Why would people think Metafilter censors posts critical of police? June 28, 2017 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Why would people think that Metafilter routinely deletes posts critical of police? Possibly because it says so on Metafilter. In a thread regarding Facebooks's deletion policies, there was a comment that claimed "Facebook (like MetaFilter) routinely deletes posts criticizing police."

I didn't think it was the case that Metafilter routinely deletes posts critical of police, so I quoted the comment on the thread and asked if it were true. My comment was deleted with the explanation that "If you want to talk about Metafilter deletions, that's fine but it needs to not happen in threads on the blue -- come to the contact form or take it to Metatalk." But the original comment, which made the spurious claim, wasn't deleted.

I don't think this sort of thing is likely to happen often, but the result--that a spurious claim about Metafilter's moderation policies is allowed on the blue, but any pushback against it is deleted--strikes me as sub-optimal.
posted by layceepee to MetaFilter-Related at 11:37 AM (144 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

This is the original comment layceepee is talking about. His reply to that comment three hours later was "Does MetaFilter routinely delete posts criticizing police?" -- the latter was deleted.

I'll reproduce here what I told you in email, so that folks can see where we were coming from with this:

Yeah, it's true that original comment is still there, and it's true it's deletable for exactly the reason that it's discussing Metafilter policies and that discussion needs to happen in Metatalk not on the blue. But it also has a bunch of other stuff in it and we decided to let it sit there for that reason. It's one of those gray area borderline calls.

Your comment was continuing that strand of discussion that was specifically about Metafilter policies/moderation actions, and asking for replies in the thread in a way that would mean more discussion there on that topic.... so I deleted it. If that discussion needs to happen, it needs to happen not on the blue.

I think the person making that comment might be thinking of a recent deletion -- we deleted a post about the acquittal of Philando Castile's killer, because the post was much too editorial for Metafilter's style. We told the person they could repost it without the editorial content, with the same links etc just a different framing. But they didn't choose to do that. Then we had a post about Trevor Noah's segment on the acquittal, so the discussion of the case happened in there.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:43 AM on June 28 [17 favorites]


I feel like LM's explanation makes a lot of sense and seems to pretty much encapsulate the right policy already.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:51 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Lobster Mitten. I'll take the opportunity to share my reply to you to explain why I understand the reasons for your decision but still think it leaves us with a problem.

I think there are a couple of issues raised by the deletion.

The more important one is that your answers confirms my suspicion that it's not the case that Metafilter routinely deletes posts criticizing police.But if there is a comment on the blue that says that it does, and there's no pushback against it, people could reasonably conclude that Metafilter's policy was to routinely delete such posts.

Second, the subject of the thread is Facebook's deletion policies. In that context, a claim that "Metafilter's policies are similar in this particular fashion" does seems to me to be directly salient to the original post, rather than a meta-reference to policies on the site. I'm pretty sure I've read more than once a comment (in similar discussion, of the nature of online comment) that Metafilter's moderation policies made it more successful than this or that site, or could provide a useful model for dealing with a particular kind of discourse.

I think on the second point, a decision might go either way, but taking the two things together, I think it would have been better to let the comment stand. Or in some other way correct the original spurious claim.
posted by layceepee at 12:01 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Isn't the normal solution here to just post a comment on the blue linking this thread? Or is that now deprecated?
posted by solotoro at 12:07 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


With these occasional "Metafilter is like ___" claims, we'll often leave the comment alone as long as it doesn't seem like it's turning into a big sidebar. Basically we rely on readers understanding that the comment represents that one person's perception, and sometimes people make wrong claims, or have the wrong idea based on incomplete information, or have their own take on things.

If a claim is a big enough deal that it needs more discussion or whatever, that discussion can happen on Metatalk. (And so here we are!)

solotoro, it's fine to pop a link to this thread in the Mefi thread if you want, or not. It's not required.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:11 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


I wasn't really saying I personally wanted to so much as checking my understanding that linking to this is the semi-typical way to address layceepee's concern that someone reading the blue would take the undeleted comment about deletions at face value, seeing no further pushback.

I admit though that this Meta is a bit more meta than usual, since I think the more common scenario would have been people in this thread continuing the original back and forth about whether police-criticizing posts were deleted on MeFi more than is proper; instead this is looking like a discussion about the suggested move of *that* discussion.
posted by solotoro at 12:28 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


Factual errors are posted on the Blue all the time without any push back. This is not even a fact and is more along the lines of an opinion.
posted by soelo at 12:33 PM on June 28 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't see any comment re: MetaFilter policy as anything other than an opinion or suggestion unless it came from a mod, and I suspect most readers would feel the same.

And I didn't even notice the reference to Metafilter when I first saw the comment in question, actually -- for what it's worth, I disagree with the contention that material criticizing the police is more often deleted. I'd say that on this as on other issues that are contentious within the community, mods tend to have a higher standard when evaluating comments that fall outside the community's, um, Overton window -- not because they're enforcing an echo chamber, but because they're enforcing a policy of let's not have the same goddamn Israel-Palestine / 2016 Primary / declawing / how-to-wipe-after-pooping derail for the millionth time. So I'd expect a potentially inflammatory comment or post from either side on these topics to be deleted with more extreme prejudice than is typical.
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:48 PM on June 28 [6 favorites]


Deleting things because someone is wrong on the blue would make for a lot less comments, even if it was just comments being wrong about metafilter. Hell, that statement is wrong about Facebook; two groups I follow in FB are "Photography is not a Crime" and CopBlock.

Oh and before write about hey it's just an opinion I see tivalasvegas has basically typed my comment but sneakily made it smarter and more intelligible. So that's a wrap for me.
posted by phearlez at 12:56 PM on June 28 [7 favorites]


The thing is, if you had just quoted enn's comment and said "yeah I don't think Metafilter and FB are similar in that regard, like at all". it would have stuck. the problem is, you asked a question basically opening up a discussion about MF. Which is, next to self promotion and hate speech, pretty much the most by-the-books unacceptable thing on the blue.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:38 PM on June 28 [6 favorites]


I doubt anyone will read the comment as a statement of fact (or even as compatible with a truth/falsity metric, really). It's obviously venting. I feel like a lot of people have become significantly more aware of things like police violence post-Ferguson, but discussions on that topic have been rather heated and strained on the site before, and you still see things like people seeing knives or "aggressive behavior" in videos where I just don't. The general consensus here seems to support resistance to police violence but still treats broader critical attitudes toward police as taboo. It is one of those topics where navigating nuance can be very difficult, so frustration/venting.

At a guess.
posted by byanyothername at 1:58 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


As for the other part of this, I think I'd prefer if derails were more consistently uprooted entirely rather than allowing one spurious comment or argument but deleting anything responding to it. I don't know how often that really happens in practice, and I guess in this case it's probably not a big deal. The original comment doesn't seem especially delete-worthy even if it's fairly throwaway.
posted by byanyothername at 2:06 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


The thing is, if you had just quoted enn's comment and said "yeah I don't think Metafilter and FB are similar in that regard, like at all". it would have stuck.

If this is the case (and I'd appreciate a moderator expressing an opinion on whether such a comment would have been acceptable), thanks very much, because this is exactly the kind of solution I was looking for.
posted by layceepee at 2:26 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Depends on context -- the exact phrasing, when it occurs during the thread, and whether it looks likely to lead to an extended sidebar on the topic. It's probably true that a declarative sentence has a better shot of staying than a question like the one you asked, since (other things being equal) the question is more likely to lead to more comments on the "what do we think about metafilter" derail. But any comment that re-raises that issue three hours later as a standalone point is pretty likely to get deleted, since it's pulling an otherwise-ignored point out into the middle of the room and shining a spotlight on it, which will tend to get people talking about it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:33 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


The general consensus here seems to support resistance to police violence but still treats broader critical attitudes toward police as taboo.

Yes, this is also my feeling and what I had in mind when I posted that comment. Comments critical of specific police in specific situations are sometimes allowed to remain1 but comments that are critical of the police as an institution, take an abolitionist position, understand that there are no queer-friendly [or poc-friendly or working-class-friendly] cops, or fail to pay lip service to the false idea that "they're not all bad" often don't survive.

In this I do think that Facebook and Metafilter are similar; both often treat the police as a protected class whose individual members can sometimes be criticized but which cannot be disparaged as a class. (Yes, of course it's true that neither deletes every single such comment.)

1. Though it feels like they are held to a higher bar regarding editorializing (for FPPs) and inflammatory language (for comments) than are posts on other controversial topics, but of course that is not really something I can prove.
posted by enn at 2:38 PM on June 28 [5 favorites]


Ah, I take it this is about your deleted comment from the other day in the Trevor Noah thread?

"Every cop is scum. Every last one wakes up every day and makes the decision that they want to be on the side of abuse and murder. Every single one."

That thread is full of extremely strong critiques of the police. Your comment was over-the-top in a way that, in the moment, seemed likely to make the whole thread about you and this one comment, forcing a debate in pointlessly binary terms, and in the process cutting off the actual deeper discussion of police violence and racism that was happening in there.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:55 PM on June 28 [49 favorites]


> forcing a debate in pointlessly binary terms

Yeah. I welcome a discussion of the many problems of police as an institution, including their dehumanization of the people they're sworn to protect and the systemic and cultural problems that lead them to covering up for one another's abuses and avoiding measures aimed at accountability and reform, but there is no way that discussion will happen if it starts with the premise that every person participating in a harmful and broken system is "scum".
posted by tonycpsu at 3:04 PM on June 28 [15 favorites]


Mefi mods will delete posts critical of the police if they think it's gonna start a shitfight, just like anything else - I think it's undeniable that posts on the right side of politics are more likely to be deleted than posts on the left side, but that's also arguably because they're more likely to start a shitfight.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:32 PM on June 28 [6 favorites]


That thread is full of extremely strong critiques of the police. Your comment was over-the-top in a way that, in the moment, seemed likely to make the whole thread about you and this one comment, forcing a debate in pointlessly binary terms, and in the process cutting off the actual deeper discussion of police violence and racism that was happening in there.

Exactly.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:33 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


There are many un-deleted comments in the blue calling members of many other groups "scum," and worse. You are holding rhetoric about police to a higher standard than other groups.
posted by enn at 4:25 PM on June 28 [5 favorites]


Did you flag those comments? Did they start huge shitfights?
posted by Etrigan at 4:43 PM on June 28 [16 favorites]


Short of deletion, if there's a concern that leaving a post on the Blue that includes a claim like "MetaFilter routinely deletes posts criticizing police" is going to give people the wrong idea, I don't see any harm in a short mod note saying "[This is not our policy; if you wish to discuss individual deletions, that can be done via mail or on MetaTalk.]". Just a thought.
posted by uosuaq at 5:30 PM on June 28 [12 favorites]


At first glace, I would think it's a mistake to construe enn's comment as a literal argument about individuals working in the police force.

