicks get your back. They're out there, I've seen them! And if 30 minutes pass and nobody has responded to the problematic comment, so the choice truly is "act like a dick" or "allow the comment to go unchallenged", then go act like a dick.

(Note: extend the 30 minute window to, like, two hours when it's nighttime in the US)
posted by Bugbread at 3:43 PM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


Bugbread, I hear you, but as some have been trying to explain, it's really difficult when even the kindest "Please don't do that" statement is taken as a dick-move attack. Some people really do interpret all expressed anger in these threads as a dick move. If we all agreed on what "acting like a dick" was, this would all be waaaay simpler.
posted by dialetheia at 3:46 PM on October 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


localroger: "If you think that's what forza was doing, your group has effectively immunized itself from even the most respectful and careful constructive criticism from the outside. You might want to consider that this is probably not a good thing."

It's actually a dynamic I've seen time and time again, with harmful results, but okay, sure. I didn't think this was a particularly egregious -- or intentional -- example, but best to nip it in the bud.

I'm not a Good Trans Woman because my bullshitometer is set to "medium tolerance"; I'm just comparatively lucky.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:46 PM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


The problem with the "not your oppressors" bit is the examples in question are oppressive behaviors, even if they are well-intentioned, and all people of privilege benefit from that privilege and its counterpart, the marginalization of others.

Unrelated to that: My "fuck you, pay me" bit is mostly me not wanting to engage with the half-dozen or so Usual Suspects who show up in every feminism thread to shit everywhere, because that is Work for me and it's tedious as all hell. The threads that do these issues well-- the GamerGate threads is a recent example-- can be great. Those threads gathered information and links and whittle points down to well-expressed versions of themselves and make jokes and blow off steam, and the people asking questions just weren't familiar with the rather arcane and bizarre chain of events so far (as opposed to the basic ignorance that questions women about their own experiences or people suggesting that we just ignore it so it will go away, which are the Standard Responses from anti-feminists on that topic).
posted by NoraReed at 3:49 PM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


dialetheia: "Bugbread, I hear you, but as some have been trying to explain, it's really difficult when even the kindest "Please don't do that" statement is taken as a dick-move attack."

You can't please everyone. Try to not be a dick. Avoid mocking and insulting people. And if someone still calls you a dick anyway, that's not a problem with your behavior, that's a problem with them.

I mean, forza's not saying "act in a way that nobody will have problems with", just "don't mock or insult".
posted by Bugbread at 3:52 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Point taken dialetheia and army of kittens -- from outside, I missed the trigger potential of "one of the good ones." Once pointed out I understand the reaction.
posted by localroger at 3:56 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just wanted to nth what has been said a few times already: to see trans mefites lauded as the tolerant and nice minority is a bit rich considering the amount of abuse and chastisement we're on the receiving end of. That you're not the oppressor when you're unintentionally engaging in behaviour that is part of the system of oppression just doesn't wash - what you're doing is oppressing, that is how oppression works, and as someone who is oppressing, in that moment you are an oppressor. And finally, that I'd love to know how to be angry or even completely dispassionately critical in a way that doesn't cause huge scenes like the medium blue stocking incident. Because damn if things like that don't arise from the most innocuous of things.
posted by Dysk at 4:27 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


When I was labeled a bully, I was engaging in someone's arguments and explaining why I thought they were wrong. When the trans* people were labeled unduly angry and aggressive, they were engaging in someone's arguments and explaining why the arguments were wrong. A lot of the time, engaging in someone's arguments and explaining why the arguments are wrong is described as "an attack" or "mocking" or "insulting" even when the tone of the response is serious and there are no insults included in the response.

That is what a "tone argument" is - using "be nicer" as a dismissal when there is no possible way to be nicer.

Like NoraReed, I've pulled out the "fuck you, pay me" line in a few cases. I always did it when people were asking me to be their teacher, saying in a sentence or two, effectively: 'I don't understand and it's your job to educate me so I enjoy it.' In the context of me being a woman and a feminist, it is both a recognition that what I am doing is WORK and a demand that the other person take it seriously as such - that if they really want to learn, they would be willing to put their pocketbook where their mouth is.

No one has taken me up on it, but my rates remain the same - 90$ an hour/min an hour, payment up front.

