This looks shopped. I can tell from some of the pixels March 10, 2014 12:45 PM   Subscribe

In the "In fact, there are no places that are not for ladies anymore" thread, which generated a lot of discussion about the incident possibly being fake, user skoosh offered a proposal that strikes me as a fine one, and one I think is worth discussing here.

The proposal:

I propose that, henceforth, we all refrain from publicly doubting the veracity of a non-anonymous testimonial unless accompanied by at least one specific, concrete reason for any such doubt. Furthermore, I propose that we all regard any such public doubts based on nothing but a feeling to be a form of concern trolling, to be immediately flagged and ignored.

If all that you (and by "you", I mean all present and future users of Metafilter, and moreover, the entire Internet) have is a feeling that some specific statement may not be true, let that be your impetus to conduct some research, to think about what's causing that feeling, and see if there's some actual evidence that something is awry, before telling the world about it. Because if you cannot find any such evidence, or cannot even be bothered to do that much, then your talking about your utterly unsupported "feelings" is a derail and a waste of our time.

A "feeling" is not an epistemological argument, and frankly, we don't need to hear about your damn feelings if that's all that you have to tell us. When you publicly insinuate that a real, actual, specific human being is a liar, you need to have an actual reason to say so.
posted by Bunny Ultramod to Etiquette/Policy at 12:45 PM (169 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

What does it mean to "flag and ignore?" Flagging is a suggestion to the mods that the comment be removed, so I don't understand the "ignore" part. Are these comments to be left standing or not?
posted by Wordwoman at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2014


Assume everything is true until proven otherwise? I look forward to the unicorn hunt!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2014 [21 favorites]


?
posted by dfriedman at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2014


I imagine that this post will annoy a number of people, but I wholeheartedly agree with skoosh and it's worth calling attention to how lazy and pernicious this reflexive skepticism (which is closer to cynicism, I think), even though it's relatively low-impact and more a minor annoyance than anything to get really worked up about. So let's not get too worked up about it, okay? It's just that, really, these sorts of comments are more like noise than they are anything else.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


What does it mean to "flag and ignore?"

I presume it means flag it and move on, rather than flag it and also complain about it in-thread, and presume the mods will look into it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:52 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I look forward to the unicorn hunt!

I'm betting you can provide some compelling reasons to doubt the veracity of a unicorn hunt. I know I could, and I would be surprised if most MeFites can't.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:53 PM on March 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think I would like the narrow the proposal so that it doesn't involve all claims, but perhaps merely claims that are made by people in certain positions or with certain identities that historically don't get epistemic uptake.

That is, I'd like to be able to have a default skepticism about the claims of:

1. Advertisers
2. Politicians
3. CEOs
4. Bankers
5. Police Officers

It's also the case that we occasionally get trolled by people who have elaborate sob stories that turn out not to be true. But I do think in this particular case it's weird to have doubts about the veracity of the note, and I'd like to see some way to implement the proposal in cases very close to this one.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:55 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


What does it mean to "flag and ignore?" Flagging is a suggestion to the mods that the comment be removed, so I don't understand the "ignore" part.

I think it's just another way of saying "flag and move on", i.e. flag it and let that be the sum total of your reaction to it vs. also responding to it and so making it more embedded in the flow of the discussion.

Which, if you think something should be removed, responding to it is pretty much contraindicated for that exact reason. That's not to say that every flag needs to mean "this needs to be removed" rather than "maybe take a look at this" (and the latter is what ends up happening with plenty of flags), but I think that's the intent.

Assume everything is true until proven otherwise? I look forward to the unicorn hunt!

Which is a needlessly overblown misinterpretation of the actual idea. Maybe try harder not to seem like you're just being reflexively dismissive if you have actual thoughts here instead of just twitchy glibness.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:56 PM on March 10, 2014 [21 favorites]


Assume everything is true until proven otherwise? I look forward to the unicorn hunt!

How did you get to there from

I propose that, henceforth, we all refrain from publicly doubting the veracity of a non-anonymous testimonial unless accompanied by at least one specific, concrete reason for any such doubt.
posted by rtha at 12:59 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


we all refrain from publicly doubting the veracity of a non-anonymous testimonial unless accompanied by at least one specific, concrete reason for any such doubt.

I dunno. That kind of seems to be strangling one side of any discussion. Should we also say that people should only publicly post positive or supporting comments if they can also show the same level of 'support'? Arguably, nobody should comment at all until there is some element of proof if you extend the requirement.

It's a discussion. People shouldn't need to buy into the premise of that discussion in order to be involved, in my opinion.

Also, doesn't that only allow one side of the discussion to happen until the incident is supported? Why is the burden of proof on the sceptics side? After all, 'non-anoynmous' requires only a fake name, does it not?
posted by Brockles at 1:03 PM on March 10, 2014 [20 favorites]


I just think this is peak trolling hour today on the interwebs.
posted by infini at 1:04 PM on March 10, 2014


Ok, insert softer word than trolling instead of derailing... poking, snark, hamburger etc
posted by infini at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2014


I am not on-board with this. I don't think there is any reason to doubt this particular incident and am not sure why anyone would do so but there are plenty of other times when skepticism is warranted *cough*kaycee*cough*.
posted by Justinian at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I sometimes have those cynical feels when people are being gleeful and/or outraged about something, and I sometimes feel gleeful and/or outraged whilst other people are being cynical. And sometimes my feels match up with the zeitgeist, whether in glee, outrage, or cynicism.

So, as someone who has been on all sides of this issue, I feel like this is not a bad idea. It is okay and normal and sometimes warranted to be suspicious of these types of things, but it does seem like a good idea to have something more than a groundless belief that it might not be real to bring that up in the thread.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2014


"I'm betting you can provide some compelling reasons to doubt the veracity of a unicorn hunt. I know I could, and I would be surprised if most MeFites can't."

Yeah, I find it difficult to grapple with this and articulate my thoughts about it because I'm a skeptic by deliberate training, I was one of those youth card-carrying CSICOP members. I've mellowed in my old age, but I'm still far from credulous or would ever advocate anything that amounted to being credulous.

But there's a way of being skeptical that isn't really being skeptical, but is really just a reflexive and unthinking inversion of being lazily credulous. You just can't avoid actually thinking about and evaluating things and an automatic stance of "that's probably a hoax" is an attempt to avoid doing the hard work that true skepticism requires.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:10 PM on March 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


Does "there have been very similar stories recently that turned out to be fake" qualify as "actual evidence"?
posted by 0 at 1:10 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can agree with the general sentiment of requiring some backing argument for expressing scepticism, but I don't know if it can be made into a rule: For example, this MeTa is sceptical about the motivation of people expressing such concerns - was anybody in the linked thread really acting with malicious intent?
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:11 PM on March 10, 2014


I guess my feeling is that we already discourage "meh" comments. People used to be in the habit of popping into threads to say "this is worthless and why bother discussing it," which doesn't forward conversation in any way, but actively blocks it, because instead of having a discussion, we're sort of obligated to have the discussion about having the discussion.

"This didn't even happen, sez I, with no evidence," seems like is does the same. If you doubt the premise of the thread altogether, there must be some reason you can articulate, and if there is a reason, there's opportunity to investigate. MeFi has proven to be quite good at sussing out fakes. They certainly are there.

I'm all for fact-checking, investigating, and truth-seeking. An unsubstantiated cry of "fake" isn't that. Without an articulated reason for suspicion, it's noise.

Does "there have been very similar stories recently that turned out to be fake" qualify as actual evidence?


That was the discussion in the thread, and I think it is more than counterbalanced by "this actually does happen all the time, so the statistical likelihood is that it happened."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:12 PM on March 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


...was anybody in the linked thread really acting with malicious intent?

I'd argue that most of the unpleasant people I know aren't acting out of malicious intent when they do shitty things, but believe they are acting appropriately in light of the situation. It doesn't really matter if there's malicious intent when someone breaks out their Sherlock hat and magnifying glass because where there's an accusation of harassment, there they must be to cast the harsh light of the skeptic upon it because "there have been very similar stories recently that turned out to be fake."
posted by griphus at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "I propose that, henceforth, we all refrain from publicly doubting the veracity of a non-anonymous testimonial unless accompanied by at least one specific, concrete reason for any such doubt. Furthermore, I propose that we all regard any such public doubts based on nothing but a feeling to be a form of concern trolling, to be immediately flagged and ignored."

I applaud this idea, but you're never, ever going to be able to stop people from "I'm convinced it's staged" threadshitting.
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Perhaps not, but it seemed worth it to try.

And I should say, I'm not actually opposed to people getting skeptical. I just want to encourage skepticism that is productive to discussion, because where can a discussion progress from "as far as I am concerned, this didn't even happen"?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:18 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


An unsubstantiated cry of "fake" isn't that. Without an articulated reason for suspicion, it's noise.

So you're actually more interested in stopping the "I think this is fake" comments, but would be ok with "I think this is fake because..." comments.

Well, sure, if that is the case. That's a pretty low bar, if so, though.
posted by Brockles at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2014


It is okay and normal and sometimes warranted to be suspicious of these types of things, but it does seem like a good idea to have something more than a groundless belief that it might not be real to bring that up in the thread.

This is about how I feel about this stuff, personally, yeah. I think it's totally fine to take a critical eye to the details of something and to think about whether it feels cohesive or not and if you're leaning more toward the "not" side to then do a little more looking and then organize your thoughts a bit.

And then look at what you've organized and think, "is this something worth adding to the discussion that's actually happening?" Is it? Okay! Go and contribute your critical but constructive thoughts to the discussion. Is it not so much? Maybe give it a pass for now and let the idea digest more! Is it more mostly a "I kind of want to be on record as having thought so if this turns out to be fake for some reason" thing? Boy howdy, give it like three passes!

I don't think the actual points of conflict on this stuff are usually about skepticism vs. credulity as dueling ideals; there's value in both, sometimes we need to be credulous, sometimes we need to be skeptical, everybody's got both going on inside 'em. Most of the conflict tends to come from not really reading the room, not framing a critical thought or a defense very well, not thinking about the timing or context, or just not really stopping to make sure what you're saying has more meat on it than an apropos-of-nothing "I bet it's fake" sort of thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Who's going to factcheck the "specific, concrete reason"?
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:20 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


But there's a way of being skeptical that isn't really being skeptical, but is really just a reflexive and unthinking inversion of being lazily credulous. You just can't avoid actually thinking about and evaluating things and an automatic stance of "that's probably a hoax" is an attempt to avoid doing the hard work that true skepticism requires.

Exactly. It's another example of that tiresome "both sides do it" BS that is so often an excuse to be contrary for contrary's sake. Did somebody possibly make up a story about being screwed out of a tip by homophobes? Sure. Does that it mean that there aren't homophobes pulling that shit a thousand times a day? No. It certainly doesn't mean that every time you hear a story there's a pressing need for you to bring up that one time it happened.

Does "there have been very similar stories recently that turned out to be fake" qualify as "actual evidence"?

Only if those stories were not statistical outliers and/or extreme cases, which they usually are.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:21 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


That's a pretty low bar, if so, though.

It's usually the low bars I trip over.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:22 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


But there's a way of being skeptical that isn't really being skeptical, but is really just a reflexive and unthinking inversion of being lazily credulous. You just can't avoid actually thinking about and evaluating things

So let's target the laziness, then, and not ask the mods to proscribe particular positions (or impose higher standards of argumentation on some ideas than on others). Banning lazy cynicism while tolerating, or even encouraging, lazy credulousness won't make for any better discussion!

Contentless, knee-jerk, drive-by, generally lazy comments are the real problem to address, and there's no good reason why we ought to target knee-jerk cynicism specifically rather than just trying to cut down on knee-jerk laziness in general.
posted by RogerB at 1:22 PM on March 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Like a lot of well-meaning solutions along these lines, this proposal relies on the person in question having a moment of clarity where they think, "Huh, you know, I really have no idea what I'm talking about here," and I don't really see that happening. Not knowing what one is talking about, or having no real basis for one's claim - these are things that happen to other people.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


A "feeling" is not an epistemological argument, and frankly, we don't need to hear about your damn feelings if that's all that you have to tell us. When you publicly insinuate that a real, actual, specific human being is a liar, you need to have an actual reason to say so.

In general, I agree with this in terms of best practices for the site. But it's very epistemology valid to assert that there are times that you know something without knowing how you know. You are lined up with the world in a correct way such that it conveys knowledge to you, and it isn't always based on propositional affirmations. (Look up chicken sexers and intuition, for example, and you will get some good reading. Many of them do not know how they do it, but it works.) Some people are very good at picking out liars without knowing how they do this. You can sometimes learn to see the tells, even if you weren't always aware that is what you were noticing.

