Attention all self-policing police... October 24, 2001 2:09 PM   Subscribe

If we're at all serious about self-policing and etiquette, shouldn't passive agressive statements like this deserve at least some chiding? A little more inside.
posted by Wulfgar! to Etiquette/Policy at 2:09 PM (49 comments total)

Specifically, the manipulative hooha about waiting for ad hominum attacks. Yes, I've unloaded on this individual before based on my disdain for that kind of intellectual denigration. Are statements that devalue disagreement prior to any being posted harmful, or par for the course?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:14 PM on October 24, 2001

Actually, just reading that article in context, I thought his coda actually made sense. What he was trying to say was that even he, for his meta-comment about the fact that people are not permitted to make comments critical of Israel, was going to get criticized for it.

I didn't see anything wrong with it.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:23 PM on October 24, 2001

Okay. So you can't ban all manipulative speech. And I can understand Matt's reluctance to establish some sort of moderation system where a post can be pulled (or a user banned) over something that may or may not be a troll, may or may not be excessive snarkiness, may or may not obstruct intellectual discussion.

If anything, I think that the out-and-out derogatory attacks are the only thing obvious and blatant enough to cite as some sort of violation and punish over.

But someone being manipulative? We're all doing that in some way, when we express our opinions in a manner intended to entice other people into acknowledging the validity of our views.
posted by precocious at 2:27 PM on October 24, 2001

Steven Den Beste, though you won't find me agreeing that this is the first context in which this person has made this sort of statement, I didn't really want to focus on the individual (other than to get his thoughts on the matter). It seems to me that there have been a lot of these kind of non-confrontational confrontations lately. It was sonmewhat discussed in this earlier MeTa thread, but I think (only my opinion) that it deserves further review.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2001

I don't think I have ever heard a single discussion of Israel-Palestine that didn't devolve quickly into an emotional brouhaha (and I don't use the word brouhaha lightly).

People who know little or nothing about the Mid East situation are willing to jump in headlong with righteous indignation about who is the Good and who is the Evil.

A grenade of a subject indeed.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2001

I happen to disagree with mapalm's take on what the "real issue" is, but I thought he made a good contribution to the thread. I took that last line, about the deluge of ad hominems, simply to be him saying he realized he was putting himself in the line of fire by making his remarks; I didn't read it as denigrating any disagreement with him. For what it's worth.
posted by mattpfeff at 2:38 PM on October 24, 2001

"shouldn't passive agressive statements like this deserve at least some chiding?"

Nope. It's fine. Just good hearted banter. No harm, no foul.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:50 PM on October 24, 2001

good hearted?

In context, please define.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:01 PM on October 24, 2001

I just realized this thread was happening. I will not even begin to engage in a discussion with Wulfgar. He has said some rather frightening and threatening things to me in the past. Yes, I responded in kind, and perhaps should not have, but the fact remains that in my book, he has crossed the line.

As far as my "ad hominem" statement, I stand by it; yet have been pleasantly surprised that the thread in question did not result in attacks on me (it has in the past.)

I find it interesting, too, that Wufgar didn't even contribute to the content of the thread. Is he looking for a fight? Well, I ain't biting. Nor will I allow myself to be intimidated by him posting this thread.

'Nuff said...
posted by mapalm at 3:17 PM on October 24, 2001

I don't see a problem with the comment. I suspect mapalm is correct there are people, probably people on MeFi, who would strongly disagree with his statements.

Recognizing that was (probably) an attempt to minimize those disagreements by presuming them to be knee-jerk, but that seems like fair play in this context.

Neither side is likely to convince the other anyway, so along as it doesn't degrade into personal attacks what's the problem with a passive aggressive approach to a debate?
posted by willnot at 3:39 PM on October 24, 2001

I ain't biting

I ain't biting either, dude. That's specifically WHY I didn't post in the referenced thread. Let me clarify a few things:

