Easy on the ostracism July 25, 2012 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I think this thread contains some needless personal attacks against Ironmouth, and this isn't how Metafilter should handle people with viewpoints that are against the grain.

The thread is about the increased use of drone attacks; Ironmouth has posted in defence of this trend. I don't agree with his viewpoint, but I think he's argued clearly, cogently, and with the use of facts. I think this is common of his contributions to the site, which is not to say that I think all of his arguments are great - but neither are any of ours.

After some heated but basically civil discussion, lupus_yonderboy posted the following:
Ironmouth: I'd also like to ask you a question.

Quite a while ago you mentioned that you had, at least in the past, done some sort of PR or other paid work for the Democratic Party... and it wasn't clear if you were still doing it.

Since you do always seem to argue very strenuously for what appears to be exactly the mainstream Democratic policy, I'd like to work out exactly what role you had or have with them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:00 PM on July 23 [3 favorites +] [!]
Ironmouth responded - with more grace than I probably could have mustered - about his exact involvement with the Democratic Party, but continued to face allusions that "someone" had brought this up, searches would be done, etc. Lupus described this as "I politely asked, which is always an option."

It's true, Lupus's tone was basically polite. But what on earth was the bearing of such a question? To me it comes across as nothing more than McCarthyesque insinuation that Ironmouth is some kind of line-crossing stooge, and that that should have a bearing on his arguments in the thread.

Later, Ironmouth posted:
I assume that many of the people who perpetrated this crime feel just as strongly that the innocents who died in the attacks of 911 were merely collateral damage to the intended targets of the US economy and US security, which is equally as disgusting as when an entire wedding party is murdered because the US feels someone they want to kill, who may or may not be gulity, is in the vicinity.

really? so 3,000 killed deliberately is the same as an accidental and regretful bombing of a wedding when a missile goes off course?

Up is down.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:36 PM on July 24 [+] [!]
This prompted Lupus to post:
Up is down.

Really, are you trying to be deliberately inflammatory? A glimpse at your posting history on topics like this makes the answer abundantly clear...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:01 AM on July 25 [+] [!]
As I posted in the thread, I think both of these attacks crossed the line. I think they're an example of how people like Ironmouth who tend to consistently hold 'non-metafilter' opinions are singled out for more intense and un-generous interpretation, more personal attacks, more scrutiny of and policing of their posting history when it is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I've seen the same bile turned on St Alia of the Bunnies and I don't think it's a good way to behave. It strikes me as ostracism.

gman also posted:
On the first matter, I don't think saying "A glimpse at your posting history on topics like this makes the answer abundantly clear..." is in any way different from asking someone who consistently repeats this type of behaviour, in an attempt to stifle conversation, to stop. Commenting that "Up is down" is an extremely rude way of telling someone that because you disagree with them, their ideas are backwards. None of Ironmouth's previous comments were posted here, which would be a very different situation. Anyway, I will agree that this point is probably better suited to MetaTalk.
posted by gman at 3:32 PM on July 25 [+] [!]
Appending an (admittedly glib) phrase like "up is down" to your argument is absolutely no worse than the rhetoric that the rest of us employ when discussions start to get heated and that passes without comment. Is it perfect? No. Is it unforgivably rude, unacceptable, cause for questioning Ironmouth's contribution to the site? Hell no. It's just a little flourish of the sort that everyone is prone to using.

Likewise, I think it's hypocritical to try and imply that Ironmouth is some kind of habitual troll, when the attempts to shut down his side of the conversation are far more egregious than his own supposed rudeness, there. It shouldn't be treated as grounds for this kind of shunning behaviour; I don't think it reflects well on Metafilter and I think people should be more careful before engaging people they disagree with in personal attacks.
posted by Drexen to Etiquette/Policy at 8:15 AM (586 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I don't think it's shunning, and I think that once you start accusing people of Orwellian double-speak (i.e. "up is down") then they'll probably get pretty shirty with you, and that's a risk you take.

Ironmouth posts in the exact same threads all the time and he knows what the response to his comments is likely to be. He continues to comment in those threads, and to participate actiely in the rest of the site without major drama, which to me indicates that he's not being driven off or ostracized.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:19 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saying "up is down" to highlight an illogical argument is scores pretty low on the flammability spectrum.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:24 AM on July 25, 2012 [22 favorites]


When you copy and paste what you feel are inflamatory/inappropriate comments you're sort of perpetuating them. There are definitely lower-drama ways to address your concerns.
posted by kate blank at 8:30 AM on July 25, 2012


The whole "you must work for the administration/campaign/party apparatus" accusation process is fairly Orwellian itself, since it's basically attempting to shut down the conversation by painting the poster as, essentially, a spammer.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:31 AM on July 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


Ironmouth posts in the exact same threads all the time and he knows what the response to his comments is likely to be. He continues to comment in those threads, and to participate actiely in the rest of the site without major drama, which to me indicates that he's not being driven off or ostracized.

To me it indicates an admirably thick skin and a dedication to the intelligent discussion that Metafilter provides. How many others have been driven off or discouraged who otherwise would have contributed something useful -- if nothing else, opposing arguments off which to launch -- by the IMO disproportional bile poured on our more (to generalise) 'right-wing' members? For Ironmouth's occasional faults, I'd far rather have him here than not.

'Up is down' is not a particularly useful thing to say, I agree. But attacking someone's personal history because of that is not the right response -- at least not when, the way I see it, that's something that our more 'kosher' members would easily get away with.
posted by Drexen at 8:33 AM on July 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


...what appears to be exactly the mainstream Democratic policy...

You've noticed who the President is, right?
posted by DU at 8:37 AM on July 25, 2012


When you copy and paste what you feel are inflamatory/inappropriate comments you're sort of perpetuating them. There are definitely lower-drama ways to address your concerns.

Sort of but not really. As I see it the point of MetaTalk is to be able to have these more specific discussions without it having to descend into 'drama'. My problem is not only with these specific comments but with the overall -- though admittedly rare -- atmosphere of low-level ostracism that I think they represent... but I think it's useful to bring up specific examples rather than just talk around in vague circles.
posted by Drexen at 8:37 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Drexen, there is nothing unusual about any of this, given the posting/commenting habits of everyone involved here, Ironmouth in particular.

Whether any of it is enjoyable or constructive is a separate matter altogether...
posted by hermitosis at 8:43 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Likewise, I think it's hypocritical to try and imply that Ironmouth is some kind of habitual troll

It's tricky. I'll agree that pretty much any form of "hey, you wouldn't happen to be secretly a mouthpiece for a marketing/propaganda initiative, would you?" is crappy and I'd rather people skipped that sort of stuff 100% of the time and just brought it to the contact form if it's a legitimate concern they have. To do otherwise gets sort of muddy and ugly quickly. Same goes for spam/self-link stuff, generally speaking, and even those tend to be a least more concrete and local concerns than the "who do you work for?" gambit, however mildly stated.

That aside, while I'd rather people were more focused on actual discussion than on each other, I don't have a really strong feeling about any of those specific exchanges you're pointing out, and mostly what we hear from people is not so much "Ironmouth is a troll" as it is "Ironmouth sure does comment a lot in a lot of these threads about the same stuff every time", which is a fair criticism and something we've tried (with not what feels like a ton of success) to address with him in the past.

Which is not an Ironmouth-only thing, either. We've got a bunch of high-volume regulars around here who have sort of pet topics they reliably return to to get into basically the same arguments they've gotten into before repeatedly. And while I understand how that happens from an individual perspective (you're interested/invested/passionate about a given topic, you discuss it whenever you get a chance), it gets really problematic as a gestalt thing on the site because it makes threads homogeneous, sucks up the air in the room so less always-banging-that-gong users don't feel like there's room for them or any point in joining the discussion, and it leaves us with a bunch of folks becoming (or having long ago become) That Guy about one or another topic.

It's hard to know how best to communicate to someone that their pet topic or topics, or way of sort of overcommitting on them, is a problem when it doesn't seem like it's a problem from their perspective, and it's something we struggle with on the mod side because there's this tension between wanting individual folks to enjoy their time here in terms of discussing what they like and wanting folks as a group to not feel like they're being crowded out or having threads dragged down into dull repetition by a small core of users who are Always Going To Go Into That Again about one thing or another.

And I think honestly that the problem lies mostly with that smaller group of folks not making enough effort to recognize and manage the volume and regularity of their commenting on those pet topics. Not in the sense that the site would be better without them involved, but that it'd be better with them being more self-aware about their involvement and throttling back some on the sort of predictable returning-to-the-well stuff on topics they've commented on a bunch before. This site is nobody's personal blog or chatroom and at a certain point recognizing that you're saying something you've said before a bunch of times and showing some restraint by letting other folks be the voices in the nth thread on the topic, or diverting some of your ideas to your own blog, is the best and least conflict-prone solution to these sort of things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:44 AM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


that's something that our more 'kosher' members would easily get away with.

Please to explain? I must be misreading this.
posted by heyho at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2012


Same old same old. Welcome to the club.
posted by mkultra at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Given the topic, I actually think the conversation in the linked post is going about as well as one could hope for.
posted by COD at 8:53 AM on July 25, 2012


Please to explain? I must be misreading this.

I think he's saying that some of our comments have to be eaten off of special plates.
posted by elizardbits at 8:57 AM on July 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


my feelings are along the lines of COD. I feel like this "Is Ironmouth astroturfing?" question has been asked and answered and it was pretty tacky, though not deleteworthy per se, for lupus_yonderboy to go there.

That said, my feelings align with cortex's pretty closely. A lot of people, including Ironmouth, could be much more mindful of just how much conversations become referendums on them or their opinions (even if all they are doing is replying to questions and comments directed towards them) and how that is a net negative for the site. I think Ironmouth is aware of what he is getting into and, like many of our heavy commenters, is pretty unflappable when it comes to annoying comments heading in his direction.

We specifically checked out that exchange when it happened and made sure that was the end of it, but it did seem to be the end of it.

I'd like to know exactly what you mean by "kosher" as well because I'm too used to it being cryptospeak for "Jewish" that I'm having a hard time imagining what else you mean.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:00 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please to explain? I must be misreading this.

By 'kosher' I mean more in line with the accepted mores or the 'party-line' of the site. In the case of Metafilter that means generally liberal/leftist. Scare-quotes, to indicate that informal usage, rather than any reference to jewish law or jewishness in general. Seems like a common usage of the word to me, but if I'm wrong on that and there's some kind of anti-semitic association, I apologise.
posted by Drexen at 9:01 AM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have very little sympathy for MeFites who wield their supposed legal expertise as a club to score points and win arguments by trying to brutally shut them down.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:02 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think Ironmouth's initial comment in that thread was a cool-headed and data-backed statement of his position, and it had merit. It caused some unjustifiably emotional and irrational reactions.

It was somewhat ironic that he later used "up is down" to suggest an Orwellian motivation in some of his critics and then went for the old Fox-News-style definition of "war". Most of us here seem to recognise that 9/11 was an act of terrorism, not war. The response, however, was a declaration war by the US and its allies. However, that's an argument that we've had and will continue to have, I suppose.

All that aside, I thought Ironmouth's posts in that thread were civil and reasonable. There was nothing there that suggests to me that he was trolling; he was merely expressing a position and opinion that happens to be unpopular with the majority here. This is not trolling, and it is extremely weak for people to immediately yell that at anyone saying stuff they don't like.
posted by Decani at 9:02 AM on July 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


'kosher' is often short-hand for "acceptable" or "okay".
posted by boo_radley at 9:02 AM on July 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


Ironmouth uses affability as a weapon. It's not a bad tactic, even though I think his arguments are mostly just legalese posturing.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:03 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


'kosher' is often short-hand for "acceptable" or "okay".

Yeah, but I think the drones issue gets too close (being unpiloted and all) to discussions of I/P and related human rights issues (emotionally, if not logically) to use it in this context.
posted by liketitanic at 9:05 AM on July 25, 2012


I'd like to know exactly what you mean by "kosher" as well because I'm too used to it being cryptospeak for "Jewish" that I'm having a hard time imagining what else you mean.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:00 PM on July 25


Seriously? Well where I come from it's simply common shorthand for "okay, acceptable".
posted by Decani at 9:06 AM on July 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


liketitanic: " Yeah, but I think the drones issue gets too close (being unpiloted and all) to discussions of I/P and related human rights issues (emotionally, if not logically) to use it in this context."

If it's not being brought up in that context, then there's no reason to read into it that finely. The word is also used as a colloquialism for "legitimate."
posted by zarq at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but I think the drones issue gets too close (being unpiloted and all) to discussions of I/P and related human rights issues (emotionally, if not logically) to use it in this context.

When you put it that way, you're right; I should have used a word with less dog-whistle associations, at least for a US-oriented site, just to be clearer. It doesn't really have that association here in the UK (that I'm aware of).
posted by Drexen at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or for "tasty, pickles".
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


'kosher' is often short-hand for "acceptable" or "okay".

Yeah, it read a little weird in this case I think not so much because it's weird to ever use kosher in that non-cultural, non-religious sense you're talking about (I certainly do that myself sometimes) but because the reference in this case to people as kosher. Which seems a lot less common in my experience and muddles things up a bit since as noted above people do in fact refer to people as "kosher" as a sideways means of saying they're Jews or Jewish-ish, etc.

I read it in this case as the neutral sort of "mainstream/majority-approved" meaning because I couldn't figure why it would be used as "you know, uh, Jewish" in this context, but it felt sort of weird and jarring in practice nonetheless.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2012


In other words, I was using it in the sense of the second definition here.
posted by Drexen at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2012


If it's not being brought up in that context, then there's no reason to read into it that finely. The word is also used as a colloquialism for "legitimate."

I'm aware of that. I am also postulating as to why other people would hear it in a different way.
posted by liketitanic at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2012


Drexen: " When you put it that way, you're right; I should have used a word with less dog-whistle associations, at least for a US-oriented site, just to be clearer. It doesn't really have that association here in the UK (that I'm aware of)."

No, you did nothing wrong. It's common usage.

Without additional context, there are no dog-whistle associations between calling something "kosher" and Israeli human rights issues.
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


liketitanic: " I'm aware of that. I am also postulating as to why other people would hear it in a different way."

I'm sorry, but your postulate seems like a tremendous reach to me.
posted by zarq at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


liketitanic: "Yeah, but I think the drones issue gets too close to discussions of I/P"

Although I'm not the person who said it, I had not considered its use in the conversation in that context. I'd thought that Drexen was talking about, in other terms, "friends of the site" or "people who are well known". Thank you for helping me understand the cryptospeak interpretation.
posted by boo_radley at 9:17 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but your postulate seems like a tremendous reach to me.

Luckily you don't have to agree with it for other people to find it helpful! Isn't the world great?
posted by liketitanic at 9:19 AM on July 25, 2012


I don't think Ironmouth is really outside the accepted norms of the site politically, although there is a contingent of the site that skews more left. So that part of your concern seems strange to me. I don't think the behavior in that thread has to do with in group/out group boundaries any more than I think people who object to St. Alia's hate-filled positions are making in group/out group arguments. There may be that occurring elsewhere, and there may also be a concern here about how folks treat each other, but I think those are different things.
posted by OmieWise at 9:21 AM on July 25, 2012


Wow. Someone makes a post suggesting we should be a little more charitable and a derail quickly begins that implies they are some sort of anti-semite.

Drexen, you did absolutely nothing wrong here. You have just become another example of your original point.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:23 AM on July 25, 2012 [25 favorites]


Drexen: By 'kosher' I mean more in line with the accepted mores or the 'party-line' of the site. In the case of Metafilter that means generally liberal/leftist.

It's funny you mention that. Just yesterday, I was thinking to myself how left wing this place normally is on most matters, but when it comes to the issue of drones, many users that I'd consider liberal, actually bend over backwards to defend these remote controlled death machines. I imagine it's because there's a Democrat in the White House who's ordering the killings, and not a Bush.
posted by gman at 9:27 AM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


The word "kosher" hopped out at me too, but in re-reading I think it's because of the quotes. That's what raised my "wait, is this some kind of thing?" flag. I agree that in this context there's no reason to think it IS some kind of thing, but that's what took it from "a word like any other word" to "hold up a sec" territory.
posted by KathrynT at 9:30 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I tend to overuse quotemarks. I'll look out for that. <:)
posted by Drexen at 9:32 AM on July 25, 2012


I feel like a problem that happens a lot on metafilter is this: somebody expresses a conservative but well-thought out view, then some liberal person who also happens to be a jerk says something petty and personally insulting like "Your contemptuous disregard for X (human life, women's rights, freedom, etc) disgusts me and I think you're a bad human being." Then because metafilter is predominantly liberal, they get a ton of "likes" immediately and so the mods don't take it down, even if it's inappropriate. However, when the conservative person tries to respond in the same insulting tone (because one bad turn deserves another) they get lots more flags and much less support from the predominantly liberal audience. The end result is that people with rational but more conservative viewpoints sometimes feel like they are being unfairly gagged - liberals on Metafilter can get away with much more insulting comments towards them because they enjoy popular support, but in return the conservative thinkers have to respond politely to obvious jabs.

I want to make it clear that I don't have any prescriptive fix for this: I'm just trying to frame this issue in a way that may make the problem more apparent. However, it's worth noting that this behavior often has side effects. For example, I've become somewhat more conservative as a reaction to Metafilter, simply to spite the people who indulge in this behavior. This may not be rational on my part (except maybe on the most macro scale where helping to change society will help to change Metafilter) but emotionally it helps me feel like I've established parity.

Even if there's no immediate solution, a call to focus ln civility when this situation arises might not go amiss. For example, I'm really touched that Drexen stood up to defend somebody whose viewpoints he disagreed with. It makes me respect the liberal perspective that much more.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:35 AM on July 25, 2012 [20 favorites]


> somebody expresses a conservative but well-thought out view

Evidence?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:37 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth didn't come close to taking anything that resembles trolling. His position is completely reasonable and if people cannot tolerate that opinion being voiced, then the problem lies exclusively with them.

I would agree that the claim of astro-turfing or whatever lupus_yonderboy raised has no place in discussion and should be condemned and deleted. If he disagreed with Ironmouth, he could make his own point or meet Ironmouth on Ironmouth's terms. But trying to discredit Ironmouth's position because of some other metric was wrong. But other than that, Ironmouth did not take much of a roasting. (I've certainly ignored worse).

Yes, it'd be great if people would read other's contributions more charitably.
posted by dios at 9:39 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


any more than I think people who object to St. Alia's hate-filled positions

Is "hate-filled" really important to your point?

I honestly don't know if St. Alia has positions that are hate filled or not, either they've been better at about posting on the topic, I've avoided the threads on the topic, or both. If you're talking about how the site isn't ostracizing people, perhaps you shouldn't go out of your way to refer to a specific person's beliefs as hate-filled, because that right there seems pretty ostracizing to me.

Which isn't to say that you couldn't be right, but it's the "hey, everyone knows this is a perfect example of a jerk" aspect of things that sort of struck me.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:40 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


fwiw, i've never heard anyone use 'kosher' as a code for jewish. 'kosher' means 'legitimate' or 'authentic' or 'above suspicion' 99 times out of 100, and the other 1 time it means 'kosher'. seeing it in the comment above did not strike me as even potentially weird.
posted by facetious at 9:40 AM on July 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


Then because metafilter is predominantly liberal, they get a ton of "likes" immediately and so the mods don't take it down, even if it's inappropriate.

To be clear, "it got a lot of favorites" is never a workable argument against us deleting something that needs to go. We do not take it into account. The more likely situation here is someone says something sort of crappy and then it doesn't get flagged quickly and no one drops us a line about it and so we just don't see it in any kind of prompt fashion, and then it gets folded into the conversation so that when and if we do end up seeing it removing it (if it's deleteably bad rather than just sort of obnoxious) is non-trivial.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:41 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 'kosher' thing looked odd to me because it was set off by single quotes, and I have seen that punctuation used to indicate that a word was being used to convey a meaning that is outside of typical usage. I was not leveling an accusation, merely curious as to what meaning he was going for. Thanks for the explanation, Drexen.
posted by heyho at 9:47 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which is not an Ironmouth-only thing, either. We've got a bunch of high-volume regulars around here who have sort of pet topics they reliably return to to get into basically the same arguments they've gotten into before repeatedly. And while I understand how that happens from an individual perspective (you're interested/invested/passionate about a given topic, you discuss it whenever you get a chance), it gets really problematic as a gestalt thing on the site because it makes threads homogeneous, sucks up the air in the room so less always-banging-that-gong users don't feel like there's room for them or any point in joining the discussion, and it leaves us with a bunch of folks becoming (or having long ago become) That Guy about one or another topic.

There's a huge difference between popping up in threads about X and saying your piece and dragging X into threads that have little or nothing to do with that topic to begin with. Especially because if you have an opinion that's different from the norm of course you are going to stick up, you are the guy who shows up in threads and disagrees with the consensus. People don't get asked to cool it when they pop into the nth thread on a topic and agree with everyone else because noone really notices them. People get asked to cool it when they show ip in the nth thread on a topic and say something that starts people disagreeing with them. What really sucks the air out of the room is if you are only allowed to disagree about a consensus topic a few times and then are told that you've said your piece and cool it.

(That said, when people find a way to drag their favorite argument into every thread even remotely related to the topic, well, that gets annoying as hell.)
posted by aspo at 9:49 AM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Its fine. They've always said that stuff. I'm assuming that they took my comments in the 2008 election-eve thread. I did election observation that year--last minute. I was thrilled to see their manual for it and predicted a solid win for Obama because, well, they had the voter-suppression angle covered.

I think this thing can be put to bed, thankfully.

I will say this I WOULD LOVE TO DO MESSAGING FOR OBAMA. So if you're working for them, use MeMail.

If I was working for them, I'd full disclose, of course.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 AM on July 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


I find that Ironmouth's use of restraint on this website borders on the superhuman at times.
posted by Winnemac at 9:58 AM on July 25, 2012 [44 favorites]


Nice day for a walk.
posted by fixedgear at 10:03 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is "hate-filled" really important to your point?

Yeah, it is. I'm not sure why you would feel like you have the wherewithal to comment if you haven't paid attention to her positions, but my point is precisely that people don't just pay attention to St. Alia because she has different views, they care because she has previously suggested that folks she hates are going to hell and should have their rights restricted. There are things to say about how she is treated here, but she's a bad example of people being ostracized for having "different" views. Tolerance does not mean supporting other people professing odious and hateful positions authorized by faith just so they feel comfortable.
posted by OmieWise at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know you don't take favorites into account when considering comments for deletion, and I don't want you to start doing that, but would it be possible to see (just for the sake of satisfying curiosity) what the favorites/comment ratio is for deleted comments vs. comments as a whole? I'm guessing that it's not easy to do and that you wouldn't want to do it anyway (so I'm going to be disappointed) but I still think it'd be interesting to see.
posted by Scientist at 10:20 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


liketitanic: " Luckily you don't have to agree with it for other people to find it helpful! Isn't the world great?"

And luckily, some of us are also here to tell drexen he didn't do anything wrong. He obviously thought he had, since he apologized. And yes, the world is great.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


would it be possible to see (just for the sake of satisfying curiosity) what the favorites/comment ratio is for deleted comments vs. comments as a whole?

It would be super-skewed by hilarious but off-topic jokes in AskMe, would be my prediction.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:23 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


However, it's worth noting that this behavior often has side effects. For example, I've become somewhat more conservative as a reaction to Metafilter, simply to spite the people who indulge in this behavior. This may not be rational on my part (except maybe on the most macro scale where helping to change society will help to change Metafilter) but emotionally it helps me feel like I've established parity.

What? No. C'mon. I may have thought the book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence was a badly-written, badly-researched, ignorant (and dangerous if the author had gotten her way originally) shitshow, but I wasn't less of a feminist out of spite after reading it.

Either an idea is sound or it isn't.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:26 AM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


but would it be possible to see (just for the sake of satisfying curiosity) what the favorites/comment ratio is for deleted comments vs. comments as a whole?

It'd be possible in principle, and as far as that goes I'll toss it on my (at this point madly teetering) stack of rainy day analysis ideas. But there's some tricky little dragons in there even from the word go, not least being that an undeleted comment is free to be favorited forever, whereas a deleted comment can only be favorited during the period before its deletion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:27 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would solve a lot of problems to discuss/attack the facts and moral opinions expressed, instead of attacking people personally. Unfortunately, this is not something MetaFilter does well. Looking at this thread, "up is down" appears to be attacking the opinion that a drone attack is equivalent to the 911 attack. I don't see it as necessarily personal, but it would be better to just explain the differences in more detail.

Looking up someone's history and using it as part of the argument and then inquiring about their personal life is way out of line in my opinion.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:31 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the (as ever) eminently reasonable responses, mods.

(And for the record, lupus_yonderboy did step back from his attacks -- I'm not trying to bash an apology out of him, just to bring up the wider issue).
posted by Drexen at 10:38 AM on July 25, 2012


It makes me respect the liberal perspective that much more.

Honestly, it shouldn't. It should make you respect Drexen all the more, but not "the liberal perspective," of which there is more than one, and for which Drexen is not the sole standard-bearer (if Drexen even considers him/herself a "liberal" in the way you mean it, especially considering Drexen seems to be in the UK).
posted by rtha at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be clear, "it got a lot of favorites" is never a workable argument against us deleting something that needs to go. We do not take it into account.

Well Cortex, if you frame it that way, I will take your word for it. You know, this may be a non-sequitur, but I suppose one angle we haven't fully considered is the mods themselves. Subjective bias is a provable psychological phenomenon, and I don't think I've ever seen anybody with any real self-awareness claim that they're completely immune to it.

Here's how it works, in theory. If a person is absolutely neutral on a topic, then an extreme comment (like "you don't care about human life") sounds equally bad from either the conservative or liberal camp. On the other hand, if a person leans two points to the left (in this example, "points" are arbitrary units of extremism) then a liberal comment sounds that much less extreme, whereas a conservative comment sounds that much more extreme. And if a person leans six points to the left, then liberal insults towards conservatives are just "common sense observations" whereas even an independent voter seems right wing to that person. So I'm curious about whether there are any shared commonalities in the political views that our mods hold. Could they possibly tend to fall more on the liberal side of the political spectrum?

Before anyone misinterprets this, I want to point out that I am not attacking our mods. They are all hard-working people who do a great job (particularly Jessamyn, whom I have the utmost respect for). In fact, it's possible that my hypothesis is completely wrong and for all I know, our mods are all right-wing libertarians. I'm open to that possibility. I'm just curious, that's all - and as somebody with a longstanding interest in psychology, I find data on subconscious bias fascinating, particularly when it has potential real-world applications.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:46 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I, for one, object to the use of the term "ostracism". I've always found ostriches to be pretty cool, if a bit difficult to ride.
posted by LordSludge at 10:52 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth didn't come close to taking anything that resembles trolling. His position is completely reasonable and if people cannot tolerate that opinion being voiced, then the problem lies exclusively with them.

I would agree that the claim of astro-turfing or whatever lupus_yonderboy raised has no place in discussion and should be condemned and deleted. If he disagreed with Ironmouth, he could make his own point or meet Ironmouth on Ironmouth's terms. But trying to discredit Ironmouth's position because of some other metric was wrong. But other than that, Ironmouth did not take much of a roasting. (I've certainly ignored worse).

Yes, it'd be great if people would read other's contributions more charitably.


At this point, I'd prefer if it was out there and my denial was out there so we can put this to bed.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 AM on July 25, 2012


> somebody expresses a conservative but well-thought out view

Evidence?


If you're suggesting that conservative views expressed on Metafilter are uniformly ill-considered, that just illustrates wolfdreams01's point that certain kinds of views are predictably met with contempt on this site.
posted by John Cohen at 10:55 AM on July 25, 2012 [31 favorites]


One last thing. I have a link to support style of posting. So I've been well-educated by the back and forth because of the need to support what I've had to say.

so it is a way net positive for me.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


wolfdreams01: “Here's how it works, in theory. If a person is absolutely neutral on a topic, then an extreme comment (like ‘you don't care about human life’) sounds equally bad from either the conservative or liberal camp. On the other hand, if a person leans two points to the left (in this example, ‘points’ are arbitrary units of extremism) then a liberal comment sounds that much less extreme, whereas a conservative comment sounds that much more extreme. And if a person leans six points to the left, then liberal insults towards conservatives are just ‘common sense observations’ whereas even an independent voter seems right wing to that person. So I'm curious about whether there are any shared commonalities in the political views that our mods hold. Could they possibly tend to fall more on the liberal side of the political spectrum?”

To even make the observation that "subjective bias is a provable psychological phenomenon," one must assume that it's possible to stand above one's own political perspectives and make true judgments about bias. So, while you may not see this angle of questioning as an "attack," and I'm sure it's not, it certainly a tiny bit insulting, given that you're asking the mods if they've failed to attain the bias-free perspective which you are confident you've attained yourself.
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 AM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


What? No. C'mon. I may have thought the book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence was a badly-written, badly-researched, ignorant (and dangerous if the author had gotten her way originally) shitshow, but I wasn't less of a feminist out of spite after reading it.

I understand what the poster is saying and share his tendency.

There are definitely on-line discussions where I'm so irritated/disappointed by the irrational and ungenerous positions of people I'd normally agree with, that I find myself taking the contrary position out of irritation.

When I move away from the argument, I tend to revert to my usual point of view, but I can often find myself taking a devils advocate position, simply because I'm offended by the quality of the argument that the person I'm otherwise politically aligned with is making.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:03 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


What? No. C'mon. I may have thought the book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence was a badly-written, badly-researched, ignorant (and dangerous if the author had gotten her way originally) shitshow, but I wasn't less of a feminist out of spite after reading it.

Either an idea is sound or it isn't.

I think you're projecting your perspective onto me somewhat. I don't have strongly held political or moral beliefs (I'm a fundamentalist Taoist and registered as an independent voter). What this means is that to me, most morality and politics are entirely subjective and I totally don't care as long as the people I like are favored and the people I don't like are disfavored. To me, the only absolute value that I won't compromise on is loyalty to my friends, and even then I recognize that this is just my own personal ideal, not a universal constant.

For example, I support gay marriage not because of principle, but simply because I have a lot of gay friends and I want to make them happy. But if most gay people were douchebags to me, I would cheerfully oppose gay marriage. To me, the value of a political movement isn't in some abstract "principle" but rather the aggregate value of the people who comprise that movement. So generally I tend to lean Democrat because most of the Democrats I've met have been more openminded and logical than the Republicans, but I'm totally comfortable with shifting my voting and donating habits when it seems like the demographics of the groups are changing.

I won't go into it further since this is a bit of a derail, but I just wanted to clarify how your belief in "ideas" rather than "people" is one that I don't share, and from that perspective the "spite vote" makes perfect logical sense.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:04 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, while you may not see this angle of questioning as an "attack," and I'm sure it's not, it certainly a tiny bit insulting, given that you're asking the mods if they've failed to attain the bias-free perspective which you are confident you've attained yourself.

I don't think I've attained it, and I never made the claim of such. I was simply asking a question about them, that's all.

I assure you that it wasn't meant to be insulting, and I apologize if any offense was inadvertently implied.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:05 AM on July 25, 2012


Looking at this thread, "up is down" appears to be attacking the opinion that a drone attack is equivalent to the 911 attack.

He says it almost any time someone disagrees with him, though (I got bored after one page of Google results gave nine different threads, not including one thread I vividly recall where he used it several times), so at this point I don't consider it anything more than (slightly) aggressive noise.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:05 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Subjective bias is a provable psychological phenomenon, and I don't think I've ever seen anybody with any real self-awareness claim that they're completely immune to it.

You won't find any mods claiming as much either, yeah. That said, one of the things that comes with the job is being keenly aware of how much of a problem it would be to let our personal biases steer the tiller on moderation decisions, so we all pretty aggressively compartmentalize our personal politics and ideological leanings from the moderation process. We can't by definition know about our unknown biases but we can and do make the effort to avoid decision-making processes that are vulnerable to the fact that we're humans with our own druthers and biases.

A big part of that for me is that I mostly just stay the hell out of ideological discussions. Partly because I don't really like having those discussions much in the first place, and partly because I don't want to promote my opinion as some quasi-official site stance, and partly because these are often hot-button topics that require an active mod presence in a thread and I rarely feel comfortable simultaneously trying to keep people in check in an ideologically-charged discussion and throwing my personal baggage into the conversation.

This is pretty much what I've seen the other mods doing, as well.

That we tend to get flak about our notional biases from both ends of pretty much every ideological continuum along which someone could be accused of standing far from center is at least comforting in its suggestion that we're striking a reasonably decent balance on the whole and not firehosing our personal opinions into these threads. Which is reasonably speaking about all we can hope for in the necessary absence of perfect self-knowledge.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The bias discussion comes up from time to time. The larger problem of bias just has to do with the nature of speech and how saying "I like this" is just generally inherently less problematic than saying "I don't like this" to many people.

The larger-world way I hear this a lot is that saying "I like McDonalds" is just advertising whereas saying "I dislike McDonald's" is seen to many as political or agenda-driven. We see this with Google ads where it's fine to say "Shop at the Body Shop" but less okay to say "Don't shop at the Body Shop"

In threads this works out where if people are talking about the topic generally, whatever it is, things progress but when people take a strongly held assertive stance against the topic [whatever it is, usually, if a thread is "this thing is good" you come out saying "I think this thing is really really bad" or if it's "This is a terrible thing that happened" you say "Well maybe it's not so bad"] and then basically dig in with it, the thread quickly turns into a lot of people jumping on the "I have strong opinions about this in a direction that is different from how this thread was going otherwise" person and turning it into an interrogation of them and their values. I strongly feel that it takes two to maintain this sort of thing, the person to dig in and the other people to Not Let It Go, but we do see certain people engaging in it significantly more than others, both in duration and frequency. Often we'll step in and leave notes and suggest people get back on track. Sometimes people pay attention to them.

There is also another phenomenon I see which is where there is a thread where people are mostly agreeing, some people feel that this in and of itself creates a vacuum where they have to show up, even if it's to play devil's advocate, and argue with everyone in the thread. And this is seen as a Speaking Truth to Power move and if we step in to ask people to dial it back, that is seen as some sort of staunching of free speech or The Truth or whatever. And unlike most places there's actually a higher value placed on a space for community discussion [where people can be free from attacks and the casual racism and trolling that exist many other places] even if that means that people who are correct (in some sort of factual way, if that were able to be ascertained and it often isn't) have to toe the line somewhat and learn to treat others respectfully and decently. And this is frustrating as hell, I'm aware of that.

And as far as our personal biases: that is really what MetaTalk is for. We're here to be examined, our work is available to be scrutinized and examined and our boss has put his phone number on the website for a decade. People may ultimately disagree with the decisions that we make here, but they are always allowed to bring them up for community feedback.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:09 AM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


> If you're suggesting that conservative views expressed on Metafilter are uniformly ill-considered, that just illustrates wolfdreams01's point that certain kinds of views are predictably met with contempt on this site.

Er, no. But thanks for making a leap. I was being snipey, but that statement needed backing up because it was just someone's perception. A link goes a long way.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2012


I'm not sure why you would feel like you have the wherewithal to comment if you haven't paid attention to her positions, but my point is precisely that people don't just pay attention to St. Alia because she has different views, they care because she has previously suggested that folks she hates are going to hell and should have their rights restricted. There are things to say about how she is treated here, but she's a bad example of people being ostracized for having "different" views. Tolerance does not mean supporting other people professing odious and hateful positions authorized by faith just so they feel comfortable.

Which, being translated, only means that I have conservative/orthodox Christian views on sexuality, period. A cursory look at my friends list on Facebook would include at least one samesex couple, plus people of all faiths/atheist along with just about you name it. I would like it very very much if people would quit calling me hatefilled because we disagree on something. Particularly as I don't tend to friend folks on FB that I hate, capische?

However, I will accept the earlier implied invitation to be the Metafilter Patron Saint of the Contrary.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:33 AM on July 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


But if most gay people were douchebags to me, I would cheerfully oppose gay marriage. To me, the value of a political movement isn't in some abstract "principle" but rather the aggregate value of the people who comprise that movement.

If the aggregate is composed solely of people you know/come into contact with, your sample is going to be horribly biased.

Very, very few Republicans have been personally shitty to me; some have been kind, funny, generous, etc.; that doesn't mean I'm going to go out and vote Republican. Your position doesn't really make any sense to me. I guess I'm glad it does to you?
posted by rtha at 11:35 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


For example, I support gay marriage not because of principle, but simply because I have a lot of gay friends and I want to make them happy. But if most gay people were douchebags to me, I would cheerfully oppose gay marriage.

This is actually kind of a chilling statement about How you think about human rights. You might want to be less forthcoming with your viewpoint here, as it makes you seem incredibly solipsistic and unable to engage in nuanced thought.
posted by OmieWise at 11:37 AM on July 25, 2012 [27 favorites]


On non-preview: St. Alia, I reject your suggestion that you get to determine the message of your positions, and I don't give a fuck if some of your best friends are black. Luckily we aren't required to accept the limits that hate mongers want to put on our judgement.
posted by OmieWise at 11:39 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like (sarcastic) how the thread about calling people out got insanely personal and even more offensive to various members.
posted by bquarters at 11:42 AM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


For example, I support gay marriage not because of principle, but simply because I have a lot of gay friends and I want to make them happy. But if most gay people were douchebags to me, I would cheerfully oppose gay marriage.

The problem here is that you have absolutely no way, ever, in any fashion, of having an interaction with "most gay people." Hell, you probably couldn't have an interaction with "most gay people" in your city.

Now, if you're talking about basing your opinion of a civil right on your perception of "most gay people you know," that would be straight-up bigotry.
posted by griphus at 11:43 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Exhibit A.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:44 AM on July 25, 2012


Er, prejudice, not bigotry.
posted by griphus at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2012


Well, omiewise, you are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to disagree with it. I have lots of friends who totally disagree with many of my viewpoints and we are able to discuss those topics nonhatefully when we wish, and we are also able to discuss other things that we do agree on, and nothing explodes and the world does not come to a screeching halt. On forums such as this, being able to do that makes it much pleasanter for ALL involved. If you wish to discuss this further, there's memail and I have email and facebook. Otherwise, let's let this thread carry on, shall we?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure
posted by OmieWise at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2012


Boy, that escalated quickly.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]



If you're suggesting that conservative views expressed on Metafilter are uniformly ill-considered, that just illustrates wolfdreams01's point that certain kinds of views are predictably met with contempt on this site.


Certain points of view are contemptible.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:50 AM on July 25, 2012


an undeleted comment is free to be favorited forever

Is there some way I can get this emblazoned above my contribution index in my profile? I have some dollars.
posted by carsonb at 11:52 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Boy, that escalated quickly.

NO IT DIDN'T, GODDAMMIT
posted by shakespeherian at 11:53 AM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's generally better to refer to behavior as kosher, rather than people. In fact, I think the "perfectly okay/acceptable" meaning almost always is paired with a noun describing a kind of action or behavior, as in "that was a totally kosher response to my question" or "dating your best friend's ex wouldn't be kosher". It would be unwise to use that meaning for food ("that was a totally kosher egg and bacon sandwich"). It's a bit crazy to use that meaning for people.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:54 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Are there exceptions for sexting with someone who's Jewish?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:58 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It took me a bit, but A+, zombieflanders.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:00 PM on July 25, 2012


Way to exsanguinate!
posted by Burhanistan at 12:01 PM on July 25, 2012


Metafilter: the other 1 time it means 'kosher'
posted by skbw at 12:04 PM on July 25, 2012


Well, I was wondering why the rabbi had to be there for the whole thing.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:04 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, so we used to have threads all the time on the blue where people would show up and grouse about how the site's standards are going downhill and the post sucks and the poster is a loser and this is Not The Best Of The Web and on and on.

And I think one of the smartest decisions the mods have made here was when they said "Okay, enough. If you don't like a post, flag it or take it to MetaTalk, but don't bitch about it in-thread." And when they did that, it turned out that most people didn't really think that single-link YouTube posts (or whatever) were Destroying The Site. They were just, you know, sounding off and being hyperbolic because that sort of post irritated them. Deleting that sort of irritable noisemaking has been really wonderful for the site.

I think a similar reasoning applies here. If you really think that another user is an astroturfer being paid to lower the quality of discourse on the site, then that's a serious accusation, and it needs to come to MeTa so we can hash out the evidence. On the other hand, if you're not willing to make the accusation in a serious way, in the right venue, with evidence, then that makes it look like it's pure irritable noisemaking, and it should be deleted the same way "This post sucks" gets deleted.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:06 PM on July 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Are there exceptions for sexting with someone who's Jewish?

If people want to find out, MeMail me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:07 PM on July 25, 2012


Or purchase my new SabbathSext app, now available in the app store for 99c!

