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Abuse in an abortion thread
April 27, 2003 5:55 PM   Subscribe

What are the limits of personal abuse that will be tolerated on Metafilter?
posted by rushmc to Etiquette/Policy at 5:55 PM (65 comments total)

A representative sampling of David Dark's ongoing and unprovoked personal attacks on five fresh fish in this thread:

Let me assist your limited vocabulary, five fresh fish

You really are a jerk.

But don't worry five fresh fish, you silly little bitch

Since you seem to be an authority in your own mind on the subject

They say God loves fools and children. Does he love you in both capacities?

Get back on that porch, little dog!

Pathetic little worm.


Not only is this not necessary, it is sociopathological and sickening. Is this really what you want people to see when they come to the site, Matt?
posted by rushmc at 5:56 PM on April 27, 2003


I had intended to avoid reading that thread altogether, but alas...

In any case, fff was not exactly cordial, either in his repeated inquiries to konolia (who was quite polite in response, for her part) and to David Dark himself. Admittedly, David responded in ways which aren't ideal, or even appropriate.

In previous threads, David Dark has been a little abrasive, but who among us hasn't? He has at least responded in substantive ways to argument, something that is left out in your complaint, rushmc.

Sure, I don't like his tone, but I don't like fff's tone either. At least in this instance, I'm willing to write it up to the fact that it was an abortion thread, and leave it at that. I think we would all be better off by just moving on from there.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:09 PM on April 27, 2003


I don't necessarily disagree with monju_bosatsu about fff's tone, but I don't think that anything in fff's tone warranted repeated personal attacks like that (and I think fff is to be commended for not stooping to that level). By all means argue your point as forcefully as you like, but save the name-calling for recess.

It's just plain creepy. A difference of opinion shouldn't result in that sort of thing, no matter how strong the feelings are. We're ostensibly all adults here, not third graders.

No sir, I don't like it.
posted by biscotti at 6:14 PM on April 27, 2003


What are the limits of personal abuse

well, let's see: "asshat" is OK, "fuckwit" is a classic

"Fuck you!" "No, Fuck YOU!" screaming matches make us look like Usenet, and we shouldn't encourage those, nor should we be proud of our alt.fuck-you-all moments

we don't do I/P very well, and I'll say that we don't do abortion topics very well either. they're often very painful, personal issues, and we probably handle the political/legal side of the problem way better than the personal history/ob-gyn side. when it comes down to a "gleeful babykillers" vs "doctorkillers" ping-pong match, well, it's better to pull the plug to the thread. personally I'm surprised and a little awed by the guts it took for many members to admit during the MeFi discussion their personal history and experiences. but really, these are topics we don't do very well
posted by matteo at 6:27 PM on April 27, 2003


In some cases, there should be no limit.
posted by djacobs at 6:29 PM on April 27, 2003


I think it's one thing to call someone a name in an isolated instance. That's not a good thing, by any means, but it's going to happen sometimes.

What bugs me about Dark's comments is his consistent condescending attitude, and rather involved personal attacks. Hell, they aren't even generalizations about established political positions; he's gone out of his way to belittle another user. It bugs me, as well.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 6:31 PM on April 27, 2003


Again?
posted by hama7 at 6:38 PM on April 27, 2003


dcajobs: just light a scented candle, put on some Sinatra and go and make wild and passionate love to yourself.
posted by Carlos Quevedo at 6:39 PM on April 27, 2003


Sinatra?

Miguel, you disappoint me...
posted by matteo at 6:44 PM on April 27, 2003


For the longest time, I've been abjectly remorseful for having used the term "fuckwit" in a MetaFilter thread, thinking that I was the one who introduced it to this system.

But I just did a search for it, and it turns out that I'm innocent! Yay! (Blame Holgate!)

Why are we dissing David Dark? What he has done is not important enough to warrant the attention.

I think harassing pregnant women is about on par with kiddy-diddling. It certainly gives me the same sense of disgust and outrage. Given that, I think I managed to restrain my first comment to Konolia remarkably well. It's still over-the-top, but not nearly so mean as it could be.

The remainder of communication between Konolia and I is proceeding on a very civil level, I think.