However, the problem comes in when we have too many people thinking that they can do this (and cannot), and as a general rule, it's probably not a good thing to encourage, for pragmatic reasons for the site. Those who are more intuitive in this regard have no way of proving it (aside from impractical testing), so it's somewhat of a moot point to argue for it. But I think it's an important thing to note in this whole conversation. If we aren't doing it it's not because some people can't just tell that some people are liars.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2014


I dunno. I'm on the fence on this proposal. If a thread on the blue is analogous to a conversation, then I would submit that "hey, this seems fishy to me, not sure why but my Spidey-sense is tingling" is a perfectly fine and valid thing to say in a conversation. It's not the brightest thing to say and it doesn't really add much, so maybe the thing to do is just ignore (move on, as it were) rather than instituting another rule.
posted by jbickers at 1:26 PM on March 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "Perhaps not, but it seemed worth it to try.

*nod* Definitely.

And I should say, I'm not actually opposed to people getting skeptical. I just want to encourage skepticism that is productive to discussion, because where can a discussion progress from "as far as I am concerned, this didn't even happen"?"

It's funny... I had this thread in mind when I commented above, but re-reading it now, I can't imagine what annoyed me about it back then. The discussion was actually pretty neat. A few people said, "this has to be staged" and other folks jumped in with stories explaining just how incredibly destructive toddlers can be when left alone and unleashed on an unsuspecting defenseless environment. It's fun to read. (Well, *I* find it fun. YMMV) :D
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on March 10, 2014


...then I would submit that "hey, this seems fishy to me, not sure why but my Spidey-sense is tingling" is a perfectly fine and valid thing to say in a conversation.

I think if we're talking about a thread/conversation about, I don't know, a hoverboard video, sure, yeah. But if it's a type of thread/conversation where there's a really pretty frequent pattern that doubting the veracity of the situation instead derails it into territory where the argument becomes whether or not it happened, with the "didn't happen" side having, at best "I dunno stuff like this sometimes doesn't happen I guess" as their argument, then it's a lot less germane of a comment. Like if your friend came up to you and said "dude I just got an offer to be Spider-Man in the next movie!" you'd be "uh sure you did pal." But if someone (not even a friend) said "ugh, my boss slapped me on the ass at work" the appropriate response would definitely not be "are you sure? I don't know why, but it sounds like you're lying."
posted by griphus at 1:33 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Seriously, what's wrong with letting people share their piece? There's one comment that I see that's "skeptical". There's also a comment that contains the phrase '"Most Men Are Pigs" is a simple truth.' It's kinda crazy which contribution is being slated for non-existence here. This place used to be an open forum.
posted by 0 at 1:33 PM on March 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


and not ask the mods to proscribe particular positions

To be clear about this, as mods we're not about to start proscribing anything; just like basically every Metatalk of the "here's a thing that that I want talk about how we could do better in discussion as a community" form, this is totally a mefites-talking-about-behavior thing, not something that is going to end up as enforced site policy.

So, I agree significantly in spirit with the suggestion, and just talked above about why that's how I feel. Reflexive, unsubstantiated skepticism kind of annoys me, just like a lot of other sorts of reflexive, unsubstantiated comments annoy me. I'm 100% in favor of people being more thoughtful and self-aware about the hows and whys and whethers of those sorts of comments, but that's not a rule, it's just an opinion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:34 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Contentless, knee-jerk, drive-by, generally lazy comments are the real problem to address, and there's no good reason why we ought to target knee-jerk cynicism specifically rather than just trying to cut down on knee-jerk laziness in general."

I completely agree with you on this, but I think it is missing the point a bit. Read cortex's comment again. As is so often the case — and I think this is the intention of skoosh and Bunny Ultramod — the thing worth paying attention in this is how it affects the conversation. "Reading the room" is how cortex describes this; the problem in this reflexive skepticism is that, in the end, it's often disruptive.

It's disruptive because, intended or not, there's often an implied or inferred criticism of those who are not being skeptical. It's very much like the "your favorite band sucks" thing — positive and negative comments are not socially equivalent. Negative comments are often seen as challenging and they tend to increase conflict.

As people often say, MeFi isn't a kindergarten and there's nothing wrong with a difference of opinion. But in the same way that comments of the character of "your favorite band sucks" really need to be on-topic and substantial to be justified, so too do "this is a hoax" comments. Because if they're throwaway, casual comments that really don't contribute anything worthwhile, then they're not justifying their cost in terms of social friction. At the very least, one solution to this problem is that absent true substance to such comments, they could just be phrased more benignly — such as jbicker's example of "hey, this seems fishy to me, not sure why but my Spidey-sense is tingling", which I think would be fine and likely to prompt people to actually investigate in more depth why someone's Spidey-sense is tingling.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:35 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


It seems like the part of this that isn't being overtly talked about much in this thread is, that to doubt a woman when she states she's been treated in a sexist manner, is a loaded thing to do for reasons beyond doubting someone's word about some less loaded subject.

So for my personal bullshit detection callout barometer: I do take into account the vast history of women being discounted when they speak up about discrimination and harassment, and consider what the context is for my saying, for example, "I think you're lying when you say someone left you a terrible note that attacks your competence because of your gender."

It doesn't mean I wouldn't say if I had my doubts - but I'd take into account the context, and consider carefully what the point would be, and the impact would be, of my jumping in to be first to say if I think it's false.

For whatever reasons, maybe because I am myself a butch dyke so could picture the scenario very clearly, I never really believed Dayna Morales about getting stiffed for her tip in the way she said she did. On the other hand, I didn't really see a compelling reason to be all "I think she's lying" given I had no evidence. On the other, other hand, I didn't forward the story or post it on my twitter page or whatever, because it just didn't ring true to me, and I wanted to wait and see.

So maybe a middle path is to just wait and not participate in broadcasting a story if you don't think it's true. See what happens in a few days.
posted by latkes at 1:35 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


This place used to be an open forum

When?
posted by rtha at 1:38 PM on March 10, 2014


If a thread on the blue is analogous to a conversation, then I would submit that "hey, this seems fishy to me, not sure why but my Spidey-sense is tingling" is a perfectly fine and valid thing to say in a conversation. It's not the brightest thing to say and it doesn't really add much, so maybe the thing to do is just ignore (move on, as it were) rather than instituting another rule.

Conversely, if you have an ephemeral and unsupported sense of something fishy, it's probably best to ignore the post and move on unless you have something more concrete. Also, this isn't a rule, it's a suggestion about having a conversation.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:38 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I applaud this idea, but you're never, ever going to be able to stop people from "I'm convinced it's staged" threadshitting.

Some windmills need tilting at. And if you look at the various types of threadshittery behaviour that MeFi has slowly frozen out over the years, it seems like this might be another obstacle to be knocked down.

this proposal relies on the person in question having a moment of clarity where they think, "Huh, you know, I really have no idea what I'm talking about here," and I don't really see that happening.

Speaking only for myself, I've been trying to do that more. Type, leave the comment alone for a while, come back and see if I should hit post. Not always successful, but I think trying to be reflective is important. Engendering a cultural imperative on the site to not automatically be cynical can only ever improve discussion here I think.

And I'd be willing to bet the most thoughtful--even the most prolific of the most thoughtful--people here are the ones who pretty much always take a moment to apply the cortext test: "Am I contributing productively to the discussion?" (NB I am not saying I'm anything like those thoughtful posters, just saying that the effects of their behaviour seem worthy of emulation).

tealdeer

skeptical with reasons = good

cynicism because cynics gonna cyn = bad

Mefi has a history of weeding out the bad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:41 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Can we not assume everything is false, unless otherwise proven?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:42 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Can we not assume everything is false, unless otherwise proven?

Yeah, when it comes to "This thing that perfectly demonstrated my long-held convictions happened to me!" I'd say that's good policy. Or we could just keep the funny but not true airplane event stories coming and accept that they're not true in the "this thing happened" sense but true in the "this parable illustrates my point" sense, which is... not my cup of tea but others enjoy it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:46 PM on March 10, 2014


I used to think that nothing was real.

Then I met the yellow king.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I think these "some anonymous person left an anonymous note that was a horrible thing" stories really don't belong on the blue, for the same reason that other GRAAR OUTRAGE stories are deleted.
posted by aspo at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


But the response video that Westjet did was stellar, and was a good thing on the blue. Don't know how it might've been framed as a post without the initial story being told.
posted by rtha at 1:51 PM on March 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Or we could just keep the funny but not true airplane event stories coming

On what basis are you assuming these stories are not true?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:53 PM on March 10, 2014


I mentioned urban folklore previously, and it's worth expanding a bit on the interplay between truth and urban folklore within the context of discussions of urban folklore.

Back in the day when I frequently participated in alt.folklore.urban, one thing that was common were newbies who got caught up in the debunking and truth value of ULs to the exclusion of all else. I guess it is a bit ironic that the Mikkelsons went on with snopes.com to be one of the web's handy references for "is it true or not?" queries.

Anyway, urban folklore is most often false (though usually some kernel of truth is in there somewhere). But that this stuff is false is usually the least interesting thing about any given bit of urban folklore. What's far more interesting is the character of the stories, where they originate and how they propagate, how they culturally function, and how they change over time and recur. People would find their way to AFU and participate as if assigning a truth value to an UL was the whole point, rather than just a small part of it.

It's really remarkable the way that MeFi has been involved in several high-profile debunkings like the Kaycee story. But debunking is such a small and relatively trivial part of what we do here when we discuss posts.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:58 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


0: "This place used to be an open forum."

This place used to be more of a free-for-all. It was never an "open forum."
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on March 10, 2014


On what basis are you assuming these stories are not true?

If this includes the one I'm thinking of, there was a public discounting (and confession, if I recall correctly) that came with a whole list of things that were "tells" that were easie to see in retrospect. I don't think it's too crazy to think that some people catch this stuff ahead of time in such a way that it simply sets off a BS meter.

Also, as long as we have documented cases of people willfully and magnificantly lying to our community here, I don't think it's a reasonable (or even fair) thing to expect people to not subconsciously or actively be looking for those clues. It's probably even a responsible thing for some people to bring them up if they seem to be noticing them. Because as much as some people are duped all the way, some people are catching on earlier than others.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:59 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone is suggesting that thinking critically is a bad thing.

It's the reflexive stuff that we're complaining about, I think.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:01 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


expect people to not subconsciously or actively be looking for those clues. It's probably even a responsible thing for some people to bring them up if they seem to be noticing them.
This proposal is not saying we should immunize these things from criticism. It is saying that the criticism should be more substantial than just "Fake!"
posted by soelo at 2:05 PM on March 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


SpacemanStix: "Also, as long as we have documented cases of people willfully and magnificantly lying to our community here, I don't think it's a reasonable (or even fair) thing to expect people to not subconsciously or actively be looking for those clues. It's probably even a responsible thing for some people to bring them up if they seem to be noticing them. Because as much as some people are duped all the way, some people are catching on earlier than others."

If they're bringing them up with details and explanations of what they think they're seeing then fine. But the only result that comes from "I CALL BULLSHIT" (virtually) contextless comments is that they disrupt threads. The "eternal cynic" schtick gets old mighty fast when there's nothing to back it up.
posted by zarq at 2:08 PM on March 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I like the OP's suggestion on its face, but I'm concerned that encouraging its embrace site-wide could actually lead to a net increase in -- just to take one of the most obvious and poisonous examples -- the number of clueless people with zero knowledge or experience of the topic at hand waltzing into threads about sexual assault, harassment, abuse, and other gendered issues with the specific intent of spouting off statistics and studies about false accusations. I feel like giving those folks any opportunity to opine as though they have adequately backed up their belief that the people adversely affected -- sorry, allegedly adversely affected -- are just making shit up out of some misplaced sense of vindictiveness, anger, or hatred would be a major misstep, discussion-wise. And that's not even getting started on the fact that the people who are obsessed with doing that are the very same people who so often make increasingly specific demands for "evidence" of sexual assault and harassment, as though MetaFilter is an international court of law rather than an online discussion forum.

This just happened all over the recent Dylan Farrow FPP and it was seriously unsettling to read, especially because MeFi is usually something of a bastion for rational, intelligent, evidence-based discussions: In their quest for absolute righteousness and their passion to nobly defend the rule of "innocent until proven guilty," a fairly terrifying number of folks neatly elided the fact that their insistence upon our collective presumption of Woody Allen's innocence necessarily invokes Mia and Dylan Farrow's guilt. Child abuse goes unreported and punished much, much, much more often than it's ever reported or prosecuted, but that inconvenient truth seemed to fall by the wayside more often than not. Near as I can tell, it had nothing to do with the desire for "truth" and "evidence" and everything to do with people being significantly more comfortable believing that a pair of embittered women would collude for years in a shrewd attempt to destroy a man's career than that a famous, well-connected man could get away with committing such a heinous crime. "There's no way she's telling the truth. See? These studies show that it is very easy to implant false memories!" twinned with "Thanks a lot, Mia!"