Because, it looks like it was said with a lot of irony in order to express a feeling of frustration about a news issue. With that interpretation, I find it easy to empathize and comprehend. But of course, I don't know if that's what was intended!

So, maybe according to moderator's experience, it was excessive in the specific, narrow context of "Is this a type of comment that will probably cause a really bad derail?". Also, the pragmatics of flagging are reasonable, if it's getting many flags, then delete away. Personally, I think also reasonable is if someone who is/knows cops feels really hurt by such a comment and if this sort of communication conflict wasn't immediately resolved or clarified in the thread.

However, I think it's not necessary and actually rather problematic treatment of minorities on this site to make it sound like it's a particular comment's fault that it "starts" a fight or "forces" a conversation. Communication is a two-way process, whereas "cause" does not have such a clear analysis. I think that added stuff are false explanations that serve the status quo by implicitly ignoring the very real power dynamics on a media site like this. I'd like to see metatalk more aware of that. So something like:

Did you flag those comments? Did they start huge shitfights?

Is not necessarily a fair comparison. Meanwhile, we have a number of practical justifications for deleting particular comments. We don't need also make people feel like they're bad or at fault or judged, in the process.
posted by polymodus at 5:34 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


I get a decent number of comments deleted, because i like doing snarky top-of-the-thread drive-bys, and that's both a reflection of mod practice in and on myself, in that I care more about expressing my (witty, hilarious and insightful, obv) viewpoint than in taking the time to craft a comment that is less likely to be deleted.

It sucks but a few moments thought will always give me a reasonable and consistent rationale behind the mods' decision.

Deletion is never fun but it's always a comment on how that particular moment of personal expression fits with the culture of the site.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:33 PM on June 28 [10 favorites]


I feel that Sebmojo, but I hate the way I find out about it (and wonder how many more I don't notice). I've thought about starting a meta suggesting deletion notifications, but don't expect it would get traction for a couple of reasons (more work for mods providing everyone a reason, more fights starting over deleted comments).
posted by teatime at 9:56 PM on June 28


It's never pleasant, but I think the idea of deletion notifications has been explicitly ruled out because like 50% of them would lead to agonised pm conversations with the mods.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:12 PM on June 28 [7 favorites]


Fuck a popo
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:18 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


I welcome a discussion of the many problems of police as an institution...but there is no way that discussion will happen if it starts with the premise that every person participating in a harmful and broken system is "scum".

I agree in abstract, but I think it depends on context. "Cops are scum" type comments can be expressions of justified anger in the wake of police violence, and don't necessarily mean that all humans who are cops are scum so much as that police as an institution use violence to enforce racial hegemony. I had personal anecdotes about family and people I know working for/being killed by police but I don't feel okay sharing and it's not what the thread is about. The issue is conflicts between different levels of understanding and the ambiguity of short/pithy comments that could potentially lead to fights. While the case by case basis generally works well, I think the mod team do have consistent sets of values that would be helpful if articulated clearly somewhere. Like, they kind of are in the wiki but also not really at all.

Also, deletion notices: bad idea. Breaking out in a cold sweat just imagining the increased stress for everybody.
posted by byanyothername at 1:03 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]


There is definitely a different standard for blanket statements about the police contra, for example, militia groups, Russian security and intelligence organisations, Hamas/al-Qaeda/Daesh, etc.
posted by Dysk at 2:14 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


Though I would say that it applies more to comments than posts.
posted by Dysk at 2:39 AM on June 29


Is not necessarily a fair comparison.

Well, maybe not, but Etrigan isn't the one who made it, enn was.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:28 AM on June 29


I do feel the frustration when the provoking deraily thing is allowed to stand and the subsequent answer isn't, but also I've adopted kind of a laissez faire attitude towards mod deletions right now - the mods are hella overworked because of the political situation, and if they want to nix shitfights more aggressively and that's what lets them keep doing their jobs and keeps Metafilter around, I leave them to it.
posted by corb at 5:49 AM on June 29 [13 favorites]


Every cop is scum. Every last one wakes up every day and makes the decision that they want to be on the side of abuse and murder. Every single one.

Shit.

I mean... Tell us how you really feel?

I don't see how it's not super, crystal clear how a comment like this is poisonous to any sort of nuanced or, really, interesting discussion. I can confidently say that my dad who, as I mentioned here, has personally been on the receiving end of a police beating while handcuffed, wouldn't even paint with such a broad brush. It just doesn't help to do so and it kinda makes you look either ignorant or asshole-ish in the meantime.

The mods did you, not to mention the rest of us, a favor with that deletion.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:52 AM on June 29 [27 favorites]


but which cannot be disparaged as a class.

Disparaging whole classes of things—professions, kinds of people, philosophies, breakfast foods, whatevs, is pointless precisely because there's no place to go after that. It's either a platitude, an expression of taste, or an inarticulate cry of rage. I mean, they all have their place, I guess, but you think eggs are disgusting? Sure, man. You think every cop is scum? Wow, man. Tough guy.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:33 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


I am largely in agreement with enn's position on cops and I think that deletion makes perfect sense. It combines a more edge position with a blanket dismissal of all worth both on the institution and the individuals and it does it in an insulting way. To make that classification in that way does nothing but demand any response be sorting everyone into T v F categories. I guess that's great for righteous indignation purposes all around but it's garbage for discussion.

The claim that it's a prohibited position is easily disproven. The history of policing as slave patrols is regularly mentioned in comments. Advocating for complete disbandment is done regularly as well. It's not a majority position by any means but it shows up regularly. I have made many comments that are bitter and rejecting of the "lone bad apple" assertion and my belief that there is mass culpability and enabling. And those comments all survived. Because they did more than just lob an angry grenade into a discusssion.

I think that anger is totally justified and reasonable. But that doesn't make it something that does anything other than set off big YUH HUH and NUH UH back and forths when put out there with no other structure.
posted by phearlez at 6:57 AM on June 29 [10 favorites]


Well I am disgusted that there seem to be people here who think that you should criticise the Police with every breath you take, that every member of the Police is a king of pain, or that they are all really just evil spirits in the material world.

I don't know if those people are just so lonely or what, but I think that the Police are the invisible sun that lights up our world. And I, for one, don't want to bring on the night - because then we'd all just be walking on the moon. So if you hate the Police, just yell your message in a bottle and please don't stand so close to me.

Yours,

-- Roxanne '97 (Puff Daddy remix)
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:04 AM on June 29 [35 favorites]


I came here to say exactly what RolandOfEld said. I'm as anti-cop as your average MeFi lefty ("pig" was a standard part of my vocabulary back in the day), but that comment is the kind of thing that makes a site toxic and drives people away. Also, the idea that "Metafilter censors posts critical of police" is loony-tunes. Get a grip.
posted by languagehat at 8:05 AM on June 29 [11 favorites]


Also: is this the thread where we vote for "lamest dad joke(s) in a MetaFilter comment, 2017" - ?

Because if you don't vote #1 quidnunc kid, then "de do do do, de da da da" is all I want to say to YOU.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:22 AM on June 29 [9 favorites]


Hey quidnunc kid, I have this to show you.
posted by phearlez at 8:36 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]




A couple of years ago, probably, there was a question on Ask about some kind of neighborhood situation. Someone acting fishy or something like that, I don't remember. And a bunch of people were just 'nthing' to call the police and have them sort it out, so I was getting ready to point out that casually calling the police to sort out what was IIRC an annoying but not obviously dangerous situation might not be a great idea. But then I saw someone had just pointed that out already, so I went to favorite that and move on, when the comment was deleted.

And that thread continued on its merry way with the nths.

I don't recall the wording being particularly volatile, although of course, taking that position in a thread that is heavily leaning in the other direction would probably get someone's back up. I couldn't see a way to say that without causing some contention.

I didn't get the impression that it was an official policy not to criticize the police or anything, but that was something that really really needed to be said in that thread, and it wasn't permitted. Maybe there's just no non-contentious way to say, "Please reconsider calling unpredictable, heavily armed people to solve your problems" after enough people have already suggested doing just that. It's kind of inevitable that someone's going to get defensive. But I'd argue that one should err on the side of letting that be said, even if it results in an argument breaking out on the internet.

I mean, I only saw that for sure once, so I'm not assuming it's common or that it's an official policy, but it is something that has happened.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:57 AM on June 29 [8 favorites]


Fuck a popo
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:18 AM on June 29 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


I snorted
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:02 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]


ernielundquist, "Don't argue with other posters without also answering the question" is a thing that often gets confused for "Don't talk about X". Might that have happened there?
posted by Etrigan at 9:02 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]


"Don't argue with other posters without also answering the question" is a thing that often gets confused for "Don't talk about X". Might that have happened there?

Yeah I don't remember that thread offhand but there are often people in AskMe who like to lecture other commenters on why their ideas are bad (and sometimes with an "And you should feel bad for giving free advice in that manner" tossed in for good measure). Generally speaking the OP usually knows already if it's a bad idea to call the police. If they can't call the police they are welcome to mention that in their question. Advice to call the police or advice to not call the police and do something else are both reasonable pieces of advice. Comments that are just "don't do that thing the other person said" absent any other advice, are often on shaky ground to begin with.

No idea if that happened or not, just what I first thought of when you said that.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:07 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]


enn's provocative sentiments could be expressed with less inflammatory language:

"American law enforcement is systemically biased, and perpetrates unjust violence on a daily basis against people of color and the working class. It's fundamentally unethical for anyone to willingly continue to participate in this system in any capacity, because to do so is to perpetuate injustice even if one doesn't commit violence directly."

I don't think anybody would be calling for that to be deleted, right? The problem here is that the inflammatory version of this statement would hardly be regarded as deletion-worthy if it wasn't about cops. Dysk mentioned Daesh as an example, which is perfect. I'm sure there are at least some people in Daesh who have pure motivations, but calling them "scum" because of their ongoing decision to participate in an unethical and violent organization would raise no eyebrows on this site.

I think the mods have been pretty open that deletion policy often hinges on what's likely to derail a discussion or turn it toxic, and this disparity is unsurprising in that light: Some people on Metafilter identify with the police for one reason or another: they have cops in their family, they're friends with a cop, they are a cop. Nobody here identifies with ISIS so we can call them names with impunity.

The case-by-case "read the room" moderation policy on this site is well entrenched, recognized by almost everybody, and generally works well. But I think there can be absolutely no doubt that in this case, it means that statements expressing blanket anti-police sentiment are required to tread more carefully in order to avoid being deleted. The kind of rhetoric that is acceptable to use to criticize American law enforcement is different than the kind of rhetoric that is acceptable to use to criticize other violent organizations.