It works just like the crock pot: before sundown, plug in your phone, open the app and hit "start." Don't worry about the timing because SabbathSext has a built-in database of sunrises and sunsets (wasn't it yesterday when they were small?) Now, you can safely rely on SabbathSext knowing that it will send out obscene message after obscene message to the number(s) of your choice with absolutely no input from you.

It's a guy who calls himself Rabbi-approved!
posted by griphus at 12:14 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I'd personally put Ironmouth high on my list of "people who can manage to take the heat just fine, thanks." In fact, I get the impression he enjoys the sparring. I wouldn't call someone out for slugging it out with Ironmouth unless he himself complained about it. Has he?
posted by tyllwin at 12:18 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


nebulawindphone: " And I think one of the smartest decisions the mods have made here was when they said "Okay, enough. If you don't like a post, flag it or take it to MetaTalk, but don't bitch about it in-thread." And when they did that, it turned out that most people didn't really think that single-link YouTube posts (or whatever) were Destroying The Site. They were just, you know, sounding off and being hyperbolic because that sort of post irritated them. Deleting that sort of irritable noisemaking has been really wonderful for the site."

Perhaps it has slowed, but it certainly hasn't stopped them. I flagged one of those comments on my post from this morning and it wasn't deleted. Probably didn't meet the threshold.
posted by zarq at 12:20 PM on July 25, 2012


Oh, and so far as Alia goes, I think she quite accurately points out that her views are utterly commonplace for a Christian. I think (sorry, Alia) that they're much mistaken, but saying that views held by a big chunk of the population are just so hateful that they shouldn't be heard simply makes us an echo chamber. Like it or not, her opinions are a part of mainstream discourse, and she expresses them in civil language.
posted by tyllwin at 12:26 PM on July 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


but saying that views held by a big chunk of the population are just so hateful that they shouldn't be heard simply makes us an echo chamber.

Yeah, I really don't want to continue talking about Alia, but I certainly never said that her views shouldn't be heard, nor am I aware that anyone else did. I don't think codemnn them in strong language is the same thing at all.
posted by OmieWise at 12:32 PM on July 25, 2012


What in the holy hell. I liked this thread better when it was dogwhistles and cryptospeak. Y'all grinding axes into clubs, man.
posted by boo_radley at 12:40 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


St. Alia's views are certainly commonplace in some Christian denominations. In others, you would have to look long and hard to find someone who agreed with the same views.

One of the things I'm really glad we don't do here is inter-denominational arguing about which flavor of Christianity is better. (I am myself a complete and utter pill about that on other sites where such argument is tolerated, and nobody wants to read my angry quotes from the Patrologia Latina, I promise you.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:44 PM on July 25, 2012


nobody wants to read my angry quotes from the Patrologia Latina

Grandma Grace, is that you?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:46 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I'd personally put Ironmouth high on my list of "people who can manage to take the heat just fine, thanks." In fact, I get the impression he enjoys the sparring.

How an individual user responds to attacks on their motivation and posting history is only part of the issue. Just as germane is the effect that this behaviour has on the overall tone of the site (do we want Metafilter to be a place where those sorts of attacks are acceptable?) and on less thick-skinned members who are discouraged from commenting based on the treatment they see meted out to others who diverge from thread groupthink.

If it's not possible to get the 'high-volume regulars' to stop beating the same dreary drums, then we can at least work on an atmosphere which encourages wider participation in discussions.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:47 PM on July 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


So we're moving on to St Alia's Christian views and Jewish sexting, eh? Is this a good time to bring atheism and circumcision into this thread?

*ducks, runs away, wishes Barcade was open already*
posted by Decani at 12:49 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

jessamyn: In threads this works out where if people are talking about the topic generally, whatever it is, things progress but when people take a strongly held assertive stance against the topic [...] and then basically dig in with it, the thread quickly turns into a lot of people jumping on the "I have strong opinions about this in a direction that is different from how this thread was going otherwise" person and turning it into an interrogation of them and their values. I strongly feel that it takes two to maintain this sort of thing, the person to dig in and the other people to Not Let It Go, but we do see certain people engaging in it significantly more than others, both in duration and frequency. Often we'll step in and leave notes and suggest people get back on track. Sometimes people pay attention to them.
Emphasis my own. I think the real flaw in this style of thinking is similar to a situation many MeFites will be familiar with: school bullying.

When a school bullying thread comes up, a fair number of people take the opportunity to engage in some cathartic sharing about their own traumatic experiences. One particular wrinkle that often comes up that only adds to the frustration and anger is the poor way school personnel handle bullying, such as labeling everyone "equally wrong", or punishing everyone the same, or suggesting the bullied must have being doing something to provoke the bulliers, etc.

When I see the pile-on pattern jessamyn describes happen in threads, it seems to follow a similar pattern. Selective deletes or callouts that suggest the isolated opinion is "egging people on" or "making this thread about them". Just like the bullied are making bullies pick on them for any number of reasons, I suppose. And then you'll see the bracketed response along the lines of "[hey, _____, at this point it's you versus the thread. Maybe it's time to step away]". In the last bugaboo thread I went into, La Ceica (spelling?) was trying in good faith to respond, and at a certain point jessamyn said pretty much exactly that.

At a certain point in these threads, the banner might as well read "Metafilter: We don't really want your minority opinions around here". A minority opinion isn't inherently a wrong one, and holding it isn't the same as being a "troublemaker". And the crime of being passionate about the topic is selectively enforced; in these charged topic threads, everyone commenting is passionate and has it as their pet topic, else they wouldn't be there.

I don't think the mods bring their own personal opinions to bear, so much as they see any dissenting opinions in an increasingly heated thread as "problematic"- even when others are gleefully piling on 6 or 8 at a time, while one or two commentors try to respond (even in "good faith"). In some of these lopsided threads (I didn't even read the particular one linked from this MeTa) there will be some vicious, personal attacks or really brutal insults and aspersions cast at someone who is seen as not being 'in line'. These seem to go largely unchallenged, but if the attacked responds- not even in kind- that response becomes a lightning rod. The majority opinion in the thread starts responding 6 to 8 at a time in a tidal wave of selective quoting, or ad hominem attacks, or bad faith rhetorical questions like "Why do you hate _____?".

And the frustration of the mods seems to be "Well, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't", and telling one person to go "take a break" is probably the quickest solution... but I think the response for moderating these kinds of threads is clearer than you make it. First, it's not clear why you need to moderate charged topic threads at all, other than "broken windows" theory. Second, if instead of comment deletion or saying that some people are "riling up" the thread simply by being there, you focused on reminding commentors that almost no one posting is doing so in bad faith- they aren't trolling, they aren't just saying things to piss you off, they aren't insincere in their beliefs- and to avoid ad hominem attacks (I'm not in favor of deletions in almost any case, but that's me- getting a personal email is more effective at both addressing the issue and getting someone's attention anyway).

Otherwise, why not let the opinions fly fast and furious, because even if 10 people say "Wow your opinion really bothers me!", if stated opinions aren't done in a hateful way then it's not really something you should be 'fixing'?
posted by hincandenza at 12:53 PM on July 25, 2012 [45 favorites]


Is this a good time to bring atheism and circumcision into this thread?

A declawed cat can't cause an accidental circumcision you know.
posted by tyllwin at 12:54 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dragging Alia into any of this seems a bit reduntant seeing as the views she holds that would generally be seen as hateful and contemptible are already banned (from being expressed specifically by her) on this site (unless that has changed recently).
posted by Reggie Knoble at 12:55 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, one point I should have made clearer in my last comment: when I compared it to school bullying, I didn't mean it as a perfect comparison. Rather, I meant to stress that where many MeFites have had bad experiences in school with bullying and the way the school handles it, they would probably have a more emotional than rational reaction if they felt the same pattern was playing out with a moderated thread of either selective enforcement or an expedited "Let's just remove the squeaky wheel" approach.

This is independent of whether that feeling is actually justified or not. And once things go onto an emotional level that resonates with people's adolescent traumas... well, it's pretty much going to get ugly.
posted by hincandenza at 12:59 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wishing I could favourite hincandenza's comment a lot more than once.
posted by Decani at 1:04 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


hincandenza: At a certain point in these threads, the banner might as well read "Metafilter: We don't really want your minority opinions around here". A minority opinion isn't inherently a wrong one, and holding it isn't the same as being a "troublemaker". And the crime of being passionate about the topic is selectively enforced; in these charged topic threads, everyone commenting is passionate and has it as their pet topic, else they wouldn't be there.

Yes, but most people, whether of a majority or minority opinion, manage to comment passionately without stirring up a ton of drama and turning the thread into five-ring circus with them in the center ring trying to tame lions. Then, those people are told to take a walk or whatever, and the thread returns to being a normal, more pleasant debate.

Like you, I've seen that happen a lot. You ascribe it to a bias against minority opinions, but I disagree. I think it happens when someone, whether holding a majority or minority opinion, begins to take the arguments very personally.
posted by gilrain at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2012


And the frustration of the mods seems to be "Well, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't", and telling one person to go "take a break" is probably the quickest solution...

Generally we're telling everybody to give it a rest, including specifically the person or people at the center of or contributing asymmetrically to that dynamic.

Whether or not it's unfair in some abstract sense that someone holding up one end of a numerically lopsided argument becomes conspicuously at the center of that argument isn't really something we can address short of limiting everybody to a single comment per thread; it's an emergent property of large group discussions. I think it can and often does suck going both ways when half a dozen people get in an unfriendly argument with one person, since it's rarely great behavior or good reading. But it sucks in particular for the ten thousand or so people not embroiled in that dustup, and we're more beholden to them than we are to the handful of people in the middle of it.

First, it's not clear why you need to moderate charged topic threads at all, other than "broken windows" theory.

See above; threads are bigger, and the site is bigger, than any one person's or any half dozen people's investment in a given argument or shouting match, and when that stuff tends to go pear-shaped we're going to try and keep it from spinning well and truly out of hand. That often involves asking people to cool it, generally and then if that doesn't work specifically. That the folks perpetuating that stuff are the ones that get mentioned specifically is pretty much the natural outcome.

There's a whole lot of tricky stuff about discursive dynamics in large groups that are entirely incidental to the minority status or not of the topics or arguments involved in any given case. Those general dynamics are our biggest issue to deal with, since they apply to the whole site; that they come up in the context of less popular or less generally accepted opinions or positions is a secondary issue.

Second, if instead of comment deletion or saying that some people are "riling up" the thread simply by being there, you focused on reminding commentors that almost no one posting is doing so in bad faith- they aren't trolling, they aren't just saying things to piss you off, they aren't insincere in their beliefs- and to avoid ad hominem attacks

This is all stuff we do do, but it's not stuff that can replace deletions or notes, which is why it works in complement with them. I would love it if reminding people to just be cool and give each other the benefit of the doubt and play civil worked well enough that that's all we needed to do, but it absolutely does not. This is not a couple dozen friends sitting around shooting the shit, it's ten thousand people in any given week dropping by. The scale is different, the practical challenges are different, and the toolset is necessarily different.

Otherwise, why not let the opinions fly fast and furious, because even if 10 people say "Wow your opinion really bothers me!", if stated opinions aren't done in a hateful way then it's not really something you should be 'fixing'?

Because a thread that becomes about nothing but one person opinioneering and ten people saying WTF, repeatedly, that's pretty lousy Metafilter. It may be an engaging time for the dude with the opinion and the WTFers, but everybody else is left trying or not bothering to try to get a word in edgewise. And that's in the best case scenario where things don't, in fact, spool out of hand as people heat up and rhetoric escalates, and escalation does in fact happen pretty regularly and easily under those conditions.

Just ignoring it will not fix it. I can understand wishing that the site just managed to be great all the time without any moderation intervention, but it's a really unrealistic expectation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:13 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


A declawed cat can't cause an accidental circumcision you know.

There's more than one way for a cat to skin a penis.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:18 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


If the aggregate is composed solely of people you know/come into contact with, your sample is going to be horribly biased.

Right. That's why the strength of my opinions depends on the value of my sample size. The bigger my sample size, the more passionately I care (because the more likely my opinion is to be accurate). The smaller the sample size, the less invested I am and the more likely I am to change my opinions based on new evidence. That's only logical, don't you think?

This is actually kind of a chilling statement about How you think about human rights. You might want to be less forthcoming with your viewpoint here, as it makes you seem incredibly solipsistic and unable to engage in nuanced thought.

My ethical views are based entirely on logic, and while it's true that sometimes logic leads to some unpleasant conclusions (such as the scary fact that most value systems are completely subjective), that doesn't invalidate those rationally-reached conclusions. If your brain rebels against the premise of a logic-based value system, then you're the one incapable of grasping nuanced thought, not I.

Also, kudos on managing to work "you might want to be less forthcoming with your viewpoint" into your post. Because nothing says "open-minded and tolerant" like telling somebody to shut up because their value system doesn't live up to your moral standards. Are you a right-wing religious fundamentalist, by any chance? Your advice seems rooted in a similar principle to theirs...

On an unrelated topic, can we stop examining my comment in such detail? I feel it's taking attention from the main focus of this thread, which is the pile-on that perfectly reasonable people like Ironmouth often receive. You're more than welcome to memail me privately if you wish to discuss this in more detail.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:19 PM on July 25, 2012


Oh, it's too juicy.

Metatalk: My ethical views are based entirely on logic
posted by Burhanistan at 1:27 PM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure why you would feel like you have the wherewithal to comment if you haven't paid attention to her positions...

Because I wasn't speaking about her positions, but about your behavior. I think that what you did by dragging someone unrelated into the topic, because of their beliefs, in way that appears to be just about saying how bad those beliefs are, is a very good example of behavior that sends the message "we don't like your type around here." Which considering you were saying that people weren't being treated that way struck me as odd.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:35 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd like to know exactly what you mean by "kosher" as well because I'm too used to it being cryptospeak for "Jewish"

Wow, that's wild. I have never once in my life heard it used that way. Or possibly I have and just didn't recognize it as that; If I did then it was in mass media somewhere.

Where I come from "kosher" sits along with schmuck, chutzpah, klutz, kvetch, nosh, schlep, and schlong as an American English import from Yiddish.

In any case, I'll have to be more careful with kosher.

As an aside I have to say that I do love American English, the katamari of world languages.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:36 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


hincandenza: "The majority opinion in the thread starts responding 6 to 8 at a time in a tidal wave of selective quoting, or ad hominem attacks, or bad faith rhetorical questions like "Why do you hate _____?"."

The person or people holding a minority opinion often does this as well. That is not a behavioral quirk which is restricted to either side. it is problematic no matter which side is doing it.
posted by zarq at 1:37 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh hell, that whole comment's a fuckin' goldmine, I tell you what.

Metatalk: your brain rebels against the premise of a logic-based value system

Metatalk: you're the one incapable of grasping nuanced thought, not I

posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


Does calling out people in Metatalk threads like this one ever actually work, or do they always resolve into referenda about a given person's worth? (Not necessarily the person first being called out?)
posted by MartinWisse at 2:21 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


If "kosher" is "cryptospeak for Jewish" where you come from, the people in your community must be really bad at speaking cryptically.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:29 PM on July 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think that what you did by dragging someone unrelated into the topic

I did not do this. Alia was cited in the text for this post. She was cited as an example of someone ostracized for having views outside the Metafilter norm. I pointed out that I believe this is incorrect. She is ostracized because in expressing her views she seeks to condemn members of this community to damnation and reduced civil rights. That position is hateful, and the context is significantly different from what was presented (or apoarently from what you care to know). That's why I asked why you felt qualified to comment on this. My point was about the context of people disagreeing with her. If you don't know that context, what are you doing commenting?

I can understand if you just think my approach is too harsh, if hateful opinions should be treated the same as different opinions, but if you want to have a serious conversation to that effect you're still going to have to acknowledge the context do that we are clear what we are talking about. You seem to just want to say "poor Alia, noxious OmieWise," though, which isn't a very convincing argument.
posted by OmieWise at 2:35 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"My ethical views are based entirely on logic, and while it's true that sometimes logic leads to some unpleasant conclusions (such as the scary fact that most value systems are completely subjective), that doesn't invalidate those rationally-reached conclusions. If your brain rebels against the premise of a logic-based value system, then you're the one incapable of grasping nuanced thought, not I."

No, I agree — your stated ethic in this case is "logical". (By which you mean rational — you probably did not formulate it via some formalized symbolic reasoning.) So, don't be so defensive about that.

That's not the criticism.

The criticism is that your ethical system is founded upon a profoundly egocentric premise and is infantile. That's what you should be defensive about.

"I think that what you did by dragging someone unrelated into the topic, because of their beliefs, in way that appears to be just about saying how bad those beliefs are, is a very good example of behavior that sends the message 'we don't like your type around here.'"

Yes. OmieWise's deeply inappropriate and ill-considered comment, and his continued defense of it, was for me the single most shocking thing in this thread. That he wrote it, and that it got so little criticism, is for me the single most persuasive argument in this thread that MeFi is, or can be, an incredibly smug echo chamber.

It's not so much that it is prima facie the case that we can't ever consider someone's views to be deeply morally wrong. We can, and do, and should. That's what people do. I think a number of people here are deeply wrong, and wrong in ways that make the world worse. Wolfsdream's reasoning about gay rights happens to have led him to the right conclusion, but for the wrong reasons — and I think exactly the reasoning he followed is the source of a whole lot of hurt in this world. I am willing to be very critical, even judgmental, of him for it.

But, you know, I'm saying so in this thread in response to a comment he made in this thread.

OmieWise's comment was doing something much different. Basically, it was assuming the MetaFilter equivalent of a Scarlet Letter on SAotB's gown, a very socially visible re-affirmation that it's there, and expecting the rest of the MeTa townspeople to collude in her shunning. It was ugly and the degree to which we go along with it makes us ugly.

I'm also disturbed by it because it doesn't really seem like the OmieWise I've come to know over the years.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:48 PM on July 25, 2012 [35 favorites]


OmieWise: “She is ostracized because in expressing her views she seeks to condemn members of this community to damnation and reduced civil rights.”

It's funny to me that this comment is in present tense. I'm guessing maybe you meant to put it in past tense, but forgot to.
posted by koeselitz at 3:08 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


really? so 3,000 killed deliberately is the same as an accidental and regretful bombing of a wedding when a missile goes off course?

Up is down.


I think focusing on the "Up is down" part of the comment is missing the point. Ironmouth's false comparison in the first part of his statement is an argument in bad faith. I've seen this kind of thing before - I've had this happen to me on Metafilter - where a poster throws out a horrifically offensive comment aimed implicitly or explicitly at the character of another poster and then acts as though their interlocutor is somehow unreasonable for being offended. It's a cheap debating trick to attempt to throw an opponent off balance and then claim some sort of "win".
posted by jhandey at 3:09 PM on July 25, 2012


Let's argue the example, that sounds awesome.
posted by boo_radley at 3:14 PM on July 25, 2012


I did not do this. Alia was cited in the text for this post.

Huh, somehow I missed that. What's really weird is that I reread your initial comment by doing a find word for "Alia," and somehow I still missed it, I'm just going to go ahead and blame my bronchoscopy I had yesterday. I refrained from posting that afternoon because I knew I was off, guess I should have waited longer. My apologies. For the record, just like you've been very careful of directing any negativity at St. Alia's views rather than her personally, I've tried to be very specific in talking about your one comment, as an example of the behavior in question. I've also tried to be clear that my opinion is based on the impression your words gave, not the reality of your feelings, if I failed in either of those, I apologize for that as well.

However, I'm still don't see (even now knowing what her positions are), that calling Alia's positions hate-filled really added anything to conversation other than a public display of reproach, one that she was likely to overhear. That sort of thing is often involved in excluding people and making them feel unwelcome (in this case because of a set of views). That may not of been your intention, but that is still how it comes across to at least one (fuddled) reader.

As an aside, the Bronch led to one of the weirdest compliments I've ever received, I was told that I needed to participate in more asthma studies (as one of the control group), because I had very interesting lungs.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:16 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


really? so 3,000 killed deliberately is the same as an accidental and regretful bombing of a wedding when a missile goes off course?

Up is down.

I think focusing on the "Up is down" part of the comment is missing the point. Ironmouth's false comparison in the first part of his statement is an argument in bad faith. I've seen this kind of thing before - I've had this happen to me on Metafilter - where a poster throws out a horrifically offensive comment aimed implicitly or explicitly at the character of another poster and then acts as though their interlocutor is somehow unreasonable for being offended. It's a cheap debating trick to attempt to throw an opponent off balance and then claim some sort of "win".


Its an important point. The US did not want to kill civilians in that wedding party. It was an accident when a missile went off course. It isn't the same thing as deliberately trying to kill many thousands of people. That's what 9/11 was.

This is not cheap nor a wrong point. Up is down when somehow the accidental deaths of persons we did not want to kill are made equal to the deliberate targeting of civilians. This doesn't even take into account the fact that the Al Qaeda members are deliberately placing themselves amongst civilians and wearing civilian clothing, causing the very problem everyone is so upset about.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:19 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Please don't bring that conversation over here. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:20 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


oh my gosh i was joking you guys.
posted by boo_radley at 3:24 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


It was somewhat ironic that he later used "up is down" to suggest an Orwellian motivation in some of his critics and then went for the old Fox-News-style definition of "war". Most of us here seem to recognise that 9/11 was an act of terrorism, not war. The response, however, was a declaration war by the US and its allies. However, that's an argument that we've had and will continue to have, I suppose.

I'm not suggesting that people are deliberate, I'm suggesting that their emotional involvement in the subject is making them take positions that don't make sense when they are teased out.

As for the "fox news" definition of war, I believe that the government of afghanistan and al qaeda together both committed acts of war against the US. It is an act of war to allow an organized military force in your country to plot against another country and ahead of time be aware of the attack in question. That's war.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:24 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


luckily, some of us are also here to tell drexen he didn't do anything wrong. He obviously thought he had, since he apologized. And yes, the world is great.

I didn't say he had. I was speculating as to why some folks reacted the way they did. I don't get why you even wasted time overreacting, much less throwing in the disingenuous "sorry." Back off, zarq.
posted by liketitanic at 3:35 PM on July 25, 2012

"But it sucks in particular for the ten thousand or so people not embroiled in that dustup, and we're more beholden to them than we are to the handful of people in the middle of it."
I'm really pretty weirded out by the idea that I and all of the people I know on metafilter aren't even the major constituency being served, is that really the case? This seems like a pretty unprecedented focus. I for one comment and make posts to join a community of people not generate pleasant content for RSS feeds.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:49 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


The criticism is that your ethical system is founded upon a profoundly egocentric premise and is infantile. That's what you should be defensive about.

What I hate about your comment is that you use words that are obviously intended to be insulting (like "infantile" or "egocentric") but completely fail to build a logical chain of reasoning to demonstrate why this insult was (in your opinion) deserved. To me, this is a perfect example of the kind of disrespect that opinions that are "non-normative" by Metafilter standards get treated with. Because my opinion is not "Metafilter-normative," I have to justify everything with logical analysis. However, since you represent the majority, you clearly feel no compulsion to "show your work"; instead you can simply dismiss my value system with a couple of lazy insults. Well spoken, sir! What an intellectual tour de force.

In regards to your claim that my value system is infantile, I think you're conflating "simplistic" with "infantile." Something can be simplistic yet highly practical and well thought out - in fact, often the most elegant truths and theorems are simple. Essentially, my value system boils down to "Good people should be helped, bad people should be stomped on." That's fundamentally the same ideal that every major religion and even our justice system operates by. If that's infantile, then I guess society as a whole is infantile. Maybe you can be our saviour and enlighten us all...?

As for egocentric, you need to tighten your definition, since multiple ones exist. If you are using the definition "having or regarding the self or the individual as the center of all things," then yes, my view is egocentric. After all, I refuse to make value judgements about a class of people unless I have personally observed enough of their behavior to have statistically significant data, whereas I see lots of people on Metafilter making wildly ignorant and intolerant assumptions about people they don't even know at all (like the earlier one on this selfsame thread about how conservatives are incapable of making logical arguments).

On the other hand, if the definition of egocentric that you use is "having little or no regard for interests, beliefs, or attitudes other than one's own", then it's actually your attitude that's egocentric, since you seem to believe that it's actually possible to judge a human people or class of people based solely on the opinions that they cling to, without ever having gotten to know them in person. My own belief system is the opposite - if I disagree with somebody, I feel obligated to get to know them better so that I have another datapoint to enhance my understanding of the various sets and subsets that they belong to. You, on the other hand, seem utterly dismissive of views that you disagree with, ergo it seems more likely that you would have have inflexible opinions.

Of course, this is just the detailed analysis of what's wrong with your argument. If you want the TL; DR, it's this - I personally think that it's incredibly sociopathic for anyone to say that abstract idealogy is more important than actual human beings. I think it's much more intellectually rigorous to make judgements of people based on my own personal observations, rather than to ever take it on faith that "people who believe X are bad human beings." To me, that's the epitome of ignorance.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:52 PM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


a community of people not generate pleasant content for RSS feeds.

Is that something like "Each person alive today has 10 people who died before them, so learn from what they did"?

Each poster has 10 members silently reading behind them. Frame your words accordingly.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:56 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was going to say something about how I'm not sure that one can have a perfectly moral code of ethics, given the difficulty of reasoning out the Good; even Plato seems to have indicated that the Good is beyond knowing, as Levinas loved pointing out. But actually I'm not sure this is the best place to say something like that.
posted by koeselitz at 3:59 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


wolfdreams01: "I personally think that it's incredibly sociopathic for anyone to say that abstract idealogy is more important than actual human beings."

Or just, you know, incredibly idealistic.
posted by boo_radley at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why we can't have poets in the Republic.
posted by clavdivs at 4:03 PM on July 25, 2012 [18 favorites]


Does calling out people in Metatalk threads like this one ever actually work, or do they always resolve into referenda about a given person's worth?

Ask anigbrowl.
posted by ericb at 4:05 PM on July 25, 2012


I personally think that it's incredibly sociopathic for anyone to say that abstract idealogy is more important than actual human beings.

The issue is that you're talking about a handful of individual human beings; an abstract ideology can expand your scope to all those human beings you'll never meet. This isn't placing ideology above human beings.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:06 PM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Perfectly rational code of ethics. Darn.
posted by koeselitz at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2012


I'm not suggesting that people are deliberate, I'm suggesting that their emotional involvement in the subject is making them take positions that don't make sense when they are teased out.

And there it is folks, the actual problem with the way Ironmouth engages in discussions on this site. Ultimately he has no respect for the intellect of folks who disagree with him, anyone who does not agree is hysterical and emotional. It's condescending and will always provoke a negative response.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Ultimately he has no respect for the intellect of folks who disagree with him, anyone who does not agree is hysterical and emotional. It's condescending and will always provoke a negative response."

Have you never seen a religion thread?
posted by klarck at 4:19 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's a very good comparison.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:20 PM on July 25, 2012


Blasdelb wrote: I'm really pretty weirded out by the idea that I and all of the people I know on metafilter aren't even the major constituency being served, is that really the case? This seems like a pretty unprecedented focus. I for one comment and make posts to join a community of people not generate pleasant content for RSS feeds.

Hi. I'm the constituency being served. Yes, you don't know me. Yes, I don't post or comment a lot. If it wasn't for SQ, no one would know me from Adam. But I am not here expecting or wanting some kind of sanitized, mass-appeal, or prettyed up content. What I do want is interesting, useful, relatively civil content that adds dimension and meaning and lots of perspectives to the original posts. I like spirited debate, but I don't want a pitched battle in which people stop listening to each other and everyone gets a little outraged or angry or unhappy and a lot shouty, and I don't like it when that spills over into other posts.

There are lots of people like me on Metafilter. We read a lot. We post or comment sometimes but not frequently. We aren't prolific or super-witty or beloved or beloathed, but we are here. We aren't interested in going to battle-mode. Often our viewpoint has already been expressed by another commenter. Sometimes we vent into the comment form and never submit. Sometimes the miasma of grar is so bad that I take a few weeks off even reading the Blue.

Without the modly efforts to keep the grar down to a dull roar, those breaks from the Blue would be longer. I would post and comment even less. It would decrease the enjoyment I get from MeFi.
posted by julen at 4:26 PM on July 25, 2012 [32 favorites]


hincandenza has expressed really well something that has been really bugging me about the site for a long time now.

This site clearly has always had massive problem with people who act like assholes to folks with minority opinions and what I, and I think hincandenza, are primarily objecting to is that the primary response seems to be to police the folks with the minority opinions. I'm not shocked that you guys have felt the need to try to reign in Ironmouth in these threads, but I wish I were; he has consistently commented in good faith and with super human patience for the shittiness thrown at him and is a serious credit to the community. No matter how much you guys get politically heterodox folks to stick with threads people act like assholes to them in, or leave threads people act like assholes to them in, or back up their assertions with evidence, or not back up their assertions with the wrong evidence, and no matter how polite they become required to be to people acting like assholes to them, the root problem will still be there. I get that it might seem like folks with heterodox ideas just need to be better tuned to the site, and that intervening could help with that, but it does often feel like you guys are just joining the pile-on but from an official capacity.

I can see how really difficult it would be to police folks that, I'm sure, y'all often passionately agree with, but the result has been routinely pretty terrible for the site. When having a different opinion than the site and mentioning it becomes inherently 'problematic' we all become poorer. The list of topics metafilter has no available experts on is always growing because the site self polices them away, it'd be great to have more people who both know the difference between the Substitutionary and Satisfaction theories, or what most of Glen Beck's viewers currently think of him, and are willing to share that with us.

I get that the site can't be perfect for everybody, but I wish we could at least make a more concerted effort towards making the site not so shitty to outliers.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:26 PM on July 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


Oh, and should we discuss Ironmouth asking why lupus is rooting for Al Qaeda?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm really pretty weirded out by the idea that I and all of the people I know on metafilter aren't even the major constituency being served, is that really the case? This seems like a pretty unprecedented focus. I for one comment and make posts to join a community of people not generate pleasant content for RSS feeds.

You're misunderstanding me. The ten thousand people I'm talking about are the logged in users who come by the site in any given week. There's that many of them. This is a big place, there are a lot of people reading and participating in little ways, who may have something to add to this or that thread even though they don't comment several times a week or even a day. Those are the sorts of folks I'd rather not feel like they should just give even participating a pass because a given thread they might otherwise be interested in is turning to Yet Another Go Around between one of a small collective of reliable rehashers.

The umpteen however many more who might be reading via RSS are less of a presence in my mind. The fact that this is, in terms of actual members, a community of thousands rather than dozens is the point, and a little work by each of the folks among that loudest few dozen to think about their own footprint on the site and be careful about defining the tone of the site in terms of their insistence on repeating themselves would be a good thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:30 PM on July 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


he has consistently commented in good faith and with super human patience for the shittiness thrown at him

Yeah, we should probably discuss Ironmouth asking why lupus is rooting for Al Qaeda. Folks who think he is a polite commentator are obviously not used to being on the other side of his views in a debate.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:33 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Each poster has 10 members silently reading behind them.

Look, if you don't put the ball gag on them, then it's just chaos.

When having a different opinion than the site and mentioning it becomes inherently 'problematic' we all become poorer.

This isn't so much a site problem, but a social problem. Humans like to cluster in like minded groups. When a member of that group espouses thoughts that seem counter to the group think, things quickly get awkward. Not a whole lot the mods can do about that except prevent users from being too hostile to each other.

If you don't believe that, the next time you're amongst friends and discussing movies, suggest that that The Empire Strikes Back was the weakest of all six Star Wars films. But have cab fare before you say it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:38 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"That's a very good comparison."

I was trying to compare pots to kettles.
posted by klarck at 4:38 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Essentially, my value system boils down to "Good people should be helped, bad people should be stomped on." That's fundamentally the same ideal that every major religion and even our justice system operates by. If that's infantile, then I guess society as a whole is infantile. Maybe you can be our saviour and enlighten us all...?

The world isn't black and white, and very few people are all good or all bad. It's okay to not like someone who is nice to their spouse and kids and co-workers but holds ethical or political views you oppose. It's also okay to agree with someone even if they're kind of a shitbag sometimes if they hold a view in line with your own.

It's seems both simplistic and silly to build a foundation on something like what you said above - e.g., if all the gay people you knew personally were douchey to you, you would oppose gay rights. You'd oppose rights for a huge number of your fellow citizens because the six you know personally were mean to you? That also doesn't square with your statement that if your sample size were small, you wouldn't be as invested in the debate - and if you're not invested, then what impetus do you have to grow your sample size? That just seems like an unhelpfully narrow way to go on about life.
posted by rtha at 4:40 PM on July 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


If you don't believe that, the next time you're amongst friends and discussing movies, suggest that that The Empire Strikes Back was the weakest of all six Star Wars films. But have cab fare before you say it.

Well you might get a debate if you said weakest of the first three (I think the second half drags and like ANH and ROTJ better overall) but saying of the six would just be too obviously unserious.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:41 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


That e.g. should probably be an i.e., fwiw.
posted by rtha at 4:41 PM on July 25, 2012


And there it is folks, the actual problem with the way Ironmouth engages in discussions on this site.

Haha actually no, you and Ironmouth are both basically THE WORST when it comes to political threads.

I am a politically engaged, obsessive news-following kind of gal who has stuff to say in political threads, but when I see these types of posts on the blue I don't even bother to click because I know it will just be some nasty degenerating argument between you and Ironmouth. And now lupus_yonderboy who, last time we discussed this, claimed he left the site because of Ironmouth!

The three of you combined have made 46 comments in a 141 comment thread. I would love all of you to examine your own behavior.
posted by lalex at 4:42 PM on July 25, 2012 [24 favorites]


I am obviously not a posting role model.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:43 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well you might get a debate if you said weakest of the first three (I think the second half drags and like ANH and ROTJ better overall) but saying of the six would just be too obviously unserious.

See? The group feels threatened and lashes out.

Bad group. BAD.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:44 PM on July 25, 2012


"You're misunderstanding me."

I'm glad, thank you for clarifying.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:48 PM on July 25, 2012


I am obviously not a posting role model.

Then why are you in here saying nasty things about Ironmouth?
posted by lalex at 4:48 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


You would make your friend walk home for disliking a movie?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:49 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am obviously not a posting role model.

Then why are you in here saying nasty things about Ironmouth?


I am saying true things about Ironmouth which remain true regardless of the source.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:52 PM on July 25, 2012


Well you might get a debate if you said weakest of the first three (I think the second half drags and like ANH and ROTJ better overall)

We have had our disagreements on other subjects, but this is just too much.

PISTOLS AT DAWN SIRRAH.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"What I hate about your comment is that you use words that are obviously intended to be insulting (like "infantile" or "egocentric") but completely fail to build a logical chain of reasoning to demonstrate why this insult was (in your opinion) deserved. "

It's because I felt like I shouldn't need to spell it out for you. Your argument was that your opinion about the social status and rights of an entire class of people, of which you necessarily can only know a tiny portion, is entirely dependent upon how that portion treats you. If they're your friends, then the larger class deserves your positive evaluation. If they're not your friends, or treat you badly, then the larger class deserves your negative evaluation. With regard even unto social status and human rights.

That's not "placing people above ideology". That's placing your personal interest ahead of other people. Including your friends, because by your reasoning you value their well-being and even their rights only insofar as they're your friends. If they stopped being your friends, you wouldn't care. Your caring is determined solely by your personal relationship to them, and specifically by what you get out of the relationship (are they nice to you? are they hurtful to you?) — and then you use that as the basis of your judgment on these matters for the entire class, for every other person in the world in that class.

I was being generous when I said that was rational. It's not. A rational person knows that their experience of the world and other people is necessarily very limited. A rational person learns not to judge all shopkeepers on the basis of that shopkeeper down the street, or all blondes on the basis of the cute girl next door. Or on one's idiosyncratic reaction to that shopkeeper down the street or that cute blonde girl next door. A rational person learns fairly early to be careful about stereotyping and, even more importantly, to not judge issues concerning social justice on the basis of one's limited experiences and stereotypes. Or, that is, a rational adult. Which is why I said your reasoning is infantile.

Just stop patting yourself on the back that you are so virtuous while, in contrast, the people with whom you disagree are irrational and illogical because we make fun of you. We don't make fun of you because we're incapable of reason or incapable of making rational and compelling arguments to refute your position. We most assuredly are able to do so, it's easy to do so. I suspect that often people don't do so, as I didn't do so, because it's hard to imagine that you aren't already aware of the rational and compelling counter-argument to your argument. It's hard to imagine that you are that oblivious. And so, assuming perhaps that you're more aware and more rational than you actually are, despite your many, many assurances that you are a paragon of reason, we instead assume that you're just making absurd and even offensive assertions just to see if any of them will stick. We mock you for it. Perhaps we should be more compassionate and realize that your claims of supreme rationality are like the claims a crazy person makes that they're sane. From that perspective, mocking you is cruel. If so, I apologize.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:56 PM on July 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'll get my victory song ready to play.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:57 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am saying true things about Ironmouth which remain true regardless of the source.

Ugh. Honestly, no one else gives a shit about your weird eternal argument, but this constant sniping crowds threads and poisons the atmosphere. Can't you both just take it to MeMail?
posted by lalex at 5:05 PM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ironmouth is the topic of this thread, and I will feel free to comment on the portions of his commenting style that are problematic. If you would like to discuss me more please feel free to memail.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:13 PM on July 25, 2012


I am discussing the fact that the two of you consistently poison political threads, which I happen to think is a topic for the community to discuss.
posted by lalex at 5:19 PM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I left Metafilter for four months last year because of Ironmouth.

In the most recent thread, he specifically asked me why I was rooting for the terrorists. There is no question in my mind that this is deliberate rudeness.

There's no question in my mind that Ironmouth goes out of his way to be as offensive as possible, to incite people as much as possible to get them to react negatively, while still barely remaining within the guidelines.

I really am unable to politely express my contempt and disgust for this man.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:19 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This image has humbled me from the first time I saw it, because I suffer from the same problem I see some of the best posters here occasionally get entangled in: certainty of correctness. I mean, for pity's sake, look at it - it's either a bloody circle or it's a sphere, but square? You're off your meds.

Strike that and reverse it as necessary.

I know it's a pain, but if you (and the person across from you) can internalize the message implicit in that image, a lot of this stuff handles itself.
posted by Mooski at 5:21 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I am discussing the fact that the two of you consistently poison political threads, which I happen to think is a topic for the community to discuss."

Well, actually, I think it's more relevant that those kind of threads, with those same group of partisans, often lead to grudges and behavior that spills over to the rest of the site.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:25 PM on July 25, 2012


I am discussing the fact that the two of you consistently poison political threads, which I happen to think is a topic for the community to discuss.

Okay, so discuss it. You could point out the issues with some of my posts in the thread, perhaps the one that suggested the conversation was somewhat psychopathic or the satirical Al Qaeda support, it just seems you more want me to leave the thread than you want to discuss me.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:26 PM on July 25, 2012


Fwiw, I agree with lalex. The two of you are great at arguing past each other and frequently monopolize political threads by taking on everyone who disagrees with you. It's would not surprise me if you both have made the majority of comments in some of our longer political threads.

Oh, and liketitanic? I've said all I needed to on the subject, so no worries.
posted by zarq at 5:27 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Okay, so discuss it. You could point out the issues with some of my posts in the thread, perhaps the one that suggested the conversation was somewhat psychopathic or the satirical Al Qaeda support, it just seems you more want me to leave the thread than you want to discuss me.

What zarq said.

I am not interested in criticizing either of your political positions, or even in discussing that thread in particular. The point is that the two of you, with some accomplices, consistently monopolize and poison political threads by having the same. fucking. argument that you've had a billion times before.

Example.
posted by lalex at 5:34 PM on July 25, 2012


That's nice, I agreed with you in my first response that I am a bad poster. I'm trying to figure out the "Why are you here?" portion of the conversation and the part where you responded to what I said about Ironmouth with a "No" on the basis of me also being a bad poster, which I think still doesn't make it untrue!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:39 PM on July 25, 2012


Ironmouth is entitled to argue his opinions. What I find unacceptable is his personal rudeness and his repeated and eventually successful attempt to enrage what he clearly sees as his "opponents".

Is the consensus really that literally accusing people of being terrorist sympathizers is acceptable conduct - but asking what relationship someone has with the Democratic party is out of bounds?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, I'm really quite torn about my own participation in this thread and whether it's beyond the pale. On the one hand I understand the criticisms of my comment as too harsh and perhaps gratuitous, on the other hand my initial comment was specifically addressed to what I felt was a misrepresentation of the facts. I'm not sure how I would have given context to Alia's comments without providing that context, which is that a significant portion of people on the site feel that they were hateful. I admit that I forgot that she is not really allowed to comment on that stuff, so I do consider my comment unfair in that regard.

