OCCUPY META November 17, 2011 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Per Request by the man himself... "Take it to MeTa"

It's really getting annoying having the threads being derailed over and over. I think the majority of people in the currently active Occupy thread are getting tired of being drawn into arguments that take away from the news updates and endless argument.

We have tried ignoring, and it worked for a while. Maybe it's just me. But I sense frustration amongst most of the participants of the thread.

So, as requested, I figured I'd do this.
posted by symbioid to MetaFilter-Related at 2:17 PM (214 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Yes, there's definitely somebody in there who is arguing in bad faith and is determined to derail the thread and take on all comers.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:20 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Much like the 84 years old that got teargassed, it's your fault and you deserve it. If you weren't in the thread, you wouldn't get frustrated.

/yep, that's how it's going.
posted by inigo2 at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


You just have to deal with the fact that not everyone agrees with you and is all "rah, rah".
posted by Jahaza at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Well I don't agree with BobbyVan's opinions either, but letting him post them in that thread is more or less what we're about here, no? You can engage him or not but I disagree that he's derailing the thread per se. A lot of people out there agree with him and I think its useful to hear those voices and hear the responses to them. Just my 2 cents.
posted by chaff at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a long, long thread - there are going to be some eddies and derails. It's still the best source of breaking news I've had RE: the protests, and the handful of trolls aren't bothering me that much.

Unless we're going to start screening people for critical thinking skills, rhetorical ability, or fascist tendencies, I think we just have to live with it.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do think BobbyVan has been hockey goalie style taking on all comers, and he may need to not post as much. I was defending him in another thread, but the one vs everyone else rarely works well, no matter how polite/impolite the poster is.
posted by zabuni at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]



Unless we're going to start screening people for critical thinking skills, rhetorical ability, or fascist tenancies, I think we just have to live with it.


PONY REQUEST! PONY REQUEST! When can we get this in?
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:24 PM on November 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Totally, I mean who needs dissenting opinions.
posted by JPD at 2:24 PM on November 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think its useful to hear those voices and hear the responses to them.

Yes. Up to a point. But even in a thread with 2000+ comments in it, harping on the same issues without constructive dialog is just noising up the thread. Make your point, maybe a few times even, but give it a rest already.
posted by ambrosia at 2:25 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


yeah it depends if the thread has a defined nature -- if it is a thread about "what's happening right now minute by minute", then it's a derail. if it's a thread about "there are some fairly significant protests going on in various US cities let's talk about it", then i don't necessarily see the derail yet -- BobbyV just has a different take on it than the majority of others in the thread, and that's not evidence of 'arguing in bad faith'.
posted by modernnomad at 2:25 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know how ya'll keep finding the strength and energy to keep arguing similar shit, over and over and over and over.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yes, there's definitely somebody in there who is arguing in bad faith and is determined to derail the thread and take on all comers.

Yeah, The Whelk, give it a rest already.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Poorly made arguments /=/ arguing in bad faith.
posted by JPD at 2:28 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


A long time ago I resolved to assume that those I engage online are sincere, speaking in good faith, and trying their best. I've enjoyed the internet 100% more since then.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:32 PM on November 17, 2011 [23 favorites]


Whatever, Stagger Lee.
posted by deanklear at 2:34 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a shitty call out.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:36 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


All kidding aside, I think the problem is that BobbyVan was making the same exact argument of guilt by association over and over again. It was tiring, but not too annoying.
posted by deanklear at 2:36 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


That thread is crazy busy in a way that makes it hard to really corral things normally. BobbyVan has definitely been sort of hitting that one note hard and often in there in a way that he could probably cool it a bit on, but more generally I think we need folks to just recognize that it's an odd and unusually busy thread and that taking a couple deep breaths is probably a good idea all around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:37 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just a quick note to post an apology for getting wrapped up in that yesterday and having a shitty post of mine rightfully deleted. Sorry about that.
posted by Big_B at 2:40 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"SOMEONE IS POSTING THINGS I DON'T AGREE WITH" != derail
posted by falameufilho at 2:41 PM on November 17, 2011 [22 favorites]


Derails only happen if we let them happen. If you don't want a thread turning into you and twenty people arguing with one dude, don't argue with that one dude. There's so much awesome in that thread (a huge portion of it from The Whelk) that its our own damn fault if we let it turn into berating somebody who has a minority opinion.

BobbyVan has a right to post what he posts. We have the right not to respond - especially if we firmly believe nothing we say is going to change his mind.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:48 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I like how that thread has turned into a The Whelk liveblog.
posted by demiurge at 2:50 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah. I think (and have already posted in the thread) that BobbyVan's opinion is crazy and borderline offensive, but I don't think he should be silenced though any means other than ignoring, which I am doing my damnest to do.
posted by flaterik at 2:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing I've learned from the people at the core of OWS for close to two months now is that the people who are actively arguing against you or seeking to define you, no matter how loud their voice and loud their platform is, *do not matter*. I've tried to apply that to metafilter threads as well to good effect. Don't let the people you are arguing with define the rules of engagement. Don't force yourself to ignore them, just recognize them as a distraction and background noise that doesn't qualify as worth engaging with because they have nothing to offer you. not always great at this but getting better
posted by stagewhisper at 2:55 PM on November 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


Ambrosia, point taken. I agree that I've probably posted a few too many comments in that thread. I've made the same point several times over in a few instances, so I accept that critique.

As far as the "take on all comers" perception goes... When an unpopular dissenting view is met with dozens of replies, some of them thoughtful and deserving of an answer from me (indeed, many commenters have challenged me directly to answer their questions), I try to respond. I'd probably be criticized for not rising to the challenge if I didn't.

Pointing out the crazies in a particular movement is a pretty common thing on Metafilter, with entire FPP's devoted to the antics of lunatics on the political right. I'm pretty sure that if I didn't post the story about the Occupy Portland kids with the homemade bombs, or the videos of the guy calling for the firebombing of Macy's, or the guy calling for solidarity with the person arrested for shooting at the White House, no one else would have. Those facts are inconvenient, and may be outliers... but in my opinion they're legitimate, very public problems for the movement, as other commenters in the main thread have pointed out.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:55 PM on November 17, 2011 [23 favorites]


Yeah, The Whelk, give it a rest already.

This all over the place.
posted by Avenger50 at 2:56 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about that Blarneyphoto or whatever it's called troll. I don't agree with BobbyVan, but I don't think there's anything wrong with his comments.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:57 PM on November 17, 2011


There are times when I actually really like a contrarian point of view around here. Not because I like the fighting, but because it helps me to focus and refine my point of view in a way that isn't quite as needed when everyone agrees.

That said, there are times when it really seems that it goes too far and gets tiresome. There are a lot of things I disagree with people here about, and I try to make it a point to express those opinions, clarify my thoughts for anyone who has questions, and then let it drop. My job isn't to bring anyone around to my point of view and taking over a thread to keep reiterating and reinforcing my point is not a role I would enjoy, nor do I care for it when others take on the task.
posted by quin at 2:58 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan, I actually agree with that point, but it's seemed like you're using it for justification of police actions. That is what has ME riled, and I doubt I'm the only one.
posted by flaterik at 3:00 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Beware the "people I disagree with have nothing to offer me" mindset
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:00 PM on November 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


stagewhisper: "One thing I've learned from the people at the core of OWS for close to two months now is that the people who are actively arguing against you or seeking to define you, no matter how loud their voice and loud their platform is, *do not matter*."

That sounds suspiciously like a cult.
posted by falameufilho at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


A little torn on The Welk issue- he's not been blogging from the streets but instead from in front of the llivestream, but that's helpful certainly for people at work or elsewhere who can't watch a live feed. He's also contributing some great links and twitter updates. The extra chatter though is burying other voices and making the thread move so fast that I think other people who have information to share because they have contacts on the ground (I can't be the only one here) are getting buried and drowned out. So, I love ya dude but maybe slow the flow?
posted by stagewhisper at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


goddamn can we get a new OWS thread? This one is killing my browswer and it seems like some shit is going on.

I realize my anti-pagination stance from a few days ago may seem a bit rich at this point
posted by Think_Long at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Anti-protester information is not hard to find, if people don't post it it might be because you can consult any mainstream news source to find it. The discussion in that thread has mostly been about the livestream which gets you right there on the action without the filter.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:03 PM on November 17, 2011


(I was joking about The Whelk, he is doing fine)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:03 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Remember that time BobbyVan compared Julian Assange to the Unabomber?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:10 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Trifecta is complete.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:11 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't force yourself to ignore them, just recognize them as a distraction and background noise that doesn't qualify as worth engaging with because they have nothing to offer you.

So when exactly does an opposing voice have something to offer?
posted by Avenger50 at 3:12 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Those facts are inconvenient, and may be outliers... but in my opinion they're legitimate, very public problems for the movement, as other commenters in the main thread have pointed out.

Only if you believe in guilt by association. Concerning the Tea Party, the usual collection of disturbed individuals latching on to a larger movement isn't what disturbed me. It's that their political leaders seemed to be egging them on with hateful speech.

There are lunatics everywhere, even within OWS, but the vast, vast majority of the crowd is trying to break up fights and stop violence, not cause it. For the most part, you're just concern trolling, and not pointing out proposed principles that you are against. To me, that's the difference between having an honest conversation and continuing to pretend that there's a violent element to OWS because some lunatics use that as their excuse.
posted by deanklear at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about that Blarneyphoto or whatever it's called troll.

I don't know why I hate it so much, and to be fair it doesn't happen that much here, but the 'turning someones name into a derogatory thing' annoys the shit out of me. If you have a problem with someone's opinions or behaviour say so and make that your focus. Making a play on someone's name is just a derail and another form of trolling and it's fucking childish playground stuff.
posted by Elmore at 3:18 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


That sounds suspiciously like a cult.

"You know who else liked controlling the message instead of letting other people control it?"

So when exactly does an opposing voice have something to offer?

When they're actually arguing in good faith.

But I love that this thread is headed towards becoming concern trolls saying "gosh, don't you people care about what concern trolls have to say?" It's the perfect level of meta-meta for Metatalk.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:19 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


There was some discussion about BobbyVan, inexplicably, in the ArtW leaving thread. Reposting from there re: complaints that conservative viewpoints on MetaFilter were held to a higher standard of clarity than non-conservative viewpoints (which may well be true, FSVO conservative), having reread the Giffords threads to make sure I wasn't repeating content in an FPP:

We're not talking about poor phrasing in this case, though. We're talking about a particular set of recurring rhetorical behaviors: linking to unreasonable responses by lefties (redux), claiming to be on your side, really, with just a few concessions demanded (redux), highlighting unacceptable behavior by apparent victims of violence (redux, but sort of passim, really), then congratulating the congresswoman/pepper-sprayed octogenarian on her pluck, while suggesting she shouldn't be there in the first place (redux). Oh, and suggesting that people not following his line are "waving the bloody shirt" (a remarkably gutsy metaphor considering someone had just been shot in the head, but whatever) or hysterical.