Metafilter might not have an explicit policy to delete anti-police posts, but it doesn't mean that there isn't a disparity in practice.

Is it worth it, in order to foster productive discussion? I don't know. I'm inclined to think it's not worth it, and comments like enn's should be allowed to stand. I do know that it's absolutely in line with the site's general moderation philosophy.

Anyway, fuck the police.
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 9:09 AM on June 29 [14 favorites]


enn's provocative sentiments could be expressed with less inflammatory language:

"American law enforcement is systemically biased, and perpetrates unjust violence on a daily basis against people of color and the working class. It's fundamentally unethical for anyone to willingly continue to participate in this system in any capacity, because to do so is to perpetuate injustice even if one doesn't commit violence directly."

I don't think anybody would be calling for that to be deleted, right?


Pedantic rebuttal, but no, the statement

Every cop is scum. Every last one wakes up every day and makes the decision that they want to be on the side of abuse and murder. Every single one.

isn't even close to being factually expressed in the same way by your strawman-lite comparative statement. Doing a weird proxy side step isn't a great move for this discussion I fear.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:20 AM on June 29 [7 favorites]


The problem here is that the inflammatory version of this statement would hardly be regarded as deletion-worthy if it wasn't about cops.

I disagree, as a moderator responsible for actually having to operate on that measure of deletion-worthiness. If you are saying "comments with similar sentiments have avoided deletion in other contexts", then, sure, I'm certain that's true if someone goes looking; that doesn't make those comments inherently good or unproblematic or mean that we don't view that sort of rhetoric dimly pretty much across the board, and I have absolutely deleted a bunch of things in that vein on other subjects or contexts. As a basic framework for commenting, I don't think it's a good one. It doesn't help with a practical understanding of how moderation works on the site to collapse our decision-making or working philosophy to a binary of either "literally always gets deleted" or "is a-okay", but that's where we end up if we work off an appeal to the idea that because someone got away with calling someone scum in some other comment in some other discussion, the answer is mod bias against police criticism because this one got deleted.

Looking more broadly at this kind of dynamic, not on specifically the police thing because this is something that applies basically universally to a whole bevy of subjects that lead to similar "well clearly there's a moderation bias about x", often from directly contradicting directions:

What I tend to see in practice on these sorts of things is a pretty understandable kind of human behavior but also something that puts us in a crappy double-bind as moderators: folks who feel very, very strongly about position x for any given x tend to notice and remember incidents when x gets pushback, and to notice and remember incidents when some not-x thing doesn't get the same pushback, and then generalize that small sample set to a conclusive statement on how both x and not-x are treated on the site.

So people see something they agree with deleted, and something superficially similar not deleted, and the make a leap: it's clearly a double-standard. Which, I can understand that jump. Especially when it's tied to something someone feels passionate about or has a strong emotional/personal/political/etc stake in. But generally what it actually is is two things happening in separate contexts that despite superficial resemblance aren't identical, and neither of which is broadly representative of all other things that have happened on the site on those subjects.

All of which is to say that I get where personal perspectives of e.g. a disparity in practice on topic x comes from. I sympathize. And I'm not suggesting we're actually perfect or unbiased or that the site and community doesn't have its biases and leanings and so on. But the idea that one of those in practice is protecting police from criticism is totally off the mark. The critical view of police seems to be pretty much the prevailing one on the site. That just doesn't mean carte blanche on being an over-the-top jerks about stuff, which is precisely what the case was with enn's comment, however sincerely felt.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:47 AM on June 29 [13 favorites]


I came here to say exactly what RolandOfEld said.
posted by languagehat

Praise from Caesar indeed.

posted by RolandOfEld at 10:00 AM on June 29


Also, the idea that FOO is loony-tunes. Get a grip.

Is also, incidentally, the kind of comment that makes a site toxic...
posted by tobascodagama at 10:09 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


Doing a weird proxy side step isn't a great move for this discussion I fear.

agreed but this certainly bucked up my mood.
posted by clavdivs at 10:38 AM on June 29


> Praise from Caesar indeed.

Does this mean you're planning to stab me or turn me into a salad?

posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]


Dysk mentioned Daesh as an example, which is perfect.

I disagree, but arguing about analogies is like showering with your socks on. /s

But even if we were to stipulate that it's a good and fair analogy and that the daesh thing would stay and the cop thing wouldn't... so? If the daesh statement wouldn't lead to a huge noise derail without quality discussion and the cop thing would, isn't that enough reason to call the deletion reasonable?

The daesh thing probably is a good analogy in the illustrative sense that if you analogized between cops and daesh in a cop-topic thread what you'd surely end up with is a flurry of arguments about whether it's a good analogy, how cops and daesh are dissimilar based on institutional approval/centralized governance/international action and pretty soon there's nothing being discussed but the ways they are and are alike and what exactly is the appeal of that other than to people who want to shout at the other side about How They Are Wrong?

To some extent the entirety of Metafilter discussion is wankery since none of us are setting policy and I doubt we're changing many minds, if any. But I'd say that makes it all the more important to choose directions and guide conversations so they are at least not giant scream-fests. The fact that it means some of us sometimes have to dial back our anger and express ourselves more carefully doesn't seem like some huge burden.
posted by phearlez at 10:58 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Praise from Caesar indeed.

Would you prefer that, or Caesar from Praise?
posted by zamboni at 12:04 PM on June 29


I'd say that on this as on other issues that are contentious within the community, mods tend to have a higher standard when evaluating comments that fall outside the community's, um, Overton window -- not because they're enforcing an echo chamber, but because they're enforcing a policy of let's not have the same goddamn Israel-Palestine / 2016 Primary / declawing / how-to-wipe-after-pooping derail for the millionth time.

OK, hang on a sec.

AFTER???
posted by nickmark at 12:10 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]


Wiping before is much more hygienic.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:53 PM on June 29


Why are you wiping derail?
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:00 PM on June 29


Maybe there's just no non-contentious way to say, "Please reconsider calling unpredictable, heavily armed people to solve your problems" after enough people have already suggested doing just that. It's kind of inevitable that someone's going to get defensive. But I'd argue that one should err on the side of letting that be said, even if it results in an argument breaking out on the internet.

I've seen a number of AskMe answers where people have expressed very strong caution about bringing the police into situations. Those answers have been instrumental to me in changing my own thinking about calling the police and recognizing perspectives on this that are not the ones I was raised with.

I don't know what happened in the specific question you're talking about, and I can see how such a response could be deleted if it turns into too much of a back-and-forth about the police instead of answering the question, but I've absolutely seen answers on the green that strongly discourage calling the police.
posted by zachlipton at 3:25 PM on June 29 [8 favorites]


Imagined this thread might end in a flame out, instead ending with wiping. Thanks metafilter, I love you.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:48 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I spent 30 minutes typing out a long comment and the internet swallowed it up. Sigh. Shorter version.

I find the sentiment here frankly disturbing. To each his own, but it's hardly off the reservation to express harsh statements about willing, active participants in a corrupt, brutal system like the police force. It really doesn't strike me as anything that mods should editorialize or delete.

A lot of it boils down to "not all cops", but that doesn't really work the same way as "not all men". Men are (for the most part) going to continue to be men or male-presenting if they're not feeling strongly otherwise, so the goal for not-bad-men is to learn how to be conscious of their complicity while remaining men. When you sign up to be a police officer (which no one is forcing on you), you enter a tradition steeped in unchecked authority, anger issues, racial and gender control, systematic corruption, etc. and you do this with eyes open. Every day you continue to be a police officer and see bad apples in your department or allow ethical boundaries to be pushed a little bit further, you're knowingly perpetuating it. You have a choice to quit, speak out, whistleblow, and aside from a few, you don't. Cop's protect and support each other. If you're not actively doing so, then you're doing it by omission and silence.

It's not just isolated departments either (like, for example, Chicago's black site detention/torture facilities). The data like this is open and paints a dire picture of problems throughout departments all over the country.

ACAB-like sentiments are not arrived at like an edgy teenager trying to get a rise out of people. They're rational extrapolations of the data that come from our growing national awareness of just how bad the problem is. It may be radical, and you don't have to agree, but in 2017 it's increasingly normal to be radicalized on this issue that is harder and harder to ignore. Being palliative and cautious and weighing down our statements with caveats and parentheticals to neuter the impact is only contributing to the problem, I feel. Plus, we're not speaking before Congress here. This is a site where we're sharing our honest, unvarnished opinions, arrived at in good faith after contemplation and awareness of the system we're living in. I wasn't aware that doesn't pass the bar for commenting here. Some of the pushback does have the whiff of tone argument - not toning down your anger enough or couching your words to assuage feelings shouldn't be getting this level of criticism for this particular issue. But that's just me.
posted by naju at 10:13 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]


Some of the pushback does have the whiff of tone argument

Moderation is all about tone. "Tone argument" as a concept doesn't apply, because that's about criticizing the validity of a position by criticizing the tone, whereas moderation is about managing the *effect* of a statement on the conversation by analysis of the tone. Honestly I think I mod vastly more statements that I agree with than disagree with in general - whether or not I agree with the sentiment doesn't mean that the ensuing discussion is going to be civil or constructive.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:18 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]


I'm seeing plenty of "criticizing the validity of a position by criticizing the tone" in this thread, though. Maybe not from you, but it's the gist of much of the pushback I'm seeing here. I'm responding to that. I'm also making the case that this is a subject where being forced to be "civil or constructive" by couching your statements in comforting reassurances is going to lead to a problem where perfectly rational and thought-out positions are erased entirely.
posted by naju at 10:25 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


because that's about criticizing the validity of a position by criticizing the tone, whereas moderation is about managing the *effect* of a statement on the conversation by analysis of the tone.

In some sense, if the effect is the same either way (disappearing comments that don't conform to a subjective case-by-case tone requirement) then it seems to me that the impact on the conversation is made, regardless of the motive or reason behind it.
posted by naju at 10:39 PM on June 29


Well, yes, moderation does have an impact on the conversation. Maybe I'm not understanding you?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:41 PM on June 29


As I said, it's about perfectly rational and thought-out positions being erased from conversations. Positions that many people are arriving at and seeing a need for, and that are coming from a position of consideration and concern for justice, not bigotry or assholishness. Is MeFi okay with impacting conversations to the point where those voices are shut down? I wasn't aware of the site culture being that way.
posted by naju at 10:47 PM on June 29


If we're going to talk about tone arguments, and I realize it's a common enough phrase that slips out with no malice intended, it would be nice to not casually throw around the expression "off the reservation" in the same breath.
posted by zachlipton at 10:51 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]


My apologies for using that phrase. I need to excise it from my vocabulary.
posted by naju at 10:53 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


There are definitely positions whose expression is so inflammatory that they are functionally forbidden on this site. I don't think loathing/fear/contempt of police is one of them.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:02 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


As I said, it's about perfectly rational and thought-out positions being erased from conversations.

