To advance a polite community discussion March 18, 2013 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Hey, there's a new post on Palestine. In the interest of having one of these posts that doesn't get deleted, I thought it might be a nice thing to start with agreeing on extra ground rules for discussion of this historically MeFi-contentious issue. But rather than derail the thread with discussion of discussion ground rules, maybe we should do that here? That's what this post is for.

Some potential proposals to get the discussion started:

1. No personal attacks.
1a. If you feel that someone has made a personal attack, either flag and move on, or take it to MeTa, but do not respond (aside from posting a link to this or another relevant MeTa) in thread.

2a. Do not compare anyone (in thread or out) to Hitler.
2b. Do not accuse anyone (in thread or out) of antisemitism.
posted by eviemath to Etiquette/Policy at 12:03 PM (114 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not so sure we need a pre-emptive metatalk for that post (or generally for any post), but I appreciate that you're coming from a place of wanting things to go well. Yes, people not calling each other or vague groupings of those present or not names or so on is a good thing and I appreciate the fact that so far people's reactions to that post have been measured and not rushed and actually discussing the content of the piece in its own right.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:10 PM on March 18, 2013


if the post was more than just a single link NYT, maybe.

Of course, making it anything more than a single link probably bumps the probability the intro/more text will be inflammatory in some way.
posted by k5.user at 12:15 PM on March 18, 2013


eviemath: "2a. Do not compare anyone (in thread or out) to Hitler."

The issue is not that people compare each other to Hitler or Nazis. It's that they typically characterize Israel as being "just like" or something similar. It's an emotional, incredibly inflammatory and unhelpful argument which contributes to people shouting at each other.

Likewise, (and as far as I've seen, there's only one commenter who seems to do this on a semi-regular basis) criticism of Israeli policies is not automatically antisemitism.

At this point, l'm convinced the only reason why people make either argument without including careful, thoughtful analyses or explanations is that they don't like that we're discussing the issue, and want to derail threads and have them deleted.
posted by zarq at 12:20 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


3a. Do not imply that you have personal, intimate, and first hand knowledge of what someone's mother said last night
posted by found missing at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


And, honestly, part of why I'm not sure there's a lot of good reason for us to have this new thread is that the stuff that's potentially debatable about what people do in these threads and why they do it and how that becomes problematic is stuff that was specifically covered in length in the still-open, still-active metatalk thread from last week.

If you had anything else in mind specifically for this thread than just the gentle reminder that people should keep it cool, go ahead and clarify that eviemath, but otherwise it might make sense to just close this up and let folks carry on in the previous thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


3b. Do not impune a band, as sucky as it may be, for it will be someone's favorite.
posted by found missing at 12:32 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do not imply that you have personal, intimate, and first hand knowledge of what someone's mother said last night

My mom said that she misses me and hopes I'm doing well and hopes I'll be up for Easter. No, Greek Easter, not American Easter. I mean, you can come up for American Easter too, if you want! Of course we'd love to have you! But I don't think we're going to do a big thing, we'll probably just wait 'til Greek Easter, dad's probably going to be cooking lamb. No, no, you can still bring lamb trigona if you want! We won't say no to that!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:33 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


cortex: "And, honestly, part of why I'm not sure there's a lot of good reason for us to have this new thread is that the stuff that's potentially debatable about what people do in these threads and why they do it and how that becomes problematic is stuff that was specifically covered in length in the still-open, still-active metatalk thread from last week."

Was anything resolved in that thread? Did anything constructive come out of it? It's 259 comments in and not only does it look like no consensus was reached, it also appears that people are once again shouting past each other. Why not close that one and leave this one open, considering that this one doesn't have the anger and angst poisoning the discussion?
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean, trying to encourage nicer, more thoughtful conversations on the topic and analyzing why they go south seems like it would be a hell of a lot better discussion than one which started out with an accusation of bias and censorship that progressively became nastier.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on March 18, 2013


Rule 1) Don't be an asshat.
Rule 2) See rule 1.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do not accuse anyone (in thread or out) of antisemitism.

Well fuck, what if there is overt Antisemitism?

Then again, it's no big deal to me because I have learned to stay out of these stupid threads. Totally pointless shouting.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:50 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was anything resolved in that thread? Did anything constructive...

I thought mediareport's apology was classy. But I don't really think the goal of MeTa threads is always to be working towards consensus,
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:53 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was anything resolved in that thread?

I'm not sure reaching a resolution is a terribly practical goal on this sort of "how mefites talk about things" subject; certainly it's not the threshold on which not weekly re-upping any open metatalk topic is decided.

In any case, a lot of stuff was discussed and people have been doing so as recently as today, and it's a thread that has been largely on this topic and which is still open. I don't think there's much out of the norm here in thinking that rerouting to the open thread makes sense.

Again, I think if there's something specific and new that folks feel like needs talking about, particularly if eviemath had something further in mind, that's okay and folks can get into that, but if the argument for this staying open is just so that we have a nice fresh thread to have the same discussion in again regarding a thread on the blue that has not yet even shown any sign of a problem, that's feeling like not so necessary.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:58 PM on March 18, 2013


jessamyn: "But I don't really think the goal of MeTa threads is always to be working towards consensus,"

Consensus to not call each other names and to treat each other decently and comment thoughtfully when it comes to difficult topics seems like a reachable goal to me. That is the point of this Meta. It does not seem particularly likely to happen in that other thread, especially since we've already seen some posters be rather nasty to each other.
posted by zarq at 1:02 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do not accuse anyone (in thread or out) of antisemitism.

Well fuck, what if there is overt Antisemitism?


If it's overt, flag it and then let it lie there like a shit on the carpet. Yelling "OH CHRIST THERE'S A SHIT ON THE CARPET OVER HERE HEY EVERYONE COME LOOK AT THIS SHIT" doesn't help any. Let the mods take care of it, and in the meantime, let other people see what some other user thinks and come to their own conclusions.

If it's not overt ("Dog whistle!"), then flag it and let it lie there too. Anyone who understands it will be able to see what some other user thinks and come to their own conclusion. Anyone who doesn't understand it will walk merrily by.

I'm starting to agree with zarq: some MeFites just hate those threads and want to poison them. Don't feed those trolls.
posted by Etrigan at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yelling "OH CHRIST THERE'S A SHIT ON THE CARPET OVER HERE HEY EVERYONE COME LOOK AT THIS SHIT" doesn't help any.

and besides, that's *my* job.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"And, honestly, part of why I'm not sure there's a lot of good reason for us to have this new thread is that the stuff that's potentially debatable about what people do in these threads and why they do it and how that becomes problematic is stuff that was specifically covered in length in the still-open, still-active metatalk thread from last week.

I understand why one active such thread is better than two, but anybody who hasn't dived that one yet isn't going to now and a new thread, coming in from a slightly novel angle is better than just continuing the somewhat more shouty older thread.

(And in general, a week is a loong time in MeFi years; once a thread scrolls off the front page, how many new readers/commenters look at it?)
posted by MartinWisse at 1:18 PM on March 18, 2013


3b. Do not impune a band, as sucky as it may be, for it will be someone's favorite.

