This thread is the worst February 21, 2016 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Can we have a bit more empathy for people who are screwed over by low wages, high rent, and bait and switch employment tactics? I'm referring to this thread.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to MetaFilter-Related at 4:29 PM (416 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

If we're going to have two threads, this one needs to be about site issues and the meta-conversation. Commentary on the actual article/Yelp employee/SF rent situation can go in the original thread on the blue.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:30 PM on February 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


It's like a perfect storm of victim-blaming tactics. I'm starting to think we need a victim-blaming flag, but I'm not sure that's the sort of things mods clean up, even though, oh my God, would this site be improved if that sort of shit stopped immediately.
posted by maxsparber at 4:31 PM on February 21, 2016 [55 favorites]


I had to bail out of that thread a while back because it was starting to feel like a competition to be the most heartless, to the point that I'm guessing some of the participation was just because it's fun to be awful. It's so gross to watch.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:41 PM on February 21, 2016 [43 favorites]


This thread got so ugly i had to step away from my computer and take a walk. "nobody is entitled to a job that pays them enough to not be homeless, you crazy millennial" is ... I don't know what it is, but it's not representative of a place I want to spend much time.
posted by softlord at 4:47 PM on February 21, 2016 [88 favorites]


I thought for a minute that I'd accidentally started reading the comments in my local newspaper instead of metafilter.
posted by octothorpe at 4:51 PM on February 21, 2016 [45 favorites]


I swear one day Monster Zero-Two is going to fly out of the ocean and consume San Francisco in radioactive flames, and the news headlines will be "San Francisco vaporized: residents to blame".
posted by selfnoise at 5:03 PM on February 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


I like to keep threads like that as an instructive remedy whenever people refer to Metafilter as a liberal echochamber.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:03 PM on February 21, 2016 [92 favorites]


I think sometimes people have the conception of mefi that we're all a bunch of big city middle class liberals in tech occupations. People forget they're not just talking amongst like-minded folks with similar experiences. There are lots of people here who are barely scraping by. They may have had a string of bad things happen to them, and/or they're smart but made some unfortunate choices. They are listening to the middle class computer programmers who have no trouble paying their rent. We need to always remember that mefi is not a bubble.

Honestly I found the blog post hard to relate to, and her choices questionable, but I don't know anything beyond what she wrote, or about the situation on the ground in the Bay Area, so I kept my mouth shut about it.

I wonder if the upcoming election is just getting people more entrenched in their views on the economy.
posted by desjardins at 5:03 PM on February 21, 2016 [44 favorites]


I found that thread pretty uncomfortable but it did not seem like the sort of thing that needed moderation. People were displaying a lack of compassion and other unpleasantness. but they were not being rude to one another, so I did not really know what to do, except be sad that the world is so ugly and people so unkind and that so many hold this weird belief that one is not deserving of sympathy nor assistance nor making a valid point about injustice unless that person has never made an error in judgment nor a different decision than you might make.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:04 PM on February 21, 2016 [28 favorites]


I find threads like that useful for source evaluation.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:11 PM on February 21, 2016 [18 favorites]


There were some posts that expressed well-considered disagreements with a few of the central criticisms of her open letter. I think, as a person asking for a public reckoning with what she says her company is doing wrong, she deserves to be heard and agreed or disagreed with respectfully. Personally I felt she was off the mark about some of her opinions about working wages and what being a worker is all about and I appreciate people speaking up from that perspective.

That was like, 20% of the negative comments though. The other 80% were just the usual early-thread ad hominem author-trashing and should have been deleted.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:13 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


A lot coulda been snipped from about here onwards. Stellar response to a tired contention.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:29 PM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I found that thread pretty uncomfortable but it did not seem like the sort of thing that needed moderation. People were displaying a lack of compassion and other unpleasantness. but they were not being rude to one another, so I did not really know what to do, except be sad that the world is so ugly and people so unkind and that so many hold this weird belief that one is not deserving of sympathy nor assistance nor making a valid point about injustice unless that person has never made an error in judgment nor a different decision than you might make.

The one flag that MetaFilter shouldn’t have is “unsympathetic”. It’s not the same as offensive, although I think that we often want it to be. If we can’t have different opinions, then this place will become an echo chamber.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:44 PM on February 21, 2016 [37 favorites]


I'm not sure if "some people don't deserve to live" is an opinion that needs protection.
posted by flatluigi at 5:55 PM on February 21, 2016 [26 favorites]


I found that thread mostly, and increasingly, terrible in its callousness towards its subject: so much "got mine, must be her own fault" ladder-pulling. Metafilter at its worst.

(And a thought: would there have been so much victim-blaming in that thread had Talia identified as male? A number of comments use a patronizing "this girl" phrasing; if it were Tad instead of Talia, would there be as much "this boy" head-patting?)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:58 PM on February 21, 2016 [78 favorites]


flatluigi: "I'm not sure if "some people don't deserve to live" is an opinion that needs protection."

Is this a reasonable paraphrase of the comments with which you disagree? I could argue for the deletion of any comment if I construe it in the least charitable way possible.
posted by savetheclocktower at 6:01 PM on February 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


I agree with GtM. There's a lot of lack of empathy showing in that thread, but lack of empathy isn't a moddable offense nor should it be.
posted by Justinian at 6:02 PM on February 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


OK, I'll put this here: I thought my comments in that thread, which were critical of the article, were appropriate for MetaFilter, and I am curious whether the people who hate this thread hated my comments or think they should have been deleted or think they're bad for the site.
posted by escabeche at 6:03 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I actually found one of the most offensive comments to be that one linked above that has more than 145 favorites. A lot of people who were criticizing the girl in the thread were people who said they themselves worked their way up. They (we) had roommates when we were young, and paid our dues in low-paying jobs. We lived far away from our jobs and commuted, and then, we did better. Saying that people who think this one person had poor judgement "lacked critical thinking skills" is mean and not usually permitted on Metafilter.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:05 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


There seemed to be some people who were participating in that thread as though they thought it was a thought experiment in creating the 2016 equivalent of "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:05 PM on February 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


I'd argue that the kind of rote, callous comments that were thrown around in the thread contributed to derails making less interesting discussion likely, and they could have been deleted as derails. I flag that kind of stuff pretty often.

On the other hand, it's interesting to see who says what because it helps me prepare for the next Hunger Games when I'm figuring out which Districts' tributes I'm going to pull for.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:05 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Honestly if we could have a FUCK THIS PERSON flag I think it would help a lot of people (me, i mean me) not flip the fuck out in threads where people are being that douchey.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:06 PM on February 21, 2016 [64 favorites]


escabeche, the only problem I saw in your comments was that you assumed her mention of no longer giving out as many coupons meant she was screwing people over, when she said in her Medium post that she was giving out fewer coupons because she'd gotten better at her job and was now skilled at working through issues with people instead of just hurling money at the problem. I think people aren't talking about your comments so much as the ones that basically say she's stupid and stuck up so she deserves to suffer.
posted by palomar at 6:06 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


A lot of people were participating in that thread as though they thought it was a thought experiment in creating the 2016 equivalent of "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Philosophically, I don’t see why that is a problem. If people don’t like it, they can & should complain (and goodness knows they are). The converse of this thread - lots of sympathy without a lot of dispassionate consideration- also occurs here at times.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:12 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think part of the problem here is this site-wide Engineers Disease problem. Like obviously what this little lady needs is some incredibly Smart Dude to do the math that her poor little brain can't handle - otherwise she wouldn't be in this mess!! Before you make a comment like this, stop for a second and remember that most people aren't complete idiots and don't need you to solve problems that you went ahead and picked out for them. They need you to listen to what they are saying and respond to that. We could have all gone ahead and believed that she did the math and that this was the best she could come up with for herself, and then evaluated whether or not we believed it's ok to pay someone less money than they can humanely survive on.
posted by bleep at 6:12 PM on February 21, 2016 [80 favorites]


Honestly, as awful as some of the comments were, there were also a lot pushing back. I'd much prefer there not be outright callousness here, but I don't think that's something you can legislate away.

I noped out early on when there wasn't much pushback and comments were getting tons of traction for saying she was stupid and entitled. It was cruel and shitty and I wanted nothing to do with it. Looking at what's been written since, I can feel a lot better knowing a bunch of other people were as upset as I was.
posted by teponaztli at 6:13 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]

They (we) had roommates when we were young, and paid our dues in low-paying jobs. We lived far away from our jobs and commuted, and then, we did better.
Well, I mean, I had roommates until I was in my mid-30s, and then I actually did move to an un-hip Midwestern place where I could have a decent life on $30,000 a year. But I recognize that different people's circumstances are different, and the avenues that were open to me might not be open to other people. I think that "I did it, so why can't you" is the root of a lot of dumb, cruel moralizing that older people direct at younger people. I also think that a lot of people in tech don't realize that not everyone is cut out for a computer science degree, and they assume that anyone who studied anything else is probably just self-indulgent, which is really, really not a good way to look at things.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:14 PM on February 21, 2016 [62 favorites]


The problem with saying that so many commenters in that thread are "people who worked their way up" is that "working your way up" is a standard concern-trolling line in every thinkpiece ever about how terrible millennials are. "Oh, I worked my way up through the company ranks, why don't those young people just suck it up and do the same?" Well, it's not for lack of trying, but so many of the lowest positions in the ranks now are unpaid or minimally paid. So many jobs flat-out don't offer you any opportunity to advance at all, or do a "you could get promoted" bait and switch like the letter describes. This magical company where you can pull your way up the ladder in the year of our lord 2016 is a rare special unicorn indeed.

Maybe y'all think you're just giving us realistic advice, but all that sort of tut-tutting about us millenials' refusal to "pay our dues" sounds like a barely-softened "fuck you got mine."
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:14 PM on February 21, 2016 [96 favorites]


I think that "I did it, so why can't you" is the root of a lot of dumb, cruel moralizing that older people direct at younger people.

That's a totally fine, rational point. The people in that thread were not being even remotely that nice, and none of their comments were deleted.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:15 PM on February 21, 2016


I think in general people get pretty pissed off about comments that feel like "this thing that's a problem for you isn't a problem for me". So if you're making comments like that, it will be a good idea to reconsider whether that's a useful thing to add.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:17 PM on February 21, 2016 [46 favorites]


Also, couple of comments deleted, "lol a guy got attacked" isn't a great thing to add here as a whimsical tangent.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


We could have all gone ahead and believed that she did the math and that this was the best she could come up with for herself, and then evaluated whether or not we believed it's ok to pay someone less money than they can humanely survive on.

I actually think the extent to which this is Yelp's problem versus the city's problem versus a self-exacerbated problem versus "it's a problem that kids aren't taught to navigate these situations more effectively" is totally fair to discuss. I was just surprised by how little sympathy some people had for her regardless. I don't think people deserve to have bad things happen to them even if they do make a bad decision.
posted by atoxyl at 6:21 PM on February 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


The people in that thread were not being even remotely that nice, and none of their comments were deleted.

People on MetaFilter are catty about a lot of things. “But congratulations on being so eager to be part of the problem, I guess.” has a fair measure of acid in it. (Goodness knows I’ve indulged a few times.) If we start policing “meanness” we’re going to have a very different site.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:21 PM on February 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Mr. Bumbles gonna bumble
posted by clavdivs at 6:21 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not a fan of people hand waving transparently awful situations because the victims of said situations didn't manage a 100% efficiency rating in their dealing with shitty situations quotient.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:22 PM on February 21, 2016 [42 favorites]


How old is this woman? 23? Holy gods, so many of the decisions I made at 23 could have gone so horribly wrong, but it was luck and knowing I had the safety net of my family that kept me from having to eat rice every night. I bet a lot of us didn't have our shit together at that age but it's easy to retcon how much smarter we were.
posted by desjardins at 6:26 PM on February 21, 2016 [58 favorites]


I actually think the extent to which this is Yelp's problem versus the city's problem versus a self-exacerbated problem versus "it's a problem that kids aren't taught to navigate these situations more effectively" is totally fair to discuss.

This was my feeling. Read the article elsewhere. Have some opinions about various aspects of the entire situation (including sympathy for the woman who wrote it as well as some critique of some of the decisions she made) Decided I wasn't going to be able to have the conversation I wanted to have about the topic here on MetaFilter. Read but did not comment in the thread. People are going to come down on various sides of the many different choices that she made. It's going to be hard to be able to have a conversation about those things when people aren't even going to be able to agree with which issues are choices and which possibly are not.

Personal finances are simultaneously really complex (because of the various stated and unstated priorities that we have that affect and are affected by them) and very simple (because it's math) and that's a tough combination for this crowd.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:26 PM on February 21, 2016 [40 favorites]


bleep: "We could have all gone ahead and believed that she did the math and that this was the best she could come up with for herself, and then evaluated whether or not we believed it's ok to pay someone less money than they can humanely survive on."

A thing that bothers me about how MetaFilter has these conversations: a comment that does not address the issue of “whether or not we believed it's ok to pay someone less money than they can humanely survive on” should not be assumed to be arguing that it is OK. I'm absolutely for a living wage but I sidestepped that issue in the thread because we have that argument every week and it always goes the same way — and because there was other stuff to talk about.

It's one thing to second-guess another person's choices because you don't like their conclusions and you're nitpicking in order to undermine them. It's another thing to agree with their conclusions but still second-guess their choices because they run counter to your lived experience. You could still be wrong in the second case, but you're at least not acting in bad faith.
posted by savetheclocktower at 6:30 PM on February 21, 2016


I kinda wish that you had let the "guy got attacked lol" comment stay. It was a writ large example of what was wrong with the comments in the thread. Crikey.
posted by futz at 6:34 PM on February 21, 2016


I'm not a fan of people hand waving transparently awful situations because the victims of said situations didn't manage a 100% efficiency rating in their dealing with shitty situations quotient.

That’s fine, but I’m not quite clear what you’re suggesting. If you’re implying that folks who are doing said hand-waving deserve to have their comments deleted immediately I don’t think I agree.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't see how being mad you aren't actively enabled in being a gentrifier (without even the putative social worth of the gentrifiers!) makes you any less a gentrifier. I think it is a good thing for MeFi if people are allowed to be reasonably cynical and mean (within certain bounds) to both actual unabashed gentrifiers and their quivering feudal sycophants, and I say that as a sort of yeoman-level type who only isn't busily gentrifying right this moment because I like not living in a shoebox and also plants and shit.

I mean, come on, really?

I would feel quite lot differently if she was talking about, say, rural Idaho and she was a WalMart employee, but she's not and that she's in the Barea and working for a company like Yelp isn't a fucking coincidence. Being bad at avariciousness, etc etc.

I'm not a fan of people hand waving transparently awful situations

Educated white kid flunks out of being able to afford to live in 2016 San Francisco isn't actually a transparently awful situation in and of itself without further complicating factors and problems beyond that, sorry.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:37 PM on February 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Is the idea that anyone who wants to live anywhere in the Bay Area is now a gentrifier? I don't know from San Francisco, but I'm not sure that's what "gentrifier" is supposed to mean.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:43 PM on February 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


Gonna ask that we keep it to site issues in here, and not get into a fine parsing of Bay Area social issues in this thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:44 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Educated white kid flunks out of being able to afford to live in 2016 San Francisco isn't actually a transparently awful situation in and of itself without further complicating factors and problems beyond that, sorry.

In general, the poor and middle class being priced out of living in large cities (including mine, NYC) is an actual, transparently awful problem. Especially since 10 years ago, people could still earn $20-25K and live in a Manhattan studio without roommates. That has changed for the worse across the country.

I have mixed feelings about this particular person's situation, but the comments in that thread and shitty lack of empathy on display made me nope out without participating.
posted by zarq at 6:48 PM on February 21, 2016 [60 favorites]


I also think the psychology of why everybody wants to go after her is worth considering. People I talked to about this IRL did to and honestly I was tempted to on some points (but I won't because I think it's been done more than enough). Some would say that to sympathize with the big corp over her shows how we're permeated by neoliberal ideology etc. and it probably does but also just the way we think about "fairness" on an interpersonal scale doesn't translate very well to systemic problems.
posted by atoxyl at 6:48 PM on February 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Honestly if we could have a FUCK THIS PERSON flag I think it would help a lot of people (me, i mean me) not flip the fuck out in threads where people are being that douchey.

This seems like a useful userscript, even if all it actually did was flag the comment as “other”.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:48 PM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Jessamyn referred to it recently as a "that PERSON is DOING that THING again" flag. :)
posted by zarq at 6:50 PM on February 21, 2016 [19 favorites]


These days it's a lot harder to work your way up than it used to be, and I think that people who aren't exposed to young'uns as much (plus "I got mine") just aren't aware of it, at least until they have kids who are screwed. I keep having conversations with a friend of mine about how much tuition has gone up at our alma mater than from when we went. It's gonna be four times as much next year as when we were graduating.They go on about wanting to boost retention and I want to say that the number one way to do that is to not have the price be so damn high (seriously, if they keep stats I'd bet that "can't afford it," "didn't get financial aid," and "it's cheaper to go to community college" are the top reasons why people leave), but that's not gonna happen. They're going to try to get closing surveys done by graduates this year to find out what they're going to do with their life after college and it's either gonna be "grad school" or "move home with parents and pray for job that I don't have, " I suspect. I thank my lucky stars that I got out relatively quickly and easily before everything went to hell.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:57 PM on February 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure that's what "gentrifier" is supposed to mean.

Given that somehow (as here) it seems always to end up with working people guilty of the crime of wanting a pleasant neighborhood to live in, and not big landlords and real-estate developers reshaping cities for profit, getting attacked as "gentrifiers," I'm pretty sure that that kind of crab-bucket antisolidaristic individualizing of political-economic problems into moralized cultural blame-and-shaming is exactly what "gentrifier" is supposed to mean.
posted by RogerB at 6:58 PM on February 21, 2016 [34 favorites]


In general, the poor and middle class being priced out of living in large cities (including mine, NYC) is an actual, transparently awful problem.

Yes, I agree. I'm just saying, in this particular case, she is more roughly aligned with the kind of people who, in the specific Bay Area and more generally, are doing the pricing out, and she herself is transparently begging to be allowed to help with nailing the door shut, pretty much, totally on her own behalf.

Yeah, sexism and GET OFF MY LAWN are amplifying righteous people's crankiness with that, and the righteousness of not liking people like that are providing some cover to people who are basically just more successful versions of her. But she's still basically arguing for a jerky thing in a jerky way, even if she was screwed over by bigger, meaner, more efficient jerks, and I think insisting people empathize with what they recognize as jerkiness instead of going "hey, stop being a jerk" is barking up the wrong tree.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:59 PM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Empathy is not sympathy. You can have the former without the latter. If the site can't accept that nuance -- that every bad thing must have a prescribed reaction -- well, that's not good, it's not a forum for ideas. It's a net loss.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:00 PM on February 21, 2016 [16 favorites]


Mixed feelings also but she said what she felt regardless of the consequence. How she went about communicating that seems to be the point of contention, her life choices aside, the idear is to go were the work is, that being done, reality and disappointment set in. I think empathy is a hard thing to ask for here but in this case I agree.
posted by clavdivs at 7:02 PM on February 21, 2016


I think the response in the original thread was way more sympathetic than prior threads of this nature. Maybe it is just that I've changed over the years and my default sympathies are with the author, rather than feeling the need to berate her for life choices.
posted by humanfont at 7:04 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


One more (which maybe should go in the original thread) and I'm done but to make it personal - I do live in the Bay Area and my personal experience suggests that she could have made decisions that would leave her better off - still pretty poor though - even while living here. But I also know that *I* could have significantly more financial security now if I was not choosing to support a person I love and much much more if I hadn't made a really thoroughly bad decision a few years ago. So I mean - I don't think that people are necessarily the best judges of their own situation at all really because people fuck up, a lot. But because people fuck up a lot we should be nice to people who fuck up. That doesn't preclude having different opinions about social problems at all just you don't have to rub it in that somebody's life is fucked up.
posted by atoxyl at 7:07 PM on February 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


I don't think there is a site problem in evidence here, and I don't think the thread is particularly bad. I've seen worse here. Far worse actually. The majority of people in that thread are sympathetic with the author. The ones that aren't are for the most part, completely rational in their responses to the story. Maybe the worst of the comments were already deleted by the time I got there. But I can't see putting this in the top 20 worst threads at Metafilter.
posted by COD at 7:12 PM on February 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


It's probably not even in the top 20 in 2016. That doesn't mean there's not some unsympathetic assholes in there making assumptions and comments about class that wouldn't be acceptable when it comes to gender, race, sexual orientation, or any number of other things.

That said, I also don't really know that there's a "site-problem" to solve here. But that doesn't mean there's no reason not to say in that thread or this one, "hey assholes, do better."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:20 PM on February 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


It's not that poor people fuck up more and therefore should be punished with poverty for their choices, but that everyone fucks up a lot, and poor people have a vastly limited safety net to deal with the aftermath. I said this years ago when we were discussing Nickel and Dimed:
But that's the thing about being poor: you make bad choices just like rich people do, but you don't as many resources to undo those mistakes. The emergency cash situation mentioned above is just one example...