But they're not. As iterated above, these positions are all present and well represented on metafilter. Often by the people right here in this meta.

What is "erased" is those rational and thought-out positions when they're presented in an incendiary manner that almost always leads into incoherent shouting back and forth.

Just a few seconds on google limiting to site:metafilter.com and searching for various comments about police and 'disband' or 'slavery' or 'complicit' turns up plenty of stuff.
I don't doubt it. The NYPD basically showed itself to be a racist gang with no accountability post Garner, cops pulling up and shooting children has been fully excused and blamed on the victim, and there's the latest public execution in LA.

Police culture in the US is fundamentally racist, violent, broken and unaccountable, and the establishment most places is complicit in that lack of accountability.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on March 4, 2015
Just one example. There are plenty.
If good cops don't want to be tainted by the actions of bad cops, then they should do something about the bad cops. Until they do, they're complicit.
posted by empath at 5:47 PM on November 22, 2013
When cops are have more (enforced) laws governing their behavior than the average citizen (not less), then I will be disinclined to paint them with a broad brush. But the reality is that law enforcement is broken by design right now. Not only is it set up to corrupt an ordinary person by relieving controls on their behavior, but the profession attracts bullies and white knights, and both personality types need adult supervision to work effectively. Joining the police should not be like joining a special rules-optional club, and right now, it really is.
posted by smidgen at 2:01 PM on November 22, 2013
No opinions are being suppressed here. People are being asked to engage in the most minor of care in their words so as not to turn a discussion into a giant moshpit.
posted by phearlez at 6:17 AM on June 30 [7 favorites]


Thanks for finding comments from 2013 and 2015, I guess? Modding standards have changed since. And I'm not saying that MeFi has never had comments calling out complicity etc. I'm saying that this deletion strikes me as heavy-handed, many of the comments supporting the deletion are questionable, and if it's the way we're going forward, then it would appear to be in danger of shutting out a viewpoint simply by virtue of that viewpoint not kowtowing to "not all police are culpable" sentiments.

Might I also remind that just upthread, this comment was floated out as an example of one that wouldn't be regarded as deletion-worthy, by exercising the "most minor of care in words"...
"American law enforcement is systemically biased, and perpetrates unjust violence on a daily basis against people of color and the working class. It's fundamentally unethical for anyone to willingly continue to participate in this system in any capacity, because to do so is to perpetuate injustice even if one doesn't commit violence directly."
to which cortex replied, no, actually, it probably wouldn't pass muster, and specifically cautions against doing what you just did:
I disagree, as a moderator responsible for actually having to operate on that measure of deletion-worthiness. If you are saying "comments with similar sentiments have avoided deletion in other contexts", then, sure, I'm certain that's true if someone goes looking; that doesn't make those comments inherently good or unproblematic or mean that we don't view that sort of rhetoric dimly pretty much across the board, and I have absolutely deleted a bunch of things in that vein on other subjects or contexts. As a basic framework for commenting, I don't think it's a good one.
posted by naju at 6:52 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Thanks for finding comments from 2013 and 2015, I guess? Modding standards have changed since.

How about from June 2017, then:

Such as A few thoughts.

The police are out of control....


or The key is not to put shit-scared cops on the street, but one of the purposes of US police is to kill black people, so
posted by Etrigan at 7:17 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Thanks for finding comments from 2013 and 2015, I guess? Modding standards have changed since.

Look, this is on you to establish. I was modding in 2013 and I am modding now and I have if anything developed more sympathy in that interim for straw-meets-camel's-back moments of expression of extreme frustration with police organizations as we've had one after another discussion of police violence and exploitation on the site and the US police system and justice system's failures to establish consequences for this stuff. The idea that we are crackin' down hard on police criticism is, in the most polite term I can summon here, misguided. You are hanging a lot of argument on us having deleted something at all and ignoring the rest of what we're saying.

This is a site where we're sharing our honest, unvarnished opinions, arrived at in good faith after contemplation and awareness of the system we're living in. I wasn't aware that doesn't pass the bar for commenting here.

There are so many comments that could be described in those terms that many people here, you included, would be furious at us for if we let them stand that could nonetheless be defended on that basis. Honest, unvarnished opinions can take a lot of forms and cover a lot of ground. Unless the argument here is that the subject of police, specifically, isn't allowed to be moderated the way every other thing on the site is—which I don't think you're proposing but I'm also not clear what you are going for here if not—there will sometimes be cases of honest, unvarnished opinions that go a bit over the line and get deleted. It's a moderated site; that's precisely what that means. Not moderated-unless-its-cops-in-which-case-fuck-em, no matter how much I tend to agree with strong criticism of police structures and power dynamics and so on in this country.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


How about from June 2017, then:

Judging from what the mods are saying, it seems reasonable to conclude that "one of the purposes of US police is to kill black people" is deletion-worthy by the standards being articulated. It certainly sounds similar to the statement we're talking about, at least.
posted by naju at 7:27 AM on June 30


It certainly sounds similar to the statement we're talking about, at least.

"Similar" isn't "the same", and the shades between the two is more or less what we pay the moderators for.

And if it's similar, then, to coin a phrase, it would appear that we aren't in danger of shutting out a viewpoint.
posted by Etrigan at 7:34 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


cortex, I think a key part of my thinking is that honest, unvarnished, good-faith opinions that are fundamentally bigoted or assholish are the tipping line for deletion, or have been. I'm certain "all women are scum" might be something that some commenter arrives at in good faith, but it's openly misogynistic and bigoted and thus unacceptable here. "All cops are scum because they choose every day to support a murderous system" may appear similar in structure, but is not bigoted or assholish. That it might possibly hurt the feelings of cops or people who are friends or family with cops is unfortunate but shouldn't prevent the comment from being made. It's similar in my mind to "all frat boys are scum", a comment I wouldn't take exception to as someone who was once in the fraternity system, because in character it's different from bigotry or assholishness (I realize assholishness is subjective.)
posted by naju at 7:35 AM on June 30


"Similar" isn't "the same", and the shades between the two is more or less what we pay the moderators for.

That's cool, and since this is a discussion on the nuances of moderation, it makes sense to discuss and ask for clarification etc.

Feeling like I've said my piece and don't want this to be naju-takes-on-all-comers, so I'll slide into the background now.
posted by naju at 7:37 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


There are a variety of reasons something gets deleted, not just bigotry or assholishness. One of those reasons can be that a comment that might be fine in another context is going to derail a thread.

If you thought that bigotry was the only reason for deletion, you were mistaken.

The deleted comments discussed here have mostly been problems with context, not content.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:39 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee, if you consider arguing about police violence a derail in a thread about police violence, I don't really know what to say to that. It's hard to imagine a thread in which my deleted comment would have been more contextually appropriate, to be honest.

Any criticism of the police will likely be contentious and provoke an angry response in America in 2017. An angry response is not the same thing as a derail. If that's enough to merit deletion, my original point—that Metafilter makes a de facto practice of deleting criticism of the police—stands. It doesn't matter whether that practice is motivated by support for the police or by a desire to keep the peace and it doesn't matter how much sympathy the moderators have for the people whose comments they are deleting. The effect on the limits of acceptable opinion on the site are the same.
posted by enn at 8:01 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I realize assholishness is subjective.

Assholishness is incredibly subjective, and that subjectivity tends to come to the fore about stuff one feels especially strongly about. Which is understandable, but also a problem, because "I wasn't being an asshole, because I'm right" is a pretty common emergent argument when very strong feelings lead to assholery which leads to moderation sometimes on a site whose main organizing principle is "don't be an asshole".

It's hard to imagine a thread in which my deleted comment would have been more contextually appropriate, to be honest.

Look, your comment sucked. You made a crappy commenting decision. Which isn't about your opinions about cops, which you are 100% entitled to and tons of people here have agreed with in general.

I put a fine point on it at this point because the issue with your comment was that it was a lousy comment, and that got it deleted, and that's the entire thing. Being critical of police is not deletable. Thinking participation in the police system even as a well-intentioned person qualifies as complicity in the worst abuses of that system isn't deletable. Your viewpoint is common on the site and commonly expressed. That one specific super-condensed just-drawing-a-line-in-the-sand comment was, see above, especially assholey in its construction, and deleteable, and got deleted.

An argument for the right to dissent about or criticize or condemn police on MetaFilter is an argument won before it was made: people do that all the damn time.

An argument for the right to never have a comment deleted because you really mean it is lost immediately: MetaFilter is a moderated site and we will use our best judgement and delete some things.

Those are two different things, and one can't be swapped for the other; frustration at a deletion in the case of a latter is not an excuse to pretend that what's at stake is the former.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:08 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


Seems to me the original question as posed has been addressed pretty conclusively (no), and the rest of this is just hair-splitting from folks who want to pick fights.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:08 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]

Every cop is scum. Every last one wakes up every day and makes the decision that they want to be on the side of abuse and murder. Every single one.
I'm radicalized but I sincerely don't see what's especially assholey about this comment.
posted by beerperson at 8:16 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


That it moves past just issuing an opinion about e.g. complicity and fundamental structural problems (which I think a huge chunk of the MeFi userbase significantly agrees with, and you can see people talking about on the site all the time) to rendering it as a zero-nuance, zero-wiggle-room, I-dare-you-to-fight-me challenge against approaching the argument as anything other than a strict binary makes it pretty assholish as a contribution to a MeFi discussion about a difficult topic.

It would be hard to craft something more well-constructed to provoke an argument with even folks who 95% agree with you, and it is needlessly so because, see above repeatedly, folks manage to engage the topic with strongly stated concurring opinions that nonetheless don't structure themselves in a "and we're driving this thing off the fucking cliff" framework of absolutist language.

It's not like I don't understand where it's coming from, but this chasing down of one comment, one particularly crappy comment, as a hill to die on instead of saying "well, shit, maybe I'll slightly modify my approach" is always weird as hell to me when a MetaTalk comes down to it. Just regroup and make a slightly better comment next time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:22 AM on June 30 [12 favorites]


Coal interests are scum. Gamergate trolls are scum. Tories are scum. These are all from this month and none has been deleted. (And to answer Etrigan's question, of course I haven't flagged them—I agree with them and think they are valid expressions of disgust.)
posted by enn at 8:32 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I'm not interested in dying on any hills today! But there's a conversation here so I thought I'd participate, if that's cool.