MetaFilter may have a problem with good-faith expression of conservative viewpoints, but that's not what we're discussing here. We're discussing a procession through a track of non sequiturs and derails, claiming to offer helpful advice while dismissing and insulting. Incivility in responding to well-framed conservative viewpoints may be a problem MetaFilter has (in common with other sites with a prevailing political culture). However, confirmation bias in establishing what constitutes a well-framed conservative viewpoint is also something worth keeping a weather eye on.

***

In this particular case, he's not really doing any harm, and he's kind of funny - he appears now to have declared war on piles of books as illegal and dangerous - but this is just what he does. Presumably he gets something out of it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:20 PM on November 17, 2011 [18 favorites]


mstokes650: "But I love that this thread is headed towards becoming concern trolls saying "gosh, don't you people care about what concern trolls have to say?" It's the perfect level of meta-meta for Metatalk."

This has nothing to do with concern trolling. It's about people stating as clearly as possible that dissent should be ignored as background noise. And you implied people who disagree with the sanctity of OWS are trolls who want godwin discussions. C'mon.
posted by falameufilho at 3:23 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, BobbyVan, are you going to march in the streets like you said you would yesterday?

Because this, to me, seems like a pattern of institutional violence
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:23 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's sad when the world of computer games is a lot less awful than the real world (on the internet). I going back to Skyrim, where trolls are trolls.
posted by Elmore at 3:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


So when exactly does an opposing voice have something to offer?

Honestly? Not until both "sides" realize they shouldn't be opposing in the first place. The world doesn't exist in us vs them, black vs white, good vs evil, right vs wrong terms, but as a species we're really good at trying to see it that way.
posted by davejay at 3:27 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't seem to go beyond the bounds of having his say from what I've read of the thread. Though I must ask, when will pb introduce the neck-shots-for-dissidents feature I've been demanding for so long?
posted by Abiezer at 3:30 PM on November 17, 2011


(If anyone feels like a holiday in Skyrim, btw, these holiday snaps are pretty amazing.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:32 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


So when exactly does an opposing voice have something to offer?
I said nothing about ignoring opposing viewpoints or contrary points of view. Please do not misrepresent what I said. When are they worth listening to? When it's an intelligent, or honest, non-reactionary voice. When it's part of a dialog rather than a talking point. Or, for example, when it's a question that does not misrepresent my words.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:34 PM on November 17, 2011


stagewhisper: "Please do not misrepresent what I said. When are they worth listening to? When it's an intelligent, or honest, non-reactionary voice."

This is rather different from what you said originally, sorry.

"One thing I've learned from the people at the core of OWS for close to two months now is that the people who are actively arguing against you or seeking to define you, no matter how loud their voice and loud their platform is, *do not matter*."

Also, "non-reactionary voice" is a loaded word, since OWS supporters (following a historical trend in the revolutionary mindset, actually) tend to qualify everyone who disagrees as reactionaries.
posted by falameufilho at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2011


You just have to deal with the fact that not everyone agrees with you and is all "rah, rah".

No one's upset about "ohh, boohoo, they don't AGREEEEE WITH ME!"

It's when two people start attacking each other in the thread about those views, regardless of what those views are, that gets tiresome. They could have been arguing about foot powder.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:47 PM on November 17, 2011


(If anyone feels like a holiday in Skyrim, btw, these holiday snaps are pretty amazing.)

This windmill is unconvincing, it looks like someone who didn't know much about postmills mocked it up on a computer.
posted by biffa at 3:53 PM on November 17, 2011


oh, the irony.
posted by lalex at 3:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I love that this thread is headed towards becoming concern trolls saying "gosh, don't you people care about what concern trolls have to say?" It's the perfect level of meta-meta for Metatalk.

Using the words, "concern trolls" says you aren't willing to address an argument. I don't know crap about the thread in question, but address arguments, don't just label and walk away.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Gold Bond SUX
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:55 PM on November 17, 2011


Gold Bond SUX

Whoah! Hold on there now! Ever for the sake of a joke, there is no need to get crazy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:56 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Using the words, "concern trolls" says you aren't willing to address an argument

No, it says that you think the argument in question is not being made in good faith, and thus it is not worth wasting your time and energy to address it. Concern troll has a very specific meaning, and it's perfectly appropriate in this case.
posted by dialetheia at 4:04 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Look, I can understand getting frustrated with BobbyVan's points, especially since they're ones that seem to get brought up in every OWS discussion anywhere on the internet, but he's been pretty coolheaded and responsive to the replies people have given him, and calling him a troll or loudly declaring that he has nothing to say and you're going to ignore him is not a very good way to handle it. I think a lot of people are getting frustrated because most of what he's saying is very similar to the arguments that always get trotted out against OWS, but I see nothing that indicates bad faith on his part.
posted by kagredon at 4:07 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


ryanshepard: screening people for critical thinking skills, rhetorical ability, or fascist tendencies

Stagger Lee: screening people for critical thinking skills, rhetorical ability, or fascist tenancies

This kind of thing is disproportionately disturbing. It's like witnessing a glitch in the matrix.
posted by stebulus at 4:08 PM on November 17, 2011


I think a lot of people are getting frustrated because most of what he's saying is very similar to the arguments that always get trotted out against OWS

...while at the same time he leaps on the cross about how nobody would be bringing up these totally subversive points otherwise when we are all well aware.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:09 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assume his meaning is that nobody would be bringing up those points here at Metafilter.
posted by sweetkid at 4:10 PM on November 17, 2011


...which is fine since we are all already well aware. It is not the implied pro-OWS anti-tea party bias.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:12 PM on November 17, 2011


This kind of thing is disproportionately disturbing. It's like witnessing a glitch in the matrix.

Bleh, sorry, didn't see the quote before I edited (at ryanshepard's request, of course.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:18 PM on November 17, 2011


This windmill is unconvincing

*Tilts*
posted by Elmore at 4:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Concern troll has a very specific meaning, and it's perfectly appropriate in this case.

No, because I was genuinely asking. And i was also genuinely answered. Not by you, of course.

It's just creepy when people say they ignore other opinions on principle, this thread or any other thread. I really try to do the opposite.
posted by Avenger50 at 4:29 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The word TROLL stopped having any real precise meaning the moment it beck a conversational cudgel we seem to feel we need to whip out every time someone is singleminded or a bit over zealous in their pursuit of a particular point. The phrase NOT IN GOOD FAITH is sort of a sly way to imply that each conversation has a precise set of rules which, if broken, invalidate a person's right to be part of the discussion. There probably are such rules, at least on some level, but one gets the impression that people throw out the phrase "not in good faith" every time they fail to convince someone after they feel they've presented plenty of persuasive facts. The term "derail" is similarly well on its way to becoming meaningless, too.

I kind of wish we could drop these loaded words and be direct about it.
posted by koeselitz at 4:32 PM on November 17, 2011 [20 favorites]


I just read a bunch of that thread. I disagree with a lot of What BobbyVan is saying there, but I found the discussion to be really good and not very antagonistic at all. If you have a problem with someone disagreeing with you on MetaFilter, I don't think you really have a right to complain about it.
posted by auto-correct at 4:34 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I kind of wish we could drop these loaded words and be direct about it

I agree, but I think this is a pony no one can mount, unfortunately.
posted by Elmore at 4:36 PM on November 17, 2011


Look, I can understand getting frustrated with BobbyVan's points, especially since they're ones that seem to get brought up in every OWS discussion anywhere on the internet, but he's been pretty coolheaded and responsive to the replies people have given him, and calling him a troll or loudly declaring that he has nothing to say and you're going to ignore him is not a very good way to handle it.

A concern troll is not quite the same thing as a troll. From the link out:
Someone who posts to an internet forum or newsgroup, claiming to share its goals while deliberately working against those goals, typically, by claiming "concern" about group plans to engage in productive activity, urging members instead to attempt some activity that would damage the group's credibility, or alternatively to give up on group projects entirely.
Presumably, this is in reference to statements like:

You need to think shit out a little bit more. Let the girl get arrested and continue on your march. Don't give the cops an excuse to shut the whole thing down. Unless that's your ultimate objective...

or

I'll stand with you on this. Neither Palin, nor Beck, nor Angle, nor most of the Tea Party/Fox News crowd speak for me on most issues. And when they do speak out I mostly cringe and worry about the deterioration of our discourse.

But to make this demand for "civil behavior" in Congresswoman's Giffords name, without any evidence of a connection between the two, is at best a non-sequitor, and at worst an indecent exploitation of a mass murder for your own political ends.


A concern troll is someone who is on your side, but is concerned that you just come across as too angry/haven't thought this part through/have made a mistake about this, but if you address this one concern, they will absolutely support you. And then there's just this other thing that you need to look at, and so on. I think many quote-unquote concern trolls have no idea that this is what they are doing - personally, I think someone can be de facto concern trolling in entirely good faith, and sincerely think that you are giving good advice or necessary correctives.

However, I'm not sure what this callout is for. It's fun to talk about talking, but this clearly isn't something that moderators are going to get involved in - trying to shove MetaFilter's Overton window to the right is not a moderator issue, as far as I can tell. It feels like a somewhat doomed enterprise, but you've got to have a hobby, right?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:36 PM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one that thought "the man" was going to be mathowie?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:38 PM on November 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


running order squabble fest, I agree; and I think you just successfully explained why "concern troll" is a misleading term. Maybe it'd be better if people didn't use it.
posted by koeselitz at 4:40 PM on November 17, 2011


"Concern troll" is not my favorite term because, as running order squabble fest points out, it really describes a behavior pattern that's independent of intent, whereas "troll" is generally used to describe a set of motivations. Neither one work all that well if they're conflated with one another.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2011


Am I the only one that thought "the man" was going to be mathowie?

Nope, but we are "the simpletons" so it is not surprising.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:57 PM on November 17, 2011


This has nothing to do with concern trolling. It's about people stating as clearly as possible that dissent should be ignored as background noise. And you implied people who disagree with the sanctity of OWS are trolls who want godwin discussions. C'mon.

Ok, first, since Ironmouth also seems to also not understand that when I talk about concern trolling, let's be clear that I have a very specific and concrete meaning:

Using the words, "concern trolls" says you aren't willing to address an argument.

Concern trolling is taking a stance for purposes of trolling ("so what's trolling?" I'll get to that in a bit) under the guise of caring about what's best for the subject under discussion - in this case, the Occupy protests. For a common Occupy-specific example, arguing that the Occupiers should protest in ways that don't stress city budgets with all that police overtime pay. Or repeatedly bringing up random wingnuts in Occupy WestGodKnowsWhere out of "concern" that those wingnuts will damage the movement - when in fact more "damage" is done by repeatedly trying to use those guilt-by-association arguments. Read the thread, Ironmouth, and you will see an awful lot of posters who seem to imply, with their arguments, that they think the best, least-alienating thing Occupy Wall Street could do is to just all go home and go back to business as usual. But they totally support OWS, honest.