Poor people are not inherently [worse] at living life than the rest of us, but their mistakes have far greater consequences. I'd presumably have to be such an obvious and unproductive pothead to get fired from my job for smoking pot (at which point really I'd be getting fired for being useless at my job), while many low-paying hourly jobs have random drug testing, and employees can be fired for a single toke one Friday night that has no impact on their job performance. If I oversleep and miss a morning of work, the consequences would be minimal at most (probably zero unless it was habitual or I missed a really important meeting) and I'd still take home the exact same paycheck, whereas those with less flexible arrangements would be "written up" and subject to termination. I have all sorts of cushions to fall back on if I screw something up: savings, investments, personal property I can sell, good credit, transportation, health insurance, education and marketable skills, social support, family support, and business contacts, to name just a few.
This all reminds me of a MeFi thread a couple years back about a homeless mother shopping on food stamps. People stopped by to critique and pick apart a specific detail in the story about the price of apples rather than focus on the broader point that the woman in the article still couldn't feed her family.

If you want to hate on this particular individual for her bad choices, I can't stop you. But she's not the only one making this kind of money in this kind of area and all of them face similar problems.
posted by zachlipton at 7:23 PM on February 21, 2016 [81 favorites]


Man, there was a lot of apple talk in that thread.
posted by maxsparber at 7:28 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I pushed back a couple times in that thread, and figured I'd said my piece and left it at that. One of the things I pointed out is that this is a systemic issue that affects a broad swath of folks, not just one single callow naïf; a responder pointed out that the FPP was about the one single specific story and not the issue generally. I don't think that a narrow focus on the author makes for a useful FPP, because it's easy to devolve into just a quick two-minute-hate. The systemic issues are the more pertinent and interesting conversation.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


Philosophically, I don’t see why that is a problem. If people don’t like it, they can & should complain (and goodness knows they are)

I mean, I'd guess it's probably for the same reason people everywhere don't like their lives being discussed as thought experiments. I mean, seriously, there are people who read and participate on Metafilter who struggle\struggled to make ends meet in the exact same way as this woman. There are those of us who have been taken advantage of in crappy jobs because those were the only jobs we could get. When you talk about poor people\young people\people who are employed in crappy jobs, you're talking about people who are reading Metafilter.

How many times do we have to have the discussion "yes _____ people read Metafilter too"?
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:01 PM on February 21, 2016 [53 favorites]


How many times do we have to have the discussion "yes _____ people read Metafilter too"?

More often than we would like, sadly. I just saw this comment, which encapsulates the need for being a little more thoughtful and empathetic perfectly.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:12 PM on February 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


maybe we should consider joining the coast guard.
posted by futz at 8:40 PM on February 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm starting to think we need a victim-blaming flag,

Please, please, please, we desperately need to be able to flag for victim-blaming--this extends far beyond the thread in question.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:55 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm going to refrain from sarcasm here - a victim-blaming flag is not a good idea in my opinion. Having a terrible opinion is not the same as being abusive towards other members or spamming the site.
posted by GuyZero at 9:37 PM on February 21, 2016 [23 favorites]


How many times do we have to have the discussion “yes _____ people read Metafilter too”?

More often than we would like, sadly. I just saw this comment, which encapsulates the need for being a little more thoughtful and empathetic perfectly.

Forever, because it is the easiest thing in the world to assume otherwise. It could go in the little notes section that lives below the preview window. “Remember: _____ people read Metafilter too.”
posted by Going To Maine at 9:42 PM on February 21, 2016


I don't think that a narrow focus on the author makes for a useful FPP

ditto

there's also the issue where you have an individual as a proxy for a wide-scale problem, because it makes the problem seem more human/sympathetic

but then people have this huge shitty proxy war, all about the person in question

really, she doesn't need to stand for "inadequate wages" or "shitty decisions"

and honestly I think that people on both sides of this issue who are making it about her are doing her (and the issues at hand) a disservice
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:43 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


More empathy is always good. That thread, however, is by no means the worst of anything.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:50 PM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


(I was riffing a bit on a mod comment from the thread itself, though I do feel it was pretty awful.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:30 PM on February 21, 2016


I think it is a good thing for MeFi if people are allowed to be reasonably cynical and mean (within certain bounds) to both actual unabashed gentrifiers and their quivering feudal sycophants, and I say that as a sort of yeoman-level type who only isn't busily gentrifying right this moment because I like not living in a shoebox and also plants and shit.

You...think it's a good thing for MeFi to be able to draft a definition of "gentrifier" that only tenuously excludes yourself and then say shitty things about the people you've bucketed there? We must be using very different dictionaries.
posted by invitapriore at 10:59 PM on February 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


One of the challenges of a thread such as this is that it integrates so many different issues that are individually controversial and arouse strong emotion:
  • regional economics
  • real estate development and policy
  • cost of living
  • gentrification
  • generational experience and expectations
  • minimum wage
  • relative value/usefulness of college attendance and/or college major
  • social media
  • workplace policy
  • Silicon Valley startups and their culture and practices
There are almost certainly others for this list that I haven't even even thinking of.

You could pick any one of those entry points and explain why the scenario that unfolded in this young woman's article was absolutely the fault of that one factor. (i.e. "SHE JUST NEEDS TO ..." or "SAN FRANCISCO JUST NEEDS TO ..." or "AMERICA JUST NEEDS TO...").

It's kind of like the blind men and the elephant. Which part of the story we focus on strongly guides our response to the story. It's complex.
posted by theorique at 2:33 AM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


"I don't think there is a site problem in evidence here..."

There definitely is a site problem in evidence here and I think that zachlipton's comment, immediately following yours, does a very good job of describing and providing examples of those problems.

Victim-blaming isn't just a failure of empathy, it has a social context and it exists for a reason -- it serves particular goals and has intended effects. For many or most people, it's not self-aware, it's not deliberate; but culturally and subconsciously it means something.

I am frustrated at how this community can recognize it for what it is, and its political significance, when it appears in other contexts, but when it's about poverty then it's defended as maybe someone being a bit of a jerk, but is otherwise not a "site problem".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:34 AM on February 22, 2016 [35 favorites]


This thread is being used as a proxy channel for people who thought that thread was just too respectful to really take the gloves off and call their fellow mefites assholes and douches. I don't know why you hoped posting a meta thread would make this conversation more empathetic, as it appears to have achieved precisely the opposite.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:39 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't believe the point of this thread was to encourage blanket empathy, especially not toward people who are being douches. I think it was to point out a specific failure of empathy, toward people who are crunched between abusive hiring practices and absurd living costs. I suppose if you feel this site also needs to be more empathetic to the very people whose empathy failed them in the thread, that could be another MeTa thread, but it's not this one.
posted by maxsparber at 4:12 AM on February 22, 2016 [23 favorites]


I have no idea why the mods would let maxsparber's comment stand
posted by Alex Goldman at 4:44 AM on February 22, 2016


making assumptions and comments about class that wouldn't be acceptable when it comes to gender, race, sexual orientation, or any number of other things.

it's at least partly this. for some reason (generational politics or whatever - i think it may also be that there's a degree of self-censorship / shame) class isn't as important here on mefi as gender or colour. you can see the same things being worked out in the bernie / hillary threads.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:58 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have no idea why the mods would let maxsparber's comment stand

I'm not clear on your criticism of my comment, Alex. Perhaps I miscommunicated myself. My point was that this thread was about a specific failure of empathy, and not a generalized one. If there is a site wide problem with describing certain behavior as douchey or assholish, that seems like a separate discussion, and a distraction from this one.

But, then, I think that a lot of the behavior in that thread was douchey, and don't know why it can't be described that way. If the mods want to make a call regarding that, I'll respect it, but making that the subject of this thread, instead of the subject proposed by the person who posted the thread, seems a terrific way to sideline a specific discussion into an unrelated general one.
posted by maxsparber at 5:06 AM on February 22, 2016


Comment deleted. Feel free to participate in the discussion, but let's try to skip the empty snarky one-liners.

Alex Goldman, are you referring to the comment just above yours? Saying some people are being "douches" isn't typically the sort of the thing we autodelete, though I think that if you are working on ways of maybe calling other members insulting names without being specifically direct about it, then it's not really helping to work out the issue, and probably just making it more likely that this thread will be more ugly than productive.

With regards to the original thread, I agree with theorique that different people are looking at different aspects of the topic, and this is probably the reason for a lot of the frustration. To me, it's one of the pitfalls of having a single personal story as a representative example of certain overarching problems. Some people will focus on the personal details of the person relating their experience and find things to criticize or question (to them the post is about this person's specific story), while others see it as indicative of the *kinds* of personal stories caused by oppressive policies or social behavior (to them, the post is about inequality or injustice), and those two very different ways of examining or reacting to the article can very easily end in hard feelings.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:35 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think that metafilter is not great on class, andrewcooke, but it's complicated, because our not-great-on-classness intersects with other issues in complicated ways. For instance, people here seem very quick to assume that women, particularly young women, are spoiled and privileged, even when there's no evidence that they are. So on the thread about Ayn Rand's response to her niece's request to borrow money, someone referred to the niece as a "rich bitch," even though there was no evidence that the niece was either of those things. (In fact, the niece appears to have worked as a nurse while raising her 6 kids and to have been, if anything, pretty working class.) Because people are very quick to assume that women are "rich bitches", they can think that they're fighting the good fight against economic privilege, when in fact they're just projecting their own misogyny. I've actually started noticing that pattern a fair amount here, although it may just be that I'm hypersensitive to it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:39 AM on February 22, 2016 [83 favorites]


I've noticed that pattern as well.
posted by palomar at 5:44 AM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious: " I think that "I did it, so why can't you" is the root of a lot of dumb, cruel moralizing that older people direct at younger people."

I think this is just one (unpleasant) manifestation of the tendency to universalize your own experiences. It's really just another form of what happens in "can I eat it?" AskMe threads - "Oh, I ate a piece of pot roast that was on the counter for six weeks, and I was fine." Or, closer, the fights we have in harassment threads - "That doesn't bother *me*, it must not be an issue."

Unless actively worked against, you tend to assume your own life is the norm. It's important to remember it isn't.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:47 AM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


I've noticed that pattern as well.

As have I. And I think it is worth considering whether it is useful to focus on the exact details of any single story, because I think it functions, intentionally or not, as a way to insist that we cannot discuss any issue of institutionalized oppression unless the person victimized by it is a perfect representative expressing a perfect argument.

And because people are necessarily imperfect, and therefore will always have made mistakes we can pick at, we never have to discuss the institutions.
posted by maxsparber at 5:50 AM on February 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


Honestly I found the blog post hard to relate to, and her choices questionable, but I don't know anything beyond what she wrote, or about the situation on the ground in the Bay Area, so I kept my mouth shut about it.

I had the same reaction to the article, and then found enough of the comments to not sit quite right with me that I made the choice to just move on. I'm not sure it is a site Problem that needs a Solution, but there is a tone that shows up in some of these discussions where my preferred option is to not engage, and I can see how those discussions could be actively hurtful to some people.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:52 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's always disheartening when you discover that people don't feel the same way as you about things and it's particularly awful when you get a thread full of people snarking at someone who's complaining about not being able to afford to live in a place where they work. It's not something I think you can ask the mods to take care of though, because that's not a site problem, it's a world problem and the mods can't solve the world. All we can do is offer our opinion without being arseholes or calling other people arseholes. The mods can only deal with that kind of stuff and that's all we should ask of them.
posted by h00py at 6:15 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


These are the sorts of threads that make me want to register a sockpuppet just to apply the same insanely-intense scrutiny to every problem that anyone ever complains about. You'd like to go to this weekend's Yankees game, but ticket prices have gone up 1200% in the last eight years? Well maybe you wouldn't have this problem if you hadn't bought the name-brand laundry detergent the last time you went shopping, asshole! (Links to tumblr that has archived every public financial decision you have made since 2004) You're underpaid compared to your coworkers, and the evidence happens to suggest that it's a systemic problem because you're a minority and female? Well jesus christ, idiot, why didn't you agitate for more salary when you started working in 1998, and why have you continued to fail me in my expectations every day since then? It's not possible to live in San Francisco on less than $40K a year, even though the city has an insatiable demand for service workers who earn between a third and half of that? Well, that's just the way it is, sport, and it's not up to us to adjust our expectations about food and service prices, it's up to YOU to commute from Bakersfield every day, and I don't want to hear a goddamn word about how much gas and maintenance costs, because it would all be fine if you would just do the oil changes yourself and rent your car out on weekends, and oh by the way you could for sure live in downtown San Fran if you would just abandon your hedonistic lifestyle and eat nothing but rice and beans and sleep in a dresser drawer in the back of a rented U-Haul under the freeway.

I just... do people talk like this to other people, in real life? Does the victim-blaming creep into Thanksgiving dinner when you're talking to your 21-year-old cousin who's about to graduate with a history degree and wants to live somewhere fun while she's in her 20's? Does the possibility of someone living outside of your narrow band of experiences really bother you that much?
posted by Mayor West at 6:20 AM on February 22, 2016 [135 favorites]


Twenty five years ago our Thanksgiving dinners used to be a hotbed of the Olds telling the Youngs what we/they're doing wrong.

I did a quick google ngram search on the phrase "I told you so" and it's been bopping around in literature since the 1800s. So this is nothing new, and generations of (English reading) humans have been dealing with that kind of unhelpful post-hoc advice whenever we've had a crappy first job or made bad choices or worn the wrong shaped bustle.

GenXers and Millennials being the first generations to complain about their employers online and get feedback means we see more "I told you sos." It isn't just a Metafilter thing and I've seen much, much meaner and crappier behavior on other posts.
posted by kimberussell at 6:44 AM on February 22, 2016


These are the sorts of threads that make me want to register a sockpuppet just to apply the same insanely-intense scrutiny to every problem that anyone ever complains about.

This could practically be a site function. Auto-puppet, as it were.
posted by aramaic at 6:49 AM on February 22, 2016


I was just brought up to suspect everyone of being a scammer when they ask for money. Especially on the internet.
posted by colie at 6:52 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


This thread pointed to one of the things I find frustrating about metafilter - our trouble with generational stuff. (I mean, also the meanness and lack of empathy and the assumption that pink collar workers are brainless bubbleheads, etc etc.)

It's either "I hate the Boomers they are all dumb white straight men" or else it's "why don't the kids today do what I did in 1996 that worked well". We have trouble understanding people who are [approximately] younger than 28 and [approximately] older than 50, and we don't seem to have a lot of interest in figuring them out or even in accepting that different generations live under different conditions.

I also think that we, as a site, don't really want to bother with working class experiences, or pink collar experiences. On a good day, we may acknowledge that working class jobs can be shitty and exploitative, but we're not really interested in what working class people (or pink collar workers; a big deal due to the feminization of labor) have to say for themselves. What's more, I think we as a group underestimate the experiential and cultural differences between middle/upper middle class professional people and others, so whenever there's a description of actual working class lived experience, we all go on the attack. Our problems are legit and the result of structural issues; working class problems are the result of bad decisions, just as Gen X problems are structural but Boomer problems and millennial problems are about entitlement.

I am an innocent victim; you made some foolish choices; she totally deserved it - that's the conjugation.
posted by Frowner at 6:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [94 favorites]


Concur.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:00 AM on February 22, 2016


I also think that we, as a site, don't really want to bother with working class experiences, or pink collar experiences.

You're over-generalizing. If that were the case, then no one would have pushed back against those attitudes in the thread, and joseph conrad wouldn't have posted this meta. We "as a site" don't "do" anything. We're from all walks of life and have quite varied interests. We include people who are blue collar and pink collar. Not all mefites are middle/upper class professionals, and those who are don't all look down their noses and sneer at everyone else.
posted by zarq at 7:04 AM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


I am an innocent victim; you made some foolish choices; she totally deserved it

Agree with a lot of what you said, Frowner.

I think part of the problem here too is an interpretation slider in our heads which reads "she made some foolish choices" and translates it directly into "she totally deserved it" and responds to the comment as if that is what it was saying.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:05 AM on February 22, 2016 [27 favorites]


I just... do people talk like this to other people, in real life?

Yes, unfortunately plenty of people not only behave that way IRL but firmly believe that in doing so they are providing important and valuable advice.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:05 AM on February 22, 2016 [29 favorites]


and the mods can't solve the world.

WHAT?!?!
posted by Melismata at 7:10 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


We're from all walks of life and have quite varied interests. We include people who are blue collar and pink collar.

Indeed. Including me, a career pink collar worker. That's why I notice the pervasiveness of cultural assumptions about work and daily life - they're so different from my own.

posted by Frowner at 7:16 AM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


there's also the issue where you have an individual as a proxy for a wide-scale problem, because it makes the problem seem more human/sympathetic

The internet at large and metafilter, in particular, seems tediously fond of narrative pieces which use an individual (or where a speaker uses themselves) to illustrate some larger social or cultural dynamic. It isn't surprising; the intimate focus makes for an easy hook and I imagine they're easy to write when they have to be banged out on deadline. But (implicitly or explicitly) they almost always set the reader to judging the subject or speaker on circumstances or qualities which are largely abstract, possibly conjectural, and which are usually merely screens for readers to project their own fears/frustrations/aspirations on. Since there's usually so little to say about these kinds of pieces, it doesn't surprise me that conversation quickly turns to "who's the asshole?" and then, later, "no, who's the real asshole?" Yet people love these things.

I suppose that one of these kinds of pieces could yield some kind of not-totally-pointless discussion with a directed enough group of readers*, but it hardly seems worth the effort.

(*And this seems key to much of the contention on metafilter. The readers that want a discussion to be a seminar bump up against the readers who want something else from it: jokes, a place to vent, a place for fan fic starring themselves, what have you.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:23 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm coming to this MeTa late but I was one of the posters in the midpoint through that thread that just got more and more upset with how it was going, but truthfully, there's been a huge mean streak I've been noticing more than usual through threads these days. I don't know if the predominantly US contingent is super het up about this election cycle so it's leading to frayed nerves everywhere else, but as of recent, it might be time for myself to take an extended break. I am not saying MeFi was all kittens and roses, but damn, it seemed like we were a fairly compassionate community. Not so much anymore.
posted by Kitteh at 7:24 AM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


I was just brought up to suspect everyone of being a scammer when they ask for money. Especially on the internet.

She's not asking YOU for money. She's asking her employer for money, in the form of a living wage.

Someone else set up a GoFundMe, which she has acknowledged with grace and gratitude, but I can't find any evidence that this was ever a fundraising operation. If it was, it is the most cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face effort in the history of time, since the GoFundMe is asking for $3K and she just lost her full-time job and benefits over it.
posted by Mayor West at 7:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


//I am an innocent victim; you made some foolish choices; she totally deserved it//

"She made a foolish choice and at least partly is responsible for her current situation" is a perfectly defensible opinion to hold here, and holding that opinion doesn't not make the holder of said opinion a douche, an asshole, or any other such thing. And that is what I got from most of the dissenting comments, frustration that the majority here sees the author's place in life right now as something that was done to her; as opposed to the expected outcome of moving to SF on credit card debt, with nothing more lined up than a minimum wage job and a rent bill that won't leave her money to eat.

None of which makes the problems in SF (and other large cities) less of a problem, but ignoring the facts doesn't excuse you from their application to your life.

I'm empathetic, and I hope people that know the author and care about her took the rant as a call for help, and are helping. I also hope the author learns from this and makes better decisions next time. We all make bad decisions in our 20s, they shouldn't ruin your life.
posted by COD at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


The internet at large and metafilter, in particular, seems tediously fond of narrative pieces which use an individual (or where a speaker uses themselves) to illustrate some larger social or cultural dynamic.

You are correct. Many of us are indeed "tediously fond" of writing that uses specific, real-world examples to back up its claims about larger issues, rather than relying on vague generalities and abstractions.

Did you know that there is actually a name for that? It's called "good writing"
posted by dersins at 7:37 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Frowner, yes, but my point was just that there are often a lot of people in those threads who push back against those cultural assumptions. Not always, but it's definitely noticeable.*

I'm not trying to diminish the negativity of the assumptions themselves, but one of the biggest reasons why we've had long, sometimes contentious threads about poverty, gentrification, the economy, inequality and especially class differences is there are a lot of outspoken people here who passionately disagree with 'bootstrap' arguments, and are good at calling them out.

* By which I mean, I notice. I have difficulty understanding and talking about economics, so I appreciate good responses to blatant victim-blaming.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on February 22, 2016


I don't know if the predominantly US contingent is super het up about this election cycle so it's leading to frayed nerves everywhere else

I think that's a big part, yes. I think this is going to be an ugly year on mefi and pretty much everywhere else online and I don't really have any advice at all whatsoever on how to deal with it online or irl aside from "find a thing that it is okay to punch and punch that thing until your punching arm is tired and then take a nap with a kitten on your lap".
posted by poffin boffin at 7:53 AM on February 22, 2016 [31 favorites]


"She made a foolish choice and at least partly is responsible for her current situation" is a perfectly defensible opinion to hold here, and holding that opinion doesn't not make the holder of said opinion a douche, an asshole, or any other such thing. And that is what I got from most of the dissenting comments, frustration that the majority here sees the author's place in life right now as something that was done to her; as opposed to the expected outcome of moving to SF on credit card debt, with nothing more lined up than a minimum wage job and a rent bill that won't leave her money to eat.

None of which makes the problems in SF (and other large cities) less of a problem, but ignoring the facts doesn't excuse you from their application to your life.


