It seems that personal attacks are on the rise January 17, 2002 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Here is the latest example of something that's been bugging me. It seems that personal attacks are on the rise, at the expense of debate that focuses on the thread topic or rational criticism of poor posts. More inside.
posted by sennoma to Etiquette/Policy at 6:35 PM (27 comments total)

(Sorry to single you out here Danelope and ParisParamus; I really don't want this to be about you, it's just that you provided me with a clear example of the issue I've been wanting to bring up in MeTa.)

Dan, I agree that Paris' comment was over the top; but what are you trying to achieve with your post? If you want Paris to think twice before posting attacks that add nothing to the thread, why post an attack that adds nothing to the thread? Even if you see a pattern of bad posts I don't think it helps to go after the poster personally. Yank 'em into MeTa, lay out (with links) the pattern and explain what you think is bad about it. Nonresponders to the polite, constructive MeTa treatment can be diagnosed as trolls and ignored accordingly. In the worst and most refractory cases, Matt has shown willing to hit the smite button.

While I don't believe that MeFi is turning into Usenet, I do think it's changing as it grows and we all have a stake in the direction and magnitude of that change. In the realm of self-policing, I would like to see a move away from personal attacks and towards reasoned and constructive criticism.

posted by sennoma at 6:37 PM on January 17, 2002

Looks like Danelope was trying to stick up for Padjet1, just in the most misguided way possible. It's a good example of the snowball effect stupid comments can cause.
posted by Doug at 6:45 PM on January 17, 2002

[cheerleader post]
Well said.
[/cheerleader post]

I would add that everyone has the occasional temper flare, and, while it is true that in a community of this size if everyone allowed their tempers (or whimsy or whatever) free reign it would eventuate in Usenet chaos, I will also allow that a comment like PP's directed at me would quite possibly result in me telling PP to go f**k himself.

But I do agree, wholeheartedly, with sennoma. If and when there's clearly a pattern of someone 'not getting it' over and over again (case in point being our favourite flamebaiter of recent times, Mr fold_and_mutilate), that person should be 'hauled into MeTa', and if possible given one's temperament at the moment, not flamed inline, as that just lowers the tenor of the place another notch.

I've got to run, but ask me about the Korean concept of 'ki-buen' sometime - it's a good one.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:46 PM on January 17, 2002

I like it with kim chi and a side of poodle.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:59 PM on January 17, 2002

May I have mine with a BLT: Bacon, Lassie, and Tomato?
posted by Mack Twain at 7:23 PM on January 17, 2002

Sennoma is my pal, but I have to disagree with him here--actually I agree with him in general, but suppose you have a poster who posts contemptuous, dismissive, disrespectful little asides in thread after thread and seems utterly impervious to, or oblivious of, the opinions of others. Sometimes you have to call a spade an ass.
posted by rodii at 7:26 PM on January 17, 2002

Second that. Why does Paris get off the hook here? Why is getting upset at bad behavior worse than the bad behavior itself?
posted by raysmj at 7:40 PM on January 17, 2002

I'm not sure anyone gets off the hook. Lots of people who read that comment probably thought that is was obnoxious and rude, and it informs our opinion of the person making the remark.
posted by chrismc at 8:07 PM on January 17, 2002

Or, people see that kind of a-holish attitude, see also that no one has called him on it, assume it's de rigeur, and stereotype Mefi users as pretentious jackasses.

which we are.

posted by Hildago at 8:16 PM on January 17, 2002

Rodii: I'll bet dollars to dogshit that you can't get a troll to stop trolling by heaping abuse on them, and that you won't help a trolled thread by posting your attacks in that thread. If someone won't respond to reasoned criticism posted in the appropriate forum, why would they respond to vitriol? All I'm saying is, if you must call a spade an ass, do it in MeTa, make it clear why you're doing it---and refrain from adding to "ass" a string of venomous adjectives maligning the spade/ass's character and ancestry. I know that there will always be inveterate offenders, but that's what Matt's smite button is for.