And they don't often have the presence of mind to even do that -- it's almost always some variation on, "Wake up, sheeple! Don't you know that a vanishingly small percentage of WOMEN have been known to LIE about this kind of thing?" followed by a mic drop and/or stony silence if they're pressed to back up that statement with a shred of non-anecdotal information, statistical or otherwise. No matter how strongly the statistics lean toward crimes of that nature going unreported, someone is always going to know someone who knew someone who was falsely accused of something, and it ruined that person's life to an unimaginable degree, which means that we need to bring up false accusations and the possibility that a presumed victim is lying every single time harassment, assault, etc. are discussed, now and forever. Like, it doesn't matter that only 3% of rapists ever spend a single day in prison (and less than half of rapes are even reported in the first place) because OMG, did you hear about the Duke lacrosse case!? On this site and many others, they'll be waving that shit around as the specific, concrete reason for their doubt of the veracity of any similar claims from here to eternity -- they've already been doing it for years. So unfortunately, I don't think that making such a request of commenters would lead to the hoped-for results in any meaningful way. The goalposts will just continue to shift.

I posted this quote in a thread last summer, and it seems relevant here, too (from a blog post titled Why "False Accusations" Are A Distraction And A Derailing Tactic):
"When someone enters a conversation about rape, and the only thing they want to talk about is the possibility that the victim is lying, they don't want you to be talking about rape. They want to talk about how women are liars."
posted by divined by radio at 2:18 PM on March 10, 2014 [36 favorites]


Honestly, I think these "some anonymous person left an anonymous note that was a horrible thing" stories really don't belong on the blue, for the same reason that other GRAAR OUTRAGE stories are deleted.

I agree, and I flagged it, despite the corporate response video.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:20 PM on March 10, 2014


It's my understanding that this suggestion is actually intended prevent that kind of thing, divined by radio. If all they have is a feeling and statistics that say their suspicion is not very well-warranted, that should be a deterrent. Not that it will for a certain set, as you point out, but certainly for everyone else.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:23 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


divined by radio: "So unfortunately, I don't think that making such a request of commenters would lead to the hoped-for results in any meaningful way. The goalposts will just continue to shift."

Except now people would be able to flag as "violates the site guideline" or whatever, and there'd be an actual guideline to point people at when they complain. At least they'd have to make a fig leaf of an effort to bring something to the table.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:25 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


No one is proposing that there be any new official site guideline.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:26 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


OK. I interpreted the "proposal" as a proposal for a community standard, which isn't of much use unless it's published somewhere.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:27 PM on March 10, 2014


Ugh i think this isn't necessarily a bad idea, but that this specific case was a bad place and a bad time to bring this up that reeks of saddlesore hobbyhorsing from the previous threads.

Does "there have been very similar stories recently that turned out to be fake" qualify as "actual evidence"?

Yea. THIS is the real debate here. I think that long post was really just a fig leaf for that. In the previous threads about the previous cases of the waiter, and the other one(i forget the exact details, it was similar, i linked it in the waiter receipt thread) there were people who fielded a point basically along the lines of "No one believes women or minorities when they get harassment like this so shut the fuck up on principal even if it could be fake".

THAT is a stronger argument than "people calling things fake is annoying and threadshitty". If you want to call out that behavior in general, give a good reason to ignore it other than essentially "it's annoying so don't respond to it".

I do think there's a difference between "reflexive tiresome reddity FAAAKE catcalls" and "Hey this specific sort of note thing doesn't have an awesome track record, and a lot of the same people were calling me scum for saying that last time too".

I mean i understand the argument that the few cases of that happening are being used to silence all the other ones, but something about this proposed "standard" strikes me as coy and irritating. I would much rather it was approached in a "These are the reasons why this is shitty" way than just "it's annoying and threadshitty and adds nothing".

Also everything divinedbyradio said, jesus. Have you seen the people who go really hard on being wage gap deniers or whatever with tons of proof? Raising the bar to there is only going to make the assholes try at olympic levels.
posted by emptythought at 2:32 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Arguably, nobody should comment at all until there is some element of proof if you extend the requirement.

One can hope!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:34 PM on March 10, 2014


emptythought: " Also everything divinedbyradio said, jesus. Have you seen the people who go really hard on being wage gap deniers or whatever with tons of proof? Raising the bar to there is only going to make the assholes try at olympic levels."

Having them try harder sounds like an improvement to me.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:35 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


"OK. I interpreted the 'proposal' as a proposal for a community standard, which isn't of much use unless it's published somewhere."

My observation of MeFi over the years has been the the biggest changes just come about via shifts in the community ethos. Sometimes it's nudged along by a bit (or more than a bit) of moderator enforcement; but much is really just people behaving a bit differently, other people following that lead, newbies doing the same, and eventually it's just part of the culture.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:35 PM on March 10, 2014


I disagree with this idea.

Every thing has costs, yes? So the cost of allowing this is the risk of acrimonious derails in threads when someone expresses skepticism toward a potentially less-privileged thread subject.

Conversely, the cost of "freezing out" this behaviour is the risk of encouraging groupthink and de facto banning dissent from the general mefite's opinion on certain highly charged topics.

To me, the latter is worse.
posted by Diablevert at 2:37 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Derails are always flaggable. A comment that expresses skepticism is not always a derail; neither is it always a bulwark against groupthink - sometimes it is just shitty noise, and not mighty dissent.
posted by rtha at 2:45 PM on March 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Diablevert: " So the cost of allowing this is the risk of acrimonious derails in threads when someone expresses skepticism toward a potentially less-privileged thread subject. "

Fewer needless axe-grindy derails would be a win, yes.

Nothing official is going to be done about the situation. But surely there's nothing wrong with saying, "Can you back up that sentiment with evidence?"
posted by zarq at 2:45 PM on March 10, 2014


Having them try harder sounds like an improvement to me.

Somehow, i think that having someone post "Well this case this case this case this case and this case turned out to be fake in XYZ way, and there was also this and this so CHECKMATE LOL" is going to create a really toxic level of discussion. Or whatever the equivalent of that is for the content, you know.

As it is, people will post news and updates about the FPP content or relevant similar stuff. If this was some kind of standard hurdle to clear, people would dig up all kinds of stuff and do really tryhard lawyering. And then if they were told to knock that off we'd end up with a bunch of "Silenced all my life!" kinda of MeTas or stuff in the threads.

Conversely, the cost of "freezing out" this behaviour is the risk of encouraging groupthink and de facto banning dissent from the general mefite's opinion on certain highly charged topics

Yea, and as it's proposed i don't really see a clear bar for what's good enough. What's to stop someone from going "I thought we weren't doing this?" in response to someone who pulls some quotes from a story and says the two don't add up, finds an older story about the same person/situation in an area/etc that calls the latest one into question or adds some details that make it murky or whatever?

It just feels like it sets a really vague bar where if even a couple people think something is being unfairly called out/criticized enough to post that they can write some scathing potshot putdown and rake in favorites or start a pileon.

I agree with you that it sounds dangerously close to the start of a circlejerk. This is, as i said before, the kind of thing that needs to be treated symptomatically and not in wide swaths.

I guess i'm just not clear where this would set the bar. if we're ONLY talking about "Eh, this sounds fake to me maybe" comments that say pretty much nothing else and don't expand on those thoughts at all then i would agree. But i can't help but think the bar would be set pretty damn high.
posted by emptythought at 2:47 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


If they're bringing them up with details and explanations of what they think they're seeing then fine. But the only result that comes from "I CALL BULLSHIT" (virtually) contextless comments is that they disrupt threads. The "eternal cynic" schtick gets old mighty fast when there's nothing to back it up.

Yes, this is good. Sorry if my enthusiasm got ahead of this fundamental point.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:53 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


If this was some kind of standard hurdle to clear, people would dig up all kinds of stuff and do really tryhard lawyering.

I feel like this is assuming that there's one kind of person who posts skeptical comments, the Dedicated Skeptic, who like a gas will expand their citations to fit the size of the container; that the only reason we don't see that level of citation in existing drive-by "fake!" comments is the lack of a constraint on lazier skepticism.

My feeling is that in practice it's more that there's (a) general folks who say drive-by skeptical stuff because they haven't thought too much about their impact on discussions when they do so and (b) the Issue-Specific Dedicated Skeptic type who is stubbornly married to some topic in an axe-grindy way that has more to do with the issue than with skepticism in general.

Asking the larger general crowd in cohort A to be a little more thoughtful about when and how and why hey posit their skepticism about something doesn't have much of anything to do with the folks in cohort B one way or the other; hobby-horsers gonna hobby-horse and don't need any encouragement as it is, and most folks who haven't thought too hard about the discursive impact of an unsubstantiated "I bet this is fake/hoax/shopped" are, I think, a lot more likely to react to giving it some thought with "oh, hmm, I can be more careful about that" rather than "OH YEAH, WELL, GET READY FOR A WALL OF CITES".
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:59 PM on March 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


Justinian: "I am not on-board with this. I don't think there is any reason to doubt this particular incident and am not sure why anyone would do so but there are plenty of other times when skepticism is warranted *cough*kaycee*cough*."

But in my mind, IIRC through the hazy mists of time, the Kaycee Nicole situation was exactly one where there ultimately weren't so many people saying simply, "This feels shady to me," and many more saying, "This feels shady to me for the following reasons." It's an example of how constructive (if painful) skeptical conversations can take place in a place like this, when accompanied by specific verifiable (or falsifiable) concerns.
posted by ChrisTN at 3:10 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's also useful to step through the "This seems shady because of reasons" and then do a gut check about whether your reasons are just sort of societal/personal baggage or, you know, reasons. There are definitely things I've confidently asserted were true because they felt true and when I went digging to try to find a cite for them was surprised that the trueness was a bit more wibbly than I'd previously thought. It's not a bad exercise. If the thing your asserting falls down along predictable societal trope lines, I'd be extra-more cautious about digging in about it.

It's fine for people to make one-off skeptical comments generally, it's significantly less fine to axe-grind and/or to double down on their own Speaking Truth To Power topics if they're not the topic of the thread. Sure you can get a lively argument/discussion going but that can sometimes be at the expense of the original topic. We make jokes about certain kinds of derails but it does get a little sad when you see the same types of users making the same types of derails for nearly 15 years. I know that to each individual person they usually don't feel like they're being That Guy/Gal but I think more reflection should go towards asking yourself "Am I being that gal/guy by continuing to stress this point?" and if the answer is yes, asking yourself if it's worth it. It's pretty low stakes in the world of internet discussions, and people being able to move past their own sticky wickets is a useful skill for managing long term relationship of any stripe.

we'd end up with a bunch of "Silenced all my life!" kinda of MeTas or stuff in the threads.

Your view of MetaFilter is significantly more negative than I think is maybe warranted.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:19 PM on March 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I definitely don't think it needs to be mod-enforced, but I really do wish people would at least, if they have "vague feelings that this is fishy", at least attempt to do a bit of digging to see if there's any supporting evidence for that. I'm using it as an example, not intending to call out the particular user, but the other day we had that thread with the Sun's very arguably stupid breast cancer awareness thing with a charity, and someone posted what was basically "I think this charity only exists to enrich its CEO". When just, like, reading the other links indicates that the CEO is in fact a young woman with breast cancer. All sorts of other totally valid things to critique, but "this cancer patient is just doing this charity thing to get rich" is kind of beyond the pale, for me, in terms of warranted skepticism.

If all you can do, generally, is just say "I think this sounds fake because nobody is really that bigoted" or "because all X are Y", well, that's overgeneralizing, and in saying that you're dismissing the real experiences of people who have to deal with bigotry and such every day. "I think this might be fake because here's this link to the person in question disputing the story" or "because this list of facts seems inconsistent" or something are not only more logical, but also don't imply that any stories are fake beyond the ones you're specifically calling out.
posted by Sequence at 4:00 PM on March 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


When I was preparing the post, there was part of me wondering if the note was real or not; I figured there was a chance of it, but given the rather awesome corporate response it produced, it was worth taking the risk of it suddenly being outed as a fake. And the note had been public for a few days at that point; usually, these things fall apart pretty fast in the public eye right now because of the level of scrutiny they get.

I knew the thread would have a fair share of doubt. MeFites are intelligent, thoughtful, analytical people who tend to want to poke at things, not accept them at face value.

I have no problem with people being skeptical of things like this, but I do think (and this is my personal standard) that it's not enough to just be skeptical, but that it is a feeling that should be acted on - when I see things that I doubt or question, my choice is to either follow up on that sense and do the digging that needs to happen, or let it go and move on.
posted by nubs at 4:37 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I kinda want to have twins and then name them Orangejello and Lemonjello just so that I can make an offhand comment on MeFi about knowing twins with those names and then totally turn the tables on whoever self-righteously posts a link to Snopes.

