Maybe bullying isn't the solution to bullying. July 11, 2011 9:16 AM   Subscribe

The Hunting of the Snark: Do we really need to be a community that bullies the bullies?

A response to this comment in this thread, though truly, this could just be a response to the general tone shift that I (and others I've spoken with) have noticed over the past few months:

As far as offering him compassion? Are you fucking kidding me? He's a grown man. He knows very well what he is doing and what he is doing is damaging to people who might not know better. You want to protect the bullied, maybe it's not such a bad idea to target...ya know...the bully.

This attitude right here is why I almost never post on MetaFilter anymore and reading the Blue makes me sad with sadness. Offering compassion isn't just about making someone else feel better, it's about being an actual compassionate person for your own sake in order to be - well, compassionate. Once you start advocating hate on any basis - even targeting someone who in your mind "deserves it" - you make it harder and harder to feel true empathy for others.

And really, why is going down that road seen as so admirable around here these days? Is this really a community that wants to advocate for "bullying the bullies" - because I see a lot of it and it truly pains me.
posted by sonika to Etiquette/Policy at 9:16 AM (166 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Everbody has some group of people that they loathe and wish ill upon. Some are more socially acceptable than others and who those groups are varies depending on who you are among. I don't claim innocence, but I don't like it when I do it. FWIW.
posted by jonmc at 9:21 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


sonika, not to make light of your feelings on the issue, but I think the issue you raise is actually the main point of that thread, and so there really doesn't need to be a separate MetaTalk thread about it.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:21 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the issue you raise is actually the main point of that thread, and so there really doesn't need to be a separate MetaTalk thread about it.

My point is actually the way MetaFilter as a community handles this kind of thing is troubling, so no, that's not the point of the thread and I didn't want to derail a discussion that deals with the article specifically.
posted by sonika at 9:23 AM on July 11, 2011


I agree with sonika, but we'll be shouted down by the usual cadre of people who think that it's okay to treat people badly as long as they're bad guys. I also wish more of this sentiment was actually voiced in the threads where this stuff is happening, but again, there's the shouting-downingness to deal with, and it gets old and sad.
posted by Gator at 9:23 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everbody has some group of people that they loathe and wish ill upon.

FWIW, I personally do not. I can't imagine I'm the only one.
posted by sonika at 9:24 AM on July 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


we'll be shouted down by the usual cadre of people who think that it's okay to treat people badly as long as they're bad guys.

Talking about this on the internet, or even advocating it, is not the same thing as treating people badly.
posted by OmieWise at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


It does seem to be the main subject of discussion in that thread. Sample comment:

Tactics are actions in support of a strategy or ideal. If the mechanics of a tactic subvert the very ideal one is attempting to uphold then it is an intrinsic and inevitable failure.

I'd hardly call that support of bullying.
posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2011


sonika, not Fundamentalists? Republicans? 49er's fans?

No offense, but I don't buy it. I'm not saying it's a good thing that people are this way, but to my eyes, it looks that way.
posted by jonmc at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2011


jonmc: "Everbody has some group of people that they loathe and wish ill upon.

Um, no. "Everybody" does not.
posted by zarq at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


jonmc: "sonika, not Fundamentalists? Republicans? 49er's fans?"

It's a very long distance between speaking out against someone's behaviour and wishing ill upon them.
posted by zarq at 9:28 AM on July 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


We have a pretty rough toolbox here, both admins and users. We usually come down fairly hard on people who advocate violence against people who they feel "deserve it" but we have a looser approach to people who are just crabby and/or being grouchy about a topic. Not everyone is at a place where they can be compassionate towards people they feel are actively threatening them.

No one flagged that comment. Not a single person. People can respond to it in the thread. I'm aware, sonika, that you may want to talk about the meta-issue of people advocating negative outcomes to people who they perceive as being deserving of it, but it does seem like these are issues that can be brought up in the thread itself.

And, I may catch some flak for this, but I think people toss the word bullying around a fair amount here lately and it's problematic. I think it's worthwhile talking about the general idea of responding negatively to negativity, but we need to be clear that there are power dynamics and systematic issues of force and coercion implicit in bullying, it's not just people saying things you don't like, or saying things to other people that are offensive and problematic. It's not an accusation that we take lightly here, but to my mind it's a different thing than having a conversation about a difficult topic with difficult people.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:28 AM on July 11, 2011 [51 favorites]


I mean not to get all Jesus-y on you, but I think there was some substance to the comment that if you only treat well those who treat you well, you're not any better than every other asshole out there. (Paraphrased.)
posted by shakespeherian at 9:28 AM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


sonika, not Fundamentalists? Republicans? 49er's fans?

Well, there are the Yankees... but no. No, I can seriously say that I do not wish ill upon any group of people. Yes, I get frustrated - I'm human - but I don't wish ill upon anybody no matter what their own beliefs are, even if they are a Yankees fan. I mean that with all sincerity. It is possible to get frustrated and angry without wanting harm to befall the person or people you're frustrated with.
posted by sonika at 9:29 AM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


The 'everybody' wasn't even the main point and I'm not going to argue semantics. My main point was that within the various microcosms that are web communities, there are groups that it's OK to hate on, and that that varies by community.
posted by jonmc at 9:30 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Offering compassion isn't just about making someone else feel better, it's about being an actual compassionate person for your own sake in order to be - well, compassionate.
That seems like a kind of self-centered definition of 'compassion'
posted by delmoi at 9:30 AM on July 11, 2011


jessamyn: "but it does seem like these are issues that can be brought up in the thread itself."

It seems likely to me that if she had tried to discuss those comments in-thread by comparing them to user behaviour across the site as a whole, she'd have been urged to bring it here.
posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


It is possible to get frustrated and angry without wanting harm to befall the person or people you're frustrated with.

It may be possible, but it's more difficult for some than others, myself included. I'll admit to having many frailties in that respect.
posted by blucevalo at 9:31 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


jonmc: "The 'everybody' wasn't even the main point and I'm not going to argue semantics. My main point was that within the various microcosms that are web communities, there are groups that it's OK to hate on, and that that varies by community."

That's fine, but I'm still not down at all with "wish ill upon."
posted by zarq at 9:31 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And really, why is going down that road seen as so admirable around here these days?

I don't think it is. Plenty of people in that thread are talking about how the attitude expressed in your linked comment is not particularly admirable. In fact, the comment right after it does so. I'm not really sure how a metatalk is a more apprpriate response than people hashing out their philosophies of kindness-versus-meanness in-thread.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:31 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, there are the Yankees...

Of course. (Mets fan here)

Anyway, I don't want to get in a long debate about it, I have to get my laundry soon, then go see my shrink, then go get drunk. They let me 'DJ' by hooking up my iPod to the sound system since the place is mostly empty.
posted by jonmc at 9:32 AM on July 11, 2011


I think there's a difference between what the contents of that thread will probably be, which is 'What is the best way to behave in life,' and what this thread is pointed towards, which is 'What is the best way to behave on Metafilter.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:33 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The comment was really the last straw in a trend that I've been witnessing about how some people "deserve" nastiness because they're on the wrong side of history. And I didn't flag it because I didn't believe that it needed to be deleted so much as I thought it might be worthy of discussion that this seems to be a site-wide trend (but maybe I'm the only one noticing it). I brought it up over here because I thought that a discussion on how the MetaFilter community handles this kind of thing is different from discussing the article linked in the post.

But, y'know, this is MeTa so I've now explained why I've posted and if the mods want to close this up or other people want to disagree/tell me that this was unnecessary, I'll bow out for a bit.

It seems likely to me that if she had tried to discuss those comments in-thread by comparing them to user behaviour across the site as a whole, she'd have been urged to bring it here.

This was my thought exactly.
posted by sonika at 9:33 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


My only complaint about the thread is that it doesn't seem like many people RTFA. I thought about putting the "gay voice" stuff in the More Inside, and now I definitely wish I had -- though maybe it wouldn't have made a difference.
posted by hermitosis at 9:36 AM on July 11, 2011


we'll be shouted down by the usual cadre of people who think that it's okay to treat people badly as long as they're bad guys.

When Jesus took your approach, he ended up crucified. Now Christians like Bachmann are playing to win. Empathize with him and it will be YOU on the cross.

Isn't that the argument?
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2011


jessamyn: " And, I may catch some flak for this, but I think people toss the word bullying around a fair amount here lately and it's problematic. I think it's worthwhile talking about the general idea of responding negatively to negativity, but we need to be clear that there are power dynamics and systematic issues of force and coercion implicit in bullying, it's not just people saying things you don't like, or saying things to other people that are offensive and problematic. It's not an accusation that we take lightly here, but to my mind it's a different thing than having a conversation about a difficult topic with difficult people."

I think the distinction you're making is important. But when verbal abuse becomes habitual, and/or especially when it is done to deliberately demean, disparage or intimidate someone, that's also bullying. And we're talking about someone in thread who advocated attacking bullies with bullying tactics. There really isn't any gray area there.
posted by zarq at 9:45 AM on July 11, 2011


sonika: My point is actually the way MetaFilter as a community handles this kind of thing is troubling

MetaFilter, the community, does not think as a whole. It's still made up of individuals, who might even say different things on different days. We're not a reliable bunch like that.

By and large, that thread in question is leaning away from mocking the Mr. Bachmann's effeminate voice. You've pointed out the minority, not a major trend. Compared to some other threads, it's not a bad one, in my opinion.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:47 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's fine, but I'm still not down at all with "wish ill upon."