Raysmj: Paris doesn't get off the hook, but what good does it do to call him names? Getting upset at bad behaviour is not a problem, behaving badly in the process of expressing that upset is a problem. Here's my formula for optimally efficient MeFi police work:

1. If you have a problem with a specific post or poster, take it to MeTa rather than kludge up a MeFi thread.
2. In MeTa, make it clear what the problem is and why it's a problem: don't vent, explain. Find another outlet for the venting, as it will only make things worse if included in your post.
3. Rinse and repeat.
4. If, after several iterations, you find you have a bona fide troll on your hands, ask Matt to intervene.
posted by sennoma at 8:24 PM on January 17, 2002

It was not ok for Danelope to be abusive of ParisParamus in response to ParisParamus' post because if it *was* ok then it was ok for ParisParamus to have been abusive in his response to the *original* post, in which case it wasn't ok for Danelope to have been abusive towards ParisParamus, who wouldn't have done anything wrong, thus resulting in both Danelope and ParisParamus' being both right and wrong simultaneously, resulting in an endless loop, which is what the discussion of this incedent would rapidly become.
posted by hob at 8:32 PM on January 17, 2002

Back in my Usenet days, my Organization: line used to say "Usenet Chief Admonisher's Office." I would get emails from people who actually thought there was such a thing as a Chief Admonisher at, you know, the Head Office of Usenet, saying "Can you help me? This guy in keeps disrespecting me!"

Senn, in these dark days, people are desperate for a Chief Admonisher's Office. I say we cannot let those good people down!
posted by rodii at 8:33 PM on January 17, 2002

No, I'm not serious.

Imminent death of the 'filter predicted.
posted by rodii at 8:35 PM on January 17, 2002

hob: My head is swimming. Still, if that's the case, then someone should say so at the very beginning of a thread such as this - that is, to blame both sides - rather than take the person reacting to task first. Or in this case, to take to task only the person reacting. It's a tacit endorsement of the behavior which promped it, which had gone on before.
posted by raysmj at 11:41 PM on January 17, 2002

(Wow, I'm late to the party.)

I disagree with the sentiment that my response was comparable to that of ParisParamus. In any conflict, there's a certain amount of gravity involved in being the instigator and aggressor of said conflict. PP decided to mount an unprovoked attack on another user who brought interesting information and good links to MetaFilter's front page, an area sometimes devoid of worthwhile posts. I was simply batting his vitriol back in his face, and less-than-politely suggesting that he may need to spend a little less time refreshing MeFi in search of someone to attack personally. (SEE ALSO: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, etc.)

No, it wasn't the best way to handle the situation. No, it didn't contribute to the thread. But "taking it to MeTa" is often an escalation of a problem rather than a calm and succinct resolution, and is just as prone to abuse as "self-policing" can be, in the wrong hands.

Hildago: I agree with everything you said until the "pretentious jackass" part. I may be a jackass, but I'm not pretentious. <grin>
posted by Danelope at 9:03 AM on January 18, 2002

I think Danelope's response was way out of proportion with Paris's comments. Now, both were wrong - since Paris' comment was just some self-flexing wit attempt that ignored the topic of the thread, and Danelope's obscentity-laden personal attack was childish and stupid.

Because of the proportion, I don't think there is any issue with singling out the reacting person in this case. It's not endorsement of the beginning behavior, since Paris was also mentioned as causing the problem.

posted by rich at 9:06 AM on January 18, 2002

Slightly off topic, and not directed at anyone in particular, but......

"It seems that personal attacks are on the rise"

It seems to me that personal attacks are down. Way down. This is something that I've seen happening over the last 4-5 months. Especially since the name calling frag-fest following 9/11. And I'm not sure I like the trend.

A year ago you could actually have a spirited argument with someone here. Now calling someone a self-aggrandizing prick will get everyone upset and set off MeTa threads were we sit around stroking ourselves with discussions of the definition of the word "polite".