But that seems like a lot of work.
posted by ODiV at 4:54 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I totally agree than when someone is talking about sexism, discrimination, or other hot-button topics, it's pretty inappropriate to start speculating (without concrete evidence) that they are lying about their personal experiences, and I'd be down with stricter guidelines against that.

On the other hand, when someone posts a video of an eagle snatching a kid (followup) or a news story about a balloon boy (followup) then skepticism is perfectly on-topic, often right, and frequently the most interesting and informative part of the discussion. In those threads, deleting the skeptical comments would have left behind a thread completely detached from reality. In these cases, I don't think suspicion of a hoax needs to be banned. It's certainly not "concern trolling."
posted by mbrubeck at 4:59 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


...there were skeptical comments in those threads following the mold suggested by Bunny.
posted by kavasa at 5:19 PM on March 10, 2014


I.e.: "I think this is fake because (gut feeling/reasons/etc)."
posted by kavasa at 5:20 PM on March 10, 2014


Yes, and I think in a random GoPro video thread, "this feels staged" or "this looks kind of fake" is a reasonable topic of discussion even before enough research has been done to answer the question to everyone's satisfaction. The very fact that something is setting off a lot of people's hoax sensors is interesting information.

When the topic is someone who is the victim of oppression or discrimination, sensitivity and avoidance of concern trolling are good reasons to suppress those comments. When the topic is someone who is the victim of a random golden eagle attack, I don't the same reasoning applies.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:37 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


We have to make an exception for bands.
posted by spitbull at 5:43 PM on March 10, 2014


Asking the larger general crowd in cohort A to be a little more thoughtful about when and how and why hey posit their skepticism about something doesn't have much of anything to do with the folks in cohort B one way or the other; hobby-horsers gonna hobby-horse and don't need any encouragement as it is, and most folks who haven't thought too hard about the discursive impact of an unsubstantiated "I bet this is fake/hoax/shopped" are, I think, a lot more likely to react to giving it some thought with "oh, hmm, I can be more careful about that" rather than "OH YEAH, WELL, GET READY FOR A WALL OF CITES".

Yea, this is fair and a good point.

I pretty much retract most of my objection at this point. I think it's more that i perceived a lot of the people who post these sorts of thing as Column B types just raring to go vs just the Column A types. Occams razor applies, i suppose.

The internet would be a better place without a lot of option A. I wish i had screenshotted someone calling that out somewhere else recently because it got hilarious with the "But we have to be contrary or we're just accepting everything at face value!" kind of rationalizations for it. Basically "Ask the questions and the truth can come if it exists" sort of logic.

I guess i just wasn't really separating the possible types of engagement as i should have been.
posted by emptythought at 5:48 PM on March 10, 2014


Weird how the whipsaw always goes from, "Hey, maybe be a bit circumspect in your cynical kneejerks," to "OH SURE NOW EVERYTHING IS TRUE YOU IDIOTS CAN'T I EVER SAY I DON'T BELIEVE SOMETHING?"

It's like telling a teen not to do something all the time, then having them reply that they don't do it ALL the time, so they're going to keep doing it, so there.
posted by klangklangston at 5:50 PM on March 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


"In fact, there are no places that are not for ladies anymore"

Hmm. At the University of Auckland, there is a "women's space". I think its a cool idea.
And then of course you have the peeps who go "well what about a man's space".
And then of course you have the peeps who go "well every other place is man's space".

But mostly, I'm kinda dumbfounded that its mostly used by women who go in there to microwave their boyfriends' lunches.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:52 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's like telling a teen not to do something all the time, then having them reply that they don't do it ALL the time, so they're going to keep doing it, so there.

WELL, YOU'RE NOT EVEN MY REAL DAD!

/megaflounce/
posted by winna at 6:11 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


"concern trolling" = "anything I don't like", as far as I can tell
posted by thelonius at 6:25 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Really? Well, might some googles or even a cursory search of the usage on MeFi help disambiguate the issue for you?
posted by klangklangston at 6:36 PM on March 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


> mostly, I'm kinda dumbfounded that its mostly used by women who go in there to microwave their boyfriends' lunches

How do you know, if it's a women's space?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:01 PM on March 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I kinda want to have twins and then name them Orangejello and Lemonjello just so that I can make an offhand comment on MeFi about knowing twins with those names and then totally turn the tables on whoever self-righteously posts a link to Snopes.

They're real names.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:06 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


It reminds me of the time when I'd just gotten my motorbike license and was celebrating (on foot, of course) in a local cafe. When I told an acquaintance what the occasion was, he responded 'Congrats, I suppose... although I really believe women belong on the back of a motorcycle, not the front.'

When I was 19 I was dating a high school boy and riding a scooter and we went to his prom on my scooter with him riding on the back in our formalwear. (This is the ideal way to ride, by the way, because men's formalwear involves tails, which look well on the back of a scooter.)

Anyway we got stopped on the way back and the cop is like "Why isn't this switched around?" and at the same time he gets indignant and is like "It's her bike" and I say "It's my bike" but he always said he wished he'd said "have you ever BEEN with a warrior woman?" and that is my story about sexism and motorized bicycles
posted by NoraReed at 7:19 PM on March 10, 2014 [24 favorites]


Jesus, what a nasty Meta thread.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:33 PM on March 10, 2014


There seems to be a lot of "people aren’t having discussions the way I like" lately. Probably always was.
posted by bongo_x at 7:43 PM on March 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


In their quest for absolute righteousness and their passion to nobly defend the rule of "innocent until proven guilty," a fairly terrifying number of folks neatly elided the fact that their insistence upon our collective presumption of Woody Allen's innocence necessarily invokes Mia and Dylan Farrow's guilt.

On the other hand, if we're all binary about it and don't allow wildcard options - either people on Metafilter defended a child abuser (Woody) or people on Metafilter defended a child abuser (Mia). We're all going to hell. Me I'm sorta mystified that apparently everyone is apparently supposed to pass judgement on this case... I feel rather unqualified.

I think this rule idea is easily abused.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:53 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Which rule?
posted by rtha at 8:09 PM on March 10, 2014


The proposed rule, or guideline, really... more a suggestion, perhaps... call it a cultural norm, if you like... is that instead of reflexively commenting "FAKE!" you take the time to add some content to your scepticism, by indicating some specific reason you have for thinking a thing is dodgy.

Seems pretty reasonable to me, and likely to make discussions more interesting and productive, not less.
posted by misfish at 8:19 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I propose that, henceforth, we all refrain from publicly doubting the veracity of a non-anonymous testimonial unless accompanied by at least one specific, concrete reason for any such doubt.

Do you have at least one specific, concrete reason for drawing the line at "non-anonymous testimonial"? Why should that (artificial) category have some special status that other online content doesn't have?
posted by John Cohen at 8:41 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I also propose we abolish the term "concern trolling." It's become so overused it means nothing more than "stuff I disagree with."
posted by John Cohen at 8:44 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]




"Do you have at least one specific, concrete reason for drawing the line at "non-anonymous testimonial"? Why should that (artificial) category have some special status that other online content doesn't have?"

It's opposed to anonymous testimonial, which (under this formulation) would not deserve what is commonly known as the "benefit of the doubt."

It all goes back to the adage-to-be "Think before you comment." If you think something is fake, give a reason to support that. That other things similar were fake is not itself a sufficient reason.

(Conversely, if you see something that flatters your biases, it's incumbent upon you to reflect prior to posting, lest you endorse a Balloon Boy, Census Murder or Lesbian Waitress.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 PM on March 10, 2014


I thought skoosh's comment quoted above was fantastic, and I appreciate that Bunny Ultramod started this thread to highlight it. I agree that people making comments calling fake on people's personal experiences can really sour the discussion. And when it's about experiences of discrimination or bigotry the skepticism often comes across as "This must be fake because no one is that sexist/racist/homophobic/evil."

Related: there was a post sometime not too long ago about revenge porn, highlighting an article by a person who became a revenge porn activist after her daughter was targeted. I thought the article was incredibly interesting and I was looking forward to discussing it, but then in the thread there were some early comments that read to me as "I hate this person's overly dramatic writing style so she must be lying." It really poisoned the thread for me.

Here's an IRL analogy. I once had a doctor treat me poorly for bigoted reasons. It wasn't at all subtle or ambiguous; the doctor explicitly said why she was being discriminatory. I told the story of what happened to a friend who used the same doctor and had only had good experiences. My friend was shocked that the doctor was an jerk to me, but she expressed this by repeating, "I can't believe that happened! How could Doctor X do that?" She wasn't explicitly saying I was lying, but she just could not fathom that her nice doctor could be bigoted - so at some level she couldn't believe me. It got pretty annoying listening to her go on and on about how she never would have expected such a thing. I wanted from my friend the same thing I'd like to see in these threads: a conversation about what actually happened, not a conversation about how unlikely it is that such a thing happened.
posted by medusa at 9:49 PM on March 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


Forgive me if I'm speaking out of place. I don't mean to offend, and I'm trying to be careful.

Watching this place for nine years, I've noticed the narrowing of focus as more and more things have become taboo.

Please understand that I've learned so much, just lurking, about what is acceptable and what is not. I've learned a lot about privilege, and walking in other folks moccasins. And that is a great thing.

But I've also noticed the cynicism that has been creeping in. And the turnabout that is victim blaming.

I'm not proud of the human race, and I wonder if there isn't something toxic that lurks below, and even when you try to be understanding and agreeable with conflicting ideas and beliefs, if there isn't something that makes us want to be confrontational. Argumentative even.

I'm blown away by the folks who are so sure of themselves here. Amazed by it. Envious even. I admire their convictions, even when I disagree.

But, honestly, I think this place, and the people that dwell here, have been slapped around so much, even the popular folks, that cynicism is the direct result. And I have no idea how to fix that.

There is no balm. Flag it and move on.
posted by valkane at 11:29 PM on March 10, 2014


"Watching this place for nine years, I've noticed the narrowing of focus as more and more things have become taboo. "

I'm not sure I'd link it like that. It's rare that a topic is taboo, though I do think that MetaFilter is a more polite place now than it has been. All of the narrowing of focus that I've noticed has come from a couple of places, at least off the top of my head. First, there's that MetaFilter has become more mainstream, both in terms of what is posted here relative to the rest of the internet, as well as in terms of the internet itself becoming more mainstream. Second, I think there's some fairly established ruts on any number of conversations that don't come from things being taboo, but rather argued into the ground. I'm unlikely to change my fundamental beliefs about copyright, Israel, Jesus or the NSA. Social leftism topics can suffer from the same hard-trod trails too.

Please understand that I've learned so much, just lurking, about what is acceptable and what is not. I've learned a lot about privilege, and walking in other folks moccasins. And that is a great thing.

But I've also noticed the cynicism that has been creeping in. And the turnabout that is victim blaming.


I hear what you're saying, and I understand wanting to aspire to do better, but what mythical MeFi past are we talking about that didn't have lazy cynicism, anti-PC loutish bluster, and victim blaming? There's been dicks selling their third-rate Dennis Leary routines here from the giddyup.
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Really? Well, might some googles or even a cursory search of the usage on MeFi help disambiguate the issue for you?

Nope.
posted by thelonius at 1:10 AM on March 11, 2014


try googling this
posted by thelonius at 1:16 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


but what mythical MeFi past are we talking about that didn't have lazy cynicism, anti-PC loutish bluster, and victim blaming? There's been dicks selling their third-rate Dennis Leary routines here from the giddyup.

The people who look back on the past, in the context of this site, as somehow being "free spirited" or whatever usually make me seriously question their motivations and how they define that.

You don't have to go back very far at all to find huge, HUGE meta threads with wordcounts approaching mid-length novels where people were falling on their swords defending their right to say really fucking awful sexist shit and whatever.

The "Good Old Days" of this site were as ugly as some of the crappier parts of reddit. Good people are still deactivating their accounts over peoples staunch digging in on their right to be fucking pricks and not be "silenced".

And i think this place has made a lot of progress to get to that point. I'm not saying it narrowing focus for the most part is just disallowing peoples supposed right to be assholes just to be contrarian or play the other side of the field for the sake of intelligent discourse or whatever crap.

but then in the thread there were some early comments that read to me as "I hate this person's overly dramatic writing style so she must be lying." It really poisoned the thread for me

I wrote that comment, and i don't think that's a fair paraphrasing at all. I didn't say that i had any problem believing the story, just that i couldn't stand the way it was written like a bad screenplay for a straight to DVD movie where she was the action hero. I made it clear that i had seen and been the target of that type of harassment in the past. And you, and other people in the thread took the fact that i criticized her writing style to mean i was somehow discrediting the story.

