Does Mefi take respect seriously? August 22, 2012 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Does Mefi take respect seriously? Because it sure doesn't seem that way to me

Does that you'll treat others with opposing viewpoints with absolute respect and that you'll contribute in a positive way to the intelligent discussions that take place here every day. really mean anything?

Based on my admittedly short time here, posts that aggressively denigrate unpopular views/positions are not only tolerated but favorited by many members.

As a libertarian, I know that most people do not share my views, but how respectful is it when one of the first comments on a post (with 102 favorites!) is this?

See, this is a perfect example of how Libertarian false-equivalence is bullshit, because on the one hand is the Obama campaign calling on Romney to release his tax returns, probably because they believe he used the IRS amnesty in 2009 to bring illegal money back into the US, and on the other hand are fucking birthers, who the good shitheads at Reason would have us believe are the equivalent.

Now, most of the comments in the thread disagreed with the article in a much more reasoned way that I appreciated, but this is not an isolated incident. Consider the thread on the whole Chik-fila gay marriage fiasco which were filled with vitriol towards anyone who opposes gay marriage. I am not one of those people, but it still saddens me to see such hatred spewed forth - often indiscriminately.

Am I the only person who cares about this or feels this way?
posted by nolnacs to Etiquette/Policy at 7:23 AM (233 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Ugh. Failed on creating a post. I didn't realize that the title didn't show up on the front page.
posted by nolnacs at 7:24 AM on August 22, 2012


You also didn't link to the post to which you are referring.
posted by amro at 7:25 AM on August 22, 2012


Link, please.
posted by tzikeh at 7:25 AM on August 22, 2012


I feel bad that the mods have to deal with this MeTa simultaneously with the new Girlzone fiasco.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


[Fixed title, added link.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 AM on August 22, 2012


Sometimes people and their positions are just wrong. Calling them so is not disrespectful.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Below the comment box, it says "Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site."

The comment in question was directed at the ideas in the article and not at a member of the site, so that's why it's tolerated. "Fuck you, no fuck you" comments are not tolerated.

Also, favorites don't always equal approval.
posted by desjardins at 7:27 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's like how one side says the earth revolves around the sun, and the other side says the earth rests on the back of giant turtle. If you say that since they can both be right and the truth must be somewhere in the middle, you will probably be called on it.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


can't
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:28 AM on August 22, 2012


I think calling people shitheads is disrespectful and very different from saying that they are wrong.
posted by nolnacs at 7:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not an attack on Libertarians, but Libertarian false equivalence, which the article, and Reason magazine, certainly demonstrate.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 7:29 AM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also, my mistake on not including the link. Thanks Cortex for fixing.
posted by nolnacs at 7:29 AM on August 22, 2012


I know this is indirect to your main point, but since you emphasised it to support your position: disabling favourites has drastically improved my enjoyment of metafilter, and is good for my blood pressure, too.
posted by sundaydriver at 7:29 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think there is something dishonest about, for example, calling criticisms of homophobia "hatred". I have been seeing this linguistic trick more and more here, and I don't like the trend. It is insulting, dishonest, and derails the discussion.
posted by Forktine at 7:30 AM on August 22, 2012 [63 favorites]


MetaFilter can become an echo chamber, but I don't think you've chosen a very good example. It's snarky, but as pointed out upthread, it's mostly mocking ideas, which is fine. It's also fine to say that people who write for Reason are shitheads. I even like Reason, even though I'm not a libertarian, but thinking the magazine sucks is a valid point of view - and it's not as if Reason doesn't lower itself to similar vitriol for other things.

Now, if that attack had been directed at actual MeFi users, that'd be different.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:31 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Based on my admittedly short time here, posts that aggressively denigrate unpopular views/positions are not only tolerated but favorited by many members.

This is by no means a solution to the overall problem you're having, but I would suggest that you turn your favorites off for a time. Try reading the site without them, and see if that doesn't improve your experience. I have mine off, and I avoid seeing something like "102 favorites" as "102 endorsements."
posted by gladly at 7:31 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I hope Matt gives the staff a nice bonus this year, because this has to be a shitty week to be a moderator.
posted by Forktine at 7:32 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think there's a difference between expressing hatred and expressing disagreement. It can be hard to draw that line, so I support erring on the side of free expression.

I also kind of feel like if you can't tolerate disagreement, that is more your problem than a community problem.
posted by prefpara at 7:33 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, when someone of a different political persuasian writes a magazine article as silly as that Reason thing you'll be able to say naughty things about them, too.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:40 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there really a distinction between being respectful to a member of the community and being respectful to people outside it?

If you are disrespectful to the latter, it doesn't exactly encourage members of the community who may agree with those outside figures to contribute to the discussion.
posted by nolnacs at 7:40 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I kind of wish that Reason article hadn't been a post or that we'd just nixed it by fiat, because it was classic empty fightstarter stuff and was indeed kind of a facile, sophomoric piece of stunt writing more than it was any kind of clever resynthesis of the actual political dialectic. And I'm not exactly a fan of the actual political dialectic. I think throwing "shitheads at Reason" into the comment was just unnecessary GRAR and so I agree with you as far as that goes, but all in all "this piece of writing sucks for reasons that are consistent with the publication sucking, imho" seems like a pretty tenable criticism generally speaking and isn't a great example of what we actually worry about in terms of people engaging badly with each other on the site.

Now, most of the comments in the thread disagreed with the article in a much more reasoned way that I appreciated

Which is where I feel like mefi is most of the time. People are far from perfect about being cool-headed and accommodating about stuff they think is really wrong or they find upsetting, but still for the most part people here manage to walk that line pretty okay and threads are as often as anything attempts at decent discussion even when the topic is hard or contentious. It's hard, it takes effort, it's imperfect, but people do seem to make that effort the bulk of the time.

but this is not an isolated incident.

We've got a great big pile of users; literally about ten thousand different logged-in people drop by in a given month. So peaks of obnoxiousness on all side of any conversation are going to happen. It's never going to get down to isolated incident, once-a-month levels with a setup like this.

My preference is that people flag stuff they think is problematic promptly or drop us a line if something needs a look, and that beyond that people either engage to de-escalate or decline to engage and just step around the obnoxious stuff to carry on the decent conversation.

Consider the thread on the whole Chik-fila gay marriage fiasco which were filled with vitriol towards anyone who opposes gay marriage.

Which is one of the most contentious social issues in the US for a long time now and one that's been a horrible ugly mess of shitty regressive culture war stuff. I would like people to make an effort to go more for strong argumentation than vitriol, but of all the things to look for examples of people losing their sense of restraint and generosity about, this may be just about the toughest one to argue an example from.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:40 AM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


Not an attack on Libertarians

You really think "the good shitheads at Reason" was meant to be a sincere compliment?
posted by John Cohen at 7:41 AM on August 22, 2012


Is there really a distinction between being respectful to a member of the community and being respectful to people outside it?

I think "fuck you, fellow community member" is a lot different in some key ways than e.g. "fuck the editors of the New York Times", yes. The latter isn't exactly a brilliant piece of rhetoric, but shouting at an external entity in the context of the work it does in the world is a different kind of activity than getting in the face of another mefite.

Not that that doesn't happen either sometimes, and that's especially crappy and something we tend to respond to pretty overtly as mods when we see it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:44 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wasn't familiar with Reason and thought that piece to be a pretty accurate surface level snapshot of the past few weeks of the horse race. But, looking a bit more into it that piece fits very well within their narrative that both sides are no different. When you have that kind of lack of nuance, combined with a glee for privatization then it's no surprise that people are going to be a bit testy about it.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:46 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The comment in question was directed at the ideas in the article and not at a member of the site, so that's why it's tolerated

I don't think it's that simple though. A lot of what gets deleted on the blue is stuff that disrupts or derails the discussion. If the discussion is already revolving around the topic of the post being terrible, over-the-top vitriolic comments seem to pass by without many flags or rebuttal comments. But if someone posted a similarly GRAR-y comment about something that most of the members of the site liked or would defend, it would cause huge problems and would probably be deleted. I think that's part of the reason why pile-ons tend to get worse than 1-to-1 arguments as well, if 9 people write well-reasoned arguments against what someone said in a thread and the 10th person writes an unfair name-calling response, the unfair comment is more likely to stand than if it's just two people sniping at each other.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:46 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think calling people shitheads is disrespectful and very different from saying that they are wrong.

Not in my family!
posted by chillmost at 7:47 AM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is there really a distinction between being respectful to a member of the community and being respectful to people outside it?

I think so. Members of the community are all in a de facto conversation with one another. People outside the community are...well, the world. For example, I think that Michael Haneke can be a facile, overrated director. If he was a MeFite, that wouldn't change my opinion, but I would either keep mum or temper my words when his work came up. I don't see why I'd have to censor myself in the meantime, before he gets an account.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:48 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are disrespectful to the latter, it doesn't exactly encourage members of the community who may agree with those outside figures to contribute to the discussion.

If you let people talk about outlawing same-sex marriage and no one acts like that's an absolutely reprehensible position to hold, that doesn't exactly encourage LGBQ etc. people to contribute to the discussion. It makes it seem like we think that discriminating against them is a totally valid option and something theoretical to be chatted about over tea, instead of an actual, real-life form of systematic discrimination that hurts people who are right here on this site.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:48 AM on August 22, 2012 [84 favorites]


Politics ain't beanbag -- Finley Peter Dunne
posted by spitbull at 7:51 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What if one of the editors or Reason was a member of MetaFilter?

MetaFilter is large enough that if you lob an insult at some group you are likely to be insulting a member of MetaFilter (Texans, Catholics, Red Sox fans, etc). The only solution would be to never lob insults, and I don't think that is going to happen. Instead we get this touchy dynamic where you can get away with it if the members of that group keep quiet or don't happen to be reading that thread. And sometimes they'll speak up and we end up in MetaTalk.
posted by charred husk at 7:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


no.
posted by clavdivs at 7:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


You really think "the good shitheads at Reason" was meant to be a sincere compliment?

shit == bad
good shit == good
shithead == bad person
good shithead == good person!

That's how I read it anyway.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:56 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you let people talk about outlawing same-sex marriage and no one acts like that's an absolutely reprehensible position to hold, that doesn't exactly encourage LGBQ etc. people to contribute to the discussion. It makes it seem like we think that discriminating against them is a totally valid option and something theoretical to be chatted about over tea, instead of an actual, real-life form of systematic discrimination that hurts people who are right here on this site.

I shouldn't have brought up the gay marriage thing. I'll just reiterate that I believe it is possible to strongly disagree with someone or a position and say so without being insulting.

I have absolutely no problems with someone saying "X is wrong for Y & Z reasons and if we want to have a just society we need to fix this problem". If that was the tenor of the discussion, then I would hope that it would be an inclusive one that all members of the community could join in.
posted by nolnacs at 7:56 AM on August 22, 2012


If you are disrespectful to the latter, it doesn't exactly encourage members of the community who may agree with those outside figures to contribute to the discussion.

Honestly? There's a pretty big contingent of people on this website who consider the view of these "outside figures" to be as utterly disrespectful as you view the more vitriolic responses. The fact that someone can politely say that they don't think women should be allowed access to medical care, or that consenting adults shouldn't be able to marry other consenting adults regardless of gender, or whatever, doesn't make that view any less the equivalent of a thrust-out middle finger.
posted by griphus at 7:57 AM on August 22, 2012 [27 favorites]


You know, Yoda was pretty much wrong. Humans can only try, which most people around here do, most of the time. They try to be generally respectful of the other people in the conversation, but they use a lot of coarse language and have a lot of strong opinions while doing it. So, sometimes the users fail (and sometimes, they don't even try, which is a different sort of failure), but I think on the whole, yes, Mefi takes the concept of respect pretty seriously, when it's applied to other users.

Of course, we don't tend to hold any thing above ridicule. So while we are generally trying to be respectful of one another, we don't tend to try show respect for the source link or the people or opinions at the source link. It's an interesting dynamic, when you think about it.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:57 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


What if one of the editors or Reason was a member of MetaFilter?

Then they could speak up and say "hey, that's an unfair assessment of my work and you're being pretty crappy about stating it" and then we'd all be like "AWWWWWWkwaaard" and then hopefully there'd be a decent conversation about it. That is how stuff like that seems to go. (Or they're not a mefite but they read the thread because they check their referrer logs and they gripe/muse about it on twitter or something. Also a reasonably common outcome.)

The focus on the "don't act like assholes to fellow users" thing is more about trying to keep this place a decent place to talk and interact and so on than it is about trying to define the area of whose feelings are and aren't important. It's not that it's awesome to sit around calling exteranl people/groups shitheads—again, I think that's not a good way to be in general and doesn't make the site look any smarter—it's that the stakes for getting up in another users shit are a lot higher and more immediate on this site. So it gets a different level of attention and intervention.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Below the comment box, it says "Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site."

Nolnacs, I sense you are referring also to the language in the comment you mentioned. Yes, the comment maintained the goal of primarily focusing on the topic, but are words like shithead, bullshit, fucking and associated language maintaining respect.

I don't know. I've sworn liberally on this site, and don't know how one would moderate language. On the other hand is the term "fucking birthers" OK when I sense that "fucking Black people" wouldn't be, since both are referring to groups? Don't know that either. But I do sense that fucking democrats, republicans and libertarians are all phrases I've seen here as well.

Does that hit the mark of hatred, rather than expressing disagreement? I don't know that either. But I'm pretty sure if there was a healthy dose of "bullshit ideas by women" or "the shitheads at the NAACP" language, I would probably be asking questions about respect too.

But to answer your question, I do think the phrasing about respect means something, and of course many people here care about it. I think it is just harder to moderate language, and I can't guess how the mods balance that.
posted by anitanita at 8:01 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or you know, what cortex said. :-)
posted by anitanita at 8:02 AM on August 22, 2012


Am I the only person who cares about this or feels this way?

No, you aren't. I agree with you. I just tried making this argument in another MetaTalk thread in the past couple days and had no success and I'm not feeling like another go just yet, but no, you're not alone.
posted by cribcage at 8:03 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it is just harder to moderate language, and I can't guess how the mods balance that.

They use the big red delete button.
posted by three blind mice at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a pretty big contingent of people on this website who consider the view of these "outside figures" to be as utterly disrespectful as you view the more vitriolic responses. The fact that someone can politely say that they don't think women should be allowed access to medical care, or that consenting adults shouldn't be able to marry other consenting adults regardless of gender, or whatever, doesn't make that view any less the equivalent of a thrust-out middle finger.

That doesn't really address the issue of what is considered acceptable discourse on the site though. Someone could be the worst person in the world and have the worst possible views about everything, but that wouldn't make a "I hope they get raped" comment about them justified , for example.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter's stance seems to be – correct me if I'm wrong, mods – that you can be as honest and blunt about your opinions of anything so long as you don't turn the argument personal. You can talk about the seeming idiocy of libertarian belief if you think libertarian beliefs are seemingly idiotic, but you cannot call a libertarian on this site an idiot.

There's no place you can draw this line without pissing somebody off. If you make "disrespect towards a belief" apropos, you deny a swath of users here their right to speak honestly about how they feel. Sometimes, a belief hurts people, and if the people hurt by it aren't allowed to express themselves freely, you can argue that's as unfair as letting them hurt somebody else's feelings.

Ultimately, you are not your beliefs, and the second you open your mouth, you're responsible for what words come out. It's the responsibility of every member of this site to think about whether a belief truly warrants disrespect, whether a belief or opinion can be disagreed with nicely – and I think that in many cases, it can be. Disrespect makes it hard to talk about certain subjects I find fascinating, like other people's religions and modern art. But that's a judgment call every user makes on her own, and when they decide not to respect a certain way of thinking, well, them's the breaks.

