If you don't have something nice to say... March 11, 2014 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I like Obama overall, but I'm not thrilled that the comments saying he "sucks at his job" in this thread was deleted for being polarizing and content-free, while the comment stating, in it's entirety "Why would you want another president? Stop wasting your time with elections. Extend his term indefinitely" was allowed to stand. I really am not accusing the mods of betraying a pro-Obama bias, because I don't think that's what's happening, but the net result is that the conversation in that thread has been altered to make it seem that MetaFilter universally loves Obama, when that's not the case. Is it just the general rule that "So-and-so rules" comments are fine while "So-and-so drools" comments are not? If so, are we happy with this?
posted by 256 to Etiquette/Policy at 6:09 AM (254 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite



Is it just the general rule that "So-and-so rules" comments are fine while "So-and-so drools" comments are not? If so, are we happy with this?

I think it's generally more that a quick, poorly fleshed out drive-by negative comment will have a significantly different effect than a quick, poorly fleshed out drive-by positive comment. One of them is someone going YEAH which doesn't particularly add to the conversation but doesn't detract from it either, and the other is basically just someone either trying to start an argument, or not really caring about not looking like they're trying to start an argument.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:15 AM on March 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm sorry if I did not make myself clear. I'm talking about comments that say little beyond whether he's great or terrible, which can often make new-ish threads devolve into fightiness. Of course it's fine to talk about the president of the U.S. in positive and/or negative ways. The "positive" example you cite I took to be a joke, that is I don't think people are seriously arguing for the abolition of democracy. At any rate that thread hasn't been up two hours, I think it's far too early to say it presents a one-sided view?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:17 AM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Were the comments flagged or something? Seems like deletion is a bit much for that.
posted by smackfu at 6:20 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, as we all know, not supporting Obama is a clear indication of Violent Nazism. It's like reading the Bible; can't really have that on the enlightened corners of the intarwebs.
posted by 0 at 6:42 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think they were deleted as a preemptive strike on the same tired arguments.
posted by Think_Long at 6:43 AM on March 11, 2014


Well, as we all know, not supporting Obama is a clear indication of Violent Nazism. It's like reading the Bible; can't really have that on the enlightened corners of the intarwebs.

hahaaaa yeeeeaaah let's have a conversation based on this very charitable reading of that AskMe it'll be awesome
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:46 AM on March 11, 2014 [54 favorites]


Assuming sarcasm there, you're right. I didn't mean to start a derail and have flagged myself accordingly.
posted by 0 at 6:49 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


thank you
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:57 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


GNFTI - thank you for bringing the word "suckitude" into my life.
(Also, how did I never notice before that staff tags are only in MetaTalk?)

It seems like a jokey thread so criticising Obama for his Presidency skills seems unnecessarily spoiling for a fight. His acting skills, on the other hand...
posted by billiebee at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2014


The linked video is a comedy sketch where the POTUS makes fun of himself and the interviewer pokes fun at him. Perhaps the comments which follow shouldn't be taken more seriously?

the conversation in that thread has been altered to make it seem that MetaFilter universally loves Obama, when that's not the case.

That is, of course, largely the case and is not the result of moderation. The one-sided view is entirely organic. Moderation will tend to focus on the few dandelions, but I would guess most people would agree that it's generally nicer to look out on weed-free lawn. It's more relaxing - lush blue fields of unadulterated validation as far as the eye can see. Isn't that what entertainment is all about?
posted by three blind mice at 7:00 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


not supporting Obama is a clear indication of Violent Nazism.

Totally uncool, do not do that here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:13 AM on March 11, 2014 [21 favorites]


obama aside, the mods have said a bunch that "this sucks" is not analogous to "this rules" from a community management standpoint.
posted by nadawi at 7:27 AM on March 11, 2014 [15 favorites]


Moderation will tend to focus on the few dandelions, but I would guess most people would agree that it's generally nicer to look out on weed-free lawn ... It's more relaxing - lush blue fields of unadulterated validation as far as the eye can see.

Maybe they focus on the dandelions because THEY ARE GOOD TO EAT.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:29 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to say that, based on that thread, I have only just now learned that staff tags only appear in MeTa.

I have been a member of this site for over 10 years.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:39 AM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Don't feel that bad; they only added them two and a half years ago.
posted by gman at 7:42 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


If one is looking for serious discourse on the quality of the president, it seems like a thread about his appearance on a show on Funny or Die is not really the place one would be looking for it. So, no, nobody reasonable is going to think that the course of that conversation indicates that Metafilter really loves Obama.
posted by Sequence at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Time and place.

This isn't any different than "your favorite band sucks." It would be like going into a post with a SLYT Fresh Prince of Bel Air mashup and saying you hate rap music. There may be a place to have a serious discussion about rap, but a light-hearted video that's tangentily related to rap music ain't it.

On page down, its like Sequence said.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:13 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Time and place.

Exactly, a serious discussion of Obama and his performance is better left for a more serious thread, for example a discussion on policy.
posted by arcticseal at 8:20 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's plenty of possibility for serious constructive or devastating criticism in that thread I think. I debated whether to post the NYT article or other articles (along with the FOD link) that point out that this program may be degrading the dignity of the office, or hurting Obama's cause or the party's cause. I didn't include them because I didn't find any individual piece of writing that made that point with any particular vehemence or clarity. But axe-grindy one sentence negativity should always get deleted in MF and I'm very pleased with GNFTI's choice to do so often n early here.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I propose that henceforth we refrain from publicly doubting the awesomeness of Obama.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:02 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


To the staff tag mini-derail - The reasoning behind them only appearing in MeTa is that mods can speak in other areas of the site in a a non-mod role. E.g., cortex will probably pop into a Star Trek: the Next Generation thread with some observations about Worf or whatever, and it's not him speaking as a moderator. That's why, when they do speak as mods elsewhere, they still use the "brackets and small text" convention.

I think there was some talk about having a tag that they could turn off and on in the other subsites, but it was decided to be more trouble than it was worth.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:04 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


"probably"
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:05 AM on March 11, 2014 [34 favorites]


I suppose it's also to do with the psychology of one-liners. Positive, upbeat or funny one-liners can really make one's day (no matter one writes them or reads them). Good-humored snark is already borderline. Negative one-liners are pretty much always like the proverbial neighbor's dog that poops into the picnic salad.
posted by Namlit at 9:05 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The picnic salad can't have been very good if it was left unattended long enough for the dog to circle, squat, and intently meditate on North-South.
posted by gilrain at 9:14 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


And you are going to the wrong picnics.
posted by Big_B at 9:17 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]



Maybe they focus on the dandelions because THEY ARE GOOD TO EAT.


Thy make pretty good wine, too.
posted by jgirl at 9:21 AM on March 11, 2014


Negative one-liners are pretty much always like the proverbial neighbor's dog that poops into the picnic salad.

That's what she said.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:24 AM on March 11, 2014


Taking a look at this post from a year ago about G W Bush's painting hobby and you see the drive by inflammatory negative and threatening comments are not deleted, but also favorited.

I guess a light-hearted threat about Bush is bad, but Obama good?
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:28 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


threatening

Are you saying AElfwine Evenstar is God? I had no idea He posted here!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:31 AM on March 11, 2014


I guess a light-hearted threat about Bush is bad, but Obama good?

The comment you linked to was not a drive-by - it was a direct response to the comment immediately above it. It was part of a conversation. The situations aren't analogous.

Also, "I hope he burns in hell" is not a threat, unless the person posting it has some way of actually making that happen, in which case that's, you know, that's a whole other MetaTalk thread.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:32 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm saying if someone posted "i hope Obama burns in a thousand hells" the comment wouldn't last a nanosecond.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:32 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm saying if someone posted "i hope Obama burns in a thousand hells" the comment wouldn't last a nanosecond.

If only there were some sort of search function you could use to find out whether or not you're right.

SPOILERS: haha guess what
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:35 AM on March 11, 2014 [23 favorites]


I would have probably deleted that Bush comment too just because it's counterproductive and sort of asinine spleen vent. We're a little more touchy about threatening-y comments directed towards current presidents than former presidents and I think gnfti was being cautious because he's a non-American mod on a majority-American site.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:37 AM on March 11, 2014


Chrysostom: "That's why, when they do speak as mods elsewhere, they still use the "brackets and small text" convention."

I imagine the other sub-sites wouldn't be much fun for the them if they always had to speak ex-cathedra.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2014


"haha guess what"

I don't think you understand what we are discussing. This MeTa, and the Bush thread I linked, are about lighthearted topics about Presidents (Bush-Art/Obama-BTFerns) and deleting drive-by 'hurf durf bad president' derails.

That a thread about Bush is filled with politically negative one-liners yet similar comments about Obama are deleted today.

GNFTI said " I'm talking about comments that say little beyond whether he's great or terrible, which can often make new-ish threads devolve into fightiness. " which is EXACTLY what happened in the Bush thread. Just wondering if it's a new policy or if making fun of Bush is a-ok.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:46 AM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't think you understand what we are discussing.

I don't think you understand that you just got pwned.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:49 AM on March 11, 2014 [18 favorites]


the conversation in that thread has been altered to make it seem that MetaFilter universally loves Obama, when that's not the case.

That is, of course, largely the case and is not the result of moderation.


So it's a matter of course that everyone here supports Obama? Metafilter was one of the last places I go online to finally "flip," but at this point I can't imagine there are many people here who still wholeheartedly support Obama, at least not among the people who are engaged with politics at all.

Whether it's the president or whoever, "we all know everyone here likes him so people who disagree are just trolls" is toxic to any kind of rational discussion.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:59 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think I understand.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:00 AM on March 11, 2014


the mods have said a bunch that "this sucks" is not analogous to "this rules" from a community management standpoint.

Except that if the article itself seems to be saying "These people suck", then it seems to be totally cool in general to produce one-liner "man you are so right, those people do suck." So I think it's less about "this sucks" is worse than "this rules", but more that whichever one does not go with the flow of the community is the one which will be deleted.
posted by corb at 10:03 AM on March 11, 2014


So the thread is more than five hours old now, and there are no new criticisms of Obama, except for relating to his acting, while extremely pro-Obama comments still stand.

I totally get that a thread about a lighthearted video that involves the president is not the best place for a spirited political debate, but I like and value that Metafilter is a community with far more diverse viewpoints than you find in most online communities this close-knit. I remain concerned that the thread as it reads now makes us look like the Obama fan club, whereas the thread minus the deletions would have shown a broader picture.

I'm curious, would a comment simply reading "Obama is the best president ever" be allowed to stand in that thread?
posted by 256 at 10:05 AM on March 11, 2014


I have to say that I started to read that thread and immediately came here.

I honestly feel that this whole post should have been nipped in the bud - because really, what are we learning from this? Is it really best of the web?

Given that the thread isn't deleted right off the bat, though, the idea of people fawning over Mr. Obama because he appears on a content-free, mindless TV show has got to frustrate anyone who actually takes politics seriously.

As I - and a lot of other people here - see it, America had a unique chance to actually effect the great change that it so desperately needs when it elected Mr. Obama. That chance was squandered - we didn't get a reforming politician, but someone who is popular because he's charming and comes off as witty on television shows.

So to come to that thread and see that it's been sanitized so only the pro-Obama comments are left is frustrating. If you're critical of Mr. Obama, this is one of the very things that's maddening.

This is an ongoing issue with the web in general. I can't tell you how many stupid Putin jokes I've seen relating to the Crimean crisis - I honestly feel Americans like Putin because he's a tough guy who likes to have photos taken with his shirt off and have almost no idea what sort of thug they are actually supporting.

> This isn't any different than "your favorite band sucks."

No, it's completely and utterly different because politics is a literal life and death matter, and the President's actions affect billions of people. This attitude that the President should be judged by the same criteria as Justin Bieber is what leads many people to despair of ever getting any semblance of rationality in American politics.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:06 AM on March 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


(Oh and GNFTI, I'm not meaning to pick on your modding. I think you do a hard job with aplomb. I just wonder if there should be a clearer policy on deleting or not deleting both content-free building up and tearing down comments in threads about prominent public figures.)
posted by 256 at 10:07 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I think it's less about "this sucks" is worse than "this rules", but more that whichever one does not go with the flow of the community is the one which will be deleted.

And we've stated that this is not the case. I think you missed the point of the original comment where if there's a thread that is pointing to something saying "Look at this neat thing" a comment that says "Oh that's neat" is perceived as a sort of neutral comment and a comment that is "That sucks" is perceived as being a sort of turd in the punchbowl. Which is to say if it's a thread for looking at a thing that someone thought was interesting, saying "Well *I* don't think it's interesting" is just turning the thread into a referendum on you and your beliefs and away from the actual main topic.

This is sort of why we don't like threads that are like "Look at these stupid people" because they're usually not great for community discussion. You seem to have an ongoing concern that there is some sort of moderation based on content that goes on here on a frequent and visible basis and you spend a lot of time showing up in threads making contrary viewpoints as if daring us or other MeFites to flag/complain and reinforce your position. However those comments stay up most of the time.

If you think that we moderate based on the content of comments as opposed to the behavior of commenters, feel free to make your case. We've said it isn't the case.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:09 AM on March 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


I mean, I could post a comment like "Here's some awkward comedy for you: Galifianakis books Obama and a Pakistani drone victim's funeral in the same slot," but it's A) probably too late in the thread for that kind of one-liner and B) late enough in the thread that that comment would be a flaming shit on the doorstep, even if it's a more cogent comment than Obamasuxlol.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:16 AM on March 11, 2014


The set of all things that are not Obama rules by comparison to all things not in that set.
posted by Naberius at 10:17 AM on March 11, 2014


lupus_yonderboy: " Is it really best of the web?"
"best of the web" even though it's a deprecated phrase
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:04 AM on October 20, 2009
posted by Chrysostom at 10:17 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


> if there's a thread that is pointing to something saying "Look at this neat thing"

The fact that the only allowable interpretation of this is "neat thing" is exactly the problem here.

"Look at this neat thing" is fine if we're talking about a music video for a rock band, but it is completely inadequate for actions by the President.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2014


The fact that the only allowable interpretation of this is "neat thing" is exactly the problem here.

I was speaking in larger terms to try to explain that specific phenomenon, not talking about this particular thread on MeFi.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:20 AM on March 11, 2014


Given that the thread isn't deleted right off the bat, though, the idea of people fawning over Mr. Obama because he appears on a content-free, mindless TV show has got to frustrate anyone who actually takes politics seriously.

I dunno. I take politics very seriously, and I enjoyed this post.
posted by lalex at 10:21 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Before I hit post on a comment, I try to ask myself, "Will this open up a conversation, or will it start a fight?"

I delete a lot of my draft posts...
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:22 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


So it's a matter of course that everyone here supports Obama? Metafilter was one of the last places I go online to finally "flip," but at this point I can't imagine there are many people here who still wholeheartedly support Obama, at least not among the people who are engaged with politics at all.

Some of us resisted drinking the Obama Kool-Aid, and to be honest I never bought into the 'Chosen One' campaign rhetoric. Against McCain/Palin, he was the best option once Hillary dropped out. He was the best option against Romney and that guy who ran with him. But he was massively overhyped and didn't live up to over-inflated expectations. So people were predictably going to be disillusioned.

Honestly, I'm not sure what they expected. Being President is not a blank check to do whatever the hell you want. And as disappointing as he has been on certain issues, he's better than a Cheney term 3 and 4 would have been.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on March 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


I mean, I could post a comment like "Here's some awkward comedy for you: Galifianakis books Obama and a Pakistani drone victim's funeral in the same slot,"

What's to gain from that, though? I mean, I know there's a lot of great and insightful political discourse on this site, but sometimes it's not necessary. Do you think people who are laughing at the show and saying nice things are incapable of also having a stance on drone attacks? Do you think they need to be wake up sheepled every time it looks like they're just enjoying something and not being sufficiently aware of More Important Things?

Sometimes you just want to like a stupid video without someone barging in and killing the buzz, man.
posted by billiebee at 10:24 AM on March 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I wrote "I could" and elided "I won't," hoping that the context from the rest of the sentence, which you deleted, would make my meaning clear.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:26 AM on March 11, 2014


Before I hit post on a comment, I try to ask myself, "Will this open up a conversation, or will it start a fight?"

... and sometimes, even if I realize it might start a fight, I'll post anyway, because sometimes a fight feels necessary -- certainly a deflection from an ongoing echo chamber. I recall a while back looking in on some kind of god-related thread and being so annoyed by the low level anti-theism comments (and related backslapping) going on that I announced my conversion. Because what was going down demanded something extreme (and absurd). It was failing as discussion, edging into bullying.

One of my favorite aspects of this community is that context weighs heavily when it comes to moderation concerns. There are very few hard and fast rules. There are very many judgment calls, which seem to me to mostly go in a tie-goes-to-the-runner direction. So be it. The opposite would be far worse.
posted by philip-random at 10:31 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


No, I mean, I know it was clear that you weren't going to, which is why I didn't keep the whole quote in. It was more just to capture the sentiment itself. Like, why would anyone want to post that in a thread about a joke interview? I don't think it matters how early or late the thread was, it just wouldn't feel like it was reading the room very well. But apologies if you were exaggerating for effect and I'm misreading it. Not meaning to single you out, just seemed like something someone might say.
posted by billiebee at 10:34 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Did any of the people in this thread complaining about specific comments use the fast-light-and-good notification system to mark them as, e.g. noise or derails?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:34 AM on March 11, 2014


> Honestly, I'm not sure what they expected.

People have such short memories. Perhaps we expected at least a good try at some of his campaign promises?

A Justice Department crack-down on Wall Street? Perhaps an attempt to actually close Gitmo rather than what we did get, an attempt to move exactly that broken system into the United States (which was, of course, opposed by both the "right" and the "left"?) Perhaps some attempt at taking climate change seriously rather than "add[ing] enough oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some"? Not covering up for BP during the Deepwater Horizon fiasco? Allowing single-payer advocates to at least present their ideas rather than having them arrested? An attempt to rein-in the surveillance state rather than extend it? etc. etc. etc.

This is not change - this is business as usual. The fact that we always get the same justification, "better than Cheney", is pathetic - since when was "better than Dick Cheney" the gold standard for America?

> Do you think people who are laughing at the show and saying nice things are incapable of also having a stance on drone attacks?

Frankly, yes - I think that if you think of drone attacks as institutionalized killing of people without due process or justification you'd find it impossible to laugh at that show.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:36 AM on March 11, 2014 [15 favorites]


> Did any of the people in this thread complaining about specific comments use the fast-light-and-good notification system to mark them as, e.g. noise or derails?