But the perfect victim of systemic problems doesn't exist, and so personal narratives about poverty, racism, pink collar work, generational employment problems, student loans, etc. are always subject to this sort of "well if she'd only done this" nitpicking. It helps people convince themselves that there really isn't a larger problem here, just bad individual choices, and also lets people feel like they deserve/earned what they have, unlike those bad-choice-making people.

I don't know if this is something that moderation can address. Some people are just really ungenerous with their fellow humans.
posted by Mavri at 7:56 AM on February 22, 2016 [23 favorites]


I think part of the pushback is a violation of social norms - don't talk about your boss publicly with your name attached.

I think if this had been posted anonymously, more people would be on board with what she is saying.

It is a wierd intersection privilege/inexperience/structural issues that in many ways is really hard to address in one thread. Especially when the human component is graduate in first job badmouthing boss and job, who hasn't quite left her parents income safety (it seems).

I also would like to remind people to give others some credit Just because someone posts something that may seem rude, unkind or unempathetic doesn't mean they do not have a more complex opinion outside of what they posted.

With the narrative people could have written pages about all the issues it hit. But most of us don't have the time to participate that way.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:10 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not only is that thread chock-full of engineer’s disease and “she’s getting what she asked for”-ism, it is also full of people who believe that the institutional benefits that they experienced themselves were instead elements of personal virtue, instead of luck and privilege.

“She should have known better than to get an ENGLISH degree” is a lot easier to say when you didn’t go to a school where structural sexism means that female undergraduates are dissuaded from entering STEM disciplines either by administrators, faculty, or their fellow classmates (one of my students once did a presentation in my ENGLISH CLASS OH NOES about how her male classmates used to sit near her so they could hiss vile sexist garbage at her every day in class, until she dropped the class). A lot of people on MF tend to say “sexism is wrong!” in abstract discussions, but then sneer at examples of how systemic gender bias has ongoing, real-world impact on people in our economy. I think denigration of the humanities is part of it. The more that women gravitate to those fields, the more those degrees become subject to mockery and denigration.

“She should have known the job offer was fake” is a way of saying “I have never been deceived, for lo, I am wise and virtuous in my wisdom”, instead of dealing with the fact that so many powerful corporations use blatant falsehoods to trick people into thinking that their jobs are anything other than minimum wage labor-mills. If I’m in a job interview, and the interviewer tells me “we offer dental”, am I supposed to assume that is a lie? If the interviewer says “we believe in professional development to help you build your resume”, should I assume that is a lie? I have worked places where the latter claim was a lie, where it was sort of half-true, where it was 100% true, and there was no way to tell from the job interview which was which.

“Wanting to tweet for a living is stupid” is part of the MF subculture of “social media is stupid, and people who pretend it matters are stupid”, which is fine as a personal preference, but ridiculous when it comes to the current job market. This is where a LOT of jobs are now. Social media management is hugely, incredibly important in our current media landscape. You might think that is stupid, but that doesn’t make the existence of those jobs fictional.

That thread is a perfect storm of smug.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:12 AM on February 22, 2016 [114 favorites]


Some mefi history: Hipsters on Food Stamps. Post is from March 2010 and has 885 comments.

The main link is defunct, but this is the original article. A manufactured outrage piece from Salon.com about millennials living on food stamps. (For non-Americans, food stamps are the colloquial term for a government program currently called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It helps people with limited income buy food. You can see eligibility requirements here.)

Right off the bat, many commenters call out the article and attack its assumptions. Others criticize its subjects, calling them parasites (and worse) and for not changing their situations. Cue a long, drawn-out argument.
posted by zarq at 8:18 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


the assumption that pink collar workers are brainless bubbleheads

That's what bothered me most about this thread (exemplified most perfectly by this comment). Tech-bro-libertarianism at its "finest".
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:20 AM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


That thread is a perfect storm of smug.

Eh, not really. I don't think anyone was saying the things you are claiming. Most people were saying you shouldn't spend 80% of your money on rent, nor should you complain about your boss on the internet when it violates your contract to do so.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:23 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's called "good writing"

It may or may not be "good writing." My only point, which I wasn't the only one to make, is that a discussion of some social dynamic which foregrounds an individual as representative of that dynamic is usually more likely to revolve around the individual than the dynamic. Even more so if the individual is foregrounded in some dramatic way. If a discussion of the dynamic is what is sought from the conversation, then, either, that's what should be foregrounded or the discussion needs to be more clearly directed.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:24 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't think anyone was saying the things you are claiming.

You were one of the people making the comments I'm talking about, so maybe you're lacking the perspective to understand why they are so troubling in the aggregate.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [32 favorites]


Also, if the Talia Jane debunked link had come up earlier in the thread, I wonder if the tone would have been different.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:29 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


You were one of the people making the comments I'm talking about, so maybe you're lacking the perspective to understand why they are so troubling in the aggregate.

Well, I am saying from my perspective, I was not saying any of those things you claim, so, I apologize if you took my comments incorrectly.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:29 AM on February 22, 2016


"She made a foolish choice and at least partly is responsible for her current situation" is a perfectly defensible opinion to hold here, and holding that opinion doesn't not make the holder of said opinion a douche, an asshole, or any other such thing. And that is what I got from most of the dissenting comments, frustration that the majority here sees the author's place in life right now as something that was done to her; as opposed to the expected outcome of moving to SF on credit card debt, with nothing more lined up than a minimum wage job and a rent bill that won't leave her money to eat.

I agree with the example (or summary) quotes you gave. Unfortunately, you completely undercut your point by placing the entire blame for the situation on the author, with "expected outcome." You can't even maintain the fiction of "partly ... responsible" in one paragraph.

I don't think anyone was saying the things you are claiming
“She should have known the job offer was fake”
here's one, and another.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:31 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't think it is necessary, or even human nature, for people to decide to ignore the larger subject raised by an individual story but instead to pick at that story for its imperfections. I think it's something people choose to do, and they can choose not to do it. I mean, it's not like predatory hiring policies and vastly inflated rent is a new topic that occurs so rarely that this lone woman was victimized by it, and is so outside the usual human experience that we must understand where she uniquely went wrong.

No, these are extremely common stories in the abstract, and, yet, when we put a human face on it, and have the person tell their specific experience, a certain percentage of people choose to ignore the larger story, or even the whole facts of the story presented, and instead go through the story in a granular, looking for where they can be critical. And they can choose not to do this.
posted by maxsparber at 8:31 AM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of Israel/Palestine discussions and cat declawing discussions.
posted by hleehowon at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Far from being the worst, this thread was so enjoyable we posted it twice.
posted by Segundus at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


And this seems key to much of the contention on metafilter. The readers that want a discussion to be a seminar bump up against the readers who want something else from it: ... a place for fan fic starring themselves

Now just hang on - if this place isn't all about me, they why do they call it MEfi? I mean, it's right there in the name!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


but instead to pick at that story for its imperfections.

But that's how the OP was framed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:33 AM on February 22, 2016


But that's how the OP was framed.

How so?
posted by maxsparber at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2016


How so?

I mean, there was no discussion of anything outside of this one woman's complaints.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:37 AM on February 22, 2016


roomthreeseventeen: "Also, if the Talia Jane debunked link had come up earlier in the thread, I wonder if the tone would have been different.
"

I don't get the point of this link: "Periodically she made cake." "One time she bought an alcohol". How is this debunking anything?
posted by boo_radley at 8:38 AM on February 22, 2016 [27 favorites]


I mean, there was no discussion of anything outside of this one woman's complaints.

Well, that's true. It could have been framed as part of a broader discussion. But we are not servants of the framing. We could still choose not to treat that as an invitation to stare at photos of cupcakes she ate and decide that's the real story here.
posted by maxsparber at 8:40 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well, I am saying from my perspective, I was not saying any of those things you claim, so, I apologize if you took my comments incorrectly.

Your own posts include the phrases "Cry me a river" and “this girl is a special snowflake”.

I apologize if you incorrectly posted these comments in the belief that they are indicative of anything other than contempt for the author of the article and her circumstances.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:40 AM on February 22, 2016 [68 favorites]


Huh, I looked at a whole lot of that "debunking Talia" site and I don't see where she's saying she paid for any of that. Pretty lazy to point to that site as all the evidence you need to know she's lying, when you can't even be bothered to point out that she never mentions PURCHASING those goods. If we're gonna get all Inspector Gadget about it, how's about mentioning the presence of a boyfriend-like figure in those photos? Hmmmm, maybe he popped for the delivery booze or the eggs Benedict. What a crazy thought, huh.
posted by palomar at 8:40 AM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


I apologize if you incorrectly posted these comments in the belief that they are indicative of anything other than contempt for the author of the article and her circumstances.

No, sorry, you are twisting my comments. I quoted her very specifically when I made that first comment.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:41 AM on February 22, 2016


Also, if the Talia Jane debunked link had come up earlier in the thread

Wow it is super fucking creepy that someone put that site together, and it doesn't even do what the site author implies it does.
posted by dersins at 8:41 AM on February 22, 2016 [41 favorites]


(Oh, actually, I guess I looked at the whole site. There are less than 50 cherrypicked screengrabs from her social media presence, but sure, let's pretend that's a legit "debunking".)
posted by palomar at 8:42 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


a certain percentage of people choose to ignore the larger story, or even the whole facts of the story presented, and instead go through the story in a granular, looking for where they can be critical

The immune response of late capitalism.
Nitpicking foreign ideas instead of integration into the body politic? Bubble economies as fever of overinvestment?

/this metaphor is getting away from me.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:43 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying it was a legit debunking or not, although there is a discussion of that in the actual thread. I guess my main complaint about that thread is that people acted as if it was impossible to have any other opinion about Talia Jane's post than completely sympathy for her.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:43 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I mean, there was no discussion of anything outside of this one woman's complaints.

And the company's response, oh the CEO of the company's response, and the responses in the comments section of the article.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:44 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Metaphors are flowers. They fall apart if you pick at them too much. And some are poisonous if added to a salad FUCK.
posted by maxsparber at 8:44 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


if this place isn't all about me, they why do they call it MEfi?

I have asked myself the same question.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:45 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like we're wandering back around towards digging-in-on-the-article again to some extent here and that really should just sort of stick to the original thread on the blue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:49 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am not sure of the point of this meta. Is it to say we should somehow require more empathy from those responding to posts? Empathy is a good thing and I certainly want folks to have it, but to try to legislate it or somehow measure it seems like a bad idea to me. If the point of the Meta is to get something off your chest about behavior you don't appreciate or like, well then +1 from me for more consideration before posting a response to a FP.
posted by AugustWest at 8:51 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


There should be a word for the urge some people have to invent 'gotcha' narratives in which people are lying about themselves. And another for cherry-picking someone's social media posts to "prove" deception where it doesn't exist.

After all, it's a common narrative theme in racist and sexist circles. "Women cry rape." "Black people are racist, too." "Trans women aren't real women." And: "That person can't be poor. She posted a picture of a meal where she ate chuck meat and a beer."

If you find yourself voicing the latter, perhaps taking a good hard look at whether you sound like the first three examples is in order.
posted by zarq at 8:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [33 favorites]


I think this is one of those things that probably can't really be legislated, but it still might be great if people would be a little mindful of it. I'm not sure that every change in site culture has to come through mod action. Or I don't know, maybe it does.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't get the point of this link: "Periodically she made cake." "One time she bought an alcohol". How is this debunking anything?

This is standard right-wing-internet-troll operating procedure: reduce the discussion to a heated argument about a tiny subsection of the author's larger thesis, and then focus all your attention on that. Talia probably should not have made a statement like "I mostly eat plain rice," even though it was plainly meant as an exaggeration for effect, because now that's what we're all arguing about instead of discussing structural problems with wages.

I do admit that I am really surprised to see it show up here, and to have so many people take up the "once she made cupcakes out of fancy chocolate!" torch. MetaFilter is usually better than that.
posted by Mayor West at 8:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [37 favorites]


Picking through someone's social media presence is incredibly creepy. It makes me feel more, not less sympathy for her.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:57 AM on February 22, 2016 [29 favorites]


This is standard...internet-troll operating procedure:

Complete with the I Didn't Necessarily Mean It Was Accurate I Was Just Raising Points For Discussion followup.
posted by Drastic at 8:59 AM on February 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


OK, I am going to peace out of this thread, because I believe it is doing more harm than good on Metafilter.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


From now on I'm going to call every drink I have "an alcohol."
posted by JanetLand at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2016 [26 favorites]


This is standard right-wing-internet-troll operating procedure: reduce the discussion to a heated argument about a tiny subsection of the author's larger thesis, and then focus all your attention on that.

Right wing? Given that you’re seeing it here, I’d say it’s just a standard tactic in arguments where you think the specific is more important than the general.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:11 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is standard right-wing-internet-troll operating procedure

Realistically speaking it's kinda answering-a-problem-with-another-problem stuff to reduce disagreement about whether and what and how someone else approaches an article to "it's trolling", as much as I more or less understand the thrust of your comment. Like, if you think it's literally trolls secretly invading MetaFilter, I guess say so, but if you don't and I don't get the impression all else aside that people are making that argument, then the comparison just needlessly immediately jars the meta-discussion itself a couple notches off-kilter by escalating it from "I think that's a crappy/unempathetic argument" to an accusation of outright bad faith.

There's a distinction between a bad pattern and individual comments that can fit that pattern, and one of I think the most difficult aspects of large group discussion in the context of an even larger internet is the tension between the value in recognizing and calling out bad patterns and the value of being gracious about individual interactions.

And so on the one hand, "it's just one comment" isn't a reason to never point out how a comment fits a bad pattern, and we do that all the time in various ways on the site, often to good effect. "Here's why this thing you don't feel like is a problem fits into a larger context that is a problem" can be a good illuminating discussion to have, and can help someone who is operating in good faith but has a blind spot figure something out for the future.

But on the other hand, frustration or anger or tiredness at a bad pattern isn't always a great reason to make a specific comment the target of the accumulated ire that pattern has created. It can become a way to basically discount the idea of granting good faith in unhappy or frustrating contexts, to operate on the principle that because Pattern X sucks, a person who stumbles into that territory deserves the full weight of the counter-suckiness that folks sick of that pattern can muster. That a comment stops being a comment, and a commenter stops being a commenter, and instead it's just a figurative example of how bad a larger thing is and deserves to be treated as a metonymic representative of that larger bad thing.

And it's a tension, because there's all kinds of shades of grey for both of those and a lot of it is context driven. But I feel like part of where discussion gets so difficult with complicated/multifaceted premises is the way people end up pushing in different directions on that and then essentially fighting about that tension and opposing pushes as much as the do trying to have an empathetic discussion all around. It's a weird messy reality of online group discussion, and I don't have a good solution for it other than trying kind of remind people that one of the things that makes this place a community is that we do generally have the ability and on better days the inclination to approach conflicts in a way where we remember we're all actual people in a shared space and not just abstract representatives of The (respective) Wrong Take On This, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:19 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Fair enough. There's a specific version of it that is almost I see employed exclusively by the right, which I should have specified:

Person 1: Here's a glaring social problem, and tons of analysis of it including personal anecdotes A, B, and C of why ${BAD_THING} is bad.
Person 2: ANECDOTE DID NOT HAPPEN THAT WAY. YOU ARE A PERSON OF ILL PARENTAGE, AND YOUR ARGUMENT IS MOOT.
Person 1: Uh, actually it did, but even if you disregard that, there's still this structural problem that--
Person 2: But you did this small thing wrong! I would have done things X, Y, and Z, because doing things another way is immoral.
Person 1: Still not seeing you address any of the larger substance of--
Person 2: IMMORAL!

I mean, yeah, we all do the "focus intently on one tiny part of the discussion" thing... that's pretty much the anthem here. Disregarding structural problems because of personal failings of the complainant is its own special kind of awful, though.
posted by Mayor West at 9:23 AM on February 22, 2016 [16 favorites]


Structural problems? YEP!

Personal choices not the ones I would have made? YEP!

Discussion over.

Welp, that was boring.
posted by josher71 at 9:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Disregarding structural problems because of personal failings of the complainant is its own special kind of awful, though.

Not sure I agree, but either way I think that purging that from threads is insoluble - especially because hashing out that stuff is one way community members evaluate whether a structural problem actually exists. (Ideally after having initially read the FPP, but let’s be realists about that as well.)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2016


Most people were saying you shouldn't spend 80% of your money on rent,

Someone who lives in NYC saying this as if there is a real choice for many people in these prohibitively expensive cities is . . . amazing.
posted by Mavri at 9:36 AM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


Again I think how you hear these things is also really important because I totally understand what you are saying Mayor West, but those discussions often look like this to me....

Person 1: Here's a glaring social problem which is mostly highlighted with a set of personal anecdotes A, B, and C of why ${BAD_THING} is bad.
Person 2: I can see a few things that are hinky about that set of personal anecdotes even though I do agree that social problem is bad, this may not be a great illustrative example of that.
Person 1: You are worse than Hitler. (exaggerated for effect)

So I guess it depends at what point you think the conversation goes off the rails and this is, of course, based on loose paraphrases of what people are actually saying to each other. This was always something I found interesting about MetaFilter, that two people or ten people could read the same set of sentences and get wildly different meanings from them. It encouraged me to be a lot more careful with my words (if I cared about being understood, which I don't always) but also to not presume that people are going to share the same presuppositions about a narrative that I will.

And I feel like this post, the original MeFi post, was phrased as a "look at this terrible thing that happened!" post and not as a "here's an example of a social problem that is highlighted with this one person's story as well as all this other data" No big deal, no harm no foul, but I can see some of the friction here coming from the fact that people wanted to have very different discussions from the jumping off point of this point, and that those discussions had varying levels of sympathy not only for the original narrator but for other MeFites.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:36 AM on February 22, 2016 [36 favorites]


if I cared about being understood, which I don't always

You are worse than Hitler.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:51 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow. Jessamyn wasn't exaggerating for effect!
posted by maxsparber at 9:53 AM on February 22, 2016




Is it to say we should somehow require more empathy from those responding to posts? Empathy is a good thing and I certainly want folks to have it, but to try to legislate it or somehow measure it seems like a bad idea to me.

Agreed, I really don't like how this is framed, it feels like it is telling people how to feel. Can choices the subject made be legitimately criticized? Yeah. Does it justify being a tool about it? Nope. Are there also circumstances beyond the subject's control that contributed to their situation? Yes. Does it mean being critical of the person sharing their story is victim-blaming/right-wing/misogyny? No.

That jessamyn hitler person also makes a good point.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:21 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is it not possible to feel empathetic towards the author of the main FPP link while simultaneously believing that her essay contained some serious flaws in logic that are fair to point out on a general discussion site like Metafilter? (I hope that is the category my own comments in the thread fell into, though I suppose I'm not an unbiased judge).
posted by The Gooch at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


shakespeherian: "if I cared about being understood, which I don't always

You are worse than Hitler.
"

Don't be hasty.
posted by HITLERTRON 5000 at 10:31 AM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of Israel/Palestine discussions and cat declawing discussions.

Quick, someone start a thread about the relative merits of formula vs breastfeeding so we can have a little relaxation and breathing room.

(I'll see myself out...)
posted by theorique at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Quick, someone start a thread about the relative merits of formula vs breastfeeding so we can have a little relaxation and breathing room.

Or

WILCO IS NOT DAD ROCK OKAY
posted by My Dad at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's pitbull time
posted by colie at 11:00 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Can we have a bit more empathy for people who are screwed over by low wages, high rent, and bait and switch employment tactics?

Not when they're writing about living off rice, but tweeting about ordering whisky and having it delivered at work. By all means, write about the terrible situation you're in, just don't expect universal sympathy if the situation isn't being framed very well.

Because not everyone is going to have the same values as you and that's going to be readily apparent once you post something to the internet.

Just do like a sane person and feel smugly superior at home.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


That thread is making me wish I had the ability to force people to read The Jungle at gunpoint.
posted by klangklangston at 11:26 AM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


That thread is making me wish I had the ability to force people to read The Jungle at gunpoint.

This is America, you can do that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [39 favorites]


I skimmed/skipped large parts of that thread and this one. And I left a few comments there and it didn't become some huge derail. I have had experiences in the past where I opened my mouth and it seemed to turn into a beat down. It often felt to me like it did not matter what I said, that was going to happen. At some point, I concluded that the fact that I am very open about being homeless disturbs a lot of people.

So, I was pleasantly surprised that discussion didn't somehow turn into "Well, YOU would think that!" as soon as I commented. Thus, I actually thought the thread was strong evidence that Metafilter is less entrenched in classist assumptions about poor people and was doing an abnormally good job of civilly discussing different points of view from different life experiences. It is really hard to have civil yet meaty discourse with a large number of people from very diverse situations literally from across the globe. And while I had no desire to engage some of what was being said, for once, I felt like I had the option to choose to not engage.

So, my impression of the thread was that Metafilter has come a long way in its ability to talk about poor people and with poor people like they are also whole people. And the reality is that whole people deserve both compassion and critique when they make bad decisions. It is infantilizing to treat them like they are merely pawns of the system and have zero agency, which is something I see frequently in the world with discussions of poor people (such as homeless individuals).

So, I was quite surprised to see this MeTa.
posted by Michele in California at 11:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


If you don't know what the hell klangklangston is talking about, here's a link. Maybe, because I"m not familiar with what he's talking about, but this sounds right.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:28 AM on February 22, 2016


"This thread is being used as a proxy channel for people who thought that thread was just too respectful to really take the gloves off and call their fellow mefites assholes and douches. I don't know why you hoped posting a meta thread would make this conversation more empathetic, as it appears to have achieved precisely the opposite."