Second: "Dissent" is different from "people who are actively arguing against you or seeking to define you" (emphasis mine; control over the narrative is a *huge deal* in modern politics but that's a whole long side-rant that would probably end up drawing in that awesome Inglorious Basterds thread too). I draw a clear distinction between arguing "with" someone/something and arguing "against" someone/something. Arguing with the methods of OWS in a rational manner is totally fine; just shouting loudly that OWS is a bunch of anti-capitalist hippies who want to implement [horrors beyond imagining], or who all want to set off pipe bombs in kindergartens, or whatever else you can come up with, is fine too (freedom of speech absolutist here, yes), but the OWS protesters and supporters would be well-advised in that latter case to totally ignore you and expend their energy on spreading their own narrative rather than countering yours. And that was how I read the advice that stagewhisper was giving.

What I'm getting at is that while I believe all viewpoints should be able to be heard, not all viewpoints necessarily need to be addressed. Bringing up the same viewpoint over and over, demanding it be addressed? This is the point where you start to stray into trolling - just making your argument wasn't enough, you need to get a reaction. (This is where I personally define "trolling&quot: as basically any piece of internet posting where you care more about the reaction you get than you do about just saying your piece.) Do so under the guise of just caring so very much, and you're concern trolling.

In my "ideal" version of that thread, we have the they-brought-the-cops-on-themselves-with their-drumming argument once and ignore it afterwards or direct people to read the earlier thread; we have the guilt-by-association argument the *first* time someone posts the "OccupyLakeWoebegone: Home to Anarchist Cannibal Cabal?" link, and then the next umpteen "OccupyStorybrook: Home to Sex-Crazed Satanists?" links could all just be quietly ignored unless there's really a genuinely different argument to be made about them. But so it goes. FWIW I've found BobbyVan to be pretty reasonable, willing to not only articulate real arguments but also to take a step back, take deep breaths and recognize when his contributions are starting to stray into being more noise than signal, so a lot of this is not particularly directed at him. Really overall I've seen lots worse Metafilter threads around here than that one.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:57 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


But to make this demand for "civil behavior" in Congresswoman's Giffords name, without any evidence of a connection between the two, is at best a non-sequitor, and at worst an indecent exploitation of a mass murder for your own political ends.


Haven't seen the context but this sounds utterly reasonable. Am I a "concern troll" if I believe making political points based on appeals to emotion ("won't someone think of the children??") is wrong, even when done in the service of causes I agree with?
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:11 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing I've learned from the people at the core of OWS for close to two months now is that the people who are actively arguing against you or seeking to define you, no matter how loud their voice and loud their platform is, *do not matter*.

That is simultaneously the most fascinating and the most bizarre thing I've read in a long time.

If you take that stance, are you saying you're not willing to engage in any discourse at all? How will you know when you've achieved your goals, if you won't talk to anyone that doesn't slavishly agree with you? Someone above said it sounded like a cult. I can see that point.

Where else would you see this kind of thinking? Fashion and art. I'm sure Lady Gaga doesn't care one whit what I think of the dress made out of meat. I'm sure Picasso didn't give a shit what anyone thought of his paintings.

So, is OWS a protest? Or is it a fashion statement?

Bizarre. Fascinating. But bizarre.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:12 PM on November 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


To me people shouting "concern troll" just sounds like a demand for utter orthodoxy- if you disagree on any point or method whatsoever you are not "one of us." Kind of reminds me of volunteering in 2008 and the shocked looks I'd get for not 1000% agreeing with every single thing "BaracK" did and said.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:12 PM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Did not mean to capitalize that "K" in case anyone thought it was some kind of weird statement. Just saying people who had never met the man called him by his first name in a cultish manner that freaked me out, even as someone who was a strong supporter at the time.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:14 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


yes, that is exactly what I meant mstokes. Thanks for the much more clear and eloquent explanation.
posted by stagewhisper at 5:16 PM on November 17, 2011


Thanks for that incredible postmodern reading of my statement Cool Papa Bell. I believe I've finally arrived as an artist.
posted by stagewhisper at 5:21 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you take that stance, are you saying you're not willing to engage in any discourse at all?

Struck me as a fairly bog-standard point about social movements - when you have achieved enough momentum, you'd needn't concern yourself with countering every nay-sayer.
posted by Abiezer at 5:30 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


stagewhisper: "yes, that is exactly what I meant mstokes. Thanks for the much more clear and eloquent explanation."

Yeah, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you made an improper choice of words but what you actually meant to write was what mstokes said. Because what you actually wrote is a completely different thing, mstokes mental gymnastics notwithstanding.

Cool Papa Bell's comment above has an interesting take on your original statement.
posted by falameufilho at 5:39 PM on November 17, 2011


Where else would you see this kind of thinking? Fashion and art. I'm sure Lady Gaga doesn't care one whit what I think of the dress made out of meat. I'm sure Picasso didn't give a shit what anyone thought of his paintings.

To be fair, I doubt that people of equivalent stature to Lady Gaga in politics, medicine or technology care a huge amount about what you or I think of their endeavors, either. Unless one of us is Bill Gates, which I guess is possible.

[As an aside, since this isn't likely to go anywhere and we may as well start wandering off the point, I am sort of surprised at how often and easily people call each other trolls around here. I've thought of it previously as an accusation that either the accused or the accuser really doesn't come back from - if someone calls you a troll, it means that you are actively and maliciously seeking to damage the quality of discussion for your own entertainment, and that they wanted you banned. And, by the same token, a frivolous accusation of trolling was a serious misprision. Whereas here it often seems to mean "I disagree with you, and I am irritated". People call each other trolls, and nothing happens.

Maybe it's the old joke about why academic arguments are so heated and vitriolic - moderation is light, and people are not banned, generally, as a result of accusations of trolling (at least, I've never seen it happen), since trolling is by its nature hard to distinguish from being opinionated, abrasive, inattentive, drunk or any number of other non-bannable behaviors. So, it's a pretty safe bit of invective, but one which still retains some of its historical force.]
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:52 PM on November 17, 2011


Derail now joins troll as a catch-all phrase meaning something or someone the person using the word doesn't like. It's like those people who call any political position they don't like "socialism"!

It's not a derail just because you don't agree with it and don't want to talk about it.
posted by Justinian at 5:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


So, um, it sounds like people are saying that if you use certain words that imply that someone else is participating in bad faith--like troll, concern troll, derail--then you yourself are participating in bad faith... is that right?

But more importantly, does that mean that the people who are saying that are metatrolls? Hipstatrolls? Concern hipstas? Filtertrolls?
posted by overglow at 6:13 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Protestors protesting oppression oppressors: news at 11.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


is that right?

Nope! I don't think people are consciously aware of what they're doing, therefore they can't be said to be doing it in bad faith. The folks who call people trolls at the drop of a hat actually believe the people they are calling trolls are, in fact, trolls. Hard as that may be to believe.
posted by Justinian at 6:22 PM on November 17, 2011


It's not a derail just because you don't agree with it and don't want to talk about it.


Derail has a force in moderation, though - you can flag something as a derail, at which point presumably a moderator looks at it and judges whether or not it is, in their opinion, a derail and then takes appropriate action.

I think the other difference is that "derail" describes a post or series of posts, whereas "troll" describes a person. "You are a troll" generally means "your character is such that you employ methods detrimental to the community you belong to in order to get attention or amusement". "This is a derail" means "this post or series of posts is an (accidental or deliberate) diversion from the topic under discussion". It's relatively impersonal and situational. I guess "you are trolling" is halfway between those points... someone might be trolling (a particular person or thread) for a particular reason, but not be (persistently or fundamentally) a troll.

But I take your point - logically, every time someone says "this is a derail", they should be flagging the post as a derail, and by the same token every time someone says "you are a troll", they should really be opening a thread in MetaTalk. It's probably a good thing that doesn't happen, though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:30 PM on November 17, 2011


"Concern trolling" only makes sense in the context of an explicitly ideologically allied community like Daily Kos, where it's assumed that everyone is 'on the same side', politically. There should be no such expectation here, so accusations of concern trolling are rather pointless.
posted by empath at 6:48 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is simultaneously the most fascinating and the most bizarre thing I've read in a long time.

Sounds like a variation on "Lead, follow or get out of the way" to me.
posted by empath at 6:51 PM on November 17, 2011


"every time someone says "you are a troll", they should really be opening a thread in MetaTalk."

The mods work hard enough, without having dozens of these finger-pointing exercises shoved in their faces, every day. There's already more than a sensible amount of caterwauling about the behaviour of those pesky others not exactly like me around here. No need to be opening yet another new meta. This tiny contact form is the best avenue for interacting with the admins. Seriously.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2011


Not really empath, you can concern troll a group even if they aren't the only or dominant group present in a discussion. It's a question of intent to me.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:44 PM on November 17, 2011


As it plays out more often than not on certain issues on Mefi...

Troll: someone with a dissenting opinion who reacts after being piled on.

Concern troll: someone with a dissenting opinion who refuses to react and continues discussing in a civil tone despite having a 1:4 comment:response ratio for every post, half of which are snipes or sarcasm.
posted by stp123 at 7:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I've always assumed that concern troll really did require bad faith, such as someone who is critical of feminists making an argument that if they were less "shrill", they'd be taken more seriously. Well, that's the "tone" argument...but what I was aiming for was someone on the opposite side of the debate offering apparently constructive advice that is really a criticism in disguise. It's a way of being critical while appearing to be friendly, and because these sorts of criticisms are lightning rods for debate—just as the "tone argument" is—then the discussion derails into in-fighting, which is presumably the concern troll's purpose.

Without an assumption of at least subconscious bad-faith, then "concern trolling" could be any dissenting opinion among otherwise like-minded people. If the definition is unmoored from an assumption of bad-faith, then the accusation of concern trolling becomes the equally evil inverse of concern trolling. It stifles well-intended, constructive views that are not in accordance with whomever (successfully) acts as the arbiter of consensus. That's a bad thing and I've seen accusations of concern trolling work exactly in this way, to the detriment of discourse among obviously well-intentioned and like-minded people.

With an assumption of bad-faith, then concern trolling is obviously primarily intended to be disruptive...not unintentionally so and only as an unfortunate side-effect.

And here's the thing: bad-faith is much, much more likely in the cases where something that behaves like concern trolling comes from someone who is self-evidently not like-minded, someone who is on the opposite side of the debate. This isn't by itself determinative, but it's strongly suggestive.

In my almost thirty years on online services and the Internet, I have seen very, very, very, very few people who engage with what is to them an opposition majority community in a good-faith and constructive manner. Back in the day, I used to defend Dios because, in relative terms, I think he was closer to being a good-faith conservative contrarian to MeFi culture than not. But I won't go so far as to say that his presence here was entirely in good-faith. I am extremely suspicious of anyone who spends time being a contrarian lightning rod in a community that has beliefs/opinions largely in opposition to their own. If I've seen ten good-faith, constructive contrarians in thirty years (and that's generous), then I've seen at least a hundred bad-faith contrarians for each one of those ten.

One reason for this is that whatever it is that the good-faith contrarians think they're going to accomplish is exceedingly unlikely. People rarely change their minds during a discussion, not about key points that involve their core beliefs. The good-faith contrarians rarely get positive reinforcement for their efforts. But the bad-faith contrarians? They constantly get positive reinforcement for their efforts, assuming that they want to increase discord and enjoy angry argument and attention for its own sake.

