"The left" as a monolithic entity June 12, 2014 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Recently, i've noticed a trend in several FPPs. Both the Dan Savage speech and Trader Joes threads were hit with repeated attempts to derail them into some meta-referendum on how this related to "the left" or "liberalism" as a movement. Note; i am not calling out any one person here, this is not a one person problem.

I can't help but notice the similarities between this and Etrigans excellent description of debates vs arguments vs fights. There's a discussing going on about sexism, or gender issues, or whatever. I have seen this come up in more than just that region of discussions. Then someone drops the nuclear warhead of "Well if this one person is making us focus on this issue, the entire left is OBSESSED with this issue" or something else equating the person, or group of people under discussion or even certain/all mefites besides themselves as being Official Representatives of the entire Left.

This is terrible threadshitting, and it borders on the way you see serious right wingers on newspaper website comment sections or free republic or something talk. Although, i'll admit that my ears are a bit attuned to hearing "the left" referred to as a monolithic entity as borderline radio talkshow material.

It's also worth noting that this is a fairly recent development, one that i had never seen pop up more than once or twice until very recently. And now it's, within the past couple weeks, nearly overthrown more than a couple threads into complete chaos and infighting shifting the discussion away from whatever the original topic was into "The Fight", as per etrigans chart, in which it's a battle royal over What the Left Represents.

This isn't cool, can we as a community try and not do this?
posted by emptythought to Etiquette/Policy at 2:13 PM (249 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

It's not entirely a new pattern, although I think we have some relatively new champions of it. I'm with you - I'm not a fan. However, it's really, really hard to delete this stuff if people immediately respond to it. Not to call you out specifically, but I actually deleted one of this type of comment and then undeleted it because you'd posted a long, detailed, and thoughtful reply, which I always hate to kill on procedural grounds.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


Perhaps when we see bizarre comments like "a sizable portion of the gay community thinks [murdering transgendered people] is A-OK", it's difficult not to see these threads as a part of a larger pattern of poisonous infighting within the queer community, so questions about what it means to be part of these and related communities (like the "left", as such) come up simply as part of the discussion. You might not like that kind of discussion, and neither do I, but those kinds of comments get left in threads, so that's the level of conversation people seem to want to tolerate.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


How would you like these discussions to look, emptythought?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:25 PM on June 12, 2014


Those weren't useful. Neither is "hit".
posted by vapidave at 2:27 PM on June 12, 2014


I don't have anything particularly insightful to say except that as a lurker in many of those contentious threads I have recently noticed an uptick in 'this is why the left is broken/weak/etc' kind of comments. I'd say they contribute nothing to the thread except that they do: they either result in a derail or leave a general air of dissatisfaction that colours the rest of the discussion. What I can't figure out is if these are the opinions of disillusioned liberal or trolly conservatives.
posted by Partario at 2:34 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you're referring to comments like "Look at you guys - the Left is so obsessed with X thing that we're losing sight of what's important" (which means X is not important, by implication)--historically, it's been a diversionary tactic in activism used to dismiss the concerns of those with less power. Because of that it's especially problematic in threads because it adds a dynamic of distrust - some people read that comment as just trying to shut them up rather than making a point in good faith, which makes them angry and upset, and more willing to argue in bad faith (if you can do it so can I!). Then the original commenter (who likely was arguing in good faith, but about something beside the point or irrelevant) feels misunderstood and angry as well.
posted by sallybrown at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2014 [17 favorites]


I know Metafilter is primarily text-based, but surely no one would mind if we started auto-replacing every instance of the term "identity politics" with a YouTube embed of Keyboard Cat.
posted by brookedel at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


I assume you're equally bothered when people post things about "the right" and "all the conservatives," as if they're a monolithic group, too?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:38 PM on June 12, 2014 [38 favorites]


How would you like these discussions to look, emptythought?

I think i outlined that fairly well in this post, in a sort of bas relief map. There is basically no thread in which an all encompassing discussion of what the left is or isn't doesn't become a derail and refocusing. And honestly, it would have to be a REALLY special FPP that was opening the door to that kind of discussion for me to not just see it as someone wanting to set up a tabletop playground for the gotcha-ridden fight they wanted to have.