Learn to ignore the disrespect and add to those threads the thoughts and opinions you think should be there – you won't be silenced. If you're thin-skinned, and there's nothing wrong with having thin skin (I am thin-skinned), then those are threads you either want to ignore, or else you can rush in, say your piece, and then flee and avoid looking at the aftermath, knowing you've said your piece. It's not optimal thread behavior in the sense that you don't get everything you want, but conversation is conflict, and the goal of the rules is simply to keep discussions somewhat fair.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I shouldn't have brought up the gay marriage thing.

Yeah, it pretty much seemed to reveal your real investments here, which don't speak well to your supposed desire for respect.
posted by OmieWise at 8:14 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


> Yeah, it pretty much seemed to reveal your real investments here, which don't speak well to your supposed desire for respect.

They said in the OP that they are "not one of those people"...
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


You can be respectful to people whose views you disagree with. Also particularly on contentious issues it doesn't hurt to consider the motivation behind the opinion. Motives matter.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:25 AM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Libertarianism is a favorite punching bag here, nolnacs, so the only honest advice I can give you is get used to it.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:25 AM on August 22, 2012


Yeah, it pretty much seemed to reveal your real investments here, which don't speak well to your supposed desire for respect.

To prevent this from derailing any further - my position is to get rid of the whole discussion of marriage. Civil unions for everywhere regardless of race, gender or number of participants. The only reason I brought it up was because of the lack of civility in the conversation, which as Cortex noted probably wasn't the best example given that it was not a typical thread.
posted by nolnacs at 8:25 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter's stance seems to be – correct me if I'm wrong, mods – that you can be as honest and blunt about your opinions of anything so long as you don't turn the argument personal. You can talk about the seeming idiocy of libertarian belief if you think libertarian beliefs are seemingly idiotic, but you cannot call a libertarian on this site an idiot.

It's not really a pat bright line where "they are [bad name]" is awesome but "you are [bad name]" isn't, but see above as far as the different practical immediate consequences of inter-user stuff vs. complaining about some specific external entity.

I think it's easy for people to get lazy and far afield with arguments/complaints about groups that are targeted more broadly than the could or should be, and that's a problem regardless of whether it's external or internal to the userbase and can make for it's own sort of poor rhetoric. Aggressively dismissing a broad group is tricky because the broader the group the harder it is to establish some sort of actual collective, monolithic group action and culpability (so e.g. in a discussion about state legislation, beefing about the votes/politics of the Texas State Legislature makes more sense than beefing about Texans) and that's I think if not a blind spot then maybe a laziness spot in arguments a lot of the time in a way that's not great even if it's not a direct personal attack on a user present or absent.

To break it down a little, I think "specific writer dude x said y which as an expression of his adherence to ideology z is shitty because a, b, c" is better than "specific writer dude is a shitty z-ideologue" which is still at least better than "fuck z-ideologues, they're shitty". It's a weird spectrum.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


With respect, it's not a derail to talk about where you want the kind of respect you're talking about extended. It's precisely the point of this post, isn't it? Just because you don't like the direction the questions are heading in doesn't mean it's a derail.
posted by OmieWise at 8:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a fundamental problem in that, if you choose a doctrine of tolerance, of dealing with the intolerant. I can't speak for others, but I think the simplest solution is to treat others not as we wish to be treated but as they wish others to be treated.

If someone wants to denigrate some group or another, treat them as second class citizens or subhumans, I've decided to surrender my response to their behavior to them and they've chosen poorly.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:29 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


They use the big red delete button.

No we don't actually. We rely on people to self-moderate and only in fairly extreme instances will we step in to be like "We've asked you to cool it and you didn't cool it so please take the night off" People who get banned-for-life here have usually had somewhere between three and eight chances to learn to get along with people here and are usually given very clear explannations about what they are doing that is problematic. We require a baseline level of clear non-trolling, clear attempt to interact with other people in good faith and clear ability to take and comprehend feedback given to folks by mods and other users. Pretty much anyone who wants to remain a community member can do so.

that you can be as honest and blunt about your opinions of anything so long as you don't turn the argument personal.

Ranting disguised as blunt honesty is only sort of borderline okay. We'd like people to generally use their words and describe their issues with something they dislike and to be mindful of the fact that the issue or idea they are lambasting may very well be held by people in the thread they are involved in. Repeated ignorance of that general principle gets problematic quickly. We have only a few bright line rules [don't say fuck you to people, don't call them trolls, flag and move on] but will talk to you if you seem to be having repeated trouble getting along with people because you claim you're being honest when you're just being assholish and non-community-minded.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:31 AM on August 22, 2012


nolnacs, I've definitely had the experience of putting something out into the world and having 9/10ths of people respond positively or with constructive criticism, and 1/10th of people respond like jerks, and feeling my brain zoom in to obsess about the jerkish comments. I think that's totally natural.

The thing is, if you let your brain do that then you're just never going to have a good time here. There are, guaranteed, always going to be people who express their opinion in an obnoxious way just this side of deletable, no matter where that line is drawn. There are always going to be people who read your Metatalk post in the least charitable way.

What makes this place work is when you manage to re-focus on the 10% best comments instead of the 10% worst. Try to pick out the comments that actually made you see the article in a different light. Try to respond to the people in this thread who actually did their best to get your point and still didn't get what you're saying, or even better, to the people who got what you were saying and made a point you hadn't considered. Try making a comment that is solely a restatement of the cool things you learned from the thread, and see how that makes you feel about the conversation.

This doesn't at all stop you from stating your contrary views. Rather, it helps you hang out and have fun in a thread where you're in the minority, and sets you up to earn real respect from the cool people who hang out there, and maybe put them in a position to hear what you have to say.

Sorry if this is preachy -- I'm probably not saying anything you don't know. I'm just saying, if you reframe the question as "how can I bring more attention to the top 10%" instead of "how can I beat the worst 10%" you end up in a pretty good place.
posted by jhc at 8:33 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I shouldn't have brought up the gay marriage thing. I'll just reiterate that I believe it is possible to strongly disagree with someone or a position and say so without being insulting.

I guess it's worth saying that gay marriage is an area in which a lot of folks (myself included, sometimes) feel like this idea doesn't apply and that it's frustrating to see others try to put it in that category.

I mean, from a completely dispassionate perspective, sure, one should be able to argue one's case and say, "Hey, well actually gay people aren't second-class citizens, et cetera," but the deal is that there's a person who's sitting down and typing those things and they have feelings that exist outside of a discussion on the internet. They have past experiences and, you know, the whole deal. This comes up in feminism threads a lot, when folks are exhorted to argue less emotionally, ignoring the fact that this might be the ten thousandth time that a particular person might have heard a particular specious argument.

Which isn't to say I think it's a good thing when people have shit-fights, or to defend the act of losing one's cool, just that it's understandable when arguments get heated.

And gay marriage is relevant here because, again, it tends to get included in the category of Things We Can Have Different Opinions About And It's Okay, when honestly it only seems that way to half of the people in the discussion. If someone's arguing passionately about Star Wars or taxes or airport security, then okay, sure, it's not a reflection on the quality of their character, it's not a patch on anyone in the discussion.

If someone's arguing against gay marriage, then - whether they intend to be heard this way or not - they're saying that gay people are second-class citizens, that they're not entitled to the same pursuit of happiness as straight people. That's a whole lot different from arguing the relative merits of the various actors who've played Doctor Who, regardless of how invested a person gets in the TV shows they watch.

I don't know that it's actually possible to disagree strongly on the topic of whether or not gay marriage should be legal without being insulting. Whether or not it can be done in a way that won't get a comment deleted on Metafilter is another thing entirely.

So, I don't know. I think it's important to separate disrespectfully-phrased, insulting discourse from positions which are inherently disrespectful or insulting (even though the people holding them might not see it that way). The former is easier to spot, and the latter is just kind of one of those things that happens with a large user base and sometimes discussions like this will come up and even though it's probably not anyone's idea of a rollicking good time, it's a part of the process of engine maintenance.

And, on preview,

To prevent this from derailing any further - my position is to get rid of the whole discussion of marriage. Civil unions for everywhere regardless of race, gender or number of participants.


This is a good example of a position which is not inherently disrespectful or insulting, for the record.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Consider the thread on the whole Chik-fila gay marriage fiasco which were filled with vitriol towards anyone who opposes gay marriage.

WHY AREN'T PEOPLE RESPECTFUL TOWARD MY TOTAL LACK OF RESPECT FOR OTHER PEOPLE GOD
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2012 [39 favorites]


that you'll treat others with opposing viewpoints with absolute respect and that you'll contribute in a positive way to the intelligent discussions that take place here every day. really mean anything?

Well, it doesn't mean you have to eat any shit served on a plate with a smile on your face.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


To break it down a little, I think "specific writer dude x said y which as an expression of his adherence to ideology z is shitty because a, b, c" is better than "specific writer dude is a shitty z-ideologue" which is still at least better than "fuck z-ideologues, they're shitty". It's a weird spectrum.

I think that's kind of ignoring the OP's specific point about the subject or topic being unpopular though. Nobody's going to care if someone says "Fuck Stalin, that guy was a shithead" because nobody likes Stalin. Meanwhile if someone says "Fuck LeVar Burton, that guy is a shithead" there's going to be a huge backlash because everyone likes LeVar Burton. The point is that if you like the types of things that MetaFilter as a whole likes, you'll see unfair comments about them called-out/flagged/deleted/etc., whereas if you like the types of things that MetaFilter as a whole dislikes, you'll see unfair comments about them favorited and if you try calling them out yourself you'll probably get your own backlash. To a certain extent it's not reasonable for MetaFilter to give all people/groups/topics equal footing in terms of respect, but it's definitely a dynamic that exists on the site and feels shitty if you're on the unpopular side of it.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:40 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Oh, I just noticed I kind of sounded like I was criticizing nolnacs' approach to this thread, and I didn't mean to. I just meant in general that Metatalk is a place people get sidetracked by the least helpful comments by the other side, when there could be a great conversation if they focused on the best ones.)
posted by jhc at 8:41 AM on August 22, 2012


The final essay in A Critique of Pure Tolerance is “Repressive Tolerance” written by Herbert Marcuse. (...) Pure tolerance, he points out, can take two forms: (1) passive tolearance which accepts the policies, attitudes and opinions of the status quo regardless of their harmful effects, and (2) active tolerance which is rigoursly non-partisan and conesequently protects and supports the machinery of discrimination. (link)

This sort of tolerance strengthens the rule of the existing power structure against which authentic liberals protested. The nature of tolerance has changed: while it is more or less quietly and constitutionally withdrawn from the opposition, it is made compulsory behavior with respect to established policies. Tolerance regresses from an active act into a passive state, from practice to non-practice.
posted by boo_radley at 8:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


* The former sort of tolerance strengthens
posted by boo_radley at 8:44 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because you are admittedly new here, you may be unaware that the issue of hostility to diverse viewpoints has been raised countless times over the last decade, and things are not going to change. Occasionally raising the issue might have some value for temporary respite and reminder, but there is not going to be any inertia to make changes.

It is generally held in society that diversity is a good thing when it brings together diverse backgrounds and diverse viewpoints. Diversity is something to be sought and embraced.

Because of the long, entrenched history that does not need to be recounted, this place has largely become an echo chamber that is hostile to differing viewpoints on almost any given topic. Far from embracing diversity, Metafilter isn't even neutral about it. It is often hostile and caustic place to diversity. Over a decade of this, there has developed something like a uniform Metafilter perspective on almost any issue that is any bit controversial. We could go down the list and you can define Metafilter's View. If you don't fit with that View, your willingness to participate and stick-around is probably going to be directly related to what percentage of topics you diverge from that View--if the percentage gets high, you'll experience too much hostility and just choose to leave.; if the percentage is low, you'll experience only occasional irritation.
posted by dios at 8:46 AM on August 22, 2012 [34 favorites]


Honestly, I think it's fair to say that Reason started it. They could have published a piece that made the same point that wasn't snarkily mocking people that don't agree with their (totally bullshit) point of view. To me it seems odd to complain about a lack of civility after posting a deliberately inflammatory link. (By which I mean Reason was deliberately being inflammatory, perhaps you genuinely thought it was clever and eye-opening.)
posted by snofoam at 8:53 AM on August 22, 2012


What makes this place work is when you manage to re-focus on the 10% best comments instead of the 10% worst. Try to pick out the comments that actually made you see the article in a different light. Try to respond to the people in this thread who actually did their best to get your point and still didn't get what you're saying, or even better, to the people who got what you were saying and made a point you hadn't considered. Try making a comment that is solely a restatement of the cool things you learned from the thread, and see how that makes you feel about the conversation.

That sounds like a good approach to take. Either that or avoiding any politically/culturally contentious topics.
posted by nolnacs at 8:53 AM on August 22, 2012


I can't speak for others, but I think the simplest solution is to treat others not as we wish to be treated but as they wish others to be treated.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:29 AM on August 22


I don't know if you are being glib or are seriously suggesting this, but there's a reason why this diverges from the teaching of almost every major society and religion dating back to Ancient Egypt: it makes you a giant jerk. If the Golden Rule is not acceptable, no wonder the capacity for respectful discourse is so broken.
posted by dios at 8:54 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do. If some one maintains that two and two are five, or that Iceland is on the equator, you feel pity rather than anger, unless you know so little of arithmetic or geography that his opinion shakes your own contrary conviction. The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.
-Bertrand Russell

Words to live by, and helpful to recall especially when hanging out at MetaFilter.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:55 AM on August 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Far from embracing diversity, Metafilter isn't even neutral about it. It is often hostile and caustic place to diversity.

How many neo-confederates does metafilter need, dios?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:56 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that's kind of ignoring the OP's specific point about the subject or topic being unpopular though.

Sure, I wasn't trying to address that with quoted comment so much as the structural stuff that comes into all this and that was coming up in the thread. I think how aggregate (though basically never universal) popular opinion on the site relates to a subject definitely has an affect on the dynamics of the reaction, often in ways that are not great. That just doesn't happen in a structural vacuum or anything, and the questions of "why is this okay" or "how is this not a violation of the rules" are complicated significantly by that stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:58 AM on August 22, 2012



How many neo-confederates does metafilter need, dios?


Please do not continue this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I like this picture of Bill Nye.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


How many neo-confederates does metafilter need, dios?
posted by octobersurprise at 10:56 AM on August 22


See? This kind of assholery is exactly the type of garbage that has led to this. We'll call anyone who doesn't agree with X such an insulting thing that no reasonable dialogue can ensue. I don't even know what specifically this guy is talking about, but really I don't need to because it is a perfect stand-in for a root cause of the problem.
posted by dios at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


no wonder the capacity for respectful discourse is so broken.

Also, I was here when you joined dios and I recall what "respectful discourse" meant to you then. I don't doubt that you like puppies and all that, but you are and always have been the biggest hypocrite on metafilter.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, though not always, an intelligent forum will converge on the truth about an issue. With respect to those issues, I'd rather this place be intelligent than "diverse."
posted by Beardman at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


> but you are and always have been the biggest hypocrite on metafilter.

And you call people limp-dicks. Awesome!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2012


Dunno why I hyphenated that.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please do not continue this.