God love ya, man, but sometimes calling someone an asshole is the quickest way to tell them to stop and reconsider their participation. Sometimes calling someone an asshole is the best solution to someone being an asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


> I am not sure of the point of this meta. Is it to say we should somehow require more empathy from those responding to posts? Empathy is a good thing and I certainly want folks to have it, but to try to legislate it or somehow measure it seems like a bad idea to me.

Nobody's legislating anything. This MeTa appears to me to be a request that we have a bit more empathy for people who are screwed over by low wages, high rent, and bait and switch employment tactics. I think that's an admirable thing to request and at least as valid a MeTa post as "can we have this pony that you've said sixteen times we can't have but I still want it?" Not everything is a demand for new laws. And that thread was such a shitshow I would feel worse about this place if there wasn't a MeTa about it.
posted by languagehat at 11:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [46 favorites]


Yeah, I think that I can claim that this point about Bay Area housing, tech inequality, etc etc being a potent source of grar is uncontroversial, or at least hard to controvert. Shouldn't there be a higher standard asked for of these posts, like we sometimes ask for I/P and declawing and breastfeeding and stuff?
posted by hleehowon at 11:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Jungle. As if potted meat isn't bad enough, imagine it with a huge chunks of Eastern European immigrant in it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:32 AM on February 22, 2016


That thread is making me wish I had the ability to force people to read The Jungle at gunpoint.

Be sure you aim at the heart, and not the stomach.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Can we have a bit more empathy for people? I support this request.
posted by theora55 at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


That thread is making me wish I had the ability to force people to read The Jungle at gunpoint.

Or at least make them listen to "Welcome to the Jungle."
posted by octobersurprise at 11:41 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Christ, don't start asking for an autoplaying-music pony.
posted by Etrigan at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not when they're writing about living off rice, but tweeting about ordering whisky and having it delivered at work. By all means, write about the terrible situation you're in, just don't expect universal sympathy if the situation isn't being framed very well.

You are framing it poorly, right now, by giving any credence to this argument in the first place. So she ordered a $25 bottle of booze once - how is that incompatible with living off rice? Bourbon has calories, but 750mL worth of it won't help you survive for long.

How is the "debunking" shit not a derail anyway? The point of the OP is that Yelp has a class of employees that they knowingly pay far less than it costs to live in the geographic area where they're employed. "She made cupcakes once!" or "She had an omelette!" are non-sequiturs that are designed to sound like they're related to the argument but really only serve to discredit the person getting screwed. People dug back at least as far as September, 2015 and found less than two dozen examples of such egregious behavior as buying a bottle of kombucha or a Chik-fil-a sandwich. Who knows whether she's even the one who paid for them as opposed to her (pictured) significant other, and if she did pay for them, who knows whether it came out of money she was going to put towards bills or $3-5 of additional groceries or if she just put it on her credit card because even broke people like to have modest treats every once in a while.

Does any of this mean that Yelp pays their employees enough? No, it's completely unrelated to the issue, but it sure gives us a reason to talk about the author instead of her point, so, mission accomplished
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [44 favorites]


I am so so mad at the whiskey/cupcakes derail that I can't even begin to formulate how fucked up it is. You know what? She shouldn't have to justify buying those things even if she isn't as poor as people really want her to be so she can be deserving of sympathy. Lord knows I have been poor as an adult and have bought booze or really nice cheese a handful of times because it has the brief ability to make you feel like a normal person. Christ. I would rather you ask the damn CEO to justify his purchases instead of asking why he doesn't pay his employees a living wage.
posted by Kitteh at 12:01 PM on February 22, 2016 [86 favorites]


Like is the idea that Yelp is actually paying people more than they by all accounts are, and we can prove it by trawling through employee's social media? That's not how arguments work.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


People dug back at least as far as September, 2015 and found less than two dozen examples of such egregious behavior as buying a bottle of kombucha or a Chik-fil-a sandwich.

And, seriously, who the fuck does that? How fucking damaged is someone whose first response to this story is to stalk-shame this woman into silence?
posted by dersins at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [64 favorites]


Dammit. I go my entire life without using the term "stalk-shame" and then I suddenly bust it out twice in five minutes in two different threads. I'd edit it out of the comment in this thread, but...
posted by dersins at 12:08 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I skimmed/skipped large parts of that thread and this one.

and

So, I was quite surprised to see this MeTa.

Not to single you out, but a big issue on this site is people who think skipping the input right on their way to outputting is a-ok and contributes positively to the discussion.

This is also occurring in the thread - the people who've dragged out a bunch of tropes/engineer's solutions to the woman's problem without considering whether her grievances are valid on the whole. Getting paid $8.15/hour in SF considering the housing market is ludicrous.

If you've ever been in a meeting with someone who has not read the material and doesn't seem to care what other people have to say, but must get their opinion in, it is beyond frustrating and demeaning to others who put time and thought into their contributions here.

If you spent the time reading that thread and this, you will find numerous examples of people displaying little or no empathy towards this person/people in general experiencing poverty/expensive housing/the horrific combination thereof, and varying degrees of belief this attitude is a problem worth doing something about. That's why this MeTa is not surprising at all.
posted by scrittore at 12:09 PM on February 22, 2016 [26 favorites]



Metafilter: a perfect storm of smug.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:11 PM on February 22, 2016


It's pitbull time

DALE
posted by poffin boffin at 12:12 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you spent the time reading that thread and this, you will find numerous examples of people displaying little or no empathy towards this person/people in general experiencing poverty/expensive housing/the horrific combination thereof, and varying degrees of belief this attitude is a problem worth doing something about.

I read enough to see plenty of that. It is part of why I went to skimming. I don't think that makes my point of view on the dynamic any less valid.
posted by Michele in California at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2016


That (and this) thread almost makes me wish that Metafilter had an "ignore user" function.
posted by octothorpe at 12:21 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


it is grotesque how people expect the poors to wear burlap, eat only beans and rice, drink only water, etc before they're "really" poor enough to qualify for empathy. it's so mind boggling and cruel and ignorant of how poverty works.
posted by nadawi at 12:23 PM on February 22, 2016 [84 favorites]


[Comment removed, quit relitigating the "yeah but she bought a thing" angle.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:26 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


People dug back at least as far as September, 2015 and found less than two dozen examples of such egregious behavior as buying a bottle of kombucha or a Chik-fil-a sandwich.

And, seriously, who the fuck does that? How fucking damaged is someone whose first response to this story is to stalk-shame this woman into silence?

People do that if they are angry and have time. In other words: many Mefites.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: we're angry and we have time.
posted by theorique at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


People do that if they are angry and have time. In other words: many Mefites.

I said it over there, and I'll say it again here: this is Gamergate-type shit. Going through a woman's online presence to identify 'transgressions' to use to cudgel her into silence.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [68 favorites]


If you're going to complain about people of less-than-optimal means having the gall to want to enjoy themselves every once in a while, please do us all a favor and don't.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [27 favorites]


I'd really like to see a hard "we don't do this here or link to this here" when it comes to that sort of doxxing/receipt-blog/Gamergate-style "We're going to trawl through someone's online presence for anything we can describe as problematic, aggregate it, and shove it out to the internet with a giant target labeled 'Aim here! But don't literally shoot them, just metaphorically, you know?'" behavior.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [30 favorites]


I don't think that makes my point of view on the dynamic any less valid.

Your point of view seems to be largely that people didn't come at you, which is great I guess, but I don't think you can extrapolate that Metafilter is any better at discussing the plight of poor people because you weren't the subject of a thread about poverty.

A disproportionate amount of it goes at this 23-year-old woman and all of the reasons she is poor because of herself. Maybe she could be less poor if she never drank once, but she'd still be poor because she makes $8.15/hr working for a well-financed startup in an expensive city.

As someone who grew up dirt poor (and isn't anymore), the kind of stuff my parents were told when they bought* us new clothing (vs. hand-me-downs or thrift wear) was ridiculous. Anything other than the essentials of survival was considered a luxury item and was thus my parents throwing away money. My parents were bad parents whether they spent money on their kids (wasting money) or if they didn't (not providing what their kids desired.) I think this dead end and the stress from it was a primary cause of their divorce.

* 90% of my new clothing came from my own paper routes, which if you think of it, should've been lauded by the free market critics of their decision making - they tried to maximize revenues by having their pre-teen kids get up at 6am in -40C to deliver more affluent parents' papers.
posted by scrittore at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2016 [23 favorites]


I’d really like to see a hard “we don’t do this here or link to this here” when it comes to that sort of doxxing/receipt-blog/Gamergate-style “We’re going to trawl through someone’s online presence for anything we can describe as problematic, aggregate it, and shove it out to the internet with a giant target labeled ‘Aim here! But don't literally shoot them, just metaphorically, you know?’” behavior.

Do we want to consider that doxxing? We have firm rules about that. But if it’s in your Twitter feed I’m kind of uncomfortable about it. What about the counterpoint: what if people went through her profile and picked out instances of her talking about eating rice?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's pretty usual for people to see what other stuff a writer has written, so...ok?

If you want people to have empathy for what is a very reasonable position, it's probably best to out your own warts. They're going to come out one way or another.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


and sleep in a dresser drawer in the back of a rented U-Haul under the freeway

Trendy studio living in the heart of SoMa! Get the "real" SF experience! Convenient access to I-280! A steal at $1350/mo!
posted by en forme de poire at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you want people to have empathy for what is a very reasonable position, it's probably best to out your own warts. They're going to come out one way or another.

You are being very disingenuous and I wish you would stop.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2016 [39 favorites]


i don't know if i'd define it as doxxing, but i do know that i've done things i personally think are even less close to that line and the mods have deleted it saying it was too close. it wouldn't surprise me at all if they had fallen on the side of deleting it for being shitty, pitchfork-y type behavior.
posted by nadawi at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe we should just believe people when they say they have a problem rather than assuming that Job #1 is proving them wrong? If your name's not Columbo, settle down.

Seriously, that tactic is no different as a reaffirmation of superiority as the Obamaphone bullshit, which probably wouldn't actually be allowed to stand in comments here.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:46 PM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


Calling out hypocrisy may be infuriating to people who are embarrassed by their actions (and to others who sympathize with them) but it is not doxxing if they air their laundry in a forum as public and social as Twitter.

It seems like the word doxxing gets thrown around very easily, often to shut down discussion, so if this notion seems controversial or a grey area, then perhaps it would be useful to discuss so that there is clarity across the site over what is and what is not doxxing, to avoid attempts to shut down lines of discussion that may be uncomfortable, though still relevant.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ announcing that you bought a $25 bottle of booze is not airing your laundry.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:53 PM on February 22, 2016 [51 favorites]


Maybe we should just believe people when they say they have a problem

I dunno, a random person posts something on the internet and I'm inclined to not believe them as the default setting. (But that might make me a bad person. I've changed my mind during this thread and agree that the whole cupcake-whisky thing is crap, and also that focusing on the individual story even if she framed it that way herself is a dead end. Thanks to those who had the patience to insist on that.)
posted by colie at 12:54 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


a person struggling with money sometimes splurges on a thing to make them feel momentarily better isn't hypocrisy and i can't believe we're even arguing about this. "she once got a cupcake" is not some uncomfortable relevant truth.
posted by nadawi at 12:55 PM on February 22, 2016 [50 favorites]


It is super-stupid and mean to claim that spending $14 on consumables means that housing prices in the Bay Area are manageable or that $12/hour is a living wage in the Bay Area. I understand that the intention was to question the author's credibility, by suggesting she is exaggerating her financial problems, but it is easy to see the illogic there, too - she bought things then that she can't afford now, either on credit or with savings she no longer has, and she can't afford them now because $12/hour is not a living wage in the Bay Area, never even mind San Francisco.
posted by gingerest at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


Your point of view seems to be largely that people didn't come at you, which is great I guess,

No. My point is that in order for discussion to be both meaty and civil, there has to be a certain level of tolerance for "offensive" points of view and for people from different backgrounds to express themselves without it becoming a big damn deal. In difficult discussions, almost anything one does not personally agree with is likely to be seen as offensive. And I felt there was more of that in this thread and less of something else than I have seen in the past.
posted by Michele in California at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Calling out hypocrisy

I think I see some around here, but it's not coming from the poor person who, gasp, had the temerity to buy a cupcake
posted by RogerB at 12:58 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


BB i wish you would stop saying the same trite things in both threads. can we get a ruling on that mods cuz it's gotta be a derail in at least one of them.
posted by twist my arm at 12:59 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Yes, it makes perfect sense that a young woman should have geared her entire online presence throughout her life to ensure that concern trolls couldn't accuse her of hypocrisy years later when she decided to protest her lack of a living wage.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:00 PM on February 22, 2016 [39 favorites]


BB i wish you would stop saying the same trite things in both threads. can we get a ruling on that mods cuz it's gotta be a derail in at least one of them.

We already did, he's just ignoring it.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Let that be a warning to you poors that you should never ever aspire to anything more than drudgery and don't you dare think about talking about it when you may conceivably complain to your boss that the rest of your life is pretty shitty because of your income.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


[Another comment. Brandon Blatcher, just take a break from both of these threads starting now, this is getting super tedious.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:03 PM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


Do we want to consider that doxxing? We have firm rules about that. But if it’s in your Twitter feed I’m kind of uncomfortable about it. What about the counterpoint: what if people went through her profile and picked out instances of her talking about eating rice?

I'm not sure if I'd consider it doxxing, but I'm generally uneasy with going through anyone's social media, twitter included, to amass 'evidence' one way or another. I don't think there needs to be a hard-and-fast rule.

But it leads us down the road of, essentially, demanding that people document their hardships to our satisfaction before we accept them as real. If we say, here, 'ah, look, she talked about going hungry in a tweet six months ago -- proof!' then, what about the next person who keeps talk of hunger off of their twitter? Is that proof that they don't go hungry? Does our requirement for sympathy now extend to an extensively documented social media presence?

That is, admittedly, a bit of a slippery-slope argument, but given that we're starting from 'but look at these cupcakes' I think we're already half-way down the hill and fighting to climb back up.
posted by cjelli at 1:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


a person struggling with money sometimes splurges on a thing to make them feel momentarily better isn't hypocrisy and i can't believe we're even arguing about this. "she once got a cupcake" is not some uncomfortable relevant truth.

This!

Like - the reasons I like a cupcake today when I have a bank account with money in it are the same as they were when I struggled to pay rent. Suggesting the only people who should get any empathy are those who forgo joy is some kind of weird sadism masked as rationality.
posted by scrittore at 1:05 PM on February 22, 2016 [38 favorites]


Do we want to consider that doxxing? We have firm rules about that. But if it’s in your Twitter feed I’m kind of uncomfortable about it. What about the counterpoint: what if people went through her profile and picked out instances of her talking about eating rice?

I'm not sure if I'd consider it doxxing, but I'm generally uneasy with going through anyone's social media, twitter included, to amass 'evidence' one way or another. I don't think there needs to be a hard-and-fast rule.


There's a rule here on MetaFilter that we shouldn't hunt through a person's All Activity to find a damning/hypocritical/proven-wrong-by-intervening-years statement. I think the off-MeFi equivalent of that is generally a pretty good idea too.
posted by Etrigan at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


some kind of weird sadism masked as rationality

No shit, I'm beginning to feel, as this discussion continues, that I need to revise my reading of what's going on from scabby labor politics to more basic sociopathy. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course, but it's nice to have a sense of the underlying etiology you're dealing with.
posted by RogerB at 1:09 PM on February 22, 2016


There's a rule here on MetaFilter that we shouldn't hunt through a person's All Activity to find a damning/hypocritical/proven-wrong-by-intervening-years statement.

Eh, historically it's not much of a hard and fast rule. Everyone generally looks the other way when it happens to someone the site is ganging up on.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:12 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


no one is asking for a hard and fast rule and you know that.
posted by nadawi at 1:13 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


no one is asking for a hard and fast rule and you know that.
posted by nadawi at 8:13 PM on February 22 [+] [!]



I'd really like to see a hard "we don't do this here or link to this here" when it comes to that sort of doxxing/receipt-blog/Gamergate-style "We're going to trawl through someone's online presence for anything we can describe as problematic, aggregate it, and shove it out to the internet with a giant target labeled 'Aim here! But don't literally shoot them, just metaphorically, you know?'" behavior.
posted by CrystalDave at 7:33 PM on February 22 [+] [!]

posted by Reggie Knoble at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


fine, then i change it to "no one is getting a hard and fast rule because metafilter doesn't work that way and he knows it"
posted by nadawi at 1:18 PM on February 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


I believe BP was referring to the intra-Metafilter 'All Activity' rule, whereas CrystalDave is clearly referring to links throughout the wider internet.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:19 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't think it should be considered doxxing and I recognize that this stuff is posted publicly, it's just a derail, which is against the guidelines anyway. This shit comes up in a lot of contexts - the cops or George Zimmerman shoot a black teenager and certain sites pore over the victim's social media history for evidence that they smoked weed or looked aggressive or something; Occupy protestors got news coverage and people looked through the press photos to see if they owned iPhones; BLM protestors disrupted the Sanders rally in Seattle and some sleuths found an ancient post where one of them supported Palin several years back; on and on and on. If it's not relevant to the topic of discussion, why bring it up?

Here the point was that (Bay area rent + utilities + food + transit) = X, Yelp pays their CSRs Y, X>Y. So the author may have spent, very liberal estimate, as much as $10 on cupcake ingredients one time. She was spending 80% of her income on rent, hundreds more dollars on transit and phone bill, more on copays, etc. A few single digit dollar food splurges over the course of several months doesn't affect her point at all, it's a derail.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2016 [28 favorites]


5 pounds of Gold Medal flour is currently $2.49 at Target.
4 pounds of Domino Sugar is 2.89 at Target

That's 20 cups of flour. 16 cups of sugar. On average, a cupcake recipe takes 1 cup of flour and a half a cup of sugar to make a dozen. Yes, there are other ingredients and all of them cost something. But even fancy cupcakes are a hell of a lot cheaper to make in batches than buy one at a time.

For heaven's sake. We are all intelligent enough to draw these same conclusions and understand how basic baking works. To understand why buying cheap chuck is not going to cost the same as top-end sirloin. Food preparation, eating out and cooking are not difficult subjects to comprehend. And it shouldn't be beyond anyone's intellectual capacity to recognize that if someone posts pictures of meals they have cooked on their instagram account every once in a blue moon, that doesn't mean they're not having difficulty making ends meet or that their cost of living is not exceeding their income.

I grew up poor. As in, my mother and I quite literally lived on eggs and tuna fish for a week at a time more often than I'm comfortable remembering, because she had to pay our rent and electric bill. That was when you could buy a 6oz can of chunk light tuna for 89¢, and a dozen eggs for a buck twenty five. We supplemented with whatever was in the house. Which meant she baked, because oatmeal cookies or sugar cookies or pancakes or plain cakes or cupcakes or whatever were simply cheap and affordable.

It's nice to tout that Metafilter is a forum for ideas. If the ideas being put forth weren't shitty and toxic, perhaps more people would agree with them. The issue isn't just empathy. It's not just sympathy. It's that certain people here seem bound and determined to think the absolute worst of someone who is poor, and will justify their apparent hatred and distrust of poor people by trying to prove that they deserve condescension and disparagement. It doesn't reflect well on you. And those comments also seem to turn at least some people away from commenting.

Consider your audience. Both here and in the other thread.
posted by zarq at 1:29 PM on February 22, 2016 [56 favorites]


I'm not sure that I would agree that it is a derail to consider how consumerism and conspicuous consumption fit into what represents modern poverty, and I get a sense that calling that line of discussion a derail is like calling it doxxing, or trolling, or calling it anything else to get to the end goal of shutting down that kind of thinking, whether because it is uncomfortable or for whatever reasons that don't really have anything to do with the topic.

I don't know, maybe there should be a few overseers who get to to pre-decide what kinds of comments are acceptable in a thread, and anything that doesn't align with that gets deleted. Curtailing different ways of thinking probably doesn't encourage healthy discussion, but maybe it will make certain users feel better.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


What galled me about the critics was their failure to acknowledge, recognize, or be even minimally aware that larger forces -- the Fed, corporations, the administration, Congress, the courts -- have managed the economy in such a way as to guarantee that we would now be largely divided between a tiny elite of winners and a vast majority of losers, and that as a result, even if every participant in the economic game had played their dealt hand as well and virtuously as humanly possible, a proportion substantially identical to what we see now would have ended up in a predicament as bad as Talia Jane's, or worse -- and therefore, if the Talia Janes of the world hadn't done anything foolish, people just like them or better would be exactly where she is now.