What i'd like to see is people actually discuss the specific topic the FPP was about without conflating statements made within those bounds with greater statements about a community or the beliefs of a person. You can still talk about externalities and the specifics of the situation the FPP is discussing(or the person who wrote it!) without turning it into some open world game.

On preview, kalessin said what i was trying to say better than i did i think.

I assume you're equally bothered when people post things about "the right" and "all the conservatives," as if they're a monolithic group, too?

This is fraught. I almost want to go "nice try".

I think there's a big difference between saying something like "in contrast all conservatives bla bla bla" which is garbage for the same reason, and saying "republican opposition of abortion rights" or something that's a specific, publicly promoted goal.

I would have no problem with someone saying "liberal support of gay marriage" lumping all liberals together.

I'm not cherry picking issues i disagree and agree with here, just trying to give examples of common use cases for those sorts of phrases.

There is a difference, there's nuance. What i'm describing is a specific type of "i'm going to pretend this entire group is one unified front to prop up my argument". At a glance they can see the same, but when you look the difference is that it's saying "this group of people generally believes this" vs "this group is wasting time on this thing and i think they should be doing X instead" it's generalizing PLUS concern trolling or straw manning, not just generalizing that's the issue here.
posted by emptythought at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


It seems MeFi is needing to develop a rule that you can have either disagreement or divergent conversation in a thread, but not both.
posted by michaelh at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2014


Oh boy, does discussions of who or what is "the face of the left" give me flashbacks to the Bush years blogosphere. There was a blogger who was finally nominated to be "The Left," but I can't remember his name now.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the examples I have seen in the very recent past, these phrases seem to be another form of shout-down: it's a "you lefties" and "you feminists", and I don't think that's okay.

We seem to be pretty capable of talking about problems (or strengths, on those rare occasions) of both sides in the sense of X's foreign policy problem or Y's internal divide, but I feel like this particular framing is specifically about point-scoring against the actual posters in the thread rather than political commentary.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:57 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm tired of "left" and "right" political talk. I'd rather we discussed who's fronting and who's got your back politics. Or how about forward and backward politics? (This is, by the way, an admittedly not very good joke.)
posted by Catblack at 2:57 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Isn't it also just ... presumptuous to assume that you can know someone's views on Topic B because you know their views on Topic A?

I mean do all feminists actually align themselves with "the Left"? Surely there are feminist conservatives, or libertarians out there? I mean, I would hope no feminist would support the modern Republican party, but I'm sure some of them believe in lower taxes, etc.
posted by Asparagus at 3:01 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Imagine a galactic senate of 16 parties that meet in a tesseract, and every corner has a nickname.
posted by michaelh at 3:02 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've made these kind of comments (not in those threads but others) because I sincerely believe them. Thanks to people pointing out that my comments about it aren't helpful either, I no longer make them. Unfortunately what you're probably seeing is a wave of new Mes showing up learning the same lesson.

I still think the left needs to stop fighting with each other and concentrate on shared enemies, but I now think the best way to do that is to accept everyone's platform is what it is and stay positive rather than tell people they shouldn't care about something.

The end.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:03 PM on June 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


As I've said repeatedly now, my problem with "the downfall of the left" argument is that it's almost entirely a myth. I'd be willing to bet 95%+ of Americans have not the slightest clue about Tumblr activism or whatever. If anybody who claims it (let alone those for whom it is a bete noire) actually provided anything showing that said behavior has actually impeded progress by turning off the population at large, I'd be shocked. As it is, I just wonder if they exclusively follow wingnut media and have somehow simultaneously bought into the style of the argument but not the substance.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2014 [21 favorites]


I think it would be a very bad expectation to set that we should only talk about political hot-button topics in specific, without the discussion including the wider ideological context, but it would be nice if that discussion of the wider context were something other than the same few breezy cliches being endlessly volleyed back and forth.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 3:11 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