You leave Balkan Beat Box out of this.
posted by psoas at 1:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Consensus to not call each other names and to treat each other decently and comment thoughtfully when it comes to difficult topics seems like a reachable goal to me.

Not disagreeing in theory, just saying that did not seem to be the purpose of the previous MeTa thread.

People need to learn to flag, learn to move on, and learn to find better ways of expressing themselves if they want to talk about topics that are difficult here. If, after we know they're aware that there is a problem and they may or may not be a part of it, they continue in the same manner they've been interacting in, we can address that in a different way than if they'd just stumbled into a longstanding site problem completely accidentally.

Some people don't mind the fighting. So part of what we need to do as a community is determine what to do about the fact that people like to interact with each other in different ways and that some of those ways are unacceptable to other people. And what to do about things that are allowed at a site level even if individuals may find them personally unacceptable.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure is a lot of talk about how we're not good at talking about things.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:08 PM on March 18, 2013


There is no rule number two.
posted by spitbull at 2:12 PM on March 18, 2013


And don't worry, the same 10 people who found the last 30 threads about this will find this one too.
posted by spitbull at 2:13 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would like to talk about Greg Nog's lamb trigona. I would like to know why I am not eating it right now.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:17 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with making rules for a post is that only a small percentage of metafilter reads metatalk. Everyone can agree to something here, but unless there's a notice at the top of the post a lot of people will have no idea we've agreed to anything. The other problems is getting people to agree.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:31 PM on March 18, 2013


Rule #5: Do not throw around the word "genocide".
posted by corb at 2:42 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can I suggest #6, please don't use any thread about the region as an excuse to post random derail-y alternate articles just to highlight your favorite barely-related injustices?
posted by Mchelly at 2:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure is a lot of talk about how we're not good at talking about things.

We're good at talking about how we're not good at talking; this sentence is also false.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:52 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I appreciated Jessamyn's response to me here in the I/P thread from last week and I'm happy with how today's post on the blue went.
posted by andoatnp at 2:53 PM on March 18, 2013


jessamyn: "Not disagreeing in theory, just saying that did not seem to be the purpose of the previous MeTa thread.

I agree! That's why I figured this would be a better place to talk than the other thread.

Some people don't mind the fighting. So part of what we need to do as a community is determine what to do about the fact that people like to interact with each other in different ways and that some of those ways are unacceptable to other people. And what to do about things that are allowed at a site level even if individuals may find them personally unacceptable."

I'd really like to see people say thoughtful things that add to discussions rather than grinding their damned axes, being insulting and sarcastic and talking past each other. Listening to what other people are saying and keeping an open mind rather than engaging in the usual entrenched stuff. Debunking myths and assumptions on each side without making the people they're chatting with out to be evil. Those tactics often devolve the conversation into mindless defensiveness and arguing.
posted by zarq at 2:58 PM on March 18, 2013


Mchelly: "Can I suggest #6, please don't use any thread about the region as an excuse to post random derail-y alternate articles just to highlight your favorite barely-related injustices?"

Are you referring to homunculus' habit of posting "Israel also did this bad mostly unrelated thing" links in open I/P threads with no additional context?

The thing is, that link he posted in the new thread really is appropriate to the discussion at hand (i.e. effects of settlements, occupation, history of IDF treatment of Palestinian villages etc.) It's not "barely related."
posted by zarq at 3:01 PM on March 18, 2013


Are you referring to homunculus' habit of posting "Israel also did this bad mostly unrelated thing" links in open I/P threads with no additional context?

Hes going to need to be more clear about that, however. At the end of a long winding-down thread, great. In the beginning or middle of a "we're all watching this to make sure it doesn't blow up" thread, absent any other context or comment, that is very unclear and it's a less optimal thing to be doing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:04 PM on March 18, 2013


Was about to respond, but Jessamyn beat me to it. Of course the effects of settlements on Palestinians are relevant, just as the effects of having a rock thrown through your windshield on the highway are relevant, but they aren't helping the discussion become more civil, they're just axe-grindy. Far less "this is something I would like to discuss" and more "this is something other people need to see," which as I understand it is something we are trying to avoid here. Yes, I was referring to homonculus in this case, but more because of his/her posts in this thread coupled with his last two posts on the beauty queen thread as well.

I am not sure I agree that thread-spamming with your-side-leaning articles without commentary is either helpful or good, and it certainly looks like begging for a fight.
posted by Mchelly at 3:13 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


And to be clear, I don't think homonculus is doing it purposefully for that reason, but that it's not clear that he's NOT doing it for that reason and, given the history of those threads, other people doing the same thing with a different backstory of participation very much would be axe-grinding. All that sort of thing matters.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:15 PM on March 18, 2013


Oops. I uh... didn't mean to get him in trouble.

Adding related links to threads is his usual m.o., after all. And it's usually pretty awesome when he does so in threads on other topics.
posted by zarq at 3:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's not in trouble. No one is in trouble. However, I had already axed his last two single-link-context-free comments after discussing them with cortex before I saw the comments here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:20 PM on March 18, 2013


And to be clear, I don't think homonculus is doing it purposefully for that reason, but that it's not clear that he's NOT doing it for that reason and, given the history of those threads, other people doing the same thing with a different backstory of participation very much would be axe-grinding. All that sort of thing matters.

It may just be that those context-less link-only comments drive me absolutely batty so I notice them, but I would have thought it was clear he wasn't derailing I/P threads intentionally because he posts context-less links everywhere.
posted by hoyland at 3:21 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Of course, I totally did something similar in that thread. I'd defend myself by saying that I linked to what I initially thought the FPP was about (but didn't say that, so that was probably less than helpful).
posted by hoyland at 3:23 PM on March 18, 2013


And I really wasn't trying to call out a particular user, or even posts that are tangential, just single links that aren't immediately obvious why they're relevant to the ongoing discussion, and just seem like someone yelling "Oh yeah, and ANOTHER THING...!"

Meanwhile, I responded to one of those links which was deleted, and now that it's gone it would probably make sense to toss out my response as well. I'm still not sure when I should engage and when I should wait and see.
posted by Mchelly at 3:27 PM on March 18, 2013


mchelly, yes, I agree.

Jessamyn, whew! Good. :)
posted by zarq at 3:27 PM on March 18, 2013


Sorry for being away. I guess if I had thought of it, I could have linked to a post at the bottom of the old MeTa thread instead of making a new one. I'll keep that in mind for the future!
posted by eviemath at 3:32 PM on March 18, 2013


But basically, one of the things that I've noticed that tends to make threads go bad is that someone says something not-so-nice, someone else responds, it gets dealt with by a mod, but then the responses keep coming and coming, and it turns into a self-replicating thing, more work for mods, etc. For most subjects, the extra responses don't get too far/nasty; but since it's been deemed that Israel/Palestine threads historically go very far bad (sometimes very fast), it seems to me that having everyone agree to immediately take it to MeTa rather than getting sucked into that pattern is maybe something special and extra that we want to agree to do for threads on this particular subject.
posted by eviemath at 3:37 PM on March 18, 2013


I posted those links because I thought they were relevant to the topic and would be of interest to anyone who was interested in the main article. I may have been wrong about that, but I certainly wasn't trying to pick a fight.