Because of this, I think it's entirely reasonable that these contrarians, good- or bad-faith varieties, are held to a higher standard of behavior than are the like-minded. And, believe me, I'm about as allergic to preaching to the choir and conformance to the majority and all that implies as anyone. What I want is a diverse community of ideas, respected and respectfully discussed and tolerated to everyone's mutual benefit. But I've been around the block a few times. A few hundred times. And, you know, those kinds of environments are extremely rare and extremely fragile and the Internet is just about the last place where they are likely to flourish. So, you know, the reality is that it's entirely justified to wonder exactly why someone beats the opposing political drum in a 2000+ comment thread on a hot-button topic, and why they do the same in numerous other similar threads.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:55 PM on November 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Making a play on someone's name is just a derail and another form of trolling and it's fucking childish playground stuff.

Fair enough. That guy's still a bunch of bad faith bullshit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:55 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It appears this meta lacks the phrase "flag him and move on".
posted by jeffburdges at 8:02 PM on November 17, 2011


Here, this is the gold standard of what concern trolling is:

In his weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove has written about how Obama is jeopardizing his chances for re-election by appearing too liberal or too populist, and that if he doesn't change his ways he'll turn off independent and "blue collar" voters.

Karl Rove is not actually concerned that Obama is going to jeopardize his chances, and given his motivations and personal goals we can't trust that he is really giving us what he thinks is the best advice...which is to be conservative.

I don't think concern trolling is the right word for what Bobby is doing, but I already went over what I thought of that in the other thread so I'll leave it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:03 PM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, that Rove example is perfect.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:05 PM on November 17, 2011


Concern trolling is like pornography. Hard to explicitly define at times but when you see it you know what it is.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:13 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my almost thirty years on online services and the Internet, I have seen very, very, very, very few people who engage with what is to them an opposition majority community in a good-faith and constructive manner.

Yeah - where you do see that is in small communities where everyone knows each other (virtually or IRL) or, sometimes, in the "off topic" sections of forums that are dedicated to something else entirely. But the point is they've bonded over something else.
posted by furiousthought at 8:24 PM on November 17, 2011


No, it says that you think the argument in question is not being made in good faith

The fact that you think an argument isn't being made in good faith based on the fact you disagree with it does not make it so.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 PM on November 17, 2011


Is it in good faith to suggest disagreement was the only criteria there? I think you should assume that in good faith dialetheia believes that the linked definition applies.

(Internet slang) Someone who posts to an internet forum or newsgroup, claiming to share its goals while deliberately working against those goals, typically, by claiming "concern" about group plans to engage in productive activity, urging members instead to attempt some activity that would damage the group's credibility, or alternatively to give up on group projects entirely.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:19 PM on November 17, 2011


> I am extremely suspicious of anyone who spends time being a contrarian lightning rod in a community that has beliefs/opinions largely in opposition to their own.

The thing is MetaFilter is not primarily a political site, even though we have political discussions here. It's entirely possible for someone who's political views aren't completely in step with majority or plurality on the site to join the site and generally enjoy participating here for exactly the same reasons the rest of us do; people post links to neat stuff here, and the discussions can be interesting.

Political threads have to be a lot less fun for people with divergent views, even if they do throw their two cents in occasionally; I don't think most people like being a lightning-rod for other people's hate. But I don't think we have to assume that everyone who has political views that diverge from that mainstream of the group and occasionally expresses them joined the site solely for the purpose of trolling American liberals.
posted by nangar at 10:37 PM on November 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


Ditto Nangar. Good comment.
posted by cribcage at 10:43 PM on November 17, 2011


"Political threads have to be a lot less fun for people with divergent views, even if they do throw their two cents in occasionally; I don't think most people like being a lightning-rod for other people's hate. But I don't think we have to assume that everyone who has political views that diverge from that mainstream of the group and occasionally expresses them joined the site solely for the purpose of trolling American liberals."

"Occasionally expresses them" is one thing, being primarily active in political threads as the contrarian is quite another. Frankly, being consistently active in political threads as the contrarian is quite another. If the controversy finds them in an otherwise non-political thread, that's fine. If they seek out the controversy, that's not as fine and is very suggestive.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:18 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that's the most poisonous thing I've read on this website, Ivan Fyodorovich, well done.
posted by joannemullen at 12:24 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:30 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't it be a good idea to allow for a new Occupy thread soon? The old one is the size of Vänern and about as far off the frontpage as Jokkmokk is from Ystad.
posted by klue at 2:05 AM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am concerned.
posted by spitbull at 3:39 AM on November 18, 2011


I'm here for the poisoning.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:08 AM on November 18, 2011


Ivan Fyodorovich: This would make more sense if people were contrarian regardless of the dominant political agenda. Given the usually left leaning nature of metafilter threads, condemning people for being consistently contrarian is condemning them for having a consistent political viewpoint which is at odds with the majority. I wouldn't go as far as to call this "poisonous", but as a viewpoint uncontextualised from the culture, it is damaging.

I wonder if you have the same opinion of people who consistently agree with the dominant beliefs expressed in political threads.
posted by seanyboy at 4:09 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would have more sympathy with the people who called out trolls, concern trolls and derailers if there was *any* evidence that anyone had ever been called out when the "trollish" behaviour was against someone like Bobby Van.

People like to give the impression that they're on the search for behaviour which damages polite discourse, but my overwhelming feeling is that they are on the lookout for people they disagree with.

The only thing that stops me from expressing this sentiment in a ruder, more angry way is the feeling that people don't realise that they're doing it. You need (dickish behaviour + ideological difference) to invoke peoples rage, and as a consequence dickish behaviour on its own gets a bit more of a pass.

The consequence of this behaviour (however subconscious) is a tendency towards an ideological hegemony. We drive away those that disagree. Of course, once that aim is achieved, we can go about further reducing the sensitivity we have to incorrect behaviour. In controversial areas where the "correct" approach has been solved, I see a tendency to narrow the range of acceptable behaviour even further.

There's part of me that's interested in how narrow a behavioural range we can enforce on the site, but there's also a part of me that's deeply concerned about the biodiversity of the site.

If I were to propose a solution, it would be this. If you disagree with someone, they're expressing a minority position and they're trolling, give them some latitude. If they're expressing a majority opinion and the level of discourse is lacking in grace, then consider flagging that comment.
posted by seanyboy at 4:27 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I've always assumed that concern troll really did require bad faith, such as someone who is critical of feminists making an argument that if they were less "shrill", they'd be taken more seriously. Well, that's the "tone" argument...but what I was aiming for was someone on the opposite side of the debate offering apparently constructive advice that is really a criticism in disguise. It's a way of being critical while appearing to be friendly, and because these sorts of criticisms are lightning rods for debate—just as the "tone argument" is—then the discussion derails into in-fighting, which is presumably the concern troll's purpose.

This is all no doubt true in some or many cases, but I've come to think of motivation as increasingly a side-road in these situations. As soon as the argument becomes about somebody's intention, it becomes effectively impossible to prove one way or another. So, really, it has to be about impact.

The tone argument is a good example. I think a lot of the people who deploy a variation of the tone argument are totally sincere in their belief that they are trying to give useful advice (often to women or members of ethnic minorities) about how they can be more convincing. I think that in almost all cases their belief is misguided - that there will never be a tone gentle or conciliatory enough for them actually to take the message on board, because they don't like the message, and as such it will always sound strident and aggressive to them. But people can be sincere in a mistaken belief about their own reactions and emotions.

I'd say the same probably applies to concern trolling. Some people are probably behaving like agents provocateurs, with a plot to infiltrate the ranks and give bad advice, or to create internal strife. Others, however, just think, sincerely, that they are smarter and better able to understand a movement than the people actually in it. And are also assuming that the ideal state for a movement or an idea is to have them on board. The concern troll who says he or she would absolutely get on board with the ideals of Slutwalk if the marchers didn't insist on dressing so slutty is certainly a de facto concern troll, but may well be totally sincere in the belief that Slutwalk should have his or her endorsement high on its list of priorities. And there's not a huge amount to be gained by psychoanalyzing people online to try to work out if they are insincere or sincere when de facto trolling, IMHO.

That said, I think the situation with BobbyVan is slightly different, in that he is ideologically or factionally aligned with the Tea Party, but aware that the Tea Party is something that MetaFilter is generally anaphylactic about. So, he spends a lot of time saying things like "I'm no member of the Tea Party, but you have to concede that the Tea Party had lovely orderly marches and tidied up after themselves", or "I would absolutely march in the front ranks if the SPD police were acting unreasonably, but there is no possible way the SPD police could be acting unreasonably, and to prove it here is a link to somebody at Occupy Spokane saying a swear". I suspect he is doing this in the belief that it makes him more convincing, whereas in fact it looks kind of demented from the outside. However, one can only really speculate with confidence on how it looks, rather than the motivations within.

Of course, as people get more agitated, the distance between feeling and expression often seems to get narrower - so, BobbyVan's belief that calling a collection of books available for borrowing a library is disingenuous, or the moment somebody snaps and calls their interlocutors "fucking idiots" in a discussion about misogynist language. At which point you can grok that the person demanding respect for their viewpoint has little or no respect for the people they want to respect their viewpoint.

But, again, none of these things are really moderator-leaning. Not many people say "I am intentionally trolling" (although it did happen recently, after a fashion, in the "I'm a trickster figure who isn't afraid to shake things up by expressing beliefs I don't hold" way, which is sort of the valorous troll reveal), so unless you want to get into a "yes you are", "no I'm not" squabble fest, actual disruption seems to be the only applicable metric.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:40 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


(That said, Seanyboy, I think "more latitude for right-wing trolls" is not a campaign slogan that's likely to fly.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:42 AM on November 18, 2011


WRT Ivan Fyodorovich's comment starting Hmm. I've always assumed that concern troll really did require bad faith...

If you want to talk about bad faith, then I would ask why you make the assumption that conservatives come to this site primarily to change people's minds about politics.

...whatever it is that the good-faith contrarians think they're going to accomplish is exceedingly unlikely...

I think most people come to this site because it's a great place with great intelligent friendly people and fantastic links about stuff I want to know more about. If I stick to a controversial point in an argumentative thread it's because I know that opinions can be changed.

You're making the bad-faith assumptions that contrarians come here purely to argue and that nobody ever changes their minds about anything. Either this is why you're here and you're projecting, or you believe that those who disagree with you are somehow up to no good.
posted by seanyboy at 4:44 AM on November 18, 2011


Hang on a second - something about this just struck me.

If you want to talk about bad faith, then I would ask why you make the assumption that conservatives come to this site primarily to change people's minds about politics.

What is the reason ANY of us discuss politics with each other if not "to change people's minds"?

I'm not singling you out, seanyboy -- you just said something in a way that struck me. If the whole basis of "who's a concern troll" is "someone who's trying to change people's minds," well -- then aren't we ALL "concern trolls?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 AM on November 18, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: You changed my "why people come to this site" to "why we discuss politics.".

They're not the same thing. Not for me, anyway.
posted by seanyboy at 5:35 AM on November 18, 2011


You changed my "why people come to this site" to "why we discuss politics."