I actually DO wish certain people ill, namely villains. When I see villains, I just think to myself: man, I wish you guys were illin'. They reply: "Yo, but we was just chillin'! We ain't been killin'! So why is you hate-spillin'?" I rejoin that I am unwillin' to give them top billin', given that their occupation ain't fulfillin'. But they insist that the REAL problem here is my own, and it is a problem that should be treated with penicillin'. Then, we have run out of sensible rhymes, so the conversation tails off and we start talking about Bob Dylan'.

My point here is that there are only a limited number of truly pointless conversations people can have, and I hope that won't cause y'all to give me a grillin'.

FUCK! "Grillin'!" - I knew I had a comeback for those assholes.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


And we're talking about someone in thread who advocated attacking bullies with bullying tactics. There really isn't any gray area there.


Yeah, pointing out someone's hypocrisy is textbook bullying. (rolleyes)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyway, I don't want to get in a long debate about it, I have to get my laundry soon, then go see my shrink, then go get drunk. They let me 'DJ' by hooking up my iPod to the sound system since the place is mostly empty.

I'm not going to drink but I'm not doing anything today so I might come around. We can express ill will toward scapegoated groups to increase feelings of solidarity! When do you think you'll be there?
posted by fuq at 9:49 AM on July 11, 2011


the quidnunc kid: " I actually DO wish certain people ill, namely villains. When I see villains, I just think to myself: man, I wish you guys were illin'. They reply: "Yo, but we was just chillin'! We ain't been killin'! So why is you hate-spillin'?" I rejoin that I am unwillin' to give them top billin', given that their occupation ain't fulfillin'. But they insist that the REAL problem here is my own, and it is a problem that should be treated with penicillin'. Then, we have run out of sensible rhymes, so the conversation tails off and we start talking about Bob Dylan'. "

I tried to finish your comment, but my heart was unwillin'.
posted by zarq at 9:49 AM on July 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


By and large, that thread in question is leaning away from mocking the Mr. Bachmann's effeminate voice. You've pointed out the minority, not a major trend.

You mean like when I said
I don't think people should be making fun of the voice on its own, no.

or when I said

Right. But while I don't feel like we should be making fun of the voice itself I see no problem with making fun of the fact that having it is one of the many characteristics that make him a hypocritical bigot.


That's not even the same thing as what you or this MeTa are suggesting.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:51 AM on July 11, 2011


I'm a bit bothered a bit by the way that particular quote was pulled out of context to make it look as if Senor Cardgage is advocating unlimited attacks on Bachmann, and he's clearly not. Rather the issue here is whether the apparent hypocrisy of Marcus Bachmann in advocating legal discrimination and institutional abuse against LGBT people while having feminine mannerisms is worthy of mockery. And that issue certainly isn't cut and dried, but reducing this down to "bully the bullies" doesn't help much.

zarq: I think the distinction you're making is important. But when verbal abuse becomes habitual, and/or especially when it is done to deliberately demean, disparage or intimidate someone, that's also bullying. And we're talking about someone in thread who advocated attacking bullies with bullying tactics. There really isn't any gray area there.

No, he didn't.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Senor Cardgage: " Yeah, pointing out someone's hypocrisy is textbook bullying. (rolleyes)"

Attacking the man by saying he speaks like a caricature of a gay man is not fighting hypocrisy. It is indulging in a stereotype to prove a questionable point.
posted by zarq at 9:53 AM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


In context, it is right (the comment), confrontation of a bully is a tricky thing but sometimes it has to be dealt with. Perhaps sonika you object to Senor Cardgages' tone which I don't see as an avocation but one of someone angered towards bullying.
posted by clavdivs at 9:55 AM on July 11, 2011


There really isn't any gray area there.

I guess I disagree then. I got pushed around a bunch as a kid. I got my arm broken by another kid. I'm no stranger to shitty behavior. If I were to just start pushing around people who pushed me around, I don't think that's admirable, but I also don't think it's bullying. This may be a semantic fuzzy line and I'm okay with that.

Add to this, we have a person talking in general terms on a website who is in no actual physical proximity to the people they're talking about. Again, not admirable, not bullying. And not habitual, unless you know something about that user that I don't. And we try to keep a pretty close eye on that sort of thing. But saying "maybe it's not such a bad idea to target...ya know...the bully. " does not hit our level of actionability and if you're suggestion it should, I'm disagreeing. I know this is a far cry from just telling people to be mindful and to not fight fire with fire which I think is a terrific idea and something we do fairly frequntly here.

We will actually delete comments when people advocate violence against other people being talked about, even if the person being talked about is a loathsome person. We work very hard to not have a situation here on MeFi where users "go after" specific other users and I think we're fairly successful. There's always room for improvement, certainly, but I'm not entirely comfortable with this level of callout since I don't actually feel that it represents a trend here, though I may be ignoring or missing the actual problem since I tend to stay out of GRAR political threads.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:55 AM on July 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yeah, pointing out someone's hypocrisy is textbook bullying. (rolleyes)

Pointing out hypocrisy is not the same thing as saying "These guys deserve to be bullied."

The former is saying "There are fundamental flaws in their thinking that need to be addressed." The latter is encouraging hostility in some sort of misguided quest for "fairness." Answering hostility with more hostility doesn't negate the hostility that started it all.
posted by sonika at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2011


Pointing out hypocrisy is not the same thing as saying "These guys deserve to be bullied."


It doesnt become "bullying" just because you dont like it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:59 AM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


And we try to keep a pretty close eye on that sort of thing. But saying "maybe it's not such a bad idea to target...ya know...the bully. " does not hit our level of actionability and if you're suggestion it should, I'm disagreeing. I know this is a far cry from just telling people to be mindful and to not fight fire with fire which I think is a terrific idea and something we do fairly frequntly here.

I'm not advocating mod action, not at all. What my point was was simply "Hey, I think this trend is worthy of attention and community discussion because we really could be way more awesome than this general trend that I've noticed going on here."

I don't actually feel that it represents a trend here, though I may be ignoring or missing the actual problem since I tend to stay out of GRAR political threads.

Could be. I've certainly noticed a GRAR uptick, and in talking with other users, I'm not alone in this - though this could be confirmation bias and there could be like six of us total who feel this way and everybody else is cool with the dynamic. Which I guess is part of why I felt like it was worthy of discussion - maybe I am the minority here and I should just dial back my own reading level even more in the interest of mellowing out my own life buzz.
posted by sonika at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesnt become "bullying" just because you dont like it.

This is true, but I also have the feeling you didn't read the second part of my comment in which I advocate for addressing actual issues, which I don't feel is "bullying" at all. My problem is with saying "It's ok to be hostile to these guys because they're hypocrites." Pointing out hypocrisy is valuable. Hostility is (IMHO) not.
posted by sonika at 10:03 AM on July 11, 2011


(Seriously taking a few hours off from the thread - I think I've explained what I was trying to say well enough and I don't want to a thread-hog. Happy to email/MeMail in the meantime if someone has something they want to address with me specifically.)
posted by sonika at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2011


I think this conversation is more important than simply haggling over whether Senor Cardgage's comment was bullying or misread or anything else, so.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2011


OK, now it's on you to show this "hostility" that I so clearly advocated for.
And no, the words "fighting back" dont count.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2011


jessamyn: "If I were to just start pushing around people who pushed me around, I don't think that's admirable, but I also don't think it's bullying.

This is a complex topic and I do not believe it's so easily broken down into that sort of example. If you responded defensively or offensively to known provocation, that's one thing. If you responded to bullying by gathering a group of friends who then systematically attacked, intimidated and hounded your bully then yes, that would be responding to bullying with bullying. And I don't personally believe that's right. We shouldn't respond to abuse by becoming abusers.

And we try to keep a pretty close eye on that sort of thing. But saying "maybe it's not such a bad idea to target...ya know...the bully. " does not hit our level of actionability and if you're suggestion it should, I'm disagreeing."

Um... I'm not asking you or anyone else on the mod team to take action here. Nor do I intend that my comments be taken as some sort of criticism of you or anyone else on the mod team.

I'm simply expanding on a point you made, and explaining my perspective of that comment and that aspect of the thread
posted by zarq at 10:08 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm no stranger to shitty behavior. If I were to just start pushing around people who pushed me around, I don't think that's admirable, but I also don't think it's bullying.

The thing is indulging in this kind of stereotype has negative consequences for people other than the target that pushed you around here.

I don't want to get into the bullying distinction too much but in general the community should avoid this kind of thing because of the collateral damage.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:10 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


But while I don't feel like we should be making fun of the voice itself I see no problem with making fun of the fact that having it is one of the many characteristics that make him a hypocritical bigot.

The assumption that seems to be getting made here is that so-called "effeminate" voice = homosexual (or it's certainly a broad clue). My experience is that yes, many gay men speak effeminately, but so do some heterosexual men. So, when you make a big deal about "that" voice (even if it's coming from some bully), you are playing to the stereotype and not making life any easier for any of the decent folks who just happen to speak that way.

Or as furiousxgeorge just said:

The thing is indulging in this kind of stereotype has negative consequences for people other than the target that pushed you around here.