It's a failure of empathy right enough, but it's also hard little molecules of water in a steam engine denying the existence of thermodynamics.
posted by jamjam at 1:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


i'm definitely getting a cupcake right the fuck now and i hope it makes me a bad person
posted by poffin boffin at 1:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [45 favorites]


Consumerism? Conspicuous consumption? Because she made cupcakes and drank a middle shelf whiskey?
posted by gingerest at 1:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [31 favorites]


how consumerism and conspicuous consumption fit into what represents modern poverty

I would say that's a derail because it's an irrelevant question based on a false premise. To pretend like it's a valuable contribution to a meaty dialogue is disingenuous.
posted by witchen at 1:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


ok, a worse person
posted by poffin boffin at 1:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


i'm definitely getting a cupcake right the fuck now and i hope it makes me a bad person

Don't forget the whiskey!
posted by zombieflanders at 1:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


I'm not sure that I would agree that it is a derail to consider how consumerism and conspicuous consumption fit into what represents modern poverty

Calling 'buying basic groceries and baking stuff at home' and 'tweeting about getting a discount on reasonably cheap whiskey' conspicuous consumption is to render the term practically meaningless.
posted by cjelli at 1:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [27 favorites]


maybe we could all stand to "think different" with respect to whether people who can't pay their rent should get dessert
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:35 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


also my rent used to be 100% of my salary, JUDGE ME DO IT LOOK IM EATING CAKE
posted by poffin boffin at 1:37 PM on February 22, 2016 [24 favorites]


If the amount of disingenousness that people were accused of actually happened on this site than no one would take anything anyone said seriously at all.
posted by josher71 at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I bet she has a refrigerator, too! 'Poor' indeed.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:39 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


You know who else thought poor people should eat cake, poffin boffin?
posted by gingerest at 1:44 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


There seems like a lot of room to think about what constitutes poverty when the discussion is about not being able to pay rent in one of the world's most expensive cities, and then publicly broadcasting purchases of what are effectively luxury goods for those who are not only truly below the poverty line, but would and will never be in a position to buy those items or ever live in a city like SF, for lack of a lot of things that make life easier — like education, ownership of technical gadgets, and skin color. Trying to examine that distance and put things in a larger perspective may be uncomfortable for some, but it is not "disingenuous", it's not "trolling", and it's not "doxxing".
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


sometimes i throw away pennies, right in the garbage, because they arent as shiny as the other coins

ready the guillotine
posted by poffin boffin at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


Remember when?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:46 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Trying to examine that distance and put things in a larger perspective may be uncomfortable for some, but it is not "disingenuous", it's not "trolling",

It is when it's done by someone who has admitted to trolling, who has engaged in trolling before, and who has used a sockpuppet to evade an account timeout.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:50 PM on February 22, 2016


may be uncomfortable for some

It's uncomfortable because we are tired of reviewing the basics of systemic poverty and economic injustice every time this comes up. Also uncomfortable because it is exhausting to try and compare poverty in the United States to poverty in, for example, Nigeria (which--is that what you're getting at? at least poor people in the US have running water, etc.?)
posted by witchen at 1:52 PM on February 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


When your "uncomfortable truth" is "I have a unexamined belief in a just world that causes me to be stupidly critical of people I don't know", maybe it's time to turn that deconstruction laser right around.
posted by selfnoise at 1:54 PM on February 22, 2016 [27 favorites]


TIL that talking about spending $30 on Twitter is only what educated white people (who deserve luxuries, natch) do.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


then publicly broadcasting purchases of what are effectively luxury goods for those who are not only truly below the poverty line, but would and will never be in a position to buy those items

Homemade cupcakes? Chick Fil-A? Bourbon? What items do you mean, because I don't see any item she bought where the claim isn't disingenuous. This is just the usual shaming of poor people for not being deserving enough, with some some wordy justifications and a bit of SILENCED ALL MY LIFE because people have pushed back on it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:56 PM on February 22, 2016 [33 favorites]


It is when it's done by someone who has admitted to trolling, who has engaged in trolling before, and who has used a sockpuppet to evade an account timeout.

Once a troll, always a troll? If that's not what you're saying, I'm not really following your point.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 2:00 PM on February 22, 2016


a responder pointed out that the FPP was about the one single specific story and not the issue generally. I don't think that a narrow focus on the author makes for a useful FPP, because it's easy to devolve into just a quick two-minute-hate. The systemic issues are the more pertinent and interesting conversation.

I missed that comment, and am happy it happened. For, when I composed the original FPP, I considered building the argument that this was an example of... of what? An example of overstretched millennials? The apex of income inequality? Lifestyle costs in the Bay Area?

The story lacked the obvious anchor to a larger theme, for whatever I anchored it to, was going to be a subjective anchor – which is what I have seen now played out in the greater discussion. And this is a fine discussion on MetaFilter, a beautiful discussion, for it both reflects on the comments of the Medium posts, with additional richness and depth. The latter stemming from the fact that here we have conversations, not drive-by comments. The conversations taking place are riveting and fascinating, and provide a tremendous depth to the original piece itself.

For original intuition was that what makes this piece interesting is the ambiguities. That the subject is a tragic character – great in hope and mission, but befuddle and thwarted in reality. The target is the CEO of a startup, both heralded and embattled. And the setting is the liberal bastion of the United States, home to the very counterculture and dissent that gave rise to the decentralised internet itself, but now possessed by the acceleration of capital, in a time of quantitative easing.

One of the primary thrusts of keeping this targeted to the specific actors involved – Jane and Stoppelman – stems from a very specific experience of the financial crisis in 2009. Which was that if you looked at the averages, all hope was lost. Unemployment rose. Wages fell. Yet, in the specifics, there were people who took jobs and made good coin in those jobs – even in financial. There's the very corrosive belief that by examining the averages, that we can understand the underlying features. Yet the averages by intention obscure the underlying features. To talk about wealth inequality writ large removes the specific details of any given case of wealth inequality. We can quote statistics about the fortune of the average capitalist, or the misfortune of the average worker, but the nuances and specifics are then drowned out, and we are discussing derivative numbers – not people.

This story was such a powerful opportunity to present the case of two tragic characters. The entry level employee bait-and-switched in one of the most expensive regions in the world, and the CEO who started the company from a place of best-intentions, but now watches is distort and twist in the consumer and financial markets. A site that started with the goal of transparency and service, debased into a business model of threats and servitude. An employee who lived the American value of hard work and risk, only to find herself caught in the whirlpool of forces she did not understand – forces that cannot be overcome by belief in value and effort.

The ultimate reason that I did not extend this to a macro-topic of the subject matter (and you'll know that I have no problem extending a specific point the a macro reference / assertion, no matter how tenuous the analogy) was that the beauty of this example was in the human specifics of each side. Finally in the debate of wealth inequality, we get a true view of the situation in two voices. The employee's emotions – both relevant and irrelevant. The CEO hiding behind syntax. The plausible deniability from the company – we were going to do that anyway. And finally, the cash ask from Jane – which asserts her need, but its then unclear as to whether she is a worthy cause, or if she is taking advantage of the larger trend and awareness of wealth inequality.

There is no clean answer here, and that is why I love the MeFi discussion of it – for this is a nuanced problem of personal perspective merged with the real social externalities of capital and labour. If the question is, why was the post not broadened to the larger debate, it's because that debate loses the very human nuances on both sides of the argument that make this discussion so interesting.

I am so grateful for all of the comments, the insight, and the energy back and forth. It's bringing to light and life whole details of this theme, and I hope that the debate we are having now is at least a microcosm of the debate that we need to have at the national level. One that brings to the surface real experience and real divergence of opinion, rather than macro statistics which make it easy to say "here is what it looks like" versus "this is how it feels".
posted by nickrussell at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


What upsets me is that many people here have learned to be suspicious of "just world" type arguments (and the related victim-blaming) in other contexts -- they recognize that the argument typically comes from someone who has an insulated, privileged perspective on something and that the argument often works as a defense of privilege -- but when this sort of argument appears with regard to poverty, or some other things, those same people are the ones making those arguments and it just doesn't occur to them to examine their own response in the same critical terms they examine others.

I've argued before that we have this intersectionality problem here -- people who are very sensitive about rhetorical tactics used against them where they lack relative privilege are blind to it when they're the ones doing it to others when they're the ones with relative privilege -- and this is more site-wide true with poverty and a few other things where most of the members of this community have that relative privilege. Enough people don't, or are aware of the problem, that we get the push-back we see in that thread and this post, but, still, MetaFilter is much, much worse about certain issues where the community is more homogenous.

I'd also like to try to explain why this makes some of us so very, very angry. I feel like I shouldn't really have to explain this, because I think that much of the community has learned to be aware of this stuff about some other issues, but, you know, the previous two paragraphs -- what's clear to people in one context is unclear in another. But it's basically that the perspective represented by this kind of response and argument, and the responses and the arguments themselves, feel very hostile to those of us who have lived these lives. It's exactly like people nitpicking a writer's argument and behavior when she complains about sexism and harassment at conventions -- policing people's grocery purchases isn't an isolated thing and this is not an abstract discussion, this is many people's actual lived lives, where simply by being poorer than other people around them, they are presumed to be responsible for their poverty in some way ... and people are very, very happy to explain to them their mistakes. This is a constant in their lives, from the media to the people they know.

And this is on top of the background noise of all the ways that conversation in this community presumes a certain kind of white, middle-class, highly educated, coastal, age 28-45 experience. Class is inherited, and this also describes mefites' parents (sans the age). Those of us who grew up in poverty, or are or have been poor during our adult lives, we're most likely from a background different from that, our cultural experience is different. The background presumption on MetaFilter already excludes us and so there's already a tension there. When this moves to the foreground and we're faced with just world arguments and victim blaming about poverty, it's personal and intense. And it doesn't require that someone like this writer be perfectly representative of the poor -- you'll see the exact same kinds of arguments (buying cupcakes!) about someone like her as you'll see in a SNAP thread. Some of us react to this intensely because this discussion is not, it can't be just about this one particular example. I don't believe the claims that this discussion is about this one example. If it were it wouldn't have such a familiar shape.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:09 PM on February 22, 2016 [41 favorites]


then publicly broadcasting purchases of what are effectively luxury goods for those who are not only truly below the poverty line, but would and will never be in a position to buy those items

Homemade cupcakes? Chick Fil-A? Bourbon? What items do you mean, because I don't see any item she bought where the claim isn't disingenuous.


1) Homemade Cupcakes: Don't we have a ton of threads where poor people are told how much easier and better it is to cook for themselves?

2) Chik-Fil-A: Haven't we had tons of threads where we talk about how fast food is something of which poorer people consume a lot because it's a lot of cheap, easy calories?

3) Bourbon: Haven't we had threads where we talk about, among other things, people without a lot of money needing to self-medicate? And also how much everyone loves bourbon*?

I mean, I think in fact these are three items of which people without a lot of money often partake frequently or of which they are encouraged to partake! These are not "effectively luxury goods for those who are not only truly below the poverty line", they are things poor people have sometimes, possibly as often as they can manage. The idea that eating Chik-Fil-A and drinking bourbon is proof she isn't poor enough is either unbelievably out of touch or unbelievably disingenious. These are absolutely things people in dire financial circumstances do and, even more than that, things that it is perfectly reasonable for them to do both financially and morally.

*Gin
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:10 PM on February 22, 2016 [45 favorites]


There is no clean answer here, and that is why I love the MeFi discussion of it – for this is a nuanced problem of personal perspective merged with the real social externalities of capital and labour.

Agreed!
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:14 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's... been a while since I've been reading through a MeTa going "AAAHHHH WHY DON'T THEY GET IT YET"

...anyways, thank you, mods and community, for being better about this in other threads.
posted by halifix at 2:18 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the thing that rankles me most about these kinds of discussions is that often you will have people pointing to the city itself as a poor choice - like, shame on them for living in New York or San Francisco, they should have moved to [insert name of other place] where it's much cheaper!

I once responded to one of those kinds of comments thusly, and it pretty much says all I want to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I just want to say that as discouraging as it is to read "she should expect to get fired if she criticizes her boss" and "look at all the booze she bought" and "why didn't she make better decisions" comments from MeFites that I otherwise like and respect, it is so encouraging to read comments that stand up for people who dare to speak truth to power, or defend lower income people who make small luxury purchases in order to feel better, or try to explain the structural issues that make making rational economical decisions hard for people. I guess I just want to say thank you to the people who push back, who continue to engage with people that seem unwilling to consider another point of view, who are disdainful of anyone that doesn't share their privilege. Thanks. I know I should probably do a better job of being that person, instead of just thanking them, but I don't always have the time or the eloquence or the patience. It makes me think of Mr Rogers' advice to "look for the helpers". When I'm in an ugly MeFi thread, I always look for the helpers, and I am so glad that they are there.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2016 [34 favorites]


On the other hand, those of us who live in cheap, boring places are probably more likely to make cupcakes and consume semi-fancy homemade cocktails, because there's not that much else to do.

Seriously: people would judge me so harshly if they knew how much baking-while-basically-broke I had done.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:29 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


The people ITT saying it's OK to hunt around on the author's social media accounts to track down all the purchases the readers have deemed undeservedly profligate because hey, social media is all public! remind me a lot of the people who say it's OK to inspect a stranger's groceries in the checkout line when the stranger is paying with SNAP or WIC because hey, those are my tax dollars!

The thread linked in the OP is pretty bad but the ignorance displayed therein is not actually something I expect to change, here or anywhere, which is why I try to give threads and IRL discussions even tangentially relating to class a very wide berth. Because there's always going to be someone arguing that my siblings and I deserved to be hungry and homeless as punishment for the crime of being born to parents who were already on the lowest rung of the American socioeconomic ladder.

(Don't worry, bootstrappers, we hailed from a moribund Rust Belt city notorious for its low cost of living and high levels of crime, so at least we didn't EXTRA-deserve to starve, like deservedly poor people do when they get all uppity and try to move to upper-class enclaves like SF and NYC.)
posted by amnesia and magnets at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2016 [39 favorites]




The people ITT saying it's OK to hunt around on the author's social media accounts to track down all the purchases the readers have deemed undeservedly profligate because hey, social media is all public! remind me a lot of the people who say it's OK to inspect a stranger's groceries in the checkout line when the stranger is paying with SNAP or WIC because hey, those are my tax dollars!

Yeah, I'm not super pleased when the comments on Metafilter converge with the comments on my local newspaper's website.
posted by selfnoise at 2:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


behold my gluttonous perfidy!

In a special box designed just to hold cupcakes? Get out of here you Rockefeller!
posted by zachlipton at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I feel like this is the part of the thread where I should start sharing hipster cupcake recipe websites. Or the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


If the comments on your city paper's website are like metafilter, I assume you must live in the greatest municipality of all time. This is tame as hell.
posted by josher71 at 2:50 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


One way to think about this post from a MeTa perspective is to imagine how that Medium piece would have been received had it been posted in a slightly different form as an AskMe, wondering how to make ends meet and whether the promise of a career with Company X was ever so much bullshit.

My gut sense is that the green consensus would have been 'ugh that sucks OP, wish SF wasn't so crazy right now, but you probably need to quit and GTFO out of the Bay Area', with a few people asking about why shared housing wasn't feasible.
posted by holgate at 3:03 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Asking for advice is completely different than describing your situation in an open letter.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


My gut sense is that the green consensus would have been 'ugh that sucks OP, wish SF wasn't so crazy right now, but you probably need to quit and GTFO out of the Bay Area', with a few people asking about why shared housing wasn't feasible.

Just because AskMe rightly understands that an individual cannot singlehandedly change the entire nation's economic system through a single virtuous employment choice doesn't mean that system and its fuckery don't exist.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:11 PM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


Asking for advice is completely different than describing your situation in an open letter.

Just as offering helpful suggestions in the former context is entirely different from hurling imprecations and accusations in the latter.
posted by dersins at 3:13 PM on February 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


Just because AskMe rightly understands that an individual cannot singlehandedly change the entire nation's economic system through a single virtuous employment choice doesn't mean that system and its fuckery don't exist.

Well, quite. Ctrl-F my username on the blue in case you were unsure what I think of the system's fuckery. My point is that AskMe can be judgemental about lots of things, but when individuals ask questions about careers and where to live and why they can't pay their bills and having maybe made slightly naive and suboptimal choices as a young adult in the world of work, responders in the green are still less prone to throwing the first cupcake.
posted by holgate at 3:29 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Asking for advice is completely different than describing your situation in an open letter.

True, because in your open letter on Medium you can ask for money at the end, and AskMe doesn't allow that.

I don't know why she either has to be a sinner or a saint and why we are vilifying people for not having enough empathy. Can't we agree that the employment/living situation in SF sucks while maintaining that this wasn't the best written piece out there and that she, like all of us at one time or another, probably made some bad decisions (bigger than making cupcakes) to get into this hellhole cycle?
posted by kimberussell at 3:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


I can't help but feel like a lot of the friction just comes from the collateral damage when casting big groups as villains. In this case the villain group is "San Francisco" (due to the venture capitalists and tech industry there) so anyone who lives in San Francisco is therefore tainted by villainy. If she'd written the same article word-for-word (er, well, with a few numbers adjusted to reflect pricing differences) about Los Angeles or San Diego or another neutral city she wouldn't have gotten as much blowback. If she'd written it about a city MeFi thinks positively about, like Detroit or New Orleans (you'd have to adjust the numbers a hell of a lot, though) then I doubt she would have gotten any blowback.
posted by Bugbread at 3:32 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


i dunno - this weird poverty shaming happens in all sorts of contexts that don't at all seem location specific.
posted by nadawi at 3:47 PM on February 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


This is the same green website that regularly advises 18-24 year olds that the only way to grow up is to cut all ties with their family, move to the big city and sit on buckets while eating ramen.

And B. San Francisco has little to do with this. It's not the only city where people aren't being paid enough to live.
posted by bleep at 3:55 PM on February 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


My experience on mefi is that sometimes suggesting more empathy be deployed can make people really, really, really long term angry at you. Like hatred level long term angry.

I think people read it as a judgement of them, a suggestion that they are bad people. But it's not, our brains aren't built to live in a world with five billion other people. We can't process all of them as people all the time or the realization of all the suffering there is in this world would drive us out of our minds.

A call for empathy means take a break and think about this issue in particular. Put yourself in those shoes. This company is treating their employees unfairly, nothing they do or you would do in their place changes that. That is what this story is about.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


"Honestly, the thing that rankles me most about these kinds of discussions is that often you will have people pointing to the city itself as a poor choice - like, shame on them for living in New York or San Francisco, they should have moved to [insert name of other place] where it's much cheaper!"

That aspect of the discussion bothers me in both directions. There's nothing wrong with people wanting to live in expensive cities, and there's especially nothing wrong when it's people who already live there who are complaining about the rising cost of living -- but there's also a problem when the people defending these decisions use the supposed horribleness of other places as their argument. There's a comment in that thread doing exactly that. There's a different kind of thing going on with this, but it's an example of how insular and narrow the MeFi perspective can be.

Full disclosure -- I've been complaining to people for most of the four years I've been here in Kansas City that this isn't my kind of place. And, sure, some of the mefi-centric cities (NY, SF, Portland, etc.) are very much more my kind of places. But, even so, there are all sorts of interesting and fulfilling places to live that aren't those cities and the same reasons that it's valid for someone to want to live in a very expensive place like the Bay Area -- they are from there, they have family there, there are the kinds of things they enjoy there, they like the weather, the industry they work within is there, they were offered a good job there, their spouse got a job there, etc. -- are all true for various supposedly boring cities and rural areas for various people for various reasons.

I'd also like to point out how intensely and almost uniquely American (North American, really, but it's even stronger in the US than in Canada) the idea is that mobility is a primary solution to making the most out of your life. The idea that one should move hundreds or thousands of miles to get better jobs, to enjoy more cultural opportunities, even just to go to university is a very American thing. Most of the rest of the people in the world highly value the sorts of things that incline one to stay where you are -- a sense of belonging to a place because of one's history, or ethnicity, and that one's family is in that place, etc. I think there are good things that come from the American willingness to pull up stakes and start somewhere new -- in fact, one of the things I notice and dislike here in KC is a provincialism that I'm certain has to do with this lower mobility than what I'm more accustomed to. But, that said, there are good things that come from it, too. And, anyway, people have the right to decide what kind of lives they want to live, what's important to them. That may be living in a place that offers what NYC does and therefore justifies moving there from Omaha, and it may be living in a place that offers what Omaha does and not moving to NYC.

This is a bigger issue than the topic of this thread, and a bit of a derail, but I think there's a larger problem with a failure of imagination and an unwillingness to value different sorts of lives than one's own (or that one is personally familiar with). I know that this is another way of talking about a failure of empathy, but I often find that I think about the problem of the lack of empathy as partly a failure of imagination. Or, maybe, a failure to recognize the responsibility we have to exercise our imaginations about other people's lives, because that's a core part of how empathy works.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:07 PM on February 22, 2016 [24 favorites]


I can't help but feel like a lot of the friction just comes from the collateral damage when casting big groups as villains. In this case the villain group is "San Francisco" (due to the venture capitalists and tech industry there) so anyone who lives in San Francisco is therefore tainted by villainy.

Can't speak for anyone else, but I know lots of people who live in the Bay Area and environs who don't make a living wage and are suffering. I even know someone in (a rent-controlled apartment in) SF proper who isn't making a living. (Admittedly, some people would think she's not REALLY POOR with her two minimum-wage less-than-part-time jobs, because she has a cat and a car, but whatever.) San Francisco isn't the villain here, from my perspective - the villains here are globalism, capitalism, income inequality, rapaciously greedy developers and real estate financiers, and everyone with a relentless case of "I've got mine, Jack." San Francisco proper is being taken over by those forces and those people, it's true, but my perspective is informed by the firm belief that supporting people in my friends' and the author's position is the only way to stop SF and the greater Bay Area from becoming villainous. My pushback is about appreciating the Bay Area, not seeing it as villainous.
posted by gingerest at 4:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


Huh, well that was interesting.