My experiences on MetaFilter have profoundly affected how I engage in discussion here. I minimize quote-and-disagree because I was called a bully for it, and while the person who did so flamed out shortly thereafter I am determined to take his experience of me seriously. I maximize emotional punch and personal revelation because I'm good at it and it is coded female, so it's more likely to go under the defenses radar. I coat my emotional punch in elaborate rhetorical flourishes because I enjoy it and MetaFilterers tend to be beanplaters. I don't engage with critique of me in most cases because I assume the person critiquing me is mobilizing their dismissal defenses, so it's pointless. In addition, a decent chunk of my posts are about how I've messed up in the past to try to give other people who might be legitimately well-meaning a pathway through to owning their own power and history of being complicit in discriminatory structures without feeling like that makes them beyond redemption.

All of this is work. I read all of these threads, even if I don't comment in them. I try to figure out patterns of discussion and dismissal, and see if I can extend the discussion and hamstring the dismissal. If the topic is about one of my triggers, I usually end up leaving MetaFilter for a while to recover afterwards.

None of this is easy.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:29 PM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think that's just the way our brains are wired. It doesn't matter whether the recipient of the criticism ought or ought not to feel belittled. They will.

And when someone says something offensively problematic, it doesn't matter if we ought to get angry. We do. It's just how our brains are wired.

It cuts both ways. Yet the meta threads are rarely about the people taking criticism worded in a potentially harsher tone badly.
posted by Dysk at 4:32 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Anything with whips, chains, and novacaine.
posted by clavdivs at 4:36 PM on October 23, 2014


All of this is work. I read all of these threads, even if I don't comment in them. I try to figure out patterns of discussion and dismissal, and see if I can extend the discussion and hamstring the dismissal. If the topic is about one of my triggers, I usually end up leaving MetaFilter for a while to recover afterwards. None of this is easy.

I never said it was. I said it was something to aspire to. I admire it when people do this. I admire you when you do this.

I'm not making a tone argument and I'm not trying to silence people, and if people think that is what I'm doing, there is plainly some miscommunication going on somewhere. For my role in that, I apologise.

If we take a page from the book of "just ignore the people who say offensive things" mentioned earlier, then how about if people who don't like it when other people get angry just ignore that?

Because if we ignore one farter, even if they make several farts, we can continue to have a good conversation. If we angrily turn on the farter that turns into a huge argument that takes over the entire thread, which becomes all about the farter.

Also, the very people who don't like the mocking responses are often people, like my hypothetical dad, who aren't reading these Metatalk threads and whose behaviour we can't do anything about until they get involved in the community... which they never do because of this reception, or from seeing others get this reception.

Yet the meta threads are rarely about the people taking criticism worded in a potentially harsher tone badly.

Really? I feel like that happens all of the time.

I think my comments are resulting in diminishing returns, and I'm being perceived to be saying something I'm not. Plus, I have to get some work done today! I am therefore going to bow out now but am still reading and thinking and appreciate people's thoughts.
posted by forza at 4:44 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


> This analogises pretty well to many other issues and topics. If you make something a friendlier space for bigots, you allow in more bigotry ...

This is an argument that gets brought up every time we talk about inclusivity in MeTa: People who aren't white, upper-middle class, college-educated professionals and native English speakers like "us" are all a bunch of bigots, so if we allow people from different class, regional, linguistic or ethnic backgrounds to participate here, they'll 'shit up' MeFi threads with attacks on gay people, women and trans people. It never occurs to the people making this argument that the stereotypes they have about others might themselves be hateful or inaccurate. I don't object to calling out or criticizing bigotry when people actually make bigoted comments, but I object very strongly to making attacks on people based solely their presumed beliefs or other stereotypes people have about their backgrounds, rather than the views they've actually expressed.

> A space that allows ignorant and bigoted comments, even from people who are well-intentioned, limits the discussion to the level of those people, expects people experienced with the issues at hand, including marginalized folks actively being hurt ...

Allowing people who aren't part of MeFi's mostly privileged in-group to participte here is not the same as making MeFi "a space that allows ... bigoted comments". Invoking 'marginalized people being hurt' as justification for attacking marginalized people who aren't part of the in-group based purely on stereotypes members of the in-group have about people from their background rather than what they've said or any positions they've actually taken is pretty hypocritical. It's true that people from outside the MeFi may be ignorant in some ways (especially about the buzzwords and shibboleths MeFites think are so important in determining in-group status), but I wish members of MeFi's in-group could realize that people from different backgrounds have knowledge and experience that they lack and allowing people from different backgrounds to participate here could make MeFi less ignorant. And it does when MeFites are willing to allow this to happen.

> I grew up poor living in one of the poorest regions in the US but somehow I managed to learn about social and cultural issues. Being poor and rural are not mental disabilities.