I get that offense is something that's received, and not taken, intent is not magical or telepathic and all that... but i think that reading, and taking someone saying "holy shit i can't believe that happened" to literally mean "i do not believe that happened" is a really awful reading of something that's a turn of phrase people use all the time.

Yesterday someone tried to bash my face in outside my front door with a nearly basketball sized rock. They were mentally ill and screaming incoherently, and i managed to duck out and get inside my building. When i brought it up to my friends, they said pretty much word for word what your sentence was. It wasn't that they didn't believe me, it was just a standard way of saying "What the fuck, jesus, that is 11/10 fucked up".

I don't even know how to describe how i feel about reading it the other way without being prescriptive/dictatorial or whatever... but it's just like, no, that is not what those words mean 90% of the time. Because a normal person means "That is apalling" not "I don't believe you". They're going to believe you or not, and that is separate from that phrasing.
posted by emptythought at 2:04 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


try googling this

Nope. How about this?
posted by klangklangston at 2:13 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The "Good Old Days" of this site were as ugly as some of the crappier parts of reddit.

This is hyperbolic nonsense. Metafilter at its worst Is still leaps and bounds above the level of discourse found elsewhere online. That does not mean that there isn't room for improvement of course, but I think this kind of sentiment is extremely disingenuous.
posted by kbanas at 3:48 AM on March 11, 2014


I may be breaking the guideline here, but let me express my own skepticism: is this one, very particular, type of derail actually such a problem on the site that it necessitates it's own guidelines?

I'm a pretty active reader of mefi and I only recall seeing it in a very small minority threads a very few times. People mostly have reasons, and voice them (even if they are shitty reasons).

The few times it's not, I just mentally file it with "frist!" style early thread shits that can take the form of lame jokes, hobbyhorse derails, inflammatory one liners, and personal disapprovals. They all suck, but but people can't/won't help themselves, and the mods do a decent job of getting at em.

I dunno, I could write a long list indeed about how people should engage with the site, but I feel like it's mostly successful, could be more successful if more attention was paid to the way OPs "prime" a discussion, and I kinda feel like enough people here are already telling enough people what to say and how to say it. Everyone could always try harder eh, but a few slip ups here and there aren't a big deal, I think.
posted by smoke at 3:51 AM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Furthermore, I propose that we all regard any such public doubts based on nothing but a feeling to be a form of concern trolling, to be immediately flagged and ignored.

Flagging skeptical comments, even groundless skepticism, you don't agree with is a shitty idea IMHO. So is treating skepticism as de facto bad faith by terming it concern trolling. I really dislike the tendency to 'improve' discourse on MeFi by not just stigmatising the comment but also attaching bad faith to the commenter.

In a general interest site where users come from different places and backgrounds, and might dip in and out of the site infrequently and miss these Metas, the tendency to jump to the conclusion that other_people are shitty, or ignorant, or purposely doing something to derail a conversation is itself part of the problem. This isn't an argument that people should have the liberty to be arseholes in the name of free speech. It is an argument that we should be extra careful dividing the world neatly into shitty ignoramuses and the informed few who've read up and know the rules.

Furthermore, some of MeFi's self-appointed troll police lack the self-control to just ignore and move on, preferring to grandstand and showcase their enlightenment by responding in ways that are often more shitty and derailing than the original.

Finally, as is completely normal, as a community we police prevailing viewpoints more lightly than dissenting ones. What looks like self-policing to the many also looks like rank hypocrisy to the dissenting few.

In short, if we want the site to be more civil, we could also try, you know, being more civil.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:15 AM on March 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


I may be breaking the guideline here, but let me express my own skepticism: is this one, very particular, type of derail actually such a problem on the site that it necessitates it's own guidelines?

I think it's worth articulating as a community norm. I've seen threads derailed over and over by apparently unfounded doubts. Posters reflexively question if the event happened, if the person recounting the event is being honest or accurate about their feelings, and so on ad naseum.

And the deal is, these problematic comments almost always involve racism, sexism, and other kinds of oppression. And, pretty frequently, the "questioners" don't seem to have any experience with that kind of oppression, so their "gut feelings" are entirely irrelevant. The "scepticism" comes across not as both seeking for truth but shouting "your bad experience sucks." So I have no problem with suggesting that people bring more to the conversation than that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:18 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Conversely, the cost of "freezing out" this behaviour is the risk of encouraging groupthink and de facto banning dissent from the general mefite's opinion on certain highly charged topics.


You honestly think creating the idea among mefites that just screaming "FAKE FAKE FAKE" is unproductive will... somehow.. create groupthink?

Come the hell on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:24 AM on March 11, 2014

You honestly think creating the idea among mefites that just screaming "FAKE FAKE FAKE" is unproductive will... somehow.. create groupthink?
The actual phrase that Diablevert used was
expresses skepticism toward a potentially less-privileged thread
not
screams "FAKE FAKE FAKE"
so it looks like the two of you are talking about different things.
posted by dfan at 5:29 AM on March 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


is this one, very particular, type of derail actually such a problem on the site that it necessitates it's own guidelines?

Probably not, and I don't think it's what's being asked for. being asked to be thoughtful is not the same as asking for a bright-line rule or enforced guideline from the mods.

I was looking for something the other day and ran across this meTa from 2008, which is one of those meTas that makes me wonder what people are talking about when they long for the good old days of mefi when there was no groupthink, or something. There was a lot of groupthink and a lot of it was shitty, sexist groupthink.
posted by rtha at 5:34 AM on March 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


And the deal is, these problematic comments almost always involve racism, sexism, and other kinds of oppression.

Exactly. We're not talking the guy who could have faked a failed marriage proposal to market a movie. Skepticism in that instance is not problematic but rather naturally favored because it didn't derail the discussion of sexism. This proposal really only applies when there is an credible element of oppression.
posted by 0 at 5:42 AM on March 11, 2014


I don't know if it just has to be where oppression is involved. This thread annoyed me because there were "my spidey senses are tingling" comments quite early, and even when people came back to say nope it all checks out, someone was still like "well just because she actually died doesn't mean the actual story is true". And then the whole thing got derailed into a discussion about urban legends and whatever. So it's something I find tiresome in general, not just in contentious threads, and I'd like people to try and do it less.
posted by billiebee at 6:09 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"This thread annoyed me because there were 'my spidey senses are tingling' comments quite early, and even when people came back to say nope it all checks out, someone was still like 'well just because she actually died doesn't mean the actual story is true'. And then the whole thing got derailed into a discussion about urban legends and whatever."

Ah, that was the thread where I just recently had this conversation. Once the whole skepticism thing was raised, I think that discussion was relevant and especially so the urban folklore stuff, which I wasn't the first to bring up but actually responded to because someone else appealed to their experience on AFU. And I made the point there that I made here — that the truth value of stuff is usually the least interesting thing. The urge to debunk for no other purpose than to have debunked something is ... suspect.

Personally, I sort of feel that this reflexive skepticism is more frequent now than before, but I skeptically suspect that this is just my own idiosyncratic experience and selection bias. But it has popped up a number of times lately.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:52 AM on March 11, 2014


GenjiandProust: "And the deal is, these problematic comments almost always involve racism, sexism, and other kinds of oppression."

When they don't, it's usually because people think someone is trying to pull off a scam.
posted by zarq at 6:55 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Prediction if the proposal is carried:

1. Lots of arguments, Metatalk callouts and rules-lawyering over whether the Skoosh Rule has been broken.

2. Lots of trolls coming up with specific, concrete and completely freaking stupid reasons to doubt the veracity of testimony.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:17 AM on March 11, 2014


When they don't, it's usually because people think someone is trying to pull off a scam.

OK... surely, in that case, the commenter could provide some actual evidence of scamminess, which would meet the boundaries of the request. Is it asking so much that, when dealing with an FPP breathlessly describing the abduction of Aimee Semple McPherson, commenters be asked to go beyond "I think she's lying" to "witnesses have placed her at a cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea during her abduction?"
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:26 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, if I think you are lying because you are wearing purple socks, and I give that as a reason when accusing you, people will rightly disregard my opinion. If I just say you're lying, fewer people would ignore me.
posted by soelo at 7:27 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about complaining that the original proposal assumes bad faith when it is then followed by this comment:

Furthermore, some of MeFi's self-appointed troll police lack the self-control to just ignore and move on, preferring to grandstand and showcase their enlightenment by responding in ways that are often more shitty and derailing than the original.

This seems to me to be the definition of presuming bad faith.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:28 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Prediction if the proposal is carried

This is just people talking about an idea of how to treat each other on this site. There's not going to be a Mod Proclamation or new flag added to the flag options. This is just people talking about an idea.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:55 AM on March 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I feel like we pretty frequently see MeTa posts where someone suggests, "I think it would be nice if people took X into consideration when posting/commenting," and then people make this cognitive leap to, "THE MODS ARE GOING TO ENFORCE THIS AS THE LAW!!!"

95% of interaction around here is driven by community norms. The site has relatively few hard and fast rules. Just because someone says it would be productive if we acted in such and such a way very rarely means that a new mod regulation is forthcoming.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:04 AM on March 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


OK... surely, in that case, the commenter could provide some actual evidence of scamminess, which would meet the boundaries of the request. Is it asking so much that, when dealing with an FPP breathlessly describing the abduction of Aimee Semple McPherson, commenters be asked to go beyond "I think she's lying" to "witnesses have placed her at a cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea during her abduction?"


How is the witness found?

My feeling is in the cases where a scam has been uncovered, a lot of the time the process begins by someone saying, "hey, my spidey sense is tingling on this" and other people chiming in to agree and explain why they feel that way, and yet other people chiming in to disagree and each side discussing the evidence for their claims and haring off onto google to find more evidence and etc. The Scam Discovery process, as it were, is organic and adversarial and layered, by nature. It's not Hercule Poirot sitting everyone down and reeling off how he solved the mystery, presenting a fait accompli.

I still don't like this idea. It seems to me that what we're really talking about here is making it impolitic to express skepticism of a claim if that claim is being advanced by a member of what metafilter deems a protected class. Personally, I'd rather hash these things out in the open every single time then create a culture where there are things it's not okay to question.

And yes, I recognise that the OP didn't say "it is never okay to question". They just said the questioner should be the one on the backfoot, held to a higher standard. Realistically, however, all of this is just some shit we saw on the internet, you know? The vast majority of everything anyone says here is conjecture, anecdote, speculation, opinion. Metafilter is blessed with a remarkably erudite and varied readership, and it's a common occurrence for a subject matter expert or the subject of the thread themselves to pop up and contribute genuine expertise. But that's something that happens in a sprinkling of threads, and some of the threads where it's most unlikely to happen are the human nature posts of the blue, the ones about social etiquette and culture and politics. Because the whole dispute is about how people act in general, a subject on which either everyone is an expert or no one.

I dunno. Other people may prioritize things differently.
posted by Diablevert at 8:39 AM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Just because someone says it would be productive if we acted in such and such a way very rarely means that a new mod regulation is forthcoming.

Very true.

However, in the wake of emptythought's very recent attack on Sara C. for making too many comments in a particular thread-- which I thought was fairly decisively repulsed-- there were admodishments against 'comment flooding' I don't remember ever seeing before.

It doesn't take a new "regulation", or user adoption of a proposed norm to strongly influence the site.
posted by jamjam at 9:15 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


My feeling is in the cases where a scam has been uncovered, a lot of the time the process begins by someone saying, "hey, my spidey sense is tingling on this" and other people chiming in to agree and explain why they feel that way, and yet other people chiming in to disagree and each side discussing the evidence for their claims and haring off onto google to find more evidence and etc. The Scam Discovery process, as it were, is organic and adversarial and layered, by nature. It's not Hercule Poirot sitting everyone down and reeling off how he solved the mystery, presenting a fait accompli.

I don't really see this scenario as the goal or anything like it. What's being asked is that first person, rather than just saying "my spidey sense is tingling" says "my spidey sense tingled, and I looked at this and that and this other thing, and I wonder...." And then you can have your organic process rather than just randomly accusing people of lying and hoping it sticks so you can be the first to disbelieve. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask that people do a little legwork before calling shenanigans, considering how deraily that call is likely to be.

I'd also suggest that, when the topic of the FPP is a person's lived experience, that your spidey sense is probably a really bad guide for what is real or not unless you have your own lived experience in that area.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:16 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


there were admodishments against 'comment flooding' I don't remember ever seeing before.

Believe me, there have been admonishments, both mod- and user-produced, against people singularly and habitually over-commenting for about as long as the site's been around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah this is a thing that has always been a sometimes-problem and has been called out repeatedly. It's not always called "comment flooding" sometimes I think people talk about soapboxing or having a "take on all comers" approach or whathave you but it's always been a not-okay way to participate in a group discussion.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:24 AM on March 11, 2014


I don't really see this scenario as the goal or anything like it. What's being asked is that first person, rather than just saying "my spidey sense is tingling" says "my spidey sense tingled, and I looked at this and that and this other thing, and I wonder...." And then you can have your organic process rather than just randomly accusing people of lying and hoping it sticks so you can be the first to disbelieve. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask that people do a little legwork before calling shenanigans, considering how deraily that call is likely to be.