It's a simple question, phrased respectfully. I want to know how "diverse" dios thinks this place should be?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:03 AM on August 22, 2012


If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do. If some one maintains that two and two are five, or that Iceland is on the equator, you feel pity rather than anger, unless you know so little of arithmetic or geography that his opinion shakes your own contrary conviction. The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

-Bertrand Russell


Unless the person who is advocating that opinion is in a position of power (e.g. teacher, politician) and their influence has a significant effect on other people's lives.
posted by jpdoane at 9:03 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a simple question, phrased respectfully.

Yeah, it's positively dripping with respect.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


And you call people limp-dicks. Awesome!

Thanks! Would you like me to autograph that?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2012


Sometimes, though not always, an intelligent forum will converge on the truth about an issue. With respect to those issues, I'd rather this place be intelligent than "diverse."

It's been my experience that like-minded communities of intelligent people constantly reassuring each other of their rightness and intelligence are some of the most howlingly awful places on the internet.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's a simple question, phrased respectfully. I want to know how "diverse" dios thinks this place should be?

And I want this to not turn into you and dios grousing at each other or you interrogating him. You've been kind of grumpy and in people's faces in metatalk the last couple days in a way that is not great at all and I'd appreciate you taking a walk or something.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


dios: "We'll call anyone who doesn't agree with X such an insulting thing that no reasonable dialogue can ensue."

There is no we. There is no "we'll" in this equation. "We" aren't doing anything. You're taking the behavior of a tiny minority and inappropriately characterizing them as representative of the whole. They're not.
posted by zarq at 9:11 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, I was here when you joined dios and I recall what "respectful discourse" meant to you then. I don't doubt that you like puppies and all that, but you are and always have been the biggest hypocrite on metafilter.

This hasn't been my experience of dios, with whom I disagree about quite a lot, at all. He's consistently, and for the most part respectfully, espoused his (unpopular) views without resorting to the kind of personal ad hominem that is pretty common around here. I think his must not be a comfortable position in many many threads, and certainly it's one I could not maintain.
posted by OmieWise at 9:12 AM on August 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Lunar phase today is Waxing Crescent.
The current moon phase is from 2012-08-17 16:54 to 2012-08-24 14:54.
The moon is in zodiac sign Scorpio .



Well that sure doesn't jive with what I'm seeing.
posted by boo_radley at 9:23 AM on August 22, 2012


Homophobia is not an example of 'diversity of opinion.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


Seconding omiewise. That hasn't been my experience of dios, either.
posted by zarq at 9:25 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


dios was indeed very polite in his assholery.
posted by fleacircus at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2012


It is sort of odd to see a conversation about respectful discourse take a turn into a little mean corner. I never know if its best to ignore or ask. But... Octobersurprise, fleacircus, what is going on with the attitudes? Regardless of how dios engages people, I can barely pay attention to it because your dripping contempt is so jarring.

I think conversing is going to get difficult if enough of us respond to perceived or real insults with insults of our own.
posted by anitanita at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2012


Unless the person who is advocating that opinion is in a position of power (e.g. teacher, politician) and their influence has a significant effect on other people's lives.

Sure, but then you're not really angry about the idea, you're angry about the abuse of power by someone who isn't using a full deck of cards. At that point it's no longer an argument about the idea at all, it's a problem with a power imbalance. It's a different kind of anger, I think.

Perhaps I should clarify that I feel this quote is more beneficial to folks like nolnacs, who are trying to parse their reactions to some rebuttals shared on MetaFilter. Let's take the original comment in question as an example (genericized for the sake of argument):
See, this is a perfect example of how idea x is bullshit, because on the one hand is the group A calling on group b to release more data, probably because they believe group b used the specific loophole to do something nefarious, and on the other hand are fucking group c, who the good shitheads at group d would have us believe are the equivalent.
At no point in that comment is a single member of MetaFilter being insulted or called out unfairly. It is, however, a mildly savage attack on a number of ideas and behaviors and some groups promoting those ideas.

If this is an example of MetaFilter being hostile to individuals, I would posit that those feeling persecuted are identifying very closely with one of the mentioned groups or possible with one of the promoted ideas, in which case I think the Bertrand Russell quote is very instructive.

In other words: if you come into MetaFilter and feel that you are being picked on because of your ideas...well just do a doubletake and ask yourself whether you're actually being personally attacked or if you're simply having an emotional reaction because your opinions can't stand up to some blunt push-back.

If it's truly the former and there's truly evidence of members being mega-assholes to a member, I'm sure the mods will be happy to step in. If it's the former, well, them's the breaks kiddo.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:39 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


ask yourself whether you're actually being personally attacked

dios is being personally attacked.
posted by Egg Shen at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course the second part of my last sentence should have read:

"If it's the latter, well, them's the breaks kiddo."
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2012


dios is being personally attacked.

In the original post in question, which is what this MeTa was originally about? dios isn't even in that thread. I'm trying to shift this conversation away from the weird pielon of dios.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:44 AM on August 22, 2012


dios is being personally attacked.

And the mods told the attacker to take a hike. Literally.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:45 AM on August 22, 2012


Can we drop the dios part; it was a shitty call out against him, he responded tactfully, now people want to egg on a fight. Let it go.

To the OP.. I think people tend to share their opinions here, and sometimes opinions can be angry, passionate, things. I think you have a point that maybe the Reason call out didnt need the adjective window dressing, but I think we've already established that the whole respect thing here primarily revolves around not sticking knifes in each other, but being able to stick knives in ideas. I think one could call out another user for making a horrendously egregrious adjective for an idea in a thread, but I also think on the whole that ideas seem to survive pretty well here.. on their merits. Yes the usual declawing/Israel-Palestine/theology/sexuality items are going to get people riled up... it's what they're passionate about.. but I think the self policing works pretty well normally to keep that in check.
posted by cavalier at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2012


I like this picture of Bill Nye.

Me too. Except, it has a very obvious counterexample: babies.
posted by meese at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not a exactly what's going on here, obviously, but I am reminded of this picture whenever the discussion of respect for every opinion comes up.
posted by ODiV at 9:52 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, babies know how to see the physical world without years and years of crust and education obscuring things.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:52 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


if you're simply having an emotional reaction because your opinions can't stand up to some blunt push-back.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:39 AM on August 22


Are you sure that is what Bertrand Russell is talking about? Seems to me you are suggesting that if you are capable of being insulted, its probably because you are wrong and belief something that cannot be supported. I don't think that is what Russell is talking about. I honestly don't know the context of Russell's comment, but if you look at his two examples, he seems to be discussing the distinction between what are commonly called "facts" and "opinions". I don't know if he is making an ontological point about how we know something is a fact, but I took his point to be something like this:
We all agree that some things are facts, so we don't fight over them. Some other things don't have the uniform support of the things we call "facts" and these are called "opinions". We fight over opinions because they do not have the level of support of facts. If we had good evidence one way or the other, the things would not be opinions, they would be facts.

I took the point he is making is about the difference between facts and opinions, and I find it odd to see you cast it in the frame of "if you get angry, it's probably because you subconsciously know you are wrong."
posted by dios at 9:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


"this place has largely become an echo chamber that is hostile to differing viewpoints on almost any given topic. Far from embracing diversity, Metafilter isn't even neutral about it. It is often hostile and caustic place to diversity. Over a decade of this, there has developed something like a uniform Metafilter perspective on almost any issue that is any bit controversial. We could go down the list and you can define Metafilter's View. If you don't fit with that View, your willingness to participate and stick-around is probably going to be directly related to what percentage of topics you diverge from that View--if the percentage gets high, you'll experience too much hostility and just choose to leave.; if the percentage is low, you'll experience only occasional irritation."

I don't think that's a fair summation, especially because it lumps together too many disparate actual views under the rubric of an orthodoxy and extols "diversity" in what I think is a disingenuous way.

It ignores two points: One, on a decent number of "controversial" topics, there really is one right answer. For example, humans really do cause global warming. The argument that in the service of diversity we should welcome climate-change deniers ignores the fact that the pushback (god, that's a trendy word, isn't it?) they get comes from actually being wrong in a pretty demonstrable way. The second point is that some of the "diverse" views held cause actual harm to both members of this site and people in the whole. For example, the idea that comments disagreeing with the freedom of marriage for LGBT people should be cultivated here in order to have a diverse garden of conversation ignores that those comments choke out participation from LGBT people and actually do cause harm. It's not something upon which reasonable people may differ — reasonable people may differ on the importance of marriage as an issue within the LGBT community, or the norms that marriage implies, but to argue that gay folks shouldn't be able to get married is insulting and irrational, and it's reasonable to expect people directly harmed by that attitude to fight back and that insisting on an artificial clubby comity in order to keep these weeds in the garden is bullshit.

Certainly, there are some issues on which MeFi orthodoxy is overzealous and dogmatic where the stakes aren't justified — no one dies for lack of Mac. And there are plenty of other topics where it seems like there's an orthodoxy loudly asserted — that, say, Obama is just as bad as Bush — where that doesn't actually represent anything more than the strident feelings of a small cadre. I'll also grant that you get unfairly hectored here pretty often, but that doesn't ultimately provide enough support for your argument for me — in many cases, describing opinions as "diverse" is disingenuous and implies that they're equally valid, when they're really not, and they come with distinct harms.
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on August 22, 2012 [31 favorites]


Also, babies know how to think of nothing at all. Shame they lose that skill.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:55 AM on August 22, 2012


As a libertarian

shouldn't you vote with your wallet and not try to coerce other people into showing respect when they do not do so voluntarily? Why are you trying to get the power of the state mods to do your work for you?

More generally, respect does not mean lack of criticsm, even when strongly expressed. It's also something one earns, not get by default; politeness you get that way.

MeFi can be hostile to minority viewpoints, but largely these are noxious viewpoints (anti-gay, anti-women, racist, sexist, islamophobic, etc), not ones that need to be treated respectfully.

Libertarianism is a bit of a complicated case, because it's so often a stalking horse for dickheads ("I got mine and fuck everybody else") rather than a philosophy that can be taken seriously.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:55 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the aggregate, the community of MetaFilter commenters trends to left of center. I don't think that this is a surprise to anyone and it is not a criticism.

Because of this, there are certain opinions and worldviews that will not be generally well-received or well-responded to. That's just the way it is. It's not a problem that needs to be corrected; it's just a characteristic of the place.

Many points of my world view don't jive with that of the community at large. I made some embarrassing mistakes here with arm-wavy posts and comments because I didn't understand a simple rule: You don't walk into a room of people who disagree with you and tell them that you think they're wrong.

Metafilter is not a place where my world view is well-received. That's okay; Metafilter is under no obligation to be such a place, and there are other places for me to go if I'm looking for that type of environment.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are you sure that is what Bertrand Russell is talking about? Seems to me you are suggesting that if you are capable of being insulted, its probably because you are wrong and belief something that cannot be supported.

Well, let me paste the rest of the quote in and see if that clarifies the meaning for you:
Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.
But hey, I'm willing to concede that I framed it poorly or oddly, probably out of a desire to extend the meaning to fit my own ideas. Nevertheless I'm happy to maintain that in a majority of cases on the internet if you are pissed off about a post like the original comment in question then maybe, just maybe it's because you're not as sure of your own position as you thought you were. This is advice that I give to myself on a regular basis and I thought it would be useful for others.

A little self-examination before hitting that post button to complain about someone being a jerk to your ideas seems like a pretty good SOP.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:02 AM on August 22, 2012


If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do.

Or it's because I'm well aware of my very good reasons for disagreeing and for why they are wrong but the contrary opinion causes very real, measurable damage out there in the world. As an example, anti-vaxers make me damn mad and I have very good reason and evidence for why, people literally get hurt by that shit. I don't know (or care) who Bertrand Russell is but that whole quote seems like crap to me.

I'd have no problems with commenting here referring to someone outside metafilter as a shithead if I believed that they were pushing such harmful opinions (although I generally default to 'arsehole' for some reason). I do strongly believe in trying to foster respectful conversation within this site so if they came and posted here then I wouldn't be so abrupt, although obviously I wouldn't give their opinions a pass. But there are people publishing stuff out there in the world that is doing active harm and I see no reason to be respectful about that when I refer to them. (Note I have no idea who Reason are or if they quailfy, but then I'm not calling them names either).
posted by shelleycat at 10:03 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, let me paste the rest of the quote in and see if that clarifies the meaning for you:

Yeah, maybe pasting the whole thing instead of cherry picking would be better next time.

I still disagree though, I only get pissed off by people's opinions when they do real, measurable harm. I'm a scientist, I like data, plus I don't see the point in getting upset just because someone said something I don't agree with.
posted by shelleycat at 10:05 AM on August 22, 2012


> I don't know (or care) who Bertrand Russell is

His History of Western Philosophy is pretty dang good, at least to this layperson.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


MeFi can be hostile to minority viewpoints, but largely these are noxious viewpoints (anti-gay, anti-women, racist, sexist, islamophobic, etc), not ones that need to be treated respectfully.

That's the business, right here. People who oppose gay marriage feel uncomfortable expressing that opinion on metafilter? Good! The day will come when they'll feel uncomfortable expressing that opinion anywhere, and the world will be a better place for it.

If people's views really are respectable, and if metafilter really does have an inordinately smart and educated userbase, then good ideas should be able to hold their own despite any snark. And this has been my experience on the site. The only ideas that get beaten down are pretty demonstrably awful, and it's more fun to joke about them than it is to give a forty-point dissertation about how, yes, women and gay folks really are people.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


If some one maintains that two and two are five, or that Iceland is on the equator, you feel pity rather than anger, unless you know so little of arithmetic or geography that his opinion shakes your own contrary conviction.

Just an aside, this is really untrue. People's beliefs about, say, global warming make me angry, because the denying it has a pretty direct harm on me, and everyone else.
posted by spaltavian at 10:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


People's beliefs about, say, global warming make me angry, because the denying it has a pretty direct harm on me, and everyone else.

I can concede that, but I thought this was a discussion about how people argue on the internet, not how they act on their beliefs in the real world. I think there's a difference.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:12 AM on August 22, 2012


I should have left out the word 'exactly' up there. I'm not trying to equate anyone with Hitler.
posted by ODiV at 10:14 AM on August 22, 2012


One, on a decent number of "controversial" topics, there really is one right answer.

Let me just say this: even if I were to grant you that point, do not see how such certainty of conviction can be abused and used to kill diversity of thought on points in which disagreement might be helpful? I think the dark history of mankind stems largely from power groups who were dead certain there is only one right answer.

The problem with this viewpoint is that there are no logical constraints to the rule "we should not embrace diversity of thought when the other side is wrong." It becomes an unbounded license for insulting the views of others; all one needs to say "but I am right." Same with your claim that certain opinions are not "equally valid" and therefore should be impermissible; that's a judgment call that is ripe for misapplication.

I'll also grant that you get unfairly hectored here pretty often, but that doesn't ultimately provide enough support for your argument for me

I did not raise that at all as a point.
posted by dios at 10:16 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem with this viewpoint is that there are no logical constraints to the rule "we should not embrace diversity of thought when the other side is wrong." It becomes an unbounded license for insulting the views of others; all one needs to say "but I am right." Same with your claim that certain opinions are not "equally valid" and therefore should be impermissible; that's a judgment call that is ripe for misapplication.

Except we're not merely talking about spitball opinions that are an amusing diversion. We're talking about one side of the discussion having all the evidence in their favor and the other side having its own intransigence and little else.

If the people shouting down global warming deniers and gay marriage opponents are being so unreasonable there should be something out there to expose their ridiculousness. You shouldn't have to ask us to take your word for it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let me just say this: even if I were to grant you that point, do not see how such certainty of conviction can be abused and used to kill diversity of thought on points in which disagreement might be helpful? I think the dark history of mankind stems largely from power groups who were dead certain there is only one right answer.