But I think the bigger issue I'm facing now is how I feel about the notion that I was too harsh. This seems to be predicated on the idea that it's uncivil to raise someone's previous comments in a way that makes in-group/out-group distinctions and invites those distinctions to be reinforced by the community. I actually think this gets to the heart of my initial comment, which was an attempt to draw a distinction between admitting varying opinions into a community, and how people in the community deal with "opinions" that shade into hate speech (that is opinions predicated on denying full personhood and civil rights to whole classes of individuals because of who they are).

The first kind of exclusion I find regrettable, and it isn't something I support, although I'm sure I'm less than welcoming at times of diverse opinions. (Welcoming, of course, does not mean not disagreeing with.) I do agree that a strong community needs diverse opinions although I think that it's a hard thing to achieve. This is true not just for things about which opinions are already kind of branded or set, like politics, but also just in threads where there is a general and a minority opinion, no matter the import. It's hard to manage the back and forth in a way that allows opinion to be expressed without having ganging up occurring.

I think my views about the second kind of exclusion have been changing. My point above was that exclusion, or consistent reminders that other people find their views odious, is very different when we're talking about people who are engaging in hate speech. Racism, sexism, homophobia are all modes of the kind of speech I'm talking about. I'm really not sure it is in poor form to remind people that their hateful views are known and remembered, that there are consequences to their profession of those views. Presumably those folks are receiving a benefit from belonging to the community and so the reminder from others that their hateful views are inappropriate might be seen as the price for those benefits. I'm really not sure that there is anything wrong with that, and I'm not sure what civility accomplishes other than permitting them to benefit from the community without having to even give a basic level of respect to the members of the community. I really don't know what the sincerity of the beliefs, or their grounding in a widely subscribed ideology, have to do with it. Indeed, one of the reasons that Alia's previously voiced "religious and conservative" opinions have angered me so much is because she has been very clear that she finds racism odious, but there are sincere proponents of, say, Christian Identity who share many of her religious and political views who think racism is central to their belief system. The test should not be sincerity, it should be whether the view denies personhood and full civil rights to someone based on who they are. But note here that I'm not suggesting that people who subscribe to these kinds of hateful views shouldn't be part of a community that finds them odious, just that it should probably not be beyond the pale if they get called on it whenever it comes up.

There is a real danger to not distinguishing between these two cases, that of unpopular opinions on the one hand and of hateful opinions on the other, and there's a great example of it in this thread. hincandenza has a nice comment in this thread about how minority opinions frequently get overridden in MetaFilter threads and expresses some concerns about how they're handled. Several people have agreed with him, and the comment has some merit in the abstract. But there is a history to hincandenza's posting on the site, and while I don't know every place he holds minority opinions, or everything that might be informing his comment here, I do know that people frequently feel that he is willfully and persistently sexist in his expressed views. So I guess the question for me, and this isn't directly to hincandenza exactly, but is more general, is what are we being asked to endorse in that comment? I don't feel the same about the comment if it's a cover for someone being able to repeatedly espouse sexist or racist or homophobic views, no matter how sincerely held. I may or may not agree with it, but I feel very differently about it if it's about allowing unpopular but non-hateful opinions to be heard.

I do think that con
posted by OmieWise at 5:50 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I do think that con

oh God, they got him
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:56 PM on July 25, 2012 [35 favorites]


No, accusing people of being terrorists is beyond shitty, and any comment that does that should be deleted.

Accusing people of being astroturfers is also shitty, though in my monoconsensus probably not per se delete-worthy.

My consensus of me is that there is or was a bunch of shittiness in that thread. Which is why I don't read politics threads, because it seems like a race to the bottom as people out-shitty each other.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's nice, I agreed with you in my first response that I am a bad poster. I'm trying to figure out the "Why are you here?" portion of the conversation and the part where you responded to what I said about Ironmouth with a "No" on the basis of me also being a bad poster, which I think still doesn't make it untrue!

I honestly don't understand what this comment means. I am asking both you and Ironmouth to lay off the constant monopolization of political threads.
posted by lalex at 5:59 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the consensus really that literally accusing people of being terrorist sympathizers is acceptable conduct - but asking what relationship someone has with the Democratic party is out of bounds?

No one's said that, so no. In fact Ironmouth's comment was made considerably after this discussion started; I think it's fair to say that up until that point you were escalating things at least as much as he was. Still, it's certainly egregious, I don't stand by it, and it tempers my instinct to defend his approach.

But even if he'd jumped right in there with the 'rooting for' comment first thing, your question wouldn't have been a useful or appropriate response. Nor would badgering him in other threads. Flagging, mod-contacting, meta-calling-out, or even calling it out in the thread -- the comment, not your personal list of his past sins and personality flaws -- are surely more useful for everyone concerned.
posted by Drexen at 5:59 PM on July 25, 2012


I am asking both you and Ironmouth to lay off the constant monopolization of political threads.

We've also asked this of both of Ironmouth and furiousxgeorge and a few other people, though not recently. So I guess this is a specific request to try to be more mindful of the fact that you two and a few other people have been monopolizing many political threads having arguments that should go to email. Since we're ramping up to US election time, we'd like to ask you to try to not do this and we'd like to warn you that we may stop in to make you not do this if you can't ease back on your own.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:02 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


OmieWise: as I have made clear before, my issue is not with Ironmouth's opinions but his personal abuse and insult.

I did not appreciate being called a terrorist sympathizer. In earlier threads, I did not appreciate being told that I (yes, it was phrased as me personally!) was responsible for the Bush Administration, nor that people like me therefore bore responsibility for the Iraq War.

I did not call Ironmouth an astroturfer. I honestly remembered that he had some role with the Democratic party in the elections, I asked politely, and found out what it was.

I also don't think he expresses a "minority" opinion a lot of the time. An awful lot of people on that thread are pro-drone. An awful lot of people here think Mr. Obama's militarism is a good thing. An awful lot of people in general are Democrats, and Ironmouth follows the strict Democratic party line all the way.

While I don't know if these comments are considered acceptable, as far as I know not a single posting of his that I flagged, including the ones accusing me of various sins, were ever removed.

It seems to me that he deliberately goads his opponents until they lose their tempers. Well, it worked.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:04 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


jessamyn: I don't see anything wrong with Ironmouth "monopolizing" the conversation, frankly. What I object to is the rudeness, the derision and the personal accusations.

"Play hard, but play fair."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:07 PM on July 25, 2012


I honestly don't understand what this comment means. I am asking both you and Ironmouth to lay off the constant monopolization of political threads.

Okay, so when you asked me why I'm here and posting "nasty" quotes, the answer is that I am very familiar with the portions of Ironmouth's generally good posting style that set people off and I hope pointing them out can reduce these issues in the future.

For instance, if it is suggested that the other side of a heavily contested argument is only saying what they are out of emotion and because they want to help the underdog terrorists that sometimes can set people off.

That is why the opposition to drones seems inexplicable to me. It appears to be emotional and linked to a desire to "even the score" and help the "underdog" even if the so-called underdog specifically attacks civiians as its primary mode of attack.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:07 PM on July 25, 2012


Interestingly, Ironmouth has just repeated his claim that I'm a terrorist sympathizer for a third time - since I started posting on this thread.

It's late here (I'm in Berlin right now) and I have no more patience for this. Good night.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:10 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth has just repeated his claim that I'm a terrorist sympathizer for a third time

And when you asked him about it, he said it was specifically not what he was saying. I totally understand that you feel put upon by the way you feel that he's communicating. I feel like the issue at hand is that other people are reading the same words and getting different impressions from them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:12 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, Ironmouth has just repeated his claim that I'm a terrorist sympathizer for a third time - since I started posting on this thread.

You can't possibly be talking about this comment, in which Ironmouth specifically says "I don't think you are a terrorist sympathizer".
posted by lalex at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


And when you asked him about it, he said it was specifically not what he was saying.

Yeah, he clarified it after saying it a second time and expanding it to cover "the opposition to drones" apparently in total. His clarification was that lupus' argument is that it is morally wrong for American soldiers to protect themselves and that it's fine and fair for terrorists to use human shields.

Do you believe that is an accurate view of what lupus believes?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:20 PM on July 25, 2012


Okay, since omiewise keeps bringing it up:

My "hatefulness" consists of not voting against my conscience. I don't go campaigning against gay marriage, or for that matter living together without being married (that goes for anyone) etc etc. I also object strongly to people who call people "faggots" or are otherwise cruel or dismissive of people because they are gay or whatever.


There were two trees in the garden of Eden, people. The one that was forbidden was the tree of the knowledge of GOOD and evil. In other words, all this back and forth between the "moral majority" and the, well, let's call them "social liberals..." ...none of that means much to me. Because I am supposed to live out of the tree of Life. Which has nothing at all to do with the culture wars.

I am not in charge of who is right with God and who is not. I have beliefs that I have formed to the best of my ability on that topic, seeking God and wanting His perspective. Maybe you agree or maybe you don't. Eternity is an important thing to think about but I can't do anyone else's thinking for them, nor should I.

If the price I pay for hanging out here is being the whipping boy for every social conservative that has been mean to some of you, so be it. But at least acknowledge to yourselves that that is what it is.

Now, can we drop it?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:21 PM on July 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


jessamyn: In threads this works out where if people are talking about the topic generally, whatever it is, things progress but when people take a strongly held assertive stance against the topic [whatever it is, usually, if a thread is "this thing is good" you come out saying "I think this thing is really really bad" or if it's "This is a terrible thing that happened" you say "Well maybe it's not so bad"] and then basically dig in with it, the thread quickly turns into a lot of people jumping on the "I have strong opinions about this in a direction that is different from how this thread was going otherwise" person and turning it into an interrogation of them and their values. I strongly feel that it takes two to maintain this sort of thing, the person to dig in and the other people to Not Let It Go, but we do see certain people engaging in it significantly more than others, both in duration and frequency. Often we'll step in and leave notes and suggest people get back on track. Sometimes people pay attention to them.

The other part of this scenario is the tendency of people to think that they can discern the motives of other people based on the few words of their comments. I have seen this time and again, combined with insults aimed at shaming whatever "bad motive" the mindreader thinks they see. The quotes in the OP here exemplify this situation. This takes places whether the mindreader is of the majority or minority opinion. However, bolder accusations are going to tend to come from the majority, with the majority "assuming" the minority opinion is trolling if they continue to argue (it takes two to troll). I think the OP quotes here provide a pretty good example of all this.
posted by zennie at 6:23 PM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Eep. Too tired to proofread apparently.
posted by zennie at 6:25 PM on July 25, 2012


My "hatefulness" consists of not voting against my conscience.

False, at least for those of us who have some degree of institutional memory.
posted by lalex at 6:26 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: " that it's fine and fair for terrorists to use human shields. "

I don't think he said it was fair, merely that it was happening.
posted by boo_radley at 6:36 PM on July 25, 2012


furiousxgeorge: Oh, and should we discuss Ironmouth asking why lupus is rooting for Al Qaeda?

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
posted by gman at 6:38 PM on July 25, 2012


Lalex, if renouncing my Christianity is what it would take for some of you to be happy with me on Metafilter, I am sorry to say you probably aren't going to ever be happy with me. Meanwhile this dead horse keeps being brought up for periodic beatings, and it hasn't gotten any less dead or any less dusty.

You do not need my permission to be or do anything in this world. I don't understand why others' happiness revolves on whether or not I approve of every single thing they do in life. It's ridiculous.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:48 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metatalk: All the Shirty Less Favnocom
posted by vozworth at 6:49 PM on July 25, 2012


Hi, I'm on Metafilter, and I can overthink a bait of spleens.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Who needs cable television when I can get all my uncharitable reading of statements and over the top outrage right here. Metafilter, saving me money five bucks at a time.
posted by iamabot at 6:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


OmieWise, the problem I have with your comments and your argument here about the distinction is somewhere in the conjunction of describing someone's views as "hate-filled", "hateful" and other variations with what amounts to the impulse to ostracize and your justification for doing so.

The problem I have with "hate" used to describe beliefs/statements in the way that you did is not because I don't believe that there are people who have views that are motivated by hate — I do. Rather, the problem I have is that the term has such extremely strong connotations, they amount to an accusation of moral rot. Indeed, that's part of why we want to use such terms, because we believe that some people with some beliefs are motivated by hate and we know that to the degree to which we can convince others of this, they will be repulsed by those people and by association those beliefs. Honestly, that is almost the entire reason for focusing on the motivation for someone's views and not the practical effect of them or that they're factually wrong. I think that you, unlike Alia, are someone who doesn't like the use of the term "evil". Most people on the left today eschew that word because it's extremely prejudicial. But "hate" functions very like this on the left.

This becomes even more problematic, much more so, when it's used in conjunction with justifying, as you're doing, what amounts to ostracizing. You frame it as people continuing to be reminded of their words and what those words mean. Well, okay, I'm with you on that. But when it's specifically a repeated reminder that those words are "hate speech" and the speaker is "hate-filled", then while you may think you're just holding them accountable for their views and their words, what you're actually doing is being both the judge and jury and expecting everyone else to cooperate in being the executioner. Because you're not just saying, "let me remind you of what you've said", you're saying, "I'm going to bang this drum at all opportunities that you're a Bad Person". And the implicit message is that they ought to leave town because we don't like Bad People here.

You used the example of someone defending sexist views. Okay. You know that I will get as worked up about that as anything. And it's worth me pointing out that when I recently wrote something unnecessarily sarcastic to someone because I was annoyed at what I felt was a history of that kind of behavior (defending sexism), I was shocked and felt horrible when she (briefly, thankfully) disabled her account because of what I wrote. Because the thing is, beyond my disagreement with that person, and even to the extreme of the most outspoken male anti-feminist here, I'm just not comfortable calling them out explicitly in a way that says that they're not only wrong, but a Bad Person because they're wrong about this and they should leave. That's not to say that I don't ever think some people are bad people — but I sometimes think I'm not a good person, too. I've met very few people in my life that I believe are so morally poisoned that I'd be comfortable calling them out on that basis and trying to run them out of (the metaphorical) town. And none of them I've diagnosed via the comments they've posted on here or elsewhere. That's far too little to go on.

I feel like where you went astray was that with both halves of this you were in the gray area.

I think that you believe that you were focused entirely on behavior and the practical effects of Alia's views and were not making any claims about her character or otherwise the kind of strong claim like that which is so prejudicial. But I think you were mistaken; and I think that if you examine why you're so eager to use exactly the words that you used, the words that have such oomph to them, you'll see that it's exactly the things about them that are so prejudicial, so more about who she is as a person and not just what she says or what policies she advocates.

However, even if that were it alone, it'd just be in the gray area. But the other half was gray, too, as you acknowledge in your long comment. You realize that the majority ostracizing people with minority views is problematic. Your argument is that, well, it's not problematic when I'm Right and It's Justified. But that's what everyone says. If you are concerned about it when you know the people doing it are wrong, then you should be concerned about it when you think you are right. Because those other wrong people certainly think they're right. Caution is called for.

More to the point, though, is that here again if it were just that, in isolation, merely saying "these views are outside the community norm, harmful, and we should disallow them" is one thing. It's ambiguous, it maybe is something we should tread carefully about, but it's still defensible. When combined with what amounts to a character attack, even if you don't think it was a character attack, then it becomes something different. Something that I think is bad to do. Bad for the person it's done to, for the person doing it, and for the people who acquiesce in it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:02 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lalex, if renouncing my Christianity is what it would take for some of you to be happy with me on Metafilter, I am sorry to say you probably aren't going to ever be happy with me.

Please just drop this. I'd prefer to not have to have another conversation about this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:02 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

I'm with whoever gets HBO.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:03 PM on July 25, 2012


I don't think he said it was fair, merely that it was happening.

He said Lupus' position is that American soldiers protecting themselves is morally wrong, and that it is implicit in that argument that Al Qaeda using human shields is "fair and fine".

#1: I don't think lupus was arguing that it is morally wrong for American soldiers to protect themselves.
#2: I don't see how that argument has any bearing on the right or wrong of the use of human shields by the other side.

Ironmouth should have noticed that lupus was not arguing in favor of Al Qaeda when they had this exchange earlier in the thread:

IM: I don't get this idea--somehow, a less-lethal response is worse?

Lupus: as I pointed out above quite clearly, the choice is usually between drones and nothing, because the US does not have either the logistical or the political strength to be carrying out hundreds of bombing or ground missions over countries with which it is not at war.


Lupus made clear his position was that the bombings would not be happening without the drones, and had earlier made it clear he does not believe they should be happening. Ironmouth disagrees with those points and as usual has compelling arguments, but refusing to acknowledge the points had even been made was necessary for the assertions about lupus' rooting interest for Al Qaeda. Not cool.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:04 PM on July 25, 2012


On preview, I will delete the comment I was writing about all the nasty things St. Alia and her incarnations have written here, and elsewhere.

Generally I think it would be A-OK to ban people who have repeatedly made homophobic comments.
posted by lalex at 7:04 PM on July 25, 2012


"My ethical views are based entirely on logic, and while it's true that sometimes logic leads to some unpleasant conclusions (such as the scary fact that most value systems are completely subjective), that doesn't invalidate those rationally-reached conclusions. If your brain rebels against the premise of a logic-based value system, then you're the one incapable of grasping nuanced thought, not I."

Dude, I don't mean to be all lollerskates, but you're experiencing that glorious moment where you're really not the smartest guy in the room anymore, and so positing pretty ridiculous stuff like the above will get you called out — especially when you pat your own back over it. This is especially evident when you advance ethical systems in terms that make Thrasymachus look like a coherent moral philosopher instead of a straw man for Plato.

(Because you beefed eariler on Ivan for not being specific enough: No, your belief system is not based on the proper application of logic; it's impossible to create a consistent, universal system based purely on logic; it's entirely possible to create a logical system that is deeply a- or immoral, and leads to psychopathic or sociopathic outcomes… It's essentially the libertarian version of, "No, I created a perpetual motion machine, seriously!"

If you really want to get into it, someone here can take you to the woodshed over post-modern critiques of Rawls, but very smart people have been writing about this for over 2000 years and thinking about it for longer, and the idea that you've come up with a coherent system that seems ignorant of any of that discussion is ridiculous. And being ridiculous gets you ridiculed — that's logic too.

And that's letting alone your wild misapplication of Taoist — I assume you only know one, and you're spitballing based on post-bong philosophizin'.)

The good news is that if you are willing to listen to why people point out you're being ridiculous, you might move from being a smug asshole into a smart person who has a workable, truly rational and empathic set of ethics.
posted by klangklangston at 7:05 PM on July 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


lalex: "On preview, I will delete the comment I was writing about all the nasty things St. Alia and her incarnations have written here, and elsewhere.

Generally I think it would be A-OK to ban people who have repeatedly made homophobic comments.
"

man, if only you'd done that to this comment that would have been super
posted by boo_radley at 7:14 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jessamyn, I find it interesting that you are addressing my attempts to defend myself and not addressing those who are calling me hateful. I don't much enjoy having this conversation either.


I think if I am not allowed to speak on certain subjects then others should not be allowed to drag me by name on those subjects.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:15 PM on July 25, 2012 [25 favorites]


the libertarian version of, "No, I created a perpetual motion machine, seriously!"

Hey man, the free market can work miracles. If we could just get rid of those burdensome government regulations, I'm sure we would have that perpetual motion machine within six months. I mean for all we know, it might have already been invented, but some EPA good squad probably locked up the inventor and destroyed any records of the inventions existence, just like that XFiles episode.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:16 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


After all, I refuse to make value judgements about a class of people unless I have personally observed enough of their behavior to have statistically significant data, whereas I see lots of people on Metafilter making wildly ignorant and intolerant assumptions about people they don't even know at all (like the earlier one on this selfsame thread about how conservatives are incapable of making logical arguments).

Look, I don't care a fig about your life philosophy, but you are abusing the mathematics of inductive and deductive reasoning, and the language of social science research methods, to justify it. I can't countenance that.

Error arising only from small sample size relative to that of the statistical universe is assumed to be random and can often be taken into account statistically. Bias in observations arising from sampling strategy can only be accounted for when we know the shape of the statistical universe from which the sample's drawn and the nature of the bias, which is not the case most of the time. The sampling strategy "behaviors I have observed among the people I know who have identified themselves to me as X" is not *representative* of the universe of "all behaviors of all people who are X".

TL;DR: "statistically significant data": I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by gingerest at 7:17 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I think if I am not allowed to speak on certain subjects then others should not be allowed to drag me by name on those subjects."

I totally understand how you feel, I think, and it's not really fair. But others have — not exactly defended you, I guess — but spoken out against the attacks upon you. Given that you do, in fact, hold a minority and very unpopular opinion, which many people (including me) believe is harmful, then I think you should just be practical and be thankful that there are some people who speak up against those attacks. Because your own defense of yourself is problematic here, usually leading to worse results rather than better ones. Including for you. Maybe especially for you.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:22 PM on July 25, 2012


With apologies to Jessamyn....

On preview, I will delete the comment I was writing about all the nasty things St. Alia and her incarnations have written here, and elsewhere.

Good. Thank you.

Alia's been making a concerted effort to stay out of askme topics and political threads where her participation proved to be problematic.

I think at some point we need to acknowledge that not only have the mods spoken to her and asked her to change behaviour that was causing problems, but she's also actually done so to a greater extent than most others in her shoes probably would have.

I've taken issue with her in the past. I called for her to be banned once. I know she was the source of controversy at least two times last year. But her participation here is very, very different from what it used to be. If you're going to dredge up her history, then out of fairness that should be acknowledged, too.
posted by zarq at 7:25 PM on July 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


Free speech has its price but it's worth it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:27 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will delete the comment I was writing...Good. Thank you.

When did you get picked to be hall monitor?
posted by Chekhovian at 7:29 PM on July 25, 2012


When did you get picked to be hall monitor?

Never. When did you decide that I couldn't express a personal opinion without being snarked at for it?
posted by zarq at 7:30 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm with whoever gets HBO.

And pie. Pie is important.
posted by rtha at 7:33 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


without being snarked at for it

I will delete the snark I was writing.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:37 PM on July 25, 2012


Good. Thank you.
posted by lalex at 7:38 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think if I am not allowed to speak on certain subjects then others should not be allowed to drag me by name on those subjects.

We have worked with you extensively to help you get along with folks here. This is your Brand New Day. I would like it if everyone would acknowledge that you are doing a decent job with your brand new day and leave it at that. I would also like it if you would stop alluding to the stuff you're supposed to not say here and just not talk about it at all and take the high road.

You have a different approach and that's your business, but I feel that people have questions about why someone who has said the things that you have said in the past is even allowed back on the site at all and that comes up from time to time. That's a set of explanations that I'd prefer to not have to get into, but it's easier to manage this stuff when I feel that you are actively trying to be cool about this and be part of the overall solution and I am not getting that feeling.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:40 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hello. I am Decani. I am white, male, old, undoubtedly privileged, and I have just been out drinking with some nice young American Mefites. It was quite enjoyable. Ah, so much nicer when we actually get to meet people in the flesh and interact normally, with all the smiles and eyebrow-raises and, you know, humanity that goes with RL. I have to tell you that I feel like getting mightily offended about some trivial first-world shit or other but I'm not sure how to say this without coming across like a monumental ass. Please hope me.
posted by Decani at 7:42 PM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Really? Because I am fully cognizant of St. Alia's posting history and I think she's being pretty damn reasonable today considering her username (once again) got brought up out of the blue in a pretty damn harsh manner.
posted by gaspode at 7:43 PM on July 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


I have to tell you that I feel like getting mightily offended about some trivial first-world shit or other but I'm not sure how to say this without coming across like a monumental ass. Please hope me.

Step 1: Make a fist.
Step 2: Put it through your monitor
Step 3: ???
posted by carsonb at 7:46 PM on July 25, 2012


It seems odd to me that a mod (Restless Nomad) specifically took a moment to admonish people for bringing another debate into this thread, yet there was no moderator comment about other people randomly hammering this St. Alia derail until finally admonishing her for responding to it.

Free speech has its price but it's worth it.

...not that she doesn't make it challenging to defend her, sometimes. Jeez, just walk away already.

posted by cribcage at 7:47 PM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have to tell you that I feel like getting mightily offended about some trivial first-world shit or other but I'm not sure how to say this without coming across like a monumental ass. Please hope me.

St. Alia told me to tell you ketchup is the best condiment ever.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:47 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read this book of nursery rhymes once, it said "As ye sow so shall ye reap." It's for kids, I know, but so's Harry Potter.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:48 PM on July 25, 2012


When did you get picked to be hall monitor?

I want to be hall monitor, where do I sign up?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:48 PM on July 25, 2012


Late to this, but I will say I found the linked thread in this OP very frustrating. As I expressed in this comment, it seems that opinions that are contrary to a certain type of far-left thinking get met with bad-faith arguments and ad-hominen attacks.

Essentially furiousxgeorge's point was that "my opinion is the one in favor of peace, all disagreements are on the side of war and death" which was pretty heavy distortion of everything in the thread up to that point. And then it just went downhill with the Ms. Lovejoy style "but the children!1!!" statement.

I can't defend all of Ironmouth's points or his tone, but he was making posts that one could dialogue with. Many of his detractors can't make that same claim. And then yes, once the thread became "Ironmouth has an unpopular opinion, so lets bring his real-life into this to shame him..." I bailed out.
posted by rosswald at 7:51 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


St. Alia, the thing about saints is that most of them are martyrs for their faith.

I think you intentionally-- though perhaps not consciously-- provoke attacks to reinforce your vision of yourself as a saint martyred for bearing witness to her faith.

I see what you're doing not as bearing witness, but as posturing for a kind of self-aggrandizement, and, as such, extremely prideful and arrogant.

jessamyn is only trying to save us, and you, from yet another tedious and degrading rehearsal of your own personal Passion Play.
posted by jamjam at 7:52 PM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


"how can I `drop it`??? I'm not holding anything???"
posted by boo_radley at 7:55 PM on July 25, 2012


no wait, I'll drop it, but first let me get in one last spiteful comment
posted by boo_radley at 7:55 PM on July 25, 2012


ok now drop it you guys i got the last word in, we're good here
posted by boo_radley at 7:57 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get your stinking dubstep out of here.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:00 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems odd to me that a mod (Restless Nomad) specifically took a moment to admonish people for bringing another debate into this thread, yet there was no moderator comment about other people randomly hammering this St. Alia derail until finally admonishing her for responding to it.

They're different things - the debate about drones/war/whatever has its own thread and doesn't need another one, whereas talking about *how* people talk about stuff belongs here and nowhere else.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:02 PM on July 25, 2012


Essentially furiousxgeorge's point was that "my opinion is the one in favor of peace, all disagreements are on the side of war and death" which was pretty heavy distortion of everything in the thread up to that point. And then it just went downhill with the Ms. Lovejoy style "but the children!1!!" statement.

I don't take issue with arguing for the need for military action or the use of specific tactics, there are cases in which I support both war and drone strikes. The issue I was trying to highlight is that you can't unilaterally remove the option not to engage in military action from the conversation.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:02 PM on July 25, 2012


(and please just quote me instead of paraphrasing with fake extra exclamation points and shit)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:03 PM on July 25, 2012


furiousxgeorge: The issue I was trying to highlight is that you can't unilaterally remove the option not to engage in military action from the conversation.

If you read the article and were trying to stay on topic, then yes, you can. The thread was about evolving military tactics and weapons for DASFDASF-sake.


From the MeFi post in question:

rosswald: I feel like you are getting emotional. Ironmouth is right, we are talking about the use of drones in combat. Peace is obviously the ultimate goal, but in this conversation you are just derailing.

furiousxgeorge: Yes, dead children make me emotional.


It was a silly silly silly comment. You are not the only one who cares about the deaths of innocents, and your attempt to create an artificial moral-highground devolved the thread.
posted by rosswald at 8:10 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm kind of shocked that the mods find it necessary to flat out censor christian theology on MeFi and MeTa. Personally, I appreciate hearing about different traditions and theologies.

The way St. Alia has been treated on this thread is just baffling. I guess she must have said some terrible things before, because it really looks like there is just a significant bias against expressing religious ideas.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:14 PM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


(and please just quote me instead of paraphrasing with fake extra exclamation points and shit)

YES! If you're going to paraphrase, mark it off somehow so it's obvious that's what you're doing. Using quotes when you're paraphrasing can cause a lot of friction. My preferred method is to use square brackets, because those are already occasionally used when quoting someone to fill in words that one guesses the speaker intended.
posted by Jpfed at 8:16 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alia's been hammered for hours on this thread and is responding courteously and honestly and she's being told to drop this? I understand there's a backstory, but does that mean she has to sit placidly with hands folded and take every snide comment that comes her way? Even if she didn't even initiate? Some people here seem to get away with everything and others are the whipping boys for the sins of the many.

Which really plays to the OP's point...

I think they're an example of how people like Ironmouth who tend to consistently hold 'non-metafilter' opinions are singled out for more intense and un-generous interpretation, more personal attacks, more scrutiny of and policing of their posting history when it is irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
posted by ladygypsy at 8:17 PM on July 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


I was actually trying to semi-quote the Ms. Lovejoy character from the Simpsons. I thought it would be clearer with the 'style' modifier, though perhaps my strong mental image of the character superceded my ability to convey my thoughts into text. Apologies for the confusion.
posted by rosswald at 8:22 PM on July 25, 2012


The thread was about evolving military tactics and weapons for DASFDASF-sake.

And the case against using them at all is not an entirely appropriate and on-topic thing to investigate, why? If someone is defending the use of drones on the basis of casualty rates for the bombings, why isn't "We should not bomb in this case because even the lowest number of civilian casualties is too much" a potentially valid answer? Can you really discuss the Ring of Gyges in any meaningful way while stipulating that only pro-using the ring arguments are allowed?

furiousxgeorge: Yes, dead children make me emotional.

It was a silly silly silly comment. You are not the only one who cares about the deaths of innocents, and your attempt to create an artificial moral-highground devolved the thread.


You said that I was getting emotional and I confirmed it and explained why. I made no comment about your own feelings.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2012


I really don't think the question of St Alia is a derail in the least, since it goes directly to the question of how people with minority opinions are treated, and what point they're informally ganged up on my members, or formally admonished by staff. But, since St Alia isn't really free to defend herself, it's an unfair discussion, derail or not.
posted by tyllwin at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The way St. Alia has been treated on this thread is just baffling.

One more person weighing in to agree with this. I disagree with St. Alia on the Topic Which Shall Not Be Discussed, but if she is not allowed to discuss it, others should not be allowed to continue to take her to task about it. And it does seem that every time her past comes up, it is St. Alia who is directed to shut up, rather than those who refuse to accept her BND.
posted by torticat at 8:29 PM on July 25, 2012 [36 favorites]


I made no comment about your own feelings.

Okay well I did say removing emotion from the conversation struck me as psychopathic when in regards to the idea that my emotional engagement constituted derailment, that is true. That isn't a moral high ground thing though, it's just a weird way to have a conversation about killing people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:32 PM on July 25, 2012


Oops. "ganged up on BY members." Not MY members. I got no constituency, not even the Soggy Bottom Boys. No typing skills neither.
posted by tyllwin at 8:38 PM on July 25, 2012


No, your belief system is not based on the proper application of logic; it's impossible to create a consistent, universal system based purely on logic; it's entirely possible to create a logical system that is deeply a- or immoral, and leads to psychopathic or sociopathic outcomes…

See, now you're starting to get it - you just need to follow the train of thought all the way to the end. Logic itself dictates that there is no purely logical morality since there's no real motivating reason to desire or do anything. (Some people claim that a purely logical system would be sociopathic, but that claim only holds water if the primary defining motivator is self-interest, which I think is highly arguable.) Therefore, all morality is arbitrary, even that based on logic, since you need to start with a fundamental motivation. In other words, just pick something that "feels" right to you and build logically off of that.

My fundamental motivation is that I like doing nice things to people I like (ie, people whom is my subjective view are "good", and being mean to people I dislike (people whom in my subjective view are "bad.") This is not so different from 90% of the universe. In fact, you've demonstrated no ethical qualms about being as insulting as possible to me (or other posters you disagree with) so clearly you don't have any problems in acting according to my philosophy, even if you hypocritically claim to repudiate it.

And that's letting alone your wild misapplication of Taoist — I assume you only know one, and you're spitballing based on post-bong philosophizin'

Well then, I guess that time I spent being sick as a dog in the mountain provinces near Zhangjiajie must have been all in my head. I'll have to try to figure out what really happened during those missing week - if my fantasies are that vivid, it must have been pretty awesome.

Also, here's a pro tip for you when you discuss Taoism - most "Taoists" you meet in Western Countries follow the principles of Tao Te Ching and the I Ching. I specified that I am a Taoist fundamentalist, which means I only believe in the Tao Te Ching, and so naturally my value system will be very different. Conflating my religion to the "average" Taoist is like saying Mormons are identical to Catholics. Hopefully this helps you distinguish between the two next time you're making sweeping assumptions of how somebody is "misapplying" their own religion.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:42 PM on July 25, 2012


Golden Eternity, we don't do discussions of Christian theology here because there are so many different denominations of Christianity that they wind up being arguments among different flavors of Christian about whose interpretation of Christian scriptures is more correct.

I have myself been among the offenders in those past wrangles, so. It isn't what this site is here for. If you're interested in reading discussions from different Christian perspectives, let me recommend patheos.com as a good place to start.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:42 PM on July 25, 2012


I can't agree with lalex enough about her lamentations over the handful of people who irredeemably poison certain political threads. It is so boring, yet infuriating, to see these same posters go at it at every opportunity.

I have found that if you act as if even your most deeply held belief has only a 90% chance of being true, then you end up having enlightening and educational conversations. Add 10% to that number, and you end up having venomous and unending conversations and in the process alienate anyone who is reasonable (even those who agree with you).

The stakes here are unbelievably low. No matter what you say or whether or how you win your argument, your words will almost never had any real effect. Devote that energy to affecting change in the real world and use Metafilter to learn about cool new things and opinions that diverge from your own.

I avoid most political threads like the plague, even when I think I might have insight, because I can't bear participating in conversations monopolized by the equivalent of the asshole at the party that nobody wants to be stuck talking with.
posted by Falconetti at 8:48 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're different things - the debate about drones/war/whatever has its own thread and doesn't need another one, whereas talking about *how* people talk about stuff belongs here and nowhere else.

That's cool and all, and frankly, I agree. That said, maybe if they have a problem with St. Alia's behavior the could start a thread about that so that she wouldn't be allowed to defend herself there.

Because the attacks on her here are clouding the real issue - How long has Ironmouth been a Democratic mole and what can we do to stop him ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:50 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes FG, you pretty clearly insinuated (and later stated) that those who disagree with you are morally aberrant.

And you can obviously hold whatever opinion you wish, but your comments belonged in a thread about the morality of war, rather than in one about the morality of specific methods of warfare. In a thread about whether the new 'B' is worse than the old 'A,' arguing that actually 'Null' is best makes for a bad thread.
posted by rosswald at 8:51 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


they wind up being arguments among different flavors of Christian about whose interpretation of Christian scriptures is more correct.

I don't really see a problem with this. Certainly there are arguments on other topics that get rehashed again and again. If it is retreading that is a problem maybe there is a way to link to the original thread(s), and ask not restate what has already been said and only comment if there is something new to be added.

On the other hand, I do see a problem with the constant referring to other posters as assholes, idiots, and sociopaths, etc, but I guess that's just me and I'm just over sensitive to it for some reason.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:55 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Error arising only from small sample size relative to that of the statistical universe is assumed to be random and can often be taken into account statistically. Bias in observations arising from sampling strategy can only be accounted for when we know the shape of the statistical universe from which the sample's drawn and the nature of the bias, which is not the case most of the time. The sampling strategy "behaviors I have observed among the people I know who have identified themselves to me as X" is not *representative* of the universe of "all behaviors of all people who are X".

I think you're assuming that I make a lot more value judgements than I do. Regardless of my sample size, I don't say "Ninety percent of people I've met with characteristic X are bad," since morality is entirely subjective, and therefore I don't think that my value judgements are better than anybody else's - they are simply mine, and therefore what I personally choose to act upon. It would indeed be very difficult to draw conclusions about much of a person's personality based solely on the subset of people of that type that I meet. However, that's not what I advocate. What I do is simply figuring out the probability that I will like that person based on what I know of similar people. My ethical system isn't intended to give me an in-depth understanding of human nature, it's simply a highly practical guide to decide how I feel about things in the absence of specific knowledge - and is obviously replaced by more precise feelings once specific knowledge is acquired. I don't see how judging people based on their ideology "He believes this, and therefore must also possess these traits, ergo he is a bad person" is particularly more useful than my personality-based approach "He holds beliefs similar to these several people I've met, and I disliked 80% of them, so until I know more about him I will assume 80% probability of him being a douche. If I'm wrong I can modify the percentages" (This is an overly simplified version, BTW - I am not even going to go into how sample size factors in since nobody how the time for that.) And yes, I'm aware of confirmation bias. There's confirmation bias in ideology-driven ethical systems too.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:03 PM on July 25, 2012


I disagree with St. Alia on the Topic Which Shall Not Be Discussed, but if she is not allowed to discuss it, others should not be allowed to continue to take her to task about it.

I agree with this. She's done nothing to deserve this shabby, abusive treatment by lalex and a few others in this thread.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:05 PM on July 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Abusive? Are you even being serious right now?
posted by lalex at 9:11 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes FG, you pretty clearly insinuated (and later stated) that those who disagree with you are morally aberrant.

Well I apologize if anyone was offended by misreading my comments, but you decided to use "You're being emotional." as an attack on my point of view and it wasn't cool. What I was attempting to do later was point out that emotion has a valid place in such discussions counter to the implication that my point of view was invalid because it was emotional.

And you can obviously hold whatever opinion you wish, but your comments belonged in a thread about the morality of war, rather than in one about the morality of specific methods of warfare. In a thread about whether the new 'B' is worse than the old 'A,' arguing that actually 'Null' is best makes for a bad thread.


You are quite simply wrong on the breadth of what the article was about. It is discussing the moral pitfalls of using drones not just in comparison to other methods, but the moral pitfalls of using drones themselves. There is actually very, very little content about other methods in the article.

Even as he acknowledged the low casualty numbers, the writer is investigating thoughts such as: "First, we might remember Marx’s comment that “the windmill gives you a society with the feudal lord; the steam engine gives you one with the industrial capitalist.” And precision guided munitions and drones give you a society with perpetual asymmetric wars."

Perpetual asymmetric war is a big enough concern that one might, regardless of how many deaths you get with a B-52, not want to support drone strikes. That would be an entirely on topic post.

It also suggests:

Finally, as the strategic repertoires of modern militaries expand to include drones and precision guided munitions, it is not at all clear that having more choices leads strategists to make better and more informed ones.


If one agrees with that assertion and does not think better and more informed choices are being made at the strategic level one might think that not bombing at all is a wise option, even if an invasion would be worse. Such a suggestion is an on topic response.

Nobody is required to restrict themselves to having the conversation you want to have, or to have it on your terms. If you don't want to discuss some aspect of a story, you are free to skip replying to it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:13 PM on July 25, 2012


Ironmouth, I don't want to get into this deeply with you, but I can't help but notice the site mods have now suggested politely to you multiple times that you and a few others should work on dialing back your monopolization of political threads on the blue, e.g.:

- "Ironmouth sure does comment a lot in a lot of these threads about the same stuff every time", which is a fair criticism and something we've tried (with not what feels like a ton of success) to address with him in the past.

- you two and a few other people have been monopolizing many political threads having arguments that should go to email

- A lot of people, including Ironmouth, could be much more mindful of just how much conversations become referendums on them or their opinions

- the problem lies mostly with that smaller group of folks not making enough effort to recognize and manage the volume and regularity of their commenting on those pet topics. Not in the sense that the site would be better without them involved, but that it'd be better with them being more self-aware about their involvement and throttling back some on the sort of predictable returning-to-the-well stuff on topics they've commented on a bunch before.


I also can't help notice that you have yet to acknowledge those requests in any way, while responding to multiple other comments. So, a couple of quick questions:

1. Did you see those comments from the mods in this thread?

2. Will you agree to dial back your monopolization of political threads in the blue as the mods have now repeatedly requested of you? If not, why not?
posted by mediareport at 9:14 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Shit... I already said I was done with this thread, and I realize now that I've just let myself get sucked right back in like Ramgo in the jungle. Alright, now I'm done with this thread for reals. If you feel like debating the derail in more detail, feel free to memail me.

Or, you know, just make sweepingly ignorant and completely unempathetic judgements about me while simultaneously condemning my ignorance and "lack of empathy." Either one is fine by me.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:19 PM on July 25, 2012


The way St. Alia has been treated on this thread is just baffling. I guess she must have said some terrible things before, because it really looks like there is just a significant bias against expressing religious ideas.

To clarify:

Against being preached or proselytized to, yes.

For merely expressing religious ideas? That's much more of a gray area.

Without dragging up the past in any sort of detail, St. Alia's interactions were more often the former than the latter.

I participate in a lot of threads about religion. From my experience as an "out" theist on Mefi, there is a lot of member bias here against religion and certain religious ideas and traditions. There are Mefites who will say flat out that they think you're an idiot or self-deluded for being a theist, or are causing irreparable damage to your child(ren), or accuse you of any number of other horrible things. It can be wearying and disheartening to be knee-jerk attacked for one's beliefs or religious membership by people whom you otherwise respect and whose company you enjoy online. Especially when you've never, ever proselytized or tried to impose your beliefs onto them in any way.

And yet.... I have to admit I find it hard to fault people who have had difficult, negative or horrible personal experiences growing up in an oppressive religious environment. Many mefites are angry for good reasons, and are expressing that anger because they have either been treated badly in the past, or feel threatened by the actions of religious groups now. I know I get really vehement about dominionism, religion-based child abuse and christian proselytization when those topics are raised. I find them threatening, and react accordingly.

Many atheists and agnostics here have complained that religion and religious concepts are treated with more respect by the mods than they deserve. That theists should not be asking for special treatment, or declaring their religions off-limits to criticism. (I agree with that, by the way. Personally, I think we should encourage constructive debate and criticism.) So the arguments go both ways and each "side" has its own degrees, perspective and biases.

We've literally had hundreds of posts to the Blue on religion, faith, tradition and religious artifacts and concepts. I posted one today myself. There's no intiative in place to stop them. But yes, there is bias here from myriad angles. That's normal.
posted by zarq at 9:23 PM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


"See, now you're starting to get it - you just need to follow the train of thought all the way to the end. Logic itself dictates that there is no purely logical morality since there's no real motivating reason to desire or do anything. (Some people claim that a purely logical system would be sociopathic, but that claim only holds water if the primary defining motivator is self-interest, which I think is highly arguable.) Therefore, all morality is arbitrary, even that based on logic, since you need to start with a fundamental motivation. In other words, just pick something that "feels" right to you and build logically off of that."

Wrong.

1) That there is no purely logical system does not follow from there being no "real motivating desire to desire or do anything." Both premises are wrong: that there are no "real motivating desires" and that logical coherence is based on having a motivating desire. So while the conclusion is the right one (no purely logical morality), the argument is invalid.

2) The primary motivator does not have to be self interest in order to make a logical system sociopathic.

3) You have not demonstrated "therefore, all morality is arbitrary," and also don't seem to know what arbitrary connotes (or you're using it wrong), because you wouldn't use that as a way to support your further statements. Arbitrary does not mean irrational — it may be arbitrary to set an age of majority, but given other interests it is not irrational.

4) Ergo, arguing that all moralities can be equally be pearls made of whatever grit happens to catch your fancy is idiotic. That you compound this with an infantile — Ivan was right — egotism means that your particular morality is also pretty idiotic.

You're free to toss out some "subjectivity" bullshit too, but I have a feeling you have a loosy-goosy view of what that entails too.

"Well then, I guess that time I spent being sick as a dog in the mountain provinces near Zhangjiajie must have been all in my head. I'll have to try to figure out what really happened during those missing week - if my fantasies are that vivid, it must have been pretty awesome."

Yeah, I'm just gonna let the Taoism stuff drop, because it'd be way to fun to needle you about it, and that wouldn't be fair. Fundamentalist Taoist, that's one I haven't heard before.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 PM on July 25, 2012


it'd be way to fun to needle you about it,

Why is it fun to needle people? Can someone explain this to me? It is painful for me just to read it.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:49 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is painful for me just to read it.

Maybe you need to step away from the internet then, unless you've still got a bunch of hyperbole left to shovel.
posted by iamabot at 10:12 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


The reason St. Alia has a higher standard here is that it's her Brand New Day and presumable she and the mods have had many conversations about it--when someone like lalex (this time) or whoever (other times, from past to future) brings it up, it's their first time to do so, a sort of "strike" one.

This difference is non-trivial and helps make mod behavior clearer.

That said, I definitely agree that St. Alia's BND has been a resounding success, and hears to her for that!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:16 PM on July 25, 2012


Only in 2012 could an American internalize the amoral belief that we must always be bombing brown people, so drones are OK because we annihilate relatively fewer brown people.
posted by bardic at 10:22 PM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


But....9/11!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:33 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The good news is that if you are willing to listen to why people point out you're being ridiculous, you might move from being a smug asshole into a smart person who has a workable, truly rational and empathic set of ethics.

The variations in latitude people are given are immense and it's really shoddy.

Some people seem to be teachers' pets or cool 'cause they shared some sofa space or something.
posted by ambient2 at 10:39 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was going to say something but the notice at the bottom of the comment window says it all:
Note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:20 AM on July 26, 2012


Fundamentalist Taoist, that's one I haven't heard before.

I'm Reform Daoist myself. You could probably use Fundamentalist Taoist fairly to refer to an initiated member of a Quanzhen or Tianshi Dao order, but I'm pretty sure that's not what we're talking about here.
posted by msalt at 2:11 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Whether or not it's unfair in some abstract sense that someone holding up one end of a numerically lopsided argument becomes conspicuously at the center of that argument isn't really something we can address short of limiting everybody to a single comment per thread; it's an emergent property of large group discussions. I think it can and often does suck going both ways when half a dozen people get in an unfriendly argument with one person, since it's rarely great behavior or good reading. But it sucks in particular for the ten thousand or so people not embroiled in that dustup, and we're more beholden to them than we are to the handful of people in the middle of it."

But what we're talking about here is a lot more than just unfair, and it isn't abstract at all. Right here in this thread we had one user breaking the guidelines by dragging out user history to slag on another user who wasn't even present in the worst sort of faith in a successful attempt to start a pile-on. Instead of addressing the shitty behavior, you guys just joined the pile-on. I'm not saying this as some kind of weird gotchya kind of thing, but it is a really terrible dynamic that I think does significant damage to the site.

The phenomenon where conversations become dominated by objections to the views of one user, even when those views are politely and sparingly shared, is maybe sub-optimal but not inherently a bad use of the site. However, the dynamic that is really fucking up threads is that people see the first phenomenon as a free license to get shitty, because so far it has been. It is because one user's heterodox opinions mean that they will get blamed for the shitty behavior of others, that others will behave shittily around those with heterodox opinions.

The result is that the dynamic self-reinforces, where some threads, like ones even tangentially related to abortion, become a race to express the highly favorited orthodox opinion and then a huddle to attack anything else scares away those who have even the most nuanced of objections to it. When only the right kind of opinion doesn't get shouted down, with the kind of tacit approval and behind the scenes help shown in this thread and others, these kinds metafilter threads become something worse the worst sort of echo chamber.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:28 AM on July 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


"I'd like to know exactly what you mean by "kosher" as well because I'm too used to it being cryptospeak for "Jewish" that I'm having a hard time imagining what else you mean."

Also, coming back to this thread, it is pretty weird that this aspersion on Drexen's character is still unretracted.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:46 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, how do you think such a situation should be handled fairly? I'm also not at all doing a "gotchya" when I ask this.

I'm personally always much more disappointed that the general group dynamic is to direct all attention and conversation to this one person and their claim or opinion than I am by someone being a bit reactive to all the attention and demands for explanation, etc. All it takes for any conversation to be pretty much completely scrubbed of nuance and complexity is for one person with even the most naive, unexamined oppositional position to make a declarative opinion statement, and everyone loses their minds.

Speaking personally, as a user, I've had to abandon many, many threads because the discussion became a wasteland of argument about something often only barely tangentially related to the actual post subject, but was either all a storm erupting from a comment teacup, or else a tiny detail in the post set a bunch of people off on their favorite tirade subject (almost always religion or politics), even though the actual content was much more interesting and worthy of examination.

But as a moderator, I learned early that if it seems that the only way to correct the course of a discussion is to delete 3/4 of the comments, um... yeah, that's not a good idea at all. I fervently wish that people generally would be self-correcting in this way, but it doesn't happen usually (though some posters make valiant efforts to draw the discussion back to a less simplistic model, and I salute them with all my heart!).

At this point we are asking everyone not to make the entire conversation about one person, and we do ask that person to step back when their participation begins to totally dominate a discussion... which, I agree, is not always fair when they are being put on the spot, challenged, and insulted. It's not a healthy dynamic at all, but aside from not even having the moderation coverage that would be needed to monitor every discussion like this and somehow "protect" any such a participant from that kind of feedback and/or blowback, it's also outside the paradigm here, which is "light moderation" (yes, that too is bitterly contested, but for the sake of this conversation...).

I'm honestly extremely interested in anyone's ideas about a fair, minimally intrusive/controlling way to avoid this sort of thing that doesn't involve mass deletions, bannings, etc.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:19 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, how do you think such a situation should be handled fairly?

I'll answer. I think a mod should have stepped into this thread waaaay earlier to say, "Notwithstanding the OP's unwise mention of another, unrelated user, this thread isn't about St. Alia and we aren't going to have another thread about her and anybody who persists will have their comments deleted." If you want an even more specific answer, I think that as soon as OmieWise posted the phrase, "I don't give a fuck..." directed at a user this thread wasn't really about, one of the moderators should have deleted it or at least said, "That's enough."

I'm honestly extremely interested in anyone's ideas about a fair, minimally intrusive/controlling way to avoid this sort of thing that doesn't involve mass deletions, bannings, etc.

I'm convinced that you (pl.) end up being harder on people whose unpopular opinions make them the targets of pile-ons for exactly this reason: You would rather ban one person than twenty.

I am not claiming that you don't also address the people who pile-on. You do. And I am also not claiming that you look to ban people, or that you ban people because of their opinions. I realize you get accused of those things, and I don't think they are true. However, I do think that what you just said cuts to the heart of the matter. When one person is regularly being ganged-up on by the same twenty people, I think you often end up telling the one person, "It's just not working for you here."

I get that there are pragmatic reasons for this. It's not an unreasonable tactic. But personally, I think it makes the site worse.
posted by cribcage at 3:44 AM on July 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


Sorry, I should have been specific that I was talking about threads in the Blue in my comment. In terms of Metatalk, this is the one nearly unmoderated section of the site, and for the most part people don't abuse that. Posts that are personal callouts or even defenses of a specific poster, though, are too often the challenge to that because they easily become the most toxic, and honestly, my heart sinks whenever I see one, because it almost never ends without at least one person closing their account, and lots of heat and anger.

In this case, the post does mention St. Alia, and yes, it's a complicated history over many, many years. From the moderator point of view, the brand new day idea is not that a user will go from one user name connected with a lot of drama to a new user name and keep the continuity: it's meant to be a chance to start again without the baggage attached.

When BND users decide to make it plain that they are X user from the past who had a difficult history, then the baggage tends to reassert itself. I think St. Alia does a good job of abiding by the specific agreement in this case, but not the general spirit of BND, which makes for a lot of confusion, difficult situations and seemingly unusual moderator reactions, or lack thereof. I've only been at this for 10 months, but I've seen a whole of bending over backwards and contortions from our senior mods to try to help make things work out for any number of people who have had major problems on the site (including Alia), but there is also level at which it becomes a nonstarter for moderators to shield someone from past problems if they don't want to give up identification with that history.

That said, I would personally be happier in every way if these sorts of Metatalk posts would concentrate on behaviors instead of individuals, though I realize that this becomes difficult as people demand examples of the problem the poster wants to address.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:26 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Blasdelb, how do you think such a situation should be handled fairly? I'm also not at all doing a "gotchya" when I ask this."

I think recognizing that, so long as user with heterodox opinions is not being otherwise problematic, expressing heterodox opinions is not the same thing as making a thread about oneself would go a long way. That often when a big pile of people attack one user for their ideas in a way that dominates a thread, they are the source of the problem not the user or their ideas.

"I'm honestly extremely interested in anyone's ideas about a fair, minimally intrusive/controlling way to avoid this sort of thing that doesn't involve mass deletions, bannings, etc."

Perhaps, as a pile-on begins to form, you guys could try putting a note in a thread to slow down the discussion with the excuse of giving the piled-on a chance to respond, placing the onus on the pilers where it often belongs. This would address both the emergent phenomenon that cortex is concerned about where the discussion is suddenly dominated by a big wall of angry text that crowds everything else out, and hopefully the viscousness of the pile-on. Maybe something like:

[A lot of folks have already attacked User XX for YY ideas, this is dominating the thread and that is not ok. Future comments addressing YY ideas will now be held to a higher standard against deletion, particularly before User XX has had a chance to respond. Don't be shitty.]
posted by Blasdelb at 4:28 AM on July 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


>>"I'd like to know exactly what you mean by "kosher" as well because I'm too used to it being cryptospeak for "Jewish" that I'm having a hard time imagining what else you mean."

>Also, coming back to this thread, it is pretty weird that this aspersion on Drexen's character is still unretracted.


That also struck me as the most unusual thing about this thread, for whatever that is worth.
posted by Saydur at 4:46 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even a basic level of fairness would be an improvement.

If 6 people are persuing a derail or sub-conversation with 5 on one side and 1 on the other, when you leave your note, call everyone out, when you delete comments, delete them from all sides, when you issue timeouts issue them to them all.

Othwerwise you are reinforcing a dynamic you say is bad for the site. If the few against one dynamic gets going there is no incentive for the few to do anything but go for the jugular because, at present, they know with 100% certainty that it is the one who will eventually be told to take a walk.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:48 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is a big place, there are a lot of people reading and participating in little ways, who may have something to add to this or that thread even though they don't comment several times a week or even a day.

And "Hi" to you too.
posted by bystander at 5:27 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb, I think it's fair that we can focus on asking people to back off on piling on, but what I also see all the time is moderators leaving exactly these sorts of notes (in the sense of "folks, please don't make this all about one person's opinion"), and then further, often escalating, comments from the person in question, and then more responses to that, until finally we are also asking that person to dial it down, come back later, or step away, depending. I do understand how people might lose their cool or dig in, but I also don't see a workable scenario in which we are allowing only comments from the person with the unpopular opinion, but not allowing people to respond to that.

I'm not trying to poop on your suggestion, at all, though, because I do mostly agree (and will personally try to use an approach closer to this), but I also think we actually do what you describe probably far more than you realize. Our first step is rarely to tell someone to the leave the conversation unless there is something more than an unpopular opinion going on. I'm also not seeing it being really workable for us to be imposing some sort of time period in which people aren't allowed to pose more questions or responses until the person has responded to, say, X number of challenging comments. This would take the sort of granularity (like, basically, a mod for every thread) and level of moderator control that we don't have or want.

Reggie Knoble, this is a bit of a stopped-beating-your-wife argument since you are assuming that we are a) deleting comments from only one poster or one side of an argument, and b) giving people time-outs for having unpopular opinions.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:38 AM on July 26, 2012


Reggie Knoble, this is a bit of a stopped-beating-your-wife argument since you are assuming that we are a) deleting comments from only one poster or one side of an argument, and b) giving people time-outs for having unpopular opinions.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:38 PM on July 26 [+] [!]


No. I am assuming you are giving timeouts for people digging their heels in and commenting frequently and "making the thread about them". I know that this has happened before and it still isn't fair when they weren't the only one doing it.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 5:54 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The result is that the dynamic self-reinforces, where some threads, like ones even tangentially related to abortion, become a race to express the highly favorited orthodox opinion and then a huddle to attack anything else scares away those who have even the most nuanced of objections to it.

You're never going to have to deal with being pregnant against your will so maybe you don't understand the fact that people have genuinely strong opinions about abortion without those opinions being a form of groupthink, but this characterization of people with opinions you don't agree with as rushing to say the "orthodox" thing--instead of, you know, genuinely sharing good-faith opinions--is really nasty.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:06 AM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think it's pretty clear that Drexen thought that the word "kosher" in his context meant "people who fit in" or something like that. None the less, it's not a good term to use when describing people if there's a chance that it might be taken as a coded implication that they're Jewish. Here's a link to a cover from The Spectator which shows it being used in that sense.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:16 AM on July 26, 2012


You're never going to have to deal with being pregnant against your will so maybe you don't understand the fact that people have genuinely strong opinions about abortion without those opinions being a form of groupthink, but this characterization of people with opinions you don't agree with as rushing to say the "orthodox" thing--instead of, you know, genuinely sharing good-faith opinions--is really nasty.

I'd say that what's nasty is presuming that someone's reproductive configuration precludes them from empathizing with others. It's also kind of nasty to imply that people with good-faith objections to certain types of abortions are masking a misogynist agenda (which I see all too frequently in abortion threads).
posted by BobbyVan at 6:27 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


No. I am assuming you are giving timeouts for people digging their heels in and commenting frequently and "making the thread about them".

Yeah, no. Once we've asked someone to stop and they don't, this is certainly totally on the table, but I can't remember the last time this happened without some other force in play. If you want to be specific (either here or by contacting us), we'll be happy to answer any questions about any time-out.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:28 AM on July 26, 2012


furiousxgeorge: I apologize if anyone was offended by misreading my comments, but you decided to use "You're being emotional." as an attack

First, that is a classic non-apology. Second, for someone who chided me for not clearly quoting from the the thread, you then do the same thing (I said: I feel like you are getting emotional). Third, classifying that as "an attack" is... ridiculous. I made every effort to acknowledge you, but to also try to move the thread to something we could discuss (even if we disagree).

------

Then, on point again (and then I'll stop), you say in the same comment I link to earlier that:

"You are quite simply wrong on the breadth of what the article was about.

But then you go on to pull quotes from the NYT article that support me. The assertion of the article is that drones/smart-weapons, like the magic ring, are so asymmetrical as to be unethical to use (or are easier to lead to unethical behavior). The implication of all this is that the comparison is to symmetrical warfare, not no (or null) warfare.

------

And then, in this thread, you see the same type of comments called out in this OP from the Mefi thread:

bardic at 1:22 AM Only in 2012 could an American internalize the amoral belief that we must always be bombing brown people, so drones are OK because we annihilate relatively fewer brown people.

Burhanistan at 1:33 AM But....9/11!


I realize the rules on the grey are different, but comments like these are impossible to have an actual discussion with. I am sure it feels super-satisfying to type them out, but the purpose is to discuss the linked article, and I feel like there is an overwhelming tendency for these types of comments to sink threads.
posted by rosswald at 6:45 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, the guy's entire argument boils down to "we're only killing a few people with target strikes and they killed 3000 people". Everything else is mostly just posturing.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:54 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't had time to read the entire original thread, or this meta--but I wanted to offer one small piece of anecdata here that I decided not to post in the blue thread:

I've played ("flown") a lot--A LOT--of Falcon4, as it has been maintained by the community since its release, abandonment and source leak, which has led me to follow the evolution of airwar since the 90s.

With respect to the kinds of missions that would have been previously performed using jets, there is no doubt that drones cause much less collateral damage, allow more flexibility by cutting out force protection concerns (you can be more careful and more accurate when not protecting human pilots etc).

Thus, to me, its clear that drones help make our more traditional missions and conflicts less harmful to civilians and infrastructure, as well as exposing our own forces to less harm.

The difficulty is that drones enable policies and missions that might not have been undertaken without them--especially where they threaten to do so in ways that further blur the definition of war, or undermine its laws.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:16 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, how do you think such a situation should be handled fairly? I'm also not at all doing a "gotchya" when I ask this.

If I might offer a suggestion, Taz, one potential solution might be to add a few mods who are more conservative in their views. When the only people moderating threads tend to have liberal views, and the only barrier to abuse is "Well, we try to be conscious of our own internal biases" - well, that's not really a solution at all, is it? It's more simply an acknowledgement of the problem.

Obviously, it would be challenging to find mods who are conservative while still fitting in to the overall tone of the site. But it is definitely achievable. You would need to look for people capable of maintaining a respectful tone even when insulted, who focus on logical analysis rather than emotional content. In fact, Ironmouth himself might make an excellent candidate.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:39 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fact, Ironmouth himself might make an excellent candidate.

Reading this comment is what made me realise it really was bedtime.
posted by Wolof at 7:46 AM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I nominate wolfdreams01.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:47 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth himself might make an excellent candidate.

Ironmouth has a job (I believe). And is not a good candidate for a number of reasons. While we aim for diversity on our super-small staff generally, we have many higher priority concerns for finding good fit staff members other than their political outlook. While I understand your concerns as far as having balance among the staff, specifically going out and hiring staff who have an extreme minority viewpoint relative to the bulk of the userbase is not a remedy for this particular issue. All any staff member is going to be able to be is aware of their own biases whatever those biases are.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:51 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The variations in latitude people are given are immense and it's really shoddy.

This has always been a community with an element of self-policing to it; it's actually okay to civilly tell someone directly that you think their comment or behavior is problematic and why when you see it happening. Declining to do so and then complaining that the mods have failed to do so for you is pretty unfair in its own right; we have limited resources and will not be able to respond to every bit of obnoxiousness that goes down on the site in real time, and to present that as some deliberate effort toward favoritism is unreasonable.

So, you're quoting klang's comment; I think klang was being a butt there. I would like him to try harder not to do that sort of thing. I have told him so in private and public before, and he's actually been making an effort. That's the short version of what's been going on with a lot of people on this site.

But me and the other mods are not the only people on this site who can let someone know that sort of thing, and to some extent the problem with some of these larger dynamic issues is that a "the mods and the mods alone must fix this" approach to systemic social issues is not super practical. We can do a lot when we're aware of a situation as it goes down, but we can't do everything and of what we can do it can't all get done promptly and we can't respond in detail to every comment posted in a metatalk thread.

So people making the effort individually to improve this stuff on their end—by moderating their own behavior (whether as a take-on-all-comers type or a joining-a-pile-on type), by stepping away from or redirecting around weird dynamics in threads, by letting people know gently (rather than in a potentially escalatory fashion) that something they're doing is a problem or a violation of the spirit of the site guidelines, by letting us know actively and promptly if they think something specifically needs mod attention when it's not getting it—is the big other part of that equation.

And people do a solid job on some of this stuff, a lot of the time, which is part of why this place works, but we could see more of it on basically all fronts. As much as we're here as mods to try and help out with that stuff at the time and to help do triage and post-mortem work after it's gone down, everybody else actively pitching in when they can, in whatever constructive ways they can, works a lot better. And as much as I can understand wanting to have seen something go better or be addressed more promptly, I can't so much understand standing back and declining to do that and then standing around complaining about how nobody did it.

Perhaps, as a pile-on begins to form, you guys could try putting a note in a thread to slow down the discussion with the excuse of giving the piled-on a chance to respond, placing the onus on the pilers where it often belongs. This would address both the emergent phenomenon that cortex is concerned about where the discussion is suddenly dominated by a big wall of angry text that crowds everything else out, and hopefully the viscousness of the pile-on.

But see taz above: this is something we already actively try to do. We basically agree with you on this. But it's imperfect; we aren't always aware of these budding situations when they're still in the budding stage (flags and contact form emails help here), and even when we are there and trying to cool things down, folks on one or both sides of the dynamic don't always respond to that intervention, either well or at all. So we end up leaving multiple notes sometimes, or pulling some comments to try and defang the stream of conversation, or every once in a while giving someone the day off if repeated "this really needs to stop happening" communications just aren't getting any traction.

If I had a magic wand that would make people just suddenly bilaterally disarm and disengage without a fuss when things are getting out of hand, I would wave that motherfucker like a champ. Barring that, we're stuck with words.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:51 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


BobbyVan: " I'd say that what's nasty is presuming that someone's reproductive configuration precludes them from empathizing with others. It's also kind of nasty to imply that people with good-faith objections to certain types of abortions are masking a misogynist agenda (which I see all too frequently in abortion threads)."

Accusations of that sort are certainly not restricted to one side. What about the men here who accuse other men of misandry? Perhaps not by using that exact word, but it happens. At least a few of us who have spoken out for a woman's right to choose, or against harassment or rape (or to explain related topics to those who may have questions on such subjects) on Mefi have been accused by other men of a variety of misandric behaviors: White-knighting. Arguing to appeal to the crowd or trolling for favorites, rather than in good faith. Etc. If you like, I can search my own history and give you examples. But I'm sure you've seen it happen here without my dredging up old threads. Astro Zombie could probably talk about his experiences all day long.

I think both sides in these discussions could make a better effort to assume good faith and keep their anger in check. Myself included. Navigating threads when you hold a minority opinion on a difficult subject can be very difficult. Putting people on the defensive makes it harder to discuss things amicably.
posted by zarq at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Only in 2012 could an American internalize the amoral belief that we must always be bombing brown people, so drones are OK because we annihilate relatively fewer brown people.

This distorts the issue, and does so in such a witheringly effective manner that it makes a useful discussion of the pros and cons of drones in bombing any people impossible. Surely that doesn't serve us in 2012.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it the heat? Maybe it's the heat.
posted by boo_radley at 8:02 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Automated detection and preemptive culling of potentially disruptive on-line exchanges" would make an interesting research topic for a PhD combining social science and computer science. I'm quite sure that if some typical patterns could be identified early enough it could be possible to send an automated "please cool it down" message to the potential offenders, and then timeouts of increasing lengths if the problem persists. This internet drone (collateral damages included) could be named the Terminator Moderator or TM™.
posted by elgilito at 8:07 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our first step is rarely to tell someone to the leave the conversation

For my part, I'm not talking about a moderator first-step response to a single thread. I'm talking about much farther down the line, after several months of back-and-forth in various threads. Invariably the moderators will talk (here) about having engaged in conversations with multiple parties behind the scenes. I don't doubt that those conversations were had in good faith. But ultimately when the conflicts and pile-ons persist, what I see happen is the unpopular-view person being told, "You need to stop or you'll be timed-out" or, "It's just not working for you here."

I think klang was being a butt there. I would like him to try harder not to do that sort of thing. I have told him so in private and public before

I really like Klang personally—and for the record, I don't think I have ever seen him participate in a pile-on—so I hate to jump on board with using him as an example. But I noticed a MeTa recently where his abrasiveness was being discussed and Jessamyn said something to the extent of, "I think Klang needs to cool it with attacking people, but I've told him and he disagrees, so hey, here we are." With all due respect to Jessamyn, that comment struck me and I really doubt I'd see it made about a member who was espousing a different stripe of opinions.

Not because I think Jessamyn favors one opinion over another, but rather, because of what I said above. Klang can be abrasive and rude but he isn't opposing gay marriage or supporting Mitt Romney, etc., so his antics don't create a hundred-post clusterfuck. Somebody else comes along and starts employing the exact same type of sarcasm and invective in favor of different opinions, and suddenly you have a pile-on plus a MeTa. So Klang gets this ongoing "We're talking to him" treatment while the other guy gets timeout, timeout, ban.

Like I said above, I don't think it's an unreasonable way to moderate the site. I just disagree with it.
posted by cribcage at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


"You're never going to have to deal with being pregnant against your will so maybe you don't understand the fact that people have genuinely strong opinions about abortion without those opinions being a form of groupthink, but this characterization of people with opinions you don't agree with as rushing to say the "orthodox" thing--instead of, you know, genuinely sharing good-faith opinions--is really nasty."

All in one short sentence you've made assumptions about my reproductive capabilities, my own view on abortion, and my opinion of others with different views on abortion; none of which is even hinted at in my comment.

If you really must know, I have no trouble understanding the argument why someone should be able to terminate a pregnancy for any reason, I happen to agree with it myself. I do however think that Metafilter would be enriched by perspectives brought by different philosophical positions and that we are currently impoverished by the rush to jump on even hints of them that you have just demonstrated just now. This dynamic makes for boring, tedious, unenlightening, and even from a politically motivated perspective, unfruitful threads.

From my perspective, I already know what people who think like we do think, why would I want to read walls of angry text detailing it ever more snarkily? We should be especially valuing perspectives like Alia's in abortion threads on the blue not attacking them so hard they get preemptively censored.

To quote the about page, "This website exists to break down the barriers between people, to extend a weblog beyond just one person, and to foster discussion among its members."
posted by Blasdelb at 8:19 AM on July 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


That's fair, zarq. I'm not trying to say that one particular side of an argument uses underhanded debating tactics more than any other, just was illustrating a point from my experiences in some of the more emotional and fraught abortion discussions.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:20 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk: I think klang was being a butt there.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:24 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


BobbyVan: "That's fair, zarq. I'm not trying to say that one particular side of an argument uses underhanded debating tactics more than any other, just was illustrating a point from my experiences in some of the more emotional and fraught abortion discussions."

Totally understandable.
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on July 26, 2012


I'm really not happy with this tendency to put particular pressure on people for being in the center of a pile-on and I'm frankly sort of surprised by the apparently low level of concern by the mods for how problematic it really is. Everyone who's joining a pile-on with unsubstantial comments is individually making it worse and should each receive at least as much attention from the mods as the one in the center, if that person is participating with substantial, civil, comments. Giving timeouts for the worst of the pilers-on, an mass deletion of their comments would be a far lesser evil than even hinting that someone is to blame for the bad input of others just for being the only one on his or her side of the argument.
posted by Anything at 8:33 AM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


So Klang gets this ongoing "We're talking to him" treatment while the other guy gets timeout, timeout, ban.

Except that klang has also gotten a timeout before, and if things spun up again in a he's-really-not-making-an-effort-at-all sort of way he could well go down that road again.

But that's not the sort of thing we randomly bring up in conversation much because we'd rather have people figure out how to make it work here and get along. Nobody's perfect but a lot of people are trying, and we'd be thrilled never to need to give someone at timeout let alone a (already pretty seriously rare) full-on ban again.

The problem of weird esclating dynamics is a hard one. It's just actually, legitimately, complex in its features and hard to find good solutions to. And as much as I totally understand and appreciate the idea that it's unfair in some ways to the one guy in the one-vs-many situation who gets asked to cool it when that one-vs-many situation keeps going weird and noisy and ugly, declining to take that action isn't a solution to the problem, it's an abdication of any duty to keep those situations from well and truly melting down.

We don't tell people to cut it out because we don't like interesting discussion or because we think it's awesome to put someone at the center of a dynamic on the spot; we do it because trying to triage that situation remains, even if it's imperfect in personal justice quotient, the priority in a big group space where those dynamics tend to really fuck things up.

And those with a long memory will remember that it was more likely back in the day that those situations would in fact just melt down. Matt didn't have the time or the resources or the staff to get on top of stuff a lot of the time, and so we had eye-melting pile-ons and flameouts that were really seriously terrible stuff. Some of this is in the record, on old threads on the blue and the grey; some of it just got plain nuked after the fact back when that was the extent of the "this has gotten really fucking bad" toolset.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:35 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think klang was being a butt there.

Part of the issue here is also that for newer people who show up and are being all fighty and strange, no matter what their political leanings, that's often the bulk of their interactions on the site and that's more of a problem than someone who runs hotter and colder. Klang has been here a long time and most of the time he's helpful and interactive and conversational and sometimes he gets fighty and abrasive. I've talked to him about that in general and I talk to him about it sometimes in specific in a "stop doing that in that thread" way. Contrasted to a new user who shows up guns a blazing with no other participation here and it's a different situation. We don't have time to give the new user a chance to see if they'll eventually fit in if they're doing a terrible job of getting along with people with 100% of their participation.

I know it's problematic to a lot of people that we have some people here who run really hot and cold [i.e. mostly fine occasionally really hostile] or people who are sort of long term low level ankle biters, especially in MetaTalk.

Both of these situations are difficult to manage because

- low level ankle-biting is not against the rules in MeTa, it's just annoying
- people who are mostly fine on the site but sometimes get hot under the collar are given a chance to cool down and not banned [occasionally given the night off]
- we don't ban people for being cumudgeonly jerks. We ban very few people period other than spammers
- a lot of times we deal with this stuff either behind the scenes with MeMail or occasionally in public with "I wish you'd stop doing this" comments. Public comments by mods on someone's behavior are seen as sort of a Big Deal which I understand but when we do stuff that isn't visible people seem to think we're not doing anything.
- people often want the dossier on user's previous behavior to understand the context of a certain situation and that can get difficult when we're trying to be discreet especially of the user isn't. Usually we feel that it's your story to tell if you want to. Occasionally we'll fill in the blanks if people are really pushing for details but we find people pushing for details additionally troublesome as well.

So I understand why people don't want to just settle for "trust us!" as a resolution point, but there's a balance between what goes on here publicly and what goes on more privately specifically because when we do things publicly that is its own problem. Making people stop their wrestling matches that exclude everyone else from a thread is our main concern a lot of the time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:38 AM on July 26, 2012


On the other hand if there are criticism or warnings the mods can fairly make about the actual content of the comments by someone who is getting piled on, I think such warnings are very useful. But there's a world of difference between that and warnings and criticism just for arguing without other supporters.
posted by Anything at 8:41 AM on July 26, 2012


Angsty Spock is confus/ed/ing.
posted by h00py at 8:41 AM on July 26, 2012


You would need to look for people capable of maintaining a respectful tone even when insulted, who focus on logical analysis rather than emotional content. In fact, Ironmouth himself might make an excellent candidate.

1. Ironmouth is a conservative? I mean, I guess he is on some topics, but he isn't on others. Under your proposal, would Matt have to start hiring mods who are conservative on certain issues and then let them mod only threads on those issues? You don't seem to recognize that many people are conservative (or liberal) about some things but liberal (or conservative) about others.

2. Ironmouth is far from being the only mefite who is actually not capable of (consistently) maintaining a respectful tone when feeling under attack, and who doesn't always know when to just step away.
posted by rtha at 8:42 AM on July 26, 2012


This has always been a community with an element of self-policing to it; it's actually okay to civilly tell someone directly that you think their comment or behavior is problematic and why when you see it happening.

So people making the effort individually to improve this stuff on their end— [...] by letting people know gently (rather than in a potentially escalatory fashion) that something they're doing is a problem or a violation of the spirit of the site guidelines,


I'd appreciate hearing more on how this reconciles with 'flag it and move on', which I understood to be the recommended response to problematic behaviour. For example, does it make a difference whether the person gently chiding the offender is already part of the discussion, either engaging specifically with the offender or not?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:42 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm really not happy with this tendency to put particular pressure on people for being in the center of a pile-on and I'm frankly sort of surprised by the apparently low level of concern by the mods for how problematic it really is. Everyone who's joining a pile-on with unsubstantial comments is individually making it worse and should each receive at least as much attention from the mods as the one in the center, if that person is participating with substantial, civil, comments.

I think part of what's going on here is a totally understandable difference in priorities between the mods and the users in these situations, particularly the users who are being piled on. It seems, from this thread, like a lot of users are primarily concerned with fairness. That makes sense, they paid their $5 just like everyone else, and they want to feel like they're being treated fairly.

But I think the mods, and please correct me if I'm wrong, have to consider fairness to be a lower priority than making the site run as harmoniously as is possible. So, yes, if a person is being piled on, the fairest thing is for people to stop doing that. But making that happen requires multiple people walking away from a heated argument, and also no new people joining in. Whereas if the person being piled on walks away, the argument stops. In other words, the fairest way to get a pile-on to stop might be to get people to stop piling on, but the most effective way, and the way with the highest chance of success, is probably to get the person at the center to withdraw.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:44 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb: " I think recognizing that, so long as user with heterodox opinions is not being otherwise problematic, expressing heterodox opinions is not the same thing as making a thread about oneself would go a long way. That often when a big pile of people attack one user for their ideas in a way that dominates a thread, they are the source of the problem not the user or their ideas. "

I watched this happen last week to The World Famous in the Time Magazine / Mormon post and nearly created a meta post about it. The problem was, I really wasn't sure what good a discussion in Meta would do. Mostly, the situation was just frustrating to watch.

Lots of people were attacking TWF. He mostly handled it pretty much the way he always does -- mostly calmly and politely. Par for the course. But the conversation got really heated, and accusations were flying. Jessamyn stepped in and said: [Folks, knock it seriously off. No more interrogating The World Famous. The World Famous, quit holding court here. You can go to MetaTalk or you can discuss something that is loosely on topic of this thread, otherwise this is everyone's thread, don't bogart it.]

Which I understand. And it was an even-handed admonishment which I thought was good. Mod stops a pile-on that looked like it was going to get really nasty, and in the progress both protecting him from being attacked and preventing the thread from turning into a cesspool. It also gave TWF the opportunity to exit gracefully without looking like he was ignoring people, and the thread simmered down.

But when people listened to her, (and they didn't right away,) it shut the thread down hard. The only conversation people were having seemed to be centered around TWF's comments. Discussion ended after restless_nomad said, "[Hi! I just got on shift and discovered y'all have been completely ignoring Jessamyn's request. Please take side discussions with/interrogations of The World Famous to Memail. Seriously. For real. ]"

Here we have someone who is actually Mormon, does work with a church and can speak from personal expertise about mindsets, beliefs, rituals and church inner workings. He's spent time here trying to combat misconceptions about Mormons in that and other threads. But he can't anymore. At least not in that thread. The most interesting part of the thread goes away.

I see this happen every once in a while, and I wish we could find a way to fix it. But I'm not sure what's reasonable or realistic.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


I would be a super awesome mod and would certainly never abuse my modly powers to change conservative arguments with which I do not agree to read BUTTS BUTTS LOL BUTTS.

Yes sirree that is absolutely something I would never ever do.
posted by elizardbits at 8:47 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Zarq: I felt the same way on that thread.

We had an actual Mormon with which to discuss his religion but he was told to stop contributing so that a bunch of non Mormons could discuss Mormonism.

Just seems bizarre.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:52 AM on July 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


> We had an actual Mormon with which to discuss his religion but he was told to stop contributing so that a bunch of non Mormons could discuss Mormonism.

Actually, that thread was about a magazine cover depicting the Mormon church's activities. The whole referendum on Mormonism was a big ol' useless derail that had been done to death.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:58 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]



This has always been a community with an element of self-policing to it; it's actually okay to civilly tell someone directly that you think their comment or behavior is problematic and why when you see it happening.

Considered decaf, Klang?
posted to MetaTalk by ambient2 at 10:43 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites +]
posted to MetaTalk by ambient2 at 7:40 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite +]

Third time lucky?
posted by ambient2 at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2012


So bitter.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2012


Actually, that thread was about a magazine cover depicting the Mormon church's activities. The whole referendum on Mormonism was a big ol' useless derail that had been done to death.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:58 PM on July 26 [+] [!]


I don't see it as a derail, to discuss the magazine cover you need to discuss the activities of the Mormon church and to do that you need to discuss the Mormon church.

Seems an acceptable avenue for discussion to me.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:02 AM on July 26, 2012


No, I think Burhanistan means the thread was about an actual magazine cover.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:04 AM on July 26, 2012


I don't see it as a derail, to discuss the magazine cover you need to discuss the activities of the Mormon church and to do that you need to discuss the Mormon church.

But the thread wasn't talking about the Mormon church, it was talking about 'How can you personally, TWF, believe that stupid story about the golden plates, are you a fucking moron?' and that is not a useful discussion.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:06 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I know. But surely nobody ever imagined it would just be a discussion on the aethetics of the cover. As soon as you get beyond that you end up discussing Mormonism.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:07 AM on July 26, 2012


Well, the guy's entire argument boils down to "we're only killing a few people with target strikes and they killed 3000 people". Everything else is mostly just posturing.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:54 PM on July 26


Bullshit. That is just lazy, narrow, hand-waving dismissiveness and exactly the kind of needling snark that keeps threads like this simmering long beyond the time when they should have fizzled out.
posted by Decani at 9:22 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree Reggie... I was being a little facetious.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:22 AM on July 26, 2012


Nah, it's actually the gist of his argument for using drones.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 AM on July 26, 2012


I'd appreciate hearing more on how this reconciles with 'flag it and move on', which I understood to be the recommended response to problematic behaviour. For example, does it make a difference whether the person gently chiding the offender is already part of the discussion, either engaging specifically with the offender or not?

Flag it and move on is pretty much always the safe default move, and it's what we encourage as a baseline response to something because (a) it's simple to do and (b) is generally helpful and (c) can't really be actively unhelpful.

The "move on" part is there because a lot of the time what not-moving-on can involve in practice is getting sort of embroiled in a bad dynamic or escalating or perpetuating something where people chilling out or moving on would be more helpful.

But if you can manage to actually jump in a way that is de-escalating, that is actually taking a constructive tack in the whole thing and not likely to rile things up or contribute to the energy of a bad dynamic, that can be fine. Helping people chill out, helping a pile-on un-pile a bit, giving someone in a taking-on-everybody position a sense of why what's happening is not great and maybe providing an amicable out, pointing out if someone's behavior is not great in context in a way that puts the emphasis on the behavior rather than the person, encouraging something to move to Metatalk if it's really more of a Metatalk issue, whatever. That's all stuff that can work, if done right, if kept separate from being in an argument with any of the principals or other tricky compromising factors.

Part of why that falls in large part to the mods to do is that we're generally not in the middle of those arguments to begin with and we're specifically expected (at least by folks familiar at all with the site) to take those sort of actions and make those interventions, but there's no reason other folks can't do that stuff if they do it with a bit of care and caution and self-restraint. We don't want people shouting each other down, but it's okay if they want to make a constructive effort to talk each other down.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, yes, if a person is being piled on, the fairest thing is for people to stop doing that. But making that happen requires multiple people walking away from a heated argument, and also no new people joining in. Whereas if the person being piled on walks away, the argument stops. In other words, the fairest way to get a pile-on to stop might be to get people to stop piling on, but the most effective way, and the way with the highest chance of success, is probably to get the person at the center to withdraw.

The problem with this, in my view, is that is gets back to the issue hincandenza (who I don't often agree with, but I thought made a great point here) brought up earlier in the thread: You are essentially punishing the bullied and letting the bullies get away scot free. It is difficult to watch this play out in actuality and not come away feeling like certain viewpoints are accepted as the "correct" ones for Metafilter, since opposition to those views will often get you a stern, public warning should you choose to engage in discussion about the topic, while it can appear that one can be as rude, condescending and sarcastic as possible in support of the "Mefi Accepted" viewpoint and not receive the same sort of public admonishment (since it would require specifically calling out 5-10 or more users at once).

For a specific example, in the recent Daniel Tosh rape joke thread, one particular user dared to hold a viewpoint other than "Daniel Tosh is total human scum" and was piled on relentlessly. That user was told more than once, in an official capacity, to step away from the thread, while those who, in my view, were really causing the problem by virtue of uncharitable reading, sarcasm, unneeded hostility, etc. were not given the same (and I want to note here that my own views tended to agree with the majority, not this one user, so this isn't me being upset that my own viewpoint was shouted down or anything of that sort). To see that play out, it does come across, whether intended or not, that comments that loudly and aggressively agree with the majority are more acceptable than those who politely, but consistently hold a different view.
posted by The Gooch at 9:42 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


flag it and move on

I do think this generally excellent advice may be discouraging some of the self-policing this site needs. I always interpreted FIMO to refer to FPPs themselves; don't say "That video isn't amazing, it's lame" or "I hate SLYTs".

Comments about the behavior of people in the thread are different to me -- we should be chiding each other when we get too emotional or misbehave, while taking extra care to make sure that we ourselves are behaving very moderately and open-mindedly when doing so.

But "Flag It and Move On" is so catchy and effective that its use has grown. A similar thing on happened on the WELL network with "You Own Your Own Words," which originally meant "take responsibility for what you say" but turned into an intellectual property concept where people were angry about being quoted without permission.
posted by msalt at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2012


The Tosh thread was a terrible mess in general; if you search for "posted by [jessamyn|taz|cortex]" you will find a bunch of notes from us throughout, which variously address a whole bunch of problems that were going down in there and only one of which names La Cieca directly and at least a couple of which directly encourage folks in general in that exchange to cool it or take a walk or whatever.

Telling folks in general to cut it out seems like the correct general move here, and that's what we did, a number of times, and I added a comment as well specifically clarifying that hauling La Cieca back into the thread by half-way conversations about mail with him elsewhere was not really a great move either.

I'm not sure if the notional solution is to name in a note every single user who had a comment in the exhcange, or what. That seems really impractical and weird to me and likely to start more drama than it stops, based on past experiences.

We cannot press a button and make Metafilter not have demographic asymmetries. We try to do what we can to keep those things from manifesting in problematic ways (and yes, one of the big things folks can do at an individual level to help there is to recognize if they're participating in a one-vs-many sort of situation and think hard about whether and how their participation in that is helping things) but there's not really a non-nuclear solution to the existence of lopsided levels of agreement about different positions on topics.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:54 AM on July 26, 2012


All I want is for people to quit calling me hateful particularly if I am not even posting in the thread to start with. How do I make that happen?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:01 AM on July 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


I've only been at this for 10 months, but I've seen a whole of bending over backwards and contortions from our senior mods to try to help make things work out for any number of people who have had major problems on the site (including Alia), but there is also level at which it becomes a nonstarter for moderators to shield someone from past problems if they don't want to give up identification with that history.

Well for starters, with two mods in the middle of the discussion, perhaps in the future you could tell OmieWise not to say things like hate-filled about users who aren't even part of the discussion and then taking the subject to task when they're here to defend themselves? "People having questions" is a lot different than defending yourself for being "hate-filled."

Like the way things went here, I don't see how St. Alia is able to be a part of this discussion at all, which is essentially allowing people to take cheap shots under mod protection. That's not fair and what happened here from a mod perspective, I think, was wrong.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 10:03 AM on July 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


cortex: And as much as I totally understand and appreciate the idea that it's unfair in some ways to the one guy in the one-vs-many situation who gets asked to cool it when that one-vs-many situation keeps going weird and noisy and ugly, declining to take that action isn't a solution to the problem, it's an abdication of any duty to keep those situations from well and truly melting down.

The thing is, it usually isn't one against all, it's one against a few. In the original topic this meta sprang from, it was Ironmouth vs. Malor, furiousxgeorge and lupus_yonderboy (with a soupcon of gman.) And Ironmouth was BY FAR the most polite and well-behaved of that group. By far.

I'm in big agreement with whoever said above that it's not exactly the pile-on that's the problem, but the impunity with which pilers-on feel they can misbehave and sneak in punches under the scrum. Sometimes I see the mods call out the most frequent pilers-on, but not as consistently as it could or should be done IMHO. And I would really like to see more calling-out of shitty behavior, whether personal attacks or idiotic arguments ("yeah, I DO care about dead babies. Guess you don't.")

Not just by mods, but by everyone in these discussion.
posted by msalt at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


The general "everyone cut it out" notes make perfect sense.

The problem is the next stage. If (when?) a whole group of people ignore that instruction the next stage seems to be singling out the individual, first with specific notes, then with telling them to take a walk.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2012


Well for starters, with two mods in the middle of the discussion, perhaps in the future you could tell OmieWise not to say things like hate-filled about users who aren't even part of the discussion and then taking the subject to task when they're here to defend themselves?

And it's enormously complicated at an individual level because of the site and user history involved, to the extent that I think that bringing Alia into it mostly out of the blue was not great but it's just about impossible to address the whole thing without getting way too far into the weeds of bad years-ago stuff.

But that aside, we had people in this thread directly addressing and pushing back on the appropriateness of OmieWise's comments. I'm surprised that he didn't drop it earlier, I wish he had, and I'd been considering a comment when it seemed like he and Alia came to a place of mutually dropping it themselves and that seemed like it had come out to an okay place. And then people started talking about it some more, and, argh.

And I guess that's part of where I'm coming from here; we get varied messages from different people about how this place should work, ranging from "the mods need to stop deleting stuff and stop telling people to stop talking" on over to "the mods are failing in their duties when they don't delete stuff and don't directly rebuke users, even if other users have done that". There's not some single view on how this place should work, what should be allowable, whether protracted one-on-many situations should be left alone or guided or heavily moderated, etc.

And I appreciate that all of those different takes on the ideal Metafilter are coming from genuine perspectives, that people have totally legitimate differing opinions on this stuff. But it's also not reconcilable; one person's notional Metafilter is different enough from another person's that the conflicts are unresolvable.

So we're left with practical compromises to try and make this place work despite that fact that group dynamics are hard to control, despite the fact that we've got people actively and passionately disagreeing about what this place is and how it should work and what is or is not acceptable behavior when dealing with conflicts.

A big part of why we have a triage-centric toolset is because putting out brushfires is a far more practical approach than standing around arguing about the merits of combustion or whether this particular field would be better off burning or who exactly threw the butt that started the fire. Talking that stuff out in Metatalk after the fact if something needs examining makes a lot of sense, but when a thread is getting wobbly in the moment, de-wobbling it is generally priority one. It won't on a case-by-case basis always seem fair or just or balanced or any other understandable noble things to aspire to, but that's not a luxury we have at this scale.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:20 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oops, I missed this from Wolfdreams01: I specified that I am a Taoist fundamentalist, which means I only believe in the Tao Te Ching

You don't accept Chuang Tzu? That's fucking hard core, man.
posted by msalt at 10:23 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know where you get off saying that I threw a can of soup at someone in that thread.
posted by gman at 10:25 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


No, the SOUP CON. Want some lovely delicious soup, friend? PSYCH! It's dishwater!
posted by msalt at 10:27 AM on July 26, 2012


The problem is the next stage. If (when?) a whole group of people ignore that instruction the next stage seems to be singling out the individual, first with specific notes, then with telling them to take a walk.

Sometimes. And sometimes it's telling everybody, again, to cut it out.

And, honestly, a lot of the time the core reason the whole thing is going badly is significantly one or another kind of not-great behavior by (if not always solely by) that central individual. Not that they're a bad person or that their opinion isn't allowed on the site or anything like that but specifically because they way they're going about it is problematic.

Maybe they're too close to the subject or too angry about it to really do the super-chilly "let's discuss a difficult topic" thing really well; maybe they're new to Metafilter and sort of pushing buttons inadvertently or stumbling through some culture shock; maybe they're in a bad mood and are getting snippy or snarky at people in a way that's heating things up unnecessarily; maybe they just really feel like having an argument. All kinds of things can tank this stuff where otherwise it might work as a just sort of detailed discussion of someone's specific perspective on or experience with something. But that stuff really does happen a lot.

And as unfair in a numbers sense as it may seem to say this one guy's behavior is more of an issue in this discussion than that of the other three or six or twelve people who keep going back and forth with him, it's also really unrealistic to act like someone taking on an out-sized role in a big exchange doesn't have a corresponding out-sized responsibility to think about how their behavior in and reactions to that exchange will shape and perpetuate what's going on. There's nothing, at all, wrong with being the one in a one-vs-many discussion about something but you have to be self-aware about the discursive implications of that. It can be a hard balance to strike, which is part of why we end up suggesting people cool it when that stuff is going not so great or heating up, because once things start to go tilt it's hard to untilt them.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:28 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think part of what's going on here is a totally understandable difference in priorities between the mods and the users in these situations, particularly the users who are being piled on. It seems, from this thread, like a lot of users are primarily concerned with fairness. That makes sense, they paid their $5 just like everyone else, and they want to feel like they're being treated fairly.

But I think the mods, and please correct me if I'm wrong, have to consider fairness to be a lower priority than making the site run as harmoniously as is possible. So, yes, if a person is being piled on, the fairest thing is for people to stop doing that. But making that happen requires multiple people walking away from a heated argument, and also no new people joining in. Whereas if the person being piled on walks away, the argument stops. In other words, the fairest way to get a pile-on to stop might be to get people to stop piling on, but the most effective way, and the way with the highest chance of success, is probably to get the person at the center to withdraw.


Well, as you just saw, and recognized, it's not just about fairness but about encouraging good conversation even if the subject is heated, instead of effectively turning it off.

I think Blasdelb's suggestion has the right idea, and that that kind of thing could use more emphasis on part of the mods.

And I'd elaborate on what I said above about mods' warnings to the lone arguer: When the content itself of his or her comments is not the problem, I do think it's both wrong and self-defeating to target that person -- it shuts down the conversation and encourages the ones who like to pile on with thoughtless garbage. However warnings to that person (and further action if necessary) about actual content are of course fair, and also, for obvious reasons, particularly effective.

But that has to be coupled with sufficient attention to the large group of people on the opposite side. If the signal from the mods is the implicit or explicit one that a bunch of nasty comments are going to stand and get allowed to be further repeated, the only recourse the lone arguer has is to use stronger rhetoric. Again, more emphasis on what Blasdelb suggested. On preview, that really is on contrast to what cortex says here:

Telling folks in general to cut it out seems like the correct general move here, and that's what we did, a number of times, and I added a comment as well specifically clarifying that hauling La Cieca back into the thread by half-way conversations about mail with him elsewhere was not really a great move either.

I'm not sure if the notional solution is to name in a note every single user who had a comment in the exhcange, or what. That seems really impractical and weird to me and likely to start more drama than it stops, based on past experiences.


Yeah, not every single user, but to nevertheless address that group explicitly and in proportion to the size/activity/nastiness of that group, with warning of a stricter timeout trigger for people in that group.
posted by Anything at 10:33 AM on July 26, 2012


If there ain't no consequences, y'all are spitting in the wind.
posted by ambient2 at 10:36 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


And us unfair in a numbers sense as it may seem to say this one guy's behavior is more of an issue in this discussion than that of the other three or six or twelve people who keep going back and forth with him, it's also really unrealistic to act like someone taking on an out-sized role in a big exchange doesn't have a corresponding out-sized responsibility to think about how their behavior in and reactions to that exchange will shape and perpetuate what's going on. There's nothing, at all, wrong with being the one in a one-vs-many discussion about something but you have to be self-aware about the discursive implications of that. It can be a hard balance to strike, which is part of why we end up suggesting people cool it when that stuff is going not so great or heating up, because once things start to go tilt it's hard to untilt them.

This sounds fair and reasonable in theory but I don't think it accurately represents a genuine picture of the harsh reality: namely, that people who represent the Metafilter orthodoxy can easily get away with blatant and unreasoned attacks like "You're full of crap" or "Why don't you go oppress some more women, woman-hater?" - in other words, things that 1) have no train of logic to support them and 2) don't contribute to the discussion, and 3) this is response to perfectly polite comments - and often mods do nothing to publicly rebuke it. At a certain point, excuses like "Well, it's a complicated situation and blame can be apportioned on all sides" simply don't hold water.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:41 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another part of the issue (in my opinion) is that the orthodoxy in Metafilter have become so utterly confident that their bullying won't be punished that when a mod says something that is intended to be neutral like "Guys, lets try to simmer down the personal attacks" they assume that the mod is talking to the minority opinion. And why shouldn't they? After all, it's almost always the minority opinion that the mods end up slapping down. To a certain extent, it could thus be said that the mods indirectly encourage bullying the same way some teachers in public schools do - by looking the other way and refusing to directly address it. It's like when a group of kids beat somebody up and instead of punishing the attacks, the teacher says "Kids, lets all try to get along." Willful blindness - that's the best term for it.

I think that if the mods publically called out bullies by name - so that people involved in a pile-on know that they are not immune to punishment simply by virtue of "blending into the mob" then it would have an almost immediate positive effect.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:52 AM on July 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


cortex: it's also really unrealistic to act like someone taking on an out-sized role in a big exchange doesn't have a corresponding out-sized responsibility to think about how their behavior in and reactions to that exchange will shape and perpetuate what's going on.

Very good point, and I say that as someone who is the one-guy more often than most.
I also think that the people piling-on should be aware that it's an extraordinary situation, and adjust their behavior accordingly too. There are comments you might make in that situation that would normally be perfectly fine, but have the effect of being shitty because of everything else that is going on.

If you haven't been in that position before, please take a second to try to imagine it. Things get very emotional. It feels like several people are shouting at you, some demanding immediate responses. People are misinterpreting your words, sometimes deliberately twisting them, and painting you as an awful cretin with despicable views. The mob whips each other into peaks of outrage based on the fake-you they are constructing, something that has more to do with their asshole alcoholic fundamentalist stepfather or Bill O'Reilly or someone than with anything you said, but you can't fix that.

Invariably someone who YOU think is an awful cretin with despicable views jumps to your defense and lashes their raft to yours. The rafts start sinking, then pirates attack, a fierce wind and lightning storm breaks and the whole lot of you start getting pulled into a giant whirlpool filled with sharks, poisonous jellyfish and toxic waste. You keep waiting for Astro Zombie or Greg Nog to show up with hilarious quips that break the tension and reset the zeitgeist to rationality, but they never show up.

What fucking assholes! I say it's all their fault.
posted by msalt at 11:06 AM on July 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


Sheldon Adelson is going to Jerusalem with Mitt Romney to meet with Bibi Netanyahu and donate a few hundred million more dollars in pursuit of his dream of having a president who will not only rain down drone strikes on villages, but nukes on Tehran.

Just saying.
posted by spitbull at 11:11 AM on July 26, 2012


I also want to clarify that I am not opposed to the idea of the "pile-on" per se - if somebody says something that a lot of people disagree with, they should have the right to address it respectfully. The key word is respectfully. If user A makes a heterodox comment, and user B, C, D, E, F, and G all start critiquing that comment, they're entitled to do so. But if user C and F use insulting language or make inflammatory comments like "clearly you don't care about (dead babies/woman's rights/brown people) then the mods need to specifically single them out from the rest of the pile-on and say "User C, user F - you are crossing the line in how you express your hostility. The rest of you, carry on." In other words, the problem isn't the mob, the problem is specific people in the mob. Ringleaders always feel safe when they're in the mob that they're inciting - if you want to change their behavior, the key is to pull them out of the mob and single them out for targeted punishment.

Sort of like drone strikes. (Just kidding!) ;-)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:13 AM on July 26, 2012


orthodoxy in Metafilter

I'm not sure this exists as a general pervasive miasmatic "thing". What I hate/love about metafilter is that for almost any issue that comes up, even things that should be Boolean yes/no, true/false affairs, some yahoo usually steps into the thread and drives it into the rough of weird crazy alternatives. We might have a thread about star trek vs babylon 5 and someone will insist that no Lexx was really the best possible thing, fucking Lexx, really, who would have thought? Or Windows vs Mac and someone suggests we move back to the Amiga OS, well maybe not Amiga, but the point is that it gets really crazy sometimes.

So maybe there are a few issues that get heterodox types stepped on, mainly the culture war ones it seems. "Fairness", as an abstract idea, in the culture wars doesn't seem to exist after 30 years of propaganda.

Maybe there is a technical solution here. Have you mod types ever considered rate limiting people's posts to a thread, maybe even in a sophisticated way? First three posts in 30 minutes whatever, then no more than 1 post per 30 minutes or something? Or maybe
posted by Chekhovian at 11:16 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Or a maybe only renege posting after a certain number of other distinct users have also posted. I don't know, there are a lot different of different ways to do it. And you could just engage it when threads get nasty. Eg.

[okay folks, you've earned it, this thread is in lockdown/martial law mode]
posted by Chekhovian at 11:18 AM on July 26, 2012


Chekhovian: " Maybe there is a technical solution here. Have you mod types ever considered rate limiting people's posts to a thread, maybe even in a sophisticated way? First three posts in 30 minutes whatever, then no more than 1 post per 30 minutes or something? Or maybe"

It's been debated repeatedly. It's not happening.
posted by zarq at 11:26 AM on July 26, 2012


Yeah, the auto-throttle idea (sometimes stated as a max comments per thread, or max per hour, sometimes as a max percentage of comments limit) would in a strict sense address some of these high-volume exchange things but it's got a lot of problems in practice. Most notably that it could put the kibosh on totally unobjectionable conversations and that it could completely fail to slow down problem conversations that aren't quite hitting the threshold.

So I get the idea but it's not a solution we're interested in pursuing (which is the case in general for pretty much any robot-moderation solution stuff using automatic thresholds or triggers).
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:33 AM on July 26, 2012


Just saying.

I have no idea why think saying it here and now is a good idea. Please cut it out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:37 AM on July 26, 2012


msalt: " If you haven't been in that position before, please take a second to try to imagine it. Things get very emotional. It feels like several people are shouting at you, some demanding immediate responses. People are misinterpreting your words, sometimes deliberately twisting them, and painting you as an awful cretin with despicable views. The mob whips each other into peaks of outrage based on the fake-you they are constructing, something that has more to do with their asshole alcoholic fundamentalist stepfather or Bill O'Reilly or someone than with anything you said, but you can't fix that."

I've been in this situation and it has sucked.

However, there are people here who have said and then stood by some unbelievably shitty statements, and it wasn't until there was a vehement, aggressive counter response from other members that they stopped. People have casually uttered misogynistic tropes and stereotypes here on Mefi. Casual racism. Casual antisemitism. Victim blaming. Etc., etc. And it's usually the minorities who suffer such attacks.

Back in 2010, we even had a user actually call for a segment of society (people with HIV) to have their rights removed, be rounded up into concentration camps and locked away for life. It spawned a gigantic meta.

We had a guy who was banned recently who said something back in 2009(?) that was unbelievably racist, misogynistic and just plain vile about African American women. There was a strong counter response, and we didn't really hear much of anything from him again until he got his ass banned last month.

I'm not saying people deserve to be attacked or piled on. But good lord, every once in a while a firm response really is the right course of action.
posted by zarq at 11:38 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


What I think is really interesting is that neither Ironmouth's nor TWF's (or as I said, she-who-shall-not-be-named's) opinions are that that extreme. Ironmouth is pushing a position virtually indistinguishable from the Democratic Party line. TWF is a typical Mormon, and I hardly need to scour the earth with lantern to find one. I could get a Mormon here to my door with a book faster than I could get a plumber. They're only extreme by MeFi standards. They're not in the Klan or something. In terms of the larger population, they're dirt common. If Ironmouth is your idea of a right-wing extremist, how on Earth do you deal with a Republican?
posted by tyllwin at 11:40 AM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Okay, thins are getting heated and I think I really have to step in here:

Lexx was a severely underrated show, hampered by the fact that the third and fourth seasons (produced at the peak of its popularity) weren't remotely as good as the first season (well, the four movies) and the second season. It had completely different goals -- for one thing, they really stuck to their guns with the campiness, the unlikeability of a number of main characters, and the general and occasionally disturbing air of prurience -- than say your DS9s or your Babylon 5s and can't be judged by the relative merits of those shows. Lexx was a great program and while it's more than a little dated now (hell, it came dated,) there's still some great TV in there with the best episodes standing up well to the best of traditional SF shows.
posted by griphus at 11:44 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would wave that motherfucker like a champ.

Wave on, mister cortex, wave on. We who are one day to be waved at salute you!
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:46 AM on July 26, 2012


cortex: " So I get the idea but it's not a solution we're interested in pursuing (which is the case in general for pretty much any robot-moderation solution stuff using automatic thresholds or triggers)."

A question...

Every time this has been brought up, it's been talked about as something to be applied universally. But really, it's the sort of thing that would be better applied to individuals at mod discretion. Rather than creating a blanket comment threshold rule for the site, would y'all consider creating a non-automatic tool like this to use only in extreme threadsitting cases?

Judged on a case by case basis, it seems more in tune with the mod philosophy for dealing with people.
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on July 26, 2012


All I want is for people to quit calling me hateful particularly if I am not even posting in the thread to start with. How do I make that happen?

It's kind of a multi-pronged thing, I guess.

Part of it is just going to be history. I mean, a lot of it has been deleted and was before the point when I started reading a lot of the comments on any post so I'm gonna have to speak in generalities here, but there's an element here of just having to say, "Okay, I did/said some dumb shit in the past and some folks are going to remember that" and I don't think it's ever admirable for others to bring it up out of context but I'd also expect that it'll happen sometimes and basically roll your eyes and say whatever and forget about it. Accept the occasional snipe as the cost of doing business, pretty much. Which I don't think is unreasonable.

Again, it seems that the worst of it was deleted, back when it happened, so I can't say for sure, but the overall impression I get from reading what I can find is that, a long time ago, sure, you said a lot of stuff that was taken by a lot of people as hateful. Maybe it didn't feel that way to you at the time and maybe it still doesn't. It is what it is - I can't think of anything that interests me less than debating your beliefs. Anyway, so some folks will remember it, see it that way, whatever. But now you're here and you're not being disruptive with the aforementioned potentially hateful things and I think that's great. You have a lot to contribute and it's wonderful that you're here contributing it.

The thing is, there needs to be a point at which you can say you're just not going to be on the same page as some folks and leave it at that. So, for example - and first let me say that I am presenting this only as informational and again I have no interest in getting into what your beliefs actually are - from your own perspective, this probably felt like a defense against being called hateful. But there's a lot of vagueness here; it's certainly good that you don't actively campaign against gay marriage and you object to slurs, but to a lot of people who've heard similar sentiments before, that might sound a bit like "I'm not racist because I'm not in the KKK," especially with it being left undefined what "not voting against your conscience" actually entails (again, I am offering this as an example and would prefer that this not snowball into an explication or defense of what that does in fact entail). I guess what I'm saying is that it may be that your definition of "hateful" only partially overlaps with the one used by others, and maybe that's a part of the disconnect here.

Which is to say: if your perspective is so different from that of the people you engage with in this context (and it certainly does seem to be sometimes and in some ways), it's not unthinkable that an attempted defense might be received as less mollifying than intended.

And if that does happen, there's a lot of benefit in being able to just say, "Well, I'm not gonna change their mind and they're not gonna change mine, but I can leave it be and I know that I'm right with Jesus Fitzgerald Christ, late of Nazareth, and that's what matters to me," and there you go.

I realize that to a het-up mind, it sounds like I'm saying "Let the bullies win," but realize that we're talking about a situation in which both sides might be pretty much seeing the other side as the bullies. So it goes.

So if someone drags your name into a discussion where it doesn't belong...again, just let it be. At most, maybe just keep it to, "Hey folks, would you mind leaving me out of this? Thanks much." Or whatever. Don't engage, don't defend, don't whatever. I think that you get a lot of shit for stuff you said in the past when it isn't relevant, but I also think it might be worth considering to maybe throttle back a little on the occasional aside where you remind the reader that there are subjects you shouldn't talk about or things you aren't allowed to say - I realize that these are probably intended as a good-natured rib at your own expense, and I get that and I appreciate them for what they are, but they also serve to keep the troublesome shit near the surface, instead of in the past where it belongs.

So in short: Once someone has a good old-fashioned hate boner - whether their side is morally in the right or not - they're gonna rub it on whatever's in front of them. It might as well not be you.

You know?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:49 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


The key word is respectfully.

This brings up a point which is, I think, one of the problems with this dynamic. Metafilter is a lightly moderated site - we don't delete much in the grand scheme of things, and the community as a whole is relatively tolerant of snark and general snippiness. We'll delete over-the-line stuff, but the line is fairly far out there.

What you're suggesting is that the line needs to be moved when we're talking about people addressing an opinion outlier. I think that would, to some extent, make that kind of conversation better. But I am not certain that it's really possible given a) the staffing we have, b) the general community mores (it would be reliant on people flagging different and less egregious stuff than they currently do) and c) the current average tolerance for comment deletions. All three of those are really difficult to change, and, except for the first, impossible to change by fiat.

I don't love this kind of dynamic being described as "bullying." I think there can be a sort of mob dynamic that gets really ugly (which is why we try to step in before it gets there, even if our methods aren't perfectly fair) but there's also an inherent pattern in linear, time-delayed group conversations where if there are ten people talking, and one person says x, the other 9 are likely to respond to x before any of them can see or take into account what the rest are saying. Repeat that cycle just two or three times and you have something that reads as a pretty ugly pile-on but in the eyes of any of those 9 people is just a brief exchange.

And that's why getting the outlier to step out for a while helps curb the dynamic - it gives everyone a chance to see what everyone else is saying and understand what positions are well-represented, and it gives the outlier a chance to integrate all of them and respond coherently rather than try to maintain 9 separate exchanges on the same topic, with all of them overlapping in weird ways. Basically it gives the whole conversation a chance to cool off a bit.

Unfortunately, our tools for encouraging that are not perfect. Asking nicely doesn't always work (as the people involved are often typing furiously even as we post) and asking less nicely feels like an attack and a judgment about the subject of conversation rather than the form. The next thing we have in the box is a one-day ban, and that is a pretty heavy hammer in comparison, and we're hesitant to swing it unless someone appears to be seriously out of control. We'd talked internally a little about a single-thread temporary ban, which would be a little more delicate, but also a very new thing for Metafilter. So as it is, we muddle through, and we try to ask people to be more self-aware, and it mostly works tolerably well.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:53 AM on July 26, 2012


On reflection... lalex if you're still reading this, I'm sorry if my "Good. Thank you." sounded condescending. It wasn't my intention or what I meant to convey. I was merely trying to say I was glad you were letting things go before escalating them further. But if it did sound condescending to you in any way, I apologize.
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on July 26, 2012


Jesus' middle name is Fitzgerald? :D
posted by zarq at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2012


would y'all consider creating a non-automatic tool like this to use only in extreme threadsitting cases?

Not really no. The only thing we've discussed recently as in, in the past six months, is a per-thread ban for individuals. That is, if we've repeatedly asked someone to stop making the thread about them and they can't or won't in the past our only option has been to give them the night off, a 24 hour ban.

This works okay but it means they can't go to MetaTalk, can't send/receive MeMail and can't respond if there is already a MetaTalk about them or one that has aspects of them in it. This is suboptimal. So we've considered a "you're done with this thread" option but got a little hung up about whether it would be a "night off for this thread" thing where you could come back to the thread in 24 hours or if it's a "you can't come back to this thread" situation.

And even then we're not really sure it would work, how to make it visible without it seeming like a mod callout (we're pretty sensitive to people not liking to feel targeted and if someone's got some reason they're having trouble in or with a thread we'd like to help that situation and not exacerbate it ideally) and how to make people stop hurling questions at that person.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If there were a strong institutional desire to embrace more diversity here and make it more welcoming to more varied viewpoints, there's a well-established way to do that. I suspect it not a method that the Mods have any interest in pursuing, but it's not as if there is no answer of how to do that.

If one were to look at historical examples such as the civil rights struggles and integration of the South, the established way to deal with it is give special protection to the out-group and afford a higher level of scrutiny to the treatment of the out-group by the in-group. Then, when the playing fields level out, the need for protection is reduced and you return to the old methods. Roughly how that could apply here is through a period of firm mod involvement to stop piling-on. Make it clear that minority viewpoints will be heard and should only be addressed in good faith and respectfully. Any snarking/sniping/insults or otherwise abrasive or disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated at all. Have zero tolerance for not complying with that instruction. (And in protecting the out-group, you certainly do not need to refrain from demanding they engage in good faith). Eventually posters will learn that, if they see a written opinion with which they so violently disagree that it makes their eye twitch, their only options are to ignore, flag it or respond in a manner respectful of the right of that person to participate. To engage otherwise results in deletion and a 24hour timeout. After a period when this finally is established protocol, you can disengage.

History shows that a model like that works. I highly doubt the mods want to do that and am not sure there is a institutional desire to embrace more diversity. But if we are just talking about theories to address this issue, the integration approach (for the lack of a better word) is a way to make it work if there is enough commitment to the idea (which is a totally different question). I do think that the current model employed here is broken, but I've largely come to realize there is not a broad-base desire to change that.
posted by dios at 11:57 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Every time this has been brought up, it's been talked about as something to be applied universally. But really, it's the sort of thing that would be better applied to individuals at mod discretion. Rather than creating a blanket comment threshold rule for the site, would y'all consider creating a non-automatic tool like this to use only in extreme threadsitting cases?

Number-of-comments throttling? Nah, even applying it selectively stays in sort of weird "why are we managing this by providing a specific quota?" territory.

We've (like, on preview, Jess notes) talked a bit on the mod side about the possibility of some sort of thread-specific timeout mechanic as a possible solution to the problem where asking nicely not always working (sometimes people just seem unwilling or unable to step away from a thread even after we've asked them to) but a full-on timeout feels like it's sort of a blunt enforcement tool.

Being able to just do "take a break from this yourself or we will enforce that break for you" at the level of a thread someone can't let go of instead of being kicked out of the site for a whole day would be a compromise that might work out okay, though it's hard to know for sure exactly how it'd play. On the one hand I'd be more comfortable with the idea of someone being able to take the enforced hint and still be able to go find something else more positive to do on the site if they feel like it; on the other hand, I don't know if it would lead in positive directions or just lead to picking up an argument in another thread or starting an angry Metatalk post to protest the treatment. (A not-angry Metatalk post to discuss the context would be less of a problem, of course.)

So it's something that we have chewed and are continuing to chew on but not quite a gimme at this point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:00 PM on July 26, 2012


restless_nomad: your point about the time dynamic of the site looking like a pile-on unintentionally is a good one. But when I refer to a pile-on, I'm referring also to an emotional dynamic.

The sense is that a group is enforcing a range of acceptable opinions, and pursuing the outlier somewhat like an animal pack chasing down an intruder. There was a very interesting example of this in the recent Skepchik discussion, where nangar was part of the majority view, but then partially dissented from it and suddenly felt the full force of the group hate. ("I guess I'm now officially a really bad person for not agreeing with you in exactly the right way. ")

Everything was patched up pretty quickly, but I think it's a good snapshot of what is going on here. Whether intentionally or not, the effects of the group pursuit feel to the outlier like they are being pushed into a role, the role of a scapegoat or metaphor for all the assholes in the world that people here are mad at, but don't have an example of to target with their fury. And then sometimes someone shows up just at that moment, and fury is transferred on to them, often unfairly.
posted by msalt at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


As foir solutions -- I thinking we're solving this right now, in the imperfect, let's talk it out, person-to-person way Metafilter does things. That's what I love about this site. The mods are uncommonly deft and gracious social stewards, and if you can't work with them, you don't belong in this community.

Let's face it, the tech is nothing. Probably 10% of mefites could program a new Metafilter in one long day, with all the throttling tools and what not that you like. Cortex could do it in a hour, I'm guessing. It's the community and relationships that are uncommon. That takes years of annoying and tedious work to develop, but that's what makes this place special.
posted by msalt at 12:14 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth and furiousxgeorge both employ a tactic of carpet bombing any thread tangentially related to one of their pet topics with comments and personal attacks until everyone who disagrees with them (or, for that matter, just wants to talk about whatever the original FPP was about) is eliminated. For Ironmouth, this means any thread where he thinks criticism of Obama or the Democratic party is likely to occur. For furiousxgeorge, this means any thread remotely related to one of his anti-Obama talking points. This strategy is pretty effective at eliminating everyone else from conversations on topics they've decided to claim ownership of except them.

They're not the only people on MetaFilter use this strategy, but they're two of the most notorious. They've both been criticized for this before. According to comments in this thread, they've both received complaints from the moderators about this kind of behavior. It's very clear that neither of them gives a shit and they're not going to stop. This is a problem.

taz asked earlier:

I'm honestly extremely interested in anyone's ideas about a fair, minimally intrusive/controlling way to avoid this sort of thing that doesn't involve mass deletions, bannings, etc.

This is clearly not the answer you want, and not something you would even remotely consider, but I think it would help if you didn't take the idea of banning people completely off the table. Telling people publicly or privately that what they're doing "isn't really great" and you'd like for them to stop can obviously be effective if the person you're talking to has good will and doesn't really intend to shut down conversations or drive people off the site. Politely admonishing people doesn't really work if their reaction to someone leaving because their attacks is 'woohoo! I scored a point!' It doesn't work if their goal is clearly to shut down conversations and, by ignoring your advice, they succeed in doing so.

Your stated policy of "we'll never ban anyone just for being an asshole" means that people who are intentionally being assholes have absolutely no incentive to stop. I think it would help if, after politely and repeatedly asking people to change their behavior, you could back this up with 'listen, we will actually ban you if you don't stop doing this', and I think it would help if, in extreme cases, you actually did this.

I'd like at least like an explanation of the reasoning behind the "we'll never ban anyone for being an asshole" policy.
posted by nangar at 12:16 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


> There was a very interesting example of this in the recent Skepchik discussion, where nangar was part of the majority view, but then partially dissented from it ...

Heh. I remember that. It felt like the beginning of a pile on, but I guess I was overreacting (or at least I could have responded a lot more moderately).
posted by nangar at 12:22 PM on July 26, 2012


My position is: the way that thread went down is why I have ten times as many AskMe answers as front page comments. I just assume things will go very badly for me if I try. So if you were wondering why at least one of the (I think there are four of us) "out" Mormons wasn't in there with The World Famous, that's why.

(Pretty much every thread discussed in here = "that thread.")
posted by SMPA at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


restless_nomad: I'm sorry I missed your comment on preview because you addressed my later comment. I get where you are coming from as to the difficulties in that model and I find that view understandable except when you get to this part:

And that's why getting the outlier to step out for a while helps curb the dynamic


That's nothing more than the heckler's veto, and I just don't get it. Yes, I get that when things are getting heated, a solution is having one side walk away. But having the outlier do it strikes me as the wrong response. I'd have the heckler walk away. Or hecklers as the situation warrants. In my experience, the hecklers are easily identifiable and not so numerous as to make it an efficiency consideration in asking the outlier to leave. And, of course, here I am referring to what I observe as a problem exclusively related to hecklers: snarky, caustic, insulting, and personally attacking individuals. I certainly have taken positions in legal threads before where a host of people are pressing me about what I said and the issue is never with people who want to talk substantively; the problem is always with the sniping a-holes (who are often predictable) which is usually a small and identifiable group. And from my perspective, it would make more sense to say:
"Joe, Bob, and Sue: either afford Tom the respect to voice his opinion or you will step away from the thread."
That route seems preferable to what I perceive to be the current method of:
"Joe, Bob and Sue: afford Tom the respect to voice his opinion. Tom, if they don't, you'll need to step away from the thread."
That way seems to result in the heckler's veto. And I think the make-up of Metafilter shows the result of the heckler's veto.
posted by dios at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


nangar, re: the Skepchick topic:

Well, having felt what you felt there several times, I don't think you over-reacted at all. I'm glad it all got patched up, though. I am concerned that there is a dynamic where people treat any kind of dissent as unacceptable, and pounce in response. It's somewhat understandable given the personal experiences of people relating to sexual harassment and rape topics, but it's still not OK to treat people poorly for having a civil disagreement. In the related MetaTalk discussion, several people were openly calling for shutting down the ability to disagree on sexual harassment topics, which I think is just wrong.

It bothers me that someone like Not That Girl openly states that (s)he is reluctant to post in these discussions, despite impeccable feminist credentials, because of this dynamic, before making a great, mildly dissenting comment that gets 106 favorites.

I wonder how many other great comments we are not seeing because of this dynamic.
posted by msalt at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are two things I think happen, and I'd like to point them out:

People have mentioned that comments that are 'in-line' with the prevailing MetaFilter opinion tend to stay, with a much lower bar for content, non-shittiness, or lack of vitriol than comments that go against the prevailing MeFi opinion. And this is held as evidence that the mods are biased, or blind or whatever.
Comments that don't seem egregious (and things like 'I'm on the side of not killing babies' do not, in fact, seem egregious to many users) don't get flags. So no, the mods, unless they are on top of a thread, won't see them, and won't register that they are, ahem, problematic.
There is even a flag category for it! 'Other.' Bascially, it means 'hey, look at this.' Not ' OMGWTF DELETE THIS' as some users seem to think.
Flagging works.

The second is: You (specifically) don't have to tell someone that they are wrong. Even if someone is so outrageously wrong their wrongness threatens to collapse the Universe into a parallel wrong-dimension, it is not up to you personally to ensure they know just how wrong they are. It's ok to let, say, only five people, or three people, or twenty people (in the case of some of the more pile-on drivned AskMes) tell Mr. Wrong just how very wrong he is. If you are the only one to see it, by all means, shout their wrongness to the heavens. But if you're, say, the seventh comment? Everyone already knows he's wrong, and he's either getting the idea, or never will.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:41 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"TWF is a typical Mormon, and I hardly need to scour the earth with lantern to find one."

No, he's really not. That's really part of the great value that TWF brings to discussions on religion. He's about a thousand times more reflective about his faith than the typical Mormon, and he's got the right background to appreciate the language of arguments as well as a much broader set of experiences than the typical Mormon, which helps give him much more accepting and questioning views than the typical Mormon.

If TWF lived in the temple, I'd be happy to have him as a neighbor.

"That's nothing more than the heckler's veto, and I just don't get it. Yes, I get that when things are getting heated, a solution is having one side walk away. But having the outlier do it strikes me as the wrong response. I'd have the heckler walk away. Or hecklers as the situation warrants. In my experience, the hecklers are easily identifiable and not so numerous as to make it an efficiency consideration in asking the outlier to leave."

As per usual, the problem is that in these it's a largely contextual call. There's a myth in baseball that a tie goes to the batter — really, there aren't ties. Discussing whether "hecklers" or "outliers" are in the main oppressed ignores that there are plenty of times when the community can tell someone that they're full of shit — the problem is that opinions differ on the amount of shit any given "outlier" contains.
posted by klangklangston at 1:00 PM on July 26, 2012


Yeah, the auto-throttle idea (sometimes stated as a max comments per thread, or max per hour, sometimes as a max percentage of comments limit) would in a strict sense address some of these high-volume exchange things but it's got a lot of problems in practice. Most notably that it could put the kibosh on totally unobjectionable conversations and that it could completely fail to slow down problem conversations that aren't quite hitting the threshold.

In the auto-throttle vein, but maybe with a lighter-touch (and possibly way more work involved):

In situations where a small group of people is monopolizing a thread with a discussion that is within community norms/guidelines, and within the cone of relevance determined by the FPP, but is sort of subclinically deraily or fighty, I wonder if it is possible to change something like the text colour of the comments involved (or all comments by each involved person). This might make it easier for people to see the structure of the thread at a glance and ignore the parts that would for them be tedious or intimidating or depressing or whatever. This would also serve as a gentle warning to the folks involved that they're operating just under the threshold of deleteworthiness. I have no idea whether this would be prohibitively labour-intensive, but as long as there was no stigma attached to getting ORANGED1 in a thread, it would probably warrant somewhat less transparency and justification than comment-removal.

(For example, the discussion about gun control in the recent Aurora shooting thread, which dominated the thread, and made it so that comments much more obviously related to the FPP were sort of sprinkled throughout what to many people -- but not to you modfolk -- might have seemed like a gargantuan, off-topic, fighty clusterfuck.)

1. On the blue. REDDED in AskMe, and no need for such things on the grey.
posted by kengraham at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2012


(I should clarify: I wonder if it is possible to establish some mechanism by which the mods make such formatting changes.)
posted by kengraham at 1:06 PM on July 26, 2012


He's about a thousand times more reflective about his faith than the typical Mormon...

Two thoughts: 1) I don't think this is the kind of compliment TWS is going to appreciate and 2) you write the phrase "typical Mormon" three times in the same sentence. You may not have intended to write something offensive, but thought you should know that it comes across that way.

(Just think of the nails-on-the-chalkboard effect of reading someone repeating "typical Jew" or "typical Muslim" three times over... especially when the "typical" member of those faith traditions is described as non-reflective, closed-minded and parochial.)
posted by BobbyVan at 1:09 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


(I meant TWF, not TWS -- whoever that might be...)
posted by BobbyVan at 1:09 PM on July 26, 2012


That would be The World's Suckiest, TWF's Scientologist brother.
posted by gilrain at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if it is possible to change something like the text colour of the comments involved (or all comments by each involved person).

I follow you, but this is a non-starter; a comment's a comment's a comment, and short of actually making the decision to remove something from a thread we're not going to futz around with the color or layout or etc. in order to highlight comments as compartmentalized or problematic or whatever.

That's aside even from the tricky questions of what would be included vs. not and why, and false positive and false negatives.

My feeling is if we need to, in a mod capacity, point out something about the structure or content of a thread as a it stands, that's something we'll just do verbally with a note and trust people to read the thread for context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2012


This thread has gotten prohibitively long and so I've not read all of it. But I'd like to add that, in my opinion, my positive view of religion in general and Catholicism specifically, makes it all but certain that I'll be on the defensive in any religion thread.

Right or wrongly, I now avoid those threads because I feel that it's almost impossible to have my points treated fairly.
posted by oddman at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


This thread has wandered far afield from the original "let's not bash specific individuals qua individuals," so I'll just throw my two cents in.

Anecdotally, I'm not a particularly prolific or important poster here, but I once incurred the Wrath of Ironmouth in a thread.

We took it to memail and had an extremely interesting, enlightening and pleasant exchange. I still disagree with most of his forensics and his rhetoric, but having spoken to him one on one, I consider him an honest and transparent actor, not to mention a keen and broad thinker.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that if more people would simply talk one on one to the people with whom they disagree, we might need less flagging and metatalking.

Not every point of view is tolerable; this we all know. But taking one's own time rather than the site's to understand views that might be a bit out of bounds will help increase the signal to noise ratio on the site in general.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two thoughts: 1) I don't think this is the kind of compliment TWS is going to appreciate and 2) you write the phrase "typical Mormon" three times in the same sentence. You may not have intended to write something offensive, but thought you should know that it comes across that way.

He was responding to someone who called TWF a typical mormon. I suspect he used the phrase because it was used by the person he was responding to.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 1:25 PM on July 26, 2012


That's really part of the great value that TWF brings to discussions on religion.

I disagree. His quibbling over semantics (usually performed in order to defend a criminal religious organization, no less) does not make for high-value discussion. Just one dissenting opinion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:26 PM on July 26, 2012


msalt: " I wonder how many other great comments we are not seeing because of this dynamic."

For whatever it's worth, I've had several people tell me over memail that they won't participate in topics about sexual assault, harassment or abuse because they are afraid the reaction will be either triggering or horrible. A couple of others have said they've given up participating in those threads because the discussions never solve anything.

The former group are likely looking for a safe space to talk about these things and are never going to find a perfect one here. Although I'd personally like to see those threads go a lot better than they do.

Generally speaking, one way those threads can get better is by having people who don't have direct experience with such things listen with an open mind when folks who do talk about theirs. And then, if they find they have questions, concerns or want to bring up dissenting points, to frame them as dispassionately as possible, or even as questions rather than personal accusations. In the Schroedinger's Rapist thread there were a couple of mefites who were literally telling people "you're lying! that did not happen!" The topic is hard enough for some people to talk about without being told they're a liar. It makes people defensive, and we all know how that goes.
posted by zarq at 1:29 PM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have been thinking about this comment since I made my last one, but, for a variety of reasons, have not had a chance to post before now.

1) Alia, I apologize for repeatedly talking about you in this thread. You and I disagree, not only politically and religiously, but about what that disagreement ultimately means. That much is obvious. I think I could have made my points about what I wanted to talk about in this thread without relying on you as an example, and I certainly did not need to do so repeatedly. I agree with those who say that you seem to have made a real effort of late to participate here in good faith and within respectful bounds.

My apology is sincere and without recourse to caveats. I would, however, like people who were introduced to this topic in this thread, and by my bad behavior in it, to understand that I did not invent the controversial nature of St. Alia's participation on this site and that controversy is not a result of a vendetta between me and her.

2) I obviously pissed a lot of people off by what I wrote in this thread. Several folks that I respect have raised with me, both publicly and in private, their feelings that the distinctions and concerns I was trying to explore here are really problematic. I am still trying to think through this, but I want to thank those who had the patience to try to engage with what I was saying.

The bottom line is that my participation in this thread yesterday was in the midst of a very stressful personal situation external to the site, and I was completely wrong about my own motives and investments as I examined them throughout the day.
posted by OmieWise at 1:31 PM on July 26, 2012 [36 favorites]


First, that is a classic non-apology.

Quite intentionally. I can't control your decision to take the least charitable reading of my comment.

Second, for someone who chided me for not clearly quoting from the the thread, you then do the same thing (I said: I feel like you are getting emotional).

My paraphrase retains the original meaning to a very close degree, while yours was wholesale alteration to make me look worse. There is literally no comparison. Oops, I mean literally no comparison!!!111!!!

Third, classifying that as "an attack" is... ridiculous. I made every effort to acknowledge you, but to also try to move the thread to something we could discuss (even if we disagree).

You described my response as derailment. It was not. The source of my beliefs on a subject being emotion does not make them less valid. Attacking someone for being emotional is a classic method of trying to shut down their point of view.

But then you go on to pull quotes from the NYT article that support me. The assertion of the article is that drones/smart-weapons, like the magic ring, are so asymmetrical as to be unethical to use (or are easier to lead to unethical behavior). The implication of all this is that the comparison is to symmetrical warfare, not no (or null) warfare.


You are 100% wrong. I'm sorry, but you are misreading it, and your reading is not gospel for the rest of us. The article discusses the moral issues with drones, it does very little of the comparison of drones to other methods and focuses on the issues the drones themselves have. Even if the article was what you think it was, that does not make it a derail for folks to comment on the morality of drones vs. other tactics such as peaceful negotiation or a defensive foreign policy that is less involved overseas.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:32 PM on July 26, 2012


He was responding to someone who called TWF a typical mormon. I suspect he used the phrase because it was used by the person he was responding to.

Yeah, describing a member of a group as "typical" of said group is something I'd recommend avoiding if at all possible. Going further, using that construction as a launching pad to say, "no, no, this person is much better than 'typical' members of that group because he's so thoughtful and worldly," sounds like bigotry.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:35 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


OmieWise, that was classy as hell.
posted by idest at 1:36 PM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


"ironmouth" is an actual tag.

I did not know this.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:38 PM on July 26, 2012


Omiewise, I appreciate you

Omiewise, thanks for coming back to the thread and posting what you did.We're cool. Hope things are going better for you today.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:39 PM on July 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, that was damned graceful of you, OmieWise.
posted by koeselitz at 1:43 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Omiewise, that was very well said. And to second St. Alia, hope you're having a better, less stressful day today.
posted by zarq at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: " I disagree. His quibbling over semantics (usually performed in order to defend a criminal religious organization, no less) does not make for high-value discussion. Just one dissenting opinion."

At one point in that thread, he literally said "I completely agree, 100%, with every single word in your comment, Blazecock Pileon. But that's the church being unfairly exclusionary, not secretive." Do you really think that one word difference makes him an apologist for the LDS?
posted by zarq at 1:53 PM on July 26, 2012


The thing is, it usually isn't one against all, it's one against a few. In the original topic this meta sprang from, it was Ironmouth vs. Malor, furiousxgeorge and lupus_yonderboy (with a soupcon of gman.) And Ironmouth was BY FAR the most polite and well-behaved of that group. By far.

That wasn't actually what happened though. Plenty of people were also on Ironmouth's side of that argument. It wasn't a one vs. everyone thread. It usually isn't with Ironmouth, he generally gets into trouble arguing points this community is pretty well split on. He just rubs people the wrong way sometimes when he does it, like by saying they root for Al Qaeda which was by a tremendously wide margin the most shitty behavior in that thread.

Outside of his views on police abuse and maybe copyright (though that is way more split than it used to be) what happens with Ironmouth (and myself) is not about the in-group/out-group stuff, it's just not knowing when to shut up and how to be nice.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:55 PM on July 26, 2012


Give me a fucking break. Disagree with Ironmouth that maybe perhaps drone warfare is immoral and illegal, prepare for a very uncongenial discussion.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:58 PM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


That's nothing more than the heckler's veto, and I just don't get it.

But they're not heckling, in the situation I described. They're participating in a discussion in good faith. They just happen to be doing so in parallel with a bunch of other people. That's the problem - until the situation goes pear-shaped, nobody's doing anything wrong. They're just participating, usually more or less unwittingly at first, in a dynamic that tends to end badly. Figuring out ways as a mod to short-circuit the dynamic without anyone feeling accused of ill-will is tricky as hell. The most effective method seems to be persuading (or forcing) one person to back off for a while, simply because there are fewer variables there. It isn't necessarily fair, but it works.

Now, there are things that all posters could do to minimize the chances of a pile-on developing. Slightly slower posting (taking time to read the whole thread, not just the one comment you want to reply to,) less one-on-one responsiveness in general (so, say, composing a reply to the points people have raised, rather than to individuals) and a refusal to up the rhetorical or emotional stakes of the conversation are all things that make conversations about tough issues go better rather than worse. But those are things people have to be willing to be mindful of, to work at, and also not abandon just because no one else is doing them. They're also not things a mod can make anyone do.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:12 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


by a tremendously wide margin the most shitty behavior in that thread.

This is your opinion. This opinion is not shared by some people including myself. I understand how and why people feel this way, but deciding that your paraphrase of someone's comment is the same as them saying literally the substance of your paraphrase and thinking certain things by extrapolation does not make it true. We have hyperlinks. You can link directly to what Ironmouth said and say "to my read, this says this" and everyone can take a look and see what they think. Then it's properly contextualized. lupus_yonderboy asked for and received a clarification. That's pretty much how that stuff should work.

is not about the in-group/out-group stuff, it's just not knowing when to shut up and how to be nice.

Many people here have said that this is a problem that you both, along with others, share. It's worth understanding that making this problem stop outside of direct mod intervention requires everyone to up their game a little to decide to not make it happen anymore.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is your opinion. This opinion is not shared by some people including myself. I understand how and why people feel this way, but deciding that your paraphrase of someone's comment is the same as them saying literally the substance of your paraphrase and thinking certain things by extrapolation does not make it true.

Umm, okay.

Here's the deal. Why are you rooting for these people? It is like you think it is fair that they hide amongst civilians but unfair of us to strike them there. You think it OK for them to attempt to reduce their casualties by hiding amongst the populace, but it not ok for the US to attempt to reduce the casualties of their own fighters.

Could you explain to me how it is a paraphrase to say he said lupus was rooting for Al Qaeda because it seems like a direct quote to me.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:18 PM on July 26, 2012


Yours is a great comment, OmieWise — fair and thoughtful and a sincere apology. Fair to yourself and your beliefs, too, which I think is important. Somewhere in here what we all need to learn is that we sometimes confuse making our points with being hurtful and, conversely, there's a confusion about understanding that one was wrong in being hurtful with one being wrong in one's point.

A lot of the worst arguments we have here involve people implicitly making negative character judgments about other people and then believing (or, really, just intuitively feeling) that because of this perceived character fault, it's appropriate or just to attack them, to be hurtful. I think this dynamic accounts for 90% of how these discussions go bad. It's extremely tempting to believe that arguing for position X, having belief Y, necessarily indicates a character flaw — that someone is a bad person because of it. And sometimes it does, I admit. But often it doesn't — people believe the things they believe for so many reasons; malice or selfishness or whatever aren't the only explanations.

And this is also true, by the way, with regard to someone's social persona here, leading to this quote from OmieWise's comment:

"The bottom line is that my participation in this thread yesterday was in the midst of a very stressful personal situation external to the site, and I was completely wrong about my own motives and investments as I examined them throughout the day."

People's behavior here varies from day to day and the behavior varies widely from person to person. And that ranges from some individuals behaving very well all the time to some individuals behaving poorly all the time. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. But almost none of this is sufficient evidence that any of us are bad people. Even the people who behave badly all the time, and even if they behave very badly, are not necessarily bad people. This here is such a tiny slice of who someone is. It's easy to extrapolate from a single nasty comment, or a cluster of them, or even a long history of them, to a determination that someone is a monster who deserves — yes, deserves — any and all possible humiliations and punishments that can be inflicted upon them. But that's almost certainly not true.

The irony is probably that many of the people here who are truly bad people in real life, people who criminally or otherwise spend a lot of their lives deliberately and maliciously hurting other people, are not identifiable from their participation here. Some, maybe. Many, not.

And the rest of us are just occasionally, or frequently, jerks here. Which tells you something about who we are here, but it doesn't tell you enough to decide that we are bad people who deserve punishment. And, anyway, this rush to determine that others are bad people who deserve punishment, and punishing them, accounts for about three-quarters of the bad shit that happens in the world, anyway. We'd all treat each other better, there'd be less hurt, and we'd be happier if we made rushing to these negative judgments about character the last thing we do rather than among the first.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:22 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


And lupus didn't seem satisfied with the clarification of the repeated accusations of terrorist sympathy which still claimed he thought it was fair and fine for them to use human shields to me. In fact, if I understand correctly he just thought the clarification read as a third accusation.

Interestingly, Ironmouth has just repeated his claim that I'm a terrorist sympathizer for a third time - since I started posting on this thread.


This is bizarre, terrorist sympathy is not some minor accusation that you just walk back to a more wishy washy terrorist sympathy accusation and then get patted on the back for good behavior for, is it?

Many people here have said that this is a problem that you both, along with others, share.

Yes, (and myself) were the words right before that quote.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:26 PM on July 26, 2012


Could you explain to me how it is a paraphrase to say he said lupus was rooting for Al Qaeda because it seems like a direct quote to me.

As I said earlier in the thread when lupus_yonderboy stated

"You're accusing me of being a terrorist sympathizer."

Ironmouth says

"I don't think you are a terrorist sympathizer--but you don't think out how your positions are that it is morally wrong for the US to expose its personnel to less risk while implicitly saying it is fine and fair for Al Qaeda to deliberately hide amongst civilians to reduce risks to themselves."

So there is a communication impasse between Ironmouth and lupus_yonderboy that needs to get worked out.

I think there's a difference between the statements "You are rooting for Al Queda" and "Why are you rooting for these people?" as seven words in a 1200+ word comment. I think the laser beam focus on specific verbiage in a really heated thread winds up being something that everyone starts to use as a bludgeoning tactic for rhetorical effect and starts looking like a lack of good faith effort to discuss the topic.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:29 PM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


He does clarify his repeated accusation, later. And it still maintains that lupus thinks terrorists using human shields is fair and fine because Ironmouth intentionally ignored that Lupus does not think the strikes should be happening at all. It's still shitty, just less shitty. That doesn't change that the accusation was made. Twice.

I think there's a difference between the statements "You are rooting for Al Queda" and "Why are you rooting for these people?"

Okay, who do you think Ironmouth meant by "these people?"

I think the laser beam focus on specific verbiage in a really heated thread winds up being something that everyone starts to use as a bludgeoning tactic for rhetorical effect and starts looking like a lack of good faith effort to discuss the topic.

I'm sorry, but you can't blame people for being upset someone said they root for terrorists and then come over to Meta to discuss it.

Lupus left the thread when he noticed the accusation, he didn't use it to try and use it as rhetoric to win the argument over there. I similarly did not even address the content of that comment aside from doing it here. The terrorist rooting thing was one sided shitty in the thread, full stop.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2012


furiousxgeorge: "This is bizarre, terrorist sympathy is not some minor accusation that you just walk back to a more wishy washy terrorist sympathy accusation and then get patted on the back for good behavior for, is it?"

Ivan Fyodorovich: "Somewhere in here what we all need to learn is that we sometimes confuse making our points with being hurtful and, conversely, there's a confusion about understanding that one was wrong in being hurtful with one being wrong in one's point."
posted by boo_radley at 2:40 PM on July 26, 2012


"I disagree. His quibbling over semantics (usually performed in order to defend a criminal religious organization, no less) does not make for high-value discussion. Just one dissenting opinion."

I think we approach metafilter in fundamentally different ways, I see it as a place where people can share links and ideas that are very often pretty fucking great, particularly in how we seem to have an expert in almost anything. Despite the best efforts of you and many others, TWF continues to provide his excellent perspective as someone better informed about Mormonism than just about anyone else in those threads.

I don't think they would be better of as some kind of homogenous snark fest you could try to win.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:49 PM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh wait, no, there was a third accusation aimed at lupus. So add this to your seven words.

It seems you wish to advantage those who would strike via terrorist attack, wear the clothes of civilians and surround themselves with civilians so as to make it more difficult to strike them without causing casualties amongst civilians. Why?

-
"We can't prove he's a pig f----r."

"I know that," replied Johnson. "I just want to hear him deny it."

posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:50 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a very interesting example of this in the recent Skepchik discussion, where nangar was part of the majority view, but then partially dissented from it and suddenly felt the full force of the group hate.

I read that thread again, and it seemed like people were having a resonable discussion. Can you point out the actual hating part? Because I'm not seeing it at all. I see nangar write a very thoughtful comment, parts of which certain people disagreed with, and those people said so. Characterizing disagreement with hate is something I find extremely problematic, particularly when we're discussing how people can express dissenting viewpoints. When one uses "hate" as internet shorthand for rebuttals, how is anyone supposed to converse in good faith?
posted by oneirodynia at 2:56 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What this means is that to me, most morality and politics are entirely subjective and I totally don't care as long as the people I like are favored and the people I don't like are disfavored. To me, the only absolute value that I won't compromise on is loyalty to my friends, and even then I recognize that this is just my own personal ideal, not a universal constant.

For example, I support gay marriage not because of principle, but simply because I have a lot of gay friends and I want to make them happy. But if most gay people were douchebags to me, I would cheerfully oppose gay marriage. To me, the value of a political movement isn't in some abstract "principle" but rather the aggregate value of the people who comprise that movement. So generally I tend to lean Democrat because most of the Democrats I've met have been more openminded and logical than the Republicans, but I'm totally comfortable with shifting my voting and donating habits when it seems like the demographics of the groups are changing.


I realize that wolfdreams01 has officially left the thread, but his statements (and the fact that he defended his stance as sound and rational) disturbed me--whoever said "chiling" was right on--and I wanted to respond briefly, even if I'm late doing it. I'm roughly paraphrasing Rachel Maddow here: The thing about civil rights is that you don't get to dole them out based on your personal preference or experience, or your moral or political beliefs, for that matter. They're rights; by definition, everyone deserves them equally, not just the people who are nice to you personally. When you start saying things like, "if most gay people were douchebags to me, I would cheerfully oppose gay marriage"... well, that's just so horrifically unsettling for so many reasons, which others have pointed out already. And yes, the basis of democracy does lie in abstract ideals; that's the whole point of it. It's not about specific personalities or populations. Same with ethics, IMO (and Kant's).
posted by désoeuvrée at 3:02 PM on July 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


"Typical Mormon" was my phrase. I didn't mean to offend, I'm sorry that I was tone-deaf, and was just using it as shorthand for "seems to hold positions which are largely in line with what little I know of the mainstream of the LDS church." I was trying to signify that I didn't find his positions to be extraordinarily strange, but rather to be opinions I think I might easily find among neighbors and fellow-citizens. I'll try to avoid that usage in the future, please remind me if I do it again.
posted by tyllwin at 3:04 PM on July 26, 2012


"Two thoughts: 1) I don't think this is the kind of compliment TWS is going to appreciate and 2) you write the phrase "typical Mormon" three times in the same sentence. You may not have intended to write something offensive, but thought you should know that it comes across that way. "

Sorry about that — I wasn't trying to be offensive by using the "typical Mormon."

However, I do believe there is a "typical Mormon," and while no doubt people within the church have a much broader and more nuanced view, I don't think that precludes talking about a "typical Mormon." But thank you for the reminder to tread carefully, both because it can be read as offensive and because it plays into a narrative of persecution that I find often distracts in religious discussions.

I will say also that I think it's tempting to over-extend the aegis there; while I might balk at "typical Jew," I think that any of the things I said could also be applied to "typical Christian." Maybe this is because a have a job that often entails talking to a lot of the public about a contentious issue, but I can say that I've talked to enough people that started out the conversation by identifying their creed to have a pretty good idea of the level of typical theological thought that people engage in, and can recognize TWF as above and beyond that.

(I would also add valkyryn to that list, even though I disagree with this theology pretty frequently. He's definitely a dude who has thought about things and had his beliefs challenged well.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:06 PM on July 26, 2012


I think we approach metafilter in fundamentally different ways, I see it as a place where people can share links and ideas that are very often pretty fucking great

No, I see it as the same kind of place, despite the best efforts of you and a few others to try to mischaracterize what I said in this bizarre way.

Despite the best efforts of you and many others, TWF continues to provide his excellent perspective as someone better informed about Mormonism than just about anyone else

What I end up disliking most about defenses for his behavior is that he is propped up as an expert on Mormonism, when is he really just an expert at derailing any discussion of the less savory activities of the LDS.

As the magazine cover thread showed, twice, he's definitely better at that than anyone else on the site. It's a shame, really, because other than defending gangsters, he seems like a decent enough human being.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:19 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: “other than defending gangsters, he seems like a decent enough human being”

Just a quick note: I'd like this printed on my tombstone when I die, please.
posted by koeselitz at 3:25 PM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


jessamyn, cortex, restless_nomad, or any other mods reading, I asked earlier in this thread for an explanation of your "we'll never ban anyone just for being an asshole" policy. I've asked about this before and I've never gotten a response. I would appreciate an actual explanation.

I think this is relevant here because both furiousxgeorge and Ironmouth know that they can continue their current behavior on the site with absolute impunity because there is no possibility that they will ever be banned and there is no possibility that there will ever be any sanctions for their behavior other than an occasional mild verbal rebuke.

I'm sorry to nag, but I'm nagging. I really would like an explanation of this policy.
posted by nangar at 3:53 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've been given week long bans twice in the past few months and assume I am on the bubble for a perma ban.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:54 PM on July 26, 2012


I realize that wolfdreams01 has officially left the thread, but his statements (and the fact that he defended his stance as sound and rational) disturbed me--whoever said "chiling" was right on--and I wanted to respond briefly, even if I'm late doing it. I'm roughly paraphrasing Rachel Maddow here: The thing about civil rights is that you don't get to dole them out based on your personal preference or experience, or your moral or political beliefs, for that matter. They're rights; by definition,

You're begging the question. The fact that they are rights is among the thing in dispute between supporters and opponents of same sex marriage. If Matt wants to rule the question settled on Metafilter, agree that they are rights and silence anyone who disagrees, he can do that. But if you don't let the opponents talk, they pretty much are excused from having to listen. It's not a great way to go about effecting social change peacefully, which is what both sides are trying to do in a country that is clearly divided on a number of moral, legal, and policy issues related to homosexuality.

It's similar with a number of other issues... like drone strikes.

I have no problem with people saying, "You're wrong." Indeed, I think they should be blunt and direct about their disagreement. But when you say, "You're a moral monster," "Your view is horrifying," etc. at a certain point you effectively cut off the conversation and exclude the minority voices. And having the conversation is important. In the greater culture, there's more space for uncivil attacks on people who hold those views, but especially on Metafilter, where certain controversial views are in the minority, if you want to have the useful conversation and not just an echo chamber, you have to be civil even to people you think are morally wrong.... otherwise there can be a snowball effect that just chases the minority views away and folks holding the majority view will just be talking to themselves.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Quoting myself:

"If Matt wants to rule the question settled on Metafilter, agree that they are rights and silence anyone who disagrees, he can do that."

As, e.g. with white supremacy topics and the fact that we don't link to VDare, Stormfront, et al.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 4:00 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which isn't to say I in any way disagree with the consensus on that topic or support white supremacists or think that we need a space to discuss that issue.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 4:01 PM on July 26, 2012


The most effective method seems to be persuading (or forcing) one person to back off for a while, simply because there are fewer variables there. It isn't necessarily fair, but it works.


Timeouts are a few key strokes and would be plenty effective (you did say that forcing people to back off was an option). It doesn't seem like issuing a few at the same time would be that much harder than just doing one.

And if I understand it correctly they can be administered for as long or as short a time as is required so there is plenty of flexibility from an hour to a day to a week.

This is all assuming the gentle chiding goes ignored.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:01 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"we'll never ban anyone just for being an asshole"

One-time assholishness except in really rare circumstances will not directly lead to a banning. Long term assholishness that is either ramping up, seems uncontrollable, or crosses some pretty not-okay lines will, in fact, lead to banning. Historically, being a jerk who really wanted to remain a member of this community could usually be enough to keep you a member of this community. Lately, past two years or so, we've been a little more hardline with people who have a sort of ebb-flow of good/bad behavior. We understand that some bad behavior is situational--bad real life stuff turns into cranky acting out--but over time we expect that to get sorted. If it doesn't, if there's an ongoing problem that is not changing, we'll start talking to folks more specifically and more directly.

What happens is a series of escalating timeouts where we specifically talk to people about what the problem is and what needs to go differently. It's really important to us that no one be banned "by surprise" if they've been a long standing member of this community. So we'll email with them and make it pretty clear "If you keep doing that thing again, you're not going to be able to remain a member of this community" and more granularly "Stop doing this thing. Next time we're giving you a week off/permaban"

This isn't something we like doing, but the alternative of just being like "Eh they're a jerk" doesn't fly either. There are still some failure modes to this, most specifically people who sort of ramp up and then back down again when we've spoken to them and then back up later. People here have long memories, as you've seen, and the fact that someone may have been an intemperate asshole LAST year at holidaytime gets dragged out when they are being an intemperate asshole THIS holidaytime usually along with "Why isn't this person banned? They've done this before!"

We try to give people a chance to fix their own shit. Some people might say too many chances. But while it's really hard to get banned here being a consistently problematic asshole here who either ignores our attempts to help straighten things out or who just can't, for whatever reason, get it together to not be a total mess here will get banned. I hope this is helpful. I'm really loathe to bring up specific examples but there have been a few in the past year where we've been like "This isn't working, you've been given enough chances. This is goodbye." We don't like to do that and I think sometimes people take advantage of our good nature about that sort of thing, but it does happen.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Timeouts are a few key strokes and would be plenty effective (you did say that forcing people to back off was an option). It doesn't seem like issuing a few at the same time would be that much harder than just doing one.

We give very, very few timeouts as it is. Most threads, even contentious ones, can be corralled by escalating mod notes + increasingly aggressive deletions. Timeouts are not a stick we want to reach for more than we currently do.

And it doesn't address the fact temporary banning is always received as a punishment whether or not we intend it to be, and punishing a whole group of people who may or may not be guilty of anything more than participating in the wrong side of a conversation is not going to work. The very few overnight timeouts I can recall off the top of my head were given to people who were both getting really, really aggressive and non-responsive or actively hostile to mod contact. Lowering that bar would be a pretty major policy change.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:21 PM on July 26, 2012


oneirodynia: I read that thread again, and it seemed like people were having a resonable discussion. Can you point out the actual hating part? Because I'm not seeing it at all. I see nangar write a very thoughtful comment, parts of which certain people disagreed with, and those people said so. Characterizing disagreement with hate is something I find extremely problematic, particularly when we're discussing how people can express dissenting viewpoints. When one uses "hate" as internet shorthand for rebuttals, how is anyone supposed to converse in good faith?

"Group hate" was too strong a term, and I apologize for the hyperbole. But nangar expressed a sensation I myself have had before -- after mildly dissenting from a group consensus point, the group turns on you. As nangar put it, "[4 user names], I don't think I disagree you very much. But I guess I'm now officially a really bad person for not agreeing with you in exactly the right way. "

Part of it is a sense that disagreeing with some small part of a consensus, such as whether certain behavior rises to the level of "sexual harassment" depending on how you define it (legally or colloquially), that if you disagree with the consensus in any portion, you are shoved over to the "bad guys" side of people who support sexual offenses, or are apologists for offenders, or some such. It's a "you're with us or you're against us" feeling, and some people are openly saying that those who are "against us" should not be allowed to speak in these topics. Others work to make that the reality by shouting people down or ostracizing people who dissent.

To be clear, I know that nangar is not saying that happened. I bring it up because it was an interesting dynamic where the group briefly seemed to expel a member and move them into the ostracized camp. So I think it illustrates the dynamic in an illuminating manner.
posted by msalt at 4:50 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Part of it is a sense that disagreeing with some small part of a consensus, such as whether certain behavior rises to the level of "sexual harassment" depending on how you define it (legally or colloquially), that if you disagree with the consensus in any portion, you are shoved over to the "bad guys" side of people who support sexual offenses, or are apologists for offenders, or some such. It's a "you're with us or you're against us" feeling, and some people are openly saying that those who are "against us" should not be allowed to speak in these topics. Others work to make that the reality by shouting people down or ostracizing people who dissent.


posted by msalt at 12:50 AM on July 27


Oh boy, the "Skepchick/FtB Wars" have gone beyond parody now. It's both amazing and depressing. This provided some light relief, although 98% of the references will be lost on people fortunate enough not to have been involved in the nonsense.
posted by Decani at 5:39 PM on July 26, 2012


It's extremely tempting to believe that arguing for position X, having belief Y, necessarily indicates a character flaw — that someone is a bad person because of it.

The irony is probably that many of the people here who are truly bad people in real life, people who criminally or otherwise spend a lot of their lives deliberately and maliciously hurting other people, are not identifiable from their participation here. Some, maybe. Many, not.


I agree entirely with your insightful comment, although I thought they sounded better the first time around - you know, when *I* actually said it.

I think it's much more intellectually rigorous to make judgements of people based on my own personal observations, rather than to ever take it on faith that "people who believe X are bad human beings."

Tell me, is all your wisdom repackaged? Or is this a special "adding insult to injury" bonus, where after insulting my ethical code, you rephrase it to make yourself seem more statemanslike?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:02 PM on July 26, 2012


This provided some light relief, although 98% of the references will be lost on people fortunate enough not to have been involved in the nonsense.

And the ad on the right at freethoughtblahgs.com, "thinkin' so you don't have to", is for....Scientology.
posted by likeso at 6:07 PM on July 26, 2012


I wonder if someone can be an otherkin where internally they are Reddit, like, I guess, a redditkin.
posted by boo_radley at 6:20 PM on July 26, 2012


"Ironmouth sure does comment a lot in a lot of these threads about the same stuff every time", which is a fair criticism and something we've tried (with not what feels like a ton of success) to address with him in the past.

Which is not an Ironmouth-only thing, either. We've got a bunch of high-volume regulars around here who have sort of pet topics they reliably return to to get into basically the same arguments they've gotten into before repeatedly.


And no one is asking Lupus what agit-prop Socialist group he works for, though.
posted by spaltavian at 6:32 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think a Socialist group would hire an Al Qaeda supporter.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:45 PM on July 26, 2012


Yeah, Islamo-Socialist doesn't have the same ring to it.

It's generally better to refer to behavior as kosher, rather than people.

Unless you're a Jewish cannibal.
posted by spaltavian at 7:16 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


You keep waiting for Astro Zombie or Greg Nog to show up with hilarious quips that break the tension and reset the zeitgeist to rationality, but they never show up.

I am the tension. A guy opens his door and gets flamed, and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:51 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth's "rooting for these people" and "you think it's fair that they hide amongst civilians" comments were on the shitty side, but I really don't think you can honestly read them as serious accusations -- instead of just a provocative rhetorical device. And I suppose someone could say it's not constructive to play "who was the asshole first" but I think that can be important for understanding how these conversations develop, so note again, that Ironmouth's tone only soured considerably, to that level, after lupus had thrown in his insinuations of Ironmouth being some sort of paid Democrat shill.
posted by Anything at 9:40 PM on July 26, 2012


Of course he didn't believe it, and of course it was just a shitty way to try and provoke a reaction. Ironmouth is too smart a reader to have missed that Lupus had said the strikes would not and should not be happening, making the use of human shields irrelevant. I'm not sure why you would think that makes it better though. It's the same shitty provocation when he says people who disagree with him on copyright support theft, or that people who disagree with him on political issues help Republicans.

Lupus asked a question for clarification on something he thought he remembered, and accepted the answer immediately at face value. Regardless of how Ironmouth felt about what lupus asked him, that does not excuse lumping in general opposition to drones into that category.

That is why the opposition to drones seems inexplicable to me. It appears to be emotional and linked to a desire to "even the score" and help the "underdog" even if the so-called underdog specifically attacks civiians as its primary mode of attack.


Do you think, "your comment seems emotional and linked to a desire to help people who murder civilians" was a legitimate answer to the quote he was responding to which was, "The problem with justifying your use of a weapon based on reduced casualties is that it can be used for literally any weapon depending on circumstances. We have already used it to justify nuclear attacks, where else is there to go?"
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:55 PM on July 26, 2012


Tell me, is all your wisdom repackaged?

Conventional wisdom usually is....and "I'm OK, you're OK" is pretty conventional wisdom--because it's mostly true.

This thread needs a tachometer.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:15 PM on July 26, 2012


Well it is better than making actual accusations but, yeah, I do agree that those really were bad comments, particularly after lupus had apologized.

Please be careful, however with your quotations -- "your comment seems emotional and linked to a desire to help people who murder civilians" does not seem to appear in that thread, but this does: "It appears to be emotional and linked to a desire to "even the score" and help the "underdog" even if the so-called underdog specifically attacks civiians as its primary mode of attack". I don't have a huge problem with that which Ironmouth actually said.
posted by Anything at 10:17 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, that is the thing I just quoted, I'm wondering what major difference in meaning you are grasping here.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:19 PM on July 26, 2012


The former ascribed to supposed emotional attachment to the murderers in specific, which is something only fanatics and crackpots would while the latter ascribes it to 'evening the score' and 'underdogs' in general, which is something fairly common in our culture and fairly understandable.
posted by Anything at 10:22 PM on July 26, 2012


'fanatics and crackpots would have'
posted by Anything at 10:23 PM on July 26, 2012


The underdog in general which..." specifically attacks civiians as its primary mode of attack." and is a victim of American drone attacks.

Who does he mean?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:24 PM on July 26, 2012


'The former ascribed to' -> 'The former ascribed the' -- sorry for the typos, I know they are making me unclear.
posted by Anything at 10:25 PM on July 26, 2012


The underdog in general which..." specifically attacks civiians as its primary mode of attack." and is a victim of American drone attacks.

Presumably, any terrorist group that would be a legitimate target if out in the open and which chooses to deter attacks by melding with civilian populations. Schematically speaking.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:29 PM on July 26, 2012


furious, I think you may be personalizing IronMouth's comments a bit, which is something that in my humble opinion I find you doing from time to time.

I honestly don't think he's trying to provoke a reaction or do anything so machiavellian. My perception is that what IronMouth does do sometimes, is take people's arguments to their logical conclusion, which is a valid way to test the logic of an argument, but he often forgets to show his work so it comes off as simply exaggerating or distorting someone's arguments.
In other words, he skips steps in his reasoning.

For example, saying that strikes should not happen does not make the use of human shields irrelevant. These terrorists hid in urban areas among civilians to avoid attack before drones were invented. But I think Ironmouth is skipping steps -- these terrorists are and were launching attacks. They hide among civilians to prevent conventional attacks. Drones are able to follow them and monitor them indefinitely until they are separated from their human shields, then attack (this is what happened with Awlaki.) If you unilaterally drop the use of drones, therefore you are in effect condoning or at least rewarding the use of shields by not using the only weapon that can, to a certain degree, counter that tactic.

Instead, he jumps right to "Well, if you ban drones, you're rewarding and condoning people who use human shields." So I might encourage Ironmouth to slow down a bit and show his work.
posted by msalt at 10:29 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(to be clear, I'm equating "specifically attacks civilians" with "terrorist" and drawing "melding with civilian populations" from the trouble with using drones in anti-terror/insurgency/low intensity/MOUT etc. scenarios.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:31 PM on July 26, 2012


furiousxgeorge, this needs to not turn into another comment-flood fest regarding your problems with ironmouth. You've said your piece and commented over 30 times here already; you need to stop.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:46 PM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Presumably, any terrorist group that would be a legitimate target if out in the open and which chooses to deter attacks by melding with civilian populations. Schematically speaking.

Okay, terrorist murders. Yes. That is the correct interpretation.

Instead, he jumps right to "Well, if you ban drones, you're rewarding and condoning people who use human shields." So I might encourage Ironmouth to slow down a bit and show his work.


His words for Lupus were "rooting for". He said this in response to "To extrapolate from someone's opposition to drones to the claim that they are indifferent to mass killings with great loss of life is offensive and unfair."

So what do you suggest should happen if Ironmouth serves up the conclusion he did simply in response to someone who pointed what you just did, that the extrapolation is unfair? And if he does it several more times in a thread after that?

I really think people are bending over backwards here. One might look at the stats that show the number of terrorists increasing in Yemen as the strikes go on and conclude that the attacks strengthen the terrorists. One could then extrapolate that the reason people support those strikes is because they are rooting for terrorists and see this as a positive outcome. So one could make the same comments Ironmouth did based on a faulty extrapolation that ignores other possible explanations.

The problem isn't speed, the problem is the train of logic is faulty. There are other valid reasons to support or oppose drones.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:51 PM on July 26, 2012


(Just saw Taz, oops!)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:51 PM on July 26, 2012


while it's really hard to get banned here being a consistently problematic asshole

Why?

I ask in all seriousness.

How are the community's best interests served by that approach?
posted by ambient2 at 11:07 PM on July 26, 2012


You may have missed my missing comma. I didn't catch it til later and I wasn't sure if it merited being put back in, but here's the properly punctuated sentence with the extra "here" elided

But while it's really hard to get banned here, being a consistently problematic asshole--who either ignores our attempts to help straighten things out or who just can't, for whatever reason, get it together to not be a total mess here--will get you banned.

Sorry for the confusing verbosity. If you still have a question about this I'm sure taz can speak to this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:13 PM on July 26, 2012


In terms of the larger population, they're dirt common. If Ironmouth is your idea of a right-wing extremist, how on Earth do you deal with a Republican?

Ironmouth isn't my idea of a right-wing extremist. He's my idea of an establishment Democrat (not saying he's a shill/paid/anything, just that he sympathizes with establishment Democratic Party viewpoints).

I have no problem with WHAT he says, just with HOW he says it. What makes him frustrating is the fact that he shouts down and condescends towards anyone to the left of his viewpoints in a really shitty way which, honestly, seems to be in bad faith, and constantly gets away with it. I have no idea why his style flies under so many people's radars, but here are just a few tactics he has used repeatedly in threads we've both participated in:
  • Appeals to authority. He's an attorney and if you disagree with him about anything involving the law, you're wrong because he's an attorney. In some threads, this makes more sense - I honestly appreciated his contributions to the threads about WikiLeaks, as he's said before that working with whistleblowers was a Thing He Did. I don't appreciate it when he uses his Lawthority to shut down anyone who disagrees with him on other things. For instance, in this thread about the NDAA, Ironmouth repeatedly shut down anyone who disagreed with his interpretation of the statute's indefinite detention provisions, responding to them with helpful quips like "You can't deny the facts. I read statutes all day long. That's what I do." and "The statement is demonstrably false. Anyone who says otherwise isn't reading the bill," to the reward of many favorites. Never mind that he wasn't the only lawyer in the discussion, or that as it turned out, a federal judge disagreed with his interpretation and enjoined the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA for violating the first and fifth Amendments. Ironmouth has assumed the mantle of Official MeFi Lawyer and attempts to stifle discussions by portraying his own opinions as facts and anything that differs as nonsense.
  • Bullshit accusatory strawmen. Anytime you question the Democratic Party or the Obama Administration's positions on anything, it's not because you disagree, it's because you aren't rational, or you love terrorists (as seen in this thread), dictators, Romney, Ron Paul, etc. etc. Also, if you desire policies more liberal than those promoted by Obama, you are "too busy engaging in activities designed to make [you] feel good about being leftists, ...rather than registering voters or calling and writing their congress person on key issues, or you know, voting in every election." Of course, it doesn't matter if you point out that it was actually moderates swinging Republican that lost the 2010 midterm elections for the Democrats, rather than liberals failing to turn out, because...
  • Ignoring anything he doesn't want to hear. It won't matter how good of a point you make, if he doesn't agree! He'll quote ad infinitum the fact that Republicans gained seats in the 2010 midterms to justify policy decisions being made today, and ignore any citations to actual recent opinion polls about the policy in question. He'll quote that poll about how many people self-identify as conservative, liberal, etc. and ignore your rebuttal that the term "liberal" has been poisoned in the news media, and that majorities of people support positions that actually ARE liberal, even when they don't see themselves AS one. He'll taunt you to name something Obama said he'd accomplish that he didn't do, then ignore your response. Hell, he'll respond to a fragment of your comment and ignore the main argument, if it helps! But even that isn't as frustrating as:
  • Demanding impossible hypotheticals. Reread any discussion about the ACA and watch the response to anyone who says "I wish Obama had started from a stronger negotiation point" or "I wish the Democrats had made a stronger case in public for a public option" or "I wish the negotiation process hadn't dragged on so long because it gave Republicans a long time to poison public opinion with dishonest talking points" because any of these things may have made possible a different outcome from what was achieved, and witness Ironmouth demanding that you either produce a list of 60 Senators who would vote for a public option or shut up. Which is impossible, since the whole premise was that different actions would have potentially changed the narrative, then public opinion, and finally the whip count, and you can't read Senators' minds to make a list of people who would have voted a certain way had something that didn't happen happened. Same thing with the deficit ceiling negotiations, and probably other discussions too, but I grew tired of digging up support early in the last bullet point. These are all actual exchanges I've read or been in, and if you think I'm being unfair, I'll look up the links and memail them to you.
It's weird that Ironmouth is interpreted as representing some lone wolf opinion against the mean majority, since usually he's espousing the straight up mainstream line, gets a ton of favorites for his posts, and only has like 1-4 people actively arguing against him. And I used to be one of those people pretty often until I reached the conclusion that he wasn't arguing in good faith, due largely to all of the strategies mentioned above. He's an advocate for a living, he's making his case as strongly as possible, and he sure isn't here to get his mind changed. But he isn't here to have an actual discussion, either - he's here to mock, discredit, and shut down anyone arguing an opinion he doesn't share.

I'm an attorney too, and civil rights issues are very important to me. It's one of the reasons I went to law school in the first place. And one of the reasons that I joined MeFi in the first place was because I was inspired by the kinds of conversations people could have about them around here. But I rarely participate anymore, because I can't. I think Obama's a good person, but I think he's advanced some seriously fucked up policies regarding civil rights, and it's impossible to discuss that in a thread without it turning into a slog against Ironmouth for criticizing Obama's position. Where you'll get called a dictator/terrorist/Republican sympathizer, you'll get condescended to as if he's the supreme arbiter of all things legal and you're a stupid wrong child if you disagree, and you'll take enormous amounts of time to respond to his questions and points only to have yours ignored. Then, in threads like this, people will accuse you of piling on Ironmouth, as if he hasn't clearly figured out how to handle himself, and you. Lots of effort, negative reward.

On preview, I see that mods are already trying to wrap up the problems-with-Ironmouth discussion. This is my piece on the subject, and it looked like this was the thread to say it in: It sucks that people react aggressively to Ironmouth comments, and they are certainly responsible for their words. I'm not giving anyone a pass for that. However, I think that if Ironmouth interacted in a less inflammatory manner with anyone who didn't share his opinions, less people would react aggressively to him. But since he's been getting away with it for years, I just assume the mods will let it go on forever, so I have to add "any thread about an Obama policy" to my list of threads to avoid, along with "anything involving intellectual property" and "anything involving Li'l Wayne."
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:43 PM on July 26, 2012 [77 favorites]


Thanks for your response, jessamyn.
posted by nangar at 2:31 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I have no problem with WHAT he says, just with HOW he says it."

His rhetoric is no worse than many other's on this site. He's called out here because he continuously upsets the pious majority. He's been asked to modulate his posting because that's so much easier than telling the other hundreds of assholes to dial it back. I'm pretty sure it's a moderation problem that predates teh internets.
posted by klarck at 4:06 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


cobra_high_tigers, no part of your creepily extensive list is even vaguely remarkable for political metafilter threads, much less unique to Ironmouth. The only part that makes his peg stand taller in those threads is the political content and bent.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:00 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


A perceived inconsistency between my most recent comment and a previous one was just thoughtfully pointed out to me by memail, to clarify:

I remain impressed by Ironmouth's patience, and remarkable commitment to participating in good faith, in spite of the bile that a few dedicated users throw at him. I admire the fact that he is still willing to come to those threads to offer his perspective in spite of it. I usually don’t agree with Ironmouth, but I have valued having a consistent establishment perspective to learn from.

Ironmouth isn’t perfect and I never said he was, but his appeals to the authority of his legal knowledge hold weight with me and many others because he has consistently demonstrated it. Just because a few folks feel threatened by his, usually fair, characterizations of the self-neutering variety of permanent protest liberalism doesn’t mean they are actually a threat to them or to the site.

That cobra_high_tigers is so aggressively defensive about the partisan bullshit in the rest of the list, and so comprehensive in compiling the list, is genuinely pretty fucking creepy. Can y’all really not see how that sort of shit is so silencing to the many many members who just don’t want to risk attracting that kind of attention? Especially when it so poorly correlates to writing ability, actual offensiveness, or willingness to pick fights of the targets, and instead, as shown here, correlates most strongly with not adhering to the ever shifting political orthodoxy of metafilter. Those of you who have been called out for this bullshit are hurting metafilter by being assholes, please stop.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:12 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Huh

Having now received my third request by MeMail, I would like it to be known that I have no interest in sucking, consuming, licking, or interacting with in any way the assholes of any mefites that I have not already engaged in such activities with. Any other interested parties can rest assured that any change of mind on my part in this matter will be communicated by invitation.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:20 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


You are wrong.
posted by absalom at 6:20 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


what
posted by gauche at 6:25 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, I don't even know my own posting history that well.

Also, re Blasdelb's memails - who the fuck sends memails like that? That's bullshit.
posted by rtha at 6:30 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't find it creepy at all; I find it impressive. cobra_high_tigers obviously has a great memory for what certain people on this site say and how they act. He went back and found comments that anyone has easy access to, in order to prove his points. Most of us on here will search Google to find quotes we want to use in order to back up what we say about someone we're talking about, be it a politician, a religious leader, or anyone really. Kudos to him.
posted by gman at 6:32 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, this is getting weird-shaped. I know it's hot where many of you are (it is here), and maybe tempers are short or whatever, but Metafilter is really supposed to be a place to come and relax and read some stuff, and enjoy some stuff and talk about some stuff and, you know, if it's getting to the point that some of that stuff is making you so very, very angry... man, just take a break from those kinds of threads, or this one, or something. Maybe everybody doesn't need a hug (because some of us are sweaty and sticky ew), but somebody make us a big pitcher of frosty pina coladas please.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:36 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would hope that anyone who sent me-mails to Blasdelb like that will be meeting mr banhammer pretty shortly.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 6:36 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would hope that anyone who sent me-mails to Blasdelb like that will be meeting mr banhammer pretty shortly.

Yes. Not cool. Having a memail box is not an invitation to be threatened or harassed.
posted by gauche at 6:40 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bladelb, I urge you to report it to the mods.

I've had several people send me pretty vile memails over the years. The last time I complained about it (months after the fact) in Meta, cortex said that if I alert them via the contact form when it happens and send them copies of the memails, they would review the situation, speak with the sender and help put a stop to it.
posted by zarq at 6:53 AM on July 27, 2012


Well, this is getting weird-shaped. I know it's hot where many of you are (it is here), and maybe tempers are short or whatever, but Metafilter is really supposed to be a place to come and relax and read some stuff

I agree that MeFi should be fun, but what I love most about Metafilter is how much I have learned from it over the years. I just feel like that becomes less and less possible as the community congeals over what is an acceptable point-of-view.

I wish there were more conversations with people who say "I think Guantanamo is a good idea," "or I think gay-marriage is wrong," or "I think NYC's stop-and-frisk program is reasonable," but it seems people who have this POV get hammered to point where they bow out or choose to participate at all.

I think having discussions between people who disagree on these types of subjects has become near-impossible, which is a shame because I love reading those types of discussions and finding my own POV come-together by following the exchanges back-and-forth.
posted by rosswald at 6:57 AM on July 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I wasn't saying people shouldn't participate in serious threads, I'm saying that if you (general "you") are getting so angry you are sending people apparently abusive Mefi Mail then, wow... shouldn't you really be doing something else less stressful? (Trying to find out more on this situation.)
posted by taz (staff) at 7:06 AM on July 27, 2012


I don't want to clutter up the thread after having dropped a big comment, but I will say one quick thing: I don't agree with Blasdelb's assessment, but honest disagreement in the open is a million times more valuable than vulgar harassment via memail for daring to disagree. Blasdelb, I'm sorry you're being treated like that, I hope you're reporting the messages, and I hope whoever's sending them takes a hike.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:08 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think there's an "Orthodoxy." That gives everyone involved entirely too much credit. I'm reminded a bit of two cranks in my hometown newspaper who got off on arguing religion with each other. The battle went on for over a decade, eventually limited by the editors to weekly submissions in order to make room for more prosaic discussion of city council policy, school fundraising, and statehouse politics.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:14 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I've had some heated memail exchanges with people, but I don't feel that any of them have even risen to the level of getting a "dial it back, folks" mod note if they'd happened in a thread. People who can't keep their abusive screeds in their pants deserve to be kicked to the curb.
posted by rtha at 7:14 AM on July 27, 2012


"Also, re Blasdelb's memails - who the fuck sends memails like that? That's bullshit."

I've seen people talk about getting harassing memails in the past and I think that there's probably a few people who for some reason get more than average. But my own experience is that this is very rare. I mean, really, although memail was created toward the end of my time as EB, I guess including actual email, though, I really can only think of one person who sent me memail like that (and email and posted things on other places I was at one the web). I dunno...also maybe one other person. And since I've been back this last year, maybe one borderline and then another that was pretty abusive.

You'd maybe expect more people to really let loose when they're upset in a memail. But that's not my experience. It almost never happens. And, in fact, my experience is the opposite. I get more nice, complimentary memails than I deserve and then also have cordial, respectful memail conversations with people I've been arguing with publicly. People are usually nicer when it's one-to-one.

Which does make it very disconcerting and disturbing when one gets the rare abusive memail. Or email. It feels like an intrusion. The one of the two I mentioned that was most recent really bothered me in ways and for reasons I can't quite articulate. It seemed so egregious that I was both angry that it was egregious but also discomfitted by it. Like worrying the person was a little unhinged. Certainly I felt that way about the one person who cyberstalked me during my EB days. But, you know, I didn't complain to the mods about it. I told him to stop it because it was fucked-up. And then I ignored him.

Which brings me to...

"I would hope that anyone who sent me-mails to Blasdelb like that will be meeting mr banhammer pretty shortly."

...and that, even so, I don't really agree with this. In that the conversation is private, I feel weird about involving the mods in it. Like, you know, involving someone's ISP when someone sends me an equivalent offensive email. I mostly don't think this is really their responsibility. I guess that it arguably can be, but I'd set the bar pretty high. Like stalking or sexual harassment or something. Or explicit physical threats. But even then, the thing is, you can block someone. It's right there at the bottom of the memail they send you. I'd say that if you actually feel unsafe, then don't just ignore it. But if it's mostly someone being an asshole, even an unhinged asshole, just block them and try to forget about it. That's what I think. I don't know what the official MeFi policy is.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:24 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I memailed him on calling Tiger a creep. He called me an asshole as part of his reponse. So I told him to suck my asshole and blocked him. And then he took it to the thread I'm risking banning even to post in again. I don't know about the other two times someone told him to suck their asshole. I did briefly unblock him to make fun of how much he was complaining about receiving insults after calling people creeps and assholes, but did not again tell him to suck anything. That is all I know.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:29 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hang on, one can block memail at an individual user level? Maybe this is just lack of sufficient coffee, but I thought memail was on-for-all or off-for-all. Because for me, I'd sooner report an abusive memailer than shut off my memail if that means no one can memail me and I can't memail anyone.
posted by rtha at 7:33 AM on July 27, 2012


Okay, furiousxgeorge, you seriously need a time out, if not more. This is not okay.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:33 AM on July 27, 2012


furiousxgeorge, I perceive your behavior as shown in this thread to be deleterious to the community.
posted by boo_radley at 7:33 AM on July 27, 2012


"Hang on, one can block memail at an individual user level?"

Yep.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:34 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. "Block this user" it says. Well okay then. Hope it never ever comes to that.
posted by rtha at 7:36 AM on July 27, 2012


Oh, and thanks! I guess I just never noticed that.
posted by rtha at 7:37 AM on July 27, 2012


Rtha, I memailed you about this last week.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:41 AM on July 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Having now received my third request by MeMail, I would like it to be known that I have no interest in sucking, consuming, licking, or interacting with in any way the assholes of any mefites that I have not already engaged in such activities with.

To be sort of clear on this

1. Writing someone an angry mefimail and telling them to suck your asshole is shitty, over-the-top behavior and at this point fxg has had enough warnings to sort of rein in the aggro side of his interections here that, see above, time off to cool his head and contemplate this stuff.

2. As crappy as "suck my asshole" is, the above reads like a weird misrepresentation of the actual chain of emails, since you're sort of implying that he wrote you several emails describing asshole-interfacing fantasies or something instead of signing off on one of three emails with an angry tagline. It'd have been a hell of a lot better for you to just drop us a line at the contact form about this instead of bringing it back into the thread and sort of vaguing up the other side of an email exchange for effect. That basically always sucks and I'm frustrated you went that route.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:44 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Emails describing asshole-interfacing fantasies or something
posted by zombieflanders at 7:45 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now everyone should go read Palahniuk's short story "Guts".
posted by Burhanistan at 7:47 AM on July 27, 2012



That cobra_high_tigers is so aggressively defensive about the partisan bullshit in the rest of the list, and so comprehensive in compiling the list, is genuinely pretty fucking creepy. Can y’all really not see how that sort of shit is so silencing to the many many members who just don’t want to risk attracting that kind of attention?


I would like to think that while people may have had an intemperate moment or two, they are and should be okay with references to what they wrote.
posted by ambient2 at 7:49 AM on July 27, 2012


"...asshole-interfacing fantasies..."

*Makes cortex a big pitcher of frosty pina coladas*

Yes, go on...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"That basically always sucks and I'm frustrated you went that route."

It's pretty much always a bad idea to discuss memails or emails or off-site interaction here, unless of course it's friendly and complimentary or whatever. Bad stuff? Nope.

I'm not speaking for the mods, here. (I just quoted one!) I mean this, from observation, in terms of that it always always makes things worse. And it creates situations exactly like what just happened where now one person has presented their own version of the story, which leads the other person to feel the need to present their side, and then on and on and it's just a huge mess that is embarrassing for everyone else. And I doubt that the participants ever feel vindicated by airing this in public. It's just bad.

I can understand the impulse — especially if someone is behaving in one way in public and a very different way in private. Or, well, being antagonistic but not insane in public but antagonistic and insane in private. Or whatever. Even so, it's just a bad idea to bring it into the public sphere.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:51 AM on July 27, 2012


This thread is a fascinating view on how some folks really need discussions to be about them.
posted by iamabot at 7:53 AM on July 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Blasdelb, your response to cobra_high_tigers' beautifully written, well- supported by actual examples, balanced, and ultimately damning account of Ironmouth's behavior was abusive, deliberately distorting, and made in complete bad faith.

I am shocked at the lack of intellectual integrity you've displayed here for all the world to see.

Taz, you are making a huge mistake if you take Blasdelb's unsupported word as a basis for any kind of action, because he has just shown it isn't worth much.
posted by jamjam at 8:03 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


cobra_high_tigers, everything in your list is pretty classic argumentative tactics, which are deployed by a wide range of users on every conceivable subject in pretty much every non-heavily moderated forum on the web.

Basically, it isn't restricted to this one user on this subject. I was the other party in an 'Ignoring anything he doesn't want to hear' exchange just the other day (not with Ironmouth), on MetaFilter.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:03 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Juxtaposition!
posted by boo_radley at 8:04 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would like to think that while people may have had an intemperate moment or two, they are and should be okay with references to what they wrote.

I think references are fine, but that long-winded and accusatory brief seemed over-the-top and obsessive to me. Few of us could really withstand the scrutiny of a sustained and determined deconstruction of our rhetoric and arguments, especially one that focused only on our weakest or most passionate moments... we're all biased and subject to certain pitfalls. It's best, I think, to engage with each other in the moment on a presumption of good faith and if things get too personal, take a walk, have a cigarette or just look out the freaking window.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:05 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Piña colada, people. There's a tilde on the eñe. Yeah, it's getting pretty hot these days.
posted by koeselitz at 8:09 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mmm. Piña coladas. I haven't had one of those in years. Sounds really good. Why, yes, I do like piña coladas. Being rained on sounds good here in Kansas City, too. There was actually just a little bit of rain early this morning, about 6. But the lake out my window is down five feet. It's bad.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:11 AM on July 27, 2012


Being rained on sounds good here in Kansas City, too. There was actually just a little bit of rain early this morning, about 6. But the lake out my window is down five feet. It's bad.

But at least you can get a gigabit internet connection!
posted by zombieflanders at 8:13 AM on July 27, 2012


WTF? What kind of idiot sends directly insulting memails? The couple times I've had heated memail exchanges I've taken it as a challenge to be as eloquently, obtusely, and indirectly insulting a possible, you know, like a high class british person. There's no sport in "suck my _____" comments. Plus I've always assumed that the mods could read me mails if they so chose.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:18 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, this thread has gone totally pear-shaped. We are all basically decent people here, what the hell went wrong?

Some of us have a tendency to over-comment from time to time, and some of us have a tendency to take things a little personally, and yeah sometimes people have a hard time just Letting Shit Go, but why do we have to be so uncharitable and fighty?

People, we can make the choice to be relaxed and kind and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Nobody is making us fight. There are literally no negative consequences for making a conscious personal decision to de-escalate the conflict and take a more sanguine view of events and a more charitable view of our fellow MeFites. Quite the opposite.

Babies – God damn it, you've got to be kind.
posted by Scientist at 8:18 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"But at least you can get a gigabit internet connection!"

Not yet, but I'm watching the progress on that very closely. People have seen the Google crews out and about, but I've not.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:19 AM on July 27, 2012


I wasn't expecting this to get so much attention in the middle of a busy lab day. So for clarity, if briefly, I was sent three weirdly hostile and aggressive memails within the space of an hour by the same person, the second of which included the third ass related invitation (total) that I have received so far. I posted my comment asking people to not to send shit like that to me immediately after reading the second but before noticing the third. For super clarity, so far today I have only been asked to suck someone’s asshole once, I believe this to be too many.

cortex: "2. As crappy as "suck my asshole" is, the above reads like a weird misrepresentation of the actual chain of emails, since you're sort of implying that he wrote you several emails describing asshole-interfacing fantasies or something instead of signing off on one of three emails with an angry tagline. It'd have been a hell of a lot better for you to just drop us a line at the contact form about this instead of bringing it back into the thread and sort of vaguing up the other side of an email exchange for effect. That basically always sucks and I'm frustrated you went that route."

I am sorry that my comment may have been insufficiently clear, but my intention in mentioning that I had just received a third (total) asshole-interfacing fantasy from Mefites was not to call out a specific user, change the course of the thread, or even to ask for intervention from you guys but to simply state that,

Blasdelb: “Having now received my third request by MeMail, I would like it to be known that I have no interest in sucking, consuming, licking, or interacting with in any way the assholes of any mefites that I have not already engaged in such activities with. Any other interested parties can rest assured that any change of mind on my part in this matter will be communicated by invitation.

I will be unable to respond immediately to whatever else because I have bigger priorities in my day, but cortex I do wish that you had taken your, now obviously excellent, advice to me and clarified this with me by dropping me a line.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:23 AM on July 27, 2012


Jeez, Blasdelb, read my comment and consider that I might be correct. No good can come from continuing to discuss that incident in any way, shape, or form. Not by analogy, semaphore, or morse code. Or even duck language, which is very expressive and unintentionally hilarious.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:27 AM on July 27, 2012


Chekhovian: "I've taken it as a challenge to be as [eloquent as] a high class british person. "

Chekhovian: " I've always assumed that the mods could read me mails if they so chose."

Professor Higgins, I believe I shall take you up on that wager.
posted by boo_radley at 8:27 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I do wish that you had taken your, now obviously excellent, advice to me and clarified this with me by dropping me a line.

Hiya -- it's time for a little public service announcement about MeMail and what we do about accusations of bad behavior over MeMail.

1. Harassing people over MeMail is a bannable offense. This doesn't mean every time you call someone an asshole over MeMail you are 100% going to get banned, but if the person you are bothering is feeling bothered by it and talks to us about it, giving you a time out is one of the remedies we have available to us. It's really critical that MeMail remain available for people to discuss things with other members and we need it to not get poisoned by some people using it for back channel abuse and harassment. As you've seen, you can block someone directly on MeMail and we always prefer that you either tell people to stop contacting you and/or block them before things go south if that's possible.

2. Often, however, the reports we get from people are "They harassed me over MeMail!" and when we untangle what really happened it's often some back and forth snark that someone takes too far and then the other person cries foul. This is frustrating for a number of reasons. Also frustrating is vague hand-waving about your MeMail exchanges in MeTa or anywhere else. If you have a problem, come to us, don't turn it into a public thing. Likewise do not make your MeMail from others public without express permission. Recopying MeMail or email is also, at our discretion, a bannable offense. Not because we think it's the worst thing a person could do here but because it's a nuclear option and we need people to seriously not do it.

3. Your MeMails are private unless someone comes to us claiming you're harassing them in which case we can get access to them [pb can, I can't do this as a regular thing for example]. We will not do this unless there's some serious accusation of harassment or spam and even then we'll ask you for the MeMails before we'd go get them on our own and we'd only check out the exchanges that were complained about. This is last-resort stuff I can only think of 2-3 times we've ever done this.

4. It is completely acceptable to just turn your MeMail off and not send or receive communications from anyone and/or just have some other contact route in your profile. While we prefer that users don't harass other users generally speaking, the MeMail path is the only one we can really enforce with any real robustness. Sneaky shit like sending snarky MeMails and then blocking people is considered not cool but also not banworthy.

Please let us know if there are any questions about this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:29 AM on July 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


{Affecting a high class british persona}X{typing on an iPad keyboard} = unintentional comedy gold
posted by Chekhovian at 8:30 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's meant to be a vector product btw.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:30 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's meant to be a vector product btw.

And we love you for that.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:39 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


So ⟨Affecting a high class British persona|typing on an iPad keyboard⟩? Or a cross product?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:01 AM on July 27, 2012


I'd had in mind a cross product. I'd imagined the two forms of stupidity combining and going off in a totally new direction. To me the humor is in the unintentional conspiracy of the two issues. Making it an inner product would mean that what's funny is when they have something in common to start with, which is less amusing I think.
posted by Chekhovian at 9:18 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


For super clarity, so far today I have only been asked to suck someone’s asshole once, I believe this to be too many.

Perhaps we approach Metafilter in fundamentally different ways, but maybe you should not call people assholes, then.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:20 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: " Hiya -- it's time for a little public service announcement about MeMail and what we do about accusations of bad behavior over MeMail."

New page on the MeFi wiki: MeMail. I'm overloaded at work today, but will clean it up this weekend.
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh my god. I've been avoiding this thread for the past few days. I wish I hadn't. This is the World War I of MeTas – morally ambiguous, everybody's wrong, things are getting absurdly vicious. I love it!

But let me try to offer a perspective which I think might be useful for making sense of all this.

Mods, you routinely ignore types of rhetorical crappiness while preventing all occurrences of other types. I get why you police the way you do, but I still feel that you place too much emphasis on "keep the conversation flowing" in instances where a minority opinion calls too much attention to itself.

When somebody voices the minority opinion in a debate and both they and the other side get heated and they're the only one called out for it, it feels like mods are siding with the majority opinion. When you allow one side of an argument to get angry because they're "in the right" and further criticize the people "in the wrong", even when they're civil, you're enforcing this hivemind which people are complaining about. People are allowed to be royally pissed off and rude and angry when it's about something that affects their life and, you know, that makes total sense, but those people are often given leeway to be rude and angry towards other users, and then if those other users continue to voice their opinions the thread erupts in shit and it's those other users who get in trouble.

And sometimes this happens on both sides at once. If Ironmouth didn't have furiousxgeorge on the other side to make him look good, I think his lengthy and snarky posts could be considered harmful to the "conversation". I much prefer furiousxgeorge's style of short, bouncy posts, which is why it's a shame that he's emotionally charged to the point of irrationality. Both approaches are harmful in different ways.

But that's not the only instance. The whole thing with Alia, for instance, where other users are mean to her point-blank and her responses, while civil, articulate a worldview that many of us disagree with fervently. Who's wrong? Both sides, for two different reasons. But the moderators always tend toward calling out one side over the other, and from my perspective they usually pick the side which provokes the righteous anger rather than the righteously angry.

The result is that we have a lot of users who feel entitled to their noble rage. I had a long bicker with rtha over this once – her argument being that it's wrong to expect somebody to stay civil in the face of somebody expressing an opinion that's harmful to them or their loved ones. It's utter privilege to say "if the people saying hurtful things are polite, then it's wrong to be impolite towards them." And one the one hand, yeah, it is. But on the other hand, if injustice is an excuse for incivility, then anybody's allowed to be incivil whenever they think they've spotted an injustice.

Take The World Famous, for instance, whose calls for a more moderate discussion of Mormonism was utterly shat upon, the shitting of which was then encouraged by the moderators. The people who scorn religion on this site are speaking out against the many very real religious injustices perpetuated not only by Mormonism but by basically every major religion. Yet that scorn makes any kind of measured discussion of religion on MetaFilter very, very difficult. I feel that the way mods treat religious threads has often – not always, but often – led to some pretty boringly angry conversations. But the angry people are totally right! Religion does outrageous things! Some people treat these mythical stories like physical reality! It's not like the atheists and anti-theists are wrong about any of this, or wrong to feel the way they do.

Once more: this is not about mods favoring "the wrong side", or turning a blind eye to these things happening. But when you tend towards allowing some sorts of discussion which other users dislike over allowing other kinds which different users don't prefer, then you create a culture in which certain kinds of conversation trample all over other kinds. On MetaFilter, I think it means usually you side with people with certain beliefs or stances over the people who might challenge those beliefs and provoke an outraged response.

And that's not entirely a bad thing! Or rather, it's the lesser of two evils sometimes. I was a moderator on a forum full of users as odious as wolfdreams01, and our policy there was to basically ban any heated arguments, and it turns out that that kind of users grows like a weed when you don't apply heat. Ill-reasoned narcissism is totally unfazed by civility. So letting things get heated is totally useful or even necessary.

The moments that seem most unfair to me are the ones where an "in-the-right" majority is favored over the minority, "derailing" voice in a thread. But I totally get why you'd do that. So would it maybe be possible for you to decide at some points that X thread is not the place for YZ kinds of discussion, and that people who want to talk about YZ should create a thread about that thing? Threads about religious people sucking, for instance, are not a bad thing, but it would be cool if in other religious threads a moderator could say "we're not talking about that sucky part of religion here, fuck the fuck off." When a thread comes up about a subject that MetaFilter Does Not Do Well, perhaps say forcefully and early that there are certain venues of discussion which are better conducted elsewhere.

As for the sorts of arguments going on in this drone thread, I think that there're two distinct problems, one of which is emotional rhetorical fuzziness and one of which is take-all-comers loudness. I think it would suck major gonads if you targeted the take-all-comers before you went after the emotional soppiness, because the way furiousxgeorge posts is I think much more damaging to the site, seeing as it lowers the conversation into a meaner and more irrational mode. Ironmouth can be way too overbearing, but then you have a much more difficult question, which is "What do I do about people correcting those who are WRONG ON THE INTERNET?" Do you ban correcting people who are wrong? Do you ban people from being wrong in the first place?

Possibly the only answer to that is that threads on MetaFilter which are based in contentious subjects without any inherently illuminating angle are not a good fit. Or even that a single illuminating source is not enough. What would have happened if this post provided a number of interesting takes on drone warfare, so that the thread became about people sorting through opinions and offering their own perspective rather than simply stating their pre-baked beliefs? Maybe then you have firmer ground for saying "none of this kind of overbearing style, keep it open for others to freely express themselves."

This thread literally hit on I think every major contentious issue that MetaFilter's had, and it's kind of incredible. Hopefully what I've said here helps make sense of things, and if you don't mind me I'm gonna go back to being a rude stupid idiot on the Internet, because this shit-flinging is too fun for me not to join in.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:48 AM on July 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Perhaps we approach Metafilter in fundamentally different ways, but maybe you should not call people assholes, then.

Continuing to make things personal, and only personal, will not solve Metafilter's problems. It's tempting, and impossible to make go away, and maybe even sometimes neccessary, but when it's the only tool in your toolbox, it doesn't actually solve anything.
posted by Snyder at 10:02 AM on July 27, 2012


Dear AskMe: I think telling someone to suck an asshole via MeMail is kosher; should I self-identify as homophobic, or anti-Semitic?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:02 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Possibly the only answer to that is that threads on MetaFilter which are based in contentious subjects without any inherently illuminating angle are not a good fit.

We have had like four MeTas in the past couple weeks about how much it was bullshit that we couldn't have another Romney Sux0rZ post every morning like clockwork, and everybody who didn't like to talk about politics and religion could just stick to the Youtube/Mountain Goats/Bronies parts of the site so the grown-ups could talk about the Serious Important Issues.
posted by gauche at 10:08 AM on July 27, 2012


"Continuing to make things personal, and only personal, will not solve Metafilter's problems".

I think there's a closely related problem involved in all this that's people holding grudges. It's involved in the thread referenced in the post and it's involved in this thread, too. It's human to develop mutual dislike and all that, but there's a range of how much people let this affect their public interactions and there's a category of users here who bring their grudges into a large portion of the commenting. It's really not good.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:10 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have had like four MeTas in the past couple weeks about how much it was bullshit that we couldn't have another Romney Sux0rZ post every morning like clockwork, and everybody who didn't like to talk about politics and religion could just stick to the Youtube/Mountain Goats/Bronies parts of the site so the grown-ups could talk about the Serious Important Issues.

But because there haven't been those threads, the one active Romney thread has been incredible, continues to update with new things, and isolated in its nice silo chamber where just the people who care can see it. I always prefer the super-long threads to the short snips where people repeat the old talking points anyway.

Maybe in a month we could make a new FPP that summarizes all the updates in the old FPP and keep the discussion going that way? And the people who don't like the election only see another three or four posts all election season.

It would be magnificent. A meta filter, if you will.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:14 AM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


//I think there's a closely related problem involved in all this that's people holding grudges//

Also, too many people look at MetaFilter as a competition, with each thread an opportunity to score points by getting their opinion heard, and getting bonus points if they convert somebody to their side. I don't think there are winners and losers here, but if we have to frame it that way for somebody to understand.

The only winning move is not to play to play nice.
posted by COD at 10:28 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow. I am surprised that anyone would think this is a situation in which it's okay to allude to the contents of private communication, however shitty, or even disclose its existence, in public, without the other party's consent.

Blasdelb, you link in your profile to a possibly relevant AskMe about disability law. The asker was a student whose disability necessitated a laptop for note-taking in a course in which the professor had banned laptops and publicly said something like "...with one exception for a person with a disability necessitating a laptop for note-taking". Obviously, this was tantamount to saying "Here is some confidential personal information about Asker".

Whatever anyone thinks about xyr comments in here or in the original thread, and whatever anyone thinks about unsolicited MeMail anilingus invitations, I think your treatment of furiousxgeorge is analogous to the professor's treatment of the student in that AskMe.

In both situations, private information was given about an unnamed person, together with information partially identifying that person. In the case of the student, the class knew that one person had been exempted from the ban on laptops, one person was using a laptop, and that person was not being sanctioned by the professor for violating the ban. The professor thus revealed personal information ("someone has a disability necessitating use of a laptop") together with strong evidence suggesting that that personal information belonged to a specific person. It's important to note that anyone who concluded that the student with the laptop was also the student with the disability was drawing an inductive, not a deductive, conclusion, although the evidence was very strong. It could have happened, for example, that the actually disabled student didn't take out xyr laptop that day, not feeling a need to take notes, and that the professor was refraining from saying anything to the non-disabled scofflaw with the laptop -- perhaps for the very purpose of being able to later deny having unambiguously violated anyone's privacy rights.

Similarly, you revealed personal information about an unnamed person, namely the existence, approximate contents, and tone of a private message sent by that person. You did so in a context where there was reasonably strong evidence in favour of the claim that a particular person, namely furiousxgeorge, sent that message. Anyone paying attention to the thread would have numerous reasons to believe it more likely that you were talking about furiousxgeorge than about, say, Ironmouth.

Now, the weight of evidence for the claim "furiousxgeorge is the sender of the messages publicly alluded to by Blasdelb" is weaker than the weight of evidence for the claim "the unique person sitting there with a laptop, unmolested by Prof. Asshole, has a disability that renders laptop-free note-taking difficult", but the situations differ in degree, not in kind. The difference is, spiritually speaking, the difference between the probability that furiousxgeorge sent the message, conditioned on the evidence in this thread, and the probability that the student with the laptop was the student mentioned by the professor, conditioned on the evidence that the professor wasn't bothering the student, etc. These things would be very difficult to quantify, but the point is that both are strictly between 0 and 1, and therefore the two situations really are analogous. Because of this, I'm having a hard time squaring your answer to that AskMe with the fact that you publicly revealed personal information in such a way as to suggest to whom that information pertained.

Even more problematically, you did this in a way that hijacks the narrative: had furiousxgeorge said nothing, xe would have had plausible deniability, sure, but we would all be sitting here accepting your version of events, and substituting some nonzero fraction of furiousxgeorge, larger than the corresponding fraction of, say, Ironmouth, for your unnamed interlocutor. For furiousxgeorge, this situation would be uncomfortable, I'd imagine, but the only way to challenge it would be to publicly state that yes, xe was the person being discussed, but no, it wasn't quite how you said it was. Coercion is not about making certain that someone will do something, it's about engineering things so that, in the coercer's estimation, the coercee's least shitty option is the desired-by-the-coercer behaviour. Your revelation about the MeMails strikes me as coercive, or at least manipulative.

To me, coercion and manipulation are hard to distinguish from arguably harrassing (but not like harm-threatening) private communication. Both seem a whole lot shittier than participating in a pile-on directed at a Minority Opinion Holder, too, although that last is not so relevant.
posted by kengraham at 11:58 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hard to distinguish in terms of shittiness, I mean.
posted by kengraham at 12:01 PM on July 27, 2012


Perhaps we approach Metafilter in fundamentally different ways, but maybe you should not call people assholes, then.

As usual, I defer to my guru Jay Smooth in such matters. It's OK to tell somebody that they're behaving like an asshole, and this is not the same thing as calling somebody an asshole (and therefore a bad person.)

However, I'm more than happy to entertain any spontaneous and unsolicited offers of rimming, salad tossing and other oro-anal play in memail.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:07 PM on July 27, 2012


Similarly, you revealed personal information about an unnamed person, namely the existence, approximate contents, and tone of a private message sent by that person. You did so in a context where there was reasonably strong evidence in favour of the claim that a particular person, namely furiousxgeorge, sent that message. Anyone paying attention to the thread would have numerous reasons to believe it more likely that you were talking about furiousxgeorge than about, say, Ironmouth.

Speak for yourself. I was kind of surprised that it was furiousxgeorge seeing as how, our playful banter in this thread notwithstanding, we've been in many highly contentious debates without MeMail nastiness. I was even more surprised that he admitted to doing it. Of course, I could just be dense when it comes to the subtlety of simultaneous private and public online interactions, or perhaps I'm just more likable to him, but I figured that there were multiple commenters and even more readers who didn't comment, which muddied the water.

Now, the weight of evidence for the claim "furiousxgeorge is the sender of the messages publicly alluded to by Blasdelb" is weaker than the weight of evidence for the claim "the unique person sitting there with a laptop, unmolested by Prof. Asshole, has a disability that renders laptop-free note-taking difficult", but the situations differ in degree, not in kind.

To me, this is a huge understatement.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:17 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


we've been in many highly contentious debates without MeMail nastiness. I was even more surprised that he admitted to doing it.

Right. You had additional evidence against the claim, so we'd evaluate the evidence in favour of that claim differently. To someone who's barely interacted with the folks involved, and is going only on what's in this thread, it's likely that Blasdelb was talking about furiousxgeorge rather than about anyone else.
posted by kengraham at 12:26 PM on July 27, 2012


I was a moderator on a forum full of users as odious as wolfdreams01

I'm glad to hear how "odious" I am on the basis of how you view my stated ethical views. It's interesting, because nobody who's ever met me in person had ever called me "odious."

I'm trying to figure out why that is. Maybe it's all the money and time I spend volunteering for charitable causes. For example, one of the blood drives I organized took place about a week before 9/11, and I was notified that the donations from all the people I brought in helped save 9 lives. Possibly it's the way that I organized a campaign to apply pressure to our congressman to eliminate government spending on bottled water, so that taxpayer dollars aren't spent to fund the litter and environmental damage that bottled water companies generate. Do you know how much time and effort it takes to organize those kinds of campaigns? And I do this in a purely volunteer capacity, mind you. I don't get paid for it at all.

In fact, now that I consider it, perhaps the fact that I don't get called "odious" by anybody who has actually taken the time to actually get to know me in person is because if I was, 99% of the time I could simply turn around and tell them "I put in more sweat and effort to help my community and the world around me than you even contemplated doing. So if I'm an odious person, what kind of filth does that make you?" I could say that, if it even came up. But you know... oddly enough, it never has!

Of course, perhaps that's because most of my friends follow a similar philosophy to what I have been advocating here this whole time, where they actually judge people by getting to know them as human beings instead of judging them on their belief systems, or assuming that "belief X corresponds to personality Y." But you're clearly part of the ideology-driven camp. You're like the Shadow - your ideology-driven morality lets you see into the darkness of the human heart to uncover terrible truths that normal people like me or my friends can't possibly know. For example, you know that everybody who believes in Ayn Rand's philosophy must ipso facto hate the poor, or that everybody who is against abortion must by default be a misogynist religious nutcase. Tell me, is having those strange superpowers a gift, or a curse?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:46 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I'm glad to hear how "odious" I am on the basis of how you view my stated ethical views.

Hey, buddy. I'm going to say that people find you odious not particularly because of whatever stated ethical views you may claim to have, but more because you make this all about you.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:47 PM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, buddy. I'm going to say that people find you odious not particularly because of whatever stated ethical views you may claim to have, but more because you make this all about you.

Hola, amigo. I was cheerfully out of the discussion until I got memailed to notify me that apparently somebody on this thread had called me "odious." And I'm happy to stay out of it going forward, assuming people stop bringing me up. But if I get used as an example of a particular "type", please don't get your panties twisted up when I respond to set the record straight.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:53 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have never before seen such blatant self-aggrandizement outside of politics.
posted by gilrain at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, um, as someone who had the thankless jobs of answering postmaster@somecollege.edu for over a year and finding myself more involved than I wanted to be in private spats, the best policy in general is to report it, delete it, killfile it, and shut up about it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2012


judging them on their belief systems

You're the one who introduced your belief system, and I consider it fair to include it in the information I otherwise have about you (that is, what you have said on this site about yourself and your views and experiences) when deciding how and what I think of what you say here. Human beings are made up in part of their belief systems. None of that necessarily means that I wouldn't have a great time over a beer or two with you at a meetup. But having a great time over a beer with someone also doesn't mean that I'm going to agree with them.
posted by rtha at 1:03 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


For example, one of the blood drives I organized took place about a week before 9/11, and I was notified that the donations from all the people I brought in helped save 9 lives

I think I speak for everyone still paying attention to this thread when I say that until you produce signed affidavits attesting to this fact, it is completely inadmissible as proof for your argument.
posted by griphus at 1:06 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Hey, buddy. I'm going to say that people find you odious not particularly because of whatever stated ethical views you may claim to have, but more because you make this all about you."

I think that his ethics as he stated them are odious. But I don't think he's odious and I wish that Rory Marinich had not used that word in what was otherwise a pretty thoughtful and interesting comment. As I talked about previously, that and words like it, and especially when applied directly to someone's identity (as Rory Marinich did) is, or is very close to, attacking someone's character and everything always goes pear-shaped when people do this.

I, too, mistreated wolfdreams01 in my comment — just within the context of this thread I've been hypocritical. So I especially sympathise with wolfdreams01's feeling that he needs to defend himself. Because, for example, while I think his stated ethic is odious, I also have no trouble believing that he volunters and does other good work and is really good person in "real life". I mean, look, people are complicated and contain multitudes and the things they say they believe don't necessarily perfectly reflect how they live their lives. True, wolfdreams01 portrays himself as having an exceptionally rational set of ethics that he claims to live, and if that ethic as he states it is odious, it's not unreasonable for us to conclude that he lives his life odiously. But, really, while it might be reasonable, it's not very likely to be true on that basis. This shit is random, usually. And, anyway, as I wrote before, we just have too little to go on in terms of determining someone's character.

We can contest their assertions as being odious, sure. Maybe not "hateful", if for the reasons I describe in my previous comment. (It's just so loaded a word; we pretty much naturally jump from someone stating a hateful belief to them being hateful and so it's implicitly a character judgment. Some other terms are similarly loaded and prejudicial.)

After wolfdreams01's previous comment complaining about how I was just repeating what he already wrote (though I don't agree that's true), I wrote and edited and edited again a response where I mentioned my hypocrisy in this thread and apologized. In fact, I had mentioned it in my long comment responding to OmieWise's apology comment, but edited it out there, too. And the reason I did, and then again in the end later didn't post it in a new comment, was partly because of what you're sort of complaining about here — he's very touchy and also, I think, will conflate an apology for being hurtful with an admission of being wrong on the substance and so it's hard to understand how to engage. Basically, I find him very frustrating for a number of reasons, and extremely annoying with regard to the whole "I'm so much more rational than all of you" schtick, which really gets up my nose.

Even so, I think that Rory Marinich lobbed a pretty strong word at him, and it was aimed his person, at who he is, and so I think he deserves some leeway in his need to respond to it.

All in all, though, I think it once again demonstrates how attacks on someone's character, or feeling attacked in one's character, is extremely provocative and is a large part of why things go off the rails.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:07 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I suppose one does need to know when it's time to walk away.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:13 PM on July 27, 2012


wolfdreams01, a bit of advice for you. Try this:

"Wow, odious? Really? I never intended to leave that impression. Hopefully my future involvement on the site will change your mind."

That has a good chance of winning over your accusers, here. It might even make people reconsider. However, this:

"You are factually mistaken. Here is my resume of great and good works. The evidence is before you, and I think you'll have to admit that I am in fact a saint."

...will only ever reinforce opinions and get people's hackles up. Can you understand that?
posted by gilrain at 1:15 PM on July 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thank you, Ivan. I apologize if I seem touchy, and I'll do my best to work on that.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:17 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Writing someone an angry mefimail and telling them to suck your asshole is shitty...

Not if the parties involved take steps to ensure proper hygiene.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:18 PM on July 27, 2012


Gawd, can we just wrap this thread up? Things are not getting any better around here and haven't been anything near productive for quite a few comments above...

Ivan and a few others are making great and well thought out posts but it seems like this thread has turned into a smear campaign about a bunch of.... what?
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:25 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was put off by you at first, wolfdreams01, but now I'm happy to have you around.

My advice is to be yourself and not worry too much about pleasing people here.

I'd elaborate, but I have to go see whether I have any new favorites.
posted by jamjam at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


jamjam, donedone. And seriously, people need to lighten up around here. They're just words, well, unless the inline image mechanism ever comes back around.
posted by Chekhovian at 1:55 PM on July 27, 2012


I am surprised that anyone would think this is a situation in which it's okay to allude to the contents of private communication, however shitty, or even disclose its existence, in public, without the other party's consent.

It makes sense if you begin with the proposition that it is rude to make private something that began as public. If you and I and John and Sue and Barry are lightly debating politics at a cocktail party, that's cool. If you call my home later that night to press your point, uncool.

It's worse when you're calling to say, "And another thing...I think you're an asshole." Because while I can't read your mind, it looks like you wanted the thrill of calling me a profanity without having to suffer the social consequences of doing it in front of John and Sue and Barry.

In that context—which is this context, for all intents and purposes—I have zero problem with revealing the contents of a private message. As a matter of fact, I think it's the exact right thing to do. (Moderators disagree, I think. Fine. I think they're wrong.) If you know that your nasty private note is going to see sunlight and everybody will read it, then maybe you are less likely to send it. That's a net good for the community.

You'd maybe expect more people to really let loose when they're upset in a memail. But that's not my experience. It almost never happens.

Cool. That isn't my experience. I received a half-dozen nasty emails from one MeFite just days after I joined because I had posted some half-snarky, zero-content comment in a political thread. After it happened a few more times, I took my email address out of my profile. I leave MeMail switched off. I turn it on occasionally to privately answer sensitive AskMe questions, but that's all.

I participated in various discussion boards long before joining MetaFilter, and occasionally I'd get a lovely email from somebody thanking me for recommending a particular musician or album. I wrote a blog where I posted a "How to Sell on EBay" article, and over the years I've probably gotten twenty or thirty grateful emails for that. I cannot remember ever receiving a positive note about my participation on MetaFilter, only nastygrams when I have participated in political threads. That's been my experience here.
posted by cribcage at 2:11 PM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I simply can't believe I have sat and read this entire thread (more or less) for most of my Friday night and now its just past midnight.

Honestly, its that big T Square in the sky.

I hope this comes out well.
posted by infini at 2:19 PM on July 27, 2012


"Thank you, Ivan. I apologize if I seem touchy, and I'll do my best to work on that."

That's really classy of you and I apologize, too. This thread got me to thinking that I want to try to just be generous and kind, even when I'm irritated with someone and think they're badly wrong — even when it's about something I think is extremely socially important. It's really hard to do, especially about stuff that I have a lot of investment in, including personal stuff. It's hard for all of us. But in reading this long thread and writing my comments, I really ended up strongly reinforcing my belief (which I truly have, even when I get pissy) that most people are pretty good people, even when they believe things I strongly disagree with or even think is harmful. As I wrote early on, I've only known a few people in my real life who I believe to be truly bad people, truly something in them that is malignant. The rest of us mostly have good intentions. That doesn't mean that we don't do bad things and support bad policies and all that — just that this comforting myth we have that all the people we strongly disagree with (about important social stuff or otherwise) are contemptible and bad and all that is a way of excusing our own excessive, self-indulgent words and behavior.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:26 PM on July 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ivan Fyodorovich: " As I wrote early on, I've only known a few people in my real life who I believe to be truly bad people, truly something in them that is malignant. The rest of us mostly have good intentions. That doesn't mean that we don't do bad things and support bad policies and all that — just that this comforting myth we have that all the people we strongly disagree with (about important social stuff or otherwise) are contemptible and bad and all that is a way of excusing our own excessive, self-indulgent words and behavior."

Flagged as "YES, DAMMIT. YES!"
posted by zarq at 2:29 PM on July 27, 2012


"It makes sense if you begin with the proposition that it is rude to make private something that began as public. If you and I and John and Sue and Barry are lightly debating politics at a cocktail party, that's cool. If you call my home later that night to press your point, uncool."

I really agree with you on the first part of your argument — that continuing a really antagonistic public conversation in private is also inappropriate. It really is — if you're going to write someone directly, then you need to be civil. You can disagree, but if you're going to engage directly and privately, it can't be invective. It's inappropriate and also weird — I think you're comparison to a phone call later that night is a pretty good example. It's kind of an escalation even if there's not an escalation in substance and tone — because that discursive medium is more personal by its nature. It's one-to-one. And it's even worse when you do escalate things. So I totally agree with your complaint about that.

But I don't think that makes it okay to bring it back around into the public sphere. That's just compounding the error. It layers on a whole new set of boundary violations. It's answering a wrong with a wrong.

"I participated in various discussion boards long before joining MetaFilter, and occasionally I'd get a lovely email from somebody thanking me for recommending a particular musician or album. I wrote a blog where I posted a "How to Sell on EBay" article, and over the years I've probably gotten twenty or thirty grateful emails for that. I cannot remember ever receiving a positive note about my participation on MetaFilter, only nastygrams when I have participated in political threads. That's been my experience here."

I'm sorry to hear that because I have a high opinion of your participation, personally. I'm surprised.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:37 PM on July 27, 2012


I have zero problem with revealing the contents of a private message.

I don't know how to respond to this attitude objectively; I find it scary and so incompatible with the way humans normally establish reciprocal trust that I suspect this is one of those cases, described earlier by Ivan Fyodorovich, in which someone's stated values don't accurately reflect how they really live. I could be totally wrong, but it would be unusual to find a person who says of themself that it is impossible to confide in them, ever, and really means it. (I'm not sure if you mean the above italicized statement categorically, or if you're only talking about MeMail, or something else.)

As for taking a public discussion private, I didn't say anything one way or another about that. In my estimation, that's a trickier issue, more likely to demand case-by-case consideration, than taking private communication public. I don't have an opinion about furiousxgeorge's decision to take it to MeMail, although obviously the alleged content was pretty fucked.

(I also think there are instances in which it is okay to take a private message public, if the people communicating are accountable to the public in the right sense, i.e. hurf durf free Bradley Manning.)
posted by kengraham at 3:07 PM on July 27, 2012


cribcage: I cannot remember ever receiving a positive note about my participation on MetaFilter, only nastygrams

I was skimming, so I read this part but not the preceding paragraph and checked your profile intending to send you a friendlygram. Then I clicked back and read your first paragraph.

I occasionally send "Thank you" or "Great username!" etc to Mefites I've never interacted with before. Somebody sent me a nice note recently to say he'd looked up a book I'd quoted from. His message made my day. I've always wondered if positive MeMail vibes like that are outnumbered by nasty ones. Hope not. Everything goes better with more goodwill. It's like butter. Creamy, salty, happymaking butter.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:12 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I try to send notes to people when I notice they've mentioned that it's their birthday or when someone in their family/friend circle has died. I'm sorry your experience with MeMail was so negative, cribcage, I wish we'd been able to deal with it when it happened. This is one of the reasons we're so hardass about people not harassing other people on MeMail, we feel that it discourages the use of a tool that we feel has a positive net effect on community cohesion. Not everyone's experience, certainly, but we like to encourage its use and give people an option for contacting each other that doesn't involve giving out other personal information.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:22 PM on July 27, 2012


I'm trying to figure out why that is. Maybe it's all the money and time I spend volunteering for charitable causes. For example, one of the blood drives I organized took place about a week before 9/11, and I was notified that the donations from all the people I brought in helped save 9 lives. Possibly it's the way that I organized a campaign to apply pressure to our congressman to eliminate government spending on bottled water, so that taxpayer dollars aren't spent to fund the litter and environmental damage that bottled water companies generate. Do you know how much time and effort it takes to organize those kinds of campaigns? And I do this in a purely volunteer capacity, mind you. I don't get paid for it at all.

In fact, now that I consider it, perhaps the fact that I don't get called "odious" by anybody who has actually taken the time to actually get to know me in person is because if I was, 99% of the time I could simply turn around and tell them "I put in more sweat and effort to help my community and the world around me than you even contemplated doing. So if I'm an odious person, what kind of filth does that make you?" I could say that, if it even came up. But you know... oddly enough, it never has!


You know, if your response to being called "odious" is to begin crowing about how awesome and wonderful you are - while simultaneously revealing you look down on others from the top of your "and what have YOU ever done for anyone?" pedestal - it might be time to consider that whoever's calling you odious might in fact have a point.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:11 PM on July 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


Also, when I hear people talk about the nastiness they've received via MeMail, I almost feel as though I missed out. I've only received one disagreeable MeMail, and the air was cleared so quickly in the exchange that I had to struggle to remember who it was. And I don't think I've had this sort of experience on account of being so genial and easy-going with people; it must just be dumb luck.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:26 PM on July 27, 2012


there's no way this will ever happen, and nobody will even like the idea, so i probably shouldn't even put it out there, but per-thread commenting limits would be fantastic. 3 per customer, or 2 per hour or something. threads where somebody is being a jerk, taking over the conversation by axe-grinding, yelling, and overposting, either because they think they know better than everyone, or they think they're being persecuted, outnumber threads where somebody genuinely has more than 3 things to say by about 1000 to 1. most of the really shitty, personal fights i can recall seeing have happened in threads where 1 or 2 people have made a large percentage of the comments.

the problem at base (uh-oh i'm saying 'the problem at base' now, this is not good) is that these comments threads really aren't conversations, and shouldn't be moderated that way. they're group threads, where a large number of people make unsynchronized and frequently unrelated observations and comments. bang - here's my take - bang - here's a snappy joke. virtually the only times that two or more people can establish a connected, coherent argument are when those people are heated up enough to stay with a thread in real time and post fast enough to maintain the illusion of colloquy. and that usually only happens: 1) in very short bursts, that dissipate quickly, or 2) when people are super frickin mad or grudged-up.
posted by facetious at 5:42 PM on July 27, 2012


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: Also, when I hear people talk about the nastiness they've received via MeMail, I almost feel as though I missed out. I've only received one disagreeable MeMail, and the air was cleared so quickly in the exchange that I had to struggle to remember who it was.

(Memail sent)
posted by msalt at 6:00 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, you can have real conversations in slower moving threads without being super-aggressive about it.

In a way, I think, the biggest problem with the fights is that they make threads move too fast. People who are being more thoughtful, and who might have gotten to really make a connection with each other in a slower thread, are reduced to that sort of snappy commentary you're complaining about if they want to keep up — or they just get drowned out entirely.

Some of my favorite threads have been when there's a post that like me and two other people notice, and we get to chew things over back and forth for a couple of days in a leisurely kind of way. And when an otherwise sleepy and pleasant thread turns out to have some hidden controversial element in it ("oh no the fifth linked article mentions circumcision on the third page" or whatever) and people pick up on it, it kind of feels like "okay, there goes the neighborhood."
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:04 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have found Ironmouth to be consistently intellectually dishonest in our discussions. I am not sure why that is-- paid shill? Or simply a good establishment Democrat? Either way, it's off putting, especially how he continuously reminds people that he's a lawyer.
posted by wuwei at 6:18 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of my favorite threads have been when there's a post that like me and two other people notice, and we get to chew things over back and forth for a couple of days in a leisurely kind of way.

Yes, definitely. The problem is less to do with how few different people are participating so much as how they're participating. Which is why I think right now, the general rule of stepping in to tell two shoutmasters to cool it could be exercised more liberally. There's also the practice of holding conversations around the two people yelling at each other. Those are some of my favorite to read.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:20 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not me. They make me all tense. It's like trying to enjoy a party when you're 99% certain someone's gonna call the police on the whole thing in a couple minutes. Even if I'm out on the back porch with someone perfeclty pleasant to talk to, it's not really the ideal setting for it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:34 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's also the practice of holding conversations around the two people yelling at each other.

Yes, why is this not possible? Though, I do agree that rapid-fire personal attacks/defenses that detract from the topic should be admonished. I don't see why it prevents anyone from continuing the existing conversation. Maybe it's a little more difficult to sift through the noise.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:44 PM on July 27, 2012


wuwei --(Daoists are taking over!) -- I'm not sure exactly what you mean when you say that Ironmouth is "intellectually dishonest."

I usually take that to mean that someone doesn't really believe what they are saying. Ironmouth can be criticized for various things, but I don't perceive any insincerity there. If anything, he probably believes too sincerely (or too certainly) what he believes. But he's hardly unique among Mefites in that.

Also, he often does things that seem like the height of intellectual honesty, such as bringing statistics to the table, and bringing the ones least favorable to his position.

I wonder if we mean different things by "intellectual dishonesty."
posted by msalt at 7:20 PM on July 27, 2012


There's also the practice of holding conversations around the two people yelling at each other.

I'm a firm believer in ignoring trolls. And sometimes there are two of them who enjoy fighting.
posted by msalt at 7:21 PM on July 27, 2012


I can't favorite this comment hard enough.

I think Ironmouth really wants the best for society and my opinions of what that exactly means are often in line with his own, but he's the reason I no longer read or comment in any threads related to Occupy Wall Street, even though I feel like I can contribute a lot of insight about either that movement or other additional progressive movements and/or protests (at least as pertains to NYC).

I've been involved with OWS since the third day it began and have continued to stay plugged in as it evolves. I have actual first-hand experiences, things I've seen with my own eyes, and conversations that I've been a part of that I think could add to the discussions that take place here that reference OWS, but I no longer feel safe doing so and Ironmouth's chronic paternalistic condensation if not outright bullying of anyone to the left of him has a lot to do with that.
posted by stagewhisper at 7:41 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


um, make that paternalistic *condescension*

typos rain down on me
posted by stagewhisper at 7:43 PM on July 27, 2012


Following earlier suggestions, maybe instead of asking the mods to do the policing for us, we should be stepping up (not just to Ironmouth, but also to him) and saying things like "Your comment that "xxxxxx" is condescending/paternalistic/bullying, please stop." Especially if you/we (I'm getting confused by myself now) have personal experience of the subject being discussed.
posted by msalt at 7:53 PM on July 27, 2012


Stagewhisper, there's been an enormous amount of condescension from various OWS insiders towards skeptics, especially before the later disappointments with May Day etc. In that sort of environment, you're going to take it as well as (let your friends) dish it out.
posted by Anything at 9:00 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have actual first-hand experiences, things I've seen with my own eyes, and conversations that I've been a part of that I think could add to the discussions that take place here that reference OWS, but I no longer feel safe doing so and Ironmouth's chronic paternalistic condensation if not outright bullying of anyone to the left of him has a lot to do with that.

It's OK, stagewhisper, you're safe now.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:15 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


OG Daoist 4 Lyfe
posted by Burhanistan at 12:56 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Daoists rule! (but only reluctantly, when the occasion demands it)
posted by msalt at 1:09 AM on July 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I could be totally wrong, but it would be unusual to find a person who says of themself that it is impossible to confide in them, ever, and really means it. (I'm not sure if you mean the above italicized statement categorically, or if you're only talking about MeMail, or something else.)

Well, you abbreviated my sentence. Here's the whole thing. I've bolded the part you cut. "In that context—which is this context, for all intents and purposes—I have zero problem with revealing the contents of a private message." And the phrase "that context," I think clearly, refers to the preceding hypothetical.

I keep confidences for a living, so I'm not crazy about being selectively misquoted to imply that I can't. And for the record, even your comment that I was replying to seemed to be specifically discussing this context ("I am surprised that anyone would think this is a situation in which"). I'm not sure why you suddenly jumped to the idea that we were talking about all contexts, ever.

Thanks to folks for the kind words. I participate here because I enjoy it, and I'll continue irrespective of feedback pro/con. I just wanted to add my two cents re MeMail and contact info, nothing more.
posted by cribcage at 6:27 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not a smart cookie, but sometimes I wonder about other user's reading comprehension. They seem to takeaway incredibly different messages from what people write than I do.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:11 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


wuwei: I have found Ironmouth to be consistently intellectually dishonest in our discussions. I am not sure why that is-- paid shill? Or simply a good establishment Democrat?

More intellectually dishonest then using Glenn Beck style rhetoric to imply someone must be an agent-provocateur?
posted by rosswald at 8:12 AM on July 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not a smart cookie, but sometimes I wonder about other user's reading comprehension. They seem to takeaway incredibly different messages from what people write than I do.

For real. I don't think I'm saying anything too controversial when I say that a fair amount of the reading of people's comments here comes from a place of "looking for evidence to support my point of view/defeat your point of view" rather than "trying to understand what you are saying." So it should hardly surprise us that people's levels of reading comprehension are very poor--if my hypothesis is correct--if they're not making much of an effort to understand the comments in the first place.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:34 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think I'm saying anything too controversial when I say that a fair amount of the reading of people's comments here comes from a place of "looking for evidence to support my point of view/defeat your point of view" rather than "trying to understand what you are saying."

Yes, exactly. On certain topics, people will still retain an unexamined worldview. This is especially true when it comes to politics, religion and sports -- all subjects where the foundations for belief and support are often established during childhood.

There's a certain amount of emotional safety in deliberate ignorance. But it's worth remaining open to arguments that challenge our more deeply-held preconceptions.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


My apologies, cribcage. I really wasn't sure what you meant by "this context". I thought it was possible you were speaking more broadly, because of the use of "message", rather than "MeMail". I wondered about this because of my own thought process: I said "message" in my initial post, and not "MeMail", because I was speaking more generally. (My use of "this situation" was a hedge against the very few situations in which I think it is okay to take a private message public; I originally wrote something more extreme, but thought of a few specific exceptions on preview. Whether one agrees with them or not, my stated objections to Blasdelb's behaviour are not specific to this exact thread.)

I had intended to convey that the pre-parenthetical part of my comment applies to someone speaking more generally, and then asked what you actually meant, with the implication that I was talking about you only if you were stating a more general principle. (An argument could be made that if you really were only talking about this exact situation, you would have said you have "zero problem with what Blasdelb posted", or something, so I genuinely was not totally clear about to what range of situations you were referring.)

However, it's not good communication to respond to an implausible interpretation of someone's words. Privacy issues are something I tend to get fairly het up about fairly easily, and I admit to an uncharitable reading of your comment. I apologize, again, for that.

I am curious about your criteria for identifying situations in which making private communication public without the other party's consent is okay.
posted by kengraham at 10:40 AM on July 28, 2012


I'm not sure why you suddenly jumped to the idea that we were talking about all contexts, ever.

This is a hyperbolic reading of my comment. I thought we were talking about whether what Blasdelb posted was okay, and this sort of discussion generally involves claims of the form: "It was/wasn't okay because it is an instance of [more general type of situation] in which [principles] apply." So it seemed really unlikely that we were talking about exactly this situation.

Since we both invoked analogies to other situations, I thought we were either trying to identify [more general type of situation] or discussing [principles]. I never said anything about all contexts ever. I did, and do, think that [type of situation in which that sort of thing is not okay] covers a large majority of possible situations, and my comment about confidences was directed at [general person who disagrees]. It was followed by the question of, essentially, whether or not you are one of those people, i.e. whether or not I was speaking to what you'd said.

A mod wanting for lulz would tell us to take this to MeMail.
posted by kengraham at 11:02 AM on July 28, 2012


I understood you as 'talking about all contexts, ever' because of this phrase:

it is impossible to confide in them, ever, and really means it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:27 AM on July 28, 2012


I understood you as 'talking about all contexts, ever' because of this phrase:

it is impossible to confide in them, ever, and really means it.


What? If a person believes it is sometimes okay to make one's confidences in them public, and one doesn't know their criteria, then one should never confide in them. So, saying "It is in this case okay to make private communication public", without saying what about this case makes it okay, is saying "I cannot be trusted with your confidential information, because you don't know whether yours is a case in which I consider it okay to reveal your private information".
posted by kengraham at 11:49 AM on July 28, 2012


(Here, "confide in them" means "tell them something you wouldn't print on your T-shirt and go out in the street wearing".)
posted by kengraham at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2012


cribcage did give some reason why it is okay. As far as I can tell, cribcage thinks it was okay for Blasdelb to violate furiousxgeorge's (indisputably assholish) confidence because, if I interpret the "late-night phonecall" analogy correctly, furiousxgeorge started it, or something. Otherwise, the "late-night-phonecall" analogy is totally irrelevant, since it is about a situation opposite to the one we are discussing.
posted by kengraham at 11:58 AM on July 28, 2012


The conversation was public, and moved into a private sphere - one-on-one, like a phone call. I subscribe to the notion that the opportunity was taken, privately, to insult the other user, so as to avoid public (and mod) scrutiny.

without saying what about this case makes it okay

cribcage's comment here sums it up, and makes the context in which a communication between two parties may be shared pretty clear, to me.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:09 PM on July 28, 2012


Sigh. Well, that's an interesting response. I was actually going to expand on that comment originally and use BobbyVan as an example of someone who often holds viewpoints diametrically opposed to my own, and who has been an outspoken critic of OWS but who I felt made an honest and respectful effort to engage in the conversation and points I brought up even if he disagreed with them. I'm not asking anyone to coddle my special viewpoints or feelings, I was just offering up another data point.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:16 PM on July 28, 2012


Yes, the man of twists and turns, that is the comment to which I am referring. In particular, cribcage said:

It makes sense if you begin with the proposition that it is rude to make private something that began as public.

He then explains why it was not okay for furiousxgeorge to take the conversation into a private setting. I don't see at all how this bears on whether it was okay for Blasdelb to then make public the private part of the discussion, although that's not the point here (and Ivan Fyodorovich addressed it above), because apparently the type of situation in which a public conversation has grown a rude private offshoot is one in which cribcage thinks it is okay to make it public. So we know one of cribcage's lists of acceptable contexts.

In order to confide in someone, one needs to know that the confidence will not be made public. This necessitates not merely knowing one type of situation in which they feel it is okay to take it public, but either knowing all such types of situation, or knowing that the situation at hand is of a type in which the person feels it is not okay to make it public. So, John, Sue, Barry, and I know better than to start a rude, private continuation of our conversation with cribcage, but we don't ever know that it is safe to communicate in private with cribcage: the cat is out of the bag with regard to cribcage thinking it is sometimes okay to publicize private communication, and we only know part of the definition of "sometimes".

I had sort of naively thought that, at least with stuff like MeMail about relatively unimportant issues, everyone by default keeps shit private, and gives exhaustive warning if they won't. The FAQ bears this out. IRL, it's normal to have some very nuanced policy about keeping communication private or not, and we don't confide in others until we've learned their policy, which is part of getting to know/trust someone. Excessive fluidity or obscurity of this policy is part of being untrustworthy, but it's generally complex. Here, though, or in MeFi-like situations, the norm is that everyone's default policy is to keep private communication confidential. In such situations, someone who suddenly says that their policy is different from the prevailing one, but doesn't explain it fully, can reasonably have their trustworthiness called into question.

And yes, if cribcage gossiped with John, Sue, and Barry about my late-night call, that would be a douchebag move on a par with my making the call in the first place.
posted by kengraham at 12:38 PM on July 28, 2012


I don't think it's necessary to rake cribcage over the coals about this — his reasoning is, I think, faulty and he well may concede that.

However, it was motivated by the essential point that, as a man of twists and turns puts it, where the discussion existed primarily in the public sphere and then is unilaterally taken private and has such a character that it's arguable that it was taken private so as to avoid public censure for bad-acting. I think that's something that likely happens and I think that unilaterally taking a public conflict into a private space — that is, against the other person's wishes — is some sort of transgression. It's not a huge leap to conclude that it's appropriate to bring it back into the public sphere.

I disagree, but I can follow the reasoning and I don't think it's crazy or that it's a distinction that renders cribcage impossible to trust with confidentiality. I do think it damages trust in him, though, and that's both a particular and a general argument against this reasoning, from a practical standpoint.

A comparison might be made with things which are essentially public and should remain wholly public — as in politics, say. It's not a betrayal of confidence for a politician to disclose that someone approached them privately, where it's understood that the person forcing a private interaction has done so because they improperly want privacy because of self-interest, the desire to be shielded from the public scrutiny they rightly are subject to.

Again, as it happens, I don't think that such a situation properly maps onto what we're dealing with here, with cribcage's generalized policy. Rather, I think we tend to heavily privilege the privacy of all private discourse and only in very carefully delimited and exceptional situations do we justify privacy violations. Cribcage's general principle is too broad — too many conversations occur in the public sphere. Everything from official political speech to people conversing in a bar to people conversing at a party (his example). Or online. The category of all speech which isn't explicitly private includes a vast array of different kinds of speech, much of which exists within and regularly transitions between public, semi-public, and private spaces in an organic way. His general principle would allow far too much private speech to be made public; far more than could ever be justified by the underlying assumption that sometimes there's ill-intent.

Again, though, I think that you can see that where something is presumed to be very public, and where there's clear ill-intent in taking it private when it properly should remain public, his argument in that particular is pretty defensible. I'm still disinclined to agree with it — but I think it's very uncharitable to refuse to see its merits and to assume that in his haste to make such an argument, he intended to argue something that would make it impossible to confide in him.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:01 PM on July 28, 2012


Yeah, sorry stagewhisper for being snarky and indirect. To be clear, I think it's kind of melodramatic and lousy to say that one person forcefully expressing a minority viewpoint (one that's critical of Occupy) makes you feel unsafe and effectively stifles your ability to speak your mind. I find the implications of that line of thinking to be anathema to free expression, and if one were to accept it, the logical conclusion would be to ostracize Ironmouth (or put him through some kind of rhetorical re-education clinic).

The problem, as zarq suggested above, is that for many (if not most) people, political ideas are inextricably tied with deeper emotions, and it's hard to critique the former without implicating the latter.

I also find it a bit incredible that it's in any way unsafe or risky to make pro-Occupy arguments on Metafilter.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:22 PM on July 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


who I felt made an honest and respectful effort to engage in the conversation and points I brought up even if he disagreed with them.

Well, I guess everyone's experience is their own.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:40 PM on July 28, 2012


I also find it a bit incredible that it's in any way unsafe or risky to make pro-Occupy arguments on Metafilter.

To be fair, while I am in basically 100% agreement with the end goals of OWS, I still feel this incredible urge to make fun of everything stagewhisper said with regard to them. It's a lot like my union meetings: they're run by the most motivated people, which unfortunately means the crazy people. Honestly, sometimes they begin the meetings with "Comrades, I have new from other fronts of the global struggle". Even foaming at the mouth right-wingers wouldn't believe that these people say these things unjokingly.

So yeah, even while I support their goals, it's hard not to mock their methods. But maybe I'm just too burned out and cynical and feel the need smash idealism whenever I see it.
posted by Chekhovian at 5:38 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Comrades, I have new from other fronts of the global struggle.

I am now going to start every conversation I have with that line. It is great!
posted by winna at 6:23 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It also can be used to mark changes in foreplay.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:35 PM on July 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: News from other fronts of the global struggle.
posted by iamabot at 7:36 PM on July 28, 2012


not tonight, dear.
posted by boo_radley at 8:29 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wanna drink a 40 with Rory Marinich on a playground at 3AM and talk about what love means.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:34 PM on July 28, 2012


Damn, now I wanna watch Season 2 of The Wire again.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:21 AM on July 29, 2012


Can I just go back to enspousening you all?
posted by infini at 3:12 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


msalt:
Now you know the secret non-action plan of action. I hope that I can count on you to keep it a secret.

Regarding Ironmouth and intellectual dishonesty-- I had experience of it in a thread about the healthcare debate:
Ironmouth: We are done. Your response to me is full of non-sequiturs and condescension. You asked for evidence, delmoi and others provided it. You ignore it, and continue to misstate my argument and those of others. When pyramid termite put you on blast for your passive aggressive behavior, you screamed about personal attacks. Yet, you demean others by misstating arguments and, also, by telling me that I don't understand the "complexities" of this world. We are all supposed to tolerate your bad behavior and heaven forbid that we call you out on it.
link
It's all there-- the goal post moving, and the misstating of arguments.

rosswald: Can you explain what you mean by "Glenn Beck" style rhetoric? What is the problem that pointing out that someone's behavior is consistent with either a good establishment Democrat or a paid shill? Do you deny that paid shills sometimes post on heavy-traffic messageboards?
posted by wuwei at 2:43 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why did you choose that quote? Because it proves nothing on its own. If you behaved that way, he was perfectly correct to call you out on it. If you didn't, it was an unfounded accusation. But then, people make accusations all the damn time...like you just did.

I care so little about this apparently long-running grudge match between Ironmouth and others. But a grudge match it most certainly is, as is proven by this thread. And you know? It's really damn boring to read, when it's not actively annoying.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:16 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of my favorite things about Metafilter is people getting huffy and using odd usernames they've stopped noticing.

"When Ironmouth chewed out Faint of Butt, pyramid termite dug in and that really shut up Stagewhisper."
posted by msalt at 4:25 PM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


When Ironmouth chewed out Faint of Butt

Are you writing slash fiction here?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:48 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because it proves nothing on its own.

I think it does. Ironmouth's consistent behavior, pointed out again and again and again over the years, is only one example of a tendency on Metafilter that I can only describe as "survival of the most unpleasant". Ironmouth's Charlie Sheen-esque obsession with "WINNING!" and scoring points turns almost every thread he appears in into a high school debate from hell. But he's not alone. Whether it's the all-too-frequent "this cool thing sucks HURF DURF", the "don't you know who I am? I'm Metafilter's resident expert and all shall bow to me", the "Metafilter - LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT" response that sometimes dominates MetaTalk, or the bullshit pseudo-iconoclasm that greets all too many well-considered posts or comments, it's all of a piece.

The little exchange just above was a perfect example of this in microcosm - a person says that they'd like to share experiences about something important to them but don't feel safe due to the behavior of certain other posters, and what happens? More bullshit snark. Way to go, guys.

This is the entire problem, right here. A culture of assholishness is being promoted, enough to make a non-MeFite wonder why in the hell anyone would ever want to participate (anecdotally, that's been the response from virtually every non-Metafilter person I've ever directed here for one reason or another in the past couple of years). "Cool stuff on the web"? "Community weblog"? More like a contest to see who can be the most smug, the most cruel, the most biting towards one another - who can provoke whom the most entertainingly.

I honestly don't think this is a banning or not banning question. It's a broader culture question, and it's a question that is answered by every single comment here. For my part in this, I apologize. Life's too short to be an asshole.
posted by jhandey at 3:40 AM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


What is the problem that pointing out that someone's behavior is consistent with either a good establishment Democrat or a paid shill?

Because it sounds like you're trying to manipulate the site's rules to discredit a user, get their comments deleted, or their account banned. Both cortex and jessamyn posted why they don't like it above, as well as how to respond to it if you think it's real. Hint: it doesn't involve repeatedly making accusations via comments.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:12 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


My meFi word cloud indicates that I use the words distillieries, birding, and peregrines much more often than anyone else here does. I should start an organization for drinkers with a birding problem, and shill for them, since I apparently already do.
posted by rtha at 9:28 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is the problem that pointing out that someone's behavior is consistent with either a good establishment Democrat or a paid shill?

I think the former is just fine, because it does not impugne someone's character and doesn't requires extraordinary evidence - you can simply connect positions posted in-thread with the Democratic Party platform. The latter, though, would require actual evidence and borders on slander. Just because someone agrees with a political movement's objectives and platform doesn't necessarily mean they work for them.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:53 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


"What is the problem that pointing out that someone's behavior is consistent with either a good establishment Democrat or a paid shill?"

Also, forgive me if someone already answered this, but the specific complaint was that it was a very distasteful rhetorical device: "Is he an upstanding citizen...or a Satan-worshipper fiend hiding in plain sight? I'm just asking a valid question."

It's a way of not taking full responsibility for what is, in practice, a very serious accusation. An accusation so serious, that it it cannot be made responsibly without supporting evidence. Phrasing it as a "possibility" of among two alternatives is a way of getting the accusation out there without risking the possible censure that would arise if one made the accusation directly but without evidence: "I suspect this person is a Satan-worshipping fiend."

The original comment was criticized as being a shady tactic used by Glenn Back. And it notoriously is.

But someone might well choose this phrasing without being deliberate about it, just sort of subconsciously partly avoiding responsibility for the accusation, and it's not nice, but forgivable. In Beck's case, it is so frequent that it's clearly a tactic and very deliberate.

The irony in this is that the defense of it above is that the criticism is deserved and made in good-faith. But Ironmouth would certainly also claim that his criticisms are deserved and made in good-faith and it's really sadly ironic that someone would use a rhetorical device so strongly associated with bad-faith arguments as a means of asserting that their target is someone who makes bad-faith arguments.

Over and over and over again people do the shitty things that they object to from others and defend themselves on the basis that it's okay because they're in the right. Just like the people they are accusing of doing shitty things.

"It's okay when I do it because I'm right" is an echo of the world's general shittiness.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:05 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


More like a contest to see who can be the most smug, the most cruel, the most biting towards one another - who can provoke whom the most entertainingly.

Yes. See also Anil Dash's Law of Fail:
Once a web community has decided to dislike a person, topic, or idea, the conversation will shift from criticizing the idea to become a competition about who can be most scathing in their condemnation.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:01 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Busy Old Fool: "More like a contest to see who can be the most smug, the most cruel, the most biting towards one another - who can provoke whom the most entertainingly.

Yes. See also Anil Dash's Law of Fail
"

"This one time, Metafilter jumped all over me for sayin "Just sayin'." Just sayin'."

Apparently that was a real thing.
posted by boo_radley at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2012


It's worse when you're calling to say, "And another thing...I think you're an asshole." Because while I can't read your mind, it looks like you wanted the thrill of calling me a profanity without having to suffer the social consequences of doing it in front of John and Sue and Barry.

In that context—which is this context, for all intents and purposes—I have zero problem with revealing the contents of a private message.


Just to clarify what happened here since it became an ongoing debate after I was gone.

1. I sent a non-insulting e-mail replying to a comment in this thread because I was not allowed to discuss Ironmouth publicly anymore and he was the subject of the comment.
2. Two replies to my private communication were made, one publicly in this thread (the first one that doesn't mention insults because there were none to reply to) and one to my e-mail that was profanity laced and insulting.
3. I responded in kind.
4. It was implied such response happened three times and had not been provoked. Not only was the private conversation now public, but the contents were being distorted.
5. I contacted a moderator about this matter. Nothing happens for 45 minutes.
6. I clarified for the thread what happened since I was unhappy with the distortions.
7. 4.5 minutes later, ban.

As zombieflanders pointed out I don't go around randomly flaming people in memail and am happy to keep polite conversations going with interested parties there when the moderators ask me to stop commenting publicly on a subject. This was quite the clusterfuck and I will endeavor to avoid such situations in the future and simply block users who send me insulting replies.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:01 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: "5. I contacted a moderator about this matter. Nothing happens for 45 minutes.
6. I clarified for the thread what happened since I was unhappy with the distortions.
7. 4.5 minutes later, ban.
"

The thing is, you didn't just clarify what happened. You admitted sending an abusive memail to blasdelb publicly. To which Cortex noted: "1. Writing someone an angry mefimail and telling them to suck your asshole is shitty, over-the-top behavior and at this point fxg has had enough warnings to sort of rein in the aggro side of his interections here that, see above, time off to cool his head and contemplate this stuff."

Oops, I guess?
posted by zarq at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2012


When I see the pile-on pattern jessamyn describes happen in threads, it seems to follow a similar pattern. Selective deletes or callouts that suggest the isolated opinion is "egging people on" or "making this thread about them". Just like the bullied are making bullies pick on them for any number of reasons, I suppose. And then you'll see the bracketed response along the lines of "[hey, _____, at this point it's you versus the thread. Maybe it's time to step away]". In the last bugaboo thread I went into, La Ceica (spelling?) was trying in good faith to respond, and at a certain point jessamyn said pretty much exactly that.

Wow -- this almost exactly describes something I've experienced twice. (Here, and another I can't find). I expressed a non-standard-Metafilter position and got the standard Metafilter pile-on, at which point I was told "Do not turn this into a one person vs everyone thread. We have asked you before. We are asking again." It struck me as bafflingly surreal -- anyone who even casually skimmed either thread could see it was the pilers-on who had gone textbook ad hominem. I just had the temerity to actually, you know, disagree.
posted by Alaska Jack at 2:47 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, and in regards to the observations about trolling, above: In the linked discussion, I was not just a troll, I was a "sly and disingenuous concern troll." Isn't that the best kind of troll? Don't I get some kind of badge or something?
posted by Alaska Jack at 2:53 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Again, it comes down to flags and messaging. The minority viewpoint must refrain from snark, sarcasm, personal attacks, and other methods which will attract flags (because more people read from the viewpoint of the majority). The majority viewpoint is free to engage in any and all of these things, becuase nobody bothers to flag them, so the moderation team doesn't see them, or register that the community reads them as disruptive.

Because they aren't disruptive, because I can be an asshole to you, out-group member, you don't count.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:08 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The thing is, you didn't just clarify what happened. You admitted sending an abusive memail to blasdelb publicly.

Yeah, I'm just not certain why that was a bigger mistake than admitting to it privately when I contacted the moderator 45 minutes earlier.

AJ: Harsh words from the moderators aside, unless you make a habit of being disruptive it's not going to be a problem. Feel free to state your opinions and as long as you do it politely and honestly you won't be shut down.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:44 AM on August 9, 2012


This is a zombie thread.
posted by rtha at 5:55 AM on August 9, 2012


Oh, sure, make it all about me.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:05 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


needs moar braaaaannnnnzzzz
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:04 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


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