Anyway, no biggy either way, as far as I can tell. Konolia doesn't seem to be upset, I'm not upset, and DD doesn't count. Everything's copacetic.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:57 PM on April 27, 2003


Sociopathological?! When the only four-letter words are jerk and worm?

Someone is out of touch with reality and it ain't DD.
posted by mischief at 8:46 PM on April 27, 2003


it ain't DD

His comment about picketing was priceless.
posted by hama7 at 8:55 PM on April 27, 2003


h7: after reading the comment you reference, I may have to retract my previous statement. ;-P
posted by mischief at 9:28 PM on April 27, 2003


What are the limits of personal abuse that will be tolerated on Metafilter?

Candle wax on the nipples is fine. Clamps, flesh hooks and flogging are OK as well, but you HAVE to respect the safe word. There's just no room for negotiation when it comes to that kind of thing.
posted by willnot at 9:36 PM on April 27, 2003


MeFi has a safe word? No one told me!

What is it? NewsFilter? Or, something else? ;-P
posted by mischief at 10:09 PM on April 27, 2003


The safety word is pancake. Now proceed.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:15 PM on April 27, 2003


Actually, Matt, it's news aggregate. [scroll down for Poynter does MetaFilter]
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:17 PM on April 27, 2003


Just for the record, FFF didn't make the "you really are a jerk" comment. I did. In response to his comment about my limited imagination.

I stand by that statement, although I realize it was inappropriate to actually type it out and hit submit--I should have just kept it to myself. However, I've got no excuses and no backtracking.

I had no idea the thread went the way it did after that point, and going back and reading it really made me sick to my stomach. I'm sorry to have been a part of its turn for the nasty, and I'll certainly be more careful to avoid making personal comments at all in the future. Particularly in threads that touch on subjects that cause perfectly nice people to lose their shit.
posted by padraigin at 10:24 PM on April 27, 2003


OMG!!! A discussion about abortion turned personal and ugly? People said mean things? Someone was called a jerk? I thought we were better than this!
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:31 PM on April 27, 2003


Is it safe to dance?
posted by wendell at 10:46 PM on April 27, 2003


As Hama and Mischief giggle behind their hands, nudging and winking at each other, let me share some facts:

Between 1977 to 2001, anti-abortionists committed:
  • 7 murders
  • 17 attempted murders
  • 41 bombings
  • 165 arsons
  • 82 additional failed bombing and arson attempts
  • 370 physical invasions of clinics and homes
  • 942 acts of vandalism
  • 100 butyric acid attacks
  • 207 anthrax threats
  • 122 assaults
  • 340 death threats
  • 3 kidnappings.

    Women who have to push through an angry, abusive mob of protestors are undoubtedly traumatized by the experience. From the Texas case of Operation Rescue v. Planned Parenthood:

    "In many cases, sidewalk counseling clearly has a detrimental effect on the health of women entering abortion clinics. The combination of violent acts and health risks has justifiably sparked opposition to this method of protest."

    "...the encounters often grew confrontational, requiring clinic workers to shield the patients from aggressive protesters. Ultimately, many of these situations became chaotic shouting matches, esulting in patients being pushed and prodded by protesters."

    "... coming within inches of patients' faces and shouting at them."

    "Patients who enter the clinics are often 'visibly shaken, crying, and nervous.'"

    "...patients were physically affected by the demonstrations. Patients exhibited nervousness, accelerated heart rates, and increased blood pressure and often required a sedative to treat these symptoms."

    This is outright abuse, and it makes my blood boil. Little fucking wonder there's post-abortion traumatization.

  • posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 PM on April 27, 2003


    fff, your comment sounds like it'd be more at home in the thread itself.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:02 PM on April 27, 2003


    Fuck abuse. The crimes you list are terrorism, plain and simple. There's no way around that.
    posted by trondant at 11:07 PM on April 27, 2003


    And for the pro-lifers, there've been millions upon millions of muders do to abortion, fff. In my overly-simplistic view of things, it comes down to when life begins...If you think life begins at conception, its murder. If not, then, well, we have the prevelant opinion of most pro-choicers. Yes, that is a very broad view of the whole abortion situation, but I think sums up the basic question from which most questions and opinions about abortion arise.
    posted by jmd82 at 11:07 PM on April 27, 2003


    oops, millions upon millions of murders.
    posted by jmd82 at 11:08 PM on April 27, 2003


    and it makes my blood boil...

    and no doubt it should - but perhaps on issues where one is particularly emotionally involved (abortion rights, in your instance, for others the war, or the legitimacy of the 2000 election, or the rights of the Palestinians, etc), it might be best to sit out the discussion threads on those topics, as the baggage we carry into them will pollute our discussions, and lower the quality of the conversation for all.
    posted by jonson at 11:11 PM on April 27, 2003


    MetaFilter: Keep your head down and don't make eye contact, you'll be fine...
    posted by Mack Twain at 12:26 AM on April 28, 2003


    Anyone have crime stats (felonies and misdemeanors) as committed on US campuses by frat boys?
    posted by mischief at 12:54 AM on April 28, 2003


    On the origins of the insult 'fuckwit', it is a word that has been around for quite a while. Perhaps the most famous example is 'emotional fuckwittage' from Bridget Jones's Diary, published 1997.
    posted by Summer at 2:31 AM on April 28, 2003


    and no doubt it should - but perhaps on issues where one is particularly emotionally involved (abortion rights, in your instance, for others the war, or the legitimacy of the 2000 election, or the rights of the Palestinians, etc), it might be best to sit out the discussion threads on those topics, as the baggage we carry into them will pollute our discussions, and lower the quality of the conversation for all.

    So, basically, leave all discussion about anything to people who are only marginally interested in it? That seems a touch boring.

    Instead, I would simply suggest that you debate circles around your opponent until they're left wobbling in a puddle like so much jello (preferably green). Then maybe a high five.
    posted by The God Complex at 3:30 AM on April 28, 2003


    i personally think the debate on abortion is pointless and fruitless. while both sides try to one up eachother with studies that favour each argument, women around the world continue to exercise their personal choices, regardless of laws and social mores. even in the worst of times women took that power for themselves and they always will, one way or the other, no matter who stands in the way.

    On the origins of the insult 'fuckwit', it is a word that has been around for quite a while. Perhaps the most famous example is 'emotional fuckwittage' from Bridget Jones's Diary, published 1997.

    wow, people think it's that new an epithet...? it was the swear word of choice in my crowd when i was a teenager and that was during the 1970's. i'd hazard that it's far older than even that... it's always struck me as an old english word, something blackadder would spit out at baldrick in a classic moment of frustration and contempt :-D
    posted by t r a c y at 3:52 AM on April 28, 2003


    Personally I have no comment to make on the debate...I can see both sides of the argument...however, the level of personal abuse on the thread is not pleasant to read...

    I think David Dark and Five Fresh Fish both need to chillout....how about a nice MattR MefiSwap CD....and a game of Couronne?
    posted by mattr at 3:56 AM on April 28, 2003


    When all is said and done, I agree with rushmc on the reason for this Metatalk post, in that civility should be encouraged, and I've said as much before.

    The problem is, incivility gets attention, and I would be even more inclined to support the idea if it weren't so invariably involving issues that are divisive and politically partisan. To a certain degree, many of us are complicit in overlooking transgressions of decorum if we agree with the commenter's political standpoint, but in this case the comments were child's play compared to obscenity-drenched explosions I think we've all seen in the past.

    The odd thing is, the theme of the post in which these exchanges took place was satirical (I thought).

    Also "fuckwit" was unfortunately not invented on Metafilter. That is all.
    posted by hama7 at 4:22 AM on April 28, 2003


    In that case, h7, rush's characterization of DD as "sociopathological" is also uncivil, perhaps even libelous.
    posted by mischief at 4:55 AM on April 28, 2003


    f***wit
    posted by sgt.serenity at 4:57 AM on April 28, 2003


    "You know what bugs me about them? If you're so pro-life, do me a favour -- don't lock arms, and block medical clinics. If you're so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries... I want to see pro-lifers at funerals opening caskets and shouting, 'Get out!' "
    Bill Hicks
    posted by matteo at 6:51 AM on April 28, 2003


    I find it bewildering how many people jump to excuse bad behavior of this level because of the subject matter of the thread. Subject matter is IRRELEVANT. One should be able to comport oneself without launching into invective and personal attack no matter what one is discussing, and if one can't, one should exercise a little restraint and not comment. Period.