As for the beauty queen thread, I wish I hadn't posted the Women of the Wall link; it doesn't fit the thread and probably deserves its own post anyway. I don't see a problem with the Bar Refaeli links, given the beauty queen angle, but the mods can delete any or all of them if they think it's best.
posted by homunculus at 3:43 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oops. I uh... didn't mean to get him in trouble.

TATTLETALE!
posted by homunculus at 3:45 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


*hangs head in shame*

:D

You know, we could TOTALLY resurrect MeFi Mag as a gossip rag....
posted by zarq at 3:50 PM on March 18, 2013


Oh dear, a use for this thread.

Not exactly a guy I would let in my home, that's for sure. Especially knowing he's a relative of the murderess Ahlam Tamimi. The man speaks with a forked tongue. Neither his cause nor his chosen means are worthy of respect.

One possible objection (and I would have flagged your comment oschwar if jessamyn hadn't already said something) is that this is getting too far into personal attack territory. Especially for a thread where we're trying to be careful about being civil.

If you feel that the motivations for someone to engage in nonviolent resistance (as opposed to violent resistance) are as or more important than the end result (nonviolent resistance instead of violent resistance), could you please just state that, without getting as personal?
posted by eviemath at 4:58 PM on March 18, 2013


are as or more important than the end result (nonviolent resistance instead of violent resistance),

That's nto the end result.

The end result is one of the following:

1. An independent Palestine living in peace with an independent Israel.,
2. The destruction of Israel in favor of an Islamic theocracy.
3. Some kind of Middle Eastern Belgium where Israelis and Palestinians are forced to de-escalate to mere rudeness towards each other. .

The problem with Bassem Tamimi, is that for all his talk about non-violence, he's perfectly fine with what Ahlam Tamimi did, which was outright murder.
posted by ocschwar at 5:03 PM on March 18, 2013


In any MeFi discussion about I/P, there is a 100% chance of people saying some fucked-up shit. That's why I'm in favor of a complete moratorium on the subject. Dunno why, whenever we talk about gender or race or sexuality or whatever, people fall all over themselves to be nice and not hurt anybody's feelings, but when it comes to I/P people are like, "ANYTHING GOES!" I'm totally okay with placing the subject entirely off-limits.

I mean, I'm someone who tries to do BRAND NEW DAY with every new thread, not hold grudges, etc. But I/P is the one topic that has made me dislike specific people on this site. That takes a lot. I usually don't take the internet that seriously.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair, that's not entirely true of threads on other political topics. I've seen a few nasty comments, victim blaming, etc. Perhaps not with the same frequency, but I haven't been around enough or long enough to catch more than three Israel/Palestine threads.
posted by eviemath at 5:16 PM on March 18, 2013


oschwar, one of the worries is that the list of possible outcomes includes:

4. The destruction of Palestine in favor of an Israeli theocracy.

Both sides feel that the other threatens their very existence, and would most preferably like to see them gone completely.
posted by eviemath at 5:19 PM on March 18, 2013


Let's be really clear, if you guys start an I/P fight in this thread, we will close it so fast your heads will spin. Please use this thread for talking about the culture and policies of the site.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:21 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry! Er, delete my last comment maybe?
posted by eviemath at 5:23 PM on March 18, 2013


See, this is where my point about how it's important to be respectful even of "X Group That Has Different Views" comes in. Because otherwise, you have people who have gotten used to it being OK to make fun of people who have a viewpoint, as long as it's unpopular, suddenly finding that things are equally divided on Metafilter, and they don't know how to behave.
posted by corb at 5:25 PM on March 18, 2013


I don't personally have strong opinions about I/P. However, It would be nice to be able to to express an opinion or, even better, explore different views about the subject without fear of being labeled a Zionist or an anitsemite, because I'm neither of those. I hate the idea that some topics should be nuked from orbit.

Maybe this new thread will go better than the last x ones have.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:07 PM on March 18, 2013


... whenever we talk about gender or race or sexuality or whatever, people fall all over themselves to be nice and not hurt anybody's feelings ...

Not really. Most discussions of topics people care about, feel strongly about, and disagree about go badly.
posted by nangar at 6:15 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Zarq, unless you have actually encountered someone who thinks that criticism of Israeli policies is automatically antisemitism, perhaps you could give this a rest?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's perfectly fine for all I/P threads to be nuked from orbit. I mean, I/P isn't just A difficult issue, it's THE difficult issue. But people often like to try and make it seem like it's a simple problem with a simple solution. This is where I get annoyed. I mean, it's fucking Israel and Palestine. There is nothing simple about this situation. The best minds on earth have tried and failed to solve this one.

So yeah, I mean, I'm all in favor of having this ideal forum thing where nothing is sacrosanct and nothing is off limits, but I'm willing to make an exception for THE MOST DIFFICULT PROBLEM IN THE WORLD.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:18 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


... whenever we talk about gender or race or sexuality or whatever, people fall all over themselves to be nice and not hurt anybody's feelings ...
Not really. Most discussions of topics people care about, feel strongly about, and disagree about go badly.


I was going to say. There's in no way a thread I'm all but counting down the days until it closes, lest it starts up again.
posted by hoyland at 6:34 PM on March 18, 2013


It's immensely discouraging. If some people who don't have an actual dog in the hunt can't refrain from making a mess of things in an I/P thread, it makes it hard to hope that Israelis and Palestinians can manage to come to peace.

That being said, I have met both Palestinians and Israelis who are far more civil, open to discussion, and able to compromise reasonably than I see from non-Israelis and -Palestinians in online forums. It's like there is something about the discussion that causes outsiders to insist that extreme partisanship and angry rhetoric is the best practice, when, in the real world, for actual Israelis and Palestinians, it's probably the worst.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I think I/P is one of those areas where the site suffers from a lack of diversity in opinions. The people who are most motivated to make posts and comments on the topic are all on one side of the issue. And they are VERY VERY VOCAL. Some of them are flat-out obnoxious. So when an I/P post comes up, I look in, and it's like "yup, the usual suspects up to the same old crap." It very much comes off as a few people using this open-access medium as a place to grind their axe over and over and over again.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:06 PM on March 18, 2013


The people who are most motivated to make posts and comments on the topic are all on one side of the issue. And they are VERY VERY VOCAL. Some of them are flat-out obnoxious.

I honestly don't have a clue which side you mean here. I can name at least 5 folks who are biased, quite vocal and sometimes obnoxious on each side of the debate. And I say that as someone who has sometimes been one sided and obnoxious himself.
posted by zarq at 8:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really, honestly think that all that's needed to keep the i/p threads under control is rate limiting comments to one every couple of hours or so. What really ruins them is the 'one person against the world' thing that happens in them which crowds out any other kind of discussion.
posted by empath at 8:11 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


That being said, I have met both Palestinians and Israelis who are far more civil, open to discussion, and able to compromise reasonably than I see from non-Israelis and -Palestinians in online forums.