Thank you.
posted by nangar at 4:50 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I wish members of MeFi's in-group could realize that people from different backgrounds have knowledge and experience that they lack and allowing people from different backgrounds to participate here could make MeFi less ignorant.

I'm really confused about who is the in group, the out group, the privileged group, the not, etc... in this comment. If you could clarify, I would appreciate it.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:53 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


This has become a phenomenally provocative and illuminating discussion, and I'm grateful that it's gone in the direction that it has.

forza, I want to thank you in particular for beautifully articulating thoughts that I feel are rarely well-put in discussions such as these. I think all parties involved are saying some excellent things, but yours in particular have stood out to me in this thread. Thanks.
posted by rorgy at 4:53 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I started thinking about this because it seems to me that there are a fair number of MeFites who've expressed concerns about what they perceive as unpleasant ganging-up-on who have also pointed out that they don't really notice or remember user names.
posted by soundguy99

I wanted to say that I have noticed the exact same pattern. And it's similar looking friend, "I have noticed this significant pattern, BTW I have a memory problem."

In terms of actually answering the question posed by localroger: the things I'm not comfortable posting on MetaFilter, other than the legally prohibited, are things that I'm not comfortable telling anyone.

Some stories will never get told.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:57 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Because if we ignore one farter, even if they make several farts, we can continue to have a good conversation.

In my experience, this only lasts until another person comes along and starts farting, having seen that it's apparently a done thing. Especially in trans threads, where there's generally a handful of trans people, and lots of people who think farting on us is fine (misgendering, for example, or pronoun use when referring to pre transition). If it doesn't get called out, there is a really good chance we end up choking on toxic fumes from all the farting, so don't get our conversation. If the first farter gets asked to knock it off with an explanation as to why, everyone else who comes in can see that farting is NOT the done thing, and wa-hey!
posted by Dysk at 5:00 PM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


OhGod. I swear I am not getting any work done today. I will try very hard to limit myself to this one last comment.

If the first farter gets asked to knock it off with an explanation as to why, everyone else who comes in can see that farting is NOT the done thing, and wa-hey!

That's a good point, Dysk. But I am not objecting to people asking farters to knock it off while explaining why. That works! It's great! We should do it! It's the mocking turning on them, characterising their behaviour in the worst possible light, that helps nobody, least of all this site or the many members who try to address the farters charitably.
posted by forza at 5:03 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think I'm going to work on a Guns 101, to see if this is a useful tool, since some people agreed it might be useful. If anyone would like to work on it with me, please memail! I would ideally like people from all sides of gun issues who has familiarity, because I'd like this to be as noncontroversial and well cited as possible. While I know this isn't going to resolve all tension, and some people may see it as only minor, I think if it can alleviate even some tension, it's a net positive.
posted by corb at 5:03 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


t's the mocking turning on them, characterising their behaviour in the worst possible light, that helps nobody, least of all this site or the many members who try to address the farters charitably.

I see this happen rarely, but I often see people asking someone to knock it off and explaining why characterised this way.
posted by Dysk at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's the mocking turning on them, characterising their behaviour in the worst possible light, that helps nobody, least of all this site or the many members who try to address the farters charitably.

As requested before, please provide examples of this mockery and this characterizing people's behavior in the worst possible light.

On preview: what Dysk said.
posted by Lexica at 5:07 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Um, I know this might be an unusual use case and not actually 101 level material unless the guns in question are on airplanes, but one of the major things that confuses me about guns is what things they can pierce, esp from the inside of airtight containers (airplanes, spaceships). If that is not actually relevant to enough gun conversations to be useful 101 material that is totally OK, but since I am guessing it applies to other things (bulletproof vests, windows, etc), it might be useful, and is a thing I rarely understand regarding which types of guns and ammunition are which, so that might be a thing a Guns 101 thing or a Guns FAQ could include that might be useful-- maybe a comparison to other things could be useful too (thrown objects, arrows, etc), so magnitude is more easily groked?

I have totally mixed motives for wanting this information to be available for total gun n00bs, and by that I mean "I probably only need it for fanfiction", but it also seems like it would be useful in threads involving gun classification, air marshals, non-lethal firearms, and what protection/armor actually works.
posted by NoraReed at 5:13 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


> I'm really confused about who is the in group, the out group, the privileged group, the not, etc... in this comment.