Seems to me that people are rather complaining that comments critical of Mr. Obama were deleted...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:37 AM on March 11, 2014


Folks, it is not the case that deleting drive-by one line referendums on Obama is some kind of universal metafilter endorsement for any and all things Obama has done. I mean really?

What I find annoying is that if there is a thread that is even tangentially related to some topic on which people have Opinions, some folks can't help themselves but use that space to state their side, often in a relatively unnuanced and uninteresting manner, as in that thread. There are a million newsie sites on the internet that have comment sections exactly for that purpose. Metafilter doesn't have to be your only outlet. Sometimes it feels like there are folks just waiting around for an FPP to mention Obama (or one of the other short list things) and when they see it they're like "Yes! Finally! Now I can tell Metafilter I hate Obama! That'll show 'em! Mwahahaha" *rubs hands together*

My thing is that making those sorts of comments makes threads freaking boring. Some comment threads I don't even open because I know, based on what the FPP is related to, even if it isn't about that specific thing (i.e. whether or not Obama has been the best or the worst), it's going to become the exact same utterly predictable argument that the blue has had a million times. It's kind of demoralizing, honestly.

You know what's cool? Lurking is cool. We all make knee-jerk reaction comments and stuff because we are an opinionated bunch and we like to talk. But seriously, just take two seconds before you write a crappy "here is my vote on controversial thing" and think about whether it's an interesting thing to say, if it's actually about the FPP, and whether it will help foster discussion beyond your favorite band sucks.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:39 AM on March 11, 2014 [26 favorites]


I thought rehashing the deleted discussion in MeTa was verboten.
posted by PMdixon at 10:41 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Frankly, yes - I think that if you think of drone attacks as institutionalized killing of people without due process or justification you'd find it impossible to laugh at that show

I think most people are capable of holding more than one point of view about a person at a time. And there are also other forms of US institutionalised killings that I disagree with, but that doesn't stop me enjoying lots of North American culture. Maybe it's easier as an outsider.
posted by billiebee at 10:41 AM on March 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


> My thing is that making those sorts of comments makes threads freaking boring.

How unboring was a thread, "Obama goes on vapid TV show and makes mindless jokes" going to be anyway?

> You know what's cool? Lurking is cool.

"Shut up, no one wants to hear your boring political stuff. Obama is charming and funny!"
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:42 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another thing that is cool is not using quotation marks unless you're directly quoting what someone said.
posted by billiebee at 10:44 AM on March 11, 2014 [29 favorites]


I don't think it matters how early or late the thread was, it just wouldn't feel like it was reading the room very well.

Agreed.

Like, why would anyone want to post that in a thread about a joke interview?

Off the top of my head, you might find a darkly humorous contrast between the "awkwardness" of Between Two Ferns's house style and the real awkwardness of the show's gently ribbing a man who personally gives the order to kill people in double-tap bombing attacks that often kill innocent bystanders. It's not completely beyond imagination that someone might want to post such a thing.

Anyway, like I said, it would be a flaming shit on the doorstep, and I wouldn't recommend doing something like that in any thread without really, really good reason.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:46 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


> Another thing that is cool is not using quotation marks unless you're directly quoting what someone said.

I'm using > characters to indicate direct quotes from other people. Was this not clear to you somehow? Do you think it wasn't clear to anyone else reading it?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:47 AM on March 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Shut up, no one wants to hear your boring political stuff. Obama is charming and funny!"

Luto said zero words about that last bit, and at no point was that conveyed even by subtext. I get that this is something you feel strongly about but it seems like being this het-up about it is kind of a detriment to being able to actually talk about it with other people. Having an axe to grind sometimes means that you and the other person are basically having two different conversations.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:49 AM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]



How unboring was a thread, "Obama goes on vapid TV show and makes mindless jokes" going to be anyway?


currently watching the vapid TV show and sorry, but you're wrong. It's not. It's hilarious. That the President of the United States (the most powerful county in the world TM) has the time and inclination to do time with Zach G and his ferns is my kind of beautifully absurd.

gently ribbing a man who personally gives the order to kill people in double-tap bombing attacks.

Every President has the power to give kill orders. Are you arguing that none of them should ever be allowed to appear in any public context that does not have them wearing black and lurking in the shadows with sticky dark red stuff on their hands?
posted by philip-random at 10:51 AM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


... and then half-way through, they get to an important point which is hyping heathcare.gov and the looming deadline for sign-up. And specific to this particular context, they're pitching it to a certain audience whose skepticism-slackerdom is not easily penetrated.

Also, great punchline.
posted by philip-random at 10:54 AM on March 11, 2014


This is sort of why we don't like threads that are like "Look at these stupid people" because they're usually not great for community discussion

Sure, "look at these stupid people" posts don't stand, but "look at these assholes" posts often do, which means that if you show up in such a post and say "They actually aren't assholes", it would be perceived as threadshitting, even though you are not the one saying people are assholes.
posted by corb at 10:54 AM on March 11, 2014


Every President has the power to give kill orders. Are you arguing that none of them should ever be allowed to appear in any public context that does not have them wearing black and lurking in the shadows with sticky dark red stuff on their hands?

Point taken; I don't think this is the place to have that debate. I probably should have stopped commenting a few comments ago, and I don't want to dig in any deeper.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:55 AM on March 11, 2014


think about whether it's an interesting thing to say, if it's actually about the FPP, and whether it will help foster discussion beyond your favorite band sucks.

I get what you are saying, but tell me, do these comments taken from that thread do any of those?

Brilliant.

holy shit

Ha. Pretty good.


Lots more borderline cases there too.
posted by Big_B at 10:55 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sure, "look at these stupid people" posts don't stand, but "look at these assholes" posts often do, which means that if you show up in such a post and say "They actually aren't assholes", it would be perceived as threadshitting, even though you are not the one saying people are assholes.

That depends a whole lot on the context and the framing of your comments, actually. Plenty of people successfully make "hey, there's another angle on this that's worth considering" sorts of comments contrary to the tone or thrust of a post without it turning into a sideshow. Picking your moment and structuring your arguments carefully certainly helps, there; it's a mistake to conflate "I made a comment defending something other people dislike and that was poorly received" with "defenses of things people dislike are considered threadshitting", and I don't feel like you personally have anything like a median perspective on that overlap.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:59 AM on March 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I get what you are saying, but tell me, do these comments taken from that thread do any of those?

They're probably not going to start fights that impede discussion, either. Unlike the "your favorite band sucks" or "do I need a TV to...." or "Kittens are stupid I hate kittens" kinds of comments.
posted by rtha at 11:04 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


if you show up in such a post and say "They actually aren't assholes", it would be perceived as threadshitting, even though you are not the one saying people are assholes.

Many people are able to manage this. This is a thing you have had trouble with in the past. As always we're available to chat but I think you may be overgeneralizing your own experience to make a general point about the site that is actually not the case.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:06 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


> > How unboring was a thread, "Obama goes on vapid TV show and makes mindless jokes" going to be anyway?

> currently watching the vapid TV show and sorry, but you're wrong. It's not. It's hilarious.

The thread is hilarious? Honestly, the thread is tedious.

> Are you arguing that none of them should ever be allowed to appear in any public context that does not have them wearing black and lurking in the shadows with sticky dark red stuff on their hands?

I'm not going to say that Mr. Obama shouldn't be appearing on funny TV shows, but then a whole Metafilter thread of Ed McMahons telling us, "That was funny," is useless - particularly since we aren't ever getting Mr. Obama put into a place where he'd have to answer frank, penetrating questions about his use of extra-legal violence as an enforcement tool for foreign policy.

Here's a thought experiment. Pick a world leader who you personally think is "doing the wrong thing" - perhaps even "a bad guy".

Now imagine s/he went on television and did a similar interview - and then you came to a Metafilter thread about it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:08 AM on March 11, 2014


I'd probably skip it.
posted by billiebee at 11:11 AM on March 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


Lupus - I actually find your type of comment profoundly offensive.

I think that if you think of drone attacks as institutionalized killing of people without due process or justification you'd find it impossible to laugh at that show.

it seems as though your think your opinion is so lofty that you can sneer at the emotional lives of others.

You have no idea how much I and other strangers know about a given contentious or tragic situation. You have no idea how someone might have been directly, personally involved, or how much of their time has been spent fully engaged. If someone wants to laugh, if someone sees the humor, then back off and let them have their own lives.

We're not poking living things with sticks for giggles, we're having human responses.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:12 AM on March 11, 2014 [24 favorites]


Brilliant.

holy shit

Ha. Pretty good.

Lots more borderline cases there too.


Yes, it's true, there is plenty of noise in every thread. Noise is one thing, when it turns negative it becomes static.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:14 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Now imagine s/he went on television and did a similar interview

Hi, the 80s called and would like their Great Communicator back. Quit acting like none of us have ever encountered a world leader (beloved or not) on a talk show before and you need to teach us to have an appropriate response.
posted by rtha at 11:15 AM on March 11, 2014 [22 favorites]


Well, I'm sure glad we can have a discussion about politics here, because that's totally what MetaTalk is for! Also, I would love to know more about everyone's political views, because that is ALSO what MetaTalk is for.

Yes, it says it right there in the description:
MetaTalk is the part of the site for talking about the site itself.

People often use it for discussing policy and etiquette questions with the mods and other users, making feature requests, or asking questions about the site itself.

Sometimes it's used for pointing out a notable media mention of MetaFilter or a MeFite, or announcing a site event like a contest.

Other times it's just used for finding MeFites in other places such as online games or other activities.
OH WAIT
posted by scrump at 11:16 AM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Clearly Zach Galafinakis is slacking in his duties as a talk show host for not levelling some drone strike accusations and demanding hard truths.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:16 AM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Clearly Zach Galafinakis is slacking in his duties as a talk show host for not levelling some drone strike accusations and demanding hard truths.

Tucker Carlson, I think your bow tie is cutting off your blood flow again!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:22 AM on March 11, 2014



Clearly Zach Galafinakis is slacking in his duties


it's true. It would've been funnier if he'd taken things to the same extremes as he did with Justin Beiber
posted by philip-random at 11:25 AM on March 11, 2014


boy, my comment, the upshot of which was "it's bad to post flamebait" sure demonstrated its own point, huh



sorry, everyone



can we go back to the X rules/X drools policy, the subject of the thread
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:25 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


it seems like it would be pretty easy to structure a critical comment of obama in that thread - maybe critiques of the push towards healthcare or the appropriateness of sitting presidents doing this sort of press, and specifically how wholeheartedly the obamas seem to embrace this sort of thing. just dropping in to say something similar to grar-obama-drones! isn't engaging with the thread which is part of what makes it a shitty comment.
posted by nadawi at 11:26 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


my comment, the upshot of which was "it's bad to post flamebait" sure demonstrated its own point, huh

This is generally why on MeFi we disallow the "I am going to make an outrageous over the top comment in the voice of someone who is not-me in order to prove a point about how bad these people sound" comments. I was a little surprised you decided to go that route.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:29 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just want to voice my strong agreement with lupus_yonderboy, on all points here.

I get that "Obama sucks" comments can have a negative impact on the direction of a thread, and I am not faulting the moderator for taking a cautious approach.

But Obama is a very powerful man who has used his power. His decisions and public appearances should be fair game on this site. (That is all I will say so that I do not use this thread to complain about Obama.)

Because of that, I don't find his appearance funny at all. Now that doesn't mean everyone else has to see it my way. But even if Obama and that Zach G. guy intend this interview to be light-hearted, and a lot of people take it that way, maybe it's a good idea to remember that Obama too is a polarizing figure to many of us here on the site.
posted by vincele at 11:31 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another thing that is cool is not using quotation marks unless you're directly quoting what someone said.

I've noticed that when people use hyperbolic paraphrase, they are usually having an argument when the paraphrase instead of addressing what has actually been said.

I've been guilty of it myself, and so have been trying really hard not to paraphrase, but, as Cortex once told me, something like, man, you're awesome, just be who you are, awesome you.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:42 AM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Aside from the fact that it's the wrong place for it, I think it's worth noting that the discussion about the show, and the administration's media politics, in this MeTa is way more substantial and interesting and multi-sided than the original thread. To me this seems like a case in point that reasoned disagreement is good for the site, and that thoughtful discussion can grow well enough out of initially terse but on-topic critical comments that it's worth restraining the impulse to campaign for their deletion.

This campaign against "negativity" as a general thing, though its first salvo was the quite reasonable taboo on discussion-killing "your favorite band sucks," can broaden very quickly into something that's really not good for a culture of healthy discussion. Negation is how critique works, and critique is good. We need to delimit what counts as "your favorite band sucks" much more narrowly than some people seem to want to, or it'll have bad, discussion-narrowing consequences.
posted by RogerB at 11:50 AM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't find his appearance funny at all.

I could be wrong, but the feeling I get is that writing a comment like "It's weird to see someone with such a serious job try and do comedy, and I don't think it's funny." would be okay. Writing something like "How can you laugh at this when [serious policy opinion] is happening?" would not be okay because the topic is not about policy, it's about Obama and some ferns.
posted by jess at 11:52 AM on March 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


But Obama is a very powerful man who has used his power. His decisions and public appearances should be fair game on this site.

Nobody has said that they shouldn't. Discussion is an entirely different subject. What we're talking about here is firing off "Obama sucks!" comments, not "Obama sucks, and here's my lengthy relevant rationalization for having this opinion..." comments.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:53 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


reasoned disagreement is good for the site

according to gnfti, this isn't what was deleted from that thread. i don't see anyone saying reasoned on topic disagreement is forbidden.
posted by nadawi at 12:01 PM on March 11, 2014


To me this seems like a case in point that reasoned disagreement is good for the site, and that thoughtful discussion can grow well enough out of initially terse but on-topic critical comments that it's worth restraining the impulse to campaign for their deletion.

But thoughtful discussion can also grow well from more developed, thoughtful comments, and the track record for that is generally a whole lot better. Folks skipping the terse stuff in favor of saying something at least more substantial and well-framed is hardly a loss, and if the idea is that no one is going to do that unprompted in a given specific discussion, that's kind of okay and it can wait till someone feels like making the effort.

This is in the same basic territory for me as metatalk complaints about the deletion of a poorly framed post on the basis that the thing the post was about was worth posting; our response is basically always "okay, make a more well-framed post about it", and yet there tends to be a lot of argumentation in defense of the specific not-ideal post on the basis of principle before someone finally does the obvious thing and goes and actually makes a better post.

Like, it just feels like folks want to argue an event as if it's a principle, a line in the sand, a precedent that will stand unless they fight it tooth and nail, instead of taking advantage of the "try again and do better" philosophy that stands behind most of the moderation decisions we make here. I sort of get it and sympathize sometimes with the in-the-moment feeling that I think drives it a lot, but it's still frustrating to me to see play out repeatedly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:02 PM on March 11, 2014 [18 favorites]


I sort of get it and sympathize sometimes with the in-the-moment feeling that I think drives it a lot, but it's still frustrating to me to see play out repeatedly.

This is why, in baseball, you're not allowed to argue balls and strikes with the umpire.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:24 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"argue balls" is a funny phrase if you parse it like "trip balls"
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:26 PM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Writing something like "How can you laugh at this when [serious policy opinion] is happening?" would not be okay because the topic is not about policy, it's about Obama and some ferns.

Well I don't mean to be combative or contrarian but my read of at least a few comments from earlier in the thread was that his appearance on this show was a light-hearted thing and this thread was not the time and place for serious commentary. Please see below.

"Obama sucks" comments are not a hill I want to die on by any means, but I do think it's ok to hear that yeah this powerful, public figure does suck, even if he's doing something that he intends to have the opposite effect on his target audience, and largely succeeds in achieving that effect.

To me this video looks like propaganda aimed at whoever we are (the demographic of Metafilter and Funny or Die subscribers). So seeing "Obama sucks" comments on Metafilter suggests that he failed to connect with some of his target audience. That is kind of interesting-- at least to me, more so than the fact that Fox News is angry about the video.

I know that it's hard to impossible to distinguish reflexive negativity and genuine political expression in a throwaway one liner, and I don't want to see a deluge of "Obama sux" any more than I wanted to see the "Bush sux" comments we had before 2008. However, darkening the mood of what some people feel is a light-hearted topic shouldn't be a reason for deletion in the case of Obama or any other powerful man or institution.

I apologize for the way I am quoting these comments from above.

If one is looking for serious discourse on the quality of the president, it seems like a thread about his appearance on a show on Funny or Die is not really the place one would be looking for it. So, no, nobody reasonable is going to think that the course of that conversation indicates that Metafilter really loves Obama.
posted by Sequence at 9:57 AM on March 11 [3 favorites +] [!]


Time and place.

This isn't any different than "your favorite band sucks." It would be like going into a post with a SLYT Fresh Prince of Bel Air mashup and saying you hate rap music. There may be a place to have a serious discussion about rap, but a light-hearted video that's tangentily related to rap music ain't it.

On page down, its like Sequence said.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:13 AM on March 11 [2 favorites +] [!]


Time and place.

Exactly, a serious discussion of Obama and his performance is better left for a more serious thread, for example a discussion on policy.
posted by arcticseal at 10:20 AM on March 11 [1 favorite +] [!]

posted by vincele at 12:34 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


i don't see anyone saying reasoned on topic disagreement is forbidden.

But thoughtful discussion can also grow well from more developed, thoughtful comments

Of course, we all probably agree that all other things being equal, more thoughtful comments are always better. The only concern I have is that it feels like the "your favorite band sucks" argument — i.e. that it's okay for us to have a content-based asymmetry in our response, where "negative" or critical remarks are held to a much higher bar for thoughtfulness, because of their more difficult social consequences — is getting pretty broad in its application recently (and I'm talking about what the community as a whole seems to want to apply this principle to, not what the mods specifically take it to mean, to be clear).

Like, it just feels like folks want to argue an event as if it's a principle, a line in the sand, a precedent that will stand unless they fight it tooth and nail, instead of taking advantage of the "try again and do better" philosophy that stands behind most of the moderation decisions we make here.

Sure, this is fair. And maybe I should make clear, too, that I have absolutely no problem at all with the comment deletions in question. I'm sure the deleted comments were probably pretty damn lazy, and I'm also pretty sure you're right that the discussion here is going better because it's emerging from an attempt to do the MeFi thread more thoughtfully than it happened the first time. It does seem likely that visible mod intervention can cause people to try harder to be thoughtful, and there's nothing wrong with that. But sometimes it's still worth talking about principles and precedents, even without drawing any lines in the sand.