Expose Bachman's assholism, not his tendency to lisp a bit.
posted by philip-random at 10:16 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought about putting the "gay voice" stuff in the More Inside, and now I definitely wish I had

I think you torpedoed your own thread right at the outset by including it at all. It's sad that the debate has descended into an argument about whether or not to insult the guy's voice. What a waste of energy - there's a real harm being done here, and that's a giant distraction from an important topic, chiefly do we want this guy as First Dude, and if not what are we going to do to stop him from becoming so, and longer-term, are we going to work towards shutting down this ex-gay operations?

Who gives a flying fuck what his voice sounds like?
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:17 AM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


zarq: That's fine, but I'm still not down at all with "wish ill upon."

Who are you quoting here?

zarq: Attacking the man by saying he speaks like a caricature of a gay man is not fighting hypocrisy. It is indulging in a stereotype to prove a questionable point.

It's been a long-standing dynamic in politics that conservatives shield themselves from homophobia while using innuendo and outing everyone else when they get the opportunity. Pointing out that they are exercising a privilege they deny and actively use against gay and effeminate men has been a long-standing practice of LGBT activists and writers. Whether this is a good and admirable tactic is a matter of considerable debate.

sonika: Pointing out hypocrisy is not the same thing as saying "These guys deserve to be bullied."

Who are you quoting here?

sonika: This is true, but I also have the feeling you didn't read the second part of my comment in which I advocate for addressing actual issues, which I don't feel is "bullying" at all. My problem is with saying "It's ok to be hostile to these guys because they're hypocrites." Pointing out hypocrisy is valuable. Hostility is (IMHO) not.

As much as I try to be a live-and-let-live guy these days, we're talking about people with deep-seated prejudices and the political power to harm people who are near and dear to me. Demanding equanimity in the face of political bigotry is too much to ask for IMHO.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:17 AM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


As much as I try to be a live-and-let-live guy these days, we're talking about people with deep-seated prejudices and the political power to harm people who are near and dear to me. Demanding equanimity in the face of political bigotry is too much to ask for IMHO.

To me a bully is, as KirkJobSluder says, someone with power. Fighting back doesn't make you a bully. Fighting back doesn't give you a power. It's one tactic in the struggle against the powerful.

Maybe it's not the best way to fight power/bullies, but one does become a bully/powerful simply by fighting. You have to have power first to be a bully. The bullied are to some extent powerless.
posted by vincele at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


KirkJobSluder: "zarq: That's fine, but I'm still not down at all with "wish ill upon."

Who are you quoting here?
"

The first comment in this thread, by jonmc: "Everbody has some group of people that they loathe and wish ill upon. Some are more socially acceptable than others and who those groups are varies depending on who you are among. I don't claim innocence, but I don't like it when I do it. FWIW."

I was speaking to jonmc, and he responded to me directly in this thread.

KirkJobSluder: " It's been a long-standing dynamic in politics that conservatives shield themselves from homophobia while using innuendo and outing everyone else when they get the opportunity. Pointing out that they are exercising a privilege they deny and actively use against gay and effeminate men has been a long-standing practice of LGBT activists and writers. Whether this is a good and admirable tactic is a matter of considerable debate. "

Yeah, I have no problem complaining about or attacking the behavior of actual hypocrites.

But attacking someone for perceived, stereotypical behavior when you have not a damned shred of evidence whether or not they're gay is simply not right.
posted by zarq at 10:27 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of a thread from last year, in which a loathsome Republican was mocked for her appearance and the way she spoke. I called that out in the thread.
posted by desjardins at 10:27 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you responded to bullying by gathering a group of friends who then systematically attacked, intimidated and hounded your bully then yes, that would be responding to bullying with bullying. And I don't personally believe that's right. We shouldn't respond to abuse by becoming abusers.

As far as personal philosophy goes, I pretty much agree with this. To the extent that that applies to Metafilter, it is in the sense that in one of my ideas of a perfect world everyone on this site would err on the side of compassion where possible and no one on the site would act in a way that makes being compassionate difficult, and oh what a calmer place would be.

But in practice different people have differing personal philosophies about that sort of thing, and differing conditions under which a complex philosophy bends toward rather than away from compassion-before-all-else, and my own vision of a perfect world isn't something they're required to hew to if we disagree about that.

Which, as far as talking about what people do on Metafilter, there's the question of what kind of behavior between users is problematic and to a lesser extent what kind of outward-directed commentary is problematic. Going astray there is something that we can talk a little bit concretely about, as mods and as a community, because it's stuff that pretty directly affects us all and is sometimes actionable.

And then there's the question of what various people on Metafilter think about behavior, or endorse in abstract, or think should or shouldn't be how the world works in general and in specific. And that's the stuff that, really, we're left to talking to each other about and noting and arguing disagreements, but that's about it.

We're not belaboring the "what we do and don't delete" thing for the sake of making this a mod issue so much as to try and establish why we see a fairly important difference between "we need to talk about how people behave on the site" vs. "we need to talk about people's personal philosophies on compassion or social justice or reactive rhetoric"; the former, regardless of whether it's really a Mods Need To Make A Call thing or more of just a Community Needs To Talk It Out thing, is at least pretty directly on point, but the latter is a lot more vaporous in terms of what people can even agree it's here for.

So e.g. freaking out on someone on the site in a bullying manner or going into a big nutso screed toward some off-site target: problematic. Discussing the idea of tactical reactions to bullying: pretty much unambiguously okay if there's not something else going on. I feel like with this metatalk it's sort of a question for me why something more in the latter case there is being used as an example of a We Need To Talk About This thing; not that we can't talk about it, and maybe there's something here I'm not really getting yet, but that's the reaction I'm having at this point.

We could as soon discuss e.g. whether or not people on the site should ever feel okay about the death penalty, which, I have feelings about the death penalty and about people shouting KILL THE FUCKER, but as personal philosophy about legal justice in extremis it's basically a thing people can talk about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:27 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know that there are several layers to the discussion here, but I want to point out that I do think that some of the tactics taken by people who dislike Bachmann (such as making gay personal ads pretending to be him, as linked in the post) definitely count as bullying. These aren't refutations or attempts to discredit him, and they're not "fighting back." They're just employing tired stereotypes to slag someone for a cheap laugh.
posted by hermitosis at 10:28 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree with sonika, but we'll be shouted down by the usual cadre of people who think that it's okay to treat people badly as long as they're bad guys.

...

As much as I try to be a live-and-let-live guy these days, we're talking about people with deep-seated prejudices and the political power to harm people who are near and dear to me. Demanding equanimity in the face of political bigotry is too much to ask for IMHO.

People won't be bullied into changing their minds, it simply strengthens an ideological position, as the negative response is actually seen as epistemic justification for the positions that they hold. Personally, my greatest ideological migrations have come because of people who treated me with care and compassion, despite my hangups, because I found that I wanted to be like those people, as what they believe affects who they are. The key to winning over hearts and minds is being the kinds of people, in terms of character, that other people desire to emulate.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:41 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


And here it was just Saturday that I was wishing the neighbor who started his chainsaw before 7 A.M. would slip and lop his legs off.

But apparently I didn't propitiate the lumbjack god properly, as the chainsaw continued well into the afternoon, and I didn't hear a single scream.
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


cortex: " We're not belaboring the "what we do and don't delete" thing for the sake of making this a mod issue so much as to try and establish why we see a fairly important difference between "we need to talk about how people behave on the site" vs. "we need to talk about people's personal philosophies on compassion or social justice or reactive rhetoric"; the former, regardless of whether it's really a Mods Need To Make A Call thing or more of just a Community Needs To Talk It Out thing, is at least pretty directly on point, but the latter is a lot more vaporous in terms of what people can even agree it's here for."

Totally understand. My participation in this thread is totally on the "let's talk it out" side and not on the "Team Mods must take action" side. If I really wanted y'all to take action, I'd have flagged that one comment or said so here.
posted by zarq at 10:49 AM on July 11, 2011


zarq: The hypocrisy I see here doesn't depend on Bachmann actually being, or identifying as gay. Rather it's the contrast between:

1) running an "ex-gay" therapy clinic that treats femininity as a problem in men
2) demonstrating the kinds of stereotypical behavior that gets teens sent to those kinds of treatment centers.

Which is the problem raised by the film "Outrage (2009)." The problem isn't that conservative politicians are gay, it's not that they act gay. It's that conservative politicians use anti-gay sentiment to build a bubble of privilege that insulates them from the heterosexism they encourage. Mr. Bachmann is openly profiting from the medicalization of stereotypes he demonstrates. That's the hypocrisy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


People won't be bullied into changing their minds...

That's why you bring tools.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There seems to be enough disagreement about this in-thread to indicate that it's not a community-wide standard.
posted by ODiV at 10:55 AM on July 11, 2011


If this is an issue, you should point out multiple instances. As it stand now, whatever point is trying to be made seems be a matter of semantics as opposed to clear cut. Not saying you're wrong, sonika, just that what you're seeing doesn't seem as clear to me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:58 AM on July 11, 2011


Once you start advocating hate on any basis - even targeting someone who in your mind "deserves it" - you make it harder and harder to feel true empathy for others.

I suspect that my "anger" is probably your "hate", and no, I don't think that being angry and expressing that makes it harder to feel empathy.