At the beginning of my comment I referred to the argument that "people who aren't white, upper-middle class, college-educated professionals and native English speakers like "us" are all a bunch of bigots". White, upper-middle class, college-educated professionals who are native English speakers are the privileged in-group I'm referring to here.
posted by nangar at 5:15 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


one of the major things that confuses me about guns is what things they can pierce, esp from the inside of airtight containers

I'm not sure why you expect the people experienced with the issues at hand to become educators for free.
posted by grouse at 5:17 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's interesting nangar, because I often see this framed in the opposite way: someone complains about a bigoted or problematic statement and someone tries to explain it away by saying they're rural, less affluent, etc. and we should be more understanding of their culture. I think that was even the context in which winna wrote the line you quoted.
posted by dialetheia at 5:18 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lexica: "As requested before, please provide examples of this mockery and this characterizing people's behavior in the worst possible light. "

Dysk mentioned a blue stocking incident. I didn't know what that was, so I did a google search. I found a thread which I don't think is the one in question, because it doesn't seem to involve trans issues, which I think is what Dysk was talking about. It had this comment:
Personally, I'm very attracted to intelligent women.
posted by Nick Jordan at 9:55 PM on February 24, 2009 [+] [!]
and this response:
Ladies, I sure love cunnilingus!
posted by nasreddin at 10:01 PM on February 24, 2009 [21 favorites −] [!]
Now, as you can see, I favorited nasreddin's comment. I favorited the hell out of it because Nick Jordan's comment was so. very. ick. He probably didn't mean it to be horrible, but I am so glad that that kind of comment has become much rarer on MeFi.

But, that said, nasreddin's comeback is a mocking comment. And while it made me laugh, and I totally agree with it, I kinda feel bad for favoriting it, because as great a smackdown as it was, it was just mocking.

Anyway, I'm not saying it's the end of the world or anything, but you and Dysk seem to kinda be implying that nobody ever mocks anyone else here, and that lack of examples indicates that mocking doesn't happen, so there's one tiny data point.
posted by Bugbread at 5:25 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why you expect the people experienced with the issues at hand to become educators for free.

Uh, because they offered to put together a wiki page on the subject and I thought maybe some feedback about what 101 level questions might be useful to them, since it's been a while since they've been a n00b? And did you miss the qualifications about how they might not want to include this if they don't think it's relevant or necessary, an obvious attempt to free them from feeling obligated to include that information, or the fact that "gun owners" aren't exactly an oppressed group constantly called upon to justify themselves and politely educate people actively benefiting from their oppression.

Do you really not understand what I'm saying about the whole "education for free" derail, or are you being willfully dense to score points?
posted by NoraReed at 5:27 PM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


medium blue stocking incident in question. (not the one you found)
posted by twist my arm at 5:29 PM on October 23, 2014


Dysk mentioned a blue stocking incident. I didn't know what that was, so I did a google search. I found a thread which I don't think is the one in question, because it doesn't seem to involve trans issues, which I think is what Dysk was talking about.

For reference, I was talking about this behemoth thread.

Anyway, I'm not saying it's the end of the world or anything, but you and Dysk seem to kinda be implying that nobody ever mocks anyone else here, and that lack of examples indicates that mocking doesn't happen, so there's one tiny data point.

I'm not saying it never happens, just that it happens so much less often than not-mocking things being described as mocking, especially outside of the grey.
posted by Dysk at 5:30 PM on October 23, 2014


As requested before, please provide examples of this mockery and this characterizing people's behavior in the worst possible light.

I really didn’t want to get into this because I knew it would turn into an argument about specific users and a specific thread and I don’t want to call anyone out as problematic for comments they made days ago. But, okay, if you insist: here is one thing recently that bothered me:

In the Great White Males thread, Decani said: But as soon as people start playing the game of denouncing entire groups based on features they have no control over ("white", "male", "old" etc.) they have become part of the same problem, as far as I'm concerned.

I think this is a legitimate comment, politely stated, though possibly could be characterised by some as farting in the room. Lots of people had great comments — and were even critical of Decani and the others — and a great discussion was emerging.

But we also had things like this:

Watching the delicate white male snowflakes in here get themselves in a tizzy over being labeled is pretty great.

“delicate white male snowflakes”? That is mocking and offensive, and would be (rightly) roundly condemned were the shoe on the other foot. Taking Decani’s and other similar comments as being in “a tizzy” is grossly uncharitable over-exaggeration. They made a reasoned comment on a website.

Or this, from the same thread: That justice isn't white guys being attacked, it's white guys losing an unjust advantage just for being white, and anyone who feels irritated because they can't see the difference deserves to feel irritated and it's funny to see them feel irritated.