The problem I have here is just with the argument, seemingly becoming more and more popular, that moves from our general agreement that "your favorite band sucks" is no loss straight to something that seems much closer to asking for preemptive protection from a lot of disagreement or dissent because it might potentially harsh someone's mellow. I feel like almost anything outside the realm of pure one-sentence unargued "X sucks" statements is really worth thinking about separately, rather than classing it with "your favorite band sucks" in terms of its discursive worth or effects.
posted by RogerB at 12:48 PM on March 11, 2014


Argue balls
posted by planetesimal at 12:48 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"argue balls" is a funny phrase if you parse it like "trip balls"

I think it's more like "amazeballs," but is open to the possibility that it could be wrong.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:14 PM on March 11, 2014


Grarballs flow off the tongue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2014


OP: but the net result is that the conversation in that thread has been altered to make it seem that MetaFilter universally loves Obama

This would only be true if the BTF post was the only place Obama were discussed on this site. But it's not. In the last month, there were numerous posts about Obama or about something he was involved with:

March 7 - Guilt by Association

March 3 - How Obama's tech team saved his presidency a second time

February 28 - The Cold War Revives, Heats-Up

February 23 - Conspicuously by Gallantry and Intrepidity

February 17 - "We want to work in partnership with companies to succeed."

In addition, a lot of these topics have expressed disappointment in Obama's policies and actions he's done. (Note, I'm equating like and dislike for Obama with like and dislike of his policies)

lupus_yonderboy: No, it's completely and utterly different because politics is a literal life and death matter, and the President's actions affect billions of people. This attitude that the President should be judged by the same criteria as Justin Bieber

But, this is obviously not true. Since the President affects billions of people, there are multiple active topics about him above. And also since he affects billions of people, the posts will feature discussions of life and death matters, but also more lighthearted stuff. Justin Bieber is only a popular entertainer, the amount of posts that involve him are minimal compared to the president.

Finally, I thought in previous instances featuring a polarizing issue or issues of significance with some overlap, moderators have sometimes encouraged users to go to the more specific post in order to have more coherent discussion all around. And there are plenty of topics above for someone to talk of all the bad things done by Obama, without having to go into one that is not meant to handle that issue at all.
posted by FJT at 1:47 PM on March 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Grarballs flow off the tongue.

[Still thinking about the turd in the punchbowl, and now I must read this]
posted by Namlit at 1:47 PM on March 11, 2014


Another thing that is cool is not using quotation marks unless you're directly quoting what someone said.

What? Scare quotes are a thing.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:53 PM on March 11, 2014


So seeing "Obama sucks" comments on Metafilter suggests that he failed to connect with some of his target audience. That is kind of interesting-- at least to me, more so than the fact that Fox News is angry about the video.

I see what your point is here, but I'd still hope that someone in the unispired target audience would be courteous enough to write more than "Obama sucks!" Why didn't said unispired feel let down?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2014


FJT: "But, this is obviously not true. Since the President affects billions of people, there are multiple active topics about him above. And also since he affects billions of people, the posts will feature discussions of life and death matters, but also more lighthearted stuff. Justin Bieber is only a popular entertainer, the amount of posts that involve him are minimal compared to the president."

Exactly. We can have valid discussions about say, Lincoln and habeas corpus; we can also have valid discussions about the fact that he let goats run around the White House.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:02 PM on March 11, 2014


What? Scare quotes are a thing.

I thought scare quotes were just for a word or phrase, like oh yeah you guys and your so-called "democracy" or something. Putting them around entire sentences gets confusing because normally quotation marks signify a quotation.
posted by billiebee at 2:06 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I've been guilty of it myself, and so have been trying really hard not to paraphrase, but, as Cortex once told me, something like, man, you're awesome, just be who you are, awesome you."

uh that was to astro zombie 4
posted by klangklangston at 2:20 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


we can also have valid discussions about the fact that he let goats run around the White House.

Amateur
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:31 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought scare quotes were just for a word or phrase

"Alternatively, material in scare quotes may represent the writer's concise (but possibly misleading) paraphrasing, characterization, or intentional misrepresentation of statements, concepts, or terms used by a third party."

Just like many many other things in the English language (like, say, virtually every single word) quotation marks have more than one possible meaning and you're expected to figure out which meaning applies in a particular situation by context. As an exercise, I'll leave it to you to figure out whether my quotation marks here signify a scare quote or an exact quotation, but if you need a hint see here.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:35 PM on March 11, 2014


"I thought scare quotes were just for a word or phrase, like oh yeah you guys and your so-called 'democracy' or something. Putting them around entire sentences gets confusing because normally quotation marks signify a quotation."

That Wikipedia entry he linked to does a good job of explaining the different usages and you're partly right — most often when people refer to "scare quotes" they have in mind the usage that corresponds with, or perhaps is even limited to, when someone makes scare quotes with their hands. That is to say, when the quote marks are intended to signify that the speaker doesn't accept the literal meaning of what the quoted person said/wrote.

But paraphrase quotes are a thing, too, and according to that article are also considered "scare quotes".

Maybe they're not — I'd argue that I've not really encountered people referring to these paraphrases presented in quotation marks as "scare quotes" until just now.

But that's beside the point.

The real point of contention is if it's conventional/common to paraphrase someone but using quotation marks. Or, more broadly, invent something that's not attributed to any specific person, but as a supposedly representative statement of a point-of-view or of members of some group. And, actually, it is fairly conventional and common.

There's reasons for this. For one thing, there's not a widely used paraphrase mark that allows one to paraphrase in a way that's explicit. This makes paraphrase trickier than direct quoting, because you have to distinguish it from your own words. Unless you specifically say that what you are about to write, or just wrote, is a paraphrase, or if the context doesn't make it obvious, then a lot of writers will just mark it as distinct from their own words by using the quotation marks. There have been some proposed paraphrase marks, but it's pretty fringe.

So paraphrase-as-quote is pretty common and neither (usually) deliberately misleading nor (always) in bad-faith.

The problem is that sometimes it is deliberately misleading and fairly often (though far from always) in bad-faith. When a writer has a free hand in putting words in other people's mouths, and the writer disagrees with those people, those words are very likely going to be biased and unfair.

Also, often people will use this construction for the "representative statement of a group or POV", but within the context of being in an argument with actual people, and so there's an implication that the paraphrase is being attributed to those actual people.

These things mean that this usage can cause a lot of problems even though it's fairly common and often well-intended.

So, basically, those of us who employ this usage (which certainly includes myself) should think twice about it and consider alternative means of making the same point.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:41 PM on March 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


"As an exercise, I'll leave it to you to figure out whether my quotation marks here signify a scare quote or an exact quotation, but if you need a hint see here."

That seemed to be needlessly snarky. But perhaps that wasn't your intention?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:42 PM on March 11, 2014


Wow this is really not a good past few weeks for MeTa.

So i think you should pretty much be required, if you're going to make this post, to explain what you think a bunch of obama sucks type of posts would apply to this thread. Would you just then support deleting any stupid fights started from them?

You can make a really tiresome argument that only deleting the negative ones and leaving the positive ones is "enforcing a message" or whatever, but you are obviously being coy if you say that with a straight face. It's the difference between letting a huge shitfest start from essentially nothing and going "we aren't going to do that here".

I agree that as far as posts go, this is really thin even though the content is worthwhile since there's just not much to say. But maybe people could just like, watch it and not comment then? I didn't post, because i had nothing worth saying.

No one is required to post a 5 word comment in threads like this. No one is given a quota.
posted by emptythought at 3:43 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I suppose it's also to do with the psychology of one-liners. Positive, upbeat or funny one-liners can really make one's day (no matter one writes them or reads them). Good-humored snark is already borderline. Negative one-liners are pretty much always like the proverbial neighbor's dog that poops into the picnic salad.

And you'd apply this equally to positive or negative one-liners about George W. Bush?
posted by John Cohen at 5:21 PM on March 11, 2014


Do you desire a quota for one-liners?
posted by octobersurprise at 5:37 PM on March 11, 2014


And you'd apply this equally to positive or negative one-liners about George W. Bush?

I can't think of any one-liner about George W. Bush
(q.e.d).
posted by Namlit at 6:24 PM on March 11, 2014


I just wanted to say that, based on that thread, I have only just now learned that staff tags only appear in MeTa.

I have been a member of this site for over 10 years.


I just learned this as well. With the new mods, it can be very confusing and aggravating.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:31 PM on March 11, 2014


Do you desire a quota for one-liners?

I'LL START MY OWN METAFILTER! WITH RULES! AND THREADED COMMENTS!
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:42 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


With the new mods, it can be very confusing and aggravating

The "new mods", Lobstermitten and goodnewsfortheinsane, started fifteen months ago. If you need a refresher for who the mods are, there's always the Wiki page.
posted by gingerest at 7:51 PM on March 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


I think the mods try to always use the "brackets and small font" convention when speaking ex cathedra outside of MeTa. I realize other people occasionally do this as a joke, but I've never found it confusing.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:00 PM on March 11, 2014


Mods should always have the "staff" tag appearing next to their names when they speak "ex cathedra" on any part of the site. It's one of Metafilter's biggest flaws that they don't.
posted by mediareport at 8:43 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


[Couple of comments deleted. Look, I'm not going to blame you for wanting to talk about Obama in a broader sense, what with this being a silly one-note comedy video and him being the president of the U.S. and all. But maybe word your appraisal of the leader of the free world with *slightly* more nuance than simply proclaiming his suckitude?

I hope 'leader of the free world' was tongue in cheek, as everyone knows that title strictly refers to Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow.

posted by ersatz at 8:45 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


or as I so eloquently put it a while back, leader of the most powerful county in the world.

my kingdom for a small "r"
posted by philip-random at 9:02 PM on March 11, 2014


I have to presume at least a soupçon of winking self-awareness about the use of that honoriffic given that gnfti's Dutch, yes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:43 PM on March 11, 2014


For one thing, there's not a widely used paraphrase mark that allows one to paraphrase in a way that's explicit.

While you might think that [we don't have a good alternative for punctuating paraphrases] I think square brackets work reasonably well.
posted by Jpfed at 8:08 AM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have to presume at least a soupçon of winking self-awareness about the use of that honoriffic given that gnfti's Dutch, yes.

OR SO HE WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE.
posted by corb at 8:16 AM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Obama bias on Metatafilter?

THANKS OBAMA!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:05 AM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I like bright lines precisely because they avoid these problems.

I don't know what the deleted comments said because they were deleted. But it seems to me that one could have a thoughtful and informed conclusion spurned by the content in the thread that it is evidence that Pres. Obama sucks as a president. In other words, one might incorporate all of the concepts about dignity of office, priorities of president, desperation to go this route, etc. into a thoughtful conclusion that is expressed summarily in a one sentence line about his 'suckitude'. But requiring someone to word their appraisal with "more nuance" seems a dicey standard and cannot be applied neutrally.

I am also suspicious of the argument that there is a critical distinction between "this rules/this drools". I think the actual distinction is between "this confirms the bias of the readership/this conflicts with the bias" or another way of saying it would be "orthodox/heretical". I don't think one can approach this discussion in good faith without conceding there are, on most topics, a general bias or orthodoxy of the readership. We could probably go topic by topic and note the Metafilter bias. And whatever that bias is, comments that conflict with it are held to a far more exacting standard than those that do [Note: I do mean to imply orthodox statements are never deleted--there are certainly times when egregiously shitty statements expressing an otherwise orthodox viewpoint are deleted--but rather the standards are more exacting depending on which side of the line it is] This creates a high barrier for entry for diverse viewpoints. If people have to know what the bias is and understand they are required to put more effort into the viewpoint they want to express, they are likely to either step into a problem or avoid commenting at all. This just creates reinforcing bias (which is why Metafilter is so predictable).

Of course, I'd be more in favor of a bright line and I'd delete all such noise from the site if it were my call. Content-less expressions of preference are simply noise and add no value. On the contrary, they have the very real effect of implying a group perspective on a topic which I see as a bad thing. This is especially pernicious in political threads (which shouldn't be here in general). If you allow some content-less expression of preference but disallow others, I see that as a problem. But if we go that route, I think the moderation should be directed at hostile reactions as opposed the expressions themselves. That is the only way to permit diversity of thought.

I once represented an Egyptian Muslim who was discriminated against in his employment because the reactions against his viewpoints were too disruptive-not that his viewpoints were wrong or inartfully stated. This is a species of the heckler's veto. It cost the guy his employment and ultimately his employer a large sum of money. I never understood why he was told to keep quiet and mistreated instead of the employer punishing the people who couldn't curtail their reactions against him; that seemed the right and just way to respond. It may have been easier for the employer to deal with the one member outgroup than the larger ingroup, but convenience is not a justification to do the wrong thing. I trust in that scenario most would agree with me; at least six jurors unanimously did. But here we seem to go the route the employer did.

Ultimately this is a wasted exercise. This discussion has happened countless times here and nothing will change. I just wished there was a little more openness that the larger problem is heretical/bias-conflicting statements as opposed to negative statements because we don't want and cannot effectively manage the typically caustic response to heretical viewpoints that are expressed in less-than conciliatory or mollifying ways.
posted by dios at 11:22 AM on March 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


I like bright lines precisely because they avoid these problems.

But which create their own problems.

This is especially pernicious in political threads (which shouldn't be here in general).


I would like more explanation on why you feel political threads should not be on Metafilter. That certainly seems contrary to the operation of the site over nearly its entire history. Certainly, you comment in them.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:37 AM on March 12, 2014


I just wished there was a little more openness that the larger problem is heretical/bias-conflicting statements as opposed to negative statements because we don't want and cannot effectively manage the typically caustic response to heretical viewpoints that are expressed in less-than conciliatory or mollifying ways.

not wanting to undercut the seriousness of what you're putting forth here, because it's certainly a sober analysis of the situation. But I can't help but feel that a lot of what you're suggesting is not as sinister as it seems, that what's really going on is better described as, "Sometimes you just need to carefully read the room before you speak."

For instance, I wouldn't walk into an Italian wedding reception and start talking loud about how I really feel about the Papacy ... unless I was looking to stir up shit.

Metafilter is a community, and like any community it has its standards. The fact that we're here discussing stuff suggests that we accept them, perhaps not wholeheartedly but well enough to put up with their downsides. I personally feel frustrated often with certain conversations which are running counter to how I feel about things (various biases being not just assumed to be commonly held, but to some degree forced), yet I try to only speak up when I feel I can do so without unleashing a shitstorm.

It's the art of conversation, I guess. Very few hard and fast rules but a pile of soft ones with nuances and the like expanding fractally outward from there. And because it's an art, there's no single way to do it right, or even to measure such.

I like bright lines precisely because they avoid these problems.

But these problems (and our collective fumbling for their resolution) are some of my favorite aspects of Metafilter.
posted by philip-random at 11:54 AM on March 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


Chrysostom: " But which create their own problems."

They definitely shift the fluid nature of the community, yes. But enforced, hard rules would be (and are) questioned and challenged by the community far less than the more flexible guideline setup we have now.

I far prefer the flexibility, personally. Wouldn't want to change that. But codified rules on a variety of topics would very likely mean fewer metatalk threads asking, "But why?"
posted by zarq at 11:54 AM on March 12, 2014


I wouldn't walk into an Italian wedding reception and start talking loud about how I really feel about the Papacy ... unless I was looking to stir up shit.

I think the problem, for me at least, tends to be when people deny that there are these implicit biases. There's a lot of "Metafilter is politically neutral!" or "Metafilter has no bias!" when it seems patently obvious that Metafilter skews left-liberal, educated, white, middle-upper-middle class.

The notion of "Here's cool stuff, let's talk about it" doesn't imply "Let's talk about it in the way that left-liberal, educated, white, middle class individuals would talk about it." Especially when people are outwardly calling for diversity, while actually saying "Don't make any waves."
posted by corb at 12:16 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Chrysostom: " But which create their own problems."

Yes, they do. I daily deal with inflexible rules that lead to results that seem problematic. But it is a trade-off. What bright line rules do is eliminate any question about discretion or implication that things are being evaluated differently. People have little grounds to complain when they run afoul of a no tolerance rule.

philip-random: "For instance, I wouldn't walk into an Italian wedding reception and start talking loud about how I really feel about the Papacy ... unless I was looking to stir up shit."

I would agree. But that is not contrary to my point. The problem with your hypothetical is you are walking into an insular group of like-minded people that is suppose to be insular and like-minded. In other words, there is nothing about a wedding reception that is intended to be open and all-inviting.

My point was kind of in-line with that. If we intend this to be an insular and like-minded community, it would make sense to create a higher barrier of entry and cost of participation for those not conforming to that identity. And if we are honest and open about that intent, we could then have a discussion about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing to be insular and like-minded because we wouldn't need to discuss whether it is appropriate to have the barriers in place. However, if we want to be open and all-inviting, then it does not make sense to create that higher cost of participation. Or, turning back to your hypothetical, if would not be inappropriate to discuss the Papacy if your reception was designed to invite the entire town of strangers to join the party and to share their opinions about the world.

Like I said, if we are clear about what we are doing, the discussion becomes more productive. Obscuring the real issue behind a different one creates more problems than it solves.
posted by dios at 12:24 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Folks, digging up nine year old comments to toss them in people's faces in MeTa is not okay. Don't do that here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:28 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


The way I picture MetaFilter in my mind is a big house with lots of rooms. You wander round and stick your head in a door to see what's happening. If you're itching for a political debate you keep looking until you find the right room. Want to talk about science? Down the hall. Feel like tackling climate change? Think someone's talking about that upstairs. But if you walk into the room where people are just amusing themselves watching a funny video and you start going "Why aren't you talking about the big stuff open your eyes!!", they're just going to think you're kind of a dick or a bore and it doesn't really matter what you're trying to enlighten them about. Nothing to do with bias or sentiment, just empathy as to where people are at.
posted by billiebee at 12:29 PM on March 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


What bright line rules do is eliminate any question about discretion or implication that things are being evaluated differently. People have little grounds to complain when they run afoul of a no tolerance rule.

Which is a win if your top priority is avoiding complaints, but that doesn't make the strict rules inherently valuable. And one of the things that's different between Metafilter and a body of state/federal law is that the stakes are way, way lower and so the need to strictly codify is far lesser.