    But apparently we are doomed to see more and more of this sort of appalling behavior, as Matt evidently likes it, since he can't even be bothered to comment on, much less condemn it--well, he did manage to get in a little joke, so that's good!--even when it is brought to his attention.

    To which I say a great big "whatever," and hope for the best from the myriad minifilters now incubating.
    posted by rushmc at 7:37 AM on April 28, 2003


    there are 3 kinds of people in the world.

    1) walls.
    2) those who recognize that beating one's head against a wall rarely teaches the wall anything.
    3) those with sore heads.

    relax. have a yummy pancake. here's some salve for those nasty bumps on your head.
    posted by quonsar at 7:44 AM on April 28, 2003


    rushmc, we've had this and worse on other threads. FFF isn't worried about it, evidently. I'm not the one being attacked (perhaps gently roughed up by fff but no biggie) so it isn't up to me how the thread should be judged.

    I don't think it's a sign of the apocalypse or anything, but I suppose for you it might have been a case of straw, meet camel. You did the right thing by bringing the matter here, and that's about all one can do in these cases.
    posted by konolia at 7:56 AM on April 28, 2003


    Yeah, so I am agreeing with hama7 on this one *checks sky for flying pigs*, and rushmc.
    If you cannot debate a subject that you have emotional ties with civilly then please refrain from hitting the 'post' button.
    mischief - 'sociopathological" is also uncivil, perhaps even libelous'

    Sorry, you've lost me chief.

    Terry Fuckwit drives the first tank into Baghdad!

    One of our favourite words.
    posted by asok at 8:06 AM on April 28, 2003


    Metafilter: DO NOT DROP THE SOAP!
    posted by blue_beetle at 8:21 AM on April 28, 2003


    fff, your comment sounds like it'd be more at home in the thread itself.

    Or perhaps on your own weblog.
    posted by timeistight at 8:30 AM on April 28, 2003


    ...we are doomed to see more and more of this sort of appalling behavior, as Matt evidently likes it,

    It's one thing to call out David Dark for his "unprovoked" (feh) and "sociopathological" behavior (O, the drama!), it's another to insult the creator of this site. Do us a favor, please--go into another one of those self-exposed exiles again, and this time, don't be so hasty to return if you have such disdain for how MeFi is run. I think the community will somehow soldier on in your absence. And yes, please feel free to take that as a "personal abuse."
    posted by dhoyt at 8:34 AM on April 28, 2003


    [hugs konolia]
    posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 AM on April 28, 2003


    You know, this kind of thing really doesn't happen all that often here. Maybe because MeFi doesn't get that many abortion threads. Or gun control threads.

    Just Iraq threads.

    Which I always find a little surprising. I haven't been to Usenet lately. Have all the gun control and abortion flamewars turned into Iraq flamewars? Anyone know?
    posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:54 AM on April 28, 2003


    Aug. 29, 1989: The first use of "fuckwit" on the Internet?
    posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:01 AM on April 28, 2003


    Another Canadian First!
    posted by timeistight at 9:24 AM on April 28, 2003


    so, has anyone here read Alasdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue"?

    if you have, does it get any better after the first couple of chapters? seems like it should be a great source of comments for threads like this, but so far all i can come with is:

    emotivists! the lot of you!

    (which, i hasten to add, is not a direct quote)
    posted by andrew cooke at 9:32 AM on April 28, 2003


    Controversial subject devolves into flamewar between fundamentalists.

    Softcore porn at 11.
    posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:36 AM on April 28, 2003


    Do us a favor, please--go into another one of those self-exposed exiles again

    It looks like he did, dhoyt.
    posted by Ljubljana at 9:42 AM on April 28, 2003


    : )
    posted by Shane at 10:07 AM on April 28, 2003


    [that is good.]
    posted by quonsar at 10:07 AM on April 28, 2003


    One of our favourite words.