No, I know -- I wasn't actually responding to what you said as such, it was more like, something you said triggered a tangent. I apologize if that was unclear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:39 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is the reason ANY of us discuss politics with each other if not "to change people's minds"?

Because you can't talk about politics around the watercooler any more.
posted by smackfu at 5:55 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You certainly can't totally lose your shit with people around the watercooler. Well, not unless you're their boss, in which case you can. Like a boss.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:02 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is the reason ANY of us discuss politics with each other if not "to change people's minds"?

There are many reasons, but one would be the clarification of one's own views.

If you look at my participation in the OWS thread, you'll find that much of it is discussing politics, but not expressing my political views, e.g. posting factual information like how the guy got charged with grand larceny, what's the phone number of the NY Sheriff and the office's role in enforcing court orders. And my following of the thread is largely to be informed about a major local news story.

But to do that and not occasionally comment in a political way, would be odd, I think.
posted by Jahaza at 6:17 AM on November 18, 2011


"If you want to talk about bad faith, then I would ask why you make the assumption that conservatives come to this site primarily to change people's minds about politics."

In fact, that's not what I think. I think that most of the conservatives who participate heavily in political threads here do so because they enjoy being contrarian and enjoy angry argument for its own sake. Just as I think the same of liberals who do the same on conservative sites.

I'd like to think otherwise, but it's not very difficult to discern that motivation over the long-term and it's only in the context of long-term contrarians that I make such a claim.

I personally know people like this on the left. A close friend of twenty years is like this. He gets off on being contrary and argumentive and riling people up. It's his most unattractive quality.

There are people who are conservative who are drawn to MetaFilter for reasons that have nothing to do with its dominant politics. And those people will occasionally voice dissenting opinions in occasional threads. That's a very good thing and should be defended. Does that describe ParisParamus? Dios? I don't think it does. And I say that as someone who often defended Dios.

Consider Alia as a contrasting example. Her politics are also conservative and she also voices dissenting opinions. But it's pretty clear that she came to MeFi for reasons other than being a dissenting voice and the larger part of her participation has always been in non-political/non-religious threads. There are other conservatives like her here. Merely having minority politics doesn't mean anything by itself. Having minority politics and having that characterize the majority of one's participation on the site, does. Even then, of course, it's possible for someone to be well-intentioned and not contrarian for its own sake or attention- and conflict-seeking. But that sort of person is rare while the other sort of person is common.

I'm not saying that accusations of trolling and concern trolling should be casually thrown around. Far from it. Such accusations are oppressive and necessarily stifle debate. But that these are serious accusations with serious consequences doesn't mean that they can't be obviously true and should never be made. And it doesn't mean that constantly being contrarian and constantly being involved in heated arguments isn't extremely suspicious behavior and deserves close scrutiny.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:19 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Others, however, just think, sincerely, that they are smarter and better able to understand a movement than the people actually in it. And are also assuming that the ideal state for a movement or an idea is to have them on board.

Except when the goal of the movement is to change people's minds about something, then maybe they do have a point.

So much of today's protest movement (thankfully, rare in OWS), is about identifying as a person in the movement, the larger purpose of the movement be damned. At some point, it becomes like being a fan of some band--a club you get to belong to.

So when certain people look at some protest movements and while having some sympathy for the movement also have some issues about the way its being done, they are pointing out that as a person who is supposed to be activated by your protest, they are feeling pushed away, they have a point.

If protesting is just about feeling good, what's the point? Shouldn't it be about actually convincing others to take political or social action to the point that something is done by the people as a whole?

This is why the term "concern troll" is being wrongly used. Its for when Rove pretends to offer advice to a group he actually opposes. It isn't "I disagree with your take but you are on the same side."
posted by Ironmouth at 6:19 AM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


In fact, that's not what I think. I think that most of the conservatives who participate heavily in political threads here do so because they enjoy being contrarian and enjoy angry argument for its own sake. Just as I think the same of liberals who do the same on conservative sites.

This isn't a "liberal" site. Its "Best of the Web." You personally do not own it. So acting as if there is a default "liberal" posture here might be the source of the problem.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:23 AM on November 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


That said, I think the situation with BobbyVan is slightly different, in that he is ideologically or factionally aligned with the Tea Party, but aware that the Tea Party is something that MetaFilter is generally anaphylactic about. So, he spends a lot of time saying things like "I'm no member of the Tea Party, but you have to concede that the Tea Party had lovely orderly marches and tidied up after themselves", or "I would absolutely march in the front ranks if the SPD police were acting unreasonably, but there is no possible way the SPD police could be acting unreasonably, and to prove it here is a link to somebody at Occupy Spokane saying a swear". I suspect he is doing this in the belief that it makes him more convincing, whereas in fact it looks kind of demented from the outside. However, one can only really speculate with confidence on how it looks, rather than the motivations within.

squabble fest, let me suggest that you need to take a deep breath and step away for a while. Your obsession with my commenting and inner thoughts is bizarre and creepy.

To the extent that you've made this into something very personal, let me clarify a few things. I'm a conservative, but one who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. While I was initially swept up in the McCain-Palin campaign, especially after Palin's stirring convention speech, I gradually became disillusioned with the ticket when her utter lack of preparation to govern (a real possibility were the elder McCain to die in office) became apparent. So I voted for Obama because I thought at least he had the inclination to make decisions on the basis of reason, even if I disagreed strongly with him ideologically.

With regard to the Tea Party, I sympathize with their small government objectives, but saw too much GRAR in the movement and not enough thoughtfulness about the proper role of government and the virtues of strategic compromise. I suppose I'm suspicious, to some extent, of populist political movements in general. Given that their day-to-day focus is building crowds, they're kind of the id of American politics (from my perspective).

Now, you can argue that my nuanced beliefs are all part of a carefully constructed ploy to infiltrate a "community weblog" and occupy it with reactionary invective to demoralize leftist agitators in order to... Profit? But such an argument would be a manifestation of a continuing self-reinforcing delusion. You are wasting your valuable time, as well as your mental and emotional energy, on a snipe hunt.

If I tell you that you're wasting your time, is that "concern trolling"?
posted by BobbyVan at 6:31 AM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"This isn't a 'liberal' site. Its 'Best of the Web.' You personally do not own it. So acting as if there is a default "liberal" posture here might be the source of the problem."

It's not liberal by definition or design, but it's liberal in character. I'm not asserting that this is either a good or bad thing.

"I suppose I'm suspicious, to some extent, of populist political movements in general."

I'm very suspicious of populist political movements and I believe that whether left or right they have a 85% chance of resulting in Badness. Oddly enough, though, it seems to me that a heavy participation by me in the OWS threads making that point over and over would also result in an 85% chance of Badness (of a different, minor, and very local variety).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:40 AM on November 18, 2011


The Whelk: I love you, but you find yourself posting a new comment literally every minute, you need to reconsider your participation in a thread.

And no, only posting every other minute really isn't better.
posted by hermitosis at 6:42 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


To the extent that you've made this into something very personal, let me clarify a few things. I'm a conservative, but one who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. While I was initially swept up in the McCain-Palin campaign, especially after Palin's stirring convention speech, I gradually became disillusioned with the ticket when her utter lack of preparation to govern (a real possibility were the elder McCain to die in office) became apparent. So I voted for Obama because I thought at least he had the inclination to make decisions on the basis of reason, even if I disagreed strongly with him ideologically.

And we're supposed to believe this gradually happened over the two months between you asking How to support McCain-Palin in NYC? and election day?
posted by Big_B at 6:47 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't it be a good idea to allow for a new Occupy thread soon? The old one is the size of Vänern and about as far off the frontpage as Jokkmokk is from Ystad.

If someone wants to put together a new post that's got more to it than "here is a new post", that is as always fine. We've nixed some very me-too things to keep the volume to a dull roar but given how busy the last little while has been a post looking comprehensively at the current state of things would be fine.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:48 AM on November 18, 2011


Ohmigod - does it really matter if the guy is a conservative or not? Are we going to start giving ideological tests as part of the sign up process?

All that matters is that he behaves in a manner that isn't destructive to the conversation. Beyond that it is literally none of your business.

Irony is people becoming constitutional law scholars in OWS thread on the issue of sleeping bags in the park, and that same cohort trying to quiet dissent on the issue in MetaTalk

Literally the only question is "Is this person acting like an asshole" if no, then let him be. Engage, don engage, that person should stull be here if they want to be.
posted by JPD at 6:51 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


And we're supposed to believe this gradually happened over the two months between you asking How to support McCain-Palin in NYC? and election day?

Yes. That Ask post was written less than a week after Palin's convention speech, which I found quite effective and moving. The disastrous Katie Couric interview took place a few weeks after that.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:57 AM on November 18, 2011


Oddly enough, though, it seems to me that a heavy participation by me in the OWS threads making that point over and over would also result in an 85% chance of Badness (of a different, minor, and very local variety).

That's a critique I've accepted.

How many times does that charge need to be repeated before it becomes ironic?
posted by BobbyVan at 7:00 AM on November 18, 2011


So when certain people look at some protest movements and while having some sympathy for the movement also have some issues about the way its being done, they are pointing out that as a person who is supposed to be activated by your protest, they are feeling pushed away, they have a point.


You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

[...]

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

- Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from A Birmingham Jail

posted by nooneyouknow at 7:00 AM on November 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


Now, you can argue that my nuanced beliefs are all part of a carefully constructed ploy to infiltrate a "community weblog" and occupy it with reactionary invective to demoralize leftist agitators in order to... Profit?

If you were able to discern consensus reality clearly, you would see that no such argument is being made, or at least not by me - I was in fact illustrating ways in which you were not an according-to-Hoyle "concern troll".

Primarily, I believe that your contributions - not your beliefs, which are of only tangential interest - are funny. They are also interesting, because they exhibit certain recurrent rhetorical techniques - for example, the deliberate or unintentional insertion of ideas like the use of octogenarians as human shields, the spear-like thrust of a flag, or the occurrence of a battle on the streets of Seattle into the discourse, in an unintentional or intentional attempt to move the Overton window to the right. These may be deliberate or subconscious - I have no way to discern that. From an external perspective, they are as techniques interesting and amusing.

If you find this creepy, that's your right - as has already been mentioned, you appear to live in a world which is consistently massively more frightening than consensus reality.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:15 AM on November 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


you appear to live in a world which is consistently massively more frightening than consensus reality.

Dude, that's kind of a harsh thing to tell someone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


And we're supposed to believe this gradually happened over the two months between you asking How to support McCain-Palin in NYC? and election day?

Why is there any reason to disbelieve that? The last two months of any election contain a tremendous amount of information coming in from many sources - not the least of which is the campaigns and candidates themselves. I have no problem believing that people changed their minds and votes after listening to Palin during those two months. I lean generally conservative, though not way out to the right, and in the 2010 Minnesota Gubernatorial election I made my final decision in the last week of the election. There were three good candidates and I really couldn't decide until I listened to an unhealthy amount of info from all three right up to the end. MPR was excellent in dealing fairly with all three parties. Made me quite proud to be a member.