1) The name is Wulfgar!, not Wufgar.
2) The question at hand is why you stand by your "ad hominum" statement.
3) I would appreciate some proof that I ever threatened you, though this is not the venue for it. My e-mail is listed, and I am always willing to discuss in a rational manner my own behavior. You don't know me. Can my words here possibly be that threatening?
4) If you have reason to believe that people have threatened you in the past, that is the very purpose of the etiquette/policy threads of MeTa. If I deserve to get smacked down, I'm willing to accept it. What I find (in this posted thread) is the implication by some that those of a particular belief should be smacked down simply because they disagree with what might be a more "delicate" belief or value system. Is this your view?
5) As for just realizing that this thread was happening, pul--eeze. I posted a message to the original thread on MeFi because I want to hear your views on what is acceptable behavior, not your implication that I have challenged you without your knowledge.
6) Believe as you will. I'm not trying to intimidate, dude. I just think that sometimes, people use passive agressive behavior to manipulate the flow of ideas. If you disagree, I (once again) invite you to share your views. I avoid anything east of North Dakota at all costs. If you have something to worry about, its that I disagree with you. Nothing more.
7) This isn't personal. I feel badly that two days after our country was slam-dunked I reacted like a jerk to you. I don't regret what I've said. This isn't about you and I. Its about the us that is MeFi.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:46 PM on October 24, 2001

There's a difference between expecting ad hominem attacks and asking for them.
posted by dogmatic at 3:50 PM on October 24, 2001

Neither side is likely to convince the other anyway, so along as it doesn't degrade into personal attacks what's the problem with a passive aggressive approach to a debate?

Quite simply, its trolling. "If you believe X then you're wrong because you're attacking , and not valueing your opponent sufficently". Maybe its a personal issue, but I find that kind of illogic disgusting.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:52 PM on October 24, 2001

Pre-empting common responses to arguments is sort of a regular tactic in debate, what's the big deal?
posted by chrismc at 3:58 PM on October 24, 2001

what's the big deal?

If its accepted, then maybe there isn't any deal. That's kinda why I posted this. So if I say "anyone who believes in God is an uninformed idiot. Oh shit, here comes the firestorm of religious ranting" then I've not trolled for BS response? The value of "common" is certainly open to question.
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:06 PM on October 24, 2001

Neither side is likely to convince the other anyway

You've inadvertently touched on an assumption that I think is causing the real issue here.

mapalm's comment, though obviously incendiary, was probably perfectly appropriate. He doesn't believe that anybody here will engage him in an intellectual discussion; he expects, based on his past experience, that the normal response will be an attack. He believes that people already have their opinion, and that they come to MetaFilter to fight or simply to express themselves rather than to learn. Like you, he believes that nobody is going to change their mind anyway.

That assumption, publicly expressed or privately held, marks the ultimate death of reasoned discussion. If it becomes even more widespread than it is now, it will kill MetaFilter faster than a proverbial bullet to the head.

I can't speak for anybody else, but MetaFilter discussions have changed my mind --at least slightly-- on several key political issues. Many more times, I have come away sympathizing with "the other side" just a little bit more. That happens because I try very hard to enter discussions openly and objectively, and occasionally I find someone with those same goals.

It's distressing to me when I run into an ideologue who's not interested in discussion. Unfortunately, such people abound on MetaFilter. (Heck, I may be one from time to time, though it's unintentional.) I put up with them because it's my belief that, unlike other places on the internet, MetaFilter is filled with smart, informed folks who want to learn. When two people like that meet and start debating, that's when MetaFilter is at it's best.

MetaFilter should be closer to a discussion of friends than a debate between political parties. That can only happen if people believe in their fellow MeFites. Please, please, don't assume the worst.
posted by gd779 at 4:19 PM on October 24, 2001


I thought initially that Wulfgar! (correct spelling) was trying to prove a point about believing that we could censor people who trolled. Silly me, this is a thread seriously upset about a comment that, after having re-read it twelve times, I can't see a single thing wrong with.

That 'passive-aggressive' argument that you refer to *is* a common tactic in arguments. Predicting that people will attack something you've said because what you said is contrary to the mainstream isn't a troll, by any means. It isn't even comparable to someone walking into a thread and saying, "God is dead-- oh boy, here come the attacks..." That would be a troll. mapalm expressed his opinion, then predicted that it might not be popular. That may be a fatalistic view to take, but a troll? Heaven forbid anyone who disagrees with us or has a different arguing style than we do be accused of trolling.