That's a pretty textbook example of selection bias. I don't think anyone who's met more than two Israelis or Palestinians hasn't met ones who are far more reasonable than some non-Israelis and non-Palestinians who love to yap about how one side or the other is made up primarily of genocidal madmen. At the same time, think about how many MeFites you know (or "know") who don't do that.
posted by Etrigan at 8:35 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]



That being said, I have met both Palestinians and Israelis who are far more civil, open to discussion, and able to compromise reasonably than I see from non-Israelis and -Palestinians in online forums.



I imagine it's because people on online forums have far less to risk than people who actually live there. It's easier to ramp up the escalation and hostility when your real actual life and humanity is not at stake.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:48 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually had a best friend in college who was Palestinian. Changed my outlook on a lot of things.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:48 PM on March 18, 2013


But I/P is the one topic that has made me dislike specific people on this site.

Same here. I've been done with I/P threads for a very long time. Part of it was specific people using years-old grudges (completely unrelated to I/P, as it happened) as a pretext for calling me something they'd never dare to do in real life. And there's nothing I'd say about that subject that will change anyone's mind, which hasn't already been said in numerous improved ways by others, really, so why bother?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:03 PM on March 18, 2013


Zarq, unless you have actually encountered someone who thinks that criticism of Israeli policies is automatically antisemitism, perhaps you could give this a rest?

No.
posted by zarq at 9:46 PM on March 18, 2013


To answer the question "why bother?", this is an important and complex issue that has affected a fair amount of US and Middle Eastern politics for quite a few decades now - on the scale of the Cold War. At least (well, mostly) secondhand, it does affect a lot of us on Metafilter; so it's an important topic for everyone to be well enough informed about so that we can all form nuanced, critical opinions, on which we can base our participation and related decisions as citizens in order to influence our various governments' policies, that in turn affect us. When some people manage to disrupt Israel/Palestine threads so that folks trying to engage in a dialogue get tired or sidetracked into arguments to justify that a debate should even occur (that the situation is far more complex than any particular actor you care to bring up on the wrong side of the wall being an irredeemably and entirely bad person, for example), and so that folks with little knowledge or only a casual interest decide they will entirely ignore all Israel/Palestine threads, that serves the interests of everyone who is currently benefiting from the status quo and ongoing violence. Saying, "well, we're going to avoid talking about that topic" is not an ethically neutral situation. It is taking a side - against all the minor unimportant people in the region who are just trying to get by, for example.

As to why each of us individually should bother, well, the mods have made it clear that they don't have the resources, just the small group of them, to force the rest of us to do the right thing when it comes to Israel/Palestine threads. So that means that the rest of us bear some responsibility here too. Those of us who do engage with the threads should probably endeavor to keep a nuanced and civil discussion going in between the derailing comments and do our best to ignore them rather than getting derailed by them (I know it's not always easy - I don't exactly have a perfect record on that in the current thread myself); and it would help if more folks who don't feel so strongly participated more as well, in order to water down and counterbalance the less civil comments.
posted by eviemath at 9:54 PM on March 18, 2013


(Though I referenced your rhetorical question, that wasn't specifically directed at you, Blazecock Pileon.)
posted by eviemath at 9:57 PM on March 18, 2013


Zarq, unless you have actually encountered someone who thinks that criticism of Israeli policies is automatically antisemitism, perhaps you could give this a rest?

Seriously?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:42 PM on March 18, 2013


I don't see anyone in that thread who says that criticism of Israeli policies is automatically anti-Semitic. I've never encountered anyone who says that, either. I suppose if someone kept on and on and on about Israel in the most bigoted and one-sided manner one might conclude that the "criticism" was actually disguised anti-Semitism, but even that wouldn't be an example of "criticism of Israeli policies" being automatically anti-Semitic: it would be an example of an anti-Semite being automatically critical of Israel, which is a very different thing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:59 PM on March 18, 2013


It happens every so often. What also happens is that sometimes somebody unknowingly perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes. (This popped up here once; I have also seen it pop up in I/P discussions).

Unless baseless accusations of antisemitism as a silencing tactic actually appear in a thread, calling them out preemptively also seems to me to be one of those things that sets the discussion off on a wrong foot. We must be able to identify actual antisemitism when it shows up, even if it come from ignorance or is unintentional, and these preemptive callouts put a pall on that. It's a sword that cuts both ways, in that it can be used to silence discussions of Israel but also to silence legitimate discussions of antisemitism, and both uses make these sorts of discussions worse.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:03 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, God was I a dick back then.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:07 AM on March 19, 2013


I think we can all agree: KILL KILL KILL.

Theng kew.
posted by telstar at 12:20 AM on March 19, 2013


I am always sort of stunned that "Godwinning" is a concept taken seriously by numerous mefites. Various actions in the world are similar in important ways to the much-censured actions of, oh, I don't know, Adolf Hitler, and that should be okay to point out. Obviously a sloppy or bad-faith equivocation reflects poorly on the person making it, and it should be called out, but that doesn't mean we can't compare things to other things.
posted by threeants at 12:49 AM on March 19, 2013


Also, this seems odd to me:

KokoRyu: Well fuck, what if there is overt Antisemitism?

Etrigan: If it's overt, flag it and then let it lie there like a shit on the carpet. Yelling "OH CHRIST THERE'S A SHIT ON THE CARPET OVER HERE HEY EVERYONE COME LOOK AT THIS SHIT" doesn't help any.

A strong community precedent was recently set, which I very much support, for allowing vocal, public rebuke of transphobia. Why should it be any different here? Anti-semitism and anti-arabism similarly create hostile in-thread environments for some community members. Obviously it is not an insubstantial task to tease apart actual anti-semitism from the complaints of some zionists arguing in poor faith, but I think it's worth trying to address rather than throwing up our hands.
posted by threeants at 1:00 AM on March 19, 2013


I am always sort of stunned that "Godwinning" is a concept taken seriously by numerous mefites.

It destroys the thread, because people who make those comparisons aren't trying to have a conversation, they're trying to win a debate.
posted by empath at 1:01 AM on March 19, 2013


Also, I think I/P is one of those areas where the site suffers from a lack of diversity in opinions.

Actually, this is completely wrong. The Israel - Palestine conflict is one of the very areas of political discourse in which there is no such thing as the mythical MeFi hivemind, as there are substantial numbers of posters supporting either side.

This is opposed to our normal experience of political discussions here where, while there certainly can be heat, there's also a rough consensus on most issues and while there are always people who disagree with the consensus on a given issue, they are usually a small minority.

Furthermore, Israel v Palestine is not an right vs leftwing issue. While those on the right are more likely to support Israel for a whole raft of reasons, not all of them to the benefit of same and those on the left more inclined to identify with the Palestinians, this is nowhere near universal and plenty of left leaning people have a greater sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians.

This is not a dynamic unique to MetaFilter of course, which is why even if everybody on all sides argued in good faith and good will, this issue will still remain contentious.

I do wonder sometimes if this is a completely bad thing, or whether or not a certain level of acrimony could or should be tolerated to be able to talk about certain issues here.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:38 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Israel - Palestine conflict is one of the very areas of political discourse in which there is no such thing as the mythical MeFi hivemind, as there are substantial numbers of posters supporting either side.

I disagree. I can count regular pro-Israel posters I can recall on one hand. In practice this means Joe and others tend to debate against all comers, which is problematic for them, I'm sure, and for the threads too.