I am completely clear that Yelp and many of their brethren care only for their own enrichment and are openly exploiting their young and vulnerable workforce, and destroying the entire economy of the Bay Area in the process, but at the same time, I had a negative reaction to the article, interpreted the author as entitled and sort of clueless, and felt irritated reading it.

Sooo, it was kind of useful for me to see people's reactions in that thread (and here) and then use it as a way to examine my own reaction. At first, I felt critical, but reading other people's critiques, I felt like, "Whoa, is that what I'm thinking? That is not cool."
posted by latkes at 4:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


I'd also like to point out how intensely and almost uniquely American (North American, really, but it's even stronger in the US than in Canada) the idea is that mobility is a primary solution to making the most out of your life.

And yet at the same time most Americans don't leave their state of birth to live.

Still, I think MeFi as a cohort is perhaps less reflective of the people who stay close to their mothers throughout their lives, and perhaps more likely to see mobility as a way to make the most of your life -- or at least, to get out of a bad situation. We're more likely to include people who've endured shitty bottom-rung jobs and living conditions in big cities, more likely to include people who've finally established a career there, and more likely to include people who've decided the gig is up and got the hell out of those places.
posted by holgate at 4:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


nadawi: "i dunno - this weird poverty shaming happens in all sorts of contexts that don't at all seem location specific."

Yes and no. It happens everywhere, but I think the amount varies by location.

bleep: "And B. San Francisco has little to do with this. It's not the only city where people aren't being paid enough to live."

I'm having a hard time parsing this. It sounds like you're saying the second sentence in disagreement with what I said, but that second sentence was the whole point of my comment.

gingerest: "Can't speak for anyone else, but I know lots of people who live in the Bay Area and environs...San Francisco isn't the villain here, from my perspective"

Likewise when the South comes up, people who live in the South and know lots of Southerners don't see the South as the villain. And yet a lot of MeFi does. Maybe not a majority of MeFi, but enough to influence how threads play out.
posted by Bugbread at 4:36 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


"And yet at the same time most Americans don't leave their state of birth to live."

Yes, but I was speaking in relative terms. Take a look at this graph I found from a very quick search (it's from an EC document on EU labor mobility). As you can see, labor mobility between US states is two-and-a-half times that of EU mobility between regions within countries. This is an aspect of American culture which has been deeply internalized through much of its history and is recognizable everywhere from economic analysis to literature.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:45 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


"My, my, serpentine"
posted by clavdivs at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2016


Drinky Die's comment is so good I want to repeat it in full so I remember it:

My experience on mefi is that sometimes suggesting more empathy be deployed can make people really, really, really long term angry at you. Like hatred level long term angry.

I think people read it as a judgement of them, a suggestion that they are bad people. But it's not, our brains aren't built to live in a world with five billion other people. We can't process all of them as people all the time or the realization of all the suffering there is in this world would drive us out of our minds.

A call for empathy means take a break and think about this issue in particular. Put yourself in those shoes. This company is treating their employees unfairly, nothing they do or you would do in their place changes that. That is what this story is about.


Conversations on the Blue quickly turn into debates where there are two clear sides. Some people in that thread are just being judgmental jerks, but I think part of what is happening is that we're automatically trained in the US to pit non-rich people against each other, and so commenters aren't recognizing that if there are sides here, it's just woman vs. Yelp/SF's exclusive tech culture/systemic economic inequality. Instead they automatically read it as woman vs. working and lower middle-class folks who could never dream of even living in an elite city like SF, who don't have their parents to help them, who don't have education or a safety net, who have always had to work stable unexciting jobs, who don't have internet connections, let alone tweet professionally and order whisky. But pitting these groups against each other serves nothing. This woman isn't taking anything away from people who grew up poor; her problem is yet another facet of the huge issue of inequality in the US.
posted by thetortoise at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


“My, my, serpentine”

?
posted by Going To Maine at 5:11 PM on February 22, 2016


Conversations on the Blue quickly turn into debates where there are two clear sides.

That is a general tendency on most forums. It is incredibly hard to escape it, possibly having to do with fundamental brain wiring of the human species. It is rare and wonderful when a forum manages to grow beyond that polarizing tendency. I am of the opinion that real and meaningful discussion does not happen until that pattern is broken.
posted by Michele in California at 5:14 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


"This woman isn't taking anything away from people who grew up poor; her problem is yet another facet of the huge issue of inequality in the US."

I'm puzzled by the direction you're coming from on this, because the comments in that thread that bother me the most are from people who would (and have, I think) criticize all poor people similarly. Sure, there is some "she isn't really poor" concern-trolling that pretends to care about the, um, deserving poor, but it's really exactly like someone bringing up the worst developing world poverty in a thread about American poverty. It's a tactic, not actually a desperate plea for attention to developing world poverty, but rather an argument to ignore American poverty. That's what this sort of thing almost always is and that's why those of us who have some experience with poverty recognize that whether or not this woman is counting pennies is beside the point. No matter where someone is on this ladder, they're going to be blamed for where they are and their complaints are going to be invalidated by the argument that they're exaggerating their distress.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:28 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I listening to guns and roses at gunpoint, disrupting my dinner, now this thread.

But I had a professor who said no one should get a college degree without reading Kafkas' The Trial'...but not at knife point.

I'm getting a distillation of anger over this issue.
I'm with Capt. Kirk who said that humans have a tendency to admire and criticize at the same time.

I personally believe Spock was correct in calling out that paradoxical situation.
posted by clavdivs at 5:28 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm sad and not surprised some sick creep went through this woman's social media accounts to try and shame her by "proving" that she ate a cupcake once. I'm sad and very surprised that someone thought it was worth linking here, and that it somehow discredits the author to reveal that *gasp* she bought liquor. It's not bad enough she lost her job, we all now need to online stalk her and "expose" that she didn't literally eat only rice for months on end? It's really so difficult to have compassion for her? She's a human being. Goddamn.
posted by sallybrown at 5:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [50 favorites]


I'm puzzled by the direction you're coming from on this

I think we're actually in agreement? The only place I might differ is that I think the criticism of the author in that thread isn't coming just from people who have never had to worry about poverty but also from people who think she's relatively privileged. I don't think the impulse to tear her down comes solely from living in a rich-person bubble (as a few comments have characterized); it's a just-world tendency people of all economic classes in the US have, to criticize people experiencing economic misfortune or unemployment harshly, to point out the things they could have done better. (At least, that's my experience; the people I know who would be most annoyed by that article are not rich oblivious people.) This isn't to defend the comments criticizing her tiny choices at all; it's to say that the divide that occurs in threads like this one doesn't split neatly along the lines of rich and poor.
posted by thetortoise at 5:48 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I found that thread pretty uncomfortable but it did not seem like the sort of thing that needed moderation.

I think it does, because i can't say "fuck you, you fucking asshole" without getting deleted but people do get to be Huge Assholes.

If you're not going to allow the former, you have to reign in the latter. Otherwise you're just letting people be assholes and making anyone hurt or offended by it do the work of writing out a nice thoughtful comment to explain to them why they're wrong instead of just telling them to fold their dick into their butt.


I'm really really sad and disappointed at the level of well, basically, the middle class version of "if you're poor you can't own a smartphone or you're irresponsible and trying to live beyond your means" interrogation in to her. I'm not surprised, just disappointed. The cupcakes and liquor thing is a perfect example.

All i can think is that people somehow believe that by poking the people who fell off the raft with sticks, they're pushing their own raft a bit further back from the whirlpool. Maybe that's easier than accepting that you would probably be homeless in 6 months or less if you lost your job too?

We're all fucking hosed honestly. I just wish we could have some more compassion for eachother rather than taking a crap on eachother. This isn't the first time i've seen this site go off the deep end about this kind of issue. It's not even the first memorable meta we've had about it. But god damn, is the back stabbing class warfare bullshit really one of the final seedy underbellies of this site.

Maybe it's just more stark and obvious now that we've evicted a significant amount of sexism, misogyny, etc from the site but fuck if it doesn't feel like this has gotten WORSE over the years, not better.

When blogger-scammer-lady got fired and people tried to raise money for her i feel like she got less shit and she was a scammer. And the shit she did get was mostly snarky one liners and stuff, not long winded dissections of how she was an awful entitled person who didn't understand how the world worked. There was maybe a couple comments on that and they stood out.

I can't help but feel like a lot of the friction just comes from the collateral damage when casting big groups as villains. In this case the villain group is "San Francisco" (due to the venture capitalists and tech industry there) so anyone who lives in San Francisco is therefore tainted by villainy.

No? I'm familiar with this game since i live in seattle where it's also being played. People don't hate on the city, almost ever. They hate on "tech bros". If anything she would be in the hated group because she worked for a formerly trendy startup that's still part of that "scene". There's actually a weird dichotomy there where she was getting paid starvation wages by... a company no one likes. It's sort of like the stories of uber or lyft drivers getting screwed over. The angle you're thinking of isn't, imo, part of the shittiness here.
posted by emptythought at 5:49 PM on February 22, 2016 [29 favorites]


I think it does, because i can't say "fuck you, you fucking asshole" without getting deleted but people do get to be Huge Assholes.

... in your opinion. One person's "assholish behavior" is another person's "devil's advocate" is another person's "hate speech" is another person's "real, honest talk". Honest disagreement about real issues that matter to people is always going to have some rough edges.
posted by theorique at 5:55 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Honest disagreement about real issues that matter to people is always going to have some rough edges.

I think there's a conversation to be had about how we as a site deal with those rough edges. Some people seem to get a pass at being abusive to and assuming the worst of other users, if they are on the "correct" side of the edge.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 5:59 PM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think it does, because i can't say “fuck you, you fucking asshole” without getting deleted but people do get to be Huge Assholes.

I mean, the site norms kind of require us to be polite to each other, but undoubtedly the subjects of controversial FPPs get seen as personal proxies. Like, civility is about all that we can guarantee. Cattiness remains common and permissible.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:12 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I don't think the impulse to tear her down comes solely from living in a rich-person bubble (as a few comments have characterized); it's a just-world tendency people of all economic classes in the US have, to criticize people experiencing economic misfortune or unemployment harshly, to point out the things they could have done better."

Yeah, you're totally right and I'm wrong to claim or imply that everyone who has experienced poverty won't do this. That said, in my experience this is more unpredictable with people who have experience with poverty than it is with people who have not. The people who haven't experienced poverty are much more likely to think in just world terms and to criticize every decision that a poor person makes.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:18 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Likewise when the South comes up, people who live in the South and know lots of Southerners don't see the South as the villain. And yet a lot of MeFi does. Maybe not a majority of MeFi, but enough to influence how threads play out.
But you were saying, explicitly, that the people supporting this woman were villainizing SF. I was saying, "No, they weren't." You need to come up with some examples in the thread that say "Ugh, SF is the problem" if you are going to compare it to the endless threads we have about Southern states where people say, "Ugh, Mississippi is the worst" or "Oh, Southerners are the worst." You were reading "Oh, the Bay Area these days is just hell on earth for the middle class and poor" as villainizing the Bay Area, which is not accurate.
posted by gingerest at 6:47 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


One person's "assholish behavior" is another person's "devil's advocate" is another person's "hate speech" is another person's "real, honest talk"

In fairness, those last three are assholish behavior most (or all) of the time.
posted by dersins at 7:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


One person's "assholish behavior" is another person's "devil's advocate" is another person's "hate speech" is another person's "real, honest talk".

No? Because hate speech has a legal definition and the others don't.
posted by tzikeh at 7:05 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I've a friend who if he had posted in that thread would have been banned in probably 2 comments. Thing is, he's making less that she is, has been in his job for well over a decade. So for some people it's just a little too close to what their lives are like and this woman's only put in 6 months? It gets to a point that yeah things need to change but after awhile they don't and you lash out.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:14 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think I fall into this behavior on this site where I feel offended or personally insulted by a comment, and then someone comes along and calls it out hard, and I like that because it's reassuring and I was feeling bad. Then other people call it out, too, because they were also offended. I mean, this site loves callouts, and they're satisfying.

But I'm trying not to overlook what jessamyn is getting at here, which is that sometimes I'm just offended or insulted because I saw the comment a certain way. Like, something was phrased badly, or I'm bringing my own baggage to the conversation.

I've been looking at the Bernie vs. Hilary threads, and everyone seems to feel like they're being bullied. I'm very, very close to the Sanders campaign and I've felt personally attacked at times. But then someone wrote a comment about how Sanders supporters were implying you'd have to support a war criminal to support Clinton, and I thought - well gosh, I don't think that at all. But could I have said something that could have ever been read like that?

And I mean, sometimes people really do say mean things, and that happens a lot, including here. But sometimes it's different. I don't want to get into a pattern of behavior where I get caught up in feeling the callouts and the angry responses, because maybe it's cathartic, but doesn't really help anything.

I noped out of the thread in question because I just didn't want to deal with it. I felt personally insulted because I'm youngish, I've made stupid decisions, and I live in the Bay Area - where, not incidentally, there's the constant push/pull of feeling like a gentrifier and like I'm being priced out of everything around me. There's a constant sense of "I'm ruining this city's culture and making life harder for long-term residents, and I'll never be able to afford to live here, and I'd leave if I could but my whole life is here now." So it sucks when someone comes in with what feels to me like a totally dismissive and callous attitude, and justifies it because people like me can't come to terms with how weird it is to be in this situation.

I don't know, maybe I just sound like a shitty entitled person. But there's a point at which you can only talk about what you know, and at least I'm trying to be honest here. I'm trying to be fair to people and think about if they might be coming from a place that's similar to mine, or if they're frustrated by something I can't see because I'm too close to it, or not close enough, or whatever.

I'm losing my ability to write coherently (I cracked a rib today and needed painkillers), but I guess the TL;DR of this is that I always want people on this site to be less shitty to each other, and I think the reality is that they're not actually being as shitty as I think. Sometimes you see what you're scared to see, and it takes a lot of work to step back and give people credit in the face of what sometimes feels like an onslaught of shitty attitudes.
posted by teponaztli at 7:30 PM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


I think it's impossible to separate the vitriol that is happening here from what is happening in the election threads, and it's very specifically infighting on the left, and it's ugly and scary. Everyone's already hyped up about What It Means To Be A Progressive, and Socialism Or Gradualism, and it looks like it's kind of bleeding over into other threads constantly.

Guys you don't hate each other! You agree with like 80% of each other! It is frankly bizarre to see you ignoring points you firmly disagree with to throw hate at someone who only mildly disagrees with you!
posted by corb at 7:35 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I almost wonder honestly if the solution to this shit is to call a higher bar for political posts rather than "here is a placeholder so you all can fight about the Democratic nomination."
posted by corb at 7:36 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


it's not really scary that people disagree about a complex political / social / economic issue

I mean we really don't know the answers here so I would expect there to be disagreement among principled and intelligent people

(that said, the cupcakes and whiskey = bad thing is disgusting, but also the classic trolly misogyny that some people here bust out whenever a woman has the temerity to open her mouth on the internet)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:46 PM on February 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


Well, it's scary to me, because I hate conflict.

Also, mea culpa: I didn't actually crack my rib, but that's easier to say (and more concise) than the truth, which is that I walked into a pole and had to get painkillers because it hurts to breathe. My discharge papers say "pt hit L side chest wall into pole," and I kind of want to frame that.
posted by teponaztli at 7:49 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh no! I hope you feel better soon. I bet you did crack a rib, honestly.

There should be more space for people to discuss these things without disagreement being seen as evidence of badness. Sometimes it is, of course, and sometimes the disagreement is itself harmful. But sometimes it's just disagreement, and I think people can get a little knee-jerk about even the smaller disagreements, and go straight into "you're the enemy" mode. The internet makes people a little paranoid about some stuff, I think.

That said, this thread was not even close to that--instead it was a lot of really shallow, stereotyped comments about basically nothing.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:53 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


... in your opinion. One person's "assholish behavior" is another person's "devil's advocate" is another person's "hate speech" is another person's "real, honest talk".

Honestly, this site, a lot of the internet, and everywhere that isn't a dorm room could honestly do a lot better with less "devils advocate".

I understand what you're saying, but i see people on here some of whom are longterm hobbyists in that sport playing that game all the time. They're not trolling or anything, but very very much of the time we really don't need someone propping up the other side of the teeter totter.
posted by emptythought at 7:55 PM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


Yes and no. I think we should differentiate between people who are basically dull and predictable, and annoying for that reason, and people who are genuinely being assholes / harmful.

IDK, maybe that's not a real distinction. It feel like it is to me, though.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:58 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it's impossible to separate the vitriol that is happening here from what is happening in the election threads

Do you mean "here" in this MetaTalk, or in the original FPP, or on MetaFilter in general?

Because if you're talking about the original FPP - to be bluntly honest, I felt that a large number of the worst comments were from users who I remember having put forth conservative economic positions and/or gotten all Just-World-Bootstrap-Internet Dad-Lecture-y in other threads. Which is to say I'm not sure the original FPP is much of a sign of ugly lefty in-fighting.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:17 PM on February 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


I think it's impossible to separate the vitriol that is happening here from what is happening in the election threads

I totally disagree with this statement. To me it looks like business as usual around here. This is a recurring issue on this site unfortunately. And even if we could blame it on the election it is still all kinds of wrong.
posted by futz at 9:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was reminded a little of this thread.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:19 PM on February 22, 2016


This bus thread too
posted by futz at 9:38 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are there topics where we've become less terrible as a community in holding decent conversations? It thought we had managed to be a bit more civilized in talking about some problem issues of late. Was this all in my head? Are we doing any better in any traditionally difficult topic areas?
posted by humanfont at 10:01 PM on February 22, 2016


Jesus Christ announcing that you bought a $25 bottle of booze is not airing your laundry.

Definitely not, and believe me I know.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 10:59 PM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


Are there topics where we've become less terrible as a community in holding decent conversations?

For all of our (myriad) failings when it comes to so many subjects, we are amazingly less terrible at discussing...well, pretty much everything than we were when I joined Metafilter almost eleven years ago.

Back then this place was such a festering shithole of awfulness in so many ways (and I do not exempt my own behavior from that assessment).

We have a hell of a lot of progress to left to make, but the amount we have already made is not insubstantial. Seriously, go look at some old Metatalk threads. I just linked to this one in the affinity fraud thread on the blue the other day, and, well, it's pretty fucking gross.

Holy shit I've been on Metafilter for almost eleven years? WTF I am old.
posted by dersins at 11:37 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I didn't post in it but I spent a lot of time reading that thread and having strong reactions all over the place (partly because Bay Area's my home turf and I've seen people succeed wildly and get in a hole both). Personally I had different reactions to her horrible situation and to her piece of writing about the situation. FWIW, even though it was bitter and some posts were quite bad, I spent a lot more time thinking about the whole thing and my reactions than if there had been twenty posts expressing sympathy and no disagreement.
posted by mark k at 12:47 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I spent a lot more time thinking about the whole thing and my reactions than if there had been twenty posts expressing sympathy and no disagreement.

This was my experience as well. If our thermostats were all set to maximum empathy right away, what would there be to say in a comments thread? I guess you can go directly to the economic and political meat of the situation, but people like thinking about people, and people are messy mixtures of stuff of course.
posted by colie at 1:02 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


"That thread is making me wish I had the ability to force people to read The Jungle at gunpoint.

This is America, you can do that.
"

My general impression is that here in America, I can force people to do pretty much anything at gunpoint except read.

(All y'all cupcake motherfuckers are going up against the Road to Wigan Pier wall.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:50 AM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


I just... do people talk like this to other people, in real life? Does the victim-blaming creep into Thanksgiving dinner when you're talking to your 21-year-old cousin who's about to graduate with a history degree and wants to live somewhere fun while she's in her 20's?

My family doesn't do Thanksgiving, I'm not 21 any more, and I'd be happy to be able to scrape by anywhere, nevermind somewhere fun, but yes, yes it does.
posted by Dysk at 2:57 AM on February 23, 2016


I am so happy I missed that thread. I was a Gen-X'er who was stuck working minimum wage during the Bush I Years, had a great IT career in the '90s, and lost it all in 2001 under Bush II. I've rebuilt since then, and to be honest it's a continuation of my earlier career rather than starting over, but man. I'm still not doing as well as my parents did, and I never will, despite being comfortable and happy in what passes for today's middle-middle class.

Kids who went to college in the past 15 years? They're all fucked. Student Loans will bleed them dry forever, and they need a degree for even the most mundane and bullshit deskjob. Out of control rents in tech centers means what should be a middle-class career is now a minimum wage slog, an ever-losing battle to keep what you have and to creep ahead.

The answer is to unionize service positions - big-box retail, fast food, phone centers. A day's work should earn a day's wage, and that day's wage should allow you to live a comfortable life in your town, no matter what that work is.

The answer isn't to sneer at people to work harder. Or smarter. Or move to somewhere where the jobs aren't to afford an apartment. Or to abandon everyday amenities for some bullshit ascetic austerity.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:55 AM on February 23, 2016 [60 favorites]


i can't say "fuck you, you fucking asshole" without getting deleted but people do get to be Huge Assholes.