People in general are weird about grouping others. The human brain does stuff like this all the time; we see a kid going past who's doing something that looks stupid to us and we say, "Kids these days!" instead of that kid, on this day. By the same token, Tumblr's worst excesses might lead someone to say whatever about the left these days, because again it's something people do. It's not great but I don't really see a way to make it stop happening. This isn't recent and it isn't something people only say about the left. I would really sincerely love it if that could be a guiding principle here and we could all muse on the strangeness of the human animal and leave it at that, because I am basically down to my last nerve with the bizarre constant shit-fights that are happening on the site right now and I would also love it if this thread could refrain from turning into yet another outlet for people to yell at each other and continue extant arguments from other threads in spirit, if not in letter. That is all. Thank you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:17 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I feel like a lot of non-stakeholders wind up rubber-necking at discussions that don't mean much to them but are quite important to others. The rubber-neckers weigh in with their outsider's perspective on the perceived importance of microaggressions or homelessness or second amendment rights or professional soccer and the FUTURE OF THE MOVEMENT and then folks who have made microaggressions or homelessness or second amendment rights or professional soccer their life's work feel like their passion has been summarily dismissed as inconsequential. Maybe it would be useful to post a big friendly warning in these threads:
"THOSE WHO BELIEVE THERE TO BE BIGGER PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD SHOULD RECONSIDER POSTING AND GO ATTEND TO THOSE PROBLEMS."
I mean, unless there's a desire for the non-stakeholders to acknowledge that microaggressions or homelessness or second amendment rights or professional soccer are important things. If that's the idea then I guess we should put in a pony ticket for a feature that generates one MeTa post for every MeFi FPP.
posted by The White Hat at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2014 [20 favorites]


Octobersurprise: it was norbizness.
posted by burden at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2014


As I've said repeatedly now, my problem with "the downfall of the left" argument is that it's almost entirely a myth.

This also bothers me, as the phrasing of these shoutdowns seem awfully close to what I see from the two people I went to high school with who I keep on my Facebook feed just so I know what certain media outlets are using as this week's slogan/magical thinking.

The "left" (whatever that is) is well capable of all kinds of infighting about priorities but still not voting Republican in the next elections, which seems to be the foregone conclusion inherent in this "downfall of the left" thing.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think there's a big difference between saying something like "in contrast all conservatives bla bla bla" which is garbage for the same reason, and saying "republican opposition of abortion rights" or something that's a specific, publicly promoted goal.

But statements like that - on either side of the spectrum - assume that individual members of a political party agree with every official position of that party, and we know that to be false. Additionally, it's one thing to say "the Republican Party's official position on..." and "all Republicans..." - and we see far more of the second than we do of the first here (again, on both sides of the political spectrum).

I would have no problem with someone saying "liberal support of gay marriage" lumping all liberals together.

You should. There are liberals who do not support gay marriage. Assuming that they do as a result of their general political alignment, or because of their stated views on any other matter, is a logical fallacy.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:24 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


With respect to the two threads you cite, I think to some degree it comes down to a tendency for some people (myself included sometimes) to get in arguments from the position of "this is not a big deal", which is pretty close to "I don't really care about this that much" a lot of the time. And if you're doing that in a thread where people do actually care deeply about the subject, then maybe it's best to move on and leave it to people who do, if you truly don't care or don't think it's a big deal. People who you consider to have similar political leanings on some topics or overarching principles, "fellow lefties" or whatever, don't have to share every opinion or be in lockstep on every issue, and they don't have to share your own prioritization of issues when there are some that they deal with more intimately than you. There's no reason to ask them to just drop it and focus on something else. Just because there's enough room for everyone in the big tent doesn't mean you have to pop into all the smaller ones and fart.
posted by Hoopo at 3:25 PM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


I assume you're equally bothered when people post things about "the right" and "all the conservatives," as if they're a monolithic group, too?

There's an entire book that collects and analyzes data about how the polarization of the country is both extreme and asymmetric, with the right being far more responsible than the left.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:26 PM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


Perhaps when we see bizarre comments like "a sizable portion of the gay community thinks [murdering transgendered people] is A-OK", it's difficult not to see these threads as a part of a larger pattern of poisonous infighting within the queer community, so questions about what it means to be part of these and related communities (like the "left", as such) come up simply as part of the discussion. You might not like that kind of discussion, and neither do I, but those kinds of comments get left in threads, so that's the level of conversation people seem to want to tolerate.

You know. It should be possible to talk about how some gay men are misogynist and can be a bit nasty when it comes to trans people. Similarly, you have TERFs actively opposing laws and programs that deal with violence against trans people. It should also be possible to talk about issues of race, class, religion, and gender discrimination within LGBT communities.