It's a moot point whether, on such a divisive issue, large numbers of people debating against one another would be better, but I don't think Metafilter is especially diverse or substantial in terms of pro-Israel voices.

It's also worth noting that MeFi is, apparently, quite divergent from US public opinion re Israel. Recent Gallup poll data indicates that is both high (64% pro Israel v 12% pro Palestinian) and matches the all time high of 1991 at the time of the Gulf War. I'd guess some of that support stems from unfavorable views of Iran, but nonetheless.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:03 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


A strong community precedent was recently set, which I very much support, for allowing vocal, public rebuke of transphobia. Why should it be any different here?

At least partially because transphobia is not well-covered ground, either here or in the broader world. Also, because no one is using -- not even slightly or thinly veiled-ly -- accusations of transphobia to shut down a conversation.

I think it's worth trying to address rather than throwing up our hands.

The problem is that no one really addresses it. No one says, "Whoa, I think you are knee-jerking or making a bad joke at the expense of an oppressed group or being insensitive because you don't realize what kind of pain you're causing by your words." It's just "AHA! I knew you were an antisemite because you hate Israel, and your use of the word 'blood' proves it because of blood libel blah blah blah!"

It's not throwing up one's hands to decline to feed the trolls.
posted by Etrigan at 4:04 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a tendency that I've noticed on Metafilter (in various threads) for a dynamic where one person says something that in a generous interpretation could be described as ill-considered. They get called out on it, maybe even by a mod. And then they get called out again and again and again and the thread becomes all about that. Which is fine when the ethical stand is clear (hit the wrong button on my phone,to be continued)
posted by eviemath at 4:36 AM on March 19, 2013


I think that, in general, bigotry needs to be called out.

The problem with the Israel/Palestine issue is that threads on the topic are getting deleted. To use the transphobia example, it wouldn't do trans people much good if we refused to even talk about trans issues. Not talking about the issue promotes the status quo, and while the status quo is that there's a horrific rate of violence against trans people, that's not a value-neutral decision.

Similarly, not talking about Israel/Palestine promotes the status quo, which involves a fair amount of violence being experienced by a lot of people. So what I'm interested in is, in the context of the stated moderation policy on Israel/Palestine threads, what can we non-mod participants do that ensures that, for starters, the conversation actually happens?
posted by eviemath at 4:45 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless baseless accusations of antisemitism as a silencing tactic actually appear in a thread, calling them out preemptively also seems to me to be one of those things that sets the discussion off on a wrong foot.

No one is being silenced here. No one is being called out. No one is being preemptively attacked. No one is being named. Several I/P threads have now either been derailed or dragged into MeTa because of that sort of rhetoric. It is an actual problem on the site that needs to be mentioned because it details threads.
posted by zarq at 4:51 AM on March 19, 2013


Ironically, I seem to be arguing for special/extreme measures to counteract a perceived existential threat to our Israel/Palestine discussions:-P I'm open to alternate suggestions for how to preserve those discussions though; I merely floated some ideas to get a conversation started, we don't have to focus on them exclusively.
posted by eviemath at 4:52 AM on March 19, 2013


2b. Do not accuse anyone (in thread or out) of antisemitism.

I said this in the past I/P Metatalk, but I've seen far more in the way of antisemitism in I/P threads than anywhere else on Metafilter. Sometimes this is unintentional, other times it does not seem so. I am uncomfortable with a set of rules about discussing the issue at hand that actually prevent discussing the issue at hand. Not all criticism of Israel or Zionism is anti-Semitic, indeed, most is not, but there is a non-trivial overlap between the two.

I am a pessimist on this subject insofar as I don't think the issue is that we are talking about this is in the wrong ways. There is an immense amount of bad blood on both sides, and that's because there has been an immense amount of blood spilled on both sides. As someone (I can't remembered who) demonstrated in the past MetaTalk thread, the issue is that people are literally so convinced that they are right that they demonize those folks who disagree with them, which is really alright with those other folks because they feel the same way. It leads to some patently absurd situations, not just online*, and it's not going to change by setting rules that ignore the real issues.

*I remember staging to march at a rally against the invasion of Iraq (Pt. 2). I happened to be with a group of friends who all belong to a very liberal Jewish congregation here in DC. In the room were people who have dedicated their life to peace in Israel/Palestine. These are the kinds of folks who have started peace movements, who would be welcome anywhere in the Occupied Territories, who speak Arabic and Hebrew equally fluently, who count among their friends peace activists from around the world. In short, people whose bona fides in the peace movement are without reproach, no matter who you ask from whichever side of the divide. And there weren't just one or two in the room. There were at least 10 people who are deeply deeply respected for their peace activism. They're also Jewish, and deeply love Israel, which is precisely why they are such staunch advocates of peace. So there we all are, talking over the coming march, making plans, exchanging phone numbers, etc, and in pops this young woman who literally leapt onto a table and started to harangue the crowd about how evil Israel is (there was an Israeli flag on the wall in the room), and how she wouldn't march in the same huge march as people who were willing to just stand around under an Israeli flag. Comparisons to the Nazis were made, vaguely anti-Semitic statements were inserted into the inchoate political argument...it was one of the most absurd situations I'd ever been in. It was lucky for her that all those SS-loving jack-booted thugs believed so deeply in non-violence, because my own preference was less sanguine.
posted by OmieWise at 5:21 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zarq, I don't see the problem the way you do, and your fixation on it seems excessive. If nobody actually thinks that criticising Israel is automatically racist (I certainly don't) then what's the point of reiterating it?

There was a thread about Neil deGrasse Tyson recently where someone got called out for a racist statement. How weird would it be if someone popped up to say "Not all criticisms of African Americans are racist, you know!" Well, of course they aren't; but implying that people objected to the statement because OMG! Someone was rude about rap! does a disservice to everyone in that conversation. Even if the complaint about racism was unfounded it would still be wrong to pre-emptively dismiss it, or to imply that such complaints were presumptively made for bad reasons.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:30 AM on March 19, 2013


Zarq, I don't see the problem the way you do, and your fixation on it seems excessive.

He said one thing about it in this thread, while admitting simultaneously that only one person did it semi-regularly, and you called him out on it some fifty comments later. And even after other people have joined in the discussion of that one point in particular, you continue to address only zarq by name. I don't think you need to worry about his fixation.
posted by Etrigan at 6:40 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ok. So what are some better, alternative ground rules for this type if a contentious discussion that will keep Israel/Palestine posts from being deleted by the mods? Given the mod policy on this topic, what can we, the rest of us, do to ensure that these important discussions happen rather than getting blacklisted?
posted by eviemath at 7:08 AM on March 19, 2013


That being kind of the point of this thread: to proactively discuss how we can talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Metafilter.
posted by eviemath at 7:11 AM on March 19, 2013


what can we, the rest of us, do to ensure that these important discussions happen rather than getting blacklisted?

I'm not sure I agree with your premises. I'm not sure we can do anything that would allow an actual discussion of the issues that would not also potentially trip those discussions into "bad" territory. I'm not at all convinced that I/P discussions are something that need to be saved for Metafilter. I'm not convinced they make the site better in any meaningful way, I'm not at all sure they make any site better. I don't think raising awareness, for instance, is actually something that needs to happen on this issue.