I appreciate that you approach a lot of this stuff from a perspective informed by working in law, but it's a perspective that often seems to premise a different set of priorities than generally exists in the community here, and it's a little blindered to not acknowledge and adjust to that in talking about Mefi rather than the legal system.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:31 PM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think the problem, for me at least, tends to be when people deny that there are these implicit biases.

And I think another problem is when those who complain about metafilter's "biases"—as if any collectivity of people writing and opining could ever be some perfectly neutral space—pretend to speak from a position lacking biases of their own. "Metafilter is biased" merely means "I don't like what people here are saying." All's fair in playing the refs, but let's not for a moment pretend that it's anything more than that.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:32 PM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you're talking about me, octobersurprise, of course I have biases. Every human has biases. But there's a difference between human biases coming out in discussion and human biases having an effect on moderation/the law.
posted by corb at 12:35 PM on March 12, 2014


There's a lot of "Metafilter is politically neutral!" or "Metafilter has no bias!" when it seems patently obvious that Metafilter skews left-liberal, educated, white, middle-upper-middle class.

Who says that? There's a difference between asserting things about the general makeup of the userbase and asserting "MetaFilter thinks this about that." Folks of MetaFilter have a wide range of opinions on a wide range of topics but also tend to share many views in common.

I'm sure there are more Obama supporters on MeFi than supporters of any other candidate, for example. However we don't moderate to placate those people. In fact we often do the reverse which is to make sure that people with opposing viewpoints get heard which sometimes gets us-as-mods in hot water because we wind up being overly solicitous to people who are actually not interested in being part of the community but merely using the community as a soapbox for their contrarian beliefs and part of the necessary part of this is that they are contrarian. And for some reason this seems to go hand in hand with a general inability to talk to a diverse group of people. Or insist that it's okay to paint all of MetaFilter with one "MetaFilter people are like this" brush because it's easier to feel aggrieved than deal with the fact that reality is complex and, unlike math and sometimes science, there's rarely one right answer to how to do things.

People who can't talk to a virtual room full of people--whether they are people who generally agree or generally disagree with their viewpoints--have a harder time here. People who lack perspective on their own viewpoints enough to frame them to have a discussion with a large group of people, have a harder time here. People who are more married to their own ideas about how to hold a conversation even when it doesn't jibe with the way things work here, have a harder time here. These are behavior issues and not content issues.

I didn't vote for Obama and don't particularly care for a lot of the things he does. That bit of info is only relevant in a thread about some goofy video he did if

1. people are already talking about that
2. I want to make the thread about me

Sometimes people act like they're the shadow government here and have an implicit right of reply on every topic they disagree with. You don't. You can join the conversation and talk to the people here, who are not the government. Mods are not the police. Folks are talking in a place that is not moderated as if this were a courtroom or anything besides a bunch of people who vaguely know each other talking things over.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:41 PM on March 12, 2014 [20 favorites]


But codified rules on a variety of topics would very likely mean fewer metatalk threads asking, "But why?"

I doubt that very much. Codified rules would just mean more people arguing with the codified rules and/or lobbying to change the codified rules. The guidelines mean that there is less traction for people to rules lawyer but it also means more options for making things personal and presuming because the mods believe certain things that it's affecting the way we do our job in certain ways.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:44 PM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


The best comment I've seen about Obama's comic turn was this sardonic tweet from Teju Cole.

Now I'm worried that that would have been deleted too, for being too fighty, or negative, or derailing, or "telling people what they need to be talking about."
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:51 PM on March 12, 2014


Another thing that is cool is not using quotation marks unless you're directly quoting what someone said.

''I don't think I understand.''
posted by y2karl at 12:52 PM on March 12, 2014


But there's a difference between human biases coming out in discussion and human biases having an effect on moderation/the law.

There's very little difference in practice, since humans are involved in both. Outside, in the real world that isn't an internet forum for funsies, institutions try to minimize natural human bias with varying degrees of oversight and varying degrees of success. Here, "Metafilter is biased" just means "I am not being treated with the deference I have come to expect."

Folks, digging up nine year old comments to toss them in people's faces in MeTa is not okay.

There hardly seems a point to having archives if they can't be referred to. I say we purge them regularly and save space on the servers.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:54 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between there being archives and using those archives for obnoxious decade-stale gotcha stuff in a Metatalk spat. The former can have value even if the latter doesn't.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:56 PM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, now, if people didn't repeat themselves in obnoxious decade-stale ways, then it wouldn't be so tempting to point that out, would it?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:00 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tempting or not, leave it alone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:01 PM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not going to tell you not to be annoyed at someone for nine years straight or anything, but temptation is something for you to manage on your end and not something everybody else needs to hear about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:02 PM on March 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


octobersurprise: " And I think another problem is when those who complain about metafilter's "biases"—as if any collectivity of people writing and opining could ever be some perfectly neutral space—pretend to speak from a position lacking biases of their own. "Metafilter is biased" merely means "I don't like what people here are saying." All's fair in playing the refs, but let's not for a moment pretend that it's anything more than that."

Try being on the wrong side of a pileon about a controversial subject. The perception of whether Metafilter has a bias looks very different when it's coming at you all at once from a dozen angry mefites and your choice is to try to explain yourself and perhaps clarify how you're being misinterpreted (and get raked over the coals repeatedly throughout a thread (and in future threads, and perhaps also in Metas) regardless of what you've actually said,) or try and extricate yourself quickly while knowing that you've now been tagged in people's minds as someone who is both the holder of antithetical-to-the-majority opinions and who won't stand up for themselves.
posted by zarq at 1:02 PM on March 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


temptation is something for you to manage on your end

I can resist everything but temptation.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:11 PM on March 12, 2014


After I saw this comment I made a comment in that thread. I explained my disappointment with Obama and linked to a story I had heard on npr about how Latino outreach efforts in CA are not going well.

My comments received pushback. Yes I got Colbert wrong. Call me out on that. That is not what bothers me about the response to my comment and the next one I made there.

I criticized Obama, but the responder to my comment kind of criticizes me—at least that is how I read LOLSPANGLISH and the claim that I had not read what I linked to. I think there's a big difference between criticizing Obama and a user of a Metafilter.

If minority or dissenting viewpoints are going to be accommodated here in a real way, we should not be dismissing each other as users. That’s pretty much a guideline anyway. I am glad to have mistakes pointed out, my material questioned or ignored entirely. That is not what happened here.

I’ve already said why I think there is no real difference between serious and not serious when it comes to political topics. I want to add that we shouldn’t jump on users who present different reads of political issues.

I’d imagine that many of us here follow "US politics" in ways that differ from following party politics. Many of us have certainly engaged in political practice for decades. We shouldn't have to state our relation to a topic before we post.

Metafilter has grown more inclusive in some ways, but not so in others. If there’s any change it is that occasional posters are not given the benefit of the doubt about their basic abilities to understand politics, whatever the topic.

I am often at a loss to find a way to say what I want and be polite and incisive so I choose generally not to post. I think that there are probably others like me. If there’s any divide it’s not political but one between frequent and infrequent posters. That has always been the case to some extent, but right now it is very noticeable.
posted by vincele at 1:39 PM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Especially when people are outwardly calling for diversity, while actually saying "Don't make any waves."

I think the site does a mostly decent, if difficult job of promoting diversity, even if that means certain shit-stirrers get short shrift.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I criticized Obama, but the responder to my comment kind of criticizes me—at least that is how I read LOLSPANGLISH and the claim that I had not read what I linked to. I think there's a big difference between criticizing Obama and a user of a Metafilter.

As the person who responded, what exactly what was wrong to criticize about your comments? You made several erroneous deductions from both articles (specifically, assigning blame to the federal government for issues explicitly stated to be at the state level) specifically highlighted the "Spanglish" aspect of the criticism despite the person quoted and the rest of both articles offering a range of explanations, and then you used the "but these random people I know say X" argument as if it proved your point.

If minority or dissenting viewpoints are going to be accommodated here in a real way, we should not be dismissing each other as users. That’s pretty much a guideline anyway. I am glad to have mistakes pointed out, my material questioned or ignored entirely. That is not what happened here.

That was exactly what happened. I pointed out your mistakes, questioned the material, and then when you offered something unsubstantiated, I noted that I would likely ignore it. If you posted in that thread just to piss in the proverbial cornflakes, that would be worthy of dismissal, but it was refuted with good data and a deeper read of your sources instead.

I’ve already said why I think there is no real difference between serious and not serious when it comes to political topics. I want to add that we shouldn’t jump on users who present different reads of political issues.

You didn't really present a different read, though. You picked a couple articles, summarized them almost entirely incorrectly, and then when presented with actual evidence to the contrary came up with an explanation that didn't hold up at all. And looking back at it, leading with a fluff swipe about Colbert that also wasn't correct certainly didn't help it to come across as serious, either.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:23 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Try being on the wrong side of a pileon about a controversial subject. The perception of whether Metafilter has a bias looks very different when it's coming at you all at once from a dozen angry mefites and your choice is to try to explain yourself and perhaps clarify how you're being misinterpreted (and get raked over the coals repeatedly throughout a thread (and in future threads, and perhaps also in Metas) regardless of what you've actually said,) or try and extricate yourself quickly while knowing that you've now been tagged in people's minds as someone who is both the holder of antithetical-to-the-majority opinions and who won't stand up for themselves."

I think that was worth quoting in full.

I'm kind of caught between agreeing with various divergent viewpoints here, because I really really really liked what jessamyn wrote and I very much do think that some folks are a bit clueless about the simple reality that people self-select into likeminded groups and you have to accommodate that; it's not some huge conspiracy against you when a likeminded group disagrees with a dissenter, it's just human nature.

And also I think that pretty much every community is going to be "biased" in this way, especially about political stuff, and they will, nevertheless, often present themselves as unbiased (at least relatively), and you can't really complain much about that because that's human nature, too. (Let's just put aside any attempt to objectively quantify which communities are more biased and which are less, because while undoubtedly there are differences of this nature, it's a quagmire to try to address.)

But.

But the point zark makes is worth thinking about because it can be very, very unpleasant to be ganged-up on when one dissents from majority opinion. And I think people ought to consider that one or a few people being critical feels much different than ten or twenty, even when each individual person is being similarly critical in terms of harshness/sensitivity. One annoyed person is one annoyed person and we all have experience dealing with that. Twenty is a whole 'nother thing. And you can say that, well, you should be careful about being a dissenter where you're going to have to deal with twenty annoyed people. And that's certainly true, mostly. But sometimes this happens when you don't expect it and it can happen when what you've said/written is fairly anodyne in many other contexts.

But continuing to dither a bit, I want to be very clear that there's a difference between a person who very occasionally finds themselves in this uncomfortable situation and someone who repeatedly finds themselves there. When it happens over and over and over again, the fault may not be in the stars, but in yourself.

I think that all things considered, MeFi does a better job dealing with dissent (and being tolerant of dissent) than most other discussion sites on the web. But that doesn't mean that we should sit on our laurels; we should be cognizant of the ideal and strive toward it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:32 PM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


People who can't talk to a virtual room full of people--whether they are people who generally agree or generally disagree with their viewpoints--have a harder time here. People who lack perspective on their own viewpoints enough to frame them to have a discussion with a large group of people, have a harder time here. People who are more married to their own ideas about how to hold a conversation even when it doesn't jibe with the way things work here, have a harder time here.

Seems unfair to use me as an example three times in a row sheesh.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:50 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


lupus yonderboy: Here's a thought experiment. Pick a world leader who you personally think is "doing the wrong thing" - perhaps even "a bad guy".

Now imagine s/he went on television and did a similar interview - and then you came to a Metafilter thread about it.


If there wasn't a thread about this, there should have been.
posted by spaltavian at 5:40 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Many minority opinions/biases on MetaFilter (some of which are pretty hurtful but stand and are patriotically defended in the name of bizarro-world "diversity") are majority opinions/biases off MetaFilter.
posted by Corinth at 5:48 PM on March 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I appreciate that you approach a lot of this stuff from a perspective informed by working in law, but it's a perspective that often seems to premise a different set of priorities than generally exists in the community here, and it's a little blindered to not acknowledge and adjust to that in talking about Mefi rather than the legal system.

The one place IRL Metafilter reminds me of is this hippie co-op I used to hang out at from time to time in grad school. Only place I ever encountered intersectionalists IRL.

But they would have parties and basement shows and stuff. One time I was feeling generous and I decided at the beginning of the evening I'd like to purchase a keg of beer for the party, the school being located in a rural area where a keg of beer literally cost less than some bottles I've seen in Manhattan. So I found the hippie I knew best and asked her if it was OK for me to go down the block and bring back a keg.

"I don't know..."

"Well, of course, go consult with the council or whatever and find out if it's cool."

The very concept of some method or process by which a decision could be quickly reached and announced seemed alien to her.

Me: "I can see if you don't wanna provide for underage or whatever but honestly look at the place."

[much alcohol being brought by provided to and consumed by underage]
[also weed, amphetamines, molly, shrooms, acid, coke, bath salts]
[a number of people are rather out of their gourd, one dude was kind of bugout]

Her: "No not that, technically this is a concert not a party."

But it was also made clear to me that while it was preferred I did not bring a keg, in order to maintain the concert atmosphere, there was definitely no RULE against me bringing a keg.

I bought a 12 pack and drank some shared some.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:40 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


On liberal political blogs, the continuing distraction over how one feels personally about President Obama (that is, whether you're a naive centrist corporate yellow dog or a naive utopian Snowden-loving dirty fucking hippie [DFH, in the lingo]) has given rise to the useful terms "Roxxers" and "Suxxers." These two teams then further subdivide, in a process Bateson once called "schismogenesis.
posted by spitbull at 8:05 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, too, pals around with terrorists.
posted by spitbull at 8:06 PM on March 12, 2014


People have little grounds to complain when they run afoul of a no tolerance rule.

Oh my god no.

Outrage over ‘zero tolerance’ over nerf guns
.

Zero-tolerance stupidity at school
.

Zero Tolerance, Zero Consideration
.

And that was just 2 minutes googling. Someone could respond that while they do complain, they have no grounds to do so. That only follows if you assume that inflexibility is what we value highest in our rules. And it's always nice to see "begging the question" exhibited in its traditional form.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:46 PM on March 12, 2014


posted by Corinth

Like what? I can't think of any but maybe I'm still sleepy...

posted by agregoli at 6:24 AM on March 13, 2014


jessamym - Sometimes people act like they're the shadow government here and have an implicit right of reply on every topic they disagree with. You don't. You can join the conversation and talk to the people here, who are not the government. Mods are not the police. Folks are talking in a place that is not moderated as if this were a courtroom or anything besides a bunch of people who vaguely know each other talking things over.

Emphasis mine. So you're saying there is no anti-Cabal!

In all seriousness, you have provided some good points and made them well, as is your want.

I understand that there is a wobbly line to be tread between allowing discussion and shutting down intentionally disruptive comments, but the more proactive moderating that we have been experiencing over the past 18 months does seem to be sterilising everything and I wonder if the community isn't becoming weakened by over reliance on comment deletion instead of allowing life to flourish in all of it's weird and wonderful ways.

I think I have written a variation on that comment at the bottom of every MeTa thread that has come up on this subject recently, so you can't fault me for consistency, even if it is becoming a bit repetitive.
posted by asok at 6:31 AM on March 13, 2014


whoops sorry. Something happened to my quote. Many minority opinions/biases on MetaFilter (some of which are pretty hurtful but stand and are patriotically defended in the name of bizarro-world "diversity") are majority opinions/biases off MetaFilter.
posted by Corinth


Like what?
posted by agregoli at 6:36 AM on March 13, 2014


allowing life to flourish in all of it's weird and wonderful ways.

There are many places on the Internet that are moderated less/differently than mefi. Do you hang out in those places a lot? Who else hangs out there? Who doesn't hang out there? Is it possible that mefi has strengths these other places lack, specifically because of the way it's moderated?
posted by rtha at 7:06 AM on March 13, 2014


agregoli: " Many minority opinions/biases on MetaFilter (some of which are pretty hurtful but stand and are patriotically defended in the name of bizarro-world "diversity") are majority opinions/biases off MetaFilter."

In the US depending on where you live, religion. Specifically certain Christian beliefs.

Also, certain attitudes towards (and beliefs about) women and their roles or "place" in our society and culture.
posted by zarq at 7:09 AM on March 13, 2014


Not to mention various racist attitudes. Or homophobic ones. Which are thankfully changing over time. But in many ways the Metafilter community is much more progressive than Americans taken as a whole.
posted by zarq at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2014


As a datapoint in response to rtha: I read a lot of forums although I do not follow party politics. I think Metafilter is the best game in town. That is why I am raising my concerns about the way the community reacts to minority political opinions.

I'm talking about minority views that fall within the progressive orientation of the community or come in to the left of that. I'm using Zarq's descriptors here. He said the community is much more progressive than Americans taken as a whole.

While I do not agree with the comparison between Metafilter and Americans, I do believe that thoughtful posters like zarq bring this site in line with a progressive vision that is in many ways good. (Apologies to zarq for using your comment... I think you are great.)

But that vision is not without problems nor is it not the only way to do progressive politics. Maybe it is the best way to moderate a forum of 10,000 members. I don't know. I do know that I do not go to google to support my beliefs, as I was told I did here.

What I feel is happening is that comments out of line with what frequent posters think of as "progressive" get strong reactions. Ironically, those reactions often contain elements of the silencing techniques their politics are meant to stamp out. This seems to happen even when the comments do not conflict with community norms or political sensibilities of frequent posters. (I say frequent posters because I don't think it's mods who enforce what feels to me like orthodoxy.)

I feels like there is a change in what is acceptable to say here, and it is perhaps tied to how frequent posters see their practice of progressive politics. That practice seems to ask members to be mindful of causing hurt. I do not really agree with that, but if it is the community's choice, then everyone has to practice it, in every comment they make.
posted by vincele at 10:47 AM on March 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


bizarro-world "diversity"

Diversity of thought or opinion, heterodoxy, is a real ideal, one which people are allowed to value. It's an interesting fact of current liberal political discourse that there's such a strong orthodoxy about the meaning of "diversity," but it's not unquestionable; it's still a contested term.