What legwork would work, in the original thread? None of us were on that plane. None of us know the people involved. What lived experience would give one the requisite social capital to outweigh the deference due to the subject of the story? May another cis women doubt the veracity of a claim of sexual harassment by a cis woman? Would it be acceptable for a forensic handwriting analyst to step forward and say, "the way the tail of the g is curved in the note makes me doubt that this is in fact the handwriting of an elderly American man"?

I want to be clear: I am in complete agreement with the argument that society is sexist, that people are far more likely to be skeptical when someone claims they were sexually harassed. The bias exists.

But it's still not clear to me, when we're talking about this broad sweeping societal stuff, what kind of evidence would suffice to permit an initial declaration of doubt. And by nipping that in the bud, you cut off the whole process, the for-and-against back and forth arguing and weighing of evidence I described above. The process is the same regardless of whether the skeptics or the believers win the day.
posted by Diablevert at 9:41 AM on March 11, 2014


Honestly, who really gives a specific crap about that particular pilot and this particular incident? The more important discussion was about casual, personally justified sexism.

I think it's fine to question a non-sourced article or incidents where people are anonymous. In fact, that should be people's default on the internet, even though I'm sure it's not. I'm not sure what kind of research one would do here when the pilot and the writer of the note remained anonymous.

If it spurs others to research it who are in a better position to do so, more power to them. Some people are better at it or better placed to do it. But mark me as a nay on this proposal.
posted by inturnaround at 10:05 AM on March 11, 2014


rather than just saying "my spidey sense is tingling" says "my spidey sense tingled, and I looked at this and that and this other thing, and I wonder...." And then you can have your organic process rather than just randomly accusing people of lying and hoping it sticks so you can be the first to disbelieve

it feels like there's a leap in here. From an honest albeit suggestive comment that "my spidey sense is tingling" to "randomly accusing people of lying". That's a whole lot of extrapolation.

Doubt is good, I think. But it's also good to be conscious enough to hold your tongue in certain situations where just throwing down your doubt is too easy to do, and possibly hurtful.

This is a good conversation for this "community of strangers" to be having.
posted by philip-random at 10:09 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


there were admodishments against 'comment flooding' I don't remember ever seeing before.

I think you just starting noticing them because of the meTa (which I think you have characterized in an unfair manner). There have been mod and user comments for a long time asking people to back off some or let the thread breathe and so on.
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on March 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


This comment seems like a great illustration of what's being discussed here. But should it be deleted? I don't know.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:23 AM on March 11, 2014


What legwork would work, in the original thread? None of us were on that plane. None of us know the people involved.

So what good does saying "I don't believe this" do? As you point out, there is no basis for answering that doubt either way, so maybe that is not the most productive approach to commenting. If a member has nothing else to bring to the discussion, maybe it isn't the right discussion for that member....

What lived experience would give one the requisite social capital to outweigh the deference due to the subject of the story? May another cis women doubt the veracity of a claim of sexual harassment by a cis woman?

Certainly more than a cis man does, although telling anyone "you're feeling that wrong" is not usually very constructive. Of course, it's not usually women who are doubting women's stories of harassment, so there's that. Not seeing oppression is one of the big perks of privilege.


Would it be acceptable for a forensic handwriting analyst to step forward and say, "the way the tail of the g is curved in the note makes me doubt that this is in fact the handwriting of an elderly American man"?

There is a huge difference between someone who has significant knowledge in the area saying "I have doubts about this because X doesn't usually happen, it's more often Y or Z" than Random Internet Commenter going "I have a vague feeling that something is fishy with this; prove me wrong!" In fact, that's kind of what's being asked for -- if you have doubts, articulate why. If you can't, maybe wait until someone else can bring more to the conversation.

Anyway, I am beginning to feel those "comment flooding" comments are directed at me....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:35 AM on March 11, 2014


Wasn't there a post not too long ago that was one of those first-person NYT magazine essays, written by a guy talking about his almost-plane crash, and several mefites who are very knowledgeable about planes, flying, crashes, etc. asked (and answered!) really good questions about the veracity of the author's account. That was a good use of skepticism, and not just the knee-jerk kind.
posted by rtha at 10:57 AM on March 11, 2014


Word, Genji, I'll follow your example so as not to flood the thread, but I can't resist responding to your last point:


So what good does saying "I don't believe this" do? As you point out, there is no basis for answering that doubt either way, so maybe that is not the most productive approach to commenting. If a member has nothing else to bring to the discussion, maybe it isn't the right discussion for that member....


What good does saying anything do? It's a discussion site, it exists so people can discuss their reaction to the piece. Should only positive, supportive, I-accept-the-implicit-and-explicit-values-expressed-by-this-post comments count as "productive"? Not dissent?

Bringing evidence is a lot different from articulating an opinion. As I think we've agreed at this point, a lot of the threads where people find skepticism or doubt most derail-y, it's hard to bring some kind of objective, unbiased evidence to, except for one's own experience if the world, anecdotes, news stories.

So that's precisely what worries me. I think there is a lot of value in those discussions, in the open debate between people who are like " I dunno, maybe this didn't even happen" and people who are like "I think that a lot of the time people are biased toward doubting such and such, and that's bad" because then you get to have it out, in the open -- have people bring those experiences, have that discussion. I think that's much better than deciding beforehand as a group norm, "on these topics doubt is unwanted, and anyone who dares break that norm better have back up".
posted by Diablevert at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Exactly. We're not talking the guy who could have faked a failed marriage proposal to market a movie. Skepticism in that instance is not problematic but rather naturally favored because it didn't derail the discussion of sexism. This proposal really only applies when there is an credible element of oppression."

Our sarcasm only really hurts ourselves.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


"My feeling is in the cases where a scam has been uncovered, a lot of the time the process begins by someone saying, "hey, my spidey sense is tingling on this" and other people chiming in to agree and explain why they feel that way, and yet other people chiming in to disagree and each side discussing the evidence for their claims and haring off onto google to find more evidence and etc. The Scam Discovery process, as it were, is organic and adversarial and layered, by nature. It's not Hercule Poirot sitting everyone down and reeling off how he solved the mystery, presenting a fait accompli. "

Two things: First off, somebody complaining on their own about spidey-sense isn't required for that process to start. What's required is that second step, where someone actually digs up something. For a less controversial example, it's obnoxious (though god knows I've done it) to just drive by with, "This is a double," without any support for that. If you think it's a double, do ten seconds of googling to try to find it. Otherwise, it's just noise. "Spidey sense" is just noise.

"I still don't like this idea. It seems to me that what we're really talking about here is making it impolitic to express skepticism of a claim if that claim is being advanced by a member of what metafilter deems a protected class. Personally, I'd rather hash these things out in the open every single time then create a culture where there are things it's not okay to question. "

I'd point out two things: First off, since women/minorities face credibility checks pretty much any time a member of the majority thinks they might be complaining about a slight, it's worth being aware of that pattern.

Second off, something that may be more obvious to you: I dunno, my sexism-sense is going off. I think your objection might just be sexism. I don't have any proof or anything, and I'm not going to bother to search MeFi to see if you have a pattern of making sexist comments. I'm just throwing it out there and maybe someone else can decide if you're sexist.

See how when there's a weight behind the "just wondering" spidey sense stuff, it can end up being toxic for the discussion? Much like people should, in general, assume good faith and not assume that other members are being sexists over what can be meant as innocuous comments, it can be toxic to have a pattern of repeatedly doing a cred check any time e.g. something happens to a woman involving sexism.

"What good does saying anything do? It's a discussion site, it exists so people can discuss their reaction to the piece. Should only positive, supportive, I-accept-the-implicit-and-explicit-values-expressed-by-this-post comments count as "productive"? Not dissent?"

Good for conversation. And you can still dissent, you should just have some actual dissent there. It seems like you want, "I'm jus' sayin'," to count as dissent.

"Bringing evidence is a lot different from articulating an opinion. As I think we've agreed at this point, a lot of the threads where people find skepticism or doubt most derail-y, it's hard to bring some kind of objective, unbiased evidence to, except for one's own experience if the world, anecdotes, news stories. "

Even that can support a point. It's circumstantial evidence, but it's still evidence that someone can move forward on.

"I think there is a lot of value in those discussions, in the open debate between people who are like " I dunno, maybe this didn't even happen" and people who are like "I think that a lot of the time people are biased toward doubting such and such, and that's bad" because then you get to have it out, in the open -- have people bring those experiences, have that discussion."

Yeah, but how many times do you have to have THAT conversation? And aren't there ways to improve it? Like, for example, expecting people to have something more than a kneejerk gut feeling of the relative truthiness or lack thereof?

I dunno, man, I tend to be against dumb and lazy commenting as a general principle, and the majority of the "spidey sense" stuff is dumb and lazy. As for why the negative dumb and lazy gets more opposition, it causes more harm to conversations than dumb and lazy positive comments. That doesn't mean that they're good, just that it's easier to let 'em by.
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on March 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'd be down with making evidence a requirement for any extraordinary claims in general.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:19 AM on March 11, 2014


but there is no proper scientific evidence for the existence of God the Father.
posted by philip-random at 11:52 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


sorry
posted by philip-random at 11:53 AM on March 11, 2014


And I should say, I'm not actually opposed to people getting skeptical.

Let's get skeptical, skeptical
I wanna get skeptical
Let's get into arguments
Let me hear your evidence, your evidence
Let me hear your evidence
posted by Jpfed at 12:05 PM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I wanna see that video.

Uh, unless it involves Penn Jillette in spandex.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:46 PM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


How is the witness found?

Is it a bad sign that I read this in a "how is babby formed" kind of inward voice?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Is it a bad sign that I read this in a 'how is babby formed' kind of inward voice?"

It means that you're aware of all internet traditions and get a +15 DMG bonus, unless you ever actually claim to be aware of all internet traditions — in which case you immediately lose 200 HP.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:09 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


speaking of things being "fake", I notice that this innocent-seeming FPP is now officially selling something.
posted by philip-random at 1:27 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


How do you know, if it's a women's space?

Because (especially around lunchtime) there's always a few dudes standing outside waiting for their girlfriends to come out with their heated lunches.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:40 PM on March 11, 2014


So what good does saying "I don't believe this" do? As you point out, there is no basis for answering that doubt either way, so maybe that is not the most productive approach to commenting. If a member has nothing else to bring to the discussion, maybe it isn't the right discussion for that member....

Regarding the plane thread, people grabbed specific quotes of it and said "yea, this never happens except in cartoons and movies". A few hours later someone made a blog post who was a commercial pilot or ATC or something and highlighted the same things and stinking to high heaven.

At the very least the bar shouldn't be so high that "This part and this part are blatantly full of shit if you have even a tiny amount of knowledge about this sort of thing, this just would not happen on a plane" is enough.

I agree that simply "lol fake" couple sentence spidey-sense-tingling posts are garbage, and unnecessary to the rest of the skeptical process. But if you can actually grab specific parts of a long thing and go "this does not parse" that seems like a reasonable bar and a sign of at least not 100% bad faith to me.

Also, yes, i think a distinction needs to be made with this "rule" with relation to say, random things like the plane incident and like sexism threads.
posted by emptythought at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2014


"the existence of God" is not a horrible example, IMHO.
The point isn't that anyone who gives evidence will automatically be believed and all arguments will be halted. The point is that when people provide evidence, it can inform you about who they are and why they feel the way they do. You might understand them, even if you don't agree with them.
posted by soelo at 3:27 PM on March 11, 2014


Second off, something that may be more obvious to you: I dunno, my sexism-sense is going off. I think your objection might just be sexism. I don't have any proof or anything, and I'm not going to bother to search MeFi to see if you have a pattern of making sexist comments. I'm just throwing it out there and maybe someone else can decide if you're sexist.

I think that in real life that comment would look more like "Near as I can tell it had nothing to do with the desire for "truth" and "evidence" and everything to do with people being significantly more comfortable believing that a pair of embittered women would collude for years in a shrewd attempt to destroy a man's career than that a famous, well-connected man could get away with committing such a heinous crime."

and the post would get dozens of favourites and nobody would say anything about it being bad for the community or for discussion, in spite of its being borderline off-topic, scratching open some of MeFi's ugliest wounds, and consisting largely of mischaracterizations of things people said as well as uncharitable speculation about their motivations for saying them. However, at least the post I'm referring to acknowledges that the problem is with doubting certain kinds of claims and not really about doubting baselessly.