Also, it bothers me when people dig up old (three years in this case) comments to take jabs at what people are saying today. This one didn't even seem to be especially provocative or proof of anything at all.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:29 AM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


They are also interesting, because they exhibit certain recurrent rhetorical techniques - for example, the deliberate or unintentional insertion of ideas like the use of octogenarians as human shields, the spear-like thrust of a flag, or the occurrence of a battle on the streets of Seattle into the discourse, in an unintentional or intentional attempt to move the Overton window to the right.

This. It's the method of argument that is most annoying. I don't think it has so much to do with being conservative as being obtuse.
posted by Big_B at 7:31 AM on November 18, 2011


nooneyouknow - the second half of your quote doesn't makes sense in the narrative the OWS is pushing.

The corollary to "white moderates" would be "Top 1% who realize the inherent inequities in the system, but choose not to actively support changing a system that benefits them to the detriment of others" not "99%'ers who aren't out in the street supporting the movement because they disagree with the methods not the aims"

MLK was making a very different point than what I suspect you are trying to make. MLK was asking people to look past their own self interest to instead support something they knew was the morally correct decision.
posted by JPD at 7:32 AM on November 18, 2011


They are also interesting, because they exhibit certain recurrent rhetorical techniques

You're interpreting his comments that way because you disagree with them.
posted by stp123 at 7:34 AM on November 18, 2011


So are we done here or what? Apparently this MeTa is all about too many comments that were either "interesting", "funny" or too "obtuse" for a conservative to make in a thread dominated by left-ish commenters.

Thanks for all the attention. It's been nice.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2011


I've always despised the term 'concern troll'. I will grant that the Karl Rove bit above does seem to fit the term very well, it's a bad faith accusation that is nigh impossible to disprove. It is certainly possible to support Occupy while being turned off to some of the tactics; just ask some of the people quoted here. To angrily dismiss the questioning of tactics with a hand wave and "concern troll" is to cut off the practical nose to spite the ideological face.

What is the reason ANY of us discuss politics with each other if not "to change people's minds"?

I always hoped it was to Discover Truth, but I'm a naive idealist who doesn't know how the world really works, etc etc.
posted by waraw at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're interpreting his comments that way because you disagree with them.


Quite possibly - however, you're assuming that identifying rhetoric is itself a condemnation, which I don't think is true. Everyone has approaches and tells. I sound more folksy when I'm expounding a position I don't think is going to be well received, and often put "kind of" and "sort of" into sentences to act as intensifiers rather than diminutives ("that's sort of strange to hear", meaning "I want to draw attention to the word 'strange' here").

People are taught to distrust the very idea of rhetoric, which is kind of unfortunate (see what I did there?) - it develops the idea of the "plain speaker" as an intrinsically trustworthy mode of speech, when that is often itself a rhetorical decision. Palin's "Say it ain't so, Joe" was a rhetorical construction. But then, so was Bentsen's "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Specifically, it was a structurally varied tetracolon employing anaphora, epistrophe and an internal chiasmus. It's like landing a triple salko, rhetorically speaking, but its sincerity is independent of its rhetorical construction.

Right now you are seeing metaphors used for rhetorical effect in this thread which connote activities which are physically impossible (or very difficult) on an Internet message board - such as shouting (to convey irrational anger), caterwauling (to convey inappropriate sensitivity) and hand waving (to connote lack of due attention). These are sincere attempts to convey a particular message about how the actions of others have come across. Rhetoric isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As in most cases, what's interesting (a word I overuse to achieve a specific rhetorical effect) in this case is not the existence of rhetoric, but its application. In this case, it's to introduce concepts - the use of the old and infirm as human shields by Occupy Seattle, the introduction of a weapon-like quality to an object and action, the escalation of the action on the streets of Seattle to a battle (that is, a pitched struggle between two forces, both with a cohesive aggressive intent toward the other) - to the discourse which are not supported by the documentary evidence available, while appearing to be either positing hypotheticals or stating factuals.

As I say, this could be deliberate or unintentional - pace BobbyVan, I'm not very interested in the internal workings of his mind. Regarding the internal workings of my mind, I broadly disagree on a factual basis with representations of events in the above specific rhetorical device (a), and also broadly disagree that the tactic of posting acontextual links to reports of isolated incidents of aggressive speech or action by disapproved-of groups is a useful approach (b) - whether that is individual members of Occupy or Julian Assange commenting on the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. I don't know if that's what you meant, stp123, but if it is, I would agree with you.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think (and have already posted in the thread) that BobbyVan's opinion is crazy and borderline offensive, but I don't think he should be silenced

I think he should be gassed, beaten, and driven from Metafilter.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think he should be gassed, beaten, and driven from Metafilter.

Whose Metafilter? MY METAFILTER!
posted by BobbyVan at 8:37 AM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Specifically, it was a structurally varied tetracolon employing anaphora, epistrophe and an internal chiasmus. It's like landing a triple salko, rhetorically speaking, but its sincerity is independent of its rhetorical construction.

By gum, some day I'll marry that sentence.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:37 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not cool, octobersurprise. Not cool at all.
posted by koeselitz at 8:43 AM on November 18, 2011


What? Are you opposed to man-on-sentence?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:46 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


the second half of your quote doesn't makes sense in the narrative the OWS is pushing.

The corollary to "white moderates" would be "Top 1% who realize the inherent inequities in the system, but choose not to actively support changing a system that benefits them to the detriment of others" not "99%'ers who aren't out in the street supporting the movement because they disagree with the methods not the aims"


Yeah, I don't know. Even if you are not in the 1%, you still have some investment in and get benefits form the "system" as it currently exists. I believe capitalism and politics as currently practiced in America is pretty messed up but I like cheap ass computers as much as anyone else, you know.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:46 AM on November 18, 2011


MLK was making a very different point than what I suspect you are trying to make. MLK was asking people to look past their own self interest to instead support something they knew was the morally correct decision.

Which is odd because that seems to me to be *precisely* the point nooneyouknow would be trying to make with that MLK quote. I think the misunderstanding here is you seeing the corollary to white moderates as being sympathetic 1%ers where I would see the corollary as being more like the 53%. But then, I think living in a massively racially unequal society is not particularly good for anyone, much like living in a massively economically unequal society is not particularly good for anyone.

It is certainly possible to support Occupy while being turned off to some of the tactics; just ask some of the people quoted here. To angrily dismiss the questioning of tactics with a hand wave and "concern troll" is to cut off the practical nose to spite the ideological face.

Sure, but at the same time, it is possible to completely disrupt the conversation by repeatedly voicing those concerns and not allowing the conversation to continue. Honestly, I wish I could just get all you folks to go down to one of your local Occupy's General Assembles - first, you'd see virtually every single issue you think you're so smart for raising has been raised, by an Occupier, at the General Assembly, and seriously addressed by consensus of the Occupiers there. (And stuff you probably haven't even thought of! OccupyBoston was already working on raising funds to re-landscape the Greenway after they leave long before anyone outside Occupy started kicking up a fuss, for example.) But you might also come to see the difference between raising issues and voicing your concerns and simply being a "block".
posted by mstokes650 at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or, you know, what mstokes650 said.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:58 AM on November 18, 2011


And we're supposed to believe this gradually happened over the two months between you asking How to support McCain-Palin in NYC? and election day?

Yes, we are supposed to believe other members of the community are not outright lying. It's what assuming good faith is all about. It doesn't matter, of course, if you personally believe it. But it's rude to imply someone is a liar by constructing some impossibly of logic based on a fucking timeline in their askme history. Rude and all too typical.
posted by Dano St at 8:59 AM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm only shocked those two months didn't drive more moderate Republicans to Obama.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2011


Of course, when other members of the community are directly addressed on their previous statements, and fail to make any response whatsoever, then I personally start to question the 'good faith' aspect of participation.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2011


So are we done here or what? Apparently this MeTa is all about too many comments that were either "interesting", "funny" or too "obtuse" for a conservative to make in a thread dominated by left-ish commenters.

Thanks for all the attention. It's been nice.


It's a good thing your enjoyment of the negative attention your comments received is only coincidental, because looking for it intentionally is a sign of trolling!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:03 AM on November 18, 2011


octobersurprise: “What? Are you opposed to man-on-sentence?”

No, I'm opposed to threats of violence – even jokey threats of violence. And I'm kind of sad that I appear to be the only one here who feels that way.
posted by koeselitz at 9:04 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think some of the things BobbyVan writes come off as condescending, and that's some of what I think people are responding to. He's certainly not the only one who does that though.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:07 AM on November 18, 2011


Of course, when other members of the community are directly addressed on their previous statements, and fail to make any response whatsoever, then I personally start to question the 'good faith' aspect of participation.

This makes it very easy to charge anyone with bad faith, simply by piling on to a member relentlessly until they are either worn out or forced to withdraw due to not taking on all comers. This is basically a justification for bullying. No one here is required to submit to interrogation.
posted by Errant at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, I'm opposed to threats of violence

Oh, that. For a moment, I feared I'd been too forward with that sentence. Well, you'll be relieved to learn that I am opposed to threats of violence also. As well as not being a threat, my uncouth remark was whimsical, not serious.

I take for granted the absolute veracity of everyone on Metafilter, even the liars.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:19 AM on November 18, 2011


For a moment there I thought koeselitz was referring to marriage as a violent institution.
posted by klue at 9:19 AM on November 18, 2011


"This isn't a 'liberal' site. Its 'Best of the Web.' You personally do not own it. So acting as if there is a default "liberal" posture here might be the source of the problem."

It's not liberal by definition or design, but it's liberal in character. I'm not asserting that this is either a good or bad thing.


No, it is not. It has more liberals than conservatives. This blog is what Mathowie wants it to be. It is his personal blog. It isn't Daily Kos or Instapundit.

What I am saying is that people are entitled to bring whatever they want to the conversation as long as it is ok with the mods. No one is departing from a party line by saying things you disagree with. There is no party line here, there are only opinions.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure, but at the same time, it is possible to completely disrupt the conversation by repeatedly voicing those concerns and not allowing the conversation to continue.

This is not the OWS general assembly. You have no right to a particular "liberal" or "conservative" or pro- or anti- OWS conversation here. You do not own a thread. No one does (well Matt does).
posted by Ironmouth at 9:37 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


octobersurprise: “Well, you'll be relieved to learn that I am opposed to threats of violence also. As well as not being a threat, my uncouth remark was whimsical, not serious. I take for granted the absolute veracity of everyone on Metafilter, even the liars.”

I never really doubted that, but that's only because I assume you aren't a psychopath. But nobody can hear sarcasm or irony on the internet. Jokes like that tend to have the same impact as actual threats. Even in real life, there are very few situations where it's really a good idea to joke that someone should be gassed and beaten.
posted by koeselitz at 9:48 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have no right to a particular "liberal" or "conservative" or pro- or anti- OWS conversation here.

Hey it's your favorite fallacy Ironmouth. Strawman is bad m'kay.

Also while you are right there is no party line there is definitely a culture, and that culture is decidedly liberal. So when someone makes a ridiculous argument which is then illustrated to be ridiculous, but said person keeps on making the argument anyway don't be surprised if said person receives a little "blowback".

What I am saying is that people are entitled to bring whatever they want to the conversation as long as it is ok with the mods.