It's interesting, in this discussion, that it seems (at least, as I read some of these comments) almost unquestionable to some people here that it's always a good and "diversity"-encouraging thing to narrow the range of views or styles of talking if it broadens the demographic range and inclusiveness of who is talking. I think the politics of that tradeoff are worth thinking about more explicitly; some versions of it, like not tolerating slurs, seem entirely reasonable to me, but others seem to edge much closer to wanting to police dissent or require posters to adhere to certain cultural allegiances (that often have their own invisible-from-within ideologies).
posted by RogerB at 11:07 AM on March 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


RogerB: It's interesting, in this discussion, that it seems (at least, as I read some of these comments) almost unquestionable to some people here that it's always a good and "diversity"-encouraging thing to narrow the range of views or styles of talking if it broadens the demographic range and inclusiveness of who is talking.

Do you have concrete examples you can point to? The only thing I've seen remotely close to what you're suggesting is a desire to limit drive-by "X sucks" comments. Who's saying we need to limit "views" or "styles of talking"?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:59 AM on March 13, 2014


Do you have concrete examples you can point to?

I don't really have the energy to go through a series of examples defending this point, and you're asking me to call out specific people and comments in this discussion, which I'm not comfortable doing — especially since this is something I think people are often kind of cagey or coy or disingenuous about, or are themselves unconscious of doing. If you don't see the asymmetry in how much pushback a given idea gets (including who gets asked immediately for evidence and examples!) as symptomatic of attempts to form orthodoxy and exclude opposition, I am not sure I can really convince you without causing a fight that I don't especially want to have. But as I see it, it's happening all the time here.

To be clear, I think that politics is exclusion, unavoidably — I like Jacques Rancière's definition of politics as contention about what viewpoints are circumscribed within the sphere of reasonable disagreement and what is excluded from that sphere. And I agree that we absolutely should be excluding certain kinds of talk, e.g. slurs, explicit advocacy of racism/misogyny/etc, hard-right fascist politics, unproductive trolling. But I also think there can be a lot of rhetorical overreach here these days, in which inability to deal with disagreement is passed off as diversity-protective inclusiveness, and it sometimes gets to a point where it's troubling enough to push back against.

Who's saying we need to limit "views" or "styles of talking"?

Pretty much everyone here, including me. People often talk a better game about inclusiveness than they actually practice; this is one of the basic critiques of Enlightenment liberalism that never seems to get any traction in MeFi discussions, IMO because a certain watered-down form of classical liberal deliberative democratic thinking is so essential to people's ideas about how this place works that it sometimes seems almost unquestionable. But there are a lot of things that are discursively more or less verboten here, in degrees ranging from "if you say this, you will encounter so much discomprehension and/or pushback that you won't be able to have the conversation you're looking for" all the way to "the mods will insta-delete this." Some things in the middle of that range include sarcasm, satire, anger, and politics that diverge far to the left or the right of the leftish side of the U.S. Democratic Party (but there are many other examples). My main claim is that it's better for all of us if we admit that exclusion is, practically, a constant element of site culture (enforced by user consensus and pile-on pragmatics as well as by moderation), because then we can talk openly about what we actually want to include and exclude rather than pretending that the site is universally welcoming and inclusive and "diverse."
posted by RogerB at 12:39 PM on March 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


I feel like you're using "inclusive" and "diverse" in a puzzling way -- they are typically used to describe voices that are marginalized by dint of being from a historically silenced and excluded group. They aren't typically used to mean "if people can't do drive bys, can't be hostile, can't use questionable arguments, can't engage in inflammatory rhetoric, etc."

The truth is, if we value inclusivity and diversity, we clamp down on behavior that alienates people. A well-moderated forum encourages inclusivity and diversity, in the way, liberalism usually discusses it, by discouraging the sort of behavior that leaves people out of the discussion. We're not being exclusive, as liberals classically think of the term, by discouraging people from shouting sexist things, as an example. We're making the place less hostile to women, and therefore more inclusive and diverse.

You want to see a place that is exclusive and diverse? Find a free-for-all.

Also, I'm pretty far to the left, politically, and have never once found myself silenced.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:53 PM on March 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


I sort of get what RogerB is getting at, even though I think we draw differing conclusions from it. Our approach here has been, for a long while now, that people may not be able to control how they feel, but they can control how they type in the box and interact with other people here. And that's an assumption and that decision of moderation is a value judgment in and of itself. We are saying that if this isn't actually true, we are going to act like it's true on the site and moderate accordingly.

We have lost a few members at least who were great whip-smart people and great in conversation except that they had impulse control issues (or rage issues or I am not sure what) which meant that they couldn't moderate their own behavior enough to not start consistent and predictable train wrecks. And at some point we said goodbye to them and I know there are ways the site is poorer for it. To me, on balance, it's allowed for more conversations to take place, more people who don't want to get attacked and insulted to stay on the site, and a lot less of our pretty-limited mod time spent dealing with people with what amounts to individual behavior problems.

But that's a choice that we made in a top-down way (with input and feedback from community members) that presumes certain things about what is valuable. If you have a very good point but you can not express it without attacking other people, you may not be able to make it here. As much as people allege, we really don't delete content-based stuff to the left or the right but we do try to keep soapboxers from making a stand in any threads on barely-relevant topics. I have a side theory that people who are attracted to certain fringe topics may also have personalities (and debating styles) that also skew outside the mainstream but that's just conjecture and not something I take into account when I work.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:16 PM on March 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


The problem is that words like "inclusive" and "diverse" have different meanings for different people and different purposes. For Bunny Ultramod, they are for people marginalized by dint of being from a historically silenced group. But if I was trying to create, say, a diverse sample set for a social science experiment, I'd be looking to get a group of people of different ages, backgrounds, religions, etc.

Metafilter is not a diverse sample set. I'm not sure which are the most accurate measurements, personally. One of those statistics sites thinks Metafilter runs largely Caucasian, college-educated, childless, and middle-income, which seems about right to me, but I'm honestly not savvy enough to know how useful those things are, how they get their info, or if they're any more accurate than flipping a coin.

The question of whether or not Metafilter would like to be a diverse sample set is a different question than whether or not Metafilter would like to have more participation by historically silenced group members. And so we're talking past each other, sometimes, on these things.

One example that I can think of is how Christian things or posts are generally treated on Metafilter. Christians are, outside Metafilter, in the real world, the overwhelming majority, and I think outside a few small areas, it would be hard to argue that they're a silenced group. Here on Metafilter, mods do work hard to eliminate "LOLxtians" topics, but thoughtful posts on subjects involving Christianity/Catholicism are often overrun by people who feel religion, or that religion, in general is a net loss. Users who consider themselves strong Christians or who talk about their own religious beliefs seem to face a lot of uphill battles in commenting.

So is a site with a loud, strong, majority of religious views being "casual/atheist" a diverse environment, or not? On the one hand, it allows space for those who don't get a lot of chance to be heard in the meatspace world. On the other hand, it creates an orthodoxy of its own that does not allow for many posts from a religious POV. Personally, I think there's room for a third way - a place for strong religious views and casual religious views to each have space and feel comfortable and thrive and bring their friends. Because that's what really encourages diversity, whichever definition you're going by - people who feel comfortable in a place, really like it, and want to bring their (similar) friends aboard, too.
posted by corb at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2014


Well and that's a pretty good example actually, because people who enjoy the tenor of religious conversations here (we don't have many of them but the ones we have aren't echo chambers for the most part) may bring friends over with differing ideas. We've definitely seen influxes of people as the result of certain threads. Most notably, and ancient history enough that I think we can talk about it, is post-911, we had a lot more people who wanted to talk politics here. Not that it didn't happen before, but the sort of people who really enjoy political-type discussions, with the attendant disagreements and arguing became something that a larger chunk of the site now wanted to be involved in. There are more recent examples over the past decade but they're touchier and I'm trying to explain a thing not point any fingers.

And I think there is a large disagreement, sitewide, about what sorts of diversity are useful to foster and what sort aren't. I'm not actually interested in a diversity of opinions on evolution, or of the efficacy of vaccines. These are not too controversial, but even getting into whether gay people should have marriage rights or whether freedom-of-religion should extend to schools and prisons gets people a little grumpy. Because for some people a diversity of opinions on those topics is healthy, and for others it absolutely isn't. And it gets into human and civil rights issues besides just the politics.

I think we all agree, for example, that we don't want to be a place where racists are allowed to be racist, but what about the discussion of racially based topics where tempers are charged and people start calling each other racists? And what about people's unexamined racist ideas? And then the people who were "just talking" suddenly feel attacked and dig in? Should those sorts of conversations be headed off at the pass, or left to grow ugly? And at what point is it useful to step in. We're a big enough site now that as mods we will catch shit from either stepping on or not stepping in in similar cases, so I am not acting like I have The Answer here, I am just outlining why it's not such an easy question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:41 PM on March 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


RogerB: "My main claim is that it's better for all of us if we admit that exclusion is, practically, a constant element of site culture (enforced by user consensus and pile-on pragmatics as well as by moderation), because then we can talk openly about what we actually want to include and exclude rather than pretending that the site is universally welcoming and inclusive and "diverse.""

That's not at all what I got out of reading your original comment, so I appreciate your clarification. The original comment seemed to be more of a blanket allegation aimed at a specific subset of the user base (along with the staff), while your follow-up seems to just be more about raising awareness of biases. I'm cool with that.

At the same time, I still think it's not too much to ask for specific examples so we can deal with them instead of talking past each other in generalities, and I'm not at all on board with the idea that asking for a concrete example is asking too much or in any way an example of the very oppression you're talking about, especially given your implication that there are examples of it in this very thread, and given how much effort you've put into making the more general case that the whole system is out of order. So it requires a call-out? I'd argue that calling out individuals by name is far preferable to calling out "some people here" in a way that is just going to lead to people wondering if you're talking about them. I always prefer direct engagement for solving these kinds of problems. Systemic problems are made up of individuals making poor decisions, so it's better to work to solve it from the ground-up, in my mind.

I'm also uncomfortable leaping from the near-truism that minority viewpoints stir up opposition simply because they're minority viewpoints to the idea that there's a kind of systematic silencing of specific types of dissent other than ones you've called out by name (racism, misogyny, etc.) People with minority viewpoints are obviously going to get more opposition simply by virtue of the small representation of their viewpoint in the site population as a whole. Is that what you call a pile-on? I see it as people wanting to make their case in their own way, and doing so in relative proportion to the size of their majority. If someone has a viewpoint that only 1/6 of the site's population agrees with, then I'd expect a 5:1 ratio against. Do people sometimes repeat points made by others? Sure. Does that represent some kind of targeted attempt to shut down the minority? I don't think so.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:46 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to say I appreciate the calm, reasoned discussion people are bringing here. This is a contentious topic, and it is being handled well.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:12 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, as someone with an often dissenting opinion here, I have to say I delete way more than I post. I generally get the impression that my opinion is not differing, rather it is untrue and evil and morally reprehensible. Whatever. While I have never thought evil of the modding, I can imagine outraged mefis flagging people who disagree with the groupthink wisdom and that leading to a deletion. I mean, I'm an old lefty, I've been lurking since cat scans, basically, and a member since 9/11, and agree with probably 70% of the generally approved opinions here, and it's one of my only daily visits EVERY day. But this is about as groupthinky a lefty hangout place as there is and opposing visions of the world are not particularly welcome. It's just marginally politer. Which is why I like it.
posted by umberto at 3:00 PM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think we all agree, for example, that we don't want to be a place where racists are allowed to be racist, but what about the discussion of racially based topics where tempers are charged and people start calling each other racists? And what about people's unexamined racist ideas?

The site right now seems to me to accommodate conversations that center around identities and experiences. Unless you identify as a person who belongs to a group that has experienced structural oppression-- and make your identity clear in your comment or persona-- it is very hard to participate. That empowers a lot of groups who have not been heard until now, including groups I belong to. But experience is just one way of knowing, and identities are more fluid than it appears from conversations about them on Metafilter.

I care about oppression and I'd like to talk about it. However, I don't care to talk about my own experiences or the oppression experienced by my own group(s). For instance I cannot imagine discussing race here because of how close it is to the things I care about and the things that I do. More than that, I am not a person of color and I do not think that what I know and how I know it would be well-received.

"Read the room" seems to pop up more often nowadays. Restraint on the part of users without axes or grudges is not really what is needed to my mind. If this isn't a safe space for users to share trauma and if divergent political viewpoints* are welcome, the burden also lies with the people building the room to examine its foundations. Maybe it's useful to remember that there are a lot of ways to participate in political topic (and create knowledge) without staking a claim in the ground of experience or identity.

One way to do that is to recognize that positive, upbeat drive-by comments do affect threads. At the start it was said that they don't. If people make contentless nice remarks about a controversial figure (which Obama is), then it is going to be harder to say anything that goes against the grain. One will be encouraged to "read the room," and most of us do just that.

Just to clarify, when I say "divergent political viewpoints" I am not talking about racists and homophobes. I am talking about someone like myself who questions the utility of basing community practices in an unreflective politics of identity and experience. That is very much contested territory.
posted by vincele at 3:01 PM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


the burden also lies with the people building the room to examine its foundations.

The builders I have in mind are people who contribute a lot. In a community like this, I'd argue they shape the site more than the mods.
posted by vincele at 3:05 PM on March 13, 2014


"Unless you identify as a person who belongs to a group that has experienced structural oppression-- and make your identity clear in your comment or persona-- it is very hard to participate."

Speaking as a white, straight, cisgendered American male, I strongly disagree with this statement.

What I think is the case is that the white/straight/cisgendered/male privilege is less accommodated here, which privileged folk experience as being some sort of bias against them, as opposed to it being simply the case that these groups don't naturally get to hog the microphone and set the terms of the discussion. Like they do everywhere else. Quelle horreur !
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:26 PM on March 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


I am talking about someone like myself who questions the utility of basing community practices in an unreflective politics of identity and experience.

There are several questions being begged here.
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on March 13, 2014


Could you explain what you mean by saying there are several questions being begged?
posted by vincele at 4:45 PM on March 13, 2014


It's assumed in that sentence (the way I've read it) that there are a set of agreed-on community practices; that those are being based on something(s) and that there is utility in that, that those things are not being reflected upon, that they are the politics of identity and experience.
posted by rtha at 5:24 PM on March 13, 2014


...And as soon as I hit post, I thought wait, "unreflective politics" - what does that mean, exactly? Are they politics that are not being reflected upon, or are they not reflecting something? I can't parse it. (It's been kind of a Day, so it might just be me.)
posted by rtha at 5:25 PM on March 13, 2014


What I mean is that identity, experience and intersectionality have been in feminist and postcolonial theorists' toolboxes since the early 1990s, and there is no consensus on how to use them or whether to use them at all.

However Metafilter seems to have reached a broad, unstated consensus that identity is static and foundational, and personal experience is authoritative. When intersectionality comes up it tends to be used as a descriptor, like it is here, rather than to talk about the how or the why of a thing.

For a long time I have felt like I was missing some new theoretical breakthrough and I figured that I was the problem. I am not sure anymore that there is a rationale for these consensuses apart from creating a community for the people now in it.

Another example of what I am talking about is the thread about Avery Edison. There jsturgill pointed out how Edison had some forms of privilege even as she lacked other kinds. That looks to me like intersectionality. His comments and reaction to them spilled over into the meta. Maybe this poster has a history I don't know about. I have no idea. As a reader, I found what he said interesting.

Now I understand from a moderation and community standpoint why it is problematic to say critical things about a member. (even though this particular member is a somewhat public figure, and has a very small post count.) But it was clear that the only ways to participate in that thread were to express sympathy or empathy for Edison's predicament. I see that as not really a great thing. Are we discussing things on the web or doing something else? It seems like the "something else" is where the sitewide politics of identity have taken us. "Something else" includes expressing feelings, educating and raising awareness.

Again, I understand the norms and limits of discussion on the internet. I bring up this example to show in yet another way that the community has a pretty big effect on content. Maybe it's not a bad idea to think more about how we are deploying experience and identity in conversations here.

Or maybe it works for the community such as it is. That is fine too. It is, however, possible to be skeptical of the way identity informs content on the site, and skepticism such as mine is thoughtful and not a product of hatred or lost privilege.
posted by vincele at 8:10 PM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


vincele, I'm not agreeing with everything you're saying but I'm appreciating how you are explaining yourself.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:11 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't want to redo the whole aedison thing, but your characterization of jsturgill as just engaging in some intersectionality talk in that thread glosses over a *lot* of the objections that people actually had to jsturgill's comments. jsturgill said people were just bandwagonning because aedison is white and attractive and didn't *really* care about prisoners' rights. jsturgill said that the misgendering aedison experienced was really no big thing as long as she was being held in solitary. jsturgill said a lot of things beyond pointing out aedison's relative priviliges.

Our different interpretations of that thread in particular is exactly what makes for meTas like this. I don't believe there is an easy fix. We can only keep talking to/at/past/with each other as much as we can stand it.
posted by rtha at 10:02 PM on March 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Unless you identify as a person who belongs to a group that has experienced structural oppression-- and make your identity clear in your comment or persona-- it is very hard to participate."

what
posted by klangklangston at 10:40 PM on March 13, 2014


I agree that there is no easy solution-- or possibly any compromise. We have different views about what conversations here should accommodate. I just thought I'd elaborate here since I have time and this is not a hot-button thread.

I also agree that jsturgill was doing more than intersectionality talk. He dug himself in a hole: the more people replied to him the more he tried to explain himself. That is not right for Metafilter. "Reading the room," one could see that comments about class or the sociology and administration of prisons were not going to fit with a subject close to so many users. The problem is there wasn't a place for his comments and they were interesting. The emphasis on form and feelings risks losing content imperfectly expressed.

"Unless you identify as a person who belongs to a group that has experienced structural oppression-- and make your identity clear in your comment or persona-- it is very hard to participate."

what


This is part of the problem. It should not be so hard to stamp out.

I have spent a lot of time elaborating since I wrote that one incomplete thought. We are all only human and do not have infinite time to post on Metafilter. When one does take the time to present a view that is unfamiliar or unorthodox in the eyes of some users, as I have here, frequent posters tend to respond with dismissive oneliners.

That accomplishes two things: 1) it reinforces the consensus 2) discourages people from speaking.
posted by vincele at 12:23 AM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


"However Metafilter seems to have reached a broad, unstated consensus that identity is static and foundational, and personal experience is authoritative."

I agree that there's some of this and that's it's not a good thing. What I disagree with is that I don't think it's that big of a problem and I'm deeply suspicious of those who believe it is a big problem.

I'm suspicious because this chafes most strongly when it works against privilege.