Whatever our norms (not rules, I know) are regarding the best way to participate, they are going to be applied differently depending on which opinions the majority of posters think are right or wrong, or which people the majority of posters think are on their side, because people's behaviour is perceived differently through those lenses in the first place. I guess that's natural, but I don't know, it makes me unhappy. I was amazed to see people appearing to think, in that last MeTa about one poster's tendency to dominate threads, that it was the first call-out of its kind and could only be motivated by some deeper kind of disagreement - really? After the terrible Apple, Inc. wars we all lived through? We get blind spots about these things, and, in a community, we do it as a community. Wrt to the Woody Allen thread, we are still basically tearing ourselves apart over like, five of us having the gall to speculate differently from the rest. So I'm wary of more kinds of reactions to FPPs being labelled destructive. I don't think how much credit we give the subjects of posts is as big an issue as how much we've been giving each other.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:28 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I think that in real life that comment would look more like "Near as I can tell it had nothing to do with the desire for "truth" and "evidence" and everything to do with people being significantly more comfortable believing that a pair of embittered women would collude for years in a shrewd attempt to destroy a man's career than that a famous, well-connected man could get away with committing such a heinous crime.""

Really? That's what you want to hang your argument on? There was a ton of shade in that thread thrown by the regular gang of guys for whom Old Testament views on women's testimonies still hold sway. Especially since many of the folks in there weren't putting forward any explicit positive claims of their own, just shooting the shit about false memories, except that there were at least a few who were willing to take the testimony of Dylan's brother over hers because, well… false memories or something.

I don't entirely agree with divined by radio's description there, but it's a pretty poor example of unsubstantiated sexism suspicions — given that most of the folks holding the "skeptic" line in that thread were known quantities on any conversation involving women.

"Wrt to the Woody Allen thread, we are still basically tearing ourselves apart over like, five of us having the gall to speculate differently from the rest."

Or the way in which they speculated, which fits a broader pattern. And despite the fact that it's over 900 comments, I'd wager that 95 percent of those are made by a group of about 20 people at most. So five out of 20 is a lot more likely to be a problem than five out the thousands of active members.
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


the regular gang of guys for whom Old Testament views on women's testimonies still hold sway.

Mods, you need to leash your fucking dog.
posted by 0 at 4:41 PM on March 11, 2014


That can't possibly be the best way you have to communicate disagreement.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:05 PM on March 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


Whatever our norms (not rules, I know) are regarding the best way to participate, they are going to be applied differently depending on which opinions the majority of posters think are right or wrong, or which people the majority of posters think are on their side, because people's behaviour is perceived differently through those lenses in the first place

I've been trying all day to articulate what makes me uncomfortable with this Meta, despite generally being in agreement that threads are rarely improved by drive-by "My spidey sense is tingling" or "FAKE!" comments. This comment pretty closely makes the point I was hoping to express.

My thoughts keep coming back to the Dayna Morales thread, which I think was an embarrassment to Metafilter. Not because anyone here could have reasonably been expected to magically know it was a hoax, but because the pile-on of righteous indignation in comment after comment directed at the, as it turns out, purely fictional boogeyman who just happened to fit the profile of the absolutely perfect Metafilter antagonist (homophobic, conservative, religious) was so strong compared to the rather muted reaction to the discovery that the "hero" of the story had made it up.

Far from having the same level of virtriol directed back at her, several of the comments following the hoax reveal were more of the (paraphrasing)"Well, you know, the truth is a nebulous thing" variety or speculation that the evidence that proved the hoax was itself possibly doctored. In other words, it can at least appear at times that the reasonable request that "We should treat all stories posted to Metafilter as factual unless concretely proven otherwise" is in practice more accurately described as, "We should treat all stories that support a worldview the typical Mefite generally believes to be true as factual until concretely proven otherwise , everything else is fair game".
posted by The Gooch at 5:21 PM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


klangklangston, I don't really want to get into the Woody Allen thread but, I thought it was incredibly toxic. It was the first time I truly understood why we have the concept of outragefilter and why the mods don't want us to have certain discussions here. And I think comments like the one we're talking about make a considerable contribution to a regrettable dynamic, and that they shouldn't be mistaken for righteous blows for truth, because righteous blows are very rare. Even though we all do it, it's unjust and destructive to attribute nastier ideas and motivations to people than they express.

I also don't believe there's anybody on Metafilter for whom Old Testament views on women's testimonies hold sway. I think there's a combination of people with privilege they need to examine, contrarians, people who are struggling with a communicative mismatch with the rest of the community, and people in each contentious thread who get tarred with the same brush as the worst of them because they see a principle that most people see as less important as more important. (The fact that some people felt moved to defend the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" at a time when believing assault survivors seemed to others to be a more pressing concern doesn't begin to imply that those people also hold more sinister opinions, or deserve lasting enmity.) I'm not saying there is not sexism on Metafilter (because lol), but the us v. them dynamic that seems to be going on makes people see each other as worse than they are, and treat each other worse than they need to.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:29 PM on March 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

My thoughts keep coming back to the Dayna Morales thread, which I think was an embarrassment to Metafilter. Not because anyone here could have reasonably been expected to magically know it was a hoax, but because the pile-on of righteous indignation in comment after comment directed at the, as it turns out, purely fictional boogeyman who just happened to fit the profile of the absolutely perfect Metafilter antagonist (homophobic, conservative, religious) was so strong compared to the rather muted reaction to the discovery that the "hero" of the story had made it up.
I think that one thing that happens with a bunch of stories that turn out to be hoaxes is that lots of people look at the thread when it's first created, say their thing, and move on, so by the time a few days later that the hoax has been exposed they're no longer following the thread and may not even know that it turned out to be a hoax. So there's often just less reaction in general.
posted by dfan at 5:31 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mods, you need to leash your fucking dog.

I hope you come back when you're feeling more like having a conversation and not talking like this because this is beyond the pale not-okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:40 PM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think that one thing that happens with a bunch of stories that turn out to be hoaxes is that lots of people look at the thread when it's first created, say their thing, and move on, so by the time a few days later that the hoax has been exposed they're no longer following the thread and may not even know that it turned out to be a hoax. So there's often just less reaction in general.

Yea, but isn't it way more fun to imagine it the other way? then there's like a conspiracy and stuff!
posted by emptythought at 6:02 PM on March 11, 2014


"Far from having the same level of virtriol directed back at her..."

Why in the world would that be appropriate? That you intuit that there should be a parity of outrage is surprising.

On the one hand, we have a claim of something that happens frequently, which many people have personally experienced, that is awful and hateful and hurtful. On the other hand, we have a false claim of something that happens frequently, which many people have personally experienced, that is awful and hateful and hurtful and will continue to happen frequently, even if this particular claim is false and self-serving.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:15 PM on March 11, 2014


"(The fact that some people felt moved to defend the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" at a time when believing assault survivors seemed to others to be a more pressing concern doesn't begin to imply that those people also hold more sinister opinions, or deserve lasting enmity.)"

No, the fact that some people felt moved to declaim on and on about "innocent before proven guilty" showed them to be generally oblivious at best. They where taking a principled bit of rhetoric and reducing it beyond all rationality — it's a phrase for a court of law, not for a discussion about how an artist's work is impacted by their reputation, or even the new(ish) revelations of Dylan Farrow's letter. That they defended it at length, largely unconcerned with the context, in a way rarely seen outside of allegations of sexual misconduct or racism/sexism/homophobia etc. The distinction can be clearly illustrated by O.J. Simpson — anyone who thinks he's innocent of the murder of his wife and Ron Goldman is an idiot. He wasn't proven guilty of that crime, but he's not innocent. Or, even closer, Roman Polanski was never convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, but it's pretty goddamned clear he did it and got away with it. We can have a conversation about whether Chinatown is still an important movie to see, and whether or not purchasing it or seeing it at a theater helps support the flight of a child rapist. But if someone comes in and starts stumping on the, "innocent until proven guilty" line, especially if they have demonstrated a repeated pattern of antagonizing any claim of sexism, it's fair to treat that as an instance of a broader social pattern of sexism and push back against it.

I have no doubt that many of the people hewing that line think that they're making a good faith effort to stand on principles that would otherwise be subsumed by political correctness, or however they might term it, but it has the effect of contributing to a pattern of sexism, and they should be aware of that (god knows we've talked about it enough), and characterizing their comments as part of a pattern of sexism is pretty well-supported.

"I'm not saying there is not sexism on Metafilter (because lol), but the us v. them dynamic that seems to be going on makes people see each other as worse than they are, and treat each other worse than they need to."

These views hold a lot of power outside of MetaFilter — they're dominant, actually. That's changing slowly, but mostly because a lot of people are yelling, "Hey, this is a problem!" Often, the lazy contrarianism or oblivious privilege is something that's at least tacitly accepted, if not encouraged, in the outside world, and when it gets forechecked here there's a lot of defensiveness. But that has to be balanced against people, in this case people who have experienced sexual assault as well as women in general, not having to put up with lazy contrarianism or oblivious privilege without retort.
posted by klangklangston at 8:05 PM on March 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


Far from having the same level of virtriol directed back at her, several of the comments following the hoax reveal were more of the (paraphrasing)"Well, you know, the truth is a nebulous thing" variety or speculation that the evidence that proved the hoax was itself possibly doctored.

That's a common reaction. Go back and read the original Kaycee Nicole thread and you'll see exactly the same thing.

I think it's part and parcel of the Internet Fake! Brigade, or at least another manifestation of it. Broadly speaking, if someone believes in what turns out to be a hoax, it can take some time for them to accept it; not everyone even will. Especially if the hoax supported their worldview and the reveal of the hoax undermines it. In the face of that, some people pre-emptively disbelieve anything and want to make sure you know they aren't fools. Reflexive cynicism isn't even necessarily a bad thing in the face of the internet, but it does become toxic to conversations when it becomes kneejerk, is done in response to every single thing, and/or is based entirely on the idea that the situation doesn't fit the person's understanding of the world and so rather than the world being comprised of more things than their personal experience, that which doesn't fit is fake.

I'd be happy with drive-by cries of fake requiring at least a little more to go on; tell us why you don't believe it so we can figure out the usefulness of your information. Or if you must, I believe in the case of holdkris99 there were a few members who had their doubts at the time of the obituary thread, who barring further evidence expressed their concerns directly to the mods. I think that's a fine compromise, at least for the folks who are claiming fake because they want it on the record they weren't taken in - that way, if you don't care to justify it you can still have your suspicions registered with someone, and can pull them out if you are vindicated without derailing the original thread.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:09 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


speaking of things being "fake", I notice that this innocent-seeming FPP is now officially selling something.

I'm glad someone's healthy skepticism brought that to my attention, but it also makes me sad. I mean, I'm one of those people that has a link to Snopes on speed-Google and hates fake quotes on Facebook - but man, I could have been happily oblivious about this one. It was so sweet and now it makes me feel used.
posted by crossoverman at 9:11 PM on March 11, 2014


Well, this is kind of an interesting honor! I actually saw this Meta thread this morning, but was already running late, and so couldn't take the time to read it all until now. I'm really heartened by the fact that a lot of people agree with me and my proposal, and I'm also glad that there are some thoughtful, good-faith critiques of it and discussion of where it might lead, both positive and negative. Thoughtful, good-faith critiques is what it's all about for me.

So yeah, just to clarify: I don't mean for this to be a mod-enforced Rule, but more of a suggestion for a new cultural norm, one that we self-enforce upon ourselves. First, by stopping to think of where that "I don't know if I can trust this" feeling comes from, and if there is something - really, anything - behind it. And second, by refraining from posting a response to what we might call an ungrounded or contentless doubt. Both of these self-imposed restraints are meant to avoid pointless derails over essentially nothing of consequence.

It really bugged me in this case, because one commenter made this one comment early on, based on no stated reason, and 20% of the following comments are about how fake or not-fake (mostly, not-fake) this probably is. That's 20% of the thread that could've been talking about how awesome and classy a response this was to what could have been a really frustrating gesture of bigotry. Or about personal experiences with or from women in aviation. Or links to key events or interesting anecdotes in the history of women in aviation. Anything other than, "Is this fake? No it's not. Well, maybe it is? No, it really isn't!" which is about as constructive and interesting as arguing about whether or not you're really a brain in a vat. "But you could be! The jury's still out!" And it could easily have been worse; at least this time, the fake/not fake "argument"* didn't overwhelm the thread.

One thing that is especially terrible about this sort of knee-jerk, ungrounded skepticism is that it doesn't have to be malicious in order to do damage. I said that we should regard it as a form of concern trolling, not that it is concern trolling. That's because such a comment can have the same effect on a thread whether it's intended to be disruptive or not. Nobody wants to be a sucker, so saying, "I think this could be fake" pushes buttons just as much as any other trolling comment. Also, obviously, most of us don't want to be trolls of any kind, and so my hope is that, once we understand that risk, whatever part of our souls is the averse-to-being-a-troll part will vigilantly steer us away from such careless commentary.