I think that a lot of this flaffing about how many people on the site agree with fuck-the-police (including some of, if not all of, the mods) feels like point-missing over-large hand gestures about whether there is a pattern of anti-cop sentiment being shut down/deleted/peered-upon critically on MetaFilter. I have no reason to doubt that you, cortex, have a large amount of sympathy for this sort of anti-cop position, nor that such sympathy is widespread on the site. That doesn't mean that a systemic issue cannot exist.

There were a number of years on MeFi when 98% of FPPs about police brutality, videos of wrongful arrests, stories of cops firing way too many fucking bullets into an unarmed dude were deleted for being 'outragefilter.' I do not believe this was done because the moderators love the police. But it was a pattern of moderation. After Trayvon, and Eric Garner, and Black Lives Matter, and etc., that pattern seems to have changed, but I think asking whether it's completely gone is valid. And getting angry and frustrated at the question is worrying.
posted by beerperson at 8:35 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


These are all from this month and none has been deleted.

I've said, literally in this thread, that I'm certain that "x is scum" comments have survived and also that I don't think "x is scum" is a good commenting strategy in general even if it doesn't always get deleted. And we've also talked already in here about how similar isn't the same thing as identical and that context is going to drive some of these decisions, so saying "but here's a comment that's similar to mine that didn't get deleted!" is not some useful change of the game.

If your goal is to convince me your comment was good and should not have been deleted, please stop trying; you're not going to get there, and you're just going to further convince me that this is about not wanting to get your comment deleted rather than any larger site concern.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:37 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I'd also mention that "X is scum" is different than the gauntlet throwing of "Every single member of this particular class or grouping makes a decision to align with murderers and abusers" which is basically just an "I dare you to disagree with me" comment. I'm not sure why the nuance between "X are crappy" and "Every last X is crappy in a specifically illegal way, every single one" but really that's what we're looking at.

The first can be an expression of frustration that might be contextually appropriate on MetaFilter, the second basically can't. It's totally fine if, for reasons, this nuance isn't something that works for you, but mods rely in people at least being able to accept that this is a moderated site, comments sometimes get removed, yours was, and those are the breaks. If there's a pattern, let's look for it. But a pattern is by definition not about one bad comment and making it that way is obscuring the larger issue you nominally want to talk about.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:42 AM on June 30 [10 favorites]


There were a number of years on MeFi when 98% of FPPs about police brutality, videos of wrongful arrests, stories of cops firing way too many fucking bullets into an unarmed dude were deleted for being 'outragefilter.' I do not believe this was done because the moderators love the police. But it was a pattern of moderation. After Trayvon, and Eric Garner, and Black Lives Matter, and etc., that pattern seems to have changed, but I think asking whether it's completely gone is valid.

I distinctly remember that happening.

Once the posts began appearing in greater frequency, one of our more vocal members also spent years in any thread even tangentially related to police misconduct (murders/brutality/atrocities, etc.,) defending cops so hard and trying to silence anyone who had an opinion that cops killing civilians was wrong, that some of us took it upon ourselves to point out in those threads that he was a lawyer who defended cops for a living.

I can't speak for anyone else, but his specific participation and constant flood of undeleted comments in those threads, coupled with the fact that many similar threads had previously been deleted as outragefilter did give me the sense that the site itself had a pro-cop bias.
posted by zarq at 8:50 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


feels like point-missing over-large hand gestures about whether there is a pattern of anti-cop sentiment being shut down/deleted/peered-upon critically on MetaFilter.

Yeah, but that "whether" is doing a hell of a lot of work. And you're hearing from the actual mods that it's not something we're aiming for or see as being an emergent aspect of the mod work we're doing. So, what then? Insist we're wrong in the absence of evidence? Triple-down on the deletion of one critical comment in a thread overflowing with similarly critical comments? The assertion that there's some systemic shutdown of anti-cop sentiment is itself a handwave.

There were a number of years on MeFi when 98% of FPPs about police brutality, videos of wrongful arrests, stories of cops firing way too many fucking bullets into an unarmed dude were deleted for being 'outragefilter.'

I appreciate where you're coming from on the feeling that those posts were deleted more than you think is appropriate, but that is an absolutely nonsensically overstated figure which doesn't really help with this. A lot of stuff got deleted for being somewhere on the border of outragefilter, and a lot of stuff got through, and I'll note that the stuff that got through was very often a total nightmare that lead to weeks-long arguments (that we still repeat today) and people bailing and mods feeling burnt the fuck out. A lot of the deleted posts were also just plainly, nakedly badly made.

I think as a site partly we've gotten a bit better at dealing with those posts when they come along, and partly folks have gotten a bit better about choosing their framing and timing with posts in the first place, such that we don't get as many hard-to-let-stand breathless non-posts these days when something fucked up happens. And in terms of general shifts in the userbase, I'll agree with the idea that there's been a shift in the userbase's general tolerance for and ability to dig in on stuff related to systemic abuse and injustice in policing in the US over the last, really, decade or so? Which contributes to that as well. We've also kicked some folks to the curb in the ensuing years who were intransigent assholes on various aspects of the subject, and that has helped make threads more workable as well. We've also talked with some more reasonable folks who tended to just have bad reactions about finding strategies (among others simply avoiding the threads) to help those not turn into situations where they were having their worst moments repeatedly.

But they're still hard discussions, they still require a lot emotionally from mods and users alike, they still go around in circles too frequently and too heatedly. They're hard and they require a lot of care. And when people are feeling angry or righteous or sad or scared they can slip on that care bit and comment poorly and we have to take action. And that inevitably creates friction too, viz this thread and the one that spawned it. There is a very real MeFi-centric social context and social cost to all of this. So if I seem frustrated that is not coming from a vacuum, and it's certainly not coming from a concern that people are being too grumpy about the police. Grump on, just try a little tiny bit harder if you're having trouble running into deletions.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:53 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I guess one of the points I'm trying to make with my last comment is that internal and external perceptions of potential bias can have many factors. Not just moderation decisions but how conversations go, the way comments are phrased and who is participating.
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I sincerely don't see what's especially assholey about this comment.

Honestly, the mods here have put so much time and thought and effort into learning exactly how to shape discussions, and what one things leads to down the line, and the pattern of conversations, and what's likely to be a derail, that I trust their judgment on assholishness more than nearly anyone else's. I think many mefites would agree with me - that's sort of the point of metafilter. That's what's different between mefi and facebook...that mods don't rely on those deterministic hard-and-fast rules partially because mods are trusted to be experts rather than robots. You've got some of the leading experts on moderation in internet communities here.

It's fine to question why exactly something was considered to be a derail risk - why it was/wasn't appropriate - and that's exactly what metatalk is for. But we have to have some faith in the moderators to know a thing or two about what they're doing and not just label something as not assholish just because we think it's right.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:05 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but that "whether" is doing a hell of a lot of work.

That is specifically what I think it is useful to address in this thread: whether there is a pattern of moderation and site behavior, even if or particularly if that pattern is unconscious or unintentional on anyone's part, and if so, what can be done to address it; I find that paragraphs about how many people and mods on the site aren't enthusiastic about the police department to be unhelpful to that conversation. If this thread is instead a direct attack on the secret behind-the-scenes pro-cop actions of mods who love abuses of the police state, then I agree, push back on that. I am not reading it that way, and it is not in my interest to participate thusly.

But they're still hard discussions, they still require a lot emotionally from mods and users alike, they still go around in circles too frequently and too heatedly.

I can appreciate this, and understand it, and I think that it is entirely possible that this is a contributing factor to rather than argument against the existence of a pattern of site and moderation behavior regarding anti-police sentiment.
posted by beerperson at 9:05 AM on June 30


I can appreciate this, and understand it, and I think that it is entirely possible that this is a contributing factor to rather than argument against the existence of a pattern of site and moderation behavior regarding anti-police sentiment.

Part of my frustration I think is that my perception of discussion on the site regarding police is that it is overwhelmingly critical, and yet perceived as potentially not sufficiently so.

Which is to say: I feel like there is an operating definition here of possible "pro-cop" bias that would be better described as "not sufficiently aggressively anti-cop" on account of there being some anti-cop sentiments that ever get deleted.

Because if we have twenty people saying variations on "the police system is abusive and horrid", and one of those people gets a comment deleted, that's not a pro-cop bias at work. That's a prevailing police-critical stance on a site that is also moderated and sometimes deletes comments. But if the litmus test for avoiding pro-cop bias is "don't interfere with anti-cop sentiment", we're fucked either way because it becomes a question of either actually do our jobs, or decline to do so to appeal to a hardline view that it's impossible to comment badly if one is righteous.

Which applies broadly, not just to police issues. Like: I have no room in my heart for Trump or his horrorshow of an administration. I have been super clear about that personally, here and elsewhere on the interent. But we still moderate threads about all of that and we still delete some particularly assholey or over-the-line comments from them. There's an argument someone could make that by e.g. deleting a gross spousal violence joke we're displaying a pro-Trump bias because there's truth to the idea that that sort of thing would happen or be in character, but that's a pretty absurd argument. (Hasn't stopped substantially that sort of argument from being made a couple times, but it's (a) not going to get anywhere with me and (b) not going to make a badly-considered comment not badly considered.)

So if someone's trying to scope out their definition of a notional pro-cop bias in moderation, I'd want to have a very clear understanding of what line they're drawing, and how much it has to do with 1. actually systemically promoting pro-police sentiments on the site, how much it has to do with 2. actually systemically quashing anti-police sentiment on the site, and how much it has to do with 3. just ever moderating any anti-police sentiment on the site. Because I can understand that all three of those could be variously contributing factors to a perceived problem in one or another person's eyes, but I take a lot of issue with characterizing point 3 as a "pro-cop" bias and my honest perception as a mod is that mostly what we end up dealing with these days is exactly that: intervening selectively on the most overt or over-the-top comments in what are otherwise long, difficult, intensely police-critical discussions.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:20 AM on June 30 [13 favorites]


of course I haven't flagged them—I agree with them

Well gosh, I'm almost seeing some pattern emerge here about when you think really quick & discussion-ruining comments should and shouldn't be deleted.

Cortex, Eyebrows et all, I admire your patience in trying to have this discussion far past the point where it seems to be in good faith on all sides. For whatever it's worth I feel completely comfortable in expressing my cop distrust on the site and don't find the limits in how I phrase it remotely constraining. Thanks for what you do.
posted by phearlez at 9:24 AM on June 30 [7 favorites]


Honestly, the mods here have put so much time and thought and effort into learning exactly how to shape discussions, and what one things leads to down the line, and the pattern of conversations, and what's likely to be a derail, that I trust their judgment on assholishness more than nearly anyone else's. I think many mefites would agree with me - that's sort of the point of metafilter. That's what's different between mefi and facebook...that mods don't rely on those deterministic hard-and-fast rules partially because mods are trusted to be experts rather than robots. You've got some of the leading experts on moderation in internet communities here.