Yeah. I do think this is how MetaFilter works and I think it's how it should keep working. People here can be assholes to the guy who lives in the Google parking lot, the couple who pretend to live in the Renaissance, Kanye West, SUV drivers, Amanda Palmer, "flyover country", Hollywood's favorite juice bar owner, Talia Jane, and Barack Obama, but we can't be assholes to each other.
posted by escabeche at 5:04 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Honestly if we could have a FUCK THIS PERSON flag I think it would help a lot of people (me, i mean me) not flip the fuck out in threads where people are being that douchey.

I could also see that tag being used similarly to the spouse tag, which while provides a dual purpose of the tag, since one really means 'I don't want to get to know you' and the other means 'I REALLY want to get to know you' it might get a bit confusing... maybe change up the language and it'd clear it up for people coming late to the game...

I don't think I'd want to tag anything coming late to the game either...
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:11 AM on February 23, 2016


The answer isn't to sneer at people to work harder. Or smarter. Or move to somewhere where the jobs aren't to afford an apartment. Or to abandon everyday amenities for some bullshit ascetic austerity.

It's like we're still in thrall to the Prosperity Gospel or something. On the other hand, lecturing women, the young, and the poor about their choices has been the sport of kings since... well, since women, the young, and the poor.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:22 AM on February 23, 2016 [17 favorites]


People here can be assholes [...] but we can't be assholes to each other.

This doesn't seem quite right. We can be assholes to each other so long as we don't swear at each other. Which also seems like a good policy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:22 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I spent a lot more time thinking about the whole thing and my reactions than if there had been twenty posts expressing sympathy and no disagreement.

Except that part of what you were thinking about was the "fact" that she was actually buying luxuries, a fact that is false (she, on occasion ate food she got for free, either by picking it up off the floor of the train, getting it from someone she was dating, that kind of thing). We can discuss things without devolving to participating in a smear campaign that turns out to be completely untrue. The general way the site approaches individuals living in poverty, especially woman, enabled that reaction by encouraging people to suspend their critical thinking skills. I think it's worth taking the time to say "hey, maybe instead of assuming that this person is a liar and jumping on the first piece of flimsy evidence you find, you hold off for a second."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:26 AM on February 23, 2016 [37 favorites]


We can be assholes to each other so long as we don't swear at each other

But I fucking LOVE you assholes! You stupid-crazy assholes - you're the fucking best, you fucks! You're the SHIT!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:09 AM on February 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


* takes the whiskey bottle gently from quidnunc kid's hand *
posted by taz (staff) at 6:20 AM on February 23, 2016 [28 favorites]


*waits for taz to put it down, wanders off with it*
posted by Drinky Die at 6:25 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whiskey? Someone's well-off.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:41 AM on February 23, 2016 [41 favorites]


Oh great - now I'm sobering up. Painful, painful clarity and an absence of the warm, fuzzy envelope protecting me from harsh reality. Can't believe this is the first time I've been sober on MeFi in 10 years! Wow. My head REALLY hurts.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:47 AM on February 23, 2016 [15 favorites]




Oh god, it's the final portent
posted by halifix at 9:13 AM on February 23, 2016


I read the entire thread on the Blue and the Meta, and all I have to add to the conversation is that my perception that AskMe was a safe space to ask my current burning personal question about how to overcome my current financially precarious situation was wrong.

So glad I didn't post it -- I can shame and judge myself on my own, even better with the support of my family, who are so very good at it.

As I'm not a Millennial, I expect it would be even worse. As a GenXer, I supposedly had it better than Millennial, so there is just no excuse for not being smugly middle-class. Guess I will stick to asking about whether I can eat things.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 11:02 AM on February 23, 2016 [19 favorites]


Ask.mefi is *much* more sympathetic than the blue to this kind of thing Beethoven. Besides, you could always ask anonymously...
posted by pharm at 11:06 AM on February 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


The answer to 'what would Ask.mefi have replied to Talia Jane?' is obviously different depending on whether she was asking about her situation in general, or whether she was asking whether doing the open letter thing was a good idea. The first one she would have got the usual friendly suggestions that accept the world as it is. I don't know what people would have advised about the second one?
posted by colie at 11:21 AM on February 23, 2016


Ask.mefi is *much* more sympathetic than the blue to this kind of thing Beethoven. Besides, you could always ask anonymously...

It's a lot more knee-jerkish on interpersonal stuff, but there's still a fair bit of "tough love" nonsense floating about when it comes to financial issues (and food safety).

Also, if people are unfairly judging or shaming an anonymous asker, the person who posted the question anonymously is still reading all the answers and getting the full brunt of it.

Which is something to remember when answering an anonymous question - it means they're anonymous, not absent, not at a remove, not a bot posing a hypothetical.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


If I were to assign a gestalt personality to ask.me it would be: blunt, but sympathetic.

To put it another way, ask.me is very, *very* ask culture - “If you didn’t want a staight answer, why did you ask the question in the first place?” is pretty much the ethos. Being ask culture probably comes with the territory though - I’m having trouble coming up with a mental picture of how a guess culture ask.me would work!
posted by pharm at 2:08 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I’m having trouble coming up with a mental picture of how a guess culture ask.me would work!

Guess.me, surely?
posted by cjelli at 2:28 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


but truthfully, there's been a huge mean streak I've been noticing more than usual through threads these days. I don't know if the predominantly US contingent is super het up about this election cycle so it's leading to frayed nerves everywhere else, but as of recent, it might be time for myself to take an extended break. I am not saying MeFi was all kittens and roses, but damn, it seemed like we were a fairly compassionate community. Not so much anymore.

Its not fun anymore. Given that it'll be my 11th year in a month, I'm hoping this is temporary burp rather than a shift in the zeitgeist. Folks are quicker to bristle, and slower to stop and listen through. Maybe cutting down on the number of open political threads at any given time would help. Lots more newsfilter/redditorializing going on. Many things in FPPs that wouldn't have passed muster even a year ago. Less and less "Ooh lookit this cool thing" ... lemme go mlkshk is the response to relax.

Just saying.
posted by infini at 2:37 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


The pattern recognizer in me wants to ask what have been the biggest changes, in site, and outside, in the past year or so?

Do we need a grey to break down this challenge and analyze it?

How many people are barely entering and leaving or staying away that we don't know about than before?

Is it an inflection point to be worried about or a short term response to external factors?
posted by infini at 2:42 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


The pattern recognizer in me wants to ask what have been the biggest changes, in site, and outside, in the past year or so?

(as somebody who used the site more in the past year, I'm totally feeling like a MeFi gentrifier. sorry, we don't mean to ruin things!)
posted by thetortoise at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


as an old timer i find when i get frustrated by metafilter i try to stay away a little more, i try to only click on things i think are cool instead of things where i know fights will be, and i read a bunch of old threads to see that some of my impressions of this place going downhill/being more fighty/whatever isn't a change in the site, but rather the attitude i'm reading the site with. i find some of the stuff that stood even 3 or 4 years ago to be shocking and i'm glad we're at the mefi we are now. that doesn't mean all change has been good, or that there are no problems now, but that - for me - mefi is still trending up.
posted by nadawi at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2016 [28 favorites]


The pattern recognizer in me wants to ask what have been the biggest changes, in site, and outside, in the past year or so?

You can always get yourself a copy of the infodump and go fishing. Scraping the entirely of the site’s text is a bit more of a pain but hardly infeasible, I assure you. Throw that noise into elasticsearch and go to town.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


...Just saying.

Well, I've been here for going on 15 years and I'm just throwing up my hands. Now I really empathize with at least some of the people who got upset with me back when I was tilting against Iraqi windmills. I read these heartbreaking short story length comments of staggering genius and think, wow, and I used to get vexed with Ethereal Bligh. But he at least provided a healthy side of self questioning in his tesseracted hair splitting rather than yards and yards of multi-linked red shoe clicking belief in the New Nader Du Jour. Some of the vexation comes from being beaten over the head by the same hand.
Not that the preceding has anything to do with the topic here but then I think you catch my drift.
posted by y2karl at 3:15 PM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


But you shot me in the parking lot over a candy bar.

Be at ease Karl, those titling windmills did more the you may realize.
posted by clavdivs at 4:51 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


The pattern recognizer in me wants to ask what have been the biggest changes, in site, and outside, in the past year or so?

A number of people were banned in the last 15 months. Decani. 0. FuzzyBastard. A few others. At least a couple of our more vocal members took BND's as well.

Metatalk and Metafilter have been somewhat less divided and argumentative as a result.
posted by zarq at 5:23 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think your assessment is correct.

I also think if the genders were reversed, this MetaTalk would not exist.

Every voice should have a voice. One voice, one love.

One day.
posted by four panels at 6:13 PM on February 23, 2016


I also think if the genders were reversed, this MetaTalk would not exist.

not sure if it's because you think we'd drag a man through the same shit without complaint because men should take it like a man? or because there wouldn't be the same level of criticism directed at a man and so the meta would be unnecessary?
posted by twist my arm at 6:24 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's true, it is hard to imagine the CEO of Yelp as a woman.
posted by thetortoise at 6:42 PM on February 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


Metatalk and Metafilter have been somewhat less divided and argumentative as a result.

I haven't noticed.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:51 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


My impression is that metafilter has become much less tolerant of views that oppose its common zeitgeist over the last few years. Leaving aside the shifting nature of that zeitgeist, it's okay to be vehement in pushing back against that opposition now, where it wasn't before. In short, it's okay to be mean to people that disagree with metafilter's chosen.

If you push back on tenets of feminism, you're an MRA. if you push back on an accusation of racism, you're a racist. You get the label whether your actual views are nuanced or not.

There isn't anything to be done about it other than my own private eye rolling, so I just stick to the non fighty stuff and move on with my day.
posted by disclaimer at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


You get the label whether your actual views are nuanced or not.

You say "nuance", some of us see "sealioning" or "JAQing" or one of the many, many other microaggressions and tactics that are commonly used to (sometimes inadvertently) derail these conversations over and over and over again.

I used to want to 'splain to people about the real "tenets of feminism" and how about this accusation of racism didn't really count either, too. Then I realized how much that doesn't help. I find I'm happier for it.
posted by Etrigan at 8:32 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


y2karl: "I read these heartbreaking short story length comments of staggering genius and think, wow, and I used to get vexed with Ethereal Bligh. But he at least provided a healthy side of self questioning in his tesseracted hair splitting"

Well, but he's still here. In this very thread, even.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:33 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


My impression is that metafilter has become much less tolerant of views that oppose its common zeitgeist over the last few years.

If I had the inclination, I could pull up MeTa threads from five, ten and even fifteen years ago where people say exactly the same thing. What's mostly changed is that as the site has aged, the people who were around back then have got older, the broader online environment has got more ouchy, and as Etrigan suggests, there's perhaps more of a push against Yet Another *splain in the blue.

But I spend most of my MeFi time in AskMe, where life is simpler...
posted by holgate at 8:40 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's definitely a sense of having to walk on eggshells sometimes - and I've heard that from users who most certainly were not just sad that they couldn't be jerks. On the other hand, I look at older threads and see threads full of people going "I wouldn't hit that," or whatever. This site seems to have come a long way, but I wish there were a way to say that you don't feel comfortable here without people assuming it's because you have bad intentions.
posted by teponaztli at 9:43 PM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think any sense that I -- a cishet white dude -- have of discomfort or needing to police my language as site community standards change can be fairly easily remedied by imagining the lessened discomfort or needing to police language that is felt by women, PoCs, and LGBTQ members.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:51 PM on February 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


But that's the thing - does discomfort imply a lack of empathy or awareness?
posted by teponaztli at 9:55 PM on February 23, 2016


You say “nuance”, some of us see “sealioning” or “JAQing” or one of the many, many other microaggressions and tactics that are commonly used to (sometimes inadvertently) derail these conversations over and over and over again.

It was ever thus, but now there is language for it. MetaFilter is pretty blissfully free of the phrase “kafka traps”, thank goodness.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:56 PM on February 23, 2016


But that's the thing - does discomfort imply a lack of empathy or awareness?

Not at all. But I think the discomfort you are experiencing is the direct result of site norms shifting to make this a more welcoming space for people. By my reckoning, that's worth a lot, and anytime I blunder across a line and get called on it, that's a good thing, because it is the community working make others more comfortable, even if it makes me a little uncomfortable to get called on it.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:59 PM on February 23, 2016 [15 favorites]


There's also plenty of instances of women, PoCs and LGBTQ members feeling like they have to police their language, because again, where some see 'sealioning' or 'JAQing' or what-have-you is nuance. See jessamyn's comment for a common pattern in threads.

It's not just cishet white men of a certain background and income who can be inconvenienced by the hewing to certain perspectives.

I also liked Drinky Die's comment about the call for empathy not necessarily being saying someone is a bad person, just reminding folks that they should dig a little to try and put themselves in another's shoes. For the most part, I thought the blue thread was one that could do with less victim-blaming, because nothing suggested her story was fabricated to any degree that would negate the larger point she represented. But the users who call for more empathy aren't usually ones I would really read as not saying the people they disagree with are bad people. This post itself is fine, but numerous comments, something reflected in numerous threads in the past, say just that.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:09 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think any sense that I -- a cishet white dude -- have of discomfort or needing to police my language as site community standards change can be fairly easily remedied by imagining the lessened discomfort or needing to police language that is felt by women, PoCs, and LGBTQ members.

Don't confuse "community-enforced respect for minority groups" with "community-enforced very particular political opinions and vocabulary about those groups". People can be LGBTQ or women or PoC or all of the above without agreeing with or even being aware of the "correct" things to say. Just look at how angry threads can get when there isn't a community-sanctioned opinion yet but everyone thinks their own is (or is trying to make it be so).
posted by Rangi at 10:11 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


But I think the discomfort you are experiencing is the direct result of site norms shifting to make this a more welcoming space for people.

Is that necessarily fair to what I'm actually experiencing or feeling, though? How can you make a judgment call about why I - or anyone - is actually feeling uncomfortable? Is everything just the result of blundering across a line, or is there room for my own sense of discomfort to ever be at all reasonable?

I've mentioned before how this site feels very unwelcoming at times, and I have to wonder if people just read that as wanting and being unable to say stuff that would hurt other users. This is what I mean - do I get any credit at all here?
posted by teponaztli at 10:13 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


Chrysostrom: well, duh, and, um, a brand new day should be a brand new day, no ? I certainly meant no knock on the departed Ethereal. His concern was being precise. He was trying to make sense rather than sentences. But as the maxim goes, to know something well, one must know it in detail, and as detail is infinite, well... there's the rub.

He may have have been prolix at times but he beat no dead horses into fetid pools of verbal protoplasm as if paragraph after paragraph after rinse and repeat paragraph was persuasion.

As for a sense of walking on the eggshells sometimes ? Of hummingbirds fed a diet rich in DDT, at that, or so it seems sometimes. Hippies punching hippies in an endless Ouroboros involving the wrong ends and the wrong orifices.
posted by y2karl at 10:14 PM on February 23, 2016


I've been here since 2006 (holy shit) and I mostly feel much less silenced/discomfort/reluctant to speak up than I used to. Some of this is definitely just because I am older and have way fewer fucks to give. Some (a lot, probably) is because site norms and moderating have shifted in ways that allow me to give fewer fucks, IYKWIM.

As a dyke, as a woman of color, I have plenty of experience with walking on eggshells.

For those who are new to the experience, welcome. {/}
posted by rtha at 10:31 PM on February 23, 2016 [40 favorites]


I mean on the one hand it's interesting and enlightening to see so many people on that thread show exactly how much they care about other people — it is nice of people to be clear about who they really are, when push comes to shove — but on the other hand knowing that even here on relatively smart-and-decent mefi there's people who think it's acceptable to aggressively victim-blame (and aggressively victim-harrass) makes me feel so tired. And they keep digging in their heels, and it's crazy-making, and I just can't.

Metafilter, organizationally, does absolutely everything you need to do to make an open-to-all comment-based web community something worthwhile. but maybe open-to-all comment-based web communities are just an unworkable idea on the whole no matter how well they're run.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:57 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I grew up in an abusive environment, and walking on eggshells isn't new to me at all. That's my baggage that I bring to stuff, and it's probably what makes me sound like (or be) such a whiner.

I'm just having a hard time judging if my own discomfort is reflective of: a challenge to my privilege or sense of entitlement (which happens), other people being mean, or just my own anxieties. I'm getting a clear message to one effect, and I'm trying to understand how to parse it. Everyone has their baggage that they bring in some form or another. Maybe I'm being too forgiving of people who don't deserve it, I don't know. Lord knows my own baggage isn't limited to white guys like me, and it can intersect with plenty of other things. I really don't want to become the champion of cis straight white guys who feel put upon.

I guess I'm just trying to say that I've noticed an undercurrent of users - of all stripes - saying that they're on guard in some situations. I may be overstating it because of my own bullshit. I guess I just want to make the point that sometimes we call people out, or identify someone a certain way, without knowing what's going on with them, or who gets affected. To the degree that I've been overlooking (or sounding like I was overlooking) other peoples' needs, I'm sorry for that.
posted by teponaztli at 11:14 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


People can be LGBTQ or women or PoC or all of the above without agreeing with or even being aware of the "correct" things to say.

Right, and people can belong to various minority groups and hold intensely offensive or problematic views on those or other minority groups, or even unintentionally say horribly problematic and offensive things about those or other minority groups. Being a woman doesn't make you immune to holding misogynist opinions, being trans doesn't mean you aren't transphobic (many trans communities are horrifically toxic in how they police one another's adherence to cis norms and respectability) and so on. You don't have to be a white cis het cartoon neo-nazi to say or do things that are a problem.
posted by Dysk at 3:19 AM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


A few comments deleted. Don't come in here with hyperbolic overblown flamebait that conflates concerns about individual human respect with whatever the worst possible thing you ever saw anyone on the site suggest.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:41 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Here's an irony few have considered - on the internet there is no such thing as a "minority" - I might physically be one as a WOC in the arctic, but somewhere there's millions online just like me.
posted by infini at 3:49 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also liked Drinky Die's comment about the call for empathy not necessarily being saying someone is a bad person, just reminding folks that they should dig a little to try and put themselves in another's shoes.

Eh, it's a line of thought that presupposes that one hasn't done that already and if only they did, they of course they'd see things from a new light. The 'problem' occurs when folks have done that and still don't agree with the original sentiment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:54 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do get the feeling Dysk that on this site & other places that there’s a bunch of very vocal people who have believe very strongly in a menu of left/liberal positions & any divergence from them is seen as some kind of attack on the groups in question to be shouted down / moderated away / eliminated from the site at all costs. These voices can often dominate the discourse (because they feel very strongly about these things) but don’t necessarily represent the view of the wider site membership, which leads to inevitable conflict that flares up from time to time.

(The cynical part of me wonders if loudly proclaiming all these opinions is really about social signalling & very little to do with what the groups being fought over really believe or want. I try not to let that part colour everything though.)
posted by pharm at 3:59 AM on February 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


Eh, it's a line of thought that presupposes that one hasn't done that already and if only they did, they of course they'd see things from a new light. The 'problem' occurs when folks have done that and still don't agree with the original sentiment.

That's a very fair addendum to the point. Having empathy doesn't mean you have to agree with someone, in fact it should be clearly separated from that idea. Empathy is about trying to gain understanding of where someone is at in my view, sometimes that understanding will make you sympathetic and sometimes it can make you even more disgusted.

I often point out people who commit crimes should be looked at with empathy, not because I want people to feel sympathetic, but because understanding why they did what they did is useful in preventing similar things from occurring again in the future.

Don't confuse "community-enforced respect for minority groups" with "community-enforced very particular political opinions and vocabulary about those groups". People can be LGBTQ or women or PoC or all of the above without agreeing with or even being aware of the "correct" things to say.

Yeah, I've been attacked pretty viciously for my opinions about a group I am a member of. At a certain point it's not about protecting the voices of group members anymore, it's about trying to protect ideas from having to hold up under scrutiny.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:57 AM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


not sure if it's because you think we'd drag a man through the same shit without complaint because men should take it like a man? or because there wouldn't be the same level of criticism directed at a man and so the meta would be unnecessary?

That's discussed in the thread itself. The thread where this woman is referred to as 'girl' 7 times. It's highly unlikely that if a grown man posted this there would be a conversation about if this 'boy' knows how to take care of himself and manage his money like a grownup. They might give a man different types of crap, but not this specific breed of crap.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:19 AM on February 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I've been attacked pretty viciously for my opinions about a group I am a member of.

?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:50 AM on February 24, 2016


Comment deleted. Don't edit your comments for content.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:51 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


That's discussed in the thread itself. The thread where this woman is referred to as 'girl' 7 times. It's highly unlikely that if a grown man posted this there would be a conversation about if this 'boy' knows how to take care of himself and manage his money like a grownup.

Men's maturity is judged, but by entirely different standards. A man who went to a big city to try and work their way to the top wouldn't be judged a child for that failure. Maybe they would be judged a failure, but that's a different thing.

Yeah, I've been attacked pretty viciously for my opinions about a group I am a member of.

?


Not gonna open old wounds there.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:54 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think some of the problem is that some people feel “attacked” on the blue when their comments in a discussion are dismissed, insulted, or mocked.

However, the people dismissing, insulting, or mocking those comments often do so because they feel that the original comment was dismissing, insulting, or mocking their actual lives.