Yeah, the nazis were uite certain killing Jews (and Roma, and homosexuals and anybody who was disabled) was the right answer; the rest of the world disagreed strongly. Those in the middle able to see both sides (well, at least the trains run on time)? Not so helpful.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just as a general thing, this thread is gonna be a lot more useful as a discussion of actual site dynamics and things that come up on or happen on Metafilter than it is as an abstract argument about the evils in the heart of humanity and historical atrocities, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:27 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


shouldn't you vote with your wallet and not try to coerce other people into showing respect when they do not do so voluntarily? Why are you trying to get the power of the state mods to do your work for you?

Metafilter is a private organization. They can set any standards that they want for their website. My question/comment was about their stated guidelines and whether they were being applied appropriately.
posted by nolnacs at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not so helpful.

So far in this MeTa, you've suggested someone go somewhere else ('Vote with your wallet') and made Nazi parallels. Not so helpful indeed.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


MartinWisse: " Yeah, the nazis were uite certain killing Jews (and Roma, and homosexuals and anybody who was disabled) was the right answer; the rest of the world disagreed strongly. Those in the middle able to see both sides (well, at least the trains run on time)? Not so helpful."

Oh dear lord. Can we please not Godwin the thread?
posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Except we're not merely talking about spitball opinions that are an amusing diversion. We're talking about one side of the discussion having all the evidence in their favor and the other side having its own intransigence and little else.

I don't see how making the same subjective assumption is a response to the question I asked.

If the people shouting down global warming deniers and gay marriage opponents are being so unreasonable there should be something out there to expose their ridiculousness. You shouldn't have to ask us to take your word for it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:22 PM on August 22


I'm not sure when (or why) this discussion became only about global warming or gay marriage. The topic in this thread is about libertarian viewpoints. But it could equally be about religious viewpoints. Or any other outside the mainstream view here.

Do you think it is appropriate to shout down libertarians and put the burden on them to either defend their right to their opinions as a condition of feeling welcome? Again, this is only about being respectful of differing viewpoints; not endorsing them.
posted by dios at 10:30 AM on August 22, 2012


Why are we supposed to respect homophobia, misogyny, racism, etc?
posted by kmz at 10:31 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the dark history of mankind stems largely from power groups who were dead certain there is only one right answer.

The fact that genocide exists, has existed, and will exist in the future does not mean that I am required to show respect to people who believe I should have fewer civil rights than they do.
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [26 favorites]


Do you think it is appropriate to shout down libertarians and put the burden on them to either defend their right to their opinions as a condition of feeling welcome? Again, this is only about being respectful of differing viewpoints; not endorsing them.

I expect them to play in the same rough-and-tumble as everyone else. The fact that it's libertarians, of all people, asking for special consideration above and beyond the marketplace of ideas is absolutely hilarious.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm 120 comments in and I still cannot figure out what this thread is about. Pope Guilty's acerbic comment about the content linked in the post? That other people also did not agree with the content linked in the post?

I love this place but of course there are flaws. The thing is, I can't tell what the heck the specific flaws at issue are here. Speaking in vague generalities about how awful it is that many MeFites agree on particular topics doesn't really demonstrate a failure to follow guidelines to me. Some (linked) specifics might.
posted by bearwife at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2012


The fact that it's libertarians, of all people, asking for special consideration above and beyond the marketplace of ideas is absolutely hilarious.

I wasn't asking for special consideration. I was merely asking for that commenters show the respect the the site guidelines request of them.
posted by nolnacs at 10:46 AM on August 22, 2012


To answer the question, no, it does not, as this thread exemplifies.

The comment in question was directed at the ideas in the article and not at a member of the site, so that's why it's tolerated. "Fuck you, no fuck you" comments are not tolerated.

That's a laugh. The "no tolerance" policy is all over the map.

---

A great way to engender respect is not to have constant mind-reading and snide straw-men about people's beliefs. But I have zero faith that that will change anytime soon. It's a fucking epidemic. It's in this thread and every thread that I can remember. It's to the point where a mod, (granted, not speaking in mod voice) says that people are required to make assumptions about what people are saying. Not an explanation that they will, but that they are required too.

I would much rather have people simply be able to say "Fuck you" and be done with it (not dragging it on and fucking on forever,) then the much more destructive behavior of everyone constantly trying to discover the "secret reason" behind every post and comment, and then determining that "secret reason" to be the most inflammatory and insulting to the commenter as possible, regardless of what the commenter actually writes.

But that's become part of the culture here. Direct insults are eschewed, to a degree, but flat-out making shit up is just part of the day to day.
posted by Snyder at 10:48 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Let me just say this: even if I were to grant you that point, do not see how such certainty of conviction can be abused and used to kill diversity of thought on points in which disagreement might be helpful? I think the dark history of mankind stems largely from power groups who were dead certain there is only one right answer.

Well, what's under discussion here (among other things) is whether or not the site is welcoming to diversity of viewpoints, and I think the distinction in the scenario you envision is down to what exactly it is that constitutes diversity.

One person's "No, that's wrong" is another person's shouting down of a diverse viewpoint.

But up to a certain point, yeah, I'm pretty comfortable saying there's only one right answer on some subjects. If the test question is "Does gravity exist?" and you answer "No," the teacher isn't killing diversity of thought when they mark your answer wrong.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:48 AM on August 22, 2012


"Let me just say this: even if I were to grant you that point, do not see how such certainty of conviction can be abused and used to kill diversity of thought on points in which disagreement might be helpful? I think the dark history of mankind stems largely from power groups who were dead certain there is only one right answer.

The problem with this viewpoint is that there are no logical constraints to the rule "we should not embrace diversity of thought when the other side is wrong." It becomes an unbounded license for insulting the views of others; all one needs to say "but I am right." Same with your claim that certain opinions are not "equally valid" and therefore should be impermissible; that's a judgment call that is ripe for misapplication.
"

I can gladly concede that certainty of conviction can be abused and can kill off diversity of thought in areas that it might be helpful. However, I don't think that accurately reflects MetaFilter in the main. I think generally, MeFi policy errs on the side of letting people speak their mind; MeFi users then can sometimes use that certainty to hound others. However, as much as there're "two sides" to the idea that certain ideas are impermissible in their expression, there are two sides to the idea that we can't accurately discern a good deal of those positions and so everything should be included. As such, I don't think that an appeal to diversity is useful as a general critique of MeFi discourse — it may be applicable in certain instances, but I don't think you've supported the broader conclusion and I think that arguing for diversity qua diversity is just as ripe for misapplication.

"I did not raise that at all as a point."

Sorry, that was my fault for bad writing. I meant to fold that into the larger point about the harms, not make a personal dig at you.
posted by klangklangston at 10:55 AM on August 22, 2012


I would much rather have people simply be able to say "Fuck you" and be done with it (not dragging it on and fucking on forever,) then the much more destructive behavior of everyone constantly trying to discover the "secret reason" behind every post and comment, and then determining that "secret reason" to be the most inflammatory and insulting to the commenter as possible, regardless of what the commenter actually writes.

But that's become part of the culture here. Direct insults are eschewed, to a degree, but flat-out making shit up is just part of the day to day.


Seriously this. It's starting to feel like if people could just vent their feelings it would cut down on all the game playing that occurs.
posted by Big_B at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to have this discussion without it being about gay marriage? That is, does the general principle of respect for differing viewpoints fail because of the specific case?

I expect them to play in the same rough-and-tumble as everyone else.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:38 PM on August 22


You are kind of ignoring the point: those who fit within the Metafilter viewpoint don't play in the "rough-and-tumble." Only those outside do, which is the point of this thread: shouldn't those people be treated with respect? Or does the holding of a differing viewpoint automatically obligate the holder to withstand direct and open disrespect as a condition of participation? If you go into a thread and type simply "I am a libertarian" or "I plan on voting for Ron Paul" or "I am a Mormon" and nothing else, what should be the response? Shouted down with snark and insults?

I think this place has developed is perceptible homogenous views because it has not been respectful of diverse viewpoints which slowly drives such people away. My impression over the years is that on average the userbase largely likes the homogeneity and doesn't want diversity, and that is ok. But it should be honest about it.
posted by dios at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wasn't asking for special consideration. I was merely asking for that commenters show the respect the the site guidelines request of them.

Sounds like oppression to me. If your ideas can't hack it in an unregulated marketplace then why should I care if they die?
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


If your ideas can't hack it in an unregulated marketplace then why should I care if they die?

SEE ITS FUNNY BECAUSE HES USIGN LIBERTARIAN STUFF TO DISMISS A LIBERARIANS POINT O ZIGN
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:09 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you go into a thread and type simply "I am a libertarian" or "I plan on voting for Ron Paul" or "I am a Mormon" and nothing else, what should be the response? Shouted down with snark and insults?

I'm having a hard time imagining a thread where those comments you describe wouldn't be deleted as noise. There's no content there and it's disingenuous to pretend that it's on that level that shouting-down happens (and I agree that it does happen).

The issues arise with everything that follows " I'm a libertarian...". That there might be one or two libertarians (or whatever) out there who can articulately show how the MeFi consensus is wrong doesn't matter. Hell, they could probably get an FPP if they put in some cat pictures. But for the most part what we're talking about is mind-numbing ignorance being slapped down. And so what? What have we lost?
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:11 AM on August 22, 2012


SEE ITS FUNNY BECAUSE HES USIGN LIBERTARIAN STUFF TO DISMISS A LIBERARIANS POINT O ZIGN

Settle down, Beavis.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:13 AM on August 22, 2012


SEE ITS FUNNY BECAUSE HES USIGN LIBERTARIAN STUFF TO DISMISS A LIBERARIANS POINT O ZIGN

As the saying goes, live by the inanity, die by the inanity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


nolnacs: On MeFi, you will find countless instances of double standards to which liberals are completely blind, as dozens of similar MeTalks have already demonstrated. You're beating a legitimately dead horse.
posted by Ardiril at 11:16 AM on August 22, 2012


You are kind of ignoring the point: those who fit within the Metafilter viewpoint don't play in the "rough-and-tumble." Only those outside do, which is the point of this thread: shouldn't those people be treated with respect? Or does the holding of a differing viewpoint automatically obligate the holder to withstand direct and open disrespect as a condition of participation? If you go into a thread and type simply "I am a libertarian" or "I plan on voting for Ron Paul" or "I am a Mormon" and nothing else, what should be the response? Shouted down with snark and insults? "

Sometimes I fit into the "MeFi viewpoint." Sometimes I don't. I have no problem playing rough and tumble when someone wants to take me to task. (I think a reasonable point can be made that this isn't often the best tack to take, and that sometimes I make the site worse by doing it, but in general, I think most MeFites are down. to. argue. and don't mind a little dustup.)

And I think that there's a difference between snark and insults, even though they overlap, just as I think there's a difference between saying that you're a Mormon and that you plan on voting for Ron Paul. The former, I think, deserves a lot more respect than the latter. (I tend to think the difference is analogous to "I was born in Ireland" and "I've come to a very silly political conclusion that I expect to have taken seriously.")
posted by klangklangston at 11:17 AM on August 22, 2012


Settle down, Beavis.

Aw, I hoping you'd go for a zinger hat trick. Maybe if you make it three times, someone will give you a pity favorite.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you go into a thread and type simply "I am a libertarian" or "I plan on voting for Ron Paul" or "I am a Mormon" and nothing else, what should be the response? Shouted down with snark and insults?

Except nobody does that. The moderators are pretty good at policing personal attacks, as you well know.

If someone walks into a thread about some Mormonism-related topic and says "I am a Mormon" the appropriate response would be "and what do you have to say about this topic?"

And having been in a few threads where I held an opposing viewpoint I can attest to the fact that while having someone snarlingly rebut my idea isn't the best feeling in the universe, I was able feel shitty about being rebutted and yet still make the distinction that it was not a personal attack.

The premise of the issue seems to be whether you think respecting an idea is the same thing as respecting a person. So far, I have not seen a convincing argument for such an idea.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:22 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


On MeFi, you will find countless instances of double standards to which liberals are completely blind, as dozens of similar MeTalks have already demonstrated.>

Here's what's hilarious about this thread (well, one of the things):

It's never about a specific issue with people who are demanding "respect". We're just asked to acknowledge that there might be some issue, somewhere, that libertarians might have the right of. And out of deference to that we're being asked not to point and laugh at obviously stupid opinions.

Sorry, but nothin' doin'.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:24 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


countless instances of double standards to which liberals are completely blind

Could you elaborate on this? I would like to see one of these instances to which you are referring. Just one concrete example will do, I think.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:25 AM on August 22, 2012


Why are we supposed to respect homophobia, misogyny, racism, etc?

This is a good question and I wonder if the answer might be complicated. This comes up often in media criticism. Has the drive to give equal airtime to opposing views worsened the quality of reporting, by placing facts on the same level as ideology?

For example, the factual aspects of reportage about same-sex marriage being harmless or climate change really happening, etc. are often confused by reporting, on the other hand, of ideological noise from demagogues about same-sex marriage destroying values or climate change being a myth, etc. On the other hand, Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, and American media (particularly talk radio) took a dramatic shift to the right. So ideology can baked into the back-and-forth right from the start, which makes that distinction even harder to make. When you read, watch or hear someone say something that challenges your understanding of the world, are you being played from the get-go? It's a tough call, sometimes.

I don't know if this helps Metafilter, but I think the key to this issue is the ability to seek out facts and reality-based evidence and distinguish it clearly from personal-opinion-presented-as-fact.

Perhaps we need not automatically grant respect to odious views "just because" we need to give equal airtime to odiousness, when said views are based not on fact, but on an ideological narrative presented as fact (gay sex is gross, therefore gay marriage is wrong; it's chilly today, ergo climate change is a farse, etc.). One thing that Metafilter used to get right is this important ability to distinguish and value truth over what Frankfurt calls "bullshit" in his excellent book.

Personally, I get more out a so-called "echo chamber" based on a logical discussion of facts, than a muddled, intentional mess of rhetorical noise that exists to give "equal airtime" to inanity — even if there's the risk that some odious views get marginalized. There are plenty of places on the web where homophobia, etc. can flourish, in any case.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:30 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's never about a specific issue with people who are demanding "respect". We're just asked to acknowledge that there might be some issue, somewhere, that libertarians might have the right of. And out of deference to that we're being asked not to point and laugh at obviously stupid opinions.

Right, because it's not about a specific issue. The point isn't that we need to play nice with Nazis and homophobes because their opinions are just as valid as everybody else's, the point is that when we decide it's okay to disregard community guidelines about civil discourse and personal attacks because we just can't help ourselves from indulging in an over-the-top smackdown of something "obviously stupid," we're shitting in our own pool and privileging our own need for self-gratifying snark over maintaining a site atmosphere that doesn't make people with outlier opinions that might actually be interesting or edifying in some way even if we don't agree with them want to throw up their hands and say fuck it, why bother posting.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


Just to try to make lemons from lemonade in this thread, the best-answers in this recent Ask Metafilter question were probably a showcase of this site at its best — citing the science simply takes the what-if question floating around the zeitgeist and puts it down clearly, calmly and without rancor. It's an honest question, answered honestly. It's hard to find a better way to deal with the issue. I wouldn't say it's not a bumpy road, but we seem to do better than most with tough subjects, in spite of being labeled an echo chamber.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The piece linked to in the original article was... a great example of something that's been coring away at the national discourse for quite some time.