The Mod team's moderation skills and their sense of what they and this community find acceptable has changed (and improved) over time, through extensive (often they felt endless) discussions about sexism, racism, antisemitism and other forms of bias in metatalk. As a result, Mefi itself has changed over time. What posts and comments survive. How people treat one another, etc.

If a mod says they found a comment "assholey" and deleted it, then it's totally within our rights to ask them to explain further. And discuss it with them. Especially since the rules are not hard and fast. Especially if we believe we're seeing patterns emerge in moderation styles.

Moderation of any community evolves organically, through questions and constructive feedback. If we have opinions, praise or concerns, we should be voicing them. That's how change happens.
posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Agreed, we should discuss it! I guess it was just the line between saying "I sincerely don't see what's especially assholey" and "why is this assholey?" as the former seems to ignore the fact that the mods do have experience and expertise watching discussions go. Ack, I guess I'm just bothered by anything that implies that moderation is easy or obvious, especially owing to some moderation practices elsewhere that I was bothered by recently. Maybe I was bringing too much of that in or reading too much into that sentence, in which case I'll step back.

I'm not saying we need to be obsequious in some "the mod is always right" way - I just think that working to ask rather than presume is a really important part of healthy internet (and meatspace) discussion.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:54 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


whether there is a pattern of moderation and site behavior, even if or particularly if that pattern is unconscious or unintentional on anyone's part

How would you demonstrate this one way or another?
posted by octobersurprise at 10:13 AM on June 30


It's subjective as we've said, and the mods are good at their jobs, but they get it wrong all the time and they'll admit that. This is partly what metatalk is supposed to correct for, and has (or is being worked on) with boyzone, anti-semitism, cultural appropriation discussions, and lots more, all of which involved mods saying they'll work on changing their approach in some way to some degree.

Trying to explain my thinking around how this plays into a broader context I'm seeing...

The "dude, we're all critical of the police here" thing is just another way I feel disconnected from the moderate 'reasonable' crowd preempting the entire field of discussion. Many people critical of the police were in the Ferguson threads, for example, arguing for solutions like requiring body cams on every officer, and would push back on suggestions that this would hurt more than help communities of color in various ways because the problems with racial policing/bias/control are so thoroughly widespread. It's the kind of suggested solution that fundamentally assumes a certain level of trust in police officers and departments to largely be good if given a push in the right direction. So you can be critical of police but not quite critical or distrustful or contemptuous enough, and this does have a difference in terms of substantive policy discussions.

The difference between moderate and more radical ideas of criticism here makes an actual difference, and the latter is what I'm afraid of being considered intolerable, just as more radical voices have felt shut out in political threads for a while now. I use 'radical' here without really feeling it's appropriate, since I don't consider myself to be radical, nor that most people with views like this are going far in any way. There's something to say about the Overton Window there from someone smarter than me.

One of the (though not the only) broader topics to my eyes is that site culture is changing slowly but definitively toward that side of things. It's a userbase thing, a mod thing, and a national political atmosphere thing all simultaneously. I think maybe people aren't seeing the same things I see, that this is very much NOT what younger demographics than MeFi are considering to be acceptable or reasonable. More and more people are growing up into a horrorshow and being radicalized to a greater degree, and by considering those comments deletable, I wonder if MeFi is dating itself with a shelf life as younger new users taper off and find the discussion to not be amenable to them.

This is all to say that "we're all on the same page here, actually" is a thing I would consider interrogating, both in the context of this particular discussion and in a broader context. No one has to agree with anything I'm saying here, of course. Just my take on how this is all playing out.
posted by naju at 10:24 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


You're not wrong, naju, I just fail to see how what you're talking about even remotely relates to the comment that was deleted.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:32 AM on June 30


slowly but definitively toward that side of things

Sorry, to clarify - you feel that mefi is becoming less 'radical' over the last year or two?
posted by R a c h e l at 10:54 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


The site has tended toward a moderate to moderate-progressive spectrum more or less always, but I do think the culture is moving more firmly and definitively towards rolling its eyes and finding unwelcome/annoying anyone who expresses views outside of that, yes, in the wake of the 2016 election particularly. We've had some discussions around that in other metatalk threads. I'm situating this discussion within a broader context I see along those lines.
posted by naju at 11:04 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


That may or may not be true, but:

1) This thread is about whether MF actually has a pro-cop bias in moderation
2) The comment that sparked the thread was clearly deleted for reasons other than the anti-cop political stance it expressed, as supported by numerous examples provided of comments with similar political content expressed in different ways that were not deleted
posted by tobascodagama at 11:35 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


The site has tended toward a moderate to moderate-progressive spectrum more or less always, but I do think the culture is moving more firmly and definitively towards rolling its eyes and finding unwelcome/annoying anyone who expresses views outside of that, yes, in the wake of the 2016 election particularly.

Maybe it seems that way because 90-plus percent of those views and discussions of them (e.g., Are all cops bad? Is Israel basically Nazis?) have been hashed and rehashed and rerehashed, and the moderators aren't as willing as they used to be to let the same old people hash them out just because one new person has said something vaguely related to them.

At least, that's how it seems to me sometimes.
posted by Etrigan at 11:44 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


More and more people are growing up into a horrorshow and being radicalized to a greater degree, and by considering those comments deletable, I wonder if MeFi is dating itself with a shelf life as younger new users taper off and find the discussion to not be amenable to them.

Maybe there are a lot of reasons why metafilter should take a more aggressively anti-police line, but I doubt that "all the young, hip kids are doing it now" is one of them.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:45 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


That's a pretty drive-by comment when my larger point is about changing site values and how they might be increasingly out of sync and insular as time goes on, but yay for scoring points.
posted by naju at 11:54 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


It's not wrong, though. If your hypothesis is true that the MetaFilter user base skews too old and moderate to be relevant to younger readers, moderation policy that tries to push things in a more radical direction is going to do anything to improve that situation. The community is what it is -- if allowing these more radical and incendiary comments to stand is the right thing to do, we should do it. We shouldn't do it because of a desire to stay relevant.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:04 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty drive-by comment ...

Nope, it walked in on its own.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:06 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


We shouldn't do it because of a desire to stay relevant.

My intention wasn't at all to frame that as "a desire to stay relevant", but rather "factoring in a concern for whether we've turned away and will increasingly continue to turn away voices and viewpoints (that are becoming more mainstream) by de facto declaring them too radical or incendiary to have a seat in discussions". I think there's a difference. You can pick apart the latter, and maybe MeFi decides that's perfectly okay, but at least addressing that is more to the point.
posted by naju at 12:19 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty drive-by comment when my larger point is about changing site values and how they might be increasingly out of sync and insular as time goes on, but yay for scoring points.

So you think this particularly glib and brief comment from octobersurprise served only to be incendiary and performative and did nothing to help clarify the point through discussion?
posted by phearlez at 12:27 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


cortex: "if I seem frustrated"

I am in genuine awe of the amount of empathy and fairness and consideration you combine with your frustration. I just - whenever contentious threads about deletions come up, I am re-astonished by the emotional labor you and all the mods take on to engage in these conversations with such openness and willingness to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and treat everyone with respect.

I don't think I come anywhere close to your level of ... I don't even know the word, openness, engagement, fairness, empathy - ever, but I aspire to it. Thank you - you, cortex, and all the mods, every one of you - for striving for and achieving this.
posted by kristi at 12:41 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


"factoring in a concern for whether we've turned away and will increasingly continue to turn away voices and viewpoints (that are becoming more mainstream) by de facto declaring them too radical or incendiary to have a seat in discussions"

Presuming that there might be some number of young potential users who have turned away because they think metafilter isn't radical enough for them, how would any one know that?

Fundamentally, you want metafilter to be a different kind of place than you think it is. And that's okay. I often wish it were different, too. But I think it's a little more forthright to make the case for what you think it should be and how it should be that, than to just sort of suggest that maybe somewhere someone's being excluded.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:27 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


I described what I see as a problem and explained my perception of it, and did so with a few paragraphs and a few points, not just the one that people are focusing on. I'm not interested in laying out a case with convincing evidence, nor am I agonizing over the idea that I'm not being forthright enough, so maybe we're done here.
posted by naju at 1:38 PM on June 30


It seemed like a pretty important point, but in case you aren't done here, I'd like to discuss this other point you made:

> Many people critical of the police were in the Ferguson threads, for example, arguing for solutions like requiring body cams on every officer, and would push back on suggestions that this would hurt more than help communities of color in various ways because the problems with racial policing/bias/control are so thoroughly widespread. It's the kind of suggested solution that fundamentally assumes a certain level of trust in police officers and departments to largely be good if given a push in the right direction. So you can be critical of police but not quite critical or distrustful or contemptuous enough, and this does have a difference in terms of substantive policy discussions.

So, here you are noting the existence of an argument about body cameras coming from people you feel are moderates on the topic of excessive use of force, particularly when it comes to police murdering unarmed citizens. That argument was in fact made in some of those threads, though I don't think it was characterized as a panacea, or anything close to a sufficient solution to the problem. I remember others noting the possibility that body cameras could actually do more harm than good, and finding some of those arguments convincing. Still, this is not by any means a settled question.

Yet here you are in this MeTa making a connection between the fact that some people brought up body cameras and a hypothesis that "you can be critical of police but not quite critical or distrustful or contemptuous enough." How does that follow? The mere suggestion of body cameras is equal and opposite to "all cops are scum"? Or were arguments noting that body cameras are problematic deleted?

I guess I just don't understand how some people having an opinion on body cameras supports your hypothesis at all. You say you want people to engage with the rest of your argument, but I still can't make heads or tails of it.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:48 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


So you think this particularly glib and brief comment from octobersurprise served only to be incendiary and performative and did nothing to help clarify the point through discussion?

naju took the time to explain himself. He pointed out that his "...larger point is about changing site values and how they might be increasingly out of sync and insular as time goes on..." Which was not addressed by octobersurprise's initial comment. Or by his follow-up one-liner.

Can we maybe consider not jumping down people's throats for bringing up things that concern them? Pretty sure we all want the same thing here -- a healthy, welcome and thriving site where people feel comfortable discussing this stuff. I get that we're all a bit on edge because of the state of the world, but it's okay to let go of that here.
posted by zarq at 1:48 PM on June 30 [7 favorites]


I believe phearlez's comment was an attempt to point out, via irony, that tone does actually matter to how constructive a comment may be.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:09 PM on June 30


It was a shitty gotcha comment attempting to dismiss naju's well-considered thoughts with an implicit accusation of hypocrisy.
posted by beerperson at 3:37 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


Grump on, just try a little tiny bit harder if you're having trouble running into deletions.