I also didn't intend this to apply only to threads about sex/race/orientation/etc. It can easily be just as disruptive to a thread about a GoPro video as it is to a thread about a pilot and a drunken sexist, but understandably, threads where social oppression and/or cultural marginalization are implicated tend to be a lot nearer and dearer to people's hearts, their own experiences, their sense of self, and so on. So pointless derails in those threads become a lot more galling and divisive, and it's therefore probably a good idea for us to be especially vigilant there about not making unproductive and potentially disruptive comments.

Earlier in this thread, the question was asked as to whether pointing out that there have been instances of hoaxes in the same genre counts as "actual evidence". Upon further reflection, "actual evidence" is not really the same as "a specific, concrete reason", and seems like a higher bar that would be much more difficult to attain. For instance, saying that people have lied before and therefore this person might be lying too is definitely not actual evidence. It is at least a concrete reason for one's doubt, although unfortunately not very specific. It's important that the reason be specific, because otherwise one can throw the same general reason for doubt at any number of stories, whether it really applies or not. In any case, though, saying, "I think that this person may be lying, because sometimes people lie" is a step above, "I think that this person may be lying, because I have, you know, a feeling." At least the former is something that you can address and counter (with a discussion of logical fallacy and the requirements of inductive reasoning, for example), while the latter just collapses in on itself if you try to push it back, sucking you in with it.

In my proposal, I intentionally asked for "a specific, concrete reason" and not "a good reason." Because who's to say what a good reason is? "The handwriting doesn't look masculine"? "The lighting is too good/not good enough"? "The CBC is terrible at vetting sources"? "Pilots are authority figures, and authority is not to be trusted"? But at least (I hope that) we all have a widely shared sense of what constitutes a specific, concrete reason. I'm pretty sure we can all agree that "my gut feeling" does not count as a specific concrete reason, much less a good reason. I intentionally set the bar low because I can easily imagine scenarios where people build on each other's expressions of skepticism and collectively build a case against a dubious story, but it just seems more common to find the ground littered with the remains of threads done in by people being skeptical for literally no reason. All I'm asking is, if we choose to push that button, that we have at least one good-faith reason to give.

*which was really one user saying that he felt like this could be fake, with no reasons to back that up, and a second user saying that it could be fake because it's happened before, and then pretty much everyone else talking about why it's probably not fake.
posted by skoosh at 9:35 PM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


klang, I'm all over the place tonight, but I think part of my point might actually be that you can't just pronounce that in fact, people on the other side from you were simply being oblivious and irrational and stumping and declaiming on and on. You're partly right, and you partly just get to decide how the thread went because most people were on the same of the argument as you. In fact, everybody was being irrational; the idea that considering Woody Allen innocent until proven guilty means treating Dylan Farrow like the guilty one is just as sloppy as attempting to apply legal principles to everyday life, and not only do many people accept it, some are disturbed that anyone wouldn't. Which is also part of it, isn't it? Because the way a lot of the innocent-until-guilty people read to me was, appalled that people might not be seeing the possibility of Allen's innocence as important, then upset that people pushed back hard against their arguments rather than at least conceding some ground, then pissed off that their participation was being taken as evidence that Metafilter doesn't support abuse survivors. It was somewhat different with people on the other side, because they were in the majority, but they seemed similarly disgusted that they couldn't get their opponents to concede at least a little bit that believing claims of abuse is more important than people possibly having a dim view of Woody Allen.

Maybe I've really misinterpreted things. But to me, so much of the outrage is down not so much to what people say as to the assignment of greater meaning to what they say -- and won't say -- than is really apparent. Taking X way of being as a sign that somebody is Y kind of person and probably also believes Z other things. (Great, now we can get around the fact that we're all remarkably similar to one another and finally have a vicious argument about our ideals.) No, I don't think people should just put up with sexist bullshit or limit themselves to delivering a gentle reprimand twice a week. I just see a ton of reading a lot more than people are actually writing, and I think it's incredibly bad for the community and I hate the way people talk to each other sometimes and I hate that so many people have been so hurt and decided to leave. And I don't blame just "the sexists", who don't really exist as they're portrayed AFAIC, though I know who they are and what they're like.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:53 PM on March 11, 2014


Excellent rule with the addendum that if the artifact in question is something that MeFi tends to approve of, that skepticism is to be decried. General cases are to be brought to bear (example: women's complaints are ignored, therefor this artifact is true). If on the other hand, the artifact is something that MeFi tends to find repugnant, then, ipso facto, skepticism is to be welcomed.
posted by telstar at 3:22 AM on March 12, 2014


It's not skepticism per se to be decried, but empty skepticism, the "I don't know why, but I just feel like this may not be legit" comment that is sometimes made, especially right off the bat. If you don't know why, then figure out why before you start publicly doubting someone else's word. There must be *something* behind that feeling, after all. But if I can't tell you what that something is, then I should not be airing out my skepticism in a public forum until I can.

A specific, concrete reason. It doesn't have to be a good reason (although one would hope that we would strive to present good reasons and avoid bad ones). It just has to be a reason.

I think it might be easier to understand where I'm coming from if we remember that this is a public forum that anyone with Internet access can read. Even MeTa is public in this sense. That means that when we talk about a person in the news or on the web, that person can, in principle, read everything that we write about them. Even if they personally are not lurking in Metafilter, their friends may google their name and pass along links to threads that mention their name. They are, in a sense, in the room with us. In that light, coming up with a reason for doubting someone's story, if you're going to mention your doubts, is simply minimal courtesy. And by that same token, doubting someone's word in public without mentioning anything to base it on is a bit lowdown. Too lowdown, I would argue, for us to engage in. Accusations? Fine. Baseless accusations? At best, a waste of time; at worst, dickish.
posted by skoosh at 4:40 AM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would also personally prefer that we all make an effort to be more skeptical of claims that we would like to believe, rather than merely those that challenge our beliefs, in order to counteract our own cognitive biases. But that's not what annoyed me on Sunday, and I haven't come up with a pithy way to encapsulate that in a let's-do-this-and-not-that principle.
posted by skoosh at 4:47 AM on March 12, 2014


Reflexive cynicism isn't even necessarily a bad thing in the face of the internet, but it does become toxic to conversations when it becomes kneejerk, is done in response to every single thing, and/or is based entirely on the idea that the situation doesn't fit the person's understanding of the world and so rather than the world being comprised of more things than their personal experience, that which doesn't fit is fake.

Well, except "reflexive cynicism" is, pretty much by definition "kneejerk." I mean, that's what reflexive means. Once you get to that point, you are not being a critical thinker, you're just being sort of "reverse gullible," which is no more productive. I have nothing against the people being suspicious of stuff on the internet; that's a pretty good basic stance given what shows up on the internet. And the dismantling of something like, say, the "A Gay Girl in Damascus" blog is pretty interesting to watch, and I am sure that started with someone feeling a bit off about a detail in a post. The key thing is that that person actually brought some evidence to the conversation. And, as skoosh suggests, maybe that first evidence isn't the best, but it's something that can be discussed rather than "I think it's fake." "Well, I think it's not." and so on....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:32 AM on March 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've been quietly following the conversation and I think that there is nothing wrong with formulating a rule that the members of the community will then follow or ignore at their discretion. If it is found too burdensome or too stifling for the majority to observe, it won't take hold, if enough people like it, it might become a part of the culture, and at the very least it gives us something to reflect upon - I for one hope I'll be able to refrain from making comments that do nothing beyond proving to others that I can have an opinion like everyone else.

But I started writing this comment because I disagree with the rather gloomy vision, both of humanity in general and MetaFilter community, that I've seen expressed upthread.

I think that to a degree, MeFi evolution mirrors the steps that human society has taken to arrive to its current state. The written laws both followed and enforced by the state, just like the written rules that guide both us and the mods, are vastly less numerous than the soft laws that shape the fabric of social life - and that can be bent or broken at will and at a certain cost.

And while the average human beings that comprise the society, and this community like any other, aren't exactly fountains of wisdom and embodiments of virtues, the community nevertheless is progressing - by self-organization, by setting the laws, by proposing rules that would be nice if people tried to follow, by pulling ourselves up by shoestrings - from one in which bashing in the skull of a stranger was a SOP and people could make stunt posts and use blink tags to one in which xenophobia is being frowned upon even in kindergarten and making rushed comments comes with a certain cost.

Are we less free? You bet we are. Was it worth it? I think it is.
posted by hat_eater at 6:45 AM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why in the world would that be appropriate? That you intuit that there should be a parity of outrage is surprising.

On the one hand, we have a claim of something that happens frequently, which many people have personally experienced, that is awful and hateful and hurtful. On the other hand, we have a false claim of something that happens frequently, which many people have personally experienced, that is awful and hateful and hurtful and will continue to happen frequently, even if this particular claim is false and self-serving.


I hesitate to jump too deeply into this, since my intention wasn't to use this Meta as a backdoor way to reopen discussion on a several month old thread, but simply as an illustrative example of why I suspect the otherwise reasonable "Can we agree to treat things posted to Metafilter as true until concretely proven otherwise" suggestion will in practice tend to be followed and self-policed around ideological lines rather than universally. But, yes, if we agree, which I'm sure we do, that homophobia is awful and pervasive, then I would absolutely think there would be strong outrage at the discovery that someone had cynically taken advantage of people's sensitivity to this major societal ill and used a provably false claim of it as a means to gain attention, notoriety and, it appears, possibly money.

But you cut off the remainder of my comment which spoke more directly to the issues being discussed in this thread. Upon discovery that there was solid, concrete evidence that the waitress had lied, THAT information was not universally given the benefit of the doubt in the way that is being encouraged in this Meta. If you read the thread following the hoax reveal, you'll note the "I guess we'll never really know the truth here" and "PDF's can be doctored, you know"-esque comments. And I'll note that nobody started a "Can we agree as a community to believe things posted to Metafilter until given solid evidence to the contrary" Metatalk thread in response to the doubt some posters expressed to the evidence that proved the hoax, despite it being pretty irrefutable.

In this example, which I do not think is unique, the "typical" Mefite is predisposed to believe one version of events over the other, regardless of evidence, since one reinforces a deeply held belief system, while the other does not. As much as I appreciate skoosh's clarification that this suggestion was meant to be applied universally, even down to viral GoPro video posts, I suspect, based on site history, that is not how it will actually play out.
posted by The Gooch at 8:34 AM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


otherwise reasonable "Can we agree to treat things posted to Metafilter as true until concretely proven otherwise" suggestion

But that's not the suggestion. My reading of it, anyway, is "Can we please just not toss 'fake!' or 'this is made up' into a thread; if you have actual reasons - experience, knowledge, like that - then articulate *why* you think it's fake" which is quite different from "treat everything as true until proved otherwise."
posted by rtha at 11:07 AM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, except "reflexive cynicism" is, pretty much by definition "kneejerk."

Yeah, just to clarify my idiosyncratic distinction, to me, the reflexive reaction is the one you have, the kneejerk reaction is the one you post. This is not likely a use of the terms shared by many, so I apologise for the confusion.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:25 PM on March 12, 2014


And while the average human beings that comprise the society, and this community like any other, aren't exactly fountains of wisdom and embodiments of virtues, the community nevertheless is progressing... from one in which bashing in the skull of a stranger was a SOP and people could make stunt posts and use blink tags to one in which xenophobia is being frowned upon even in kindergarten and making rushed comments comes with a certain cost.

Are we less free? You bet we are. Was it worth it? I think it is.


I would argue that we are equally free, but the lack of freedom is being more equally distributed.

The phrase "history is written by the winners" lampshades this tendency for the people in power - the most free people - to be the ones we usually hear about from the past. This isn't 100% true, of course - and contemporary social media is making it less true - but by and large the focus on history focuses on those who are free, those who would experience the current world as "less free" because there are vocalized rules limiting what they can do and growing power to enforce those rules.

There are various high-emotion "gochas" that I could put here about the horrible, painful, decidedly un-free experiences of other people, whose experiences often aren't recorded for history or if they are recorded are considered less important. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of society wasn't free, whether due to explicit law or implicit socialization.

Modern social media and a growing history of organized Civil Rights resistance has let those groups organize, strategize, and communicate on a scale that I don't think exists in history, and they are beginning to gain traction. With it comes some loss of freedom for the people who historically could do what they want without meaningful critique or consequence, but with it also comes a gain in freedom for people who historically were the victims of the powerful.

The powerful remain the powerful, though, and so this discussion so often ends up framed as a "loss of freedom" instead of an "equalization of freedom" or even a "gain in freedom", which might be the experience for a less powerful person.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:34 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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