None of which is incompatible with fighting for legislation, running support programs, getting people published, or pushing through judicial reform.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:39 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


it was norbizness

Yes! My, it's good to see that The Left hasn't been completely forgotten.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:42 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps when we see bizarre comments like "a sizable portion of the gay community thinks [murdering transgendered people] is A-OK", it's difficult not to see these threads as a part of a larger pattern of poisonous infighting within the queer community, so questions about what it means to be part of these and related communities (like the "left", as such) come up simply as part of the discussion. You might not like that kind of discussion, and neither do I, but those kinds of comments get left in threads, so that's the level of conversation people seem to want to tolerate.

That was me - bad wording on my part.

I was writing this on the train while a bit distracted, and what I said wasn't exactly what I meant - I was trying to say that a sizable portion of the community is indifferent to trans issues and dismisses attempts to seek justice for trans folks who are murdered. Others called me out on it, and I did clarify downthread.
posted by zug at 3:45 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Potomac Avenue said: "I still think the left needs to stop fighting with each other and concentrate on shared enemies"

My problem with that is the most powerful groups in the movement will tell the smaller or more marginalized groups that they need to put their problems on hold and wait. And the less powerful groups, quite rightly, get tired of waiting for some perfect day when finally their issues can be addressed.

Women didn't get the vote by waiting for the men of the left to finally decide their disenfranchisement was a legit enemy to concentrate on.

but I now think the best way to do that is to accept everyone's platform is what it is and stay positive rather than tell people they shouldn't care about something.

Sounds good.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:51 PM on June 12, 2014 [16 favorites]


It's also worth noting that this is a fairly recent development, one that i had never seen pop up more than once or twice until very recently.

I don't know. "Nader" used to be the local Godwin, and the argument that gay rights progress harms liberal politics isn't a stranger here either.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:51 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I assume you're equally bothered when people post things about "the right" and "all the conservatives," as if they're a monolithic group, too?

Well, aside from the fact that nobody is required to be fair and balanced in what personally bothers them, this issue is not that. It would be more like if people were saying that the people at Clive Bundy's ranch are of course a sign that Republicans are too busy fighting over stupid shit to get anything Real done.

Complaining that college students protesting something is a sign that The Left is collapsing is just incredibly weird to me.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on June 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


Being a leftist, yeah, this trend can be annoying, but MeFi has been pretty cool with doing this exact same thing to the right since the start of the first Bush administration, so it's hard to get too het up about it.
posted by Bugbread at 3:57 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


And now the Dan Savage thread features people complaining that trans activists shouldn't challenge him because he did some good for gay rights progress.

I really super admire people fighting for trans civil rights. They're facing huge social push back from all sides, as far as I can tell. If Dan Savage's giant ego gets a tiny ding in the process, I ain't crying.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:58 PM on June 12, 2014 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: If Dan Savage's giant ego gets a tiny ding in the process, I ain't crying.
posted by michaelh at 4:01 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Whether or not the comments belong in any given thread or not, generally, those comments are not referring to the left as a monolithic entity, but rather are bemoaning that it not more monolithic. It seems to the commenters that it is a pile of intrabattling interest groups, to their collective practical detriment.

Not saying this is an accurate assessment or not, just that that is the argument I usually see.
posted by ignignokt at 4:04 PM on June 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


I still think the left needs to stop fighting with each other and concentrate on shared enemies, but I now think the best way to do that is to accept everyone's platform is what it is and stay positive rather than tell people they shouldn't care about something.

People's agendas are going to conflict. I think Martin Luther King said it best. The conflicts are there whether we acknowledge them or not. Refusing to acknowledge them is only an illusion of peace and solidarity.

Politics is all about diversification and multitasking. I don't see it as unreasonable to negotiate with allies on one issue and campaign against the right on a different issue.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:11 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyone who brings up the whole "The Left" thing on Metafilter strikes me as someone who has an extremely low level of political sophistication. It just seems like an unusually unobservant and, frankly, pretty unintelligent way to understand people and their contexts.
posted by threeants at 4:22 PM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm tired of "left" and "right" political talk. I'd rather we discussed who's fronting and who's got your back politics. Or how about forward and backward politics?