There is a principle here that 'people need to see this!' is a bad basis for a post.

Similarly 'I need to post this and I don't care if it makes people mad!' is a bad basis for a comment.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:52 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


It was a shitty gotcha comment attempting to dismiss naju's well-considered thoughts with an implicit accusation of hypocrisy.

Right. And it's questionable - I took octobersurprise's comment to be a snarky own that willfully misread my comment for cheap points, which would violate some of the things I described above - "assholishness", not in good faith. His follow-up seemed to confirm that and wasn't worthy of a response. I wouldn't argue for either to be deleted though, just as I don't think enn's comment should have been deleted, so, not sure where that particular 'gotcha' comes in at any level. It is pretty cool that people seem to be piling on in layers, though. I've kept what I consider to be an even, considered, articulate tone throughout, and people seem to be greeting it with hostility. I think that hostility shouldn't be deleted or moderated, btw, but I'm somewhat mystified by it and it feels as though my contributions aren't welcome because they're incendiary for the userbase (no idea why, I've said nothing but tame things), which is exactly what I was trying to communicate about the site culture.
posted by naju at 3:53 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I've kept what I consider to be an even, considered, articulate tone throughout, and people seem to be greeting it with hostility.

Noone likes having a comment deleted when they agree with it. Comments aren't deleted because of their rightness or wrongness, though.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:55 PM on June 30


im presuming the literal (figurative) sealioning is a very dry joke
posted by Sebmojo at 4:21 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


It was a shitty gotcha comment

Oh it was a mildly snarky reply to a proposition I found dubious. But you know what they say: dying is easy; comedy is hard.

I've kept what I consider to be an even, considered, articulate tone throughout, and people seem to be greeting it with hostility.

I can only speak for myself, but I promise you: I'm not being hostile, I'm just disagreeing. (Tho it's humorous to watch a discussion begin with a plea for the right to disparage and end with a complaint about hostility.)
posted by octobersurprise at 4:36 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Tho it's humorous to watch a discussion begin with a plea for the right to disparage and end with a complaint about hostility.

You do recognize that naju is not the person who posted this MeTa, he's just responding to it?

And accusing him or other people in the discussion of sealioning is pretty shitty, and the kind of rhetorical move that's designed to be hard to refute.
posted by Lexica at 4:38 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


I've been consistent in stating my belief that genuine expressions of 'radical' political belief should pass muster, and should not require caveats that neuter them past their original form. Further, in my belief that there's been a site culture shift to find such expressions intolerable/inappropriate that I think should be cautioned against.

That is not the same as me having a sense that I'm being (intentionally? I'm not sure) misread over and over despite explaining myself fairly clearly, at length, and without passion, or that there's a weird pile-on occurring, both of which people seem to be only doubling down on. Sealioning, what?

It's like my comments here somehow have boiled down to "it's my right to be an asshole or bully or troll, everything is fair game, fuck your feelings!" and that's so outside of my intentions and words that I don't know how to even respond to it and I have trouble believing it's genuinely read as such.
posted by naju at 5:08 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I hear where you're coming from naju. I express my radical beliefs here from time to time, but like with any community site there's a "read the room" aspect to what you decide to say and how you decide to say it. And one of the issues with radical beliefs is nearly by definition they're not going to necessarily go over well with whatever the mainstream opinion is.

So on MetaFilter the mainstreamish belief might be "Cops seem to be overstepping their bounds and are not accountable and this is a serious problem that reinforces structural racism in the US" and the more radical belief is "Cops as a profession are inherently abusive at best and murderers at worst. You can't be a cop and not be on some sort of power trip and this is reinforced by the institutions that employ and support them to protect property and not people. Society has to rethink the entire idea of how to enforce the rules it creates."

For me part of this is using a lot of "This is what I think..." framing with what I say and allowing that there are actually other people who I respect who hold beliefs which are not in line with mine. At some level I feel that if I can't say that, I have no business trying to be here in a conversation space with them. Being contemptuous to other users is sort of not ok, no matter what the topic.

So part of it is being aware of what the outcome is that I am looking for? Sometimes it's just that other people know that there are decent people they care about who believe the whole system is rigged and the system is going to eat itself and maybe that's an ok outcome all things considered. Other times there are some sort of actions I would like people to take. Having a radical belief system means you spend more time than an average person being frustrated that things aren't to your liking.

But also, we all live in the world. We have different roles in that world but we're not just going to wake up one day and be in our idealized version of it and everyone else has somehow dropped dead. So it's important to have a set of ideas but also some sort of a plan. And for most people, no matter what your ideas are, that plan is going to go better if you legitimately engage with people who are most of the way to where you are. So I often ask "What is your plan to get from here to there?" I ask it about people with "visions about the future of libraries" and I ask it about people who have visions for the future of MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:27 PM on June 30 [12 favorites]


And accusing him or other people in the discussion of sealioning is pretty shitty, and the kind of rhetorical move that's designed to be hard to refute.

Sealioning is a rhetorical technique.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:44 PM on June 30


Sealioning is a rhetorical technique.

Yes indeed, it is. Maybe you'd care to drop the oblique accusations and point to what in naju's engagement you perceive as being sealioning, then? Because my impression is that he's engaging in discussion, not playing bullshit wear-you-down games.
posted by Lexica at 9:06 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


There is much to be said for reading the room. And for the concept of using a lot of "This is what I think..." framing with what I say and allowing that there are actually other people who I respect who hold beliefs which are not in line with mine. -- which seems a variation on what people once called active listening.

Sealioning may be a rhetorical technique but to me it can seem a variation of what we once called thread moderation wherein one attempts to dominate the conversation by repeatedly speaking at length -- often about how misunderstood one is while waxing indirectly pejorative about other people's statements and intent.

Feeling misunderstood is common individual feeling hereabouts. As putting words in the other people's mouths is a common technique.

But me, I'm not a mindreader, so what can I say apart from this: what languagehat said .
posted by y2karl at 2:19 PM on July 1


Maybe you'd care to drop the oblique accusations and point to what in naju's engagement you perceive as being sealioning, then?

"I've kept what I consider to be an even, considered, articulate tone throughout, and people seem to be greeting it with hostility." is so close to the original comic that I had to check to make sure it wasn't a direct quote.
posted by Etrigan at 3:13 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


I think the sealioning argument is pretty unhelpful and folks should drop it; I also totally got where the comparison came from when it was mentioned. Superficial similarity isn't the same thing as two things being the same, as has come up in other contexts above already, which makes bringing in a charged accusation based on superficial similarity a pretty dicey move and not really helpful. Giving a little benefit of the doubt here will help.

And I basically hear where you're coming from now, naju, and think that was a useful explication of your position. That said, I also agree with jessamyn's take on it, where there is a big practical difference between "I want things to be this way" and "it is reasonable expect a large, heterogeneous group of people to agree that things should be this way". Feeling like MetaFilter is, as a group of community members and as a site moderated to reflect that group, not sufficiently hardline or radical on an issue you feel strongly about is understandable, and wishing it were otherwise is likewise so. But I think it's unlikely that that change en masse will happen, or if it did happen would happen quickly; staking out ground at the far end of the spectrum is, as Jess said, a recipe for frustration pretty much by definition.

Doesn't make the position any more right or wrong or anything, and all else aside I think MetaFilter's better for having that position as part of the mix in the userbase. But it's kind of an expectations-management thing there I think where recognizing you're out toward the end of a given spectrum of belief or position means most likely continuing to be out toward the end rather than having the whole distribution unilaterally shift to you, even if stuff continues to shift a bit over time. Which I'm sympathetic about, but realistically you are gonna get some pushback on an outlier position even if you keep arguing it to your best ability. People are gonna find the position disagreeable and unconvincing just as much as you will find their contrary position to be so, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:28 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


"I've kept what I consider to be an even, considered, articulate tone throughout, and people seem to be greeting it with hostility." is so close to the original comic that I had to check to make sure it wasn't a direct quote.

Except for the part where naju would be a cop or a longtime defender of police brutality. Seeing as how he's neither (and most definitely the opposite of the latter), the comparison barely makes it one frame of that comic before completely falling apart.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:12 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


sealioning would mean 1) I'm butting in on an in-group conversation where I'm not welcome... if I'm not considered a part of this community welcome to comment on metatalk w/r/t issues and policy, then so be it, I'll show myself out; 2) i'm demanding evidence, or explanations, or anything, when I've been doing nothing remotely of the sort - I said my piece and shared my point of view substantively within about 2 comments, and would have been done with it, if not for people asking me to clarify / pointing out my spurious sophistry / whatnot. And fwiw, I was OK with following up, but I'm going to point out what feels like a number of insincere snippy comments when I see it; maybe that's out of bounds, in which case consider me duly chastened and I'll never do it again.

I appreciated jessamyn's comment because it felt like the only one that acknowledged where I was coming from, took me at my word, and responded thoughtfully, even if disagreeing. As an antidote to a pile-on it's worth thinking about how much better that comes across, especially if the majority here seems to agree that it's important to consider how you come across (surprise: I do too).

I'm sympathetic to this:
And I basically hear where you're coming from now, naju, and think that was a useful explication of your position. That said, I also agree with jessamyn's take on it, where there is a big practical difference between "I want things to be this way" and "it is reasonable expect a large, heterogeneous group of people to agree that things should be this way". Feeling like MetaFilter is, as a group of community members and as a site moderated to reflect that group, not sufficiently hardline or radical on an issue you feel strongly about is understandable, and wishing it were otherwise is likewise so. But I think it's unlikely that that change en masse will happen, or if it did happen would happen quickly; staking out ground at the far end of the spectrum is, as Jess said, a recipe for frustration pretty much by definition.
but don't quite understand what it has to do with the central issue. In the abstract and in my own approach, I agree that your words are going to have more of an impact if you phrase them carefully, reasonably, and with an eye toward recognizing the validity and humanity of others. I think it's a great idea for commenters to do this. However, maybe I'm misunderstanding - at what point is anyone saying "everyone should agree that things should be this way", or "Metafilter should be more hardline and radical in its views and/or moderation"? The question at issue is whether a comment should be deleted for expressing an opinion that no one has to agree with and that some commenters will take as strident and outrageous, but that is a sincere, non-bigoted, considered political statement arrived at with some thought, and extrapolated from real-world facts.

Basically, enn's comment wasn't "everyone has to agree with me that all cops are scum; line in the sand, come at me bro", it was "[I strongly believe, and you're welcome to disagree, that] all cops are scum"; and my stance wasn't "everyone has to agree that such comments are good and true, and moderators should officially recognize them as such; i'm radical, and if you're not, then you're wrong", it was "hey, maybe don't delete comments that express real opinions just because the majority seems to think they're too outrageous to entertain; and users, maybe allow enough space for comments that might be expressing things you find disagreeable, or things that aren't worded in such a way as to transform them into majority views."