Eh. This belittles the argument about real, actual trolls and what to do about them.

(And if this is a troll, which it seems it very well could be, I am such a sucker.)
posted by precocious at 4:36 PM on October 24, 2001

Bravo, gd779! I don't care *what* people argue on MeFi, so long as it is genuine and meaningful. But I have little sympathy or respect for those like aaron who appear only to come to lecture, not to listen. The last thing the internet needs is yet another clearing full of people perched on soapboxes trying to shout each other down.

I would rather be right in the end than falsely believe myself to be right prematurely, and that requires maintaining an openminded attitude and eagerness to understand and consider other viewpoints. It seems to me that if one has to ram their views down others' throats, or is reduced to attacking them personally rather than debating their ideas, that they have already lost and publicly demeaned themselves.

It's all about the ideas to me. Most of the time I rarely even remember who said what. I don't know any of you personally, and will never get to know you through this forum alone. What I can respond to are your thoughts, ideas, and arguments.
posted by rushmc at 4:44 PM on October 24, 2001

mapalm expressed his opinion, then predicted that it might not be popular.

Actually, he predicted that he would be attacked. This, to me, seems more offensive and less useful than if he had simply said, "Gee, I'll bet this opinion won't be popular around here." He may be correct in assuming the worst of some posters around here, but as was previously stated in this thread, publicly assuming the worst can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy, which benefits none of us. I, personally, found that part of his post off-putting, but not that big a deal.
posted by rushmc at 4:48 PM on October 24, 2001

mapalm: The allegations of anti-Israel bias are so common now as to be laughable. Any time there is any critique of Israel, even in the form of reporting on facts (for example, kids being killed by Israeli gun fire), the knee-jerk response by the pro-Israel lobby is to cry "anti-Israel!!"...the sub-text, of course, being that anyone who is critical of Israel is at heart really an anti-Semite.

Precocious: did you really read the whole comment? Have you read anything else that the individual in question has said? Its precisely about the fact that claims were made as if true, and then a challenge was made that those who disagree would be attacking ad hominum. That's not predicting dis-content, that's baiting for disagreement that one can then "dis". The freakin' New York Times said "God Is Dead" (albeit with a ? after that) so exactly why do you think that's a troll? What's trolling is saying "X is true and any who disagree are big meanies (whaahhh)". I agree with rushmc, this is supposed to be about ideas. As for different arguing styles, that's part of the point of this thread. There are many who claim that the mainstream is jingoist and redneck-violent. That's an assumption and not at all a given. The point at hand is that the "style" promotes condesension and public derision as opposed to debate. The point is that statements that participate in passive agressive behavior are (maybe) REAL TROLLING and should be taken just as seriously.

p.s. I don't think reprimands are in order, but I would like to see a certain admission of what is anti-intellectual as opposed to just "good hearted banter".

posted by Wulfgar! at 5:23 PM on October 24, 2001

The name is Wulfgar!, not Wufgar.

I’d just like to note that expecting people to get your name exactly right if you have alternating caps, punctuation, or other strange things in it is probably expecting a bit much. It’s not usual for names to have exclamaion points in them.
posted by gleemax at 5:50 PM on October 24, 2001

(I can’t spell because it’s so cold in here.)
posted by gleemax at 5:51 PM on October 24, 2001

"The name is Wulfgar!, not Wufgar."

Dude..... it's not even your real name. It's made up.

[poke] Does this bother you?
[poke] Does this bother you?
[poke] Does this bother you?

Christ yer cranky today.

Okay, maybe "good natured" is a stretch. But given the topic, the poster, and current world hate level, I think the comment you referenced is borderline polite.

And do we really need to get into the finer points of debate etiquette? Calling someone a "fat fuck" is one thing, using a questionable (and probably unintentional) rhetorical technique another.

(off topic - I've met Wulfgar!. He would never get violent over something like this. Even though you'd never guess that by what he writes. He's a wonderful person with a big heart. He's also very passionate.)
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2001

So wait, is y6y6y6 not your real name either?
posted by Doug at 7:21 PM on October 24, 2001

No.... That's my real name. What are you trying to say? Is that an ad hominum attack? Are you being passive aggressive? TROLL!!!