However, I feel that you're being so vague that we might not be talking about the same thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


SpacemanStix: There's a time and place for all things. If you treat me fairly, I'll treat you the same way. But I see no reason to treat professional pundits, political candidates, and published authors to a kind and gentle treatment of their horrible ideas.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:00 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


But in practice different people have differing personal philosophies about that sort of thing, and differing conditions under which a complex philosophy bends toward rather than away from compassion-before-all-else, and my own vision of a perfect world isn't something they're required to hew to if we disagree about that.

Well said. Not everyone values compassion over all else, and mefites should be free to express themselves in a reasonable manner without being bullied (heh!) into compliance with a worldview they don't share.

IMHO, the last thing the site needs is yet more of these more compassionate than thou! in-group loyalty-oaths. If the mere existence of people who don't agree with you "truly pains" you, that's your problem to work out; as always, metafilter is not your blog.
posted by vorfeed at 11:07 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


zarq: “That's fine, but I'm still not down at all with 'wish ill upon.'”

Nobody in this thread has said that they were. I get the feeling you and sonika are reading something into jonmc's comment that isn't there.
posted by koeselitz at 11:07 AM on July 11, 2011


But I see no reason to treat professional pundits, political candidates, and published authors to a kind and gentle treatment of their horrible ideas.

I don't know that anyone is requesting a kind and gentle treatment of horrible ideas so much as respectful treatment of people, which is considerably different.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:10 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I see no reason to treat professional pundits, political candidates, and published authors to a kind and gentle treatment of their horrible ideas.

I don't disagree with you, necessarily. But keep in mind that they likely feel the same way, and therefore engage with the same justifications, which creates a bit of a standstill. A higher moral ground in the discussion often does win the day, for people who pay attention. If you want to keep the right to respond in kind (which I don't necessarily begrudge you, as hey, we're human), I think you also have to be ready for your response to likely be ineffective in changing people's ideological position. It's a matter of pragmatics, not simply morality. In the end, you probably have to decide which state of affairs is most important to you, which islikely is a trade-off between personal catharsis and effectively changing people's minds. At the end of the day, I think a lot of people choose the personal catharsis.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:11 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pro-bully-bullying, but I'm not comfortable with perpetuating stereotypes about foo to mock the foophobic (For example, my enjoyment of George Takei's otherwise delightful It Gets Better video was impaired when he got to the 'You are probably a self-loathing gay man who will be busted for pedophilic procurement,' tweak. I get the gag, but the baiting aspect really bothers me.)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:14 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]



“...I'm still not down at all with 'wish ill upon.'”

Nobody in this thread has said that they were.


Wait, so I spent all morning sifting through his garbage for bits of Bachmann's hair and the ritual is off now? Thanks for nothing, guys.
posted by Hoopo at 11:14 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


“...I'm still not down at all with 'wish ill upon.'”

Nobody in this thread has said that they were


I wish ill on people all the time; granted, I usually hope for incredibly unlikely horrible things to happen so I won't feel bad if something does befall them (Lately it's been dirigible crashes and bison attacks in elevators), but it is what it is.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:20 AM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


But attacking someone for perceived, stereotypical behavior when you have not a damned shred of evidence whether or not they're gay is simply not right.

It doesn't matter whether or not they're actually gay. If they're making life hard for gay people, then yes, it is fine to let them know how it feels to be mocked in the way that gay people are mocked.

Compassion is great when the intended receiver is receptive, but sometimes the best you can do is let them know that they can't get away with what they're doing with impunity.
posted by ignignokt at 11:23 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking solely for myself, whenever I treat another person without compassion or empathy, I feel like something inside of me is rotting.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:26 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]



And here it was just Saturday that I was wishing the neighbor who started his chainsaw before 7 A.M. would slip and lop his legs off.

But apparently I didn't propitiate the lumbjack god properly, as the chainsaw continued well into the afternoon, and I didn't hear a single scream.


Nope, the scream must have come overnight while you were sleeping. Once the victim is dead, cutting him up with the chainsaw sounds no different than cutting a few logs.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:27 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think sonika is dead-on right that this "they're bad so anything against them is okay" is a site-wide phenomenon. I don't think it's a site-wide consensus by any means, but I don't see that sonika asserted in the main post that it was.

That said, I don't think it's a trend. I think it's a common thing that's been here all along. There's always been, in my opinion, a few vocal people in any given thread who take issue with any assertion that there should be limits on action against the Person or Group Who Is Wrong. I don't think it's even reflective or a left or right outlook (and I think we can agree that, statistically, MetaFilter leans left, no?).

I think it's just a regrettable human impulse. I think of it as a viewpoint that "since action is appropriate then ANY action must be appropriate."
posted by phearlez at 11:29 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


sometimes the best you can do is let them know that they can't get away with what they're doing with impunity.

Ideally you do this in a way that doesn't prove to young people that all the messages of gay-acceptance that are finally leaking into their world are mostly self-congratulatory bullshit that all vanishes whenever a mob forms.
posted by hermitosis at 11:29 AM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I usually hope for incredibly unlikely horrible things to happen

Oh, this is awkward.

::waves off hard drinking dirigible crew::

And, umm, you might want to take the stairs. No reason! No reason at all, It's just, uh, this elevator is out of service....

Yeah...
posted by quin at 11:32 AM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


koeselitz: " Nobody in this thread has said that they were. I get the feeling you and sonika are reading something into jonmc's comment that isn't there."

I get the feeling you didn't read any of mine at all.

jonmc asserted that everyone has a group they "loathe and wish ill upon." I was speaking directly to that point. Further, I said that there is a big difference between disagreeing with people and wishing them ill. I believe at least two people in this thread other than me have spoken up and said they do not wish ill upon groups of people that they disagree with.

None of these are particularly convoluted or obscure statements.
posted by zarq at 11:34 AM on July 11, 2011


I'm also leaving this thread for a few hours. It seems to be developing in directions that make me regret speaking up in the first place.
posted by zarq at 11:35 AM on July 11, 2011


Ideally you do this in a way that doesn't prove to young people that all the messages of gay-acceptance that are finally leaking into their world are mostly self-congratulatory bullshit that all vanishes whenever a mob forms.

Hmm, yes. I guess publicly mocking his voice isn't the right way to go. But if there is a collateral damageless way to make him feel what he's causing, I think it's worth doing.
posted by ignignokt at 11:39 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Nope, the scream must have come overnight while you were sleeping. Once the victim is dead, cutting him up with the chainsaw sounds no different than cutting a few logs."

Oh great — my neighbor is a serial killer and an asshole.

"How I wish he was one of those quiet loner types. He's always firing up that damn chainsaw or wood chipper or blast furnace. And all the screaming. I didn't mind it when it was just children and animals, but grown man's voice just carries, and it's like, now the whole neighborhood knows he's flaying you alive, guy. Have a little dignity. Don't even get me started on how he fills up the dumpster all the time — it only gets picked up once a week. The rest of us have rotting meat too, you know."
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been actively participating on Mefi for a little over 6 months, lurking more or less for several years. Bullies are kind of a hot button for my and with that in mind my feelings are that we have few , if any , true bullies on Mefi (can not recall anyone off the top of my head) but rather some people who are very strong willed in expressing their opinions. I've seen several members acti out inappropriately and I have seen the mods handle that . I've seen several members with personal vendettas against each other and I have seen the mods cool that off as well. So for what its worth my personal take is that there are not many real bullies at all here on mefi and that's coming from someone who believes herself to be overly sensitive to such things.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:50 AM on July 11, 2011


The FPP linked to some QUEERTY articles debating whether it was appropriate to mock Bachmann for having a gay-sounding voice. They don't go into much depth, but it is worth pointing out that the group Bachmann is harming most directly aren't of one mind about what is out of bounds.

That's not new, either. I don't know if the queer press is still debating whether or not it is appropriate to out conservative politicians, but that was a hot-running dispute for a long time. I think the number of conservatives who were outed one way or another has gotten people more used to the idea (as well as different generational expectations about what sort of secrets queer-solidarity requires be kept) but this seems to be the same kind of argument.

I don't like the comments that treat the subject as an excuse to release some justified rage---a bit too Nancy Grace for me, even when I agree or the rage is on my behalf---but there is a peculiar social context for the debate about whether it's appropriate to taunt homophobes by insinuating they are gay. These are, after all, queer publications taunting him with claims that would only hurt if he believes, as he does, that there is something wrong with being queer. That's a very different issue from, say, making fun of him for being fat, even if you think that he shouldn't be taunted for any reason at all. The latter is nasty all around, but the former is, arguably, a powerful rhetorical move in the service of moving homophobia further and further out of the mainstream of acceptable discourse.

All of which is to say that the context of this issue matters a lot.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:52 AM on July 11, 2011


You'd change your mind if you'd been on the receiving end of bullying here, eg for persisting in using Oxford commas.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:53 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


(or not previewing)
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:54 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


(sigh) My apologies for not reading the link first before posting (you now have permission to bully me). SO I now understand that the bullying we are talking about is regarding the advocating of pushing back against bullies in real life rather rather than on MeFi per se.

OK ... all I can tell you is this. Me personally: up to about age 30 I had a Christ like philosophy of turning the other cheek . AT age 50(ish) I have turned from Christ to more of a Judah Macabee philosophy. Turning the other cheek has only got me bitch slapped on both sides of my face. I think bullies are, with rare exception, sociopaths. I think the only thing a sociopath understands and responds to is a threat against his/her person (verbal or otherwise). 50 years of life experience and that;s the point that I have reached. SO FWIW - I believe in a harsh push back against sociopaths/bullies verbal or otherwise because that is the only thing that ever has worked for me against such people. But ... that's just me. I could always be wrong.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:00 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Once you start advocating hate on any basis - even targeting someone who in your mind "deserves it" - you make it harder and harder to feel true empathy for others.