Can we please stop splitting hairs about whether so and so is being impolite? All this fucking Miss Manners shit is really annoying me. It's not tea and fucking scones in the parlor. Bunch of thin skinned, whiny ass, lightweights.......

Having a fucking discussion for shit sake! And don't get your panties in a God damned bunch if it does fit into some idealized, formal debate form.

I am formally kicking your "point of order Mr Chairman" to the curb and spitting on it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:07 PM on January 18, 2002


Hey, I agree with you as long as it is within the topic of the discussion.. but creating little flame wars within threads that have nothing to do with the topic are stupid. Now if PAris has said something inane relating the the topic and Danelope came back and said 'your point is inane, maybe if you thought before you posted your 17 million comments over the past year they'd have a better basis in fact', well, then maybe I wouldn't have thought this was that big of a deal.

(besides, I think you're the lowest number near me other than Matt and we 3 digit people have to stick together)
posted by rich at 12:16 PM on January 18, 2002

y6y6y6, you should make that comment a FPP, the level of sensitivity is frigging amazing. Include all these doubleposting attacks too. Discuss, argue, counterpoint and stop wasting time and effort on this sh*t. A little abuse goes a long way in the right spirit.
posted by bittennails at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2002

I totally agree with what both the fag and the cocksnot guy said.
posted by dong_resin at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2002

A year ago you could actually have a spirited argument with someone here. Now calling someone a self-aggrandizing prick will get everyone upset and set off MeTa threads were we sit around stroking ourselves with discussions of the definition of the word "polite".

I disagree with the assumption that you can't have a "spirited argument" without resorting to ad hominem attacks. You can argue your point with as much passion as you like, but stick to the point. If you have to resort to attacking the person, your arguments are likely weak.

What you're asking for is the right to be rude without being held to account for it. In other words, you want to say whatever you like about someone but not have them say anything about your methods. That's hypocrisy. It seems to me that you're the one with "your panties in a God damned bunch" here.
posted by anapestic at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2002

IT seems to me that sometimes attacks at least fit into the discussion. Sometimes they're personal and disruptive, and have more to do with the attacker's disposition than his passion for his case.
posted by cell divide at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2002


Real arguments never need insults. Insults are a sure sign of "I'm losing the argument" or "I hate you for not agreeing with me" or "I want my mommy".

In real arguments, being more persuasive - never mind being right - is enough.

Insults are like physical violence - they mean you're lost for words; that you have no other way of expressing yourself.

What is most pompous about being offensive is that insulting the other guy is a simpleton's way of saying "I rock! I am the greatest! I love myself!".

It's perverse narcissism. It's something to pity. It's the very denial of discussion, argument, other people.

If you want to devastate, impress, be a real dickhead and not just a phoney one, learn to argue and to make your points and have the courage to let all the others, each one for him or herself, decide who's nearer the truth.

If you don't want to be a dickhead at all, enter a discussion wanting to learn, to be put right, to be part of a like-minded group of equally helpless questioners, trying together to make sense of things.

Insulting behaviour is also sooooo limited, expression-wise. It's boring.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2002

Easy for you to say, Miguel.

No, I mean, really....
posted by y2karl at 2:08 PM on January 18, 2002

Insulting behaviour is also sooooo limited, expression-wise. It's boring.

Don't you tempt me, you conjunctively syllogistic tautologous son of a demonstrable consistency metatheorem.
posted by j.edwards at 2:22 PM on January 18, 2002

"It's perverse narcissism."

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:39 PM on January 18, 2002

Miguel: Exactly! Bravo.

And also: People come to this place for different reasons. Some come to learn. Some come to chat. Some come because they're immature and looking for a fight. Since those last two groups are now here to stay, the best thing to do is just to ignore them.
posted by gd779 at 8:29 PM on January 18, 2002

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