One side cannot be 'right' it can only be 'opposite' the other side. Even when one of the sides is asking for birth certificates already released and the other side is asking for proof that the candidate in question hasn't engaged in some rather unethical (yet not always illegal... yet) tax evasion. Especially when said candidate has made it abundantly clear that he has unquestioned access to said forms of unethical (yet not always illegal... yet) tax evasion.

As for the 'good shitheads' part, we've all seen this dog and pony show a couple times before here and dozens if not hundreds of times on the less discerning parts of the web. Frustration, in this case at the people you identify with who are the guilty party this time around, is more than justifiable.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh dear lord. Can we please not Godwin the thread?

Reduction ad absurdum is too a valid logical tool.

So far in this MeTa, you've suggested someone go somewhere else ('Vote with your wallet') and made Nazi parallels. Not so helpful indeed.

The first is what you put into it, the second, eh, sometimes you need to use a nazi example to drive home the absurdity of a position; it's not as if I called anybody a nazi.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:05 PM on August 22, 2012


sometimes you need to use a nazi example to drive home the absurdity of a position

If I have learned one thing from these long years on the internet, it's that this is pretty much never actually the case outside of a discussion of actual historical Nazi Germany.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:07 PM on August 22, 2012 [22 favorites]


One, on a decent number of "controversial" topics, there really is one right answer.

Yes, true, but not everyone agrees what that right answer is, meaning someone has to be wrong even though they think they have the right answer.

In other words, be convinced in your own mind all you like but the whole point of any sort of disagreement is someone else sees it differently. And it is within the realm of possibility their sight is better than yours. Just because an answer is popular does not in itself make it correct.

That having been said, it is entirely possible, for example, for me to have a conversation with, say, a person who disagrees with me on the topic of abortion. Just because I might disagree and disagree strongly with that person does not give me the right to call them a foul name, or to mock them, or to riducule them for their perceived wrongness. Of course I believe I have the correct opinion on the topic. But so do they. So, in the interest of metafilter harmony and good use of the site, the conversation would need to be polite and reasoned no matter how strongly I feel that I am on the side of the angels with the topic.

Now, you are within your rights, in the privacy of your own home or wherever you are posting from, to see the person on the other side of an issue any way you choose. But HERE as we are typing words on a screen that all can see, do we really need to make every contentious topic a crapstorm and make the user experience unpleasant for all? THAT is the point.

IN other words, I don't WANT to be exposed to your perceived opinions on Dios. I don't care if you think he is the devil incarnate. Don't care if you think he eats babies for breakfast, raw. DO. NOT. CARE. And that goes for any other minority opinion on here.

And one more point-just because something is a minority opinion on here does not de facto make it a minority opinion everywhere. Communities differ. Regions of the country differ. Countries themselves differ. Generations differ. Etc. and so on. So, perhaps it would be good to treat the minority opinion here the way you would like to be treated when and where YOU are the minority opinion. Because I promise you, no matter WHAT your opinion is, there is somewhere on this planet, and more than likely lots of somewheres, where YOUR pet opinion is of the minority.

That is all.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:27 PM on August 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


Sometimes you need to use a nazi example to drive home the absurdity of a position

I can't speak to whether this is true elsewhere but it is absolutely not at all true on MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:31 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


That having been said, it is entirely possible, for example, for me to have a conversation with, say, a person who disagrees with me on the topic of abortion. Just because I might disagree and disagree strongly with that person does not give me the right to call them a foul name, or to mock them, or to riducule them for their perceived wrongness. Of course I believe I have the correct opinion on the topic. But so do they. So, in the interest of metafilter harmony and good use of the site, the conversation would need to be polite and reasoned no matter how strongly I feel that I am on the side of the angels with the topic.

A favorite for every beat of my heart.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:40 PM on August 22, 2012


The first is what you put into it

Please explain to me how "shouldn't you vote with your wallet" isn't another way of saying 'take your custom elsewhere'.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2012


MartinWisse: "Reduction ad absurdum is too a valid logical tool.

The example you're using is destructive to conversation.
posted by zarq at 12:47 PM on August 22, 2012


Blazecock Pileon  Personally, I get more out a so-called "echo chamber" based on a logical discussion of facts, than a muddled, intentional mess of rhetorical noise that exists to give "equal airtime" to inanity — even if there's the risk that some odious views get marginalized.

Yes, but let's not pretend that that's not a false dichotomy; in theory, even many views "we" find odious can be aired with restraint and logic. It's just that there's a host of reasons, both good and bad, that MetaFilter might not be the place for that.

dios  I think this place has developed is perceptible homogenous views because it has not been respectful of diverse viewpoints which slowly drives such people away. My impression over the years is that on average the userbase largely likes the homogeneity and doesn't want diversity, and that is ok. But it should be honest about it.

I'm not sure whether he intended it, but Blazecock Pileon's statement overlaps with dios's statement, which I mostly agree with. MetaFilter is not a place I can come to read nuanced discussion of opinions that are anything close to rightward of the American center, even if those opinions are held by a majority or plurality of all people or all Americans. I have to go elsewhere for that.

I think that MetaFilter is impoverished in certain ways by that — it means I really don't bother looking to MeFi as a decent source of links/discussion on politics, religion, or most social and economic topics — but it is also true that MetaFilter's being a good or broad collector of links/discussion on those particular subjects is probably not one of mathowie's/the mods' goals for the site, or that if it were, the site would also lose a valuable segment of its membership that feels comfortable/safe here because MetaFilter does have a cultural consensus on issues that elsewhere are still fiercely contested.
posted by hat at 12:56 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


On the Daily Show the other day there was a hilarious bit with Sarah Palin saying that she could not think of a single prominent Republican who uses angry or divisive language to characterize those who disagree with them. What struck me about that is that in the moment of saying it I'm sure she believes its true--or, at least, that it's true enough in the sense that she feels that Democrats are overwhelmingly rude and angry and hateful in their rhetoric where Republicans are only once in a while and under extreme provocation goaded into getting a little overheated.

The thing is, you don't really notice your own side going overboard unless they go utterly freaking apeshit. When the other side goes even the tiniest bit over the line, though, boy do you notice--and you tsk tsk over it with your friends and you agonize over it in op-ed pieces and you turn it into attack ads against your opponent and so forth.

The same thing happens ALL the time on Metafilter. I can't really imagine just how hostile an environment this must be if you're genuinely a conservative. And for the most part Mefites seem to be astonishingly blind to this fact. If you voice any political opinion on this site that falls outside of a pretty narrow band you can be sure that you will very quickly be told, in no uncertain terms, not only that you are a bad person whose beliefs are bad, but that you arguing in bad faith. I don't know if there's anything to be done to stop this--it's kinda human nature for groups to enjoy groupthink and to try to exclude those who challenge the groupthink. But I do think it would do everyone good to at least try to understand that it's possible for someone to disagree with you about something without necessarily being either evil or a disingenuous troll.
posted by yoink at 12:59 PM on August 22, 2012 [19 favorites]


Sounds like oppression to me. If your ideas can't hack it in an unregulated marketplace then why should I care if they die?

Maybe because you are part of a self selected community that claims to value respectful discourse.

I have to say that this thread has been quite enlightening
posted by nolnacs at 1:17 PM on August 22, 2012


Having returned from my walk—it was very invigorating, thanks—I realize that the correct response to the question posed at the start is "Oh, yeah, I love the fuck out of Aretha. She's a national treasure."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:17 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing is, you don't really notice your own side going overboard unless they go utterly freaking apeshit.

I think for the most part (and certainly in threads with heated arguments), people don't really notice comments they agree with nearly as much as comments they disagree with. I know I've been reading threads and felt like people I disagreed with were shouting over the meek voices of the sad few I agreed with, but then when I actually went back and counted the numbers of comments and commenters, it was close to even, if not tilted in favor of my side. I've also seen arguments in threads where it was clear that by the end, each side was sure the other massively outnumbered them. For a while, I figured it was some sort of cynical tactic to gain sympathy, but I think it's just that the bar for something you agree with to stick in your memory is a lot higher than something you disagree with. Something that I agree with that's not particularly well-written, or that I feel like misses some nuance, or is only 75% of my actual position isn't going to stand out for me, but something I disagree with that's badly written or not particularly logical is only going to stand out more.
posted by Copronymus at 1:21 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


The same thing happens ALL the time on Metafilter. I can't really imagine just how hostile an environment this must be if you're genuinely a conservative. And for the most part Mefites seem to be astonishingly blind to this fact. If you voice any political opinion on this site that falls outside of a pretty narrow band you can be sure that you will very quickly be told, in no uncertain terms, not only that you are a bad person whose beliefs are bad, but that you arguing in bad faith. I don't know if there's anything to be done to stop this--it's kinda human nature for groups to enjoy groupthink and to try to exclude those who challenge the groupthink. But I do think it would do everyone good to at least try to understand that it's possible for someone to disagree with you about something without necessarily being either evil or a disingenuous troll.

Eh, it just gets so tiring, and its' because I think your last sentence is partially wrong for many issues: it's possible to disagree without being a disingenuous troll, but not without being evil. Take the gay marriage issue: it's just tiring dealing with the bullshit. It doesn't matter what you think your reasons are, you're a bad person for opposing rights for gays. You simply can't hold such a position without being evil, whether you see it or not. Or anyone holding any position fighting against people's rights.

It gets so you feel a big part of the problem in the world is that we don't tell people that they are bad people with bad beliefs, that we have to pretend they're valid and treat them well. If someone is spouting some idiot political opinion, they need to be called an idiot. If some libertarian is screeching yet again about hyper-inflation and how we totally need to undo all regulations to live in a free-market paradise, they should be shunned and ridiculed because they have ridiculous beliefs. The problem comes from even letting them into the conversation as serious participants at all, because now their dangerous idiocy seems like a valid option.

I know, I know, you could flip it around and say the same thing about any opinion, and it would chill discourse, and you'd be right. I'm just venting frustration because it seems time and again that the conservatives can breathe fire and brimstone and attack like mad and progressives just sit back and vacillate and say, "Er, um, that was wrong but we respect your opinion on the issue and wouldn't want to stifle discussion..." and get their asses kicked. But if the progressives stand up, then it's all "Oh, you're stamping out diversity of opinion! Of course we need to let climate change deniers have equal footing with climate scientists!"
posted by Sangermaine at 1:27 PM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


For a while, I figured it was some sort of cynical tactic to gain sympathy, but I think it's just that the bar for something you agree with to stick in your memory is a lot higher than something you disagree with. Something that I agree with that's not particularly well-written, or that I feel like misses some nuance, or is only 75% of my actual position isn't going to stand out for me, but something I disagree with that's badly written or not particularly logical is only going to stand out more.

Oh absolutely. Part of the problem is that the stuff you agree with seems like self-evident TRUTH that only the morally depraved would possibly think to question. And then HOLY SHIT: look at all these morally depraved people pretending that they aren't persuaded by the obvious shining truth that has been unveiled before them. Gah! How could they!
posted by yoink at 1:29 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems like whenever I see some variation of this conversation (here and the girlzone MeTa being the most recent examples), it turns into a bunch of folks jumping up and down screaming "{Racism/Sexism/Homophobia/etc.} is evil and I {don't want that kind of diversity on my Metafilter/will never treat those views with respect}."

And hey, you know, I get that -- I don't want to see racism, sexism, or homophobia on Metafilter either, and I don't respect those viewpoints. I believe there is a Right Answer and a Wrong Answer on those particular issues. I draw my bright line there.

But I also believe there are many other topics where people of good conscience can disagree. Alas, there are people who believe there is a Right Answer and a Wrong Answer on THOSE topics as well. They draw their bright lines differently than I draw mine. And they run any opposing viewpoints on those other issues through the same filter of "{x} is evil and I [don't want that kind of diversity on my Metafilter/will never treat those views with respect]."

With all those competing bright lines, where do we end up? It pretty much feels like this:

Do you believe in a religion? You are evil because you are lying to your children about a Sky Dude and oh by the way people committed murder in the name of the Sky Dude.

Worse, are you a Mormon with anything positive to say about the LDS? You are clearly brainwashed/an apologist for gay-bashing polygamists.

Are you from the Southern United States with anything positive to say about it (other than the ready availability of sweet tea)? You are clearly brainwashed/an apologist for gay-bashing racists.

Are you a member of the Armed Forces, or do you work for the Department of Defense? You are an evil baby-killer. Why must you kill the babies?

Are you a conservative on selected political/social/economic issues? You are evil and hope that all non-wealthy, non-white, non-straight, non-male people will spontaneously combust, and don't you dare try to deny it.

Are you a moderate on selected political/social/economic issues? You are brainwashed, weak, and/or evil, you enabler of/apologist for conservatives. See above!


I've done the required reading on privilege and I am slightly left-leaning politically, so hopefully I'm allowed to voice an opinion on this, but possibly not... since I meet at least one of the above categories I might be Not the Kind of Diversity that Deserves Respect. And I guess that's the point of this whole, wretchedly long-winded comment... all these competing bright lines mean that Metafilter's Kind-of-Diversity-that-Deserves-Respect bucket is continually shrinking, and that saddens me greatly.

(On preview, others are far more eloquent and succinct than I am... gah.)
posted by somanyamys at 1:40 PM on August 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Does Mefi take respect seriously?

Sure it does, quite often. It seldom takes rhetorical questions seriously, though.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:41 PM on August 22, 2012


it's possible to disagree without being a disingenuous troll, but not without being evil.

On some issues, sure. If you're pro-slavery, for example, or "anti-allowing-Jews-to-live" then yeah, you're evil. But those are not even remotely the "narrow band" I was referring to in my post. No one is suggesting that one has to pretend that all opinions are valid in the service of some kind of wishy-washy relativism.

But the fact is that you don't have to be Fred Phelps or Ayn Rand to get the "you're obviously a troll and/or an evil person" response here. Heck, look at the direct accusations of bad faith that have been levied in this thread against the OP whose stated position on gay marriage is that gays and non gays alike should all have exactly the same rights. Now, o.k., he thinks the solution is to give a "civil union" to all. That seems like something you could usefully argue back and forth. Myself, I think such a ship sailed some time ago and I think it's premised upon a fetishization of the word "marriage" which is basically misplaced. But it is clearly non-discriminatory (by definition) and it is clearly within an acceptable range of "non-evil" (if not necessarily "optimal") positions to adopt. The suggestion that the holder of such a position is so beyond the bounds of civilized discourse that they cannot possibly advance such an opinion in good faith is manifestly absurd. And yet here we are--and this is typical of the reception of almost any political position advanced on Metafilter that isn't 100% in accord with the community norms.
posted by yoink at 1:42 PM on August 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


hile I agree with the "Metafilter status quo" in many respects, I've found that there are some significant issues that I disagree with them on, and in the past it caused pile-ons with bitchy Mefites getting all snarky at me. (BTW, I want to clarify here that I am using the word "bitchy" in a gender-neutral sense - no disrespect to women is intended.)

One thing which seems to have gradually rectified the problem is that I have grown better at recognizing what views I hold are likely to be unpopular and when I feel compelled to post such a view, I try to make sure to articulate my thoughts exceptionally clearly and politely. This serves two purposes:

1) It gives the bullies who attempt to start pile-ons less material to work with. In order to instigate a pile-on, they need you to make some verbal faux-pas which they will blow out of proportion to demonize you. The less material you give them to rally the mob, the harder it is for them to generate that flashpoint of anger needed to start a pile-on.

2) It encourages other people who might share your opinion to speak out in support of you. Pile-on peeps are generally "favorites scavengers" looking to score easy points - and like all scavengers, they favor easy targets - if they see you have a certain amount of support (regardless of whether it's support for your opinion or for your respectful attitude) then generally they'll move on.