Let's use gender as an example. In our patriarchal society, being female is marked. Conventionally, by default, socially for women gender is identity; they are seen as women first, individuals second. But being male is unmarked; men are individuals and allowed to be seen as individuals first, men second. Women typically experience in the social context exactly what you describe: that identity is static and foundational and essentially tied to gender.

So when women find themselves in a social environment where their status as female increases credibility rather than decreases it, they are more strongly aware of this as a positive and less aware of it as presumptions of identity, as they live with this all the time, anyway.

But when men find themselves in a social environment where their status as male decreases their credibility rather than increases it, they are exquisitely aware of this, because a) it's almost never the case that being male decreases social credibility; and b) it's rarely the case that they are socially perceived as male first, individuals second.

Suddenly, then, these men are awakened to the unfairness of social identity as a constraint. Men who are normally assumed to be able, in theory, to speak authoritatively about pretty much anything, find the idea that personal experience is a prerequisite for authority on sexism to be outrageous. They don't realize that for people who are members of a marked group, this unavailability of social credibility/authority on the basis of identity is a fact of daily life.

I've been a male feminist for decades. Sometimes my gender is used against me. Sometimes it's unfair. When that happens, I remind myself that I'm fortunate that this isn't the case every day of my life and that it's a learning opportunity. I will admit that thirty years ago, when this was all new to me, I struggled with it.

And as a male feminist, I don't accept this as a principle, that personal experience is an absolute prerequisite and that my identity as male makes many things essentially unknowable.

But this is just not that big of a deal. In fact, over time this is almost certainly a net positive because, as mentioned above, I have a great deal of social privilege and there's no question that I've been accepted as an authority when I was not and that I've been listened to when I should have been ignored. If very occasionally I'm not listened to when I should have been, not accepted as an authority when I truly am, because my identity is working against me rather than for me, well, that slightly offsets some of the other times when I've been been a straight, white, cisgendered man who is full of shit.

I'm 49-years-old, more tied to second wave feminism than third wave, and intersectionality is (relatively) new to me. I'm very, very far in almost all social respects from what some people like to characterize as the tumblr social justice crowd. And yet I feel certain that I'm perceived as being part of what you're criticizing here, this environment that you and others claim is unusual even in progressive communities. But this complaint almost without fail comes from the privileged and I think it's the result of the fact that most elsewhere, even when it's ostensibly and theoretically not the case, privilege carries the day. Middle-class white women do control feminism and feminist organizations, men do control progressivism and progressive organizations, the cisgendered do control LGBT rights communities and organizations, white people do dominate discussions of progressive racial politics. It comes as a surprise when this isn't as much the case as usual in a large, open community such as MetaFilter. It's a new experience to many.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:43 AM on March 14, 2014 [19 favorites]


"This is part of the problem. It should not be so hard to stamp out.

I have spent a lot of time elaborating since I wrote that one incomplete thought. We are all only human and do not have infinite time to post on Metafilter. When one does take the time to present a view that is unfamiliar or unorthodox in the eyes of some users, as I have here, frequent posters tend to respond with dismissive oneliners.

That accomplishes two things: 1) it reinforces the consensus 2) discourages people from speaking.
"

You've spent time elaborating, but it wasn't an incomplete thought — it was entirely wrong, just flatly not true here for nearly anyone. Which is part of the danger of attempting to justify opinions by how "unfamiliar or unorthodox" they are — many of these views, like yours, are unorthodox because they are entirely based on feelings unconcerned with fact.

You're right that we don't have infinite time to write on Metafilter — that utility works both ways. I wouldn't expect a comment that claimed that English speakers had a hard time communicating on MetaFilter due to the international vocabulary to receive anything but a dismissive retort either.

But, as you like:

"What I mean is that identity, experience and intersectionality have been in feminist and postcolonial theorists' toolboxes since the early 1990s, and there is no consensus on how to use them or whether to use them at all. "

Identity politics precedes the '90s by a fair point, and understanding people to be authorities on their own lives has a long history as well — really, it's just the term "intersectionality" that was novel in the '90s.

"However Metafilter seems to have reached a broad, unstated consensus that identity is static and foundational, and personal experience is authoritative. When intersectionality comes up it tends to be used as a descriptor, like it is here, rather than to talk about the how or the why of a thing. "

"Seems" is misleading — it seems to you, but it's a poor perception based on a paucity of evidence. Your reference of Ivan's quote doesn't support any of your contentions, and tries to put an intellectual gloss on the regular deprecation of the experiences of e.g. women qua women as authoritative when describing women qua women. We see this again and again in any sexual harassment thread, for example the Schroedinger's Rapist thread, where women were repeatedly told that they just didn't understand what they were going through and that their experiences should be reframed to make men more comfortable and blameless. Further, that intersectionality is almost always concerned with the how and why of the person's experience, rather than being merely descriptive.

"For a long time I have felt like I was missing some new theoretical breakthrough and I figured that I was the problem. I am not sure anymore that there is a rationale for these consensuses apart from creating a community for the people now in it. "

You thought that you were missing a theoretical breakthrough when people were taken as honest about their own feelings and perceptions? You can't see how that would encourage better conversation about issues pernicious to modern life?

"Another example of what I am talking about is the thread about Avery Edison. There jsturgill pointed out how Edison had some forms of privilege even as she lacked other kinds. That looks to me like intersectionality. His comments and reaction to them spilled over into the meta. Maybe this poster has a history I don't know about. I have no idea. As a reader, I found what he said interesting. "

As others have pointed out, it wasn't the intersectionality portion of his comments that made them problematic — it was the way he expressed them, and the dubious utility thereof. He was acting as if there was serious argument over the intersectionality claims, even while Avery herself had acknowledged them pretty much up front. If you found them interesting, you could either carry on the conversation yourself, talk to jsturgill out of the thread, or look for other places that were discussing the issues in more depth.

"Now I understand from a moderation and community standpoint why it is problematic to say critical things about a member. (even though this particular member is a somewhat public figure, and has a very small post count.) But it was clear that the only ways to participate in that thread were to express sympathy or empathy for Edison's predicament. I see that as not really a great thing. Are we discussing things on the web or doing something else? It seems like the "something else" is where the sitewide politics of identity have taken us. "Something else" includes expressing feelings, educating and raising awareness. "

This is flatly bullshit too — It was not clear that the only way to comment in that thread was with sympathy or empathy. There are also in that thread discussions of prison policy, of immigration policy, and jsturgill didn't just fuck up by not expressing sympathy or empathy, he started out by saying that getting upset about Edison was counterproductive and a waste of time because she's a celebrity. While I wasn't wild about that post as a post, your contentions are just not at all supported by the evidence. Further, your "something else" is a subset of discussing things on the web. Discussions can educate, express feelings or raise awareness — Christ, even the Lego movie thread fulfills those markers as well. (I know that you're attempting to use them in a more weighted way where they carry implications of jargon, but the point still stands.)

"Again, I understand the norms and limits of discussion on the internet. I bring up this example to show in yet another way that the community has a pretty big effect on content. Maybe it's not a bad idea to think more about how we are deploying experience and identity in conversations here. "

We think about it all the time. There is not a single thread on anything touching sexism, racism or intersectionality where there is not someone challenging identity politics "orthodoxy." Further, this sort of dishwater "maybe it's not a bad idea" fails to articulate any productive ways in which it can or should be challenged, and when thought of in the context of MetaFilter, amounts to an unsupported bit of woolgathering based on your misread of the only thread you've consistently mentioned. Without describing a productive way to look at challenging that "orthodoxy", it can't help but be read as a defense of all the poor, unproductive and toxic ways that these conversations actually play out.

"Or maybe it works for the community such as it is. That is fine too. It is, however, possible to be skeptical of the way identity informs content on the site, and skepticism such as mine is thoughtful and not a product of hatred or lost privilege."

Is anyone ever going to declare that their skepticism is unthoughtful, and a product of hatred and lost privilege? If it is possible to be skeptical as such, shouldn't you be able to articulate that skepticism in a way that's actually borne out by the archives and not just a weird misread of someone else getting pushback for their clumsy and inarticulate zero-sum complaints about the putative negative effects of ginning up outrage for a middle-class, attractive white trans woman?

"I also agree that jsturgill was doing more than intersectionality talk. He dug himself in a hole: the more people replied to him the more he tried to explain himself. That is not right for Metafilter. "Reading the room," one could see that comments about class or the sociology and administration of prisons were not going to fit with a subject close to so many users. The problem is there wasn't a place for his comments and they were interesting. The emphasis on form and feelings risks losing content imperfectly expressed. "

This is bullshit. Comments about class or sociology and the administration of prisons exist outside of jsturgill in that thread, and that was not the problem with jsturgill's contributions — most of the problems can be traced to his first comment in the thread, which was a weird, mistaken framing of the issue in a way that was incredibly dismissive and poorly-articulated. "Imperfectly expressed" is weaselly and vague, and ignores that real harm does come from "imperfectly expressed" opinions. And most of jsturgill's comments are still there — just as the people who disagree with him still have their comments there. The discussion happened, and while it may have not satisfied you, that's on you, not on MetaFilter.

Pretty much every contention you have made is factually wrong and requires an extreme amount of cherry-picking to support. While that's a bit longer than, "what," your claims have now received a more than fair hearing, and they are still fundamentally flawed in a way that is doggedly, absurdly wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 8:17 AM on March 14, 2014 [13 favorites]


white people do dominate discussions of progressive racial politics

Complaining about white people dominating discussions of progressive racial politics: a great way for white people to dominate discussions of progressive racial politics!

(Fun fact: I live in NYC, but IRL - not on TV/news - I don't think I've ever heard intersectionality advocated by a PoC, or any PoC use "PoC", in fact. Only white people.)
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:27 AM on March 14, 2014


"I don't think I've ever heard intersectionality advocated by a PoC..."

You mean, other than Kimberlé Crenshaw, the black sociologist who coined the term?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:41 AM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's a little sad to see that things were so civil last night, and so uncivil this morning. It may have to do with the specific examples given, which is why I think it was better without them.

Without describing a productive way to look at challenging that "orthodoxy"

A productive way that I can think of would be actually heavily moderating pile-ons equally as much as moderating "taking-on-all-comers." If five people attack one person's commentary, instead of mod focus being on the one person who is being attacked, it would be great to see some sort of "Okay, we're pretty clear that people don't like XYZ, maybe let things breathe a little?"

Site culture could well change to where people participating in pile-ons were viewed negatively. As it stands, it seems more like a sort of rallying-the-banners effect, where if someone says something considered wrong, more and more people pile in to say something. (I'm not sure if this is an effect of favorites combined with contacts, or what, but it does seem to be true.)

In addition, it would be nice to apply the "talking about lived experiences and beliefs" standard to everyone. If someone from a minority viewpoint is expressing why they feel the way they do, talking from a genuine place, it would be great to allow them the space to do that. Even if they're talking about, say, how their lived experience as a parent or potential parent makes them genuinely feel abortion is wrong or immoral. (And I say that as a pro-choice person). Lived experience applies to everyone, not just people suppressed in the outside world.

But when men find themselves in a social environment where their status as male decreases their credibility rather than increases it, they are exquisitely aware of this...Suddenly, then, these men are awakened to the unfairness of social identity as a constraint... In fact, over time this is almost certainly a net positive.

I think more than anything, this is the thing I see a problem with. This kind of sense that, well, if people do get suppressed or taken less seriously a little bit because of their identity with an outside-majority-dominant group, it's just, because they've experienced privilege and now it's fair and just for them to experience being ignored, and having other people talk over them, because they undoubtedly have ignored people or behaved badly in the outside world where they have power. I don't really think Metafilter should be a place for triumphant role-reversal of outside silencing. If the goal is equality, we need to steer for equality, not "Now you know what it's like."
posted by corb at 8:43 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


You mean, other than Kimberlé Crenshaw, the black sociologist who coined the term?

In my "lived experience" so to speak, which, as I've said, is in NYC. I have no doubt I could hear it if I went to say, Democrat political agitation, but that's not my scene.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:47 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Fun fact: I live in NYC, but IRL - not on TV/news - I don't think I've ever heard intersectionality advocated by a PoC, or any PoC use "PoC", in fact. Only white people.)

I guess nobody who is a person of color who comments on metafilter counts, then? Your experience is yours and it's true for you. Fun fact: What it isn't is universal. I have been hearing and reading people of color talk about intersectionality since the 70s, and I have been one doing so since the 80s.
posted by rtha at 9:18 AM on March 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


"...and now it's fair and just for them to experience being ignored..."

That's not what I wrote.

The ideal is that no one would be ignored in this way. And, yes, we should strive for this ideal.

However, what happens in practice is that the 1% of the time that the privileged are treated unjustly is given 80% of the attention and effort to ameliorate injustice, while the other 99% of the injustice against the unprivileged is accepted as the status quo.

Over the course of my life, while I have become less judgmental and more patient with others in general, I have found myself with less and less patience for the cries of injustice from the privileged. Even when — and this is rare — these complaints are genuine and well-intended and not an attempt to shout over and silence the similar complaints from the oppressed, it's the case that these complaints take up all the air in the room.

Your efforts and those of others to keep attention focused on how we and others are failing to reach the ideal of fairness when we're not fair to the folk who are otherwise far more likely to be treated fairly than not have the practical effect of pushing resources where they are needed the least and away from where they are needed the most. And it's almost always done by those who will benefit. For example, it is almost always (but not always!) men who complain that male voices are being silenced on MetaFilter. Is it fair and just for men to be silenced because they're men? No, it's not. But have a goddam sense of proportion and context.

This is a catch-22, though. To have that sense of proportion and context means being aware of things that the privileged generally aren't aware of and don't want to be aware of. People are people, privileged or not, and nurse their grievances. Who ever wants to face the reality that their grievances are rather minor, all things considered and, more importantly, on the long list of priorities of injustices to be corrected, their minor grievance properly ranks very low? No one. But especially those who are accustomed to having their grievances taken more seriously than everyone else's find this a burden too painful to endure. I'm unsympathetic.

I've come to believe that you're well-intentioned, though sometimes maladroit. What I wish for is that you'd just make the attempt to consider that your own intuition about justice — that tolerating an injustice because it's against the privileged is a slippery-slope toward a complete failure of justice, it's the principle that is important — is unintentionally self-serving, unintentionally blind to the reality that toleration of injustice against the unprivileged is business-as-usual and failure to achieve the ideal is accepted as a necessary pragmatic concession (and so why aren't you worried that that will lead to a complete failure of justice?), and unintentionally a reinforcing of the status quo where most people are quite happy with tolerating injustice, as long as it's not against themselves, and where social institutions generally align with the interests of the powerful.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:21 AM on March 14, 2014 [13 favorites]


In my "lived experience" so to speak, which, as I've said, is in NYC. I have no doubt I could hear it if I went to say, Democrat political agitation, but that's not my scene.

Fun fact: It isn't my scene, but in my "lived experience," I usually find that it's the hardcore Fox News-types who are most likely to use "Democrat" as an adjective. As in, say, "Oh, it's another goddamned Democrat political agitation!"
posted by octobersurprise at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


(Fun fact: I live in NYC, but IRL - not on TV/news - I don't think I've ever heard intersectionality advocated by a PoC, or any PoC use "PoC", in fact. Only white people.)

Intersectionality Devastated by Hypocrisy of Liberal Straw Men

"Wow, Look at Them Standing There Doing Nothing," Says Man Who Put Them in Field
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


My lived experience is of not talking to Reddity guys about intersectionality, so I guess it balances out.
posted by emmtee at 10:13 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Unless you identify as a person who belongs to a group that has experienced structural oppression-- and make your identity clear in your comment or persona-- it is very hard to participate

I kind of nodded at this.

But it's not (to my mind) that you have to be a [foo] to participate in a thread about [foos]. It's that if you're not a [foo], you might want to be extra-conscious of the fact that there will be [foos] in the thread, and if you lecture them about how they should feel about something and what they should think is important, you will sound like an asshole.
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on March 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


I guess nobody who is a person of color who comments on metafilter counts, then?

Proud digital dualist.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:34 AM on March 14, 2014


Not trying to play "gotcha": Could you explain what you mean by that?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:39 AM on March 14, 2014


Ivan I do not mean to call you out as you are clearly a very thoughtful member and an ally to feminists.

I agree that there's some of this and that's it's not a good thing. What I disagree with is that I don't think it's that big of a problem and I'm deeply suspicious of those who believe it is a big problem.

I think the suspicion about motives has more effects than people realize.
Critics come from marginalized communities. A while back I re-read Joan Scott's essay "Experience" to remind myself where I originally came in on this stuff. Here are a couple of short passages that show what I mean.

They have their own reasons for questioning identity.

Mine as related to Metafilter are as I have said:

The community tamps down dissent when 1) someone expresses a view that runs counter to the prevailing wisdom about identity and experience 2) a shared belief about what a thread should look like, or what is and is not political topic and utterance. (RogerB, 256)


But this complaint almost without fail comes from the privileged and I think it's the result of the fact that most elsewhere, even when it's ostensibly and theoretically not the case, privilege carries the day. Middle-class white women do control feminism and feminist organizations, men do control progressivism and progressive organizations, the cisgendered do control LGBT rights communities and organizations, white people do dominate discussions of progressive racial politics. It comes as a surprise when this isn't as much the case as usual in a large, open community such as MetaFilter. It's a new experience to many.

Yes I agree with your description of the state of gender orgs, but how it came to be that way is a pretty complex question that goes beyond jealousy and privilege (power). At any rate, I feel like political groups organized on principles of identity are separate from Metafilter-- because I question whether a large open community needs a politics of identity.

It seems to me that causing and receiving occasional offense is part of good faith communication, but the shift on Metafilter seems to be towards protecting individuals from hurt. But seen repeatedly here in Metatalk, assumptions of good faith and protection from hurt are dispensed unequally, depending on a pretty arbitrary analysis of motives.

If very occasionally I'm not listened to when I should have been, not accepted as an authority when I truly am, because my identity is working against me rather than for me, well, that slightly offsets some of the other times when I've been been a straight, white, cisgendered man who is full of shit.

Yes I would totally agree if that were all of it. But it silences anyone who has an opinion that the community decides sounds like that of a white cisgendered man. In the process some newly-empowered group members get their say but we’re assuming that
1) All members of those historically marginalized groups on Metafilter could or would choose to use the Metatalk conventions
2) This shift makes the site better in some way (RogerB said something like this)

I saw a Metatalk comment about how on LGBT and trans* forums, new or young members often lack the right kind of language to speak about their sexuality. No doubt that lack is a function of their marginalization.