So here’s Commenter X, who says that Talia Jane is naive, that she is getting just what she deserves, that she doesn’t deserve any sympathy/empathy/cupcakes.

Commenter Y, whose life has looked an awful lot like Talia Jane’s, either in the present or the past, feels as if Commenter X’s original comment is a dismissal/insult/mockery of Commenter Y’s own circumstances. It doesn’t matter that Commenter X didn’t mean it that way. Commenter Y has probably already heard many people in real life AND online imply that Commenter Y is a terrible human failure, and so Commenter X joining that chorus is not an intellectual exercise, or a dispassionate engagement with an intellectual problem.

So Commenter X has, in an attempt to discuss the article at hand, has inadvertently (I sincerely hope) claimed first blood in a fight that pre-existed the current discussion. Commenter X is often unaware of this.

When Commenter Y responds in kind (according to Commenter Y’s POV), Commenter Y is reacting as if they have been hurt already. Because they have.

But to Commenter X, the perspective is that Commenter Y has suddenly escalated a normal discussion into confrontation/unpleasantness. “Why can’t you just read my words as dispassionately as I wrote them?” Commenter X wonders.

So when you get a bunch of Commenter X types— who are often “my .02” types, who think there is value in devil’s advocate positions, who often believe there are objective truths at play, who think hypotheticals and thought experiments add richness to a discussion.

And they are trying to interact with Commenter Y types— who have already had about 3,000 unpleasant interactions with Commenter X types out in the world, who associate the certainty that some behaviors are Obviously Mistaken and Bad with attacks on them personally.

The thing is, we all switch sides from X to Y depending on the subject. I’m pretty clearly a Y-type in the Talia Jane discussion, but there are times where I’ve hurt people in discussions by engaging as a Commenter X without realizing it. There are times when everyone on the site is a Commenter X, because the subject is so obscure.

(There are subjects where most of MF are Commenter X, and I am one of very few Y’s, and I usually ignore those threads because I know the X comments will hurt to read, but I also know they aren’t intended that way, so staying out of the mix is just easier.)

I don’t know if I have an answer. But each side thinks “I am commenting in good faith, so why are you being such an unbearable nitwit/bully?” And each side thinks the other side is being ridiculous/disingenuous. So everyone feels attacked, because they come to the discussion with fundamentally different first principles.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:54 AM on February 24, 2016 [37 favorites]


'Redditor' is not a protected class.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:01 AM on February 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


I do feel that what people call empathy can just come across as patronizing. One reason I don't always participate in certain threads with similar subject matter is not that I'm afraid of racism or hate speech but the constant drumbeat of what a terrible slog it must be POC/LGBTQ/women (and even the tendency to put all those groups together is annoying). It can feel like we have no agency in our lives or can't make our own choices about anything.

I wasn't mad about the woman buying bourbon, but even the retort that she was buying it because she's poor so she was self-medicating, I was rolling my eyes at that too. As if nothing we do is because we enjoy it, or was an active choice, just that it's all we have to barely hold on. This comes from well-meaning people and I think it's an attitude with its own problems.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:01 AM on February 24, 2016 [26 favorites]


That's discussed in the thread itself. The thread where this woman is referred to as 'girl' 7 times. It's highly unlikely that if a grown man posted this there would be a conversation about if this 'boy' knows how to take care of himself and manage his money like a grownup. They might give a man different types of crap, but not this specific breed of crap.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:19 PM on February 24 [5 favorites +] [!]


The hypothetical man would have been called man-baby and/or man-child.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 7:32 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just searched man-baby. It's usage is almost exclusively limited to men who are socially immature, especially in their relationship with women. I'm not finding a single instance of it being applied to a man because he is poor, and I certainly don't see the actual parallel phrase, boy, being applied to men because we disapprove of their career decisions or where they have chosen to live.
posted by maxsparber at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2016 [22 favorites]


a fiendish thingy, I think you're right, that dynamic happens a lot. Something I also see on the site a fair amount is when both people arguing are in group Y, but one person's position gets caricatured into an X position quickly for not resembling the typical Y opinion enough. There are times I don't want to participate in threads even though I'm a member of minority group Y and the conversation isn't an abstract hypothetical for me, because the thread has already started off on the defensive with all the Xers and can't admit much nuance.
posted by thetortoise at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


I just searched man-baby. It's usage is almost exclusively limited to men who are socially immature, especially in their relationship with women. I'm not finding a single instance of it being applied to a man because he is poor, and I certainly don't see the actual parallel phrase, boy, being applied to men because we disapprove of their career decisions or where they have chosen to live.
posted by maxsparber at 3:04 PM on February 24 [+] [!]


I wouldn't expect boy to be used because it sounds super racist because of its baggage as being used in a super racist way.


I never said it would be used to describe someone because they were poor. That wasn't what I was responding to.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:10 AM on February 24, 2016


Well, it's a poor parallel, because it suggests that men are infantilized in the way women are on this site, which is decidedly not true.
posted by maxsparber at 8:11 AM on February 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


Well, it's a poor parallel, because it suggests that men are infantilized in the way women are on this site, which is decidedly not true.
posted by maxsparber at 3:11 PM on February 24 [1 favorite +] [!]


You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:21 AM on February 24, 2016


Watching goalposts get moved in real-time is fascinating.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:22 AM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


The whole point was the diminutives being applied to women were for their choices.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:23 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's discussed in the thread itself etc

...I'm just going to answer this straight bc I can't tell if that's directed at me, but I've read both threads. My question was directed at that specific user bc seems like it could be read both ways so I wanted to know which way it was meant. It's not bc I needed it explained to me.
posted by twist my arm at 8:23 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


To the degree manbaby/child has an economic context, it's in the "living in your Mom's basement" part of the sterotype. That at least makes some sense, you know, because relying on parents is something children do. Unlike moving to a city and working your ass off all on your own. Men are judged immature for NOT taking the risks this woman did, and instead relying on family support. It's a dumb double standard for both genders though, there are lots of different paths to and expressions of maturity out there.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:27 AM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


When you can show it's actually in widespread use in your definition instead of men actually acting like entitled children, maybe you'll have a valid point. Until then, you're just using the old "I don't believe in feminism, I believe in equality" dodge.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:32 AM on February 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


> The cynical part of me wonders if loudly proclaiming all these opinions is really about social signalling

[social signalling intensifies]
posted by lucidium at 8:47 AM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine.

I'm pretty sure we were talking about something that can be falsified.
posted by maxsparber at 8:49 AM on February 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


The cynical part of me wonders if loudly proclaiming all these opinions is really about social signalling & very little to do with what the groups being fought over really believe or want. I try not to let that part colour everything though.

So what if it's about social signaling? How we change culture is through social signaling. The use of slurs/insults/dismissal of points of view/etc.. is also about social signaling, but you rarely hear people dismiss someone for using a racial slur by saying their performative sexism or racism isn't authentic.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:08 AM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


And for those saying a guy wouldn't get such personall directed grief, this thread is interesting: https://www.metafilter.com/157395/Ive-become-irrationally-dedicated-to-rational-living. Not sure exactly the same, but still plenty of personal attacks and conjecture about his personality.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:38 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Not sure exactly the same"? Try not even remotely the same. I mean, they're both about people, and money, I guess, but the similarities end there.
posted by KathrynT at 1:10 PM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


The Talia Jane thread: "Ugh, whiny millennial, she's totally not poor enough."

The MMM thread: "Ugh, awful frugal guy, he's still too rich."

Those are the broad strokes, more or less.
posted by Kitteh at 1:14 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, and this is the new stuff that wasn't a flavour of the blue iirc but what do I know, I'm getting old and will hit the half century mark in exactly one month from today
posted by infini at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2016


By "this" I mean attacks around money, wealth, income, consumption, frugality - a pattern here? Don't question the hamster wheel you're on?
posted by infini at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wasn't mad about the woman buying bourbon, but even the retort that she was buying it because she's poor so she was self-medicating, I was rolling my eyes at that too. As if nothing we do is because we enjoy it, or was an active choice, just that it's all we have to barely hold on. This comes from well-meaning people and I think it's an attitude with its own problems.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:01 AM on February 24 [18 favorites +] [!]


Oh yeah, this was from me and I'm really sorry! I didn't mean "poor people only ever make choices for poor people reasons", I meant "shut up, she wants to have some bourbon because it will make her feel better which is the reason people drink bourbon* and when people are poor and they do things that are enjoyable we often call it 'self-medicating' and like doing something you will enjoy is indeed therapeutic for everyone so maybe lay off this young woman for having a damn drink."

I totally see where I didn't articulate that well and also, to be honest, I was feeling pretty angry about the idea that all the things she had were these crazy luxuries and I might not have posted at my most thoughtful. I think there was maybe more sarcasm in there than came across and also it was phrased such that it implied a certain amount of objectification of people without a ton of money and I am sorry about that and yeah, totally see how it reads kind of eye-rolly.

*Again, if they haven't discovered gin.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:30 PM on February 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


Most of the criticisms leveraged against that guy seem to stem from him being oblivious to how much emotional (and physical) labor he's imposing on his wife and kids. In other words, the finance is a red herring - underneath, it's just another tired old story about a sexist dude taxing the women in his life to pursue his own selfish lifestyle demands without even giving a blink of credence to how much work they do in propping them up. That's... not what's happening in Talia's story. She doesn't have unlimited access to the emotional labor of another human being, for instance.
posted by Conspire at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


It was posted a while ago, but a fiendish thingy's comment said everything I was trying to say much better than I did. I didn't want this to be a thing about how men are treated as badly as women, or something, I just wanted to say that there seems to be a disconnect between what someone says and what we assume they're trying to accomplish with that statement.

I was trying to get at that, to say that I'm uncomfortable because I never know if I'm going to inadvertently add to (or be seen to add to) something negative. I wasn't trying to say that I'm uncomfortable because I'm now being faced with sensitivity to other people for the first time, but I guess that's what it looked like to everyone else. And then it turned into a thing where I got called out for it, and do you see where I'm coming from here?
posted by teponaztli at 1:39 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


So what if it's about social signaling? How we change culture is through social signaling. The use of slurs/insults/dismissal of points of view/etc.. is also about social signaling, but you rarely hear people dismiss someone for using a racial slur by saying their performative sexism or racism isn't authentic.

Just to be clear: in my cynical moment aside I meant in-group social signalling to other left/social justice aware people, not social signalling to your (hypothetical) racist (& therefore out-group) uncle at Thanksgiving.
posted by pharm at 2:02 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"And for those saying a guy wouldn't get such personall directed grief, this thread is interesting: https://www.metafilter.com/157395/Ive-become-irrationally-dedicated-to-rational-living. Not sure exactly the same, but still plenty of personal attacks and conjecture about his personality."

Jane: People dug in hard on her not deserving help; criticism echoed nasty sexist tropes.
Mustache: People snarking about his oddball fanaticism; criticism pointing out too-often overlooked sexist tropes, and invoking criticisms made of Jane ironically.

So, yeah, it seems like while there were attacks made on both, the volume of attacks on Jane was greater, and the personalized disdain for Jane was much greater.

The thing this most ably demonstrates is a lack of symmetry that undermines the view of reducing the problem to be the number of complaints that Jane got, rather than the substance of them. The social values around Mustache deserving to be rich and Jane deserving to be poor are not equivalent, and the just world fallacy would support Mustache while demeaning Jane.

The other thing that may be of note, though I didn't bother to go through and actually check, is to see whether or not the same posters are being critical of each. If not, then the samples of comments may undermine an attempt to portray the criticisms as equivalent.
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


If not, then the samples of comments may undermine an attempt to portray the criticisms as equivalent.

Yeah, I would agree they aren't equivalent (the situations themselves are very different), just noting an instance of a male doing something and being bashed for it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:44 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


(I totally feel where you are coming from, teponaztli. FWIW I don't think you did anything wrong and am not sure anyone else thought that at all. I often think I've made a thread worse by participating in it but this is probably just what happens when sensitive, anxious people get in the middle of heated discussions.)
posted by thetortoise at 2:51 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Yeah, I would agree they aren't equivalent (the situations themselves are very different), just noting an instance of a male doing something and being bashed for it."

Right. It's one of those things where straight white cis dudes, even rich ones, sometimes get attacked unfairly or personally, so saying that it wouldn't happen if the person in question were swcd is wrong — but it happens much more frequently, and with generally higher stakes for people who aren't swcd. The binary of whether or not it happens to both genders is a distraction from the broader complaints about the pattern of gendered criticism.
posted by klangklangston at 3:04 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


(Thanks, thetortoise. I think I wanted to weigh in because I thought I'd have some perspective on how people are sensitive about their comments and the way they're received. I think I just don't know how to frame it in a way that gets at what I'm trying to say, and the more I write the more exposed I'll feel. Anyway, I really appreciate your comment, and it went a long way. It's nice knowing that feeling is not unique to me, or that I'm just a whiner or something.)
posted by teponaztli at 7:08 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


One thing I've been thinking about lately is how it would be cool if we stopped talking about San Francisco, unless the thread is specifically about San Francisco. We've had a lot of threads recently that just devolve into debates about how of a unique and fucked up situation it is right now. Which is one of the reasons SF is the crucible of economic issues right now. So of course a lot of stuff about class and inequality are going to come out of it. Because its where people are being squeezed the hardest.

But even if SF has things that make it THE WORSE in the country right now, doesn't mean these same issues aren't happening everywhere. Rents are increasing in every city dramatically. And that's just rippling out further and further. I live in Portland Maine, and our rents have gone up 40% in the last 5 years. We have a much less intense but similar housing crises in town as SF does, but South Portland, Westbrook, and surrounding areas have seen similar rent increases. And these are literally towns with tons of undeveloped land and "plenty" of housing. Funnily enough our property values haven't even come close to going up at the same rate, since more and more people are being forced into the rental market instead of being able to purchase property.

Every area has its unique problems, so unless a thread is specifically about the housing crises in San Fran, I'd really like to talk about what the thread is about.
posted by mayonnaises at 11:35 PM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Just to be clear: in my cynical moment aside I meant in-group social signalling to other left/social justice aware people, not social signalling to your (hypothetical) racist (& therefore out-group) uncle at Thanksgiving.

Isn't the same true of a lot of racism (and other -isms) though? I mean, isn't that part of why dogwhistles are used rather than just being overt and unapologetic?
posted by Dysk at 2:18 AM on February 25, 2016


Sure - you can look at the language being used and make a pretty good guess as to which in-group the speaker is calling out to.

However, the cynical me thinks that the addition of rigid adherence to a particular set of tightly defined positions alongside the demands to punish those who stray from the “one true path” is *also* signalling. It feels like I see the latter behaviour on the left a lot more than the right, but perhaps I just hang out in the wrong places & don’t see the same kind of exclusionary behaviour that might go on elsewhere - it’s probably a universal pattern of human behaviour.

Anyway, this is probably turning into a derail - happy to continue by memail if you want to.
posted by pharm at 2:32 AM on February 25, 2016


It feels like I see the latter behaviour on the left a lot more than the right, but perhaps I just hang out in the wrong places & don’t see the same kind of exclusionary behaviour that might go on elsewhere - it’s probably a universal pattern of human behaviour.

Conservative Christianity, just for a start. It's certainly not unique to the left, it's just an expression of it that hasn't been naturalised to the point of almost being an invisible part of the tapestry of "normal" like it has on the right.
posted by Dysk at 2:41 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Funny that, as Bernies' scheduled in town today, at a church, fine place, land used to belong Mott of the GM Motts.

Ascribing behavior traits to party politics is certainly fun, but beware of generalization even if a position inflames one side and minimalizes the other, it's polarizing and non productive IMO.
posted by clavdivs at 3:18 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


You seem to be misreading me - conservative Christianity as a stream of Christianity - like fundamentalist Christianity - not as an implication of a link between conservative politics and Christianity. Not that sense of the word conservative. I mean, I'm the mildly christian (though not in a way most conservative Christianity would recognise) trans daughter of a village vicar who is left wing as fuck.
posted by Dysk at 3:30 AM on February 25, 2016


I'm transcribing Quaker letters from 1867, April 19 in fact and a common theme amongst the Thee's and Tho's is 'blessed-blessedness'.
I do this now in the most emergency stricken city in America. I look into a city quiet now, the neighbor is shoveling quietly. I wanted to take some gorgeous snow shots but letting the wife sleep in as she shoulders a majority of GDP. I see God taken out of blessed and see privledge in its place. for example "it's a privledge to attend Innerlochen or baseball school"
Employed by my grandmother when I didn't count my blessings.
I do today. Here, in a democratic bastion and I vote that way for the most. The polorization of politics is a root cause of most civil evil. It's like season 3 of 'Lost In Space'.
I mention Quakers because they and others ethos if you will, played a part in the formation of the Republican Party. These letters themselves speak of a strong residue of religion but a new found society were voting and freedom were upon the writer (not her but for freemen) from her description "a third age". Quite interesting even though she herself acknowledges to the receiver that her letters seemed of little interest.
My rambling point concludes that the political landscape is fast shifting yet rooted in old ideals.

Dunno, who was it that that said something about opposing views can be held and still function.

Im a huge fan of Chavez and saw no contradiction in how the church played in the movement. I will spend no more time defining old terms of conservative or liberal, they erk me personally and seem useless.
posted by clavdivs at 4:41 AM on February 25, 2016


mayonnaises: Every area has its unique problems, so unless a thread is specifically about the housing crises in San Fran, I'd really like to talk about what the thread is about.

Meh. No matter what country the thread is about, it'll be made to be about US issues. As an Elsewherian, one gets used to it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:42 AM on February 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


So, I'm going back to the dead Quakers.
posted by clavdivs at 4:45 AM on February 25, 2016


It's like Season 3 of Lost in Space

True dat. But better that than Season 1 of Jericho.
posted by y2karl at 10:34 AM on February 25, 2016


[One deleted. If you've got something to say on the topic, just go ahead and say it, have the better discussion, rather than starting a completely unnecessary and weirdly personal sidebar fight.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:47 AM on February 25, 2016


It's like Season 3 of Lost in Space

Down with Tybo the Carrot! Expropriate the Vegetables! You have nothing to lose but your tubers!

(Oh, the pain. The pain.)
posted by octobersurprise at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2016


I'm going back to the dead Quakers.

Say hi to the other Jessamyn West if you see her.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:51 AM on February 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


Just to be clear: in my cynical moment aside I meant in-group social signalling to other left/social justice aware people, not social signalling to your (hypothetical) racist (& therefore out-group) uncle at Thanksgiving.

Well... yeah. Like I said - social change. I'm unsure why the presumed target makes this different? Someone can be 100% on board with anti-racism in all of it's glory and yet be utterly ignorant on classism (or vice versa); the fact they have the former doesn't mean I should pretend the latter doesn't matter when around them. It's 50%/50% whether a Left/Liberal/Progressive person will go "wow I should learn more about this" or "Be nice to me, I don't have to think women are people if I don't want to," but in the latter case you have valuable info on how unreliable they are.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:00 AM on February 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Say hi to the other Jessamyn West if you see her."

well low and behold I came across an old The Atlantic. August, 1944. Her, First Day Finish is quite good. But between the war bond drives and Zenith Radionic hearing aid ads, I found myself diverted to Wrights' I tried to be a Communist.
posted by clavdivs at 4:51 PM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow, Deoridhe, you are on point. Absolutely agreed.
posted by kalessin at 6:24 PM on February 25, 2016


It's 50%/50% whether a Left/Liberal/Progressive person will go "wow I should learn more about this" or "Be nice to me, I don't have to think women are people if I don't want to," but in the latter case you have valuable info on how unreliable they are.

I don't think peoples' comments are always so clear-cut, though, and I think it's that gray area that creates a lot of conflict and hurt. Different people, even people coming from the same place, can read the same comment and come away with a different opinion of that person. The problem is that one read can make someone look much worse than another, and then the whole interaction is colored by that.
posted by teponaztli at 6:53 PM on February 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I found myself diverted to Wrights' I tried to be a Communist.

Ha! I teach that piece. Good stuff.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:56 PM on February 25, 2016


And more is the blurb bottom left pg. 61. Here. Is it paywall? Well, the editors deemed Wright " as one of the most forthright and eloquent authors of his race"
That and the war ads for Allison, GE, and Texaco. (sky chief please, and how) the P-38 ad is just cool but Don Q rum (it's war, why are they...drinking and...smoking!) but here is another racist ad.
But there was war on!
Oh, and the chapter where Mark Twain is pull quoted from letters about his money, what a head cracker, makes Grant from Led Zeppelin look like FEEZEWIG!

But my fav is the real prolouge to Americas evil appliance, the DuMont television...in 1944!
Called it, "looking glass"
posted by clavdivs at 11:31 PM on February 25, 2016


I can't see the pages ("PDF Under Copyright and Unavailable"), but it's war, why are they...drinking and...smoking!

It's the stress. I start drinking and smoking if House Hunters International comes on, and it's an episode I've already seen.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:27 AM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think you have my point entirely backwards Deoridhe, which probably means I need to work on the clarity of my throwaway asides.
posted by pharm at 7:57 AM on February 26, 2016


...if House Hunters International comes on, and it's an episode I've already seen.
posted by taz

This is why I still use a VCR.
posted by clavdivs at 6:14 AM on February 27, 2016


A reel to reel Dumont, no doubt.
posted by y2karl at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2016


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