That said, if you have an unpopular opinion, expect to be criticized for it - justly or unjustly. Unless you develop a keyboard that can deliver electric shocks across the internet (Kickstarter, anyone?) it's pointless to get too upset over it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:44 PM on August 22, 2012


(I meant "While" not "hile" in my comment above - just FYI since that would completely alter the meaning)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:45 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work in advertising, and I eat shit on this site on pretty much a weekly basis.

I live with it. Sometimes I engage the person that's expressing their ire, and usually, confronted by somebody that says "hey, I work in advertising, and that's not at all my experience" or something similar, they take a step back and a virtual deep breath and we have a decent conversation about their assumptions about me, and what I actually do for a living, and how the real world of advertising and marketing intersects with their perception of it.

It rarely ends with hugs and back-slapping promises to be BFFs, but when I've got the energy to engage somebody who's on an anti-marketing rant, the conversation usually winds down a respectable conclusion.

The tone taken towards marketing people – and lawyers, often, and sometimes other broad swaths of society – is generally not what I'd characterize as "respectful."

On the other hand, I'm a grown-assed man, and one capable of recognizing when somebody's coming from a place of legitimate ire. Even if I disagree with the fundamental source of the ire, if somebody says "all marketers are shitheads", I don't retire to the fainting couch.

I like the people here. I like the conversations. I find it incredibly heartwarming that when you get 6000+ really smart people together and let them talk with moderation geared towards ensuring quality conversation rather than a certain point of view, the eventual consensus seems to be that people are good, freedom is good, equality is good and prejudice is bad.

My personal cost for entry is the fact that I'm going to often run across really smart people who really, really, really hate what I do. Sometimes they're going to be a bit rude about it. Sometimes they're going to be very rude about it.

And I – as long as I adhere to some broad standards of conversation – can try to change their minds on that front. And I get to be rude too, or at least exceptionally snarky. And I'm usually outgunned intellectually and ridiculously outnumbered, but in my general experience, as long as I hold up my end of the conversation in good faith, the other community members will keep their end it up as well.

I'm happy to be part of a site where people can express this stuff without it being constantly couched in some sort of pinky-extended tea-sipping Victorian rules of conduct. Even when it's directed at me. It's honest conversation. I prize it.
posted by Shepherd at 1:49 PM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


It gets so you feel a big part of the problem in the world is that we don't tell people that they are bad people with bad beliefs, that we have to pretend they're valid and treat them well. If someone is spouting some idiot political opinion, they need to be called an idiot. If some libertarian is screeching yet again about hyper-inflation and how we totally need to undo all regulations to live in a free-market paradise, they should be shunned and ridiculed because they have ridiculous beliefs. The problem comes from even letting them into the conversation as serious participants at all, because now their dangerous idiocy seems like a valid option.

I agree 100% with this, but there is a vast gulf between "telling people that they are bad people with bad beliefs" and "we have to pretend they're valid and treat them well". If these beliefs are so very obviously bad, then it should be easy to make a reasoned moral and factual argument as to why they are bad. IMHO this is about the only kind of "treat[ing] them well" which should be required, and it should be required because doing otherwise (a la "everyone knows such-and-such is bad!") weakens our own position. People tend to take the paramount importance of certain things on faith -- such as the "free market" or "civil rights" -- and this is fine, but stopping there makes it hard to convince people who haven't made the same assumptions, even if those assumptions are correct. Thinking in-depth about why such-and-such is bad tends to be much more rewarding... which is why it's frustrating when discussions here fail to get past "x is good/bad" and "omg you're good/bad because you said x is good/bad!"

I understand why people get tired of discussing these things, especially the 10,000th time 'round the mulberry bush and especially when people aren't bothering to listen, but I still think it's important. We got here because the media started treating reason as if it were optional in public discourse -- we cannot dig our way out with yet more of the same, whether it comes from the "right" side or not.
posted by vorfeed at 1:52 PM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


You know, you can actually think someone is evil without calling them a @#!%&* on this site, and your head won't explode. I am not asking anyone to not be true with their own worldview, and I am not asking to be treated or for anyone else to be treated with kid gloves. I am sure we have all seen tv programs in which for example two people on opposite sides of a question are going at it hammer and tongs and yet no one is being called an a##h##le or a spawn of satan or a ringtailed raw babyeater.

Maybe the word I am searching for is...dignity. Disagree with dignity.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:57 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but let's not pretend that that's not a false dichotomy; in theory, even many views "we" find odious can be aired with restraint and logic. It's just that there's a host of reasons, both good and bad, that MetaFilter might not be the place for that.

What's funny to me about the original thread in question is that there could have been an interesting discussion about how the media plays both sides of a political divide in order to maintain that divide and marginalize alternatives. This was derailed by opinions about Reason and pop libertarianism, most of which I agree with, but which seemed (to my eyes) largely incidental to the actual content in the link and what it was parodying. I enjoy parody that shows the absurdity of the process unfolding around us once again, so I appreciated the post on that level, but the comments weren't too interesting. Not every post's commentary is guaranteed to go well, but I'm still not convinced if that's enough to be an indictment of the site as a whole.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:14 PM on August 22, 2012


You simply can't hold such a position without being evil, whether you see it or not. Or anyone holding any position fighting against people's rights.


I think your view involves a rather limited set of moral categories. For instance, there's almost certainly a group of people who just haven't thought much about the issue and aren't so much "evil" as "ignorant". Even if you want to call them "evil" you could, with a more complex set of moral categories call them, non-culpably evil". It would be wrong to abuse them, because they are not responsible for their beliefs, rather you should respectfully educate them.

In a mixed population of the good, the evil and the non-culpably evil, being respectful to the evil (tolerating their opinion) is advantageous, because if you don't you will scare off the non-culpably evil and likely harden their opinion against you. If you are respectful, they may engage and be educated (and indeed, so might the culpably evil). These are the advantages of allowing freedom of speech. (Sorry this is a bit sketchy, typing on my phone. )
posted by Jahaza at 2:17 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think asking the conversation to be more civil is fine to a point but at a certain point I've seen it used over and over as a tool for silencing the other person. Asking for civility and then listening to the opposing viewpoint in a respectful, open stance is obvious generally more productive than two people ranting at each but asking for civility can also carry with it an implied dismissal that the aggrieved party's thoughts and feelings are too strident to be tolerated in polite company.

Furthermore a decent number of people especially from historical disadvantaged groups of people (race, gender, religion, etc) have been used to years of being expect to sit and bear it when all sorts of individuals go off on all numbers of rants about their pet topic and personal beliefs. There is a very real belief that ignoring the bigot or even trying to discourse with them in a civil manner is either a) giving that person power or b) tacitly condoning that sort of behavior. As a result they feel the need to confront individuals with antagonistic viewpoints as a way of saying not just to that person but more importantly to the rest of the community that behaviors x,y or z aren't going to be tolerated. On many communities these types of poster inevitably flameout as they get baited into increasing attempts to provoke a reaction but I think the essential truth is that you don't have to be tolerant of every viewpoint in order to be a civil and tolerant individual.

In relation to the Libertarians and Conservatives, I can empathize that your viewpoints often get mocked and ridiculed in a exceedingly dismissive way but understand that on a site of these size with a userbase as large as this one is, the desire to sit down and type a long treatise everytime some libertarian drops a false equivalency about how it's a bad rhetorical device that has a long history of polluting discourse on the site gets really old. So people adopt short or two sentence dismissals of the poster's point. In some ways this is rewarded by the favorite system which often seems to reward the quickest and most snarky dismissal of the OP article but that's just one of the consequences of a large relatively free flowing community of ideas with diverse viewpoints, we take short cuts because not every post we read that bothers us warrants a massive post explaining how that poster is completely wrong.
posted by vuron at 2:19 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you are respectful, they may engage and be educated (and indeed, so might the culpably evil).

You can't educate people who revel in their ignorance and worship at the altar of anti-intellectualism.
posted by Talez at 2:28 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


...on a site of these size with a userbase as large as this one is, the desire to sit down and type a long treatise everytime some libertarian drops a false equivalency about how it's a bad rhetorical device that has a long history of polluting discourse on the site gets really old. So people adopt short or two sentence dismissals of the poster's point.

There's nothing inherentwly rong or disrespectful about a short dismissal. "I'm not going to be persuaded by arguments that government shouldn't pay for health care." Or whatever. But a) you then have to live with the consequences. If someone says "You're being closeminded about this." You just have to admit it's true and move on. B) if your comment is instead "I'm not listening to any argument abut this. Anyone who thinks government shouldn't be providing health care is a selfish immoral bastard who deserves to die slow painfully and uninsured." That's not just dismissive, but also disrespectful.
posted by Jahaza at 2:28 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think asking the conversation to be more civil is fine to a point but at a certain point I've seen it used over and over as a tool for silencing the other person.

I think we're a pretty long country mile away from being at the point where conservatives and other atypical Metafilter participants are able to "silence" political viewpoints they disagree with on this site. Above all by making appeals for "civil conversation."

If you could point me to a thread where someone made an appeal for "civil conversation" and that "silenced" all the progressive Mefites who were participating I'd be interested to see it.

The thing is, we all like to think of ourselves as the embattled minority. And no doubt on many issues and in many communities many of the people on this site are the "embattled minority." But on Metafilter it's pretty clear that the power of the community is pretty solidly on one side of the political spectrum. And I don't think that we cover ourselves in glory in demonstrating how wonderfully open minded and self-reflexive that side of the spectrum is when it comes to hot-button political topics.
posted by yoink at 2:37 PM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


You can't educate people who revel in their ignorance and worship at the altar of anti-intellectualism.

No. But nor is it particularly enlightening to start from the assumption that your interlocutor "revels in his ignorance" and "worships at the altar of anti-intellectualism."
posted by yoink at 2:40 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


we take short cuts because not every post we read that bothers us warrants a massive post explaining how that poster is completely wrong.

If the shortcut involves you insulting the user, or otherwise being an asshole, it pollutes the discourse of the site, and you shouldn't do it. There were plenty of 1 to 2 sentence replies that didn't in that thread. Even snarky ones!

that's just one of the consequences of a large relatively free flowing community of ideas with diverse viewpoints

This could easily be used as a retort for much of the girlzone thread.

I have seen, on this thread and the girlzone thread, special pleading on the part of people, that some opinions are so odious, so terrible, that the rules of Metafilter can not be applied evenly to those who reply to them. That civil discourse can not be used in the face of them. Yes, this is a tone argument. But we have a minimum bar for tone on Metafilter. We don't get to use slurs, we don't get to tell people to go fuck themselves. While I could see this apply to many areas, like say, cannibalism, I believe there are enough gray areas, like abortion, where both sides see the other as evil, and that the loss of civil discourse would occur on both sides, leading to little more than a screaming match.
posted by zabuni at 2:42 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


On MeFi, you will find countless instances of double standards to which liberals are completely blind, as dozens of similar MeTalks have already demonstrated. You're beating a legitimately dead horse.

Surely you meant a forcibly dead horse?
 
posted by Herodios at 2:51 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think asking the conversation to be more civil is fine to a point but at a certain point I've seen it used over and over as a tool for silencing the other person. Asking for civility and then listening to the opposing viewpoint in a respectful, open stance is obvious generally more productive than two people ranting at each but asking for civility can also carry with it an implied dismissal that the aggrieved party's thoughts and feelings are too strident to be tolerated in polite company.

This is absolutely true, but I've also seen the "tone" fallacy touted out to silence people who are concerned about respectful dialogue as an appropriate prerequisite for actually getting to the bottom of ideological differences. Because that is a genuine concern, else the room simply because an echo chamber for the person who yells the loudest. Most people don't want to compete with that, as a simple sociological reality. It stifles discussion.

I think the solution is as you say, though: don't use the "tone" concern to silence people (and call people on it when you see it), but don't act like there isn't a line that can be crossed, either. I suspect that those who say that some level of respect/tone/whathaveyou is not important (and yet are most guilty of it) are often those who really aren't interested in inter-ideological dialogue, but rather have set up shop as a place to vent and are probably getting territorial about being challenged on their safe place to do it. Either that, or they are much more sure of themselves (*cough* hubris) than is probably warranted.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:01 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of the problem is that the stuff you agree with seems like self-evident TRUTH that only the morally depraved would possibly think to question. And then HOLY SHIT: look at all these morally depraved people pretending that they aren't persuaded by the obvious shining truth that has been unveiled before them. Gah! How could they!

And, of the rude people who do this on MetaFilter, there are two basic motivations:

one, they don't understand how somebody might disagree with them, except to assume bad faith on the other person's part; or
two, they simply don't care.

If the only people allowed to speak were the ones with enough restraint to calm their voices before speaking, then we'd miss out on a lot of important voices. For subjects in which people are emotionally invested, demanding calm, empathy, and understanding places an unfair burden on commenters for whom the topic is not just an academic issue.

People should respect and understand other people – but shouldn't that mean we should understand why some people find respect so difficult? Understand why, say, somebody might hate homophobia, or a political stance, or a religious belief, so much that they find it hard to turn the other cheek? And shouldn't that understanding then factor into our own beliefs, so that we, say, stop espousing beliefs that hurt others worse than mere "disrespect"?

Some beliefs are disrespectful unto themselves. Simply having them is a hurtful act, more hurtful than mere words ever could be.

The dickishness frustrates me too, but I understand where it's coming from – and I understand, too, that sometimes more than feelings are at stake.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:41 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


> If you voice any political opinion on this site that falls outside of a pretty narrow band you can be
> sure that you will very quickly be told, in no uncertain terms, not only that you are a bad person
> whose beliefs are bad, but that you arguing in bad faith.

But all that unwelcome stuff is factually wrong and actively hurtful, y'see, and we have a right to a safe space where we don't have to encounter it.


> I can't really imagine just how hostile an environment this must be if you're genuinely a conservative.

It helps to have been on site since well before the herd mentality set in and to be able to gaze at it in amused detachment--once this was not, and in time it will no longer be. Another thing that helps is the occasions, not all that rare, when someone explicitly rejects "do unto others" as a basic principle without getting any pushback. It's a reminder that I am just as much among the blind and brain-damaged here as on any other site (Alice: "But I don't want to go among mad people." Cheshire Cat: "Oh, you can't help that.")
posted by jfuller at 3:49 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've said this before in MeTa many times but there is a difference between saying "This conversation is making me angry, here's why..." and "I am angry because of this conversation..." and then acting out angrily in the thread.

While I understand the tone argument problem, we also have minimum standards for people getting along with people here (no personal attacks, no "go fuck yourself") and conversations go significantly better if people can talk about their anger without doing so angrily. This sometimes means that we miss out on some people's contributions or that people comment once they've calmed down and not right at the time but overall that works out better for the site. We understand that people get emotional and that may not be something they can control. How they decide to act on that emotion here on MetaFilter should be something that is a little more manageable, either by them or by us. We'd prefer it was by them.

One thing we know is that people draw the line on the "what opinions are so noxious that it's okay acting like an asshole to someone?" continuum quite differently. We-as-mods are pretty lenient with people who trip over this once or twice, we are getting less lenient with people who seem to have an ongoing low level rage problem that they bring with them to threads and use their temper to excoriate people with whom they disagree. And people who defend their right to be consistently assholish to people on this site. It's not that it's difficult to understand where they are coming from or why they feel so strongly, it's that we would like people to understand that this is a large community with many voices and it's not good to call someone an asshole as well as it's not good to be an asshole.