    Post 2269 is linked in a comment related to post 25379--2 posts about 10 months apart in time. Where were we when registration was frozen? Am I alone in finding this very frightening?
    posted by y2karl at 10:07 AM on April 28, 2003


    I'm sorry y2karl, but I don't understand what you're referring to.
    posted by timeistight at 10:24 AM on April 28, 2003


    Excuse me, my bad--I was confusing MetaTalk with MetaFilter numbers... The MeFi number for that day was in the 17700's. Apples and oranges. For a second there, I was suffering a flashback of future shock.
    posted by y2karl at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2003


    That thread hardly approached the level of incivility I've seen on numerous occasions in the past, and I'm left to wonder why rushmc though this particular transgression was grevious enough to cause his MetaSalinger. One can only surmise that either the issue is one so near and dear to his heart that the name calling bothered him more than usual, or he's never read one of the previous six hundred and nintety three threads that degenerated to such antics.

    I'm not sure what he expected Matt to do. He'd already started an MT thread where the problem was, at least ostenstibly, hashed out and agreed upon (not that it hasn't been before), and two of the three members involved seemed to come to some form of agreement. Does he expect Matt to ban somebody for one incident? That hardly seems appropriate. Instead, why not leave the remaining, unaccounted for, member (David Dark) an e-mail (there's one in his profile) so he knows about this thread on the off chance he hasn't seen it--he has posted in MetaTalk before, so surely he knows of its benefits and uses.

    When in doubt, moderate moderately and things tend to work themselves out.
    posted by The God Complex at 3:18 PM on April 28, 2003


    Strange that "fuckwit" is documented from 1989 (thanks, grrarrgh00!) and yet it doesn't seem to be in dictionaries—not the latest OED, and not the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, the two places I'd most expect to find it. (In the latter, it would be between "fuckwad" and "fuck-you lizard," the latter followed immediately by "fuck-your-buddy week").

    Oh, and personal abuse is a Bad Thing.
    posted by languagehat at 5:32 PM on April 28, 2003


    A few folk in the referenced MetaFilter thread were contacted by a third party re: participating in a communications study.

    I'm a little disappointed that that contact was through email rather than through the site. I prefer that everything related to public discussion threads be kept public. But, whatever.

    FWIW, etc.
    posted by five fresh fish at 6:11 PM on April 28, 2003


    i've mailed nearly everyone in that thread and it seems like you and i were the only ones emailed re: that communications study...
    posted by t r a c y at 12:12 AM on April 29, 2003


    you forgot somebody, but then again, I don't count.
    posted by David Dark at 9:16 AM on April 29, 2003


    me neither :),
    apparently.
    posted by mdn at 9:26 AM on April 29, 2003


    you forgot somebody, but then again, I don't count.

    och aye. i said NEARLY everyone. i never got around to mailing mdn and she's one of my top 5 favourite posters, with whom i almost always agree, so it hardly means anything that i didn't email you. all it means is that eventually i was lured away from the computer by real life activities.
    posted by t r a c y at 10:31 AM on April 29, 2003


    I'm just kidding, I was referring to this...

    Konolia doesn't seem to be upset, I'm not upset, and DD doesn't count.

    fish, earlier in this thread. No worries.

    I also apologize for the dig I just took at you over in 25379. Remember, it's all in good fun!
    posted by David Dark at 11:05 AM on April 29, 2003


    *Plonk*
    posted by zarah at 11:31 AM on April 29, 2003


    Re: communications study. That's me. I'm doing a CMM study for an exercise in grad school. Anyone who is curious about it, feel free to e-mail me. I contacted FFFish and David Dark because I'm limited to studying two people. I considered t r a c y, but didn't hear back. Sorry if I came across like a marketing creep or something. This really is just a study of how people create meaning out of their experience here.

    If I see a lot of interest here or by e-mail for starting a MetaTalk thread for the discussion, I would consider moving it online. I just don't know a) how interested/tolerant others would be, and b) how I would account for the extraneous pressures of public performance. My thinking was that because e-mail is more private, there's a greater "control" for honesty, and less chance of a pissing contest, or associated behavior. But then again, I'm willing to try it if there's an interest.
    posted by squirrel at 2:28 PM on April 30, 2003


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