It’s funny to see them irritated? Saying that in a discussion with them and to them is, well, mean.

So that’s just one thread that I chose not because I think it’s the best example but because it was salient to me because it was mentioned above. And I quit partway through the thread because, ugh, I really need to get to work. And the comments I would call mean were numerically outweighed by the many people behaving thoughtfully. But this sort of “aren’t you a special widdle snowflake, feeling oppression for the first time! let me be mean to you so you know what it feels like!” sort of response is part of the kind of thing I had in mind.
posted by forza at 5:32 PM on October 23, 2014 [21 favorites]


I'm not sure why you expect the people experienced with the issues at hand to become educators for free.

Oops, did you miss reading corb's generous offer to do this very thing just a few comments above?
posted by poffin boffin at 5:34 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thank you, corb. I have nothing to add to a Guns Wiki but questions, but I'd be fascinated to read it.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:36 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


poffin, Nora: While I suspect you get it, just in case: Grouse was doing a "turned tables" thing, where Nora says "I'm not going to teach you unless you pay me" and then later says "Teach me about guns" and then Grouse goes "Gotcha!" I doubt Grouse missed the offer to make a FAQ, but that it got in the way of "Gotcha!", so it was quietly ignored.
posted by Bugbread at 5:39 PM on October 23, 2014


forza, would it help to know that Decani in particular has a looooong history here of making really ugly statements in sexism threads? I'm really not trying to nitpick your example at all but honestly he's been around for quite awhile and has said some pretty mean stuff to others over the years, so that people didn't give him any benefit of the doubt there was not at all surprising to me. I agree that we should allow users to change their minds and not hold grudges, but he's been doing the exact same thing for years. It's a great example of how an interaction that might have years worth of history behind it might appear really one-sided without knowing that backstory, as several people have mentioned in this thread. That said, I agree, that thread was extremely weird. The article itself did most of the work of hurting peoples' feelings, I thought, so the whole thread started out from a charged place. I thought there was some really eloquent pushback against the idea that we can't "label" anyone as white men, though, once we got through the hurt feelings from the article's framing.
posted by dialetheia at 5:39 PM on October 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


Bugbread, yes, grouse was mocking NoraReed in the same way you are arguing should be unacceptable, at least going from your nasreddin example just above.
posted by dialetheia at 5:41 PM on October 23, 2014


Dysk: "I'm not saying it never happens, just that it happens so much less often than not-mocking things being described as mocking, especially outside of the grey."

Okay, sorry, Lexica confused me when she said "On preview: what Dysk said", so I kinda mentally mapped her request for examples onto your comment.

dialetheia: "Bugbread, yes, grouse was mocking NoraReed in the same way you are arguing should be unacceptable, at least going from your nasreddin example just above."

Yeah, totally. While I'm disagreeing with NoraReed on some things in this thread, grouse's comeback is a great example of the kind of thing I wish people would stop doing.
posted by Bugbread at 5:45 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


forza, would it help to know that Decani in particular has a looooong history here of making really ugly statements in sexism threads?

No, I didn't realise that. Thanks.

But the point he made there, in and of itself, was totally legitimate, even if previously he's been sexist. It's also what I think a lot of fair-minded non-assholes might say or think. And as a result, a lot of people without that context (like my hypothetical dad, or even me, who was lacking it even though I've been on the site for years) who came into that thread would just infer "This site tolerates meanness to a degree I'm uncomfortable with" or "I wanted to join in here but I don't want to get that kind of response so I'll just go away; it doesn't seem to be my kind of place" or "Gosh, they don't seem to be giving white males a fair shake at this place."

All I'm saying and all I was originally saying is that I don't think that's a good thing for Metafilter. It's not good for the kinds of discussions we really want to have. It's also not good to get and keep the sort of people we want to have as well: people from backgrounds other than the highly-educated urbanised liberal MeFite norm who might have different opinions from that norm, and might badly or clunkingly express them.

YMMV. Some people clearly disagree with me about where to put the tradeoff, and that's fine too. Like I said earlier, I'm not the God of Metafilter.
posted by forza at 5:55 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Forza, I would just add that you're seeing the final product, as it were. I have seen some comments in trans threads (and feminism threads though a little less so?) that were just awful. Just absolutely dehumanizing, insulting, and sometimes clueless but no less offensive. Some of those comments, and the fact that those comments churn up all the time, are the reason some people aren't that kind in response.

(I have probably left some relatively unkind comments in threads, and I probably wouldn't make some of them again.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:56 PM on October 23, 2014


> Being charitable is often exhausting.