So in answer to the top question, we-as-mods take respect seriously but demanding it is a difficult process especially with touchy topics.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:54 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had previously posted the piece at Monkeyfilter because I thought it was funny but would NEVER fly at MeFi. (And I got the link from the original newspaper site, not Reason). In that context, I thought its False Dichotomy better reflected the attitude of the Mainstream (so-called Liberal) Media and was kind of surprised to see it picked up by the Glibertarians (yes, I intended that as an insult - I'd have used 'Lamestream Media' too but it's best known as a Sarah Palin quote and one of the things that made me believe they were Lame was trying to treat her candidacy seriously - but I digress). And that was why I personally favorited the comment but not the post.

Going back to the truest thing Colbert ever said as a joke: "Reality has a liberal bias". Yes, but not a Democratic Party bias. And that is why MetaFilter is the most Reality-Based community site on the Internet and DailyKos is not even close. (note I said Most, not Totally)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:55 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"But all that unwelcome stuff is factually wrong and actively hurtful, y'see, and we have a right to a safe space where we don't have to encounter it."

At the risk of being too much of this thread: This is an asshole comment and I don't feel bad at all about calling it an asshole comment.

It misrepresents the concerns of people in a belittling and factually inaccurate way, and in a way that doesn't advance any particular position, but rather snipes at others sarcastically.

It's not funny, it doesn't add anything to the conversation, and I don't particularly care if you feel silenced by my objecting to it. When I say that there are plenty of wrong comments that deserve to be called out, this is pretty much exactly what I mean.
posted by klangklangston at 4:31 PM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


If I find something unworthy of respect, I'm going to disrespect it. I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. You would be well advised to recognise this as a thing, and possibly learn to deal. It'll help you stress out less.
posted by Decani at 4:50 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you think it is appropriate to shout down libertarians and put the burden on them to either defend their right to their opinions as a condition of feeling welcome? Again, this is only about being respectful of differing viewpoints; not endorsing them.

I feel the above - and in some respects the issues of the OP and others in this thread - is overstating the homogeneity and underplaying the diversity of the community. For example, I think there are *some* things, that the "Mefi-Line" on would be very similar to the Libertarian take, marijuana legalisation is the first example that leaps to mind (additionally, I can't help but note how much of this discussion and the issues and framing contained with them are particular to an American context. It's another example, really: the "Mefi-line" on things is obviously predominantly American, but to act that a norm towards American thinking is rigorously enforced, or that non-American perspectives are shouted down and disrespected is not true at all in my experience).

I think the problem, Nolnacs, is that your post contains to issues that kind of overlap - 1: Can people not be more respectful of other viewpoints? I think this is a valid question to ask, regardless of if we may disagree about actual execution. In this respect, I agree that there are some norms. My pet peeve is the general ignorance and grandstanding that occurs in any thread based around Finance or Economics. Also, as someone who has also worked in PR and currently works for a multi-national, I feel some portions of the user-base are very comfortable chucking off about economics/finance/PR/multinationals, when in actuality their knowledge of those topics does not justify their vociferous comments in threads, which are typically ignored rather than deleted. I tend to view these interjections with irritation, but also as an opportunity to inject some nuance/context into the discussion as well.

However, the second is you could be seen to be advocating a kind of "view from nowhere, where viewpoints must be accorded equal respect and weight - regardless of merit. I do not truck with that, especially in regards to things like: homophobia, immunisations, etc - whilst acknowledging that screaming at people rarely achieves anything but an increase in blood pressure. I think there is very much a "mefi-line" around issues like, and beyond, this.

More broadly, I thought it was a shitty post to a shitty article, and shit tends to beget shit on the blue I've noticed. It's true that libertarians are generally ridiculed here - but a substantive link maybe have gotten better responses. I would be wary of looking at any particular thread as somehow representative of the broader community. It's much more diverse than that.
posted by smoke at 4:52 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


The problem comes from even letting them into the conversation as serious participants at all, because now their dangerous idiocy seems like a valid option.

- Sangermaine

I know you were just venting here, but I’m guessing that while disallowing a certain subset into serious discussion on topics-you-are-passionate-about might provide some benefits (less of your time spent correcting the opposition, less time spent defending your position, more energy afforded to progress toward a desired end), you would not enjoy this as a general way of structuring public conversation, particularly the things that would be missed as a result. Do you really see only bad and no good coming from this type of discourse?
posted by klausman at 5:09 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon  [...] there could have been an interesting discussion about how the media plays both sides of a political divide in order to maintain that divide and marginalize alternatives. This was derailed by opinions about Reason and pop libertarianism, most of which I agree with, but which seemed (to my eyes) largely incidental to the actual content in the link and what it was parodying. [...] Not every post's commentary is guaranteed to go well, but I'm still not convinced if that's enough to be an indictment of the site as a whole.

Grant that the first 20 comments of any active thread are mostly cruft. But add to the above the fact that many of those first comments imply in tone, if not explicitly state outright, that a libertarian stance (or at least the MeFi popular view of libertarianism) is nearly a priori and by local consensus worthy of nothing but derision.

That mix of backslapping and, more importantly, defining of the outsiders firmly sets the tone in nearly every politics thread. If an interesting discussion is the goal — again, there are many reasons why it might not be, when at least one of the points of view is controversial — then yes, the "we're all in this together to mock those shitheads!" atmosphere is self-reinforcingly toxic. As you noticed, in addition to killing off most of the outsiders, it also kills off the best contributions from people you agree with.
posted by hat at 6:09 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: kind of a facile, sophomoric piece of stunt writing
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:32 PM on August 22, 2012


Idiots/Glibertarians aren't worthy of respect. Sorry.
posted by bardic at 6:51 PM on August 22, 2012


If I find something unworthy of respect, I'm going to disrespect it. I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. You would be well advised to recognise this as a thing, and possibly learn to deal. It'll help you stress out less.

You know, I'm sure you see yourself, I don't know, in 1933 Germany shouting down the Brownshirt mob or some such when you say something like this. But then it turns out in practice what you really mean is behaving like a jerk to someone who has a slightly different opinion about what leeway Obama has to negotiate a budget settlement with the House Republicans--or some other such relatively minor policy dispute.

Yes, things that are genuinely contemptible should be met with contempt. But on this site that rapidly morphs--all too frequently--into treating everyone with contempt if they simply disagree with you on any political matter whatsoever.
posted by yoink at 7:07 PM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is way more overt libetarianism expressed, defended, and lauded on MetaFilter than in any physical place I've ever lived.

Republicanism is a different story, of course.
posted by escabeche at 7:23 PM on August 22, 2012


There's plenty of support for (some) tenets of social libertarianism around here, sure. Economic libertarianism is a different story, and that seems to be part and parcel of big-L Libertarianism in the United States.
posted by vorfeed at 8:33 PM on August 22, 2012


MetaFilter isn't a united front, though there are some topics that are over-run by a vocal majority.

I think a major issue is the sheer size of the userbase. The site is generally liberal-leaning, and given the sheer number of members, that lean pushes conservative discussions aside. With this many users, contentious topics can gain momentum quickly, and from a series of short "X is Dumb! I'd punch X in the face!" comments without detail, which can drive away supporters of X, even those who have the patience to respond to comments with content and elaboration. But there are plenty of contentious topics that don't divide cleanly into liberal/conservative, and the heated discussions are well-balanced, if overly shouty, and in some cases down-right aggressive. But there is enough energy from at least two sides to keep the discussion from being one-sided.

I'd actually like to see write-up on the heated topics of MetaFilter, complete with counting numbers of members who support the different sides of the discussion, because I think there's a lot of diversity, and some really good conversations on tough topics. Still, there are enough threads that go badly, even with the mods' diligent pruning of pure GRAR.

I'd like to think that outsiders stick around for other topics that appeal to them, but it may just be that there are enough interesting people who share a vaguely similar liberal ideas, but have diverse interests and come from diverse backgrounds.

Since there are plenty of comments here about discussions that are dead-in-the-water on MetaFilter (from the commenter's point of view), what are the topics that aren't on the Bad Post list (unofficial MeFi wiki) that people avoid? I don't usually slog through the comments in heated or long threads, as my current mantra is "there are enough people discussing this heated topic already, I have nothing to add," so I may well be missing some non-obvious cases where people feel unwelcomed.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:33 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I find something unworthy of respect, I'm going to disrespect it. I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. You would be well advised to recognise this as a thing, and possibly learn to deal. It'll help you stress out less.

It seems that for some, this is the only way in which they contribute to this website. A small cadre of preening narcissists who are completely unable to contribute unless it is to poison conversation and demonstrate their superiority. You would be well advised to consider Metafilter a community and not your toilet.
posted by Falconetti at 8:44 PM on August 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Snyder: I would much rather have people simply be able to say "Fuck you" and be done with it (not dragging it on and fucking on forever,) then the much more destructive behavior of everyone constantly trying to discover the "secret reason" behind every post and comment

The problem is that "Fuck You" is a final comment, providing nowhere to go. You either say "No, Fuck You" and the anger amps up, or you go away. "Secret reasons" are created when someone provides a bit more than "Fuck You," instead dropping a single sentence or two that is counter to the general feeling of the thread, and leaves. Everyone loves cake, let's say, and pie is right-out. Then someone drops by, and says "I only eat pie. Cake makes me sick." Did they mean they literally get sick when they eat cake? Were they being a smart-ass, trying to run counter to stir a conversation? Or do they find that the crumbly crust of pie, paired with the tart crispness of an apple pie is a more nuanced culinary experience, where they find cake to be monotonous? The other users do not know, there is simply too little information available to make a response without guessing at "secret reasons."

Even if you provide a longer, more thought-out comment and never return, if it is contrary to the direction of the thread, people will continue to comment regarding what you wrote. Without response to those comments, that particular thread of discussion dies, or grows into tangents beyond your control, and "secret reasons" are provided for your not returning, or to the follow-up comments you did not respond to.

Of course, if you're the lone pie-lover in a thread of 100 actively commenting and ardent cake fans, it's hard to keep up with all the questions as to why in gods name you like pie.

I salute the lovers of pie and other opinions contrary to larger threads, may they have patience to support their ideas in the face of sometimes hostile questions. I wish the questions weren't hostile, but echo chambers get noisy, and we only have a few dampeners on hand to quiet things down.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:47 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Reason piece, which I will call it because I found it there, was a pretty classic take on the horse-race that is the Presidential Election. Which is why I put it in the election thread.

I really like how overarching topics that generate contentious FPPs have been more-actively corralled into their own threads (the onegoing series of drone threads is a great example). I think this was a failure of containment on that part.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:17 PM on August 22, 2012


You should totally not check out the rest of the internet if MetaFilter seems uncivil and disrespectful because it will likely make your eyeballs pop out and your brain explode in horror.
posted by freebird at 10:50 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some of the comments I have seen on this thread so far boggle my mind. They go like this: "Oh, but some opinions - like libertarianism - are just wrong." Or "There are some viewpoints - like support of homophobia - that are just plain evil." You don't see how this is hypocritical at all? OK, let's try comparing this statement:
"There are some viewpoints - like support of homophobia - that are just plain evil."
to this one:
"There are some viewpoints - like support of homosexuality - that are just plain evil."

First of all, I'm no scholar, but generally speaking, if the only difference between your philosophy and the philosophy of the people you claim are oppressing you can be summed up in one single word, then you're not an unfairly oppressed minority; rather, you're a minority that deserves to be oppressed - because you would clearly inflict exactly the same kind of oppression on others if your roles were reversed. Do you see what I'm saying? In such a situation, you don't have any moral high ground: the only difference between you and the person who is oppressing you is that you lack power. (And that is not exclusively a critique of the Metafilter echo chamber, even though I am aiming this charge predominantly toward them - it can sometimes apply equally well to those who complain against it.)

Second of all, I take issue with the way some of you expressed these issues as a binary: ie, you're either pro- or anti- gay marriage, pro-feminist or anti-feminist, pro- or anti- abortion, polyamory, or various other issues. That's just a straw man argument which stems either from bad faith or ignorance. (I certainly hope it's the latter.) Real people just don't think that way, and this is NOT where the root of the disagreements come from. People are not computers, and real-life opinions are not binary conditions.

What really happens to trigger a disagreement is generally more like this: two people may value the same things, but they prioritize them differently. For example, I assume both of us value concepts like equality, environmentalism, loyalty, and truth. We consider all of those things to be good, right? But you might value them as:
Equality 10, Environmentalism 2, Loyalty 3, Truth 9
whereas my value would be more like:
Equality 2, Environmentalism 8, Loyalty 10, Truth 4

So this is all fine when none of these values come in conflict with each other, but when they do, that's where the problems start. For example, if my best friend turns out to be a homophobe, and I support him despite disagreeing with his beliefs, you probably think I'm a monster for not cutting off my friendship. After all, what sort of evil person would not believe in equality and be willing to make a sacrifice for it? Meanwhile, I think you're a monster for not understanding loyalty, because only the most evil kind of vermin would turn on somebody who's always been there for them whenever they needed help.

But here's the thing, neither of us are monsters - we both have pretty much the exact same set of values. When you blind yourself to that by perceiving those values in a binary way and making proclamations of people being evil simply because their opinions don't match yours - in other words, because they don't prioritize the world the same way as you, you're being willfully ignorant. I think that anybody who makes blanket statements about evil or wrong behavior tends to be much less intelligent than they claim, since life is all about context, and philosophies that might be horrid in some situations can be perfectly appropriate in others.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:01 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, no, your premises are rotten: There's a demonstrable difference between homophobia and homosexuality and so simply swapping them leads to sophistry and idiotic conclusions. Sorry you put more thought into that than it was worth (the priorities thing isn't bad, but it's not supported by your premises — it's a non sequitor).
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 PM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


There's a demonstrable difference between homophobia and homosexuality and so simply swapping them leads to sophistry and idiotic conclusions.

Possibly, possibly. But allow me to play devil's advocate here. Why - in communities where homosexuals are the majority - are there growing trends of heterophobia?

Based on incidents such as these, it seems to me that whenever a minority becomes the majority, they tend to oppress the other side just as hard as they themselves were oppressed. So while I'm sure that from your perspective the two are very difference, I don't find the difference quite as self-evident or obviously intuitive as you claim.

Also, I used the example of homosexuality and homophobia simply to continue my previous example, but examples of thisasoect of human nature could be taken from any situation where an oppressed group gains power - whether it was the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa (which led to vicious attacks on white people) or ethnic cleansing in Africa. People who have power tend to stomp on people whose opinions differ from theirs - that's just a fact of life. Saying your specific group is oppressed by another group doesn't give you any moral credibility unless you can demonstrate that you wouldn't behave in the same way towards them if the situation was reversed.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:36 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


growing trends of heterophobia: "Less than a decade after a successful campaign to end violent paroxysms of “gay bashing” [...] straight people complained of being called “breeders”

I think it's really funny that this is your "example" in a thread complaining about False Equivalence being called out!
posted by freebird at 11:51 PM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


if the only difference between your philosophy and the philosophy of the people you claim are oppressing you can be summed up in one single word, then you're not an unfairly oppressed minority; rather, you're a minority that deserves to be oppressed

Sorry, this doesn't make sense, and in addition is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. No one deserves to be oppressed, regardless of their actions or what they say. You can certainly criticise the hypocrisy of mocking black and white thinking in black and white ways, but that is pretty orthogonal to your argument up there.

Additionally, I think some norms are inescapable to one degree or another, and having a communal "set terms of reference" about what's appropriate for discussion is fine. No one is under an obligation to entertain silly racist, or homophobic etc opinions. And I don't think we need to pander to, for example, the climate change skeptics that pop up periodically in climate change threads. The world, science, and this community at least, has moved past that. It's just a thing.