The ultimate trump card to this is "but it will lead to a derail, so all of this talking around intention and whatever is useless; a derail is a derail, so delete." It's fine if that's the conclusion, and I trust the moderators have way more experience than I do with what will send a thread crashing and burning. I think it's still valid to bring up concerns that this could effectively lead to a de facto narrowing of viewpoints; the people who react to sincere but radical opinions like they're personal affronts or throwdowns are the ones who win out, basically, and that seems a shame. But I just express those concerns and don't expect any agreement, and am fine with leaving it at that.
posted by naju at 1:13 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


However, maybe I'm misunderstanding - at what point is anyone saying "everyone should agree that things should be this way", or "Metafilter should be more hardline and radical in its views and/or moderation"?

I think that looking at the current state of discussion and moderation of police issues on the site and deciding that what's in evidence is a pro-police bias—which is where this discussion started—necessarily implies that MetaFilter is insufficiently radically anti-police and should be more so to be the site you think it should be. Which, maybe that is not your position, but that's basically what follows for me. The other basic option is "MetaFilter is insufficiently radical on this and I think that's fine and how it should be" which seems like unlikely enough a stance in MetaTalk that I haven't really been considering it.

Essentially, if you aren't saying and no one else is saying that there's an issue where the site should change from where it is to where it should be, then, okay! That's simple enough, and there's not an argument. But that's not my understanding of what's going on; and if that's not what's going on, then that hope for (if not necessarily expectation of) changes seems to be the central issue. And my feeling is that that change isn't super likely to happen, certainly not quickly, because I think folks on the site are, on the police-are-great vs. police-are-problematic spectrum, already fairly far along to the latter side; folks standing even farther along are occupying an outlier position rather than hanging in a temporarily under-occupied natural center point. That's my perception, not a declaration about the nature of the universe or anything, but as a moderator I'm trying to offer that analysis to set expectations for folks hoping to see something shift significantly for whatever reason.

Basically, enn's comment wasn't "everyone has to agree with me that all cops are scum; line in the sand, come at me bro", it was "[I strongly believe, and you're welcome to disagree, that] all cops are scum"

I can believe that was enn's intent, but that wasn't enn's effect. He wasn't writing in his journal, he was participating in a conversation with a bunch of other people, and rhetoric and framing have effects on the context they're appearing in. We may fundamentally disagree on that comment and that may come down to a difference in position, but an argument that that wasn't a pretty crappy comment isn't going to make headway with me. I think it's possible to recognize and sympathize with the intent while still concluding that the effect was genuinely a problem, and that's where I am on it.

and my stance wasn't "everyone has to agree that such comments are good and true, and moderators should officially recognize them as such; i'm radical, and if you're not, then you're wrong", it was "hey, maybe don't delete comments that express real opinions just because the majority seems to think they're too outrageous to entertain; and users, maybe allow enough space for comments that might be expressing things you find disagreeable, or things that aren't worded in such a way as to transform them into majority views."

I hear you, but it being a real opinion doesn't mean the framing isn't lousy. Again, this may just be a point of unreconcilable disagreement, but we can't draw the line at deleteable-or-not at "sincerely felt" because people can and do say shitty stuff that comes from a sincerely felt place. If you and I disagree about the line on that particular comment, that's okay and I respect that, but I'm in the position of having to make this place work for everybody. There's a line that will always be there between saying "hey, that position's fundamentally not okay" which isn't where we are on hardline anti-police feelings (viz a lot of the discussion here, your comments included) and saying "hey, that particular comment sucked", and I'm repeating myself here but I think enn's specific comment there was a poor one and not a workable starting point from which to try and shift the userbase or the mod team's stance on what a sincere-hence-necessarily-okay comment looks like.

I think it's still valid to bring up concerns that this could effectively lead to a de facto narrowing of viewpoints

I do too, fwiw, and I appreciate that you've been making an effort to do so in a clear way as the thread's continued on. It comes with necessarily understanding when you do so that you are likely to get a bunch of disagreement from folks. Which I know is frustrating, but part of having that understanding is then being ready for it and not sort of being taken aback when it happens. That's pretty much what I was getting at (and what I think in part Jess was getting at) in talking about having realistic expectations when operating from a self-declared radical position. It's fine to have that position, and welcome, for all that pushback. But pushback is essentially a given in that sort of dynamic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:11 PM on July 2


Your two options for what I'm implying both start with "Metafilter is insufficiently radical on this issue, and..."

Neither my stance nor implication is that Metafilter is "insufficiently" radical. Metafilter can be whatever it wants to be. I'm not trying to change the political views of anyone nor shift the site's political inclinations into something it's not. What I've stated, seemingly like a broken record, is that Metafilter should consider not deleting comments for the reason that users are likely to treat them as personally affronting attempts at causing fights, when they are not such a thing but are rather plainly if bluntly stated beliefs, that (per the generally not particularly pro-police sentiment here) don't even merit as that radical (truly radical/militant would be saying that police and police supporters should be violently opposed in armed confrontations, by the way; whether that's deletable is something I haven't thought much about, and advocating violence against people who might be site members seems to go over the line in a unique way, but then again, I'm in danger of legislating out views to the left of me, just as I'm warning people not to do, so I'm not prepared to opine on policy in that instance).
posted by naju at 2:38 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to change the political views of anyone nor shift the site's political inclinations into something it's not. What I've stated, seemingly like a broken record, is that Metafilter should consider not deleting comments for the reason that users are likely to treat them as personally affronting attempts at causing fights, when they are not such a thing

This is I think where we're at an impasse and will keep looping, so I'm totally okay letting it be and am responding a last time just to be clear that that's where I am. I don't think it's accurate to characterize the problem with that specific comment as that it was personally affronting; I think people would be likely to find it generally, rhetorically affronting regardless of whether they personally had some stake in the matter. I think it was a badly-made comment no matter how sincerely felt, and that it failed in a way many other comments have succeeded at the goal of effectively and proportionately communicating a strongly-held belief in a way that works on the site.

You feel otherwise, that's okay. enn presumably felt otherwise too, that's okay. But it got deleted, and that's consistent with the expectations we try to set, and I see zero daylight around that particular moderation decision.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:53 PM on July 2


Fair. Thanks for explaining.
posted by naju at 3:14 PM on July 2


It was possibly an affronting or disrespectful comment only if you are not already a radical leftist. There's a history of such language and in that context and headspace or wavelength, people understand what is being said. Like, this stuff is written in literary books and essays (could have been a paraphrase of some author's polemic), not just people's private thoughts or personal journals out of a social vacuum. It's pretty run of the mill.

One thing that happens that I see is when people are exposed to a different political value system, their reaction to the material is to rely on the most literal meaning to interpret it. There's a neat theory about this, low- vs high-context communication and how that varies across different situations and social scenarios. In the context of an activist forum or even a critical theory forum, the same words likely would not be judged as bad. They'd be met with understanding and support, because the expression would be valued as something for that community to work through. Whereas someone outside that political context would use the literal interpretation of the same words and so draw a different meaning from it. I think anyone who's been in the role of a minority using such in-group language to convey themselves knows of this experience.

For example only if you read it literally, literally it's saying a demeaning thing about a profession in service of the public. I think what helps is when reasons additionally qualify that it's not a bad comment per se, and so on with other related rationalizations, but specifically one that doesn't work for this community right now. I think that brings in a level of multi-cultural awareness, making this more explicit, as something that informs other users why it was deleted.
posted by polymodus at 4:08 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


That said, I also agree with jessamyn's take on it, where there is a big practical difference between "I want things to be this way" and "it is reasonable expect a large, heterogeneous group of people to agree that things should be this way".

Nobody's expecting the Mefi populace at large to agree with radical positions (naju certainly wasn't!), but rather some people (including naju) are hoping and that such positions won't be deleted by mods.

(and fuck a popo)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:16 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


It was possibly an affronting or disrespectful comment only if you are not already a radical leftist.

Uh, no shit? I mean, I think we would probably all agree that if you're not the kind of person to be affronted by such a thing, then you won't be affronted by such a thing. Right?

One thing that happens that I see is when people are exposed to a different political value system, their reaction to the material is to rely on the most literal meaning to interpret it.

It is true that that when I see someone write an opinion that doesn't look otherwise hyperbolic or ridiculous, that I tend to take them literally.

What was that thing about taking that guy seriously, but not literally?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:18 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


And here I figured the thread had gotten into a somewhat calmer and more measured place. polymodus's comment was an interesting, non-polemical one about how language is received differently in different contexts and groups. However you read it, there's really no reason to respond in such an aggro and dismissive way.
posted by naju at 8:13 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Forget it, naju. It's MetaTalk.
posted by heyho at 7:31 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


And here we see how easily a comment can derail a discussion into a long series of snide dismissals and tone arguments, thereby proving the point that moderation of such comments early on is a good idea.
posted by Etrigan at 7:34 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


If you're suggesting my initial comment in this thread should have been deleted right off the bat, then that's a more extreme/heavy-handed moderation policy than I've heard from anyone so far. If you're making that case, really make it and show that my comment was a shitty one. Otherwise, maybe this is actually demonstrating how derails of snide dismissals can emerge from comments that are valuable and thoughtful but outside the consenusus, and that the onus should be on follow-up commenters to engage respectfully rather than on the initial speaker to bend over backwards to appeal to the room or risk deletion.
posted by naju at 8:47 AM on July 3


Or maybe we don't need to play metatalkception 'gotcha' parlor games at all *shrug*
posted by naju at 8:51 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


If you're suggesting my initial comment in this thread should have been deleted right off the bat, then that's a more extreme/heavy-handed moderation policy than I've heard from anyone so far.

I was not in any way remotely saying that. For someone who insists on the most charitable possible reading of comments you agree with, you seem to be awfully willing to invent bad motives and pin them on people who you think are poking at you.

What I was saying was that deleting the comment that engendered the comment that engendered this MetaTalk was good moderation because it would have led to something like this discussion, with all its cries of shittiness and sealioning and trump cards and silencedallmylifeisms. And that discussion is at least germane here on MetaTalk, but would have been far worse to have over on the Blue.
posted by Etrigan at 10:24 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Sorry! The "and here we see" construction has been done before in this thread so it seemed like more of the same.
posted by naju at 10:42 AM on July 3


. For someone who insists on the most charitable possible reading of comments you agree with...

It would be nice if we all (including myself) tried to do this whether we agree with what is being said or not.
posted by zarq at 6:57 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


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