No, you don't. It is possible to hate that which deserves hatred and feel empathy for that which deserves empathy. This is called being a well-rounded, non-delusional human being.
posted by Decani at 12:05 PM on July 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Decani, I don't think sonika is delusional, nor do I think it's necessary to imply that she's not well-rounded.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


phearlez: That said, I don't think it's a trend. I think it's a common thing that's been here all along. There's always been, in my opinion, a few vocal people in any given thread who take issue with any assertion that there should be limits on action against the Person or Group Who Is Wrong. I don't think it's even reflective or a left or right outlook (and I think we can agree that, statistically, MetaFilter leans left, no?).

I think it's just a regrettable human impulse. I think of it as a viewpoint that "since action is appropriate then ANY action must be appropriate."


Is that the case? Thus far, no one has advocated anything close to an anonymous-style campaign of harassment and electronic monkey-wrenching against the Bachmanns. The limits of action advocated here is a discussion about whether both demonstrating anti-gay stereotypes and profiting from pseudo-psychological treatment of them is hypocrisy.

How this translates into "bullying the bullies" or "advocating hate" I can't figure out. Nor can I figure out how this translates into a site-wide problem given how it's a proposition that's driven a fair quantity of debate in that thread.

shakespherian: Compassion does not mean a completely lack of judgement. It is entirely reasonable to love your enemies, and draw a hard line and shun them until they change their behavior (and even then making amends entails no obligation that the harmed party must consent to a forgive-and-forget relationship.) Running a reparative therapy center is profiteering off the misery of LBGT people. I'm not interested in putting bags of flaming dog poop on his stoop, but neither do I feel inclined to say that I consider him good people for this practice.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:27 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's just a regrettable human impulse. I think of it as a viewpoint that "since action is appropriate then ANY action must be appropriate."

Oh, come on. No one is suggesting that ANY action is appropriate -- many calls to action are explicitly against the rules here, for one thing. This is largely about saying "mean" things on the internet, and being OK with that is roughly a million miles from being OK with "ANY action".
posted by vorfeed at 12:27 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Compassion does not mean a completely lack of judgement. It is entirely reasonable to love your enemies, and draw a hard line and shun them until they change their behavior (and even then making amends entails no obligation that the harmed party must consent to a forgive-and-forget relationship.) Running a reparative therapy center is profiteering off the misery of LBGT people. I'm not interested in putting bags of flaming dog poop on his stoop, but neither do I feel inclined to say that I consider him good people for this practice.

I don't think I've said or implied anything that this is in disagreement with. In fact, I get fairly frustrated with the number of times I say things in threads like this that amount to 'Let's be respectful to people, because otherwise what does that do to us?' and then people respond with 'Oh so no one is ever allowed to disagree?'

Please, please, please disagree, disagree with everyone with whom you disagree. Say so publicly, loudly, and explain why. But I think that returning hatred for hatred is regrettable, and diminishes us and our arguments.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:32 PM on July 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


It is possible to hate that which deserves hatred and feel empathy for that which deserves empathy. This is called being a well-rounded, non-delusional human being.

As an example of why this is illogical, this is what homophobes and gay-bashers already think they're doing.
posted by hermitosis at 12:40 PM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nor can I figure out how this translates into a site-wide problem given how it's a proposition that's driven a fair quantity of debate in that thread.

If you're still talking to me, I don't know that I'd call it a problem either. I think it's just a sad fact of human nature that a non-trivial percentage will always take the stance that if some action needs taking then putting any limits on that action is somewhere between unnecessary and wrong. Doesn't matter whether you're talking about how you treat a loathsome person pushing anti-gay statements or limits on how police can deal with lawbreakers. If the end cause is just then any sort of limitations on dealing with it are portrayed as sympathizing or weak on the problem.

I think that happens site-wide and it's always going to, but I have sympathy for sonika's position that she finds it unpleasant and it makes her less want to participate. I'm not sure whether my contention that it's not any worse than it used to be will be at all a comforting thought or not...
posted by phearlez at 12:50 PM on July 11, 2011


shakepeherian: I don't think I've said or implied anything that this is in disagreement with. In fact, I get fairly frustrated with the number of times I say things in threads like this that amount to 'Let's be respectful to people, because otherwise what does that do to us?' and then people respond with 'Oh so no one is ever allowed to disagree?'

No, I don't think we do agree, largely because of the slippery definition of "respect" involved. I don't respect Mr. Bachmann, as he's engaged in and advocates a practice that brings misery to many people. I respect metafilter and myself not to waste time and bytes on a stream of invective, but that's a different beast altogether.

shakespeherian: But I think that returning hatred for hatred is regrettable, and diminishes us and our arguments.

I don't know what you mean by that, and I'm pretty convinced that it doesn't apply to the discussion in question regardless.

hermitosis: As an example of why this is illogical, this is what homophobes and gay-bashers already think they're doing.

Only if you adopt a certain flavor of navel-gazing relativism that borders on pure solipsism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Decani, I don't think sonika is delusional, nor do I think it's necessary to imply that she's not well-rounded.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:18 PM on July 11


What the...? I did no such thing. Get a grip. Elementary logic, for pity's sake.
posted by Decani at 12:57 PM on July 11, 2011


What I would like to see have happen is people use the word "hate" accurately.

I don't know squat about Bachmann but I assume people aren't being perpmarched to him at gunpoint. People may disagree about whether people should want to see him or not, but he's there for those that do.

And the kind of people that do? Have the right to have someone who understands them to talk to.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:57 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know squat about Bachmann but I assume people aren't being perpmarched to him at gunpoint.

Well, that's because Michele hasn't been elected yet.

(Half-kidding.)
posted by hermitosis at 12:59 PM on July 11, 2011


What the...? I did no such thing. Get a grip. Elementary logic, for pity's sake.

I have a grip. Maybe it would help me if you'd use less hyperbolic or sarcastic language. You don't have to, but it would help me.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:03 PM on July 11, 2011


As an example of why this is illogical, this is what homophobes and gay-bashers already think they're doing.

Oh, definitely. I hear they also enjoy eating and breathing oxygen -- quick, everybody stop!
posted by vorfeed at 1:04 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


shakepherian: Maybe it would help me if you'd use less hyperbolic or sarcastic language.

Such as "returning hatred for hatred?"
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:05 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm not sure why that would be hyperbolic or sarcastic.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:06 PM on July 11, 2011


I don't know if it is hyperbolic because I have literally no clue about what specifically people are referencing.

If you're referencing one thing, it comes across as a hand-wringing tone argument. If you're referencing another thing, it's a fair point that I don't necessarily agree with. If you're referencing something else entirely, then I agree with you wholeheartedly.

This whole discussion is a weird meta argument about a whole lot of vagueness.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:09 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


shakespeherian: I'm not sure why that would be hyperbolic or sarcastic.

You really don't see that as a hyperbolic exaggeration of what actually has been written in this thread?

I'm with the young rope-rider. I don't understand what you mean by it, and what's worse, I'm fairly convinced you don't either.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:12 PM on July 11, 2011


As much as I try to be a live-and-let-live guy these days, we're talking about people with deep-seated prejudices and the political power to harm people who are near and dear to me. Demanding equanimity in the face of political bigotry is too much to ask for IMHO.

I am in no way demanding equanimity. What I'm asking for is reasoned solutions rather than mud-slinging in the name of "They deserve it."

I don't know that anyone is requesting a kind and gentle treatment of horrible ideas so much as respectful treatment of people, which is considerably different.

Yes, exactly. I hate homophobia as much as the next queer - but I don't see it going away if I start screaming at homophobes. If I, instead, compassionately lay out why it's harmful there's at least a chance I can have an actual discussion about it rather than the person I'm speaking with doubling down and getting defensive and having their position more firmly cemented because I treated them poorly.

It is possible to hate that which deserves hatred and feel empathy for that which deserves empathy. This is called being a well-rounded, non-delusional human being.

On that we simply disagree. I hate plenty of ideas and behaviors, but I don't think hating the actual human beings who perpetuate them does me a lick of good. I may not want to have them over to my house for dinner, but I don't think simply not hating them makes me delusional.

It is entirely reasonable to love your enemies, and draw a hard line and shun them until they change their behavior (and even then making amends entails no obligation that the harmed party must consent to a forgive-and-forget relationship.)

I agree with this completely and have, at times, applied this to my own life. Even the Dalai Lama stipulates that forgiveness does not necessarily deserve forgetting and that it's foolish to simply wipe things under the carpet. But loving your enemies does mean not perpetuating the cycle by adding more hatred onto a hateful situation.
posted by sonika at 1:13 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't understand what you mean by it, and what's worse, I'm fairly convinced you don't either.

In which case I apologize for vagueness. I don't specifically care about the comment or discussion that was the specific genesis of this post, as I was under the impression that sonika was talking about a general tenor that appears across Metafilter-- not universal, but extant. There have been a few Meta threads like this one prior to today, and I've participated in a few of them; I am not always necessarily responding to any particular comments in this thread, but rather attempting to explain my own position on the subject of the attitude that sonika gestures to in her post-- that compassion should be discarded when the subject of a conversation meets certain criteria of disagreement.