And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've made this argument before, and while I do think there is a certain amount of political bandwidth available to the general consciousness and something like a minimum income would have much larger effect on more disadvantaged people than barring the use of the t-word, I've come to realize that MetaFilter != broader culture.

This is the place I make, and I need to advocate more strongly for these things, not get pissed at people advocating for their thing.

For instance, I found myself thinking there was an overabundance of FPPs about trans issues on MeFi..... but that's because we have active users who put those trans posts up. Power to them. If I was less lazy I'd put up more posts about cameras or income disparity or whatever else interests me. Now, I don't get mad about other people working on their goals, because most of the time it's just my disappointment about not working on mine.

However, there are still some people who fit every possible stereotype of SJW around here, and nobody should be scared to disagree with them. Be aware of what you're saying, but don't be silent on something you honestly feel.
posted by lattiboy at 4:36 PM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


Lyn Never: "The "left" (whatever that is) is well capable of all kinds of infighting about priorities but still not voting Republican in the next elections, which seems to be the foregone conclusion inherent in this "downfall of the left" thing."

I don't think the idea is that the left does so much infighting that it accidentally votes Republican (though there was the whole Nader thing), but that the left does so much infighting it doesn't capture the undecided vote / sway the moderates.
posted by Bugbread at 4:44 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hard to argue that the "left" is experiencing a downfall so long as there's a "right..."

I haven't checked, but I suspect it's the same few users who drop the old end-of-the-left bomb, and usually in the kinds of threads where people are doing the difficult job of figuring out how to live together in harmony. Of course the right takes its lumps on Metafilter, but the right -- in general -- spares so little thought to inclusivity they never get caught out in situations like this. I consider this a feature of the left, not a bug.
posted by klanawa at 4:48 PM on June 12, 2014


I submit that many of the problems in these threads occur when users are making arguments at wildly different scales, and that the "what about the left?!" people are addressing these issues from at a broader scale than is necessarily useful or informative. We don't need to establish that they are wrong to establish that what they're saying is not useful or salient.

For example, in the TJs/RS thread, some people wanted to talk about the fine-scale individual interaction that she explicitly described. Other people wanted to talk about the broader-scale microaggression issues implicit in her experience. A few people wanted to talk about the more national-scale progressivism issues and characterize the conflict within that much broader framework. All of these groups ended up talking past each other all throughout that thread, causing escalating hostility that might have been avoided by simply identifying the fact that they're all talking about different things. The explicit argument was about the blog post, but the implicit argument was about the appropriate scale of analysis for this particular issue.

There are a few specific ways I see this implicit scale mismatch cause problems in threads. If you scale down too far, you lose the forest for the trees and your predictive power is poor, and if you scale up too far, you average out all of the important details and your conclusions are overly broad and useless. In this case, I'd argue that people who want to talk about the national politics implications of a lady getting mad at Trader Joe's and writing a blog about it may as well be complaining about the climate change implications of a single hot afternoon - they're trying to extrapolate national implications from a tiny blip on the radar. Similarly, people interpreting the conflict at a super-fine scale got really hung up on the precise manner in which she tried to deal with her complaint; to extend the analogy, this is like arguing that climate change isn't real because you left your heat on last night and that's why it seems hotter. In both cases, it distracts from people trying to have the mid-scale discussion about the background radiation of misogyny.

When people scale way up from the central conversation, whether maliciously or innocently, it often results in privileged people (whose interests are almost always dominant at broader scales by definition) being able to dominate the conversation again. Sometimes this is just because it's how the person thinks, like people who work in national policy all day or whatever, but other times it's a deliberate derailing strategy. I think that's what's happening in the Dan Savage thread, likely not maliciously: people are scaling up to talk about what this means in the broader gay rights struggle because they're more comfortable at that scale, but it's completely crowding out the much more salient issues regarding the trans community. They're zooming way too far out, which has the unintended (?) effect of silencing those with less privilege.