True, but people are also entitled to illustrate that what has been brought to the conversation is a load of shit. The problem we have here is a shit argument being made again and again and again ad nauseam. So I don't really understand what your point is other than to be obtuse.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:54 AM on November 18, 2011


But nobody can hear sarcasm or irony on the internet. Jokes like that tend to have the same impact as actual threats.

I think the fact that the threat was issued as a challenge to people who would have prevented someone from marrying a sentence may have been a sufficient clue to most reasonable adults that this was indeed a joke.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on November 18, 2011


What conversation was blocked in a 2000+ comment thread by BobbyVan's dozen or so interjections? Is the charge that he repeatedly kept butting in despite all the efforts that "we(?) have tried ignoring" him? Or that he just talked to much?

Because that's not what I see in the thread. I see him responding to lots comments directed at him. And I see lots of people with lots of comments. All of which add up to a pretty hefty thread. Thus a conclusion that "he won't let us talk" seems kind of silly to me.

It is good to know when to disengage and he's admitted falling down a bit on that front, but his failure to do so does not mean he bears responsibility for keeping people from discussing anything. It takes two (or more) to tango and there's plenty of pixels to go around and all that stuff.
posted by Dano St at 10:05 AM on November 18, 2011


I assume you aren't a psychopath.

Nope, strictly minor-league neurotic!
posted by octobersurprise at 10:06 AM on November 18, 2011


Sure, but at the same time, it is possible to completely disrupt the conversation by repeatedly voicing those concerns and not allowing the conversation to continue.

I'm surprised this idea is getting so much pushback - nobody thinks this principle is controversial when it's being applied to Joe Beese, just for example.
posted by dialetheia at 10:09 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised this idea is getting so much pushback - nobody thinks this principle is controversial when it's being applied to Joe Beese, just for example.

It's actually ironic since some of the people here defending Bobby Van are some of the same people that crucified Joe Beese for daring to suggest that Obama isn't the second coming of christ.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:12 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Name names.
posted by Dano St at 10:13 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


some of the people here defending Bobby Van are some of the same people that crucified Joe Beese for daring to suggest that Obama isn't the second coming of christ.

I blame ACORN.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:18 AM on November 18, 2011


seanyboy: "I think most people come to this site because it's a great place with great intelligent friendly people and fantastic links about stuff I want to know more about. If I stick to a controversial point in an argumentative thread it's because I know that opinions can be changed. "

Offering my perspective, here. The first half of this comment is correct, and the second one is not.

Very often I'm the single voice with a "controversial point in a argumentative thread", and I am not interested one bit to change anyone's mind about the subject. Honestly, what drives me is to make the "controversial" (bad choice of word honestly) opinion visible, so there's a debate and Metafilter doesn't derange into Daily Kos. I read a lot of threads in MeFi that I profoundly disagree with the discussion but yet I don't post to them, mostly because I don't have the time. I couldn't care less if I changed anyone's opinion or if I "won" any debates in my time here in MeFi. But honestly I think stepping into a thread that's turning into a left wing echo chamber to offer a contrary opinion is a good thing, even if it leads to a pile on, and sometimes it does. At least the dissent was registered, and people are forced to acknowledge that not all of their peers agrees with them.

Here's a thought: The less a random Metafilter member feels comfortable in referring to Metafilter as "we", the better for the community in the long term. And I have seen it used - once a member referred to a leftist academic in a thread as "one of us", which made me extremely uncomfortable (in hindsight, maybe the member had a hamster in his pocket, in which case I apologize).

"We" creeps the shit out of me.

I don't care that MeFi is generally left-of-center. Most of the people around me are, honestly (c'mon I live in NYC). What bothers me is the political drama and hyperbole going unchallenged just because it's "ideologically pure" by some unwritten community standards. I've posted about it in MeTa before.
posted by falameufilho at 10:28 AM on November 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: “I think the fact that the threat was issued as a challenge to people who would have prevented someone from marrying a sentence may have been a sufficient clue to most reasonable adults that this was indeed a joke.”

No, actually, Empress. I was talking about something else. I guess the fact that I made my comment right after an unrelated comment by octobersurprise was confusing. I was referring to this:

flaterik: “I think (and have already posted in the thread) that BobbyVan's opinion is crazy and borderline offensive, but I don't think he should be silenced...”

octobersurprise: “I think he should be gassed, beaten, and driven from Metafilter.”

That still seems pretty out of line to me, but maybe my perspective is warped or something.
posted by koeselitz at 10:36 AM on November 18, 2011

This isn't a "liberal" site. Its "Best of the Web."
It's trying to be "Best of the Web", in the same sense that you can try to balance a pencil on its point, but I think in each case there's a fundamental instability (gravitational or psychological) that's going to subvert the intended aim.

People like talking to others who agree with them, and dislike talking to others who disagree. So sites that are already leaning towards an ideology tend to attract newcomers who are more skewed toward that ideology. The initial conditions make a difference (if the site owner or the guy trying to balance that pencil leans left, then it's more likely for the result to end up falling left instead of right) but the instability is inherent in the system. If you don't want to end up politically biased, the only solution would probably be banning discussion of politics.

This isn't intended to be a criticism - the main reason I like Metafilter is that it managed to attract a lot of intelligent people who often disagree with me, and reading what such people say seems to be a good way to learn. I just hope the instability doesn't go so far as to drive away every intelligent non-liberal commenter; "you're trying to make rational points so here's some logical reasons why you're wrong" is much more worthwhile reading than "let's laugh at or ignore the troll who wandered in" or "isn't it relaxing now that only correct-thinking people come here?"
posted by roystgnr at 10:47 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think that your perspective is warped, koeselitz. We've talked a lot on the grey about jokes suitable to a public forum, and I don't think that was one of them.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


i think "liberals" vs "conservatives" is hilarious. i feel like my generation is so over that crap. those labels feel ancient. i would never dream of identifying myself with either. my dog in this fight is that one group refused to hear dissenting opinions from another group. you know, like "liberals" vs "conservatives" do.
posted by Avenger50 at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem we have here is a shit argument being made again and again and again ad nauseam. So I don't really understand what your point is other than to be obtuse.

Honestly, AElfwine, you of all people should not be criticizing anybody anywhere for repeating a weak argument over and over again and mistaking it for making a new point.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:16 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


some of the people here defending Bobby Van are some of the same people that crucified Joe Beese for daring to suggest that Obama isn't the second coming of christ.

Hyperbole aside, that's an astonishing misrepresentation. Even Joe Beese admitted he went overboard with the Obama thing, pushing it into threads where it wasn't the subject and making it the dominant discussion.

Yes, people disagreed with him. Others agreed with him. Nobody crucified him.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:31 AM on November 18, 2011


once a member referred to a leftist academic in a thread as "one of us", which made me extremely uncomfortable (in hindsight, maybe the member had a hamster in his pocket

Or possibly they were making a Tod Browning reference? I might regard use of the phrase "one of us" as a little foolish or silly (it isn't a phrase I could use entirely unironically), but why was it "extremely" discomforting? (Unless you thought it was a Tod Browning reference, one likely to be carried out.) Now, I don't mean to dismiss the depth of your distress here, I just don't get it. Feel free to elaborate if you care to.

honestly I think stepping into a thread that's turning into a left wing echo chamber to offer a contrary opinion is a good thing, even if it leads to a pile on, and sometimes it does. At least the dissent was registered, and people are forced to acknowledge that not all of their peers agrees with them.

Yes, yes, attention must be paid and all that. You're doing stellar work, Steve.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:52 AM on November 18, 2011


The problem with Joe Beese wasn't that he was criticizing Obama, it was that he was criticizing him in threads all over the place, and not just ones about Obama. If he limited his grousing to threads that were actually about Obama or presidential politics, it would have been a lot less of a problem. Bobby Van is criticizing OWS in a thread about OWS. This isn't a pro-OWS site.. He's allowed to do that.
posted by empath at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


This thread is the reason MeFi needs Slashdot-style threading.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:28 PM on November 18, 2011


coolguymichael: "This thread is the reason MeFi needs Slashdot-style threading."

MetaFilter parallels the Catholic Church in its resistance to innovation.
posted by falameufilho at 12:50 PM on November 18, 2011


This thread is the reason MeFi needs Slashdot-style threading.

I've never even heard anyone argue that Slashdot needs Slashdot-style threading. There's good threading systems, and then there's Slashdot.
posted by kagredon at 12:55 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread is the reason MeFi needs Slashdot-style threading.

Having spent the better part of 10 minutes last night trying to find a particular comment in a forum that uses threaded comments (and having to scroll down-down-down-down-down-down-down because by the time they got to comments on level 5 or 6, each comment was only about half an inch wide but twelve screens long), allow me to reiterate OH HELL NO NO THREADED COMMENTS ON MEFI.
posted by Lexica at 12:55 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


But honestly I think stepping into a thread that's turning into a left wing echo chamber to offer a contrary opinion is a good thing, even if it leads to a pile on, and sometimes it does. At least the dissent was registered, and people are forced to acknowledge that not all of their peers agrees with them.

Does the contrary opinion you're offering matter at all? See that's where this starts to sound like an admission of trolling. Is it more important to you that the opinion you're injecting into a thread is actually a sensible, reasonable position to hold, that you sincerely believe, or is simply preventing the echo-chamber effect the more important thing? Because the vibe I get from that paragraph is that forcing people to acknowledge that dissent exists is more important to you than the merits of the dissent itself.

If you want to play devil's advocate because you feel the devil has got some really good points and needs better representation, well okay, argue your case (preferably reasonably, and civilly, and only once). If you want to play devil's advocate because you feel that every single thread needs to have a devil's advocate all the time, or because the use of "we" by someone in a community to refer to the people in that community is creepy and thus you must sow discord at every turn, well at that point you're trolling, in my book.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:58 PM on November 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Didn't someone say earlier in that thread that since nobody here in Metafilter witnessed the event(s), that everything was baseless speculation?

So any further characterization of the photo/videos would also be baseless speculation?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:05 PM on November 18, 2011


Oh, this is the commenty ou were talking about. My mistake, koeselitz!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:10 PM on November 18, 2011


commenty ou = comment you
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:10 PM on November 18, 2011


Didn't someone say earlier in that thread that since nobody here in Metafilter witnessed the event(s), that everything was baseless speculation?

Er, no? Not that I can recall, and it's a long thread, but I've been following it since about two hours after it was posted. Here and there people have jumped the gun on reporting rumors or such, but no one said everything was baseless speculation.

Especially since several people posting were present at the protests at some point.
posted by kagredon at 1:15 PM on November 18, 2011


Someone suggested I continue a discussion in here, so as requested:

I proposed flagging comments if people felt they were over the top. Someone disputed that point here, stating that if someone was arguing in good faith, the comment should be allowed to stand.

For the record, I hadn't had that reaction to any of Bobby's other comments; but his most recent comment felt like it crossed a line into "hey, let me find the most over-the-top controversial thing I can find and post it, that'll show 'em." I've not had a problem with anything else, but that really felt like it was pushing it, and judging by the fact that 7 people INSTANTLY responded it looked like others agreed.