It has been expressed here and elsewhere that there are certain people with whom we disagree that are worthy of contempt, or loathing, or hatred, and I disagree. I don't think it's worthwhile to hate people if they are wrong, even if they are loudly and dangerously and harmfully wrong.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:17 PM on July 11, 2011


"As an example of why this is illogical, this is what homophobes and gay-bashers already think they're doing."

Oh, definitely. I hear they also enjoy eating and breathing oxygen -- quick, everybody stop!


You don't have to stop eating and breathing, but maybe don't have the tuna fish sandwich while we're all shut in here together breathing that same air. And maybe have a breath mint.
posted by maryr at 1:23 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, so it is a bit of a tone argument.

I consider myself queer as well, but as someone who has all the benefits of being legally married to a man and passing as straight a good majority of the time, this kind of bigotry is not primarily aimed at me. I think it would be unfair of me to assume that my approach is the best approach.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:24 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


sonika: Pardon but who's slinging mud? I've seen a fair number of extremely fighty threads, but this one does not appear unreasonably bad.

shakespeherian: Isn't it a bit pointless to apologize for something when you go on to make matters even more vague? This is, fundamentally, a call-out thread. It is, IMNSHO, an extremely unfair call-out thread, especially if you're raising the stakes to "returning hatred for hatred."

It has been expressed here and elsewhere that there are certain people with whom we disagree that are worthy of contempt, or loathing, or hatred, and I disagree.

And I'll argue that as much as you have my sympathies, this is an ethical belief that I'm not certain should necessarily be a discussion norm here. A compassionate view would recognize that not everyone is in the same place WRT heterosexism, and give people reasonable space to express their anger.

Note that this isn't remotely an argument for anything goes. Only that I feel profoundly uncomfortable with the possibility that expressions of harsh criticism for a public figure could get bounced to metatalk threads. Senor Cardgage strikes me as entirely correct that the actions and statements of a probably PhD running a probably unlicensed therapy clinic based on homophobia are likely more worthy of censure than you or I.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:40 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't have to stop eating and breathing, but maybe don't have the tuna fish sandwich while we're all shut in here together breathing that same air. And maybe have a breath mint.

Or "maybe" you could stop expecting the entire world to cater to your personal dislike of tuna.

Change comes from within, man.
posted by vorfeed at 1:45 PM on July 11, 2011


Ooops, that should be "probably quack PhD" given recent investigation into Bachmann's credentials.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:48 PM on July 11, 2011


This is, fundamentally, a call-out thread.

I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, but I don't think it's an unreasonable assessment. sonika says:
A response to this comment in this thread, though truly, this could just be a response to the general tone shift that I (and others I've spoken with) have noticed over the past few months. [...] Is this really a community that wants to advocate for "bullying the bullies" - because I see a lot of it and it truly pains me.
give people reasonable space to express their anger [...] expressions of harsh criticism for a public figure

And I'll say again that I disagree that anger and harsh criticism equate to loathing, hatred, or contempt.

this is an ethical belief that I'm not certain should necessarily be a discussion norm here.

I don't pretend to think that I should be able to set the standards for communication on Metafilter, and I'll tentatively agree that I'm not certain that this ethic should necessarily be a discussion norm here. I do think that it's useful to attempt to delineate between anger, & harsh criticism on the one hand and hatefulness on the other.

especially if you're raising the stakes to "returning hatred for hatred."

I guess I'm not sure how this statement of mine, which you've pushed back on a few times, constitutes raising the stakes. The post up at the top of this page states Once you start advocating hate on any basis - even targeting someone who in your mind "deserves it" - you make it harder and harder to feel true empathy for others. I understand if you disagree, but I didn't pull it out of nowhere.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:10 PM on July 11, 2011


What is the measurable difference between anger/harsh criticism and loathing/hatred/contempt? Generalizing? Threats of physical violence? Calls to action? Is there anything objective there, or is it a subjective feeling that something has "gone too far"?
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:18 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a start, there's the helpful suggestion at the bottom of every page on the Blue:
Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:22 PM on July 11, 2011


Or, as I've just been shown offsite, there's the OpenRespect Declaration, which I think is pretty fantastic.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:25 PM on July 11, 2011


I thought we were talking about commentary directed at people who aren't on the site? The example opening this thread was a comment directed at someone who is a public figure, so I assumed that was the general idea.

I don't think there's much value in insisting that people who are facing systematic hatred and discrimination be more polite to the public figures who seek to gain power and money by hurting them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:33 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought we were talking about commentary directed at people who aren't on the site?

This is true, but as it's a discursive standard that everyone here seems familiar and comfortable with, it seems worthwhile to indicate it as the sort of thing I mean.

I don't think there's much value in insisting that people who are facing systematic hatred and discrimination be more polite to the public figures who seek to gain power and money by hurting them.

I'm not insisting on anything. I do, however, think that there's a certain tone that is at times prevalent on Metafilter that makes some users uncomfortable, and that I think limits discussion and hurts the community without any benefit except the occasional exposure to clever deployment of expletives. I know of quite a few members who have shuttered their accounts in just the last few months while citing this as the main reason. I am, again, not insisting on anything, and I acknowledge that if a person cannot tolerate the sort of rhetoric occasionally found on Metafilter, then perhaps that person is better off not being on Metafilter. But I also think that's a shame, and I don't think it's necessary.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:38 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


shakespeherian: Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.

Well, that's what I see as a key problem here. Throwing vague, incoherent, hyperbolic, and hypothetical accusations around that you refuse to connect to either the linked discussion or provide examples of isn't very respectful or pertinent IMO.

But in a general case, I'll argue yes. "Fight fire with fire," has been a political axiom since the Bible, and it should be expressed here. Of course, every time it is expressed, it's debated to the ground, as it was in the thread that was called out. It's not been my observation that the advocates for compassion and civility have always been civil in making that argument.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:55 PM on July 11, 2011


My best life lesson around bullying was delivered to me by a louchely patrician bartender, whose job I was taking over in a seedy pub in South London.

'Lot of locals here,' he drawled. 'They'll give you a bit of crap. Take their measure, and give it straight back to them'.

In an example of pleasing irony, he sounded camp as a row of tents.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Throwing vague, incoherent, hyperbolic, and hypothetical accusations around that you refuse to connect to either the linked discussion or provide examples of isn't very respectful or pertinent IMO.

Could you indicate where I've done this? I have attempted to be forthright and explicitly communicative here, and I'm not sure why I'm failing. I'm not attempting to lob any accusations, and I've tried to indicate that I am speaking very generally about discourse on the site, which is what I was under the impression this thread was attempting to be about.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm not obliged to accept that there's a general "tone" of "return hatred with hatred" or "bully the bullies" when those statements do not apply to the quoted passage by Senor Cardgage, the post called out, or apparently any other post or discussion here.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:04 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, exactly. I hate homophobia as much as the next queer - but I don't see it going away if I start screaming at homophobes. If I, instead, compassionately lay out why it's harmful there's at least a chance I can have an actual discussion about it rather than the person I'm speaking with doubling down and getting defensive and having their position more firmly cemented because I treated them poorly.

But should drawing Bachmann into reasonable discussion be our goal in the first place? Let's face it: if Bachmann were open to reasonable discussion, he would have already responded to the overwhelming force of the arguments against, among other things, reparative therapy. I think this is highly unlikely to succeed, even if we agreed that making it easier for homophobes to come over to our side should be a priority. It's possible--Soulforce had some limited success with Falwell near the end of his life--but it isn't at all likely to work.

On the other hand, making Bachmann an object of ridicule because he has characteristics that are, at least superficially, associated with the the group he despises and has made a business of harming does seem to possible. Making him an object of ridicule reduces his influence over and ability to participate in mainstream discourse. That doesn't do Bachmann any good, but the idea is to limit the harm he can inflict. If his views and his work become enough of a liability for Michele Bachmann's ability to participate in mainstream discourse, even better. The best example here would be Rick Santorum. That scale of success isn't likely to ever be reproduced, but smaller effects still seem possible. And again, it matters that the point of ridicule is tied to his homophobia--mocking him for being ugly, or for having a disability, would be flat out wrong.

As I said before, there isn't unanimity in the LGBT community on which approach is right, and most people do some of both, depending on the context. But it absolutely is not a question where one side has a monopoly on compassion. I get that this has become more of a question about tone generally, but I hate to see important features of this dispute glossed over to create a false dichotomy between patient compassion and blind rage. A harsh tone in this context is not a problem just because it's harsh any more than a gentle but frank discussion with Bachmann would be problematic just for being gentle.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:05 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not obliged to accept that there's a general "tone" of "return hatred with hatred" or "bully the bullies" when those statements do not apply to the quoted passage by Senor Cardgage, the post called out, or apparently any other post or discussion here.

Fair enough. It appears we've been having two different conversations, so I'm sorry to have wasted your time.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:11 PM on July 11, 2011


Although, IMNSHO calling him a quack is a deeper insult than pointing out that he sounds a bit like Fred Schneider and Donald Duck. But somehow that went by without comment.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:22 PM on July 11, 2011


But should drawing Bachmann into reasonable discussion be our goal in the first place? Let's face it: if Bachmann were open to reasonable discussion, he would have already responded to the overwhelming force of the arguments against, among other things, reparative therapy.