On preview: That being kind of the point of this thread: to proactively discuss how we can talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Metafilter.

Not every topic is something that makes for a good Metafilter thread.
posted by OmieWise at 7:13 AM on March 19, 2013


(Well, and my other thought in making this MeTa was that people could bring necessary callouts here, and just put a quick link in-thread, so that folks wouldn't feel like they had to drop something important, but the main thread wouldn't get derailed.)
posted by eviemath at 7:15 AM on March 19, 2013


I'd accept an argument that Metafilter is for more lighthearted matters (though I'd debate you on that). Yeah, not everywhere needs to nor should be a forum for Serious Issues. But am I correct in understanding, OmieWise, that you disagree with my premise that not talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever is a value-laden choice that supports the status quo?
posted by eviemath at 7:19 AM on March 19, 2013


I don't see anyone in that thread who says that criticism of Israeli policies is automatically anti-Semitic.

I do see people misquoting others to make it look that way though. Which is actually a funny thing, because I was actually trying to link to the meta that Bunny Ultramod linked to but somehow flubbed it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:23 AM on March 19, 2013


But am I correct in understanding, OmieWise, that you disagree with my premise that not talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever is a value-laden choice that supports the status quo?

You are correct that I think that premise is flawed. Not talking about it on Metafilter is not the same as not talking about it. If I/P threads are by design supposed to be activism (as your premise suggests) then I think they are flawed
from the outset. I also disagree with your premise that by not thinking that talking about I/P is a good fit for MeFi, one might be suggesting that Metafilter is only fit for "lighthearted matters." The divide here is not between the serious and the un-serious, although that might be a self-serving way to frame it for you.

I also think the premise of your rules here are flawed, because I think comparison of Israeli's to Nazis is a deliberately and pernicious attack that is not historically supported (as badly as Israel has acted toward Palestinians), while anti-Semitism is something that sometimes needs to be called out in I/P threads. Banning both as if they were equivalent seems pretty value-laden to me.

This is part of the problem. You appear to want to preserve the opportunity to criticize Israel in I/P threads, which I'm not sure is a desire that is likely to lead to "better" conversations.
posted by OmieWise at 7:33 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


OmieWise and eviemath, I think you're each reading the other's comments pretty uncharitably. And that sort of thing seems to happen at depressingly larger rates in I/P threads by virtually everyone.

If we can't even speak to each other fairly in a MeTa that is about speaking to each other fairly, then I'm starting to agree with the idea that all I/P stories need to be nuked at the outset.
posted by Etrigan at 7:41 AM on March 19, 2013


Like I said, I'm not wedded to those particular ground rules, and just threw them out as an example/suggestion to get a discussion started.

Yeah, it's clear from OmieWise's clarification that he had not intended to go so far as to say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shouldn't be discussed anywhere on the web. That's why I asked for a clarification:-)
posted by eviemath at 7:43 AM on March 19, 2013


I guess I'm confused about what the divide between good and bad Metafilter topics is. Perhaps lighthearted was a bad word choice to use as a synonym for not so historically contentious among Metafilter users. The mod argument at least for restricting Israel/Palestine posts seems to be that this topic, in particular, takes up an inordinate share of mod time and resources; and for a site that relies on effective moderation of all threads, that harms the site overall. I agree. But I also want to talk about this topic from time to time when there's a new development. So that means that I have to work to convince everyone else to agree to treat the topic in a manner that meets with mod approval.
posted by eviemath at 7:53 AM on March 19, 2013


So maybe a better starting point would be to list characteristics that make a discussion thread "too fighty", and then look at those carefully to see what reasonable extra policies we might suggest for Israel/Palestine discussions to prevent them?
posted by eviemath at 7:56 AM on March 19, 2013


Joe in Australia: "Zarq, I don't see the problem the way you do, and your fixation on it seems excessive. If nobody actually thinks that criticising Israel is automatically racist (I certainly don't) then what's the point of reiterating it? "

I haven't reiterated it. I've said it once in this thread. And then I replied to you about it.

But I do think it's a good idea to keep in mind that accusations of antisemitism tend to have a Godwin-like effect on a conversation. If we're trying to have discussions that don't end with people shouting at each other it would be good for people to keep that in mind and try a little harder.

If I am fixated on anything, it's encouraging people to be more thoughtful and less angry and sarcastic when they comment in I/P threads. To keep open minds and be as honest as possible with ourselves and others about the entire situation, as well as the history and major players on both sides. We are capable of talking about this topic civilly. We've had a number of I/P threads that didn't turn into vicious arguments. There's no reason why we can't continue to do so in the future.
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there's definitely a lack of diversity of opinions on the I/P issue here. Granted, I gave up on I/P threads a couple years ago, but from what I recall, it usually broke down to : a lot of people on the pro-Palestine side, a fair number of people who were extremely pro-Palestine, and MAYBE one or two who were moderately pro-Israel. You almost never saw people who were staunchly pro-Israel, and if you did, they got shouted down pretty hard. I mean, just look at the I/P FPPs themselves. How many are sympathetic to the Israeli point of view?

I consider myself to be somewhat of an outlier (moderately pro-Palestine, believer in a Binational solution, which yes, I know, nobody agrees with me on, but whatever), but I've felt the discussion has suffered from the lack of staunchly pro-Israel or even moderately pro-Israel people. It's as if MeFi exists in some alternate universe where the vast majority of Americans are not pro-Israel. Again, I don't agree with the staunchly pro-Israel people -- or even the moderately pro-Israel people, really -- but I'd feel better if they were around, if for no other reason, to remind people that yes, what's being mooted here is the continued existence of a country people actually happen to be living in. I've been made to feel like a bad person simply for pointing out that there's another side to this debate. And I think that's where my annoyance comes from : people oversimplifying the issue and throwing all their emotion and vitriol into it.

On a more specific note, in regards to anti-semitism, yes, I have seen it here. I don't know if the perpetrators actually hate Jews or what, but I've definitely seen the ages-old Jewish Conspiracy Theory resurrected in the form of Israel hate or AIPAC hate. Again, I don't know if these people actually hate Jews, but they seem completely unaware that their rhetoric comes dangerously close to the kind of sentiment that got my ancestors -- all Jewish -- killed and chased out of countries and stuff. And they really don't seem to care. I've seen the sentiment, "Well, if you think that is bad, you should see what life is like in Gaza!" and on and on and on. I think a lot of them are just tremendously un-self-aware. Again, when it comes to other well-discussed subjects on this site, people show a remarkable amount of restraint, or at very least they realize that if they say certain things, they'll be subject to social disapproval from basically everybody, including the mods. But for some reason, when I/P comes up, that all goes out the window.

Anyway, do I think I/P needs to be talked about by people? Sure! I hope the world leaders continue to try to iron this shit out. Does it need to be talked about here? Not really. I don't think anything of great value is lost by placing the discussion off-limits. Nothing is being accomplished in MeFi I/P threads, other than showing a really ugly side of the site's user base and making me lose some amount of faith in the community as a whole.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:32 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


eviemath: "That being kind of the point of this thread: to proactively discuss how we can talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Metafilter."