(sorry, I'm quite drunk. I'll go to bed now.)
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:35 PM on October 24, 2001

He's also very passionate.

Too much information, surely!
posted by rushmc at 7:49 PM on October 24, 2001

I can't see anything wrong with the comment that started this thread -- I also hadn't noticed any of the previous Wulfgar! v mapalm interactions that were alluded to, so I don't have any context. But I can't see how making an "anti-intellectual" v "good natured bantering" judgement in this instance requires much context. (Of course, if that is your complete ontology of discourse, you're not going to end up with a very useful classification of utterances. I didn't think it was really either.)

> If I deserve to get smacked down, I'm willing to accept it.

I'm not really into down-smacking, but, FWIW, I think you were wrong to start this thread ("wrong" as in "incorrect"; not "wrong" as in "not morally permissible"). You were probably just reading too much into it; a little over-sensitive or something.
posted by sylloge at 7:55 PM on October 24, 2001

I also didn’t notice the lack of l because it’s so cold in here. Fuck me.
posted by gleemax at 8:03 PM on October 24, 2001

My name really is Steven Den Beste.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:12 PM on October 24, 2001

You were probably just reading too much into it; a little over-sensitive or something.

As I've tried to indicate, I'm just a little fed up with a particular "style" of argumentation. Maybe y6y6y6 is right: I'm just cranky. I just feel that if you act like prey, don't harsh on the predator. As for why i posted this, its been helpful to let me (personally) know what is allowed and accepted on MeFi.

My name really is Steven Den Beste.

I'm so happy for you. My name is Rob. Glad to know you. Want to meet at the "Blue Banana" for drinks? (wink wink)

posted by Wulfgar! at 8:38 PM on October 24, 2001

My name is Wufgar. Steven Den Wufgar.
posted by Doug at 9:25 PM on October 24, 2001

I spent the vast part of the evening away from the 'net, and have just now come back to read the remainder of this quite fascinating thread...and I must say that I am truly heartened by the reasoned (and even funny) arguments and counter-points presented here. It's always interesting, and a little embarrassing, to be the subject, even tangentially, of a debate.

I have to admit, though, that I can't help but to feel singled out by Wulfgar! (note correct punctuation). I still stand by my remarks (as do many others, apparently), and wonder what compelled him to post this thread, and then comment repeatedly on it. Alas, I may never know.

I am the first to admit that I have in the past overstepped boundaries and offended. But for the most part, my contributions to MeFi have been reasoned, respectful, and maybe even a little insightful (strains back patting self). I for one am now anxious to return to MeFi to continue debating the issues, learning, laughing, and loving. See you there...
posted by mapalm at 9:44 PM on October 24, 2001

Two things:

1. It's "ad hominem" not "ad hominum". I'm much more concerned with people not being able to spell common Latin terms than with someone's exclamation point being left off.

2. Wulfgar!'s disclaimers notwithstanding, this thread has all the hallmarks of going out of your way to find a reason to attack someone you just don't like or whose positions you just don't like.

What mapalm said was completely unobjectionable and would likely have passed without notice if it had been written by someone else or had appeared in a thread on a less predictably incendiary topic.

I think it's not uncommon around here to get annoyed over time at certain members and to, therefore, find their posts considerably more objectionable than you would find from someone else. I know I react that way to certain posters. When you react (publicly) to the poster instead of the post, that, in itself, is a form of ad hominem attack, albeit a subtle one.
posted by anapestic at 5:54 AM on October 25, 2001

I'd like to vote ad hominem as the most abused (misspelled, over-used, often misused) term on MeFi.
posted by precocious at 6:19 AM on October 25, 2001

I'd like to vote ad hominem as the most abused (misspelled, over-used, often misused) term on MeFi.

Ahead of "troll"? Surely you jest.