Because when conversations are public, the conversation between you and Bachmann isn't just between you and Bachmann. There is a public component to the discussion that has people looking on, taking sides, based not simply on the content of the discussion, but how it is conducted. In my mind, bystanders to the public stage are the hearts and minds that need to be convinced of certain things, not the people who have the loudest voice and have caught the limelight.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


the quidnunc kid: I rejoin that I am unwillin' to give them top billin', given that their occupation ain't fulfillin'. But they insist that the REAL problem here is my own, and it is a problem that should be treated with penicillin'. Then, we have run out of sensible rhymes, so the conversation tails off and we start talking about Bob Dylan'.

I would like to take a moment to derail this discussion and point out that neither penicillin nor Bob Dylan need any additional letters, thus your trailing apostrophes in both cases are meaningless. No one goes about penicilling anyone, or Bob Dylang up a song. That's just silly.

posted by filthy light thief at 4:06 PM on July 11, 2011


I don't think there's much value in insisting that people who are facing systematic hatred and discrimination be more polite to the public figures who seek to gain power and money by hurting them.

Neither do I, and my feelings are based on the way MeFites act as a community and not the way in which anyone interacts with public figures directly.
posted by sonika at 4:17 PM on July 11, 2011


If this discussion is primarily talking about the likes of the Bachman klan then I think that referring to them as "bullies" does no justice at all to the enormity of their social crimes. They are not "bullies" . They are sociopathic A-holes who use existing societal hatreds in order to increase their financial and political power. If we're primarily talking about Marcus and Michelle Bachman here, well fuck them both . I think ass kicking whether verbal or otherwise is entirely appropriate for such people.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:44 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If this discussion is primarily talking about the likes of the Bachman klan then I think that referring to them as "bullies" does no justice at all to the enormity of their social crimes.

I was really referring to a vibe on MetaFilter in response to touchy subjects, not the subjects themselves. I guess I didn't really make myself very clear or my thought process was too muddled to start with or I didn't really have the most cogent of points or maybe I just wasted everyone's time. Dunno. But the Bachmanns was not where my beef was at.
posted by sonika at 5:48 PM on July 11, 2011


Yes, I think the point sonika was trying to make was less about any specific commenter or any specific subject matter, but rather the whole dynamic of "They DESERVE it!" when it comes to making vitriolic comments about other people (non-Mefites).

In the past, there were a lot of really horrific comments that some people enjoyed making on MetaFilter about Ann Coulter. Comments that wished specific, graphic, Technicolor harm upon her. Eventually the mods had to step in and put a stop to comments like that, not because they had any particular love for Ann Coulter or her ideologies, but because those comments were beyond the pale. People are still free to say they hate Ann Coulter, but they are no longer free to say how much they wish [insert horrifically misogynistic actions] upon her.

But we aren't (I don't think) trying to have a conversation about what people should or should not be "allowed" to say on MeFi. It's more like, do we want to be this kind of community? Do we want to be the kind of people who use the bad guy's hateful tactics against them, as if that is somehow empowering or righteous? If news came out that David Duke was part black, would you gleefully start calling him a nigger? Because hey, that's how HE treats people, right? He deserves it!
posted by Gator at 6:10 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is the problem that specific or a more general negative tone on the site?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2011


But is that something we do? It's not like in the thread itself everyone on MetaFilter was all for it.
posted by ODiV at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2011


Without at all weighing in on the substance of this thread, let me just say: great Lewis Carroll reference.
posted by John Cohen at 6:54 PM on July 11, 2011


Coulter is a good example of the potential collateral damage. I care not at all about hurting her feelings and if I could say something that would make her cry I would say it. However, it is an ironclad rule that whenever people are trading insults on her someone is going to say she looks manly or like a transsexual. That kind of thing isn't cool for a lot of reasons having nothing to do with her deserving any civility.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


However, it is an ironclad rule that whenever people are trading insults on her someone is going to say she looks manly or like a transsexual.

(sigh) .... just (sigh)... Because her throat is a bit bumpy because of her weight, right?

Aside from the fact that I'd just about kill to have her boobs and waist, I don't really think that you really know what a transsexual really looks like
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:14 PM on July 11, 2011


furiousxgeorge: My apologies for not seeing what you actually wrote. Hot button blindness. Appreciate your comment actually.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:17 PM on July 11, 2011


No prob.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:24 PM on July 11, 2011


MeFi snarks about EVERYTHING. Bullies are one of the few groups of people who actually deserve the scorn that MeFi can dish out.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:28 PM on July 11, 2011


Bullies are one of the few groups of people who actually deserve the scorn that MeFi can dish out.

Just to be a broken record. People are free to believe this in their own heart of hearts, but acting out hatefully here, is discouraged. There's a big difference between saying that you don't like someone, disagree with their policies and they make you angry, and saying someone should beat them with a shovel. We delete the shovel references and I personally am sort of bummed that people feel the need to repeatedly make them here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a big difference between saying that you don't like someone, disagree with their policies and they make you angry, and saying someone should beat them with a shovel. We delete the shovel references and I personally am sort of bummed that people feel the need to repeatedly make them here.

This is pretty much exactly the point I wanted to make: I feel like there's an uptick in not-necessarily-beating-someone-with-as-hovel-references, but maybe implying that should they find the business end of a shovel in their face that it might not be *all* bad and this is personally bumming me out in a major way.
posted by sonika at 7:58 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


... FWIW - I believe in a harsh push back against sociopaths/bullies verbal or otherwise because that is the only thing that ever has worked for me against such people. But ... that's just me. I could always be wrong.
Well, you might be wrong, but I'll be wrong alongside you. As someone who was bullied a great deal as a child, it broke my heart to see my own kids start down that path as well. After a few years of teaching tolerance and the turn-the-other-cheek-because you're-better-than-them bullshit that schools encourage, I realised that this is exactly the wrong way to deal with bullies. We sat the two kids down who were being bullied and told them 'if someone teases you, give them back as good as they gave you, if someone hits you, hit them back just as hard'. We also explained the idea of proportionate action (ie, don't hit someone if they tease you, don't be the first to dish it out because then you become the bully). You know what happened? They don't get bullied any more, that's what happened.
posted by dg at 9:28 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


They don't get bullied any more, that's what happened.


A tear ran down Chuck Norris' cheek right after hearing that story. It cured 10 people's cancer, then.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:20 AM on July 12, 2011


philip-random: The assumption that seems to be getting made here is that so-called "effeminate" voice = homosexual (or it's certainly a broad clue). My experience is that yes, many gay men speak effeminately, but so do some heterosexual men. So, when you make a big deal about "that" voice (even if it's coming from some bully), you are playing to the stereotype and not making life any easier for any of the decent folks who just happen to speak that way.

I'm sure it wasn't your intention, but you realise you just juxtaposed 'decent folks' and gay people? The way this reads is so insulting I don't even know where to begin...
posted by Dysk at 3:58 AM on July 12, 2011


Also, to everyone engaged in the wee debate about transsexualism, could you not use it as a noun? It really doesn't parse well, much like "he is gay" reads much nicer than "he is a gay".
posted by Dysk at 4:04 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I get not to use it as a noun proper but could you give another example please Dysk as
"he is gay" reads much nicer than "he is a gay". seems vauge unless you mean someone saying "he is gay" as opposed to someone reading 'he is gay'.
posted by clavdivs at 5:32 AM on July 12, 2011


Examples:

He is black rather than he is a black. Alternative: he is a black man.
She is gay rather than she is a gay. Alternative: she is a gay woman.
He is disabled rather than he is a disabled. Alternative: he is a disabled man.
She is transsexual rather than she is a transsexual. Alternative: she is a transsexual woman.

When it was pointed out to me like that I instantly switched. I certainly don't mind if other trans people (or people of transsexual history who do not consider it part of their identity) refer to themselves differently. The "old" way sort of smells medicalised to me now, though.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:44 AM on July 12, 2011


Dysk, I don't know his intention of course, but I parsed "decent folks who just happen to speak that way" as referring to both straight and gay men with effeminate voices. I had to read the sentence twice as I tripped up on the same thing as you the first time.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:47 AM on July 12, 2011


clavdivs, I'm afraid I don't follow? Obviously you read what is written, and one of them is much nicer to read. Or, put more concisely, one of them reads better. Perhaps ArmyOfKittens' clearer explanation is more to your liking?
posted by Dysk at 5:55 AM on July 12, 2011


He is a black, she is a gay -
Fa la la la la, and a hey nonny noe!
They fight a crime by a-night and a-day,
Fa la la la la, and a hey nonny noe!

What of their arch-nemesis? They wish him disabled -
Fa la la la la, and a hey nonny noe!
For he is a very evil and a mentally unstable -
Fa la la la la, and a hey nonny noe!

Such is my song of heroes, of which you've heard a part-icle
Fa la la la la, and a hey nonny noe!
I wish that I could properly use an indefinite article
Fa la la la la, and a hey nonny noe!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:19 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


dg: 'if someone teases you, give them back as good as they gave you, if someone hits you, hit them back just as hard'. We also explained the idea of proportionate action (ie, don't hit someone if they tease you, don't be the first to dish it out because then you become the bully).