Single link posts on the subject tend to not go well. Posts to one-sided editorials tend to not go well. Quotes in FPPs that highlight only one side's situation are often perceived as inflammatory. FPPs that compare Israel's actions to Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany are flat-out doomed. Posts that attack Palestinians as murderers are equally doomed. They all lack perspective.

Posts which cherry-pick context also tend to be problematic. And these are the hardest to talk about. A poster may have deliberately left out context or simply not have been aware of it.

Here's an example of a post about Israel that didn't go well. The poster starts out with a semi-dog-whistle phrase that compares the situation to Kristallnacht. He also left out a bunch of context. You can see in the thread why it went south. Someone actually commented: "Also, lol to the self-godwinning post."

Posts that are made in anger or by a poster who has an axe to grind are typically bad posts for Metafilter on any topic. When they're made about I/P they tend to Not Go Well. Posters also shouldn't challenge/reply back to everyone who comments in a thread, either: threadsitting. (Not threadshitting, which is a different behavior.) Threadsitting turns threads into fight-zones.

Anyway, posts that go well need to start with... a good post.

It doesn't need to be objective, per se. But it does need to have more content than "Look at these assholes doing awful things again." The post topic should be about something that we can discuss and not be created merely to raise people's outrage level. It needs to not be purposefully inflammatory. No dog whistles. No angst or drama.

I'm convinced (and other people should feel free to disagree with me here) that a good I/P post should take a little time to put together. Give folks a bigger picture. Let them ponder the complexities of the situation. But perhaps I'm wrong about that.

Once we have a decent post, people need to be conscious of how they are interacting with other folks in a thread. To not rise up when baited. To not make hyperbolic accusations. To be as dispassionate as possible and to keep an open mind. To listen and be willing to learn, not just talk. To be aware of one's own biases. Which is not at all easy. Many of us feel very strongly about these issues. But we don't know everything. It's easy to point at a single incident and say, "This is horrible." Far harder and less honest to point to the entire history of the region and say, "This side, and only this side ever acts in good faith."

I think the discussions are worth it. I think they change minds and plant seeds of knowledge and/or doubt. I think a good thread can even counter propaganda pretty well. Treat them as teaching and learning experiences and you can get a lot out of them. But treat 'em as a place to vent and that won't do much good for anyone.
posted by zarq at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The advantage of a single-link post is that it narrows the conversation. There are fewer footholds for people who just want to (1) argue with each other, (2) about the same old things; and if those comments pop up anyway, you can flag them and a mod can remind people to discuss the links or move on. If you build a complex, big-picture, multi-source FPP then you do have more fertile ground for conversation, but it's also likely that somewhere in that "big picture" is a seed of those same old things that will turn the thread sideways.
posted by cribcage at 9:26 AM on March 19, 2013


No one is being silenced here. No one is being called out. No one is being preemptively attacked. No one is being named. Several I/P threads have now either been derailed or dragged into MeTa because of that sort of rhetoric. It is an actual problem on the site that needs to be mentioned because it details threads.

A number of people, including me, have said they don't participate in I/P threads because of the rhetoric. Part of what bothers me is that people will immediately throw up the "all accusations of antisemitism are just an attempt to shut down criticism" canard before any accusation of antisemitism has ever occurred in the thread.

So, yes. It silences me. It keeps me out of the thread. I'm not really interested in having a discussion in which I have been preemptively told that, if I am concerned about antisemitism, I am just trying to silence discussion.

I think it is fair to ask that there not be these preemptive shushing of any discussion of antisemitism. I can think of no other discussion of prejudice in no other circumstance on this site that is so routinely discredited before it even comes up, and it's poor form. So this is also an actual problem on this site, and should be addressed as well.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:53 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Far harder and less honest to point to the entire history of the region and say, "This side, and only this side ever acts in good faith."

The part I hate even more on MeFi is the inevitable "Well, yes, my side is acting in bad faith on this thing, but it's totally justified because your side acted in bad faith more on some tangentially related thing."
posted by Etrigan at 9:54 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


A number of people, including me, have said they don't participate in I/P threads because of the rhetoric. Part of what bothers me is that people will immediately throw up the "all accusations of antisemitism are just an attempt to shut down criticism" canard before any accusation of antisemitism has ever occurred in the thread.

My original comment was directed to Joe and was a direct response to his weird accusation that I'm "fixated" on the issue. I was under the impression that your subsequent comment was a response to him. You seem to be trying to leverage that into a different conversation, which is fine. But I feel like you're taking what I have actually said in this thread out of context.

Would you mind going back and reading my comments in this thread? I'm not saying what you seem to think I am. I'm absolutely not saying that we should shut down or stifle all discussion of antisemitic rhetoric. I have never said that. Not once in this thread. I've only said that we should not treat criticism of Israel as automatically antisemitic. That is not a silencing tactic. It's a plea for people to ask questions and not jump to conclusions before going on the attack.
posted by zarq at 10:13 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I apologize if my intentions were not clear and if it sounded as though I were calling you out. No, I was using your response to me as an opportunity to discuss a larger issue, not to suggest that you somehow are guilty of that particular bit of behavior. I do know that early on in the thread you clearly stated that accusations of antisemitism are not always and exclusively silencing tactics.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:16 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


a lot of people on the pro-Palestine side, a fair number of people who were extremely pro-Palestine, and MAYBE one or two who were moderately pro-Israel. You almost never saw people who were staunchly pro-Israel, and if you did, they got shouted down pretty hard. I mean, just look at the I/P FPPs themselves. How many are sympathetic to the Israeli point of view?

Is this really accurate? What I see is the extremists from both sides shouting down everyone else. It doesn't matter if your comment is neutral, if there is even a hint of slant towards one side or the other you can be guaranteed to get a response correcting your egregious slander of the commenters "side."
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:35 AM on March 19, 2013


The problem with the Israel/Palestine issue is that threads on the topic are getting deleted. To use the transphobia example, it wouldn't do trans people much good if we refused to even talk about trans issues. Not talking about the issue promotes the status quo, and while the status quo is that there's a horrific rate of violence against trans people, that's not a value-neutral decision.

I don't know if I'm the only person burned out from trans posts that's in this thread, but, I, for one, really wished about half of the recent spate of them got deleted on the grounds of 'No one has the energy for this'. One would show up and I'd think 'Oh god, why did you post this? There's already a train wreck over in the other thread.' And I think that's what's happening here, except instead of the trans people and their allies being burned out, it's the mods.
posted by hoyland at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2013


This leads to the situation that Bunny Ultramod and others have described where they just feel silenced.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2013


I was referencing my previous comment if that is not clear.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:38 AM on March 19, 2013


It doesn't matter if your comment is neutral, if there is even a hint of slant towards one side or the other you can be guaranteed to get a response correcting your egregious slander of the commenters "side."

Pretty much this. If you post in an I/P thread you had better be on your game because what you say will be deconstructed, nitpicked and evaluated until any original intents or meanings are completely gone.
posted by charred husk at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I apologize if my intentions were not clear and if it sounded as though I were calling you out. No, I was using your response to me as an opportunity to discuss a larger issue, not to suggest that you somehow are guilty of that particular bit of behavior. I do know that early on in the thread you clearly stated that accusations of antisemitism are not always and exclusively silencing tactics.