> Because the burden of a difficult conversation is placed on the shoulders of those for whom it is most difficult.

> Because all to often just the expression of anger is taken as an actual attack, and/or is treated as the angry person being unwilling to educate (like, ever, I guess?), or - this to me is the one that makes me want to yak hardest - as a sign that the angry person is irrational on the subject and so doesn't need to be taken seriously.

> Because it is inappropriately one-sided in allocating the responsibility for how a conversation plays out.

Yes, thank you, I understand all that, this isn't my first visit to MetaFilter. It still seems utterly obvious to me that things tend to go better when people are charitable toward one another. I understand why that ideal is hard to achieve, and of course I understand that the burden should not be placed on the shoulders of those for whom it is most difficult, but I was not "one-sided in allocating the responsibility for how a conversation plays out," and neither was forza, nor was (as far as I remember) anyone else in this thread. That's exactly my point: some people seem far too trigger-happy and eager to look on even the mildest and clearly well-intentioned comment as yet another assault to be repelled by main force. I mean, I think everyone who responded to me is aware that I'm not some jerk off the street who needs a quick course in manners, and yet I can't offer the simple proposition that things tend to go better when people are charitable toward one another without it being greeted by comments that suggest a lot of sighing and eye-rolling on the part of people offering me 101-level responses. It really starts to seem that hostility is seen not as an unfortunate result of oppression but as an inherently good thing, and anyone who suggests otherwise is an oppressor in sheep's clothing.

> I see this happen rarely

It's exactly what happened to forza in this thread. No reasonable person could read forza's comments and imagine for one moment that she was defending or perpetrated oppression and needed a stern talking to, but that's what she got. Repeatedly.
posted by languagehat at 5:57 PM on October 23, 2014 [29 favorites]


It's exactly what happened to forza in this thread. No reasonable person could read forza's comments and imagine for one moment that she was defending or perpetrated oppression and needed a stern talking to, but that's what she got. Repeatedly.

Now we're back at the comparatively calm pushback being characterised as a dogpile.
posted by Dysk at 6:00 PM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


It's also what I think a lot of fair-minded non-assholes might say or think

I understand the confusion, but that's the kind of benefit of the doubt that Decani doesn't rate in sexism threads.

It's unfortunate that you feel it's the rest of us who are responsible for the fair-minded non-assholes getting the wrong impression about what it would be like to come to the site, as opposed to the thread-shitters with long-established reputations.
posted by tigrrrlily at 6:02 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


But Decani didn't say or do anything unreasonable or mean there at that point in that thread, and somebody else did! I was calling out the bad behaviour that I observed. Are you saying that people with long-established reputations should just shut up or leave entirely?

For sure, if Decani said something mean or assholish there, I would have called that out too. But that's not what happened.
posted by forza at 6:05 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is not a person who came into a thread topic he was unfamiliar with and said something innocent. This is a person who has a habit of coming into sexism / women's issues threads and saying things like, paraphrased from above: "you're not being considerate of the feelings of me and other members of the dominant demographic, therefore you're just as sexist and damaging as the patriarchy you deride, therefore I refuse to listen to you (and by extension so should other reasonable people)".

Is it so hard to understand that it's impossible to treat each and every new instance of the same person doing the same disruptive thing over and over as if it was a brand-new person looking to get educated / having taken something in a way that wasn't intended?
posted by tigrrrlily at 6:15 PM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


Languagehat, I think this is just one of those cases where most depends on the reader (I'm not saying all cases are like that, just that this one is). I say that because: I am largely in agreement with forza, but I don't see the response to her suggestion as largely being that she has been perpetrating oppression or defending bigotry. A few suggestions that her recommended course of action would result in an increase in bigotry, but not a lot of "you're defending bigotry". Of course, there were a few assholes. There are always a few assholes, anywhere. The issue is just preventing it from from becoming "a lot" instead of "a few".

Okay, I'm rambling. Sorry. Point is, I think that in this particular thread of this particular discussion, forza has a medium number of people disagreeing with her calmly. A few people calmly disagreeing with stuff she didn't actually say. A few assholes. But, overall, this has felt like calm disagreement, not the pile-on stuff she's describing, and you're describing, and I also agree happens often here.

tigrrrlily: "It's unfortunate that you feel it's the rest of us who are responsible for the fair-minded non-assholes getting the wrong impression about what it would be like to come to the site, as opposed to the thread-shitters with long-established reputations."

I don't remember forza saying or even implying that thread-shitters aren't also responsible.