Thanks for articulating this really well. I think some people who are aggressive toward other people on the site were bullied and have learned this lesson all too well, but missed the "proportionate" part. This connects with what sonika and others have been trying to say about distinguishing responding from bullying or distinguishing anger from hate, and with what jessamyn was saying about distinguishing real bullying from non-bullying. Quoting Jessamyn's comment:

I think it's worthwhile talking about the general idea of responding negatively to negativity, but we need to be clear that there are power dynamics and systematic issues of force and coercion implicit in bullying, it's not just people saying things you don't like, or saying things to other people that are offensive and problematic.

Is a person bullying simply by expressing an opinion you strongly disagree with, or by simply being a member of group you dislike? We clearly have members who think so and respond accordingly. This attitude does disrupt discussions, encourage people to leave or participate less, and create problems on the site.
posted by nangar at 6:29 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


He is black rather than he is a black. She is gay rather than she is a gay

This isn't just about reading nicer, the idea is that saying "she is gay" (and the other examples) makes one trait someone happens to have essentially stand in for their entire identity, and that's what people tend to discourage.
posted by sweetkid at 6:53 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is a person bullying simply by expressing an opinion you strongly disagree with, or by simply being a member of group you dislike?

It depends on the opinion.

If someone says "blue is awesome and everyone should paint their house blue" then no, that's not bullying, even if I really hate blue.

If someone says "people like you are degenerates who shouldn't be allowed to adopt children or get married" then yeah, I think that's bullying, even if that's not the intent.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:16 AM on July 12, 2011


oof, I meant to say "she is a gay" is the thing that makes the one trait stand in for the entire identity.
posted by sweetkid at 8:35 AM on July 12, 2011


ME: So, when you make a big deal about "that" voice (even if it's coming from some bully), you are playing to the stereotype and not making life any easier for any of the decent folks who just happen to speak that way.

YOU: I'm sure it wasn't your intention, but you realise you just juxtaposed 'decent folks' and gay people? The way this reads is so insulting I don't even know where to begin...


Maybe begin by imagining that the juxtaposition is between decent folk and bullies, because that was my intention. Then, if that's not possible, maybe you could begin to allow yourself to not imagine the absolute worst possible interpretation of someone else's choice of words.

For the record, if I could re-write the last part of that comment, it would now go something like this:

you are playing to the stereotype and not making life any easier for ALL of the decent folks who just happen to speak that way, STRAIGHT OR GAY.

Perhaps what we need around here is a 30 hour edit window. Then Metafilter could finally be 100 percent correct.
posted by philip-random at 8:40 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


philip-random: you are playing to the stereotype and not making life any easier for ALL of the decent folks who just happen to speak that way, STRAIGHT OR GAY.

It's considerably more complex than that. "That voice," is something that many of us celebrate in our most visible heroes and icons. The point of calling out incongruence on the part of conservative politicians is hypocrisy, not the actual behavior. In Bachmann's case, it's profiting on a treatment program that demonizes traits he demonstrates.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:14 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I'll keep that distinction in mind, it makes sense)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:52 AM on July 12, 2011


philip-random, I can't know what you think, only what you say. My apologies.

Additionally, I know a fair few people for whom the stereotypical link between a 'gay voice' and homosexuality is a large part of how they express and make their homosexuality visible - something that is important to a lot of queer people. So you're not necessarily making life hard for those gay folks who have effeminate voices by associating them with homosexuality. Disassociating it might, though.
posted by Dysk at 11:42 AM on July 12, 2011


He is black rather than he is a black. Alternative: he is a black man.
She is gay rather than she is a gay. Alternative: she is a gay woman.
He is disabled rather than he is a disabled. Alternative: he is a disabled man.
She is transsexual rather than she is a transsexual. Alternative: she is a transsexual woman.

Even better is 'he is a man who is black' etc. By putting the attribute (black) first, you make it the most important part of the statement when it shouldn't be. Consider the difference between these:
  1. A disabled person
  2. A person with a disability.
I'm not much for 'PC' speech, but the order that we use words in often sends as strong a message as the words themselves.
posted by dg at 3:01 PM on July 12, 2011


Bob Dylang
Galang Galang
Took my penicillang
Galang Galang
posted by jtron at 5:42 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my experience, many disabled people do prefer that phrasing, as it happens.
posted by Dysk at 5:44 PM on July 12, 2011


People First!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2011


Sometimes when someone's venting a lot of anger in a thread there's a personal story behind it, and often people will open up about it if asked nicely. Sometimes when presented with a case of homophobia/racism/rape/(traumatizing event) people need to get emotional - and then realize they need to explain to everyone around them why they're so emphatic about it and what the personal involvement is. And often the greater the trauma, the longer a person might need to be angry over it or deal with it in some emotional way.

Not that this is always the explanation. But while it might not seem to further quiet discussion, it's often totally reasonable why there's some anger tied to some public figures and the causes they represent.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:54 AM on July 13, 2011


Ah, so it is a bit of a tone argument.

"Tone argument" seems to have followed the exact trajectory of "political correctness" as something that was a perfectly legitimate goal/statement/observation that was then over-used by all perspectives. It's now made its way into a shorthand dismissal that ends all productive discussion. Very unfortunate.
posted by phearlez at 10:49 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Tone argument" seems to have (in my limited viewpoint) come over here from other more contentious communities that were much more about specifically dealing with difficult issues frequently. In this sort of situation, being the person who is always going on about how exactly someone said something in the wrong way can be seen as frequently trying to undermine them and/or not pay attention to their actual argument. In that context it makes perfect sense.

However, ported over to MeFi where we actually do have some "how you said it matters" guidelines for conduct, it doesn't quite fit. I get why people say it, I understand why it is important to them, but you are absolutely allowed, here, to tell someone that you didn't like the way they said something and have that be a valid beginning to a discussion. Obviously, if you think people are doing this only to shut people down, by all means talk about that, but you are allowed to talk about the tone people take here and how it may or may not be conducive to discussion within a community. Saying something is a "tone argument" here is a road you're welcome to go down, but we don't all have the same associations with it and from a mod perspective, it's not a metric we use to moderate.

As I've said before, there is a different between saying "This thing made me angry" and acting out angrily on the site because of something someone said. There is a difference between saying "You said something that sounds racist" and venting on them because you think they are a racist. We're aware that this has the effect of restricting some forms of expression and on balance this is something we are okay with. People are welcome to discuss this if they think that's not okay with them or want to test the limits or whatever.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


As I understand it, the fallacy "tone argument" applies to is more:

Your *large group* isn't taken seriously because you always *some negative tone*.

It doesn't deny that people can be assholes, just points out that tone is not the reason for the problems.

If someone told you they won't accept liberalism because Keith Olbermann is loud and obnoxious, that's a tone argument. If you told Keith Olbermann you don't like his tone, that's just trying to get someone to be polite.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:48 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, that's super helpful to know, thanks fxg.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:59 AM on July 13, 2011


If someone says "people like you are degenerates who shouldn't be allowed to adopt children or get married" then yeah, I think that's bullying, even if that's not the intent.

Well, yeah, problem is that I've never seen anyone actually say this on MetaFilter, but I've seen plenty of comments responding to this very threat that are every bit as nasty - which would maybe make sense if the first hateful comment had been made in the first place, but since it wasn't, it's really a Whole Lotta GRAR About Nothing.
posted by sonika at 1:01 PM on July 13, 2011


I thought we were talking about responding to people like Bachmann and not generally other people on the site. That is the example you used. Talking about people on this site is a different story, because that comment would probably get deleted by the moderators, and because someone commenting on this site has a completely different impact on the world in general than someone who has a huge national stage from which to spread hatred and bigotry.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:00 PM on July 13, 2011


And my opinion about people being pleasant on the site--I think people should be much nicer in AskMe, and that people are generally fine on the other subsites. My preference for a kinder, gentler AskMe is not anything I expect to see reflected in actual moderation changes.

In terms of how we treat outside people, I don't think it's productive to worry that we're going to somehow entrench bigots in their bigotry or fail to change their minds because we're not nice enough. Nor do I worry about whether or not other Mefites harbor hatred in their heart of hearts, or whether they're empathetic enough, or anything like that. It's really not my business and it doesn't bum me out when I have evidence that other people aren't perfectly compassionate beings.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's productive to worry that we're going to somehow entrench bigots in their bigotry or fail to change their minds because we're not nice enough.

I think this post has wandered around a few subjects and it's pointless to do anything other than address specific people; some focus was on the Bachman thing specifically while sonika seemed more interested in talking about a general site-wide attitude.

So I can't say "I don't think that's what anyone is saying" because we've been all over the map and maybe someone did suggest that. But just responding to my concerns about this sort of thing I'll tell you the two that make me twitchy, since maybe to some people they look like worrying about bigots' feelings.

The Bachman things I'm twitchy about isn't hurting his feelings. Fuck him. He's causing harm, and if saying that to him and demonstrating it hurts his feelings or finances then I'm not going to worry about that one second more than I do hurting a corporation putting lead in baby formula. You might be well meaning or evil, I don't really care. I just need you to stop.

What makes me twitchy is using the immoral or harmful methods of my enemies. I'm not willing to destroy the village to save it. I'm not okay with mocking a gay hater for lisping because legitimizing those methods harms my allies and/or people I want to help. There are ways of winning that aren't worth it, and in this particular case it's not even like it's necessary. We're on a path of improvement, what with DADT challenges and more states recognizing gay marriage. To legitimize the action of connecting demeanor to sexuality in order to just beat up one clown isn't worth it.
posted by phearlez at 9:54 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


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