That’s true for any group that does not have our mastery of internet and Metafilter-specific protocols. A lot of it comes down to class and access to institutions of socialization and education many of us take for granted.

I feel like we’ve raised the bar so high that it is possible only to speak on political topics when you know exactly how to speak on Metafilter. Maybe like you said it is making it uncomfortable for people who had privilege (power). I am more cynical. I think the same people still have power and they’ve just gone elsewhere. (It’s fine they’ve gone.)

As an aside, I’d take issue with your characterization of racial politics. White people might dominate “general” discussions of race on a “diverse” site like Metafilter, but there are many spaces where black people discuss politics online and in real life-- without white people taking notice. It’s the same with Latinos and Asians. There is a lot going on not captured by identity politics of Metafilter.

What is going on are bad-faith assumptions and backlash when people don't agree this is the best way to look at the world and fight problems in it.

I apologize for making so many long posts. Thanks for reading.
posted by vincele at 10:46 AM on March 14, 2014


In my "lived experience" so to speak, which, as I've said, is in NYC. I have no doubt I could hear it if I went to say, Democrat political agitation, but that's not my scene.

You may not be aware of it, but using Democrat like that is an epithet. If that was unintentional, you should be aware of it, because it colors your argument, and if it was intentional, I'd ask you to reconsider. It's hard to have a conversation with someone who is tossing off pejoratives.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:50 AM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


vincele: "But it silences anyone who has an opinion that the community decides sounds like that of a white cisgendered man."

But it doesn't. This very discussion is a perfect example of it. Ivan Fyodorovitch and klangklangston (to name two off the top of my head) are, as I remember, self-identified white cisgendered men, speaking from their perspectives as white cisgendered men, and they're participating perfectly effectively.

The problem comes when you use "sounds like a white cisgendered man" as if it means the same thing as "doesn't listen to people who are different when they describe how their experiences differ" or "assumes own perspective is universal, tries to apply it universally" or anything like that.
posted by Lexica at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


A productive way that I can think of would be actually heavily moderating pile-ons equally as much as moderating "taking-on-all-comers." If five people attack one person's commentary, instead of mod focus being on the one person who is being attacked, it would be great to see some sort of "Okay, we're pretty clear that people don't like XYZ, maybe let things breathe a little?"

Another option, perhaps, is that one person could give more thought to that one person's comments, before making them. Then perhaps there would be fewer "pile-ons" and less need for the moderators to frequently step in on that person's behalf.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I usually find that it's the hardcore Fox News-types who are most likely to use "Democrat" as an adjective.

Well, it cuts to the heart of the matter - that there seems to be a tendency to make "Democrats" a protected class. Political parties are chosen, however, they are not race or orientation. Furthermore any mockery I make of the Democratic Party is trivially seen to be "punching upwards." In my own lived experience, Republicans have little power here so most local political oppressions are carried out by Democrats or our recently retired individualist billionaire king.

I tend to reserve moral judgment or make those calls on a different basis from Metafilter, but my moral disgust for the Democratic Party is activated and, I would imagine, similar to the disgust felt here for libertarians, gun nuts, and Reddity types. I feel they deserve to be put on blast. I usually find the namecalling bits of politics shitty, but it amuses me how the nearly-imperceptible difference ticks off Democrats. Like I also disdain Republicans, but I don't go around "Rethuglican" and such. If I heard they were pissed off by one of "GOP" or "G.O.P." I might run with that, because to a normal person it's little difference.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I saw a Metatalk comment about how on LGBT and trans* forums, new or young members often lack the right kind of language to speak about their sexuality. No doubt that lack is a function of their marginalization. [...] I feel like we’ve raised the bar so high that it is possible only to speak on political topics when you know exactly how to speak on Metafilter."

Yeah, that's a great example because it removes all the ambiguity, as does your general point about how people from unprivileged groups are attacked as members of a privileged group when they write something that strikes others as being "off".

That really is a problem, I agree.

And it does represent a larger problem, where a thoughtful and well-intended member of a privileged group can just have a forgivable misstep, or just use the wrong words (as in the unambiguous example), and be attacked. So, again, I agree that's a problem.

That's why I wrote earlier that we should try to step back from the pile-ons and such. And we should attempt to see people as well-intended.

I grapple with this. I don't mean to make light of it.

But my experience has been that bad-faith defenses of privilege vastly outnumber the examples we're discussing, but they are defended on the basis that they're the examples we're discussing. So, again, the question becomes: how much time and attention ought we devote to this problem? And my answer is "not a lot". Some. We should try. We should strive for the ideal and I don't intend at all to imply that I don't care about these edge cases and that I don't want to eliminate them. But I am unwilling to devote effort to eliminate them at the cost of doing less to eliminate a larger problem that affects more people.

And, also, I think that the whole Matt Haughey-led ethos of MetaFilter of "stuff is complicated, we look to the spirit and not the letter of the law, and we take things on a case-by-case basis" really and truly works. There is no hard rule on MeFi against people dissenting from community consensus about, say, trans* issues. There is no hard rule that muzzles people on the basis of perceived, or even actual, identity. As klangklangston pointed out, despite your concerns, the reality is that the comments that provoke the peer-pressure you're complaining about exist in the first place. This discussion is an example of a discussion that wouldn't be possible to the degree to which what you're complaining about were the case.

Some people are given much more leeway than others for being dissenters, and while some people would claim that it's a personality contest, I think the reality is that this is more a function of just knowing how not to be a jerk and having a history of being productive and demonstrably well-intended. The informal community "system" here works, though it's far from perfect. Should we be cognizant of suppression of dissent? Of course we should. Should we bend over backward to protect dissent that protects what is elsewhere privilege? Not really.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:14 AM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


A productive way that I can think of would be actually heavily moderating pile-ons equally as much as moderating "taking-on-all-comers." If five people attack one person's commentary, instead of mod focus being on the one person who is being attacked

You make it sound like we just add to the pile-on instead of just trying to make the general unhealthy dynamic stop. We step in if we feel people are being attacked which means something fairly specific to us and not just "People are telling me repeatedly and strongly that they disagree with me" Our focus is on people who seem to repeatedly find themselves at the center of these sorts of situations and then act surprised when they play out the exact same way they always do.

I'd like you to consider that your very personal perspective on this very specific type of interaction here may be coloring your perspective. And, to add to that, the large degree of private conversations that we have had with you both explaining our approach to these interactions and explaining to you how you could modify your own approach so that you could still participate in conversations without this dynamic continuing to happen. The fact that you have taken very little of our advice is your own personal decision but I would prefer that you not toss out offhanded declarations of how we could do our jobs better without adding the perspective that you are not an entirely disinterested observer in this dynamic.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:22 PM on March 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


that there seems to be a tendency to make "Democrats" a protected class.

I see. This must be more of that "lived experience."

it amuses me how the nearly-imperceptible difference ticks off Democrats ... If I heard they were pissed off by one of "GOP" or "G.O.P." I might run with that, because to a normal person it's little difference.

I see. So you were trying to be insulting. You're usually too cryptic and unintelligible for that to be clear.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:12 PM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Proud digital dualist.

Again, what did you mean by this? It reads to me like an arch way of saying "No, people of color on Metafilter don't count, because a person's real-life identity and their internet identity are entirely separate," an opinion that would draw enough objections that I don't want to mistake you. You probably meant something more nuanced than that.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:40 PM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, I am also interested in an explanation, since I didn't get it either.
posted by rtha at 2:02 PM on March 14, 2014


It's both a shocking and reliable fact that intentionally using language to provoke someone tends to make them disinclined to hear anything else you're saying. This is especially true if you admit that's what you're doing.

I personally generally have the goal of communication when I talk, but YMMV.
posted by PMdixon at 2:03 PM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]



Further, this sort of dishwater "maybe it's not a bad idea" fails to articulate any productive ways in which it can or should be challenged, and when thought of in the context of MetaFilter, amounts to an unsupported bit of woolgathering based on your misread of the only thread you've consistently mentioned.


I made a lot of suggestions throughout the thread:

--Recognize that negative oneliners about Obama is political expression and not the same as 'yourbandsucks'
--Recognize that positive content-free oneliners affect threads
--Recognize serious/lighthearted as a meaningless distinction when the topic is a person who wields power
--Attack the substance of a post rather than the poster
--If being mindful of causing hurt is the way we're moving, everyone needs to avoid causing hurt in every post regardless of "privilege"

You noticed I used words like "seems" and "maybe it's not a bad idea." Although I prefer direct language like you apparently do, I chose to use "dishwater" language because soft tones get a better reception on Metafilter. Except when they don't.

Identity politics precedes the '90s by a fair point, and understanding people to be authorities on their own lives has a long history as well — really, it's just the term "intersectionality" that was novel in the '90s.

I didn't go into theoretical territory so I wouldn't come off like a jackass. (not saying you do) However "understanding people to be authorities on their own lives" is not a straightforward thing (see my previous comment) If I said "there are different ways to approach the formation of national identities and their utility in politics of liberation," no one would bat an eye.

Of course saying something about gender is more sensitive. Gender is the basic way all of us make sense of who we are and the way many of us have been excluded. In the past decade it has become possible for marginalized genders to emerge from the shadows and participate in civil society more fully than ever. On the other hand few of us think about national identity with urgency because comparatively few of us have been marginalized on that basis or know anyone who has.

Regardless of the type of identity-- race/nation/class/gender/other-- (class is the obvious elephant in the room) it should be ok to point out a community-wide embrace of politics and its effects on participation.

You thought that you were missing a theoretical breakthrough when people were taken as honest about their own feelings and perceptions?

Yes-- with a qualification. You have changed my terms. All throughout this thread I have talked about how identity politics affects participation. I am not so sure people are being taken as honest or whether the community's self-policing creates that illusion. But that is not my point.

You can't see how that would encourage better conversation about issues pernicious to modern life?

No. I do not think it is clear that sharing personal, even painful experiences on a big site like this encourages better conversation. Sharing is vital to political endeavors like consciousness raising. I don't think we really know what it is doing to conversation here.
posted by vincele at 3:04 PM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


vincele, I get the impression that you feel that you are being denied a fair hearing of your views on some subject you think is analogous to gender that you're referring to as "national identities". Am I interpreting you correctly?
posted by PMdixon at 3:10 PM on March 14, 2014


Oh no I feel I have had a fair hearing. I was making a final response to a strongly-worded comment, and in the process I compared gender to other modern identities. The politics and discussion of National identity "precedes the 90s by a fair point," just like gender.
posted by vincele at 3:28 PM on March 14, 2014


"Well, it cuts to the heart of the matter - that there seems to be a tendency to make "Democrats" a protected class."

what
posted by klangklangston at 4:27 PM on March 14, 2014


I don't think that national identity is analogous to the point of being just like gender, and so no, I would not bat an eye if you said the thing you said we wouldn't bat our eyes at. Because they're different things.

Identity politics is not the silver bullet that will solve all problems, nor is it the one lens through which one can or should view...everything. But it's very useful in many contexts. And it's interesting to me that most of the time people who tell me that identity politics is harmful or wrong or bad are generally people whose identities are unmarked.
posted by rtha at 4:40 PM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Maybe we should not "what" people even if we think that their statements are shite, eh? In addition to being kind of passé, it's a lazy rebuttal.
posted by planetesimal at 4:40 PM on March 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


"No. I do not think it is clear that sharing personal, even painful experiences on a big site like this encourages better conversation. Sharing is vital to political endeavors like consciousness raising. I don't think we really know what it is doing to conversation here."

This is a fundamental disagreement then. That sharing is vital to consciousness raising is irrelevant, because sharing is also vital to a healthy conversation. It's easily demonstrated in its reverse — it is bad for conversation when people are excluded from describing their experience, or when they have their experience dictated to them. That doesn't mean that experience is an unbounded good — see the idiocy above about Democrats as a protected class and never listening when MeFite people of color use "intersectionality," but it is part of a conversation. This is particularly true when that experience is the topic of the conversation, c.f. Schroedinger's Rapist.

Or, to use a different subsite, AskMe is often strongest — though, again, this isn't without limit — when people talk about their personal experience.

Further, I'd point out that the framing of this, where personal experience is deprecated (with the implied elevation of logical, formal discussion) is something that has been regularly critiqued as a male-centric view of the norms of conversation, something that has been used historically to exclude women specifically, and more broadly people of color and other minorities.

"I made a lot of suggestions throughout the thread: "

And each of them is vague at best, and more often incoherent.

--Recognize that negative oneliners about Obama is political expression and not the same as 'yourbandsucks'

Not exactly the same, however that doesn't mean it's legitimate conversation (not noise) nor that it's not substantively the same in effect in the conversation. Further, the idea that all one-liners about Obama are removed is paranoiac fantasy.

--Recognize that positive content-free oneliners affect threads

…yes. But that's trivial when true, and incoherent as an argument. Every comment affects a thread.

--Recognize serious/lighthearted as a meaningless distinction when the topic is a person who wields power

Not only are you relying on a mushy definition of power, that's not necessarily a meaningless distinction.

--Attack the substance of a post rather than the poster

That's the closest to a coherent point that you're making, however, it's not all that germane, especially as people who are attacked often conflate the two.

--If being mindful of causing hurt is the way we're moving, everyone needs to avoid causing hurt in every post regardless of "privilege""

This is fine as a principle, so far as it goes, however recognizing that, with privilege especially, hurts can be caused in an entirely legitimate fashion means that this ends up being an incoherent standard. E.g., owners of slaves were hurt by the emancipation of those slaves, however, their hurt was nothing compared to the actual hurt suffered by the slaves. Avoiding hurt all around sounds great but ends up being an excuse for privileged fee-fees to be granted the same weight as actual harm visited by that privilege.
posted by klangklangston at 4:43 PM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


>--Recognize that negative oneliners about Obama is political expression and not the same as 'yourbandsucks'

Not exactly the same, however that doesn't mean it's legitimate conversation (not noise) nor that it's not substantively the same in effect in the conversation. Further, the idea that all one-liners about Obama are removed is paranoiac fantasy.


I'm with klangklangston. If you don't like a political figure, there are better ways to express that than "one-liners" or lazy attacks like calling Chris Christie or Rob Ford fat or baseless speculation that Andrew Breitbart was an abusive husband/father. All of them have plenty of political rope to fashion a noose -- going after the cheap gag is pretty weak (I've done it myself, and felt bad about it later often enough to try and avoid it now). The dismissive one-liner is also realy context sensitive -- if happens too early in a thread, the thread often becomes a tussle about that rather than what the FPP is actually about, and the mods should delete it.

ANd, honestly, when I hear people arguing (earnestly or disingenuously) that fairness is fairness and all hurts are the same, it reminds me of white people asking (earnestly or disingenuously) why there isn't a "White History Month" or a "Men's History Month" or "Straight People Safe Spaces" -- there is; it's called the "rest of the world." But you have to look past your privilege to see that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 PM on March 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


Not exactly the same, however that doesn't mean it's legitimate conversation (not noise) nor that it's not substantively the same in effect in the conversation. Further, the idea that all one-liners about Obama are removed is paranoiac fantasy.

It is clear from your responses you didn't read this thread or at least my comments in context. I am not asking you to do that now. The goal of metatalk isn't to argue or convince one poster.

But I want to point out that my summaries seem "paranoiac" and "incoherent" because you did not read the thread. For instance, power seems "mushy" because you don't see its references to Obama-- the topic of this thread. (Privilege, by contrast, is far more imprecise.) I wrote all that in answer to your claim that I hadn't made any suggestions (another sign you hadn't read the thread). It would have been more productive if you had, because then you could have given me something to think about.

I get that I am an outlier and to the left of the majority. I am ok with that. This is not the start of a campaign to change Metafilter. I will continue doing my thing.

ANd, honestly, when I hear people arguing (earnestly or disingenuously) that fairness is fairness and all hurts are the same, it reminds me of white people asking (earnestly or disingenuously) why there isn't a "White History Month" or a "Men's History Month" or "Straight People Safe Spaces" -- there is; it's called the "rest of the world." But you have to look past your privilege to see that.

I am not arguing that fairness is fairness and all hurts are the same. I said "everyone needs to avoid causing hurt in every post regardless of 'privilege.'" Every member has to play by the same rules, assume good faith and be kind to each other because we are strangers on a large forum and no one knows who is carrying what burdens.
posted by vincele at 12:32 AM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've read this whole thread and just as one data point I did not deduce that you considered yourself "to the left of the majority." That might be where some of the apparent misunderstanding is coming from?

(So, it is my understanding that the progressive/"leftist"/"SJW"/"cultural Marxist"/"tumbleresque"/maybe Mefi general position is that "playing by the same rules" results in unacceptable inequality. I don't mean this in terms of site policy or culture, but in terms of the privilege and avoidance of hurt that you're talking about. A significant part of current progressive "identity politics" [this term always reads as derogatory to me because the only place I usually see it is conservative op-eds] is that it takes extra effort to foster diversity (in the non-bizarro sense) and inclusion, such that not every perceived hurt is equal. Context, in this paradigm, matters greatly, even to the extent that it demands double standards. Previously mentioned were the examples of Black History Month and a hypothetical White History Month - they are semantically and logically equivalent, but not at all contextually equivalent. This is the kind of reasoning that leads people like me to object to blanket, uncontextualized calls for respect of all opinions and the inclusion of majority conservative views under the umbrella of progressive diversity.)
posted by Corinth at 1:01 AM on March 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am not arguing that fairness is fairness and all hurts are the same. I said "everyone needs to avoid causing hurt in every post regardless of 'privilege.'" Every member has to play by the same rules, assume good faith and be kind to each other because we are strangers on a large forum and no one knows who is carrying what burdens.

As has been pointed out a couple of times upthread, that looks good on paper (and it isn't a bad place to start from, generally) but when put into practice in a dogmatic way, it tends to reinforce larger cultural assumptions. The privileged view remains privileged. And, while getting a lot of pushback may seem to some like they are getting ganged up on by a bunch of jerks, there's also the possibility that, when ten people say "that's wrong and offensive," they may less battling a courageous speaker-of-truth-to-power than wearily engaging a person who's being offensive and wrong on the Internet. People do have points that're worth defending to the death, but people who find themselves in that place often might want to ask themselves why that is.