Finally, scale mismatches cause a ton of automatic disagreements because people assume everyone else is talking about the issue at the same scale as they are, so they just talk past each other all day long with increasingly hostile misinterpretations. This was super evident in the TJs/RS thread - people who wanted to focus on details thought that the microaggression people were giving excuses for any missteps in her strategy, when they were really just talking about it at a much broader scale at which those details are noise, not signal. In doing so, mis-scalers often implicitly scale up the original complaint; this is also what people were doing when they said stuff like "so who gets to run the government agency that decides what songs can be played at Trader Joe's, huh?" - they are referring to these issues at a too-broad scale, so they assume she meant her complaint to apply at the scale at which they're addressing the issue, even though she clearly didn't. Likewise, people who wanted to talk about microaggressions assumed that people critiquing her particular strategy were also criticizing doing ANYTHING about microaggressions, which was not necessarily warranted.

My point is that by addressing the structure of these disagreements, maybe we can nip some (though certainly not all) of the escalating hostility in the bud. Instead of saying someone is flat-out wrong about what they're saying and consequently engaging in the argument at their preferred scale ("this is not derailing the left and here's why"), it's more salient to point out that their comments are addressing the issue at a scale that is not necessarily relevant to the issue at hand ("that is not a useful scale/framing for this issue and here's why"). Some people definitely ARE flat out wrong, but more often than not it's just a scaling issue, and addressing it as such might help people see where they're misunderstanding each other.
posted by dialetheia at 4:48 PM on June 12, 2014 [20 favorites]


Anyone who brings up the whole "The Left" thing on Metafilter strikes me as someone who has an extremely low level of political sophistication.

I wouldn't go that far. It's useful shorthand in some contexts, like electoral politics.
posted by Hoopo at 4:51 PM on June 12, 2014


I feel a little nauseous every time I see words like "Tumblr activism", SJW, etc. I even used to use epithets like that on Metafilter when I felt like someone's viewpoint was out of control. Now I recognize it as a fault in myself, an unwillingness to actually listen and consider unfamiliar viewpoints. It's really that simple. (If the choice is between dismissing someone with a jerk-off motion and staying quiet, you should almost always stay quiet.)
posted by naju at 4:52 PM on June 12, 2014 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: If Dan Savage's giant ego gets a tiny ding in the process, I ain't crying.

AskMe: DTMFA
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:57 PM on June 12, 2014


There's an awful lot of baby in this bathwater.

There is basically no thread in which an all encompassing discussion of what the left is or isn't doesn't become a derail and refocusing.

I don't see why this is so, at least on the face of it. In threads about political topics people are going to want to tie the specific topic to their broader perception of the current political conjuncture, and there's no obvious reason why that shouldn't be okay. It's of course fine to disagree with such characterizations — they obviously seem to rankle a lot of people here, often comically so — but simply making this kind of observation seems to me pretty firmly non-derailed, on-topic, in-bounds, and even to be encouraged. It needs to be okay for MeFi comments to do political analysis, or even make political complaints, even if it bothers other commenters who disagree with the analysis/complaint.

What i'm describing is a specific type of "i'm going to pretend this entire group is one unified front to prop up my argument".

I agree that the issue of (or the reaction to) lumping is the heart of the problem here, but it cuts both ways: consider that the framing of this MeTa treats "liberal" and "left" as synonymous when in fact many of the comments it 's complaining about are really one or another flavor of left critique of liberalism.
posted by RogerB at 5:06 PM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think there are two very very distinct things people could mean when they say "The Left:"

1) The American leftist political establishment, which since the 1960s most people largely equate with the Democratic party. It's hard to argue that this "left" doesn't have distinguishing characteristics, and that the Left of Lyndon Johnson doesn't differ in important ways from the Left of Bill Clinton and the "Left" of Barack Obama.

2) Support for certain causes and types of social change which are generally associated with "leftism," such as gay rights, trans* rights, etc. In this case I think it's less of a valid classification and veers more towards a Straw Man "Oh those silly tumblr hippies" kind of deal. But still, an intelligent conversation about groups who hold these opinions is possible, in theory.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:26 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Of course there are political lefts in other countries too. Ooops.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:30 PM on June 12, 2014


it borders on the way you see serious right wingers on newspaper website comment sections or free republic or something talk. Although, i'll admit that my ears are a bit attuned to hearing "the left" referred to as a monolithic entity as borderline radio talkshow material.