Everything else seemed to be in good faith; that one looked like it didn't, and was just a "neener."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on November 18, 2011


Didn't someone say earlier in that thread that since nobody here in Metafilter witnessed the event(s), that everything was baseless speculation?

There's this use of "baseless speculation". That's the only occurrence of the phrase currently in thread, except for running order squabble fest snarking at it. But it is saying lack of video/photo evidence equals speculation, not that characterizations of such evidence would be.
posted by Dano St at 1:35 PM on November 18, 2011


Everything else seemed to be in good faith; that one looked like it didn't, and was just a "neener."

To the extent that the OWS debate has become one about police tactics and alleged brutality, balance demands that it also include a critical look at the tactics of OWS demonstrators. I noticed that one of the commenters alleged that the police were using metal barricades as "weapons" against the protesters, when the video evidence simply showed a barricade lodged between the police and demonstrators... I didn't see anyone complain about "loaded" or "non-neutral" language in that instance.

The video I posted may look like a "neener" because of all of the hoopla around my commenting, when in fact it's merely one fish in a sea of anecdotes.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:40 PM on November 18, 2011


just a "neener."

BobbyVan's opinion of OWS has been subject to hostile scrutiny in 3 separate threads in hte last 24 hours. Though never ideal, at some point a "neener" is understandably provoked.
posted by Dano St at 1:49 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I noticed that one of the commenters alleged that the police were using metal barricades as "weapons" against the protesters, when the video evidence simply showed a barricade lodged between the police and demonstrators... I didn't see anyone complain about "loaded" or "non-neutral" language in that instance.


BobbyVan, I used that loaded language.
Mainly because that was what I saw.
I was standing with my arms linked on the line *directly facing* that incident. The police picked up a metal barrier and pushed it hard against the protesters, pretty much smushing them with it. In my own view that counts as using the blockades as a weapon. The actual headline on The New York Observer (which is a NYC newspaper) that I linked to is "Police Use Blockade as Weapon On Occupy Wall Street (Video)". So it was also just a shortened version of the headline of the news article I was linking to.
posted by stagewhisper at 1:56 PM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


BobbyVan's opinion of OWS has been subject to hostile scrutiny in 3 separate threads in hte last 24 hours. Though never ideal, at some point a "neener" is understandably provoked.

And that's why I was suggesting people flag that one comment rather than goading him yet further and making it worse still.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:59 PM on November 18, 2011


mstokes650: "Is it more important to you that the opinion you're injecting into a thread is actually a sensible, reasonable position to hold, that you sincerely believe, or is simply preventing the echo-chamber effect the more important thing? "

What do you think, mstokes? Do you even need to ask? You're asking ARE YOU A TROLL OR NOT? and you call that good faith?

I offer my opinion because it's *my* opinion. That's a given. Read your analysis of my comment and then read the analysis you made of stagewhisper's comment. You see that positive attitude, the benefit of the doubt? How about you give me 10% of that?
posted by falameufilho at 2:01 PM on November 18, 2011


Thanks stagewhisper. Appreciate your 1st hand account, and based on it I'd agree that the police were using the barrier to aggressively repel an advancing crowd. Not sure if I'd characterize it as excessive, but your description is fair enough.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:11 PM on November 18, 2011


fal, folks don't always see things the same way. Your impassioned rant about not wanting Mefites to be comfortable using the word "we" struck me as bizarre in much the same way stagewhisper's comment seems to have struck Cool Papa Bell as bizarre. It was a completely genuine question on my part. Maybe you've had the luxury of only spending time in the nice parts of the Internet, but in my experience, people only putting forward opinions which are genuinely held is not, alas, a given by any means. Nor are definitions of trolling universal, and at no point in this thread have I claimed that my definition of trolling was anybody's but mine.

I apologise if you feel I wasn't doing sufficient "mental gymnastics" on your behalf but I'm not really the mental gymnast you seem to think I am, either. My off-the-cuff, immediate reaction to stagewhisper's comment was exactly as I described, and my similarly immediate reaction to your post was to wonder which of the two priorities you described in your post mattered more to you, so I asked.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2011


mstokes650: "It was a completely genuine question on my part."

You say it like it's a good thing.
posted by falameufilho at 2:34 PM on November 18, 2011


The headline ought to be: "HUMAN MICROPHONE DEMANDS MORE PERFECT ECHO CHAMBER"

I disagree with a lot of things that BobbyVan says in that thread, but I think this is a weird bad callout.

BobbyVan makes claims, receives responses (many of which successfully refute his claims) and the discussion continues. In several cases, he's copped to being wrong! This is the way things are supposed to work. Metafilter threads are not general assemblies.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:52 PM on November 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Derail now joins troll as a catch-all phrase meaning something or someone the person using the word doesn't like.

Metafilter: Derailing Trollspeak Since 1999
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:29 AM on November 19, 2011


Dano St: There's this use of "baseless speculation". That's the only occurrence of the phrase currently in thread, except for running order squabble fest snarking at it.

Potayto, Potahto. The point was a constructive one - that if BobbyVan wants to improve his rhetoric, he has to avoid dismissing any reportage of events not supported by video film as "baseless speculation", and then speculating baselessly - first on the extent to which a motion not described as in any way like a spear thrust was like a spear thrust, and then about the cognitive process of an unidentified police officer spraying an octogenarian with pepper spray.

This isn't a sophisticated angle. It's roughly on a level with playing Snake - just don't cross your own tail.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:11 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe you've had the luxury of only spending time in the nice parts of the Internet, but in my experience, people only putting forward opinions which are genuinely held is not, alas, a given by any means.

It is impossible to tell if a commenter "genuinely holds" the opinions he or she expresses on the internet.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:41 AM on November 19, 2011


You don't honestly believe that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2011


...if BobbyVan wants to improve his rhetoric, he has to...

This has gotten ridiculous.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:34 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


You don't honestly believe that.

It's impossible to know whether Ironmouth genuinely believes that.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2011


It is impossible to tell if a commenter "genuinely holds" the opinions he or she expresses on the internet.

For some value of "impossible," yes. But then it's "impossible" in the exactly the same way to tell if any interlocutor online or off, ever "genuinely holds" some expressed opinion. Yet we do, routinely, decide that some of our interlocutors "genuinely hold" some belief, while others do not.

In a given dialogue, for whatever reason, it may be prudent or practical to act as if that distinction doesn't exist, but to suggest that it's fundamentally impossible to distinguish truthfulness from disingenuity, just arbitrarily rules out of bounds an entire order of human experience.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2011


In a given dialogue, for whatever reason, it may be prudent or practical to act as if that distinction doesn't exist, but to suggest that it's fundamentally impossible to distinguish truthfulness from disingenuity, just arbitrarily rules out of bounds an entire order of human experience.

It might be more accurate to say that there's a degree of internal and generally unnoticed bias - that if somebody says something you disagree with, you are more likely to believe that they do not actually believe it. It's fairly common for people expressing feminist views, for example, to be told that they cannot actually believe them, and are only expressing them to curry favor or get sex (presumably with women who also do not believe them, making the whole thing a giant Ponzi scheme). Likewise, conservatives often get told in liberal discourse that they could not possibly believe that their platform would be good for the country, and that any claims they make to be patriotic or motivated by a desire to see America, as well as themselves and their friends, do well are necessarily deceitful.

I think it's good to be aware of that bias, and therefore to assume (in the context of discussions with strangers on the Internet, at least) that if you look at something and think "that can't possibly be a sincerely-held position", it might be that it is a sincerely held but factually mistaken position, or that at might be a position that is not easily provable or falsifiable, but which differs considerably from your own. Actual trolls generally overplay their hand if they aren't getting the anger and outrage they are looking for, IMALE.

(Which kind of ties in with my earlier derail about the easy use of the word "troll" on MetaFilter - I was trying to remember the first time I had come across this, and remembered that it was here - where JHarris' turn of phrase suggested a worldview so alien that it was assumed that it could have had no intent other than trolling. Which is tricky, because it means that to have a conversation between people with differing views - or even to correct factual errors they make - you first have to get past a) thinking they are a troll and b) saying that they are a troll, and thus disposing them not to listen to you.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:31 PM on November 19, 2011


It is impossible to tell if a commenter "genuinely holds" the opinions he or she expresses on the internet.

You must be desperate for the mods to adopt an official policy on the use of [hamburger] tags, eh?
posted by mstokes650 at 2:27 PM on November 19, 2011


This isn't a sophisticated angle. It's roughly on a level with playing Snake - just don't cross your own tail.

I have only had one run-in with BobbyVan, but it was memorable enough that I'm not surprised this thread exists. After he mischaracterized the content of a letter to a science journal twice in the same post, it's not shocking that he is doing the same sort of thing in OWS threads.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:37 PM on November 19, 2011


Potayto, Potahto. The point was a constructive one

Whatever, dude. I was just answering a question.
posted by Dano St at 5:54 PM on November 19, 2011


I just wanted to mention that when BobbyVan got called out on the Laughing At Liberals video that said it was a father heckling cops while using his kid as a human shield, BobbyVan rewatched the video and said that it was a misleading description. That was big of him, and I hope to see more of it.
posted by klangklangston at 6:48 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, for one, really value hearing the dissenting conservative opinion, if for no other reason that it prepares me to present a cogent counter-argument for when I hear it argued in Real Life rather than just going "Hmmm, let me think about that and get back with you."

But, really, the opinions that are shouted down here as incompassionate/irrational/etc, are NOTHING compared to what I hear routinely in the real world. For example, an argument against universal health care: "Well, a few hundred years ago, the average life expectancy was mid-30s at best, and that's just how it was, that was just FINE, so we don't NEED health care." ... eventually degrading into "I'd rather my whole family DIE than have universal health care."

And when I hear lunacy like that, I'm just dumbfounded. Literally. I don't know what to say. It's SO INSANE that basic principles are violated. Where to start??

So, if anything, I want MORE conservative opinions on Metafilter. Shoot down the opinions that deserve it, and hell maybe I'll agree with some. But at least I won't be blindsided in real life.
posted by LordSludge at 11:05 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


LordSludge: "But, really, the opinions that are shouted down here as incompassionate/irrational/etc, are NOTHING compared to what I hear routinely in the real world. For example, an argument against universal health care: "Well, a few hundred years ago, the average life expectancy was mid-30s at best, and that's just how it was, that was just FINE, so we don't NEED health care." ... eventually degrading into "I'd rather my whole family DIE than have universal health care.""

Man - my snarky side wants to say "make it thus, then" and let the rest of us that want everyone to live if they want, go ahead and do so.
posted by symbioid at 11:22 AM on November 23, 2011


"I'd rather my whole family DIE than have universal health care."

And when I hear lunacy like that, I'm just dumbfounded. Literally. I don't know what to say. It's SO INSANE that basic principles are violated. Where to start??


Maybe such people are violating assumptions you're making about the conversation — for example, perhaps they're posturing rather than forthrightly stating an earnest belief. If so, maybe one thing to try (if you want to engage at all) is opening negotiations about the style of discourse.
posted by stebulus at 9:42 AM on November 24, 2011


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