There's also a problem in mistaking MetaFilter with the larger world. A lot of the points of view that are decried by some as "the consensus" are pretty much drowned out in the wider world. And, honestly, after a day of struggling with the wider society, getting told they should be more polite and respectful on an Internet forum is, well, a complex situation. Which doesn't mean that people shouldn't try to be generally polite, but privileged people also need to work really hard at not pitching a fit every time their privilege is gored.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:19 AM on March 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


No. I do not think it is clear that sharing personal, even painful experiences on a big site like this encourages better conversation. Sharing is vital to political endeavors like consciousness raising. I don't think we really know what it is doing to conversation here.

I wonder what this place would look like if there were no personal sharing? Threads about programming and anime and missing airplanes and cat videos would all be a lot shorter if no one ever mentioned anything personal or talked about how their experience informs their thoughts about whatever the thread is about.

But maybe those kinds of personal experiences are not what you mean.
posted by rtha at 8:00 AM on March 15, 2014


progressive/"leftist"/"SJW"/"cultural Marxist"/"tumbleresque"/maybe Mefi general position

The other tribe has started using "SWPL" (Stuff White People Like), which I think is a good one.

Again, what did you mean by this? It reads to me like an arch way of saying "No, people of color on Metafilter don't count, because a person's real-life identity and their internet identity are entirely separate," an opinion that would draw enough objections that I don't want to mistake you. You probably meant something more nuanced than that.

Yes, I am also interested in an explanation, since I didn't get it either.


Digital dualism, if anyone hasn't looked it up, is when you consider "IRL" and "on the Internet" separate spheres (I wouldn't consider it entirely separate identities barring full-troll fictional characters). The term is developed from a social critique scene that seems to think just naming a phenomenon will make people stop - "this is digital dualism!" they proclaim, as if that damned anything in a world primarily peopled by digital dualists.

One facet of this is the concentrating, amplifying, and flattening effect of the Internet. One person can proclaim TimeCube to the world, or 1,000 people distributed across the Anglosphere can come together and be very loud with their fringe politics.

Therefore in my reasoning I hold as much more prevalent ideas and stances I have commonly observed both IRL (personally, reliable sources, data, facts filtered from the news) and on the Internet compared to things I have only seen on the Internet.

One example is furries. Never knowingly seen one IRL. Same with PoC advocating intersectionality, barring that I see political figures doing it on the news from time to time. I have only barely encountered any intersectionality at all in real life. It makes participating here somewhat surreal.

But if I am considering the political viewpoints of PoC, yes, my tendency is to give more credence to the many PoC I can encounter daily in NYC than to a few who are active in Internet political movements. It's not about disregarding all PoC, but gauging the prevalence of different opinions...

It's both a shocking and reliable fact that intentionally using language to provoke someone tends to make them disinclined to hear anything else you're saying. This is especially true if you admit that's what you're doing.

It can be difficult to mansplain this to a cis scum dudebro like me.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:20 AM on March 15, 2014


God Bless America
posted by planetesimal at 9:31 AM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I do not think it is clear that sharing personal, even painful experiences on a big site like this encourages better conversation.

As a sample of one, I value when people relate their personal experiences on MetaFilter about a thousand times more than when people explain stuff or say how they think the world should be.

I can't say it makes for "better conversation" — we likely have differing views of what makes a conversation good. But one of the things I value most about MetaFilter is that it's a place where I can hear from a wider spectrum of people than I do other places, and we've agreed that we can speak on and listen to some pretty core issues, like sex, race, and religion. Hearing people's experiences, and thinking about how they compare to mine, has been a great experience for me here.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:59 AM on March 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


cis scum

Can you not do this?
posted by Corinth at 11:07 AM on March 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Complaining about white people dominating discussions of progressive racial politics: a great way for white people to dominate discussions of progressive racial politics!

Yes. That statement in Ivan's comment wasn't a complaint; it was a statement of fact. White people, allied or not, often hog the conversation. It's a real problem. People who think of themselves as allies need to learn to give the floor to the people they want to help. People who are opposed to progressive politics in general often just take it outright.

I hope you don't think your observation is some kind of devastating critique. It isn't, except insofar as anyone in particular is pushing oppressed people out of the conversation. I think people are generally doing a good job not doing that, but I could be wrong.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:12 AM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, save alive, "cis scum" isn't something that would fly here, and we're talking about Mefi discussions here, not the world at large, so let's not add in inflammatory stuff for no purpose.

To that point, I'm going to reiterate what I've said before, just speaking as a member -- this site is a lot better when people act like they're here to have conversations with other members, not to correct other members. This goes for everybody, so I hope people don't read this as pointed toward one group or another because it's not. But I do see folks complaining that "people at Metafilter are so ____" where you can fill in the blank with something negative, and using that to justify thinking the worst of other people in the conversation and acting like sarcasm etc are needed. So I would ask, as a member, that people examine their own behavior and if you see yourself doing this, maybe check yourself. I understand certain things can be annoying, goodness knows I get annoyed too. But if you find yourself repeatedly, mainly, commenting in order to complain about how people are here, take a break for an hour or two, or go look for a thread on the site that reminds you what you like about the site.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:26 AM on March 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Therefore in my reasoning I hold as much more prevalent ideas and stances I have commonly observed both IRL (personally, reliable sources, data, facts filtered from the news) and on the Internet compared to things I have only seen on the Internet.

One example is furries. Never knowingly seen one IRL. Same with PoC advocating intersectionality, barring that I see political figures doing it on the news from time to time. I have only barely encountered any intersectionality at all in real life. It makes participating here somewhat surreal.

But if I am considering the political viewpoints of PoC, yes, my tendency is to give more credence to the many PoC I can encounter daily in NYC than to a few who are active in Internet political movements. It's not about disregarding all PoC, but gauging the prevalence of different opinions...


So you don't see intersectionality, except rarely in the news, which you then further filter to meet your preferences? Gee, I wonder why you might be missing out on instances of it happening.

Never mind the many, many organizations in NYC alone that are dedicated to discussing intersectionality, let alone the rise of IRL instances of large groups talking about it (for example, NC's Moral Mondays), or most discussions about the rise of abortion bans and who it affects most, or the criminal justice system and gender identity, or health care and pretty much every mix of demographics you can think of. But hey, you made sure to bring up the "some of my best friends" and furries comparisons, so there's that.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:31 AM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a sample of one, I value when people relate their personal experiences on MetaFilter about a thousand times more than when people explain stuff or say how they think the world should be.

Also, personal stories give you something than quantitative data doesn't. I talk to my students about this -- a problem with scholarly studies is that they deal with populations, not people. If you are addressing a medical issue, it's important to have articles talking very rigorously about causes, effects, and treatments, but it can really help your paper to have a personal story of two underlying why we want to study this condition or try to create medications with fewer side effects. Similarly, on MetaFilter, a discussion of statistics on, say, street harassment becomes much more visceral with women talking about their own experiences. It's way harder to empathize with 37% of the population than with MeFites you know and respect....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:42 AM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Digital dualism is an interesting way to think about the assumptions people bring to a web community. Do you buy into it or not? This post seems to backtrack on what you said earlier. You seem to agree with the author that digital dualism is fallacy because you say that internet/irl "aren't entirely separate spheres." So they are connected?

If so I see a contradiction in your choice to give more weight to "real life." Your reasoning is flawed but I am not concerned with that. It is separate from your perspective on digital dualism.

Therefore in my reasoning I hold as much more prevalent ideas and stances I have commonly observed both IRL (personally, reliable sources, data, facts filtered from the news) and on the Internet compared to things I have only seen on the Internet.

Social critique names things not in the hopes that people will stop doing anything. Giving things names makes it possible to talk about new stuff. That is what we are doing.

I see a point in what you’re saying about real life. What I see are people who didn’t grow up with technology but have the internet now (the elderly, African immigrants, and parolees). The community would react badly to what these people say not just because of the internet etiquette hurdle, but also because they lack the language of privilege.

If they came here, they might make comments that “cause hurt” until they got it right or left. They don’t know how to talk about their lives in terms of “privilege.” And even once "educated," they might not want to use it.

These kind of people have been excluded from institutions that many of us take for granted that we don't even think about it. We do think about the way these institutions oppress us, and they most certainly do. They inculcated basic sensibilities about race and gender that is the starting point for "education campaigns" on Metafilter.

We forget that lots of people do not have access to these institutions at all. Public schools and health care are two that come to mind.

No matter how much we talk about “privilege,” we never really acknowledge that this language and our starting point is a sign of privilege itself and a specific kind of engagement with the internet.

There is fundamental disagreement about whether this is even a problem. The consensus is that we’d rather not have participation that might cause hurt to the people who are already part of the community. But this is a far cry from a call to open the site to race realists. Why? Because we are pretty good about identifying people who “know better” and the mods deal with their behavior on the grounds that it is disruptive.
posted by vincele at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2014


What I see are people who didn’t grow up with technology but have the internet now (the elderly, African immigrants, and parolees). The community would react badly to what these people say not just because of the internet etiquette hurdle, but also because they lack the language of privilege.

(Emph mine.)

Who died and made you psychic king of the universe?
posted by PMdixon at 12:45 PM on March 15, 2014


We have "the elderly" on metafilter. The ones I'm thinking of off the top of my head seem to get the hang of this place with no more difficulty than anyone else. I know we have mefites who have served time in jail and prison. Unsure about African immigrants.

Who, like everyone else on your list, are a huge and diverse group of people and it's a little weird in the context of this thread to see you broad-brush them like this. More than a little, honestly.
posted by rtha at 1:20 PM on March 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've been idly following this thread, but am so appalled by Vincele's latest comment that I felt obligated to say something.

Vincele - Your comment about "the elderly, African immigrants, and parolees" and how they would behave here is offensively ageist, racist and classist. I would suggest you look at the extremely uncharitable and stereotypical assumptions you just made about three entire classes of people, and ask yourself why you're comfortable with that sort of dismissive behaviour.
posted by dotgirl at 1:30 PM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am talking about “what I see in real life”: close elderly relatives and people I have devoted my life and work to. These people lack the language of privilege. They were denied access to institutions many of us take for granted due to economic, gender and racial discrimination. It will be hard for a 75 year old with an 8th grade education or man who’s spent 20 years in jail to know how to talk about privilege here, just like the African immigrants I know working at Walmart and not at the fancy universities I worked hard to attend on merit.

It is not stereotyping to point this out. It should not be offensive. We talk in broad strokes all the time. That’s part of the problem, and why I was precise in how I qualified those three categories. I was not precise enough. Individuals from any group populate Metafilter, but that doesn’t mean much if we’re going to take intersectionality seriously.

My point is that our ability to use privilege talk is a kind of privilege itself, and it circumscribes who enters our community. It's not just keeping out conservatives and contrarians. It is a bar to entry for all the people all around us who are “differently marginalized” and who don’t talk about their lives using this language. Who's to say any of these people would want to adopt our conventions to talk about their experiences? The good reason to do it is to not offend others, but I think we can achieve that goal without a politics of identity.

Now I have repeated myself and I think I have explained myself fully. So I will bow out of this thread. Please feel free to contact me by memail.
posted by vincele at 3:17 PM on March 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


In vincele's defense, I don't think it's uncommon for many, many people here to make assumptions that the membership of MetaFilter completely excludes any demographics other than youngish, moderately affluent, educated, progressive, tech-oriented, etc. I see this a lot where it runs afoul of describing who I am, as I'm sure is true for everyone else who doesn't fit these assumptions. I notice it most with money/income stuff, having an income below the poverty line and watching many people here talk about people at this income as if they were not present. Hell, I notice it with a small-but-noticeable group of folk who think that everyone on MeFi is between 25-35 and those of us around 50-ish don't exist. But there's a number of people I can name who are over 60, and some in their seventies.

So he's wrong about blithely assuming that the people he mentions aren't here; but he's got a point insofar as it's nevertheless true that MeFi is self-selecting in many respects and one of those things includes having the inclination and time to acquire the vocabulary to discuss the things he mentions. You can see this in how it's true in a much wider sense — MetaFilter basically demands no emoticons and chatspeak and such, as well as complete sentences. There is a culture here and by its nature it excludes. I don't really agree with the larger point he's trying to make about that, but I think it's worth defending his assertion that there's some barriers to entry here.

Also, I want to mention that I strongly disagree with his complaint against anecdote and personalizing the discussion. For many years now, both by temperament and by cultivation, in serious discussion I always balance the personal and the abstract. If a conversation is highly abstract, I contribute anecdote and things that concretize; if a conversation is highly anecdotal and personal, I contribute abstraction and some rational detachment. I very strongly believe that either habit of thought, especially about important matters, that exists without a connection to the other is dangerous and prone to error. People tend to divide into two camps and have little to do with the other, often tuning out discourse of the other mode, and often contemptuously. This, I think, is foolish. Vincele's assertion about this is foolish.

Finally, I don't know who save alive nothing that breatheth used to be before this incarnation and I don't think I care; but what seems obvious to me is that he has a history of troublemaking and intends to continue it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:30 PM on March 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


We step in if we feel people are being attacked which means something fairly specific to us and not just "People are telling me repeatedly and strongly that they disagree with me"

I think it would be worthwhile to examine what precisely that means, and maybe expand that sense to vitriolic personal commentary as well as commentary using excessive profanity. It is never necessary, but seems to slide a lot more - along with a lot of grudge-holding between users and digging up people's posting history in other threads. That may be fine for Metatalk, but while it supposedly is not desired on the blue, it seems to stand a lot more often, even when flagged. Yes, I notice some of it when against me, but also against other users, and I think it's a problem either way.
posted by corb at 9:25 AM on March 16, 2014


it seems to stand a lot more often, even when flagged.

I don't get where you're coming from, here - unless I have drastically misunderstood how things work around here, you, corb, personally have no idea what's been flagged except things you've flagged yourself.

And the mods have regularly and consistently said that "Flag" does not equal "automatic deletion." So just because you, personally, have flagged something does not mean it will be deleted, and you have no other information about whether or not the comment you flagged has gotten other flags, or how many, so you've got no real basis for any kind of analysis about what kind of comments stand in the face of flagging.

All you have is the very simple, "I flagged Comment X, and it wasn't deleted." That's a really limited data set.

IOW, you, not being a mod, have a very limited perspective and very little information on how flagging relates to deletion, so I don't think your above analysis holds up.

expand that sense to [. . .] commentary using excessive profanity.

I do not like this particular fucking pony request. Besides my own affinity for swearing, trying to get any kind of consensus here for where the "excessive" line sits is, I think, headed deep into cat-herding territory.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:33 AM on March 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think it's a problem either way.

Your personal line for where you think that line should be (based on your flags and conversations we've had about it with you and more generally in MetaTalk threads that you have participated in) is different from where we-as-mods think it should be.

If you'd like to discuss this in a more specific sense like "I think this should have been deleted but it wasn't. Can you explain why it wasn't deleted so I can learn how things work here and/or lobby for more things like this to be deleted?" we're happy to oblige but at this point we've had repeated conversations with you that indicate to us that you feel certain comments that shouldn't stand when we do not feel the same way.

At some point I feel that we're at an impasse. You flag things that we're not going to delete. Totally fine to do that, by the way, just may be unsatisfying for you perhaps. You bring that stuff up in MeTa. We explain why we didn't delete stuff. You argue that you think more things should be deleted (usually along lines that have to do with things that affect you personally) and we explain why we don't delete those things. It feels a bit merry-go-roundish, so if you have something new to add to this, please feel free but I feel like you're basically saying "I want MetaFilter to be different than it is" and we're saying "Well, it isn't. If you have concrete suggestions, let's talk about them but it would be nice if it's not the same well-trod areas we've been over before."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:43 AM on March 16, 2014


jessamyn, I don't think that mods are going to change their actions based solely on my complaints. I really wish that my comments in Metatalk would stop being viewed as things I am saying directly to the mods and only to the mods. If I want to talk to the mods and only to the mods, I will use the contact form.

I talk in Metatalk because I am talking to the community. It's my understanding that mods take their cues from the community, not the other way around. I think that as a community, we should eliminate certain things, and I am talking to my fellow community members to see what they think about that.
posted by corb at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2014


Your previous comment read to me as an explicit response to a particular comment that was made by a mod.
posted by rtha at 12:21 PM on March 16, 2014


"I talk in Metatalk because I am talking to the community."

That seems totally appropriate to me. But I think there's considerable overlap between things-you-talk-with-the-mods-about-what-the-mods-do and things-we-talk-about-concerning-what-the-mods-do and it's important that you make an effort to avoid bringing your private discussion/disagreement with the mods into the public sphere even when, or especially when, those are the same things.

That is to say, if you have a conflict (even if polite) with the mods and you have a strong vested interest in this, then your participation in a public conversation about these issues, either generally or with regard to someone else, will be heavily freighted with your private issues and history.

It's like if a couple recently dealt with an infidelity and then at a party, they were involved in a large discussion about infidelity. Their part of the public discussion is likely going to be a rehash or proxy of the private discussion, it will distort the public discussion, the other participants will not be privy to the subtext, and in general it will be problematic. But ... talking about infidelity is the conversation, right? The people that just had to deal with this are the ones who shouldn't be involved in the discussion? That doesn't make sense.

Except, maybe, it does.

At the very least, we should consider that while a) that couple may have an especially considered and full insight into the issues involved because of their motivation and recent experience, it's the case that b) managing to contribute that insight is going to be difficult and fraught and should be handled very carefully and with considerable discretion. Care and discretion that the other people involved won't really need to apply.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2014


Excessive profanity?

The mods have already clamped down on that — hence no, "Fuck you, cilantro lover." But really, weren't you in the military? Did they teach you it really stood for Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition and Situation Normal All Fouled Up?
posted by klangklangston at 12:43 AM on March 17, 2014


And pig fucking is an honored tradition of my people.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean, the military also taught me to kill people, but I still accept that's not polite behavior for dinner parties.
posted by corb at 7:30 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


That depends on the dinner party.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:50 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait, is this another Hannibal thread?
posted by zombieflanders at 8:24 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I guess the military also taught you to try and force your preferences on a larger community?


This part of the community strongly disagrees with you. So...flag me, I guess.
posted by umberto at 9:53 AM on March 17, 2014


While I doubt they taught you to be able to distinguish between MeFi and a dinner party, they hopefully taught you to distinguish between the effects of killing and swearing.
posted by klangklangston at 3:08 PM on March 18, 2014


...they hopefully taught you to distinguish between the effects of killing and swearing.” — klangklangston

Ever since I killed my first dragon and absorbed its essence, it's been difficult to tell the difference between the two. Maybe she has the same problem?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:24 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


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