Just to expand a little more on this, and not to pick on this comment in particular, because I mean this more generally: I think the talk radio might really be causing more of the problem here than people sometimes acknowledge. A recurrent problem that I notice in these discussions is the presumption that all critiques of liberalism are coming from the right — it's a subtle way that the right-wing media's wide exposure has distorted the way even people who disagree with it talk about politics. You see this with the rewriting of left/right into Democrat/Republican upthread, or with the backlash against talking about class in many contexts, or with the weird discomprehending responses to the phrase "identity politics" — it's a perfectly good descriptive phrase in pretty wide use across the political spectrum, but people here, including many who seem to subscribe to identitarian tenets, seem to be familiar with the phrase itself only via the right-wing media. So you get this weird dynamic where what ought to be easily recognizable as left-wing comments, if they criticize certain tenets of the modal American liberal/center-left position, get treated like they're coming from Fox News.

I think there's a kind of framing problem, perhaps unconscious, here: if you see the Koch/Murdoch noise machine (or just the US corporate media in general) as the primary context in which your political discourse happens, because it's what surrounds you in daily life, then naturally enough, comments coming from other frames of political discourse (e.g. the university, the alternative media, other countries, socialist parties, other forms of activism) aren't always as recognizable as they ought to be. Trying harder to perceive a wider ideological spectrum is part of trying harder to encourage one in our discussions, and it's not always MeFi's strong suit.
posted by RogerB at 5:50 PM on June 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


You folks all know we just cut mods, right?
posted by vrakatar at 6:04 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eh, this is the sort of thoughtful self-reflective discussion that occupies about zero percent of our resources. If people want to coolly engage in relatively dry collaborative exegeses of site discourse vis-a-vis the contemporary political dialectic in Metatalk, more power to you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:07 PM on June 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


coolly engage in relatively dry collaborative exegeses of site discourse vis-a-vis the contemporary political dialectic

as for me and mine, we just like saying smock.

smock smock smock!
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:20 PM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


people have been rhetorically handwaving at "the left" since before i was born, just as they do "the right" and "the whackos". this isn't an interesting topic. the interesting topic is...

considering its numbers, why isn't "the left" more effective in realizing its goals? is it internal fractures, or just that "the right" has more money?
posted by bruce at 6:22 PM on June 12, 2014


I don't say "this is why the left is dying" myself, but I have some emotional sympathy when I hear it.

What I think it means is that, on average, the worst "liberal" is better (meaning more supportive of a broad spectrum of correct ideas) than the best Fox News viewer. That our time is better spent when we are totally free to engage against the Teabaggers and not against people to their left.

It doesn't mean that we can never criticize someone to the left of the median: TERF's spring to mind, for example, or "spread your legs for the revolution." It's a suggestion, though that we only battle other people to the left of the median when their behavior is particularly egregious. That we give them a pass on say, The Rolling Stones, not because "Under My Thumb" is cool, but because we're better off uniting against the far worse things people experience every day and then sorting out the Stones later. Gripe louder about Rick Santorum than about Savage.

You can disagree. You can call it "concern trolling" for that matter. But I think that's what it's trying to express. It's not meant to invalidate anyone's experiences or suppress debate.
posted by tyllwin at 6:24 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


as for me and mine, we just like saying smock.

Splitter!
posted by octobersurprise at 6:39 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Somehow "punch up, not left" doesn't stop some folks from proclaiming the danger of even acknowledging … whatever issue, really, as long as it isn't a conflict of poor against rich.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:42 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


We've tried going left and we've tried going right since like the French Revolution and it hasn't worked. Time to try something new.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:47 PM on June 12, 2014


It's not meant to invalidate anyone's experiences or suppress debate.

Intended or not, that's the actual effect, though.

And I don't understand the idea that people shouldn't say anything when their friends and allies do something hurtful, just because non-allies are doing worse things. If my boyfriend teases me in a way I don't like, I don't ignore it just because a shitty coworker calls me worse names. That reasoning makes no sense unless you assume that people discuss social-justice issues merely in order to strategize electoral politics rather than, as is more often the case, to talk about their daily lives.
posted by jaguar at 6:56 PM on June 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


That's a really good point. I was absolutely thinking, not always electoral politics, but yeah, concerted action of some sort. To try and apply pressure to a college about its speakers, or to a store about its music selection.

It never