Ah. Okay. My apologies. Thank you, and no worries.
posted by zarq at 10:55 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's kind of hard, because Metafilter skews fairly liberal. The fighty bits I see in Metafilter discussions on I/P are similar to the fighty bits I see in /real life/ about I/P. We have not solved how to have these conversations in real life, it's definitely more of a challenge to figure out how to do it on the internet.

But I think we could all do better by respecting people's views as well as people themselves. Accepting that good people can have different views on something, even something as contentious as I/P, should be a bare minimum requirement for posting.
posted by corb at 1:50 PM on March 19, 2013


eviemath: "Ok. So what are some better, alternative ground rules for this type if a contentious discussion that will keep Israel/Palestine posts from being deleted by the mods? Given the mod policy on this topic, what can we, the rest of us, do to ensure that these important discussions happen rather than getting blacklisted?"

That's a good question, eviemath. I can't speak for the mods, but what I personally want to see is added value. There are already dozens (hundreds?) of I/P threads full of debate over which group is the root of all evil. The arguments are almost always the same. If "Identical Palestine/Israel Arguments Thread #407" makes more work for the mods, and doesn't add anything we haven't seen 406 times, why do we want it?

To me, MeFi comments are places to discover things. Maybe an eriko or Blasdelb will show up with deeply researched knowledge bombs, or an Eyebrows McGee or not that girl with well-written lived experience, or a Miko or koeselitz with a way of thinking of something that would never have occurred to me. If I/P threads had comments that interesting, I bet folks would be more motivated to deal with the fighty crap, instead of just wishing the threads would go away.

So if we want discussions of I/P to stay on Metafilter, let's make them worth keeping. See how each post has a topic, and references a particular event? Let's spend some time to learn more about that event, so we can say something new that others haven't heard a hundred times before. Someone reacts badly to something I say, or something someone else says winds me up? Maybe I can think about how that sort of anger colours the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, and indeed of all of us, and write about how I handle mine constructively. A parallel pops into my head between anybody and Nazis? Maybe I can look for other parallels, especially ones about which I have particular knowledge: Family disputes? Irish Troubles? Gangs? Sri Lanka conflict? Premodern migrations?

Most importantly, let's all take our time! I know the feeling when something is just soooo wrong, and I just have to correct it as quickly and as often as possible. But a dozen confrontational rebuttals are unlikely to convince anyone. (I'm still embarrassed about a useless, anger-filled letter to the editor I once wrote on this topic.) I believe my positions are correct, and that folks who really think about it should arrive at similar conclusions to mine, so how about I trust in that? If I spend more time writing just one thing that's mind-opening, and make folks think a bit, then they're more likely to arrive at the right answers in the end. Plus, maybe I/P threads won't end up banned :)
posted by vasi at 2:36 PM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Gordian knots. Passionate ought to be a flag. Yet it's not reasonable to require an essay to be a bloodless presentation of impeccable rhetoric. We cannot always determine whether the red-haired uncle is an asshole, but we still don't have to let our kids ride in his car.

Shorthand and lables help us avoid certain of these convolutions: I don't use most of the "dog whistle" words, mostly because the henny-pennys in the crowd can't put sense to the clauses on either side of a comma after their sensibilities have been blinded by seeing some one or another of the words they've been told (by their favorite committee) are supposed to be attached to some ism. It seems like subtlety works only when you preach to the choir, and then it goes unchallenged mostly because you're kicking someone else's dog.

Topics related to race and gender issues seem especially vulnerable to the endless predations of, not only the well-meaning, but to the trolls and thought police who inhabit forums. It seems that face-to-face discussions have a way of obviating most of the derails, so long as the group respects moderators of the discussion. We assume good faith if we can look into one another's eyes, but for some reason letters strung on a bb bring out the cynic in us. (Yeah, that's a hastey generalization.)

What if you are trying to describe a moral evil? Here in MeFi (as well as most other venues) you are allowed to cry foul--but I refer you back to the "kicking another's dog" clause. Sometimes this makes sense. The dogmatic religious moralist will rant against gay unions, and be called out for it. His intolerance becomes, well, intolerable to the thoughtful members of a more liberal community. The rub is that goose sauce does not go well on the gander, so to speak.

I/P discussusions seem to have a similar architecture. At some point proponents of either cause try to draw a line in the sand. Neither side can agree on the coordinates, but according to each, evil lies on the other side. The disintrested observer (perhaps possible only in theory, I suspect) notices right away that both sides cannot be correct, so if agreement is to be had, they both must reform their moral imperatives to a significant degree, or else one must conquer the other by force. Violence always ensues. In this case it's supremely ironic that they all cite their respective religions, and both sides claim to be children of Abraham.

Compared to the I/P doings, race relations are simple contract discussions. Gender issues more resemble I/P issues.

But simply stated, my problem is how do you engage in a printed forum an issue that requires the elimination of moral tenets before you can present your views? After all, this isn't a venue that fosters actual debate. We more or less present our case, trying to reveal our internal landscape in a candid manner. The more thoughtful posters avoid engaging in booger-flicking most of the time. This is fine as far as it goes. After all, we aren't talking about the best restaurant in Philly, where one's taste isn't open to charges of moral turpitude. Euphemisms are the best most people can do. I know that your argument would be more acceptable to that historical figure who liked to wear a chaplinesque lip rug, but I'd like to point out that my position leans more toward humanitarian views, so can you please not talk about ovens that way? In some ways I'd rather see an honest rant than have to navigate shit like this.

The object in this venue, if it is to control the derails, presents fairly simple issues for the moderators. If the object is to control racists statements, then the issue becomes highly problematic. Not long ago a productive thread pointed out that not all racist thinking came from evil minds--many people just never have challenged some of their moral wallpapering, and found that it needed changing. Yet it seems to be the case that simply calling someone a racist--in here--is the best way to defeat their statement. I think this does us all a disservice. For one thing, once you call racism, the derail is already on. For another, the use of stereotypes is a legitimate rhetorical tool. Finally, many of us have sexist or racist or chauvinistic demons lurking in our closets, but they don't necessarily disqualify us from thoughtful discourse.

I don't want to ramble on with endless anecdata, but the MeFi venue has provided me with an opportunity to drag at least one of my own little demons out of the closet and stomp him into submission: this happened because of a thoughtful comment by sweetkid to a post I made. She might have flagged my comment as racist, but she didn't, and I was inspired to revise and expand on it a bit. In the process I got to do some laundry. This is a good thing.

I don't really care to try to convert anyone here to my ideas. I like the sense of community this board inspires, so I'm more interested in letting this venue shine its lights on my own landscape, and in the process of examining what I see, I get to array myself more properly in to some semblance of order.

So here, figure this: If your god tells you that I'm an abomination, can you talk to me about that without insulting me? If you try, can I take you to task because your god is Jehovah and not the Cosmic Muffin? If we must always agree to disagree, then what's the point of the discussion?
posted by mule98J at 10:25 AM on March 20, 2013


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