Unfortunately, ad hominem is a term that's all too frequently apt on MeFi. It may be misused on occasion, but there are also a lot of personal attacks that don't address the argument around here.
posted by anapestic at 6:41 AM on October 25, 2001

anapestic, you might want to take notice that no animals (or posters) were harmed in the making of this thread. There was no attack. The point has been and remains style of argument and its roles/validity. And you seem to be dropping the line between reacting to a poster (a person) and the form of the post. I happily refer you to any number of MeTa threads discussing Aaron to illustrate the point. Simply put, and repeated yet again: I don't have a problem with mapalm (the person). That I disagree with some of his chosen agendas are meat for MeFi and inconsequential to what I posted here. That you think the linked quote was unobjectional is your opinion and I duly note it. I, on the other hand, have a very low tolerance for passive agressive manipulation. He simply affords the best and most consistant examples of that behavior. Please don't attribute that to a more sinister agenda.
posted by Wulfgar! at 6:45 AM on October 25, 2001

Egad, shurely not spelling again? Languages evolve. Spellings change. The dictionary follows this process, not dictates it.

I accept that Latin is different, because it's a dead language, where the words are pinned on pages like sad butterflies, but there's no such thing as an absolute spelling of a word in a living language.

I'm going to be restrained, and back away slowly now before I start using phrases like "language fascists". Oh damn!
posted by walrus at 7:14 AM on October 25, 2001

grammar too ;)
posted by walrus at 7:14 AM on October 25, 2001 [1 favorite]

I'd like to vote sarcasm as the most misunderstood (ignored, unrecognized, often completely indiscernable) concept on MeFi.
posted by precocious at 7:19 AM on October 25, 2001

Just for the record, you'd never catch me spelling ad hominem with a "u." If there's one thing Jesuits are good at, it's teaching Latin.

And thanks to all for the input. At first I was fairly certain that I had done no wrong. Now, however, I feel vindicated...and am ready to bury this dead horse.
posted by mapalm at 7:41 AM on October 25, 2001

I'd like to vote sarcasm as the most misunderstood (ignored, unrecognized, often completely indiscernable) concept on MeFi.

You're joking, right?

I'm previewing this and realizing, damn there are just too many possible interpretations. Am I being sarcastic (and agreeing with precocious)? Am I (sincerely) suggesting I think precocious was being sarcastic? Do I just not get it? Maybe I'm being sarcastic to express disdain for precocious' dumb suggestion? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Anyway, I think precocious is right. Obviously. Sarcasm is misunderstood everywhere.

And it's because people are really, really stupid.

(Or maybe I just thought we needed a (sarcastic) ad hominem, er, -um, er, whatever in there somewhere....)

posted by mattpfeff at 7:57 AM on October 25, 2001

I'd like to vote precocious for Mefident.
posted by walrus at 8:25 AM on October 25, 2001

It's frequently a close call between sarcasm being missed because a reader was stupid (to use mattpfeff's term) and because a poster said nothing to indicate sarcasm. In this case, though, it's not a close call.

There was nothing in what precocious said originally to indicate that he was speaking sarcastically. Here's the quote:

I'd like to vote ad hominem as the most abused (misspelled, over-used, often misused) term on MeFi.

To indicate sarcasm, you've either got to be inelegant and use an emoticon, or you have to say something obviously ridiculous and phrase it in a way that at leasts suggests an attempt at humor. For example:

The correct spelling is "indiscernible". Yeah, I'm complaining about yer spelling, precocious. You want a piece of me, Walrus?
posted by anapestic at 8:28 AM on October 25, 2001

Hmm ... depends which piece is on offer ...
posted by walrus at 9:47 AM on October 25, 2001

Make me an offer, tuskboy.
posted by anapestic at 11:14 AM on October 25, 2001

Israel has tanks? "degrade into personal attacks what's the problem with a passive aggressive" Aggressive=pursuit of dialouge(to you) aggressive=personal attack wether physical or psychological(to another). depends on definition. the problem is, not to misconstrue the definition. This would mean failure to handle the situation, hence..."degrade into personal attacks". ((like telling your enemy to sit the fuck down and hammer out a peace deal before i bash yer head in)
posted by clavdivs at 2:21 PM on October 25, 2001

this is the most pointless thread ever.
posted by mcsweetie at 4:23 PM on October 29, 2001

Whether they disagreed or not, others seemed to at least understand the point. Would you like to clarify your opinion to me that I not make the same mistake again, mcsweetie?
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:41 PM on October 29, 2001

nuh uh.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:46 PM on November 4, 2001

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