Naturally, if this evolution of norms grows too restrictive it affects the composition of the community, and the way norms are enforced etc. But this is really not an issue in mefi in a broader sense, I feel.
posted by smoke at 12:38 AM on August 23, 2012


First of all, I'm no scholar, but generally speaking, if the only difference between your philosophy and the philosophy of the people you claim are oppressing you can be summed up in one single word, then you're not an unfairly oppressed minority; rather, you're a minority that deserves to be oppressed - because you would clearly inflict exactly the same kind of oppression on others if your roles were reversed.

"There are some viewpoints - like support of slavery - that are just plain evil."

"There are some viewpoints - like support of abolition - that are just plain evil."

Yep, totes equivalent!
posted by kmz at 6:09 AM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Look, this isn't some tortuous chain of logic. I made a lengthy case because I felt that would be more helpful, but I can boil it down into one simple sentence to make it more self evident.

Let me put it this way: If your primary gripe about the suppression of opinions is simply that you feel the wrong opinions are being suppressed, your argument has absolutely nothing to do with morality - you're simply upset by the current distribution of power.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:26 AM on August 23, 2012


yeah no i think people get that but don't happen to agree
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:31 AM on August 23, 2012


> It misrepresents the concerns of people in a belittling and factually inaccurate way, and
> in a way that doesn't advance any particular position, but rather snipes at others sarcastically.

It epitomizes the case as it is. My thanks to Sangermaine for posting, and to klausman and vorfeed for quoting, a couldn't-be-better example.


> I don't particularly care if you feel silenced by my objecting to it.

Heh. "Feeling silenced" is not within my emotional range. Rage on, gang.
posted by jfuller at 6:36 AM on August 23, 2012


Libertarianism is a whole bunch of things, and means different things to different people. It's usually reduced to a ridiculous thing, where the the modern Libertarian platform is reduced from limited government to anarchy with no government whatsoever. But under the Libertarian umbrella, there are many goals and ideals, which make blanket statements about Libertarians and Libertarianism disingenuous and do not help the discussions at large.

Homophobia, on the other hand, is simple: unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality. The actual actions and comments that display homophobia are diverse, but the underlying principle is the same. Homosexuals as a broad group deserve no fear or antipathy, and support of homophobia is support of fear, repulsion, and anger. This doesn't mean homophobes should be treated with the same repulsion and anger, but that their viewpoints won't be up for consideration and discussion. In fact,

In short, I suggest people who see a lack of polite discourse in topics be careful about which topics they group.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:44 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Homophobia, on the other hand, is simple: unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.

No, that is not the meaning of "homophobia" as it is being used in this discussion (or generally on metafilter.)
posted by Jahaza at 8:38 AM on August 23, 2012


"Possibly, possibly. But allow me to play devil's advocate here. Why - in communities where homosexuals are the majority - are there growing trends of heterophobia?"

There aren't, really. Stop getting your definition of a trend from the NYT style pages.

Based on incidents such as these, it seems to me that whenever a minority becomes the majority, they tend to oppress the other side just as hard as they themselves were oppressed. So while I'm sure that from your perspective the two are very difference, I don't find the difference quite as self-evident or obviously intuitive as you claim."

Based on incidents such as those you've again engaged in facile sophistry, in part because you don't have any skin in the game. As such, you're looking obtuse and idiotic. If you can't think of the self-evident distinction between homosexuality and homophobia, you're a moron. If you're simply claiming that as a rhetorical pose, you're obnoxious.
posted by klangklangston at 8:44 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It epitomizes the case as it is. My thanks to Sangermaine for posting, and to klausman and vorfeed for quoting, a couldn't-be-better example."

Bullshit. You posted some parody of "safe space" language that has absolutely no bearing in how MeFi as a social space is constructed, something that's been discussed at length several times, as a way to mock and belittle your rhetorical opponents. The quote did not say what you implied it did, and you were engaging in bad faith to present it as such.

It was an asshole move. Defending it is also an asshole move. Stop being an asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 8:46 AM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stop being an asshole.

I'd appreciate if you could find way to talk to people you disagree with without amping up the rhetoric in ways that cause compounding problems.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:54 AM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Let me put it this way: If your primary gripe about the suppression of opinions is simply that you feel the wrong opinions are being suppressed, your argument has absolutely nothing to do with morality

Almost all of your recent arguments rest on seriously faulty assumptions. In this one, the faulty assumption is that it is impossible for someone who feels morally neutral about the act of suppressing opinions to bring any other moral calculation about the act of an individual opinion being suppressed.

- you're simply upset by the current distribution of power.

This is unclear, but you seem to be saying that anyone who wants some opinions to be suppressed is necessarily upset about who gets to decide what opinions are suppressed. This is completely unsupported.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:56 AM on August 23, 2012


Let me put it this way: If your primary gripe about the suppression of opinions is simply that you feel the wrong opinions are being suppressed, your argument has absolutely nothing to do with morality - you're simply upset by the current distribution of power.

Yeah, we got that. We just don't think you are correct no matter how many times you restate it. All opinions are not the same, and equality is actually harmed by pretending that they are. You don't seem to have a very good grasp of how power works in the mechanics of oppression.
posted by OmieWise at 9:13 AM on August 23, 2012


No, that is not the meaning of "homophobia" as it is being used in this discussion (or generally on metafilter.)

Oh go on then, enlighten us.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:17 AM on August 23, 2012


All opinions are not the same. Nor should any of them be "suppressed" or "oppressed" even if (especially if) they are "wrong". They should be allowed full exposure so they can be mercilessly and brutally mocked and destroyed for the crap they are. You are confusing mockery and disagreement with suppression and censorship. MetaFilter is really good at doing the former and not doing the latter.

So, I won't tell you to shut up or not post this. But I will tell you your complaint is a wrongheaded self-serving thin-skinned whine of a misperception.
posted by freebird at 9:24 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stop getting your definition of a trend from the NYT style pages

Indeed. The so-called "trend" here was of gays responding negatively to straight people trying to organize for homophobic legislation. Call me when the gays are starting to hold "no straight marriage" petitions, and we'll talk.

Mostly this is a tiresome thread concerning false equivalences. But one point is interesting that I'd like to narrow in on:

If you voice any political opinion on this site that falls outside of a pretty narrow band you can be sure that you will very quickly be told, in no uncertain terms, not only that you are a bad person whose beliefs are bad, but that you arguing in bad faith

In particular, the issue of "arguing in bad faith". It's worth separating out, because I think the "narrow band" you can be sure of here is the demand that you are actually arguing in good faith. If you're not, yes, expect a pretty firm and immediate rejection.

It happens (sadly) that we've all suffered through a couple decades of saturation by bad-faith arguments. They've very common in American political discourse (hello think tanks and talk radio) as well as internet discourse (hello 4chan and concern-trolls), and that commonality has made some topics somewhat hair-trigger areas for being classified as arguing-in-bad-faith. Merely because there really are lots of people arguing in bad faith on those topics. Like waking up and looking in the mirror and saying "today I am going to inject a ton of noise and distraction into this topic for the take of watching people fume". It is sad but given that the purpose of a bad-faith argument is essentially to exhaust the person it's engaged-with and not produce any real outcome, the development of a hair-trigger on this sort of behavior is, I think, understandable.
posted by ead at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2012


You know what, it's also probably worth noting that most of the burnouts and retirements we've seen in the last couple of weeks have been on the so-called "oppressing" side, no?
posted by ominous_paws at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I shouldn't have brought up the gay marriage thing. I'll just reiterate that I believe it is possible to strongly disagree with someone or a position and say so without being insulting.

It is not possible to be against marriage rights for homosexuals without failing to recognize, and thus, insulting, their humanity.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:11 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is not possible to be against marriage rights for homosexuals without failing to recognize, and thus, insulting, their humanity.

False dicotomy. See yoink's comment.
posted by zabuni at 10:36 AM on August 23, 2012


No, that is not the meaning of "homophobia" as it is being used in this discussion (or generally on metafilter.)

This is the type of short comment that could benefit from elaboration.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2012


Let me put it this way: If your primary gripe about the suppression of opinions is simply that you feel the wrong opinions are being suppressed, your argument has absolutely nothing to do with morality - you're simply upset by the current distribution of power.

This is kind of nonsensical. I think you were on to something when you pointed out that different people have different values, but the problem with your argument is that people who are "upset by the current distribution of power" are typically upset because that distribution doesn't match their values. Thus, their argument has everything to do with morality.
posted by vorfeed at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


you're obnoxious.
posted by klangklangston at 8:44 AM on August 23 [1 favorite +]


You do know the terrain, tootsie pop.
posted by ambient2 at 12:50 PM on August 23, 2012


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 to MetaTalk by ambient2 at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2012


Nope!
posted by ambient2 at 1:00 PM on August 23, 2012


I'm not sure what you're trying to say ambient2 but please either talk to klangklangston directly or be more clear in MetaTalk because I can't make sense of it and I assume others can't either. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:05 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can make sense of it, but only because I've allowed far too much headspace for this place. ambient2 pretty much just likes to grouse, and he's attempting to make a point that klang is a jerkface or whatever by adding the timestamp to the snippet of a comment that he feels is relevant to proving klang's jerkfacedness. Or something. I would hope that ambient2 could have a bit more fun than always grousing, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2012


I grouse some, have more than a bit more fun, but what's abundantly clear is that some people get told not to do stuff and told not to do stuff and told not to do stuff and they keep right on doing it.
posted by ambient2 at 1:19 PM on August 23, 2012


Many people get told not to do stuff, stop for a while, and then start up again, then get told to stop doing it again. This is materially different than them keeping on doing it, in our view, but agreed it's still problematic.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:25 PM on August 23, 2012


In the Chik-Fil-A thread, as I remember, allegations of homophobia were mostly made by people who said they never eaten there and leveled against people who had eaten there and thought the food was pretty good (at least for fast food), even though most of them also supported the boycott. This seemed like ridiculous point scoring. Are these the people we want to eliminate from the site their views are beyond the pale?


It also doesn't make sense that the OP is being characterized as a homophobic bigot, because they expressed support for marriage equality. Possibly, just possibly, you might want to disagree with them about things you actually disagree with them about.
posted by nangar at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"As a libertarian, I know that most people do not share my views, but how respectful is it when one of the first comments on a post (with 102 favorites!) is this?"

I strongly suggest turning off favourites; makes the site much less angsty.
posted by Mitheral at 9:18 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.

I have issue with this. To take a recent example, I get really, really, REALLY angry about the difference of opinion about whether a woman can get pregnant as a result of rape (not to mention the inclusion of the word "legitimate" or even the assholic "forcible"). Like flamingly, catastrophically enraged, almost to the point of incoherence.

All the evidence points toward a significant number of raped women getting pregnant by rape, even rape which left them so injured it might count as "legitimate".

Anger can be a response to unclear boundaries without clear rules, or some nitpicky detail, but it can also be in defense of deeply held beliefs which are being publicly called into question to the detriment of a lot of people, one of them being the person feeling the anger. I strongly object to the idea that the strength and nature of emotion associated with a belief can be used as evidence that the belief is probably non-evidence based (I equally strongly object to the inverse, that people who don't care about an issue are therefore right).
posted by Deoridhe at 11:06 PM on August 23, 2012


The comment in question was directed at the ideas in the article and not at a member of the site, so that's why it's tolerated. "Fuck you, no fuck you" comments are not tolerated.

I have to say that I think this is not, in fact, okay. This is something I've pointed out before and been slapped down just as hard, so I really feel for the OP. And also, this is not something that is uniformly enforced on the site.

For example: in a thread, I made a comment about my opinion of Downs Syndrome children and abortion. It was not addressed to any individual MeFite, nor was it particularly hostile. Everyone was asked to stop making commentary along those lines, and when I contacted moderators to inquire as to the reason why, was told that the reason was because it was a highly contentious opinion, and that there were people for whom this was personal on MeFi, so it was not okay.

Fine - i could totally accept that if it were universally applied. But the fact is that it's really not.

It is considered totally okay to give a lot of vitriol and bile at libertarians, in a thread that contains MeFite libertarians, as long as you don't identify any one particular target of your ire, so you can claim you're being totally respectful to other MeFites.

Try imagining if someone did that about any one group that was a lot broader/well liked, and you'd see how incredibly offensive that is. If someone was in a rape discussion and said, "But those whoring bitch-sluts lie, yo!" That would be pretty quickly smacked down, and rightfully so, even though the poster would not have identified any one female MeFite as their target.

When can unpopular views expect that same respect?
posted by corb at 3:30 PM on August 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sometimes, though not always, an intelligent forum will converge on the truth about an issue. With respect to those issues, I'd rather this place be intelligent than "diverse."

Of course, and Metafilter must be an intelligent forum, right? After all, all of us are on it and that constitutes de facto proof of intelligence... especially when anybody who holds a contrary view gets shouted down. You know, it's very easy to have a self-congratulatory view of one's own intelligence when all the people you surround yourself with reinforce that opinion.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:56 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course, and Metafilter must be an intelligent forum, right?

Dunno. You're here. You must be smart enough to tell me if metafilter is an intelligent forum.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:31 AM on August 30, 2012


Dunno. You're here. You must be smart enough to tell me if metafilter is an intelligent forum.

Well, MeFites are very good at sounding intellectual over here on the blue, but erudite pontificating is no indicator of genuine intelligence - it's just intellectual masturbation. why don't you take a look at some of the questions people pose on the green and then draw your own conclusions?

"I keep on cheating on my husband whom I hate, and I don't know why."

"My manager refuses to consult with me on all of his decisions. Should I yell at him angrily and then quit?"

"Would it be a good idea to playfully attempt to make out with my best friends boyfriend? In a lighthearted way, of course."

"If I smack myself in the head with this wooden paddle, will the shock stimulate my brain processes and make me smarter?"

No, this isn't an episode of Jerry Springer - these are actual questions that people ask on the Green. (Apart from the paddle question - that was added by me for poetic license)

And here's another question - if Mefites are so smart, why have Republicans (a group traditionally reviled here) had so many successes in the culture war? If we're so much smarter than the people we scorn, surely it would be an easy task to manipulate them into self-destructing, right?

As for myself, I personally make no claim to be intelligent, but I do know that over time I grow smarter when I expose myself to opinions that I disagree with, and I'd like to keep doing so rather than sequestering myself in an echo chamber of people who all say "I must be very smart, because I'm here with all the other smart people!"
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:00 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


this isn't an episode of Jerry Springer - these are actual questions that people ask on the Green.

Well, I see that you answer a lot of them and surely no one would waste their time answering stupid questions.

If we're so much smarter than the people we scorn, surely it would be an easy task to manipulate them into self-destructing, right?

I'm sure I couldn't try to rate my own intellectual abilities but this actually sounds like a pretty dumb question to me.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:19 PM on August 30, 2012


I'm sure I couldn't try to rate my own intellectual abilities but this actually sounds like a pretty dumb question to me.

Oh, I see... so now we're resorting to personal insults when you have no good answer to a valid question? Way to go. Stay classy!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:24 PM on August 30, 2012


Dude, dude, dude.

Dude.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:25 PM on August 30, 2012


personal insults

I assure you, I have nothing but respect for you, my friend. I was referring to the question. Surely, you raised that question in the spirit of parody because I don't think it's the kind of question either of us are likely to ask.

If you tell me what question you were trying to ask, I will try to answer it.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:32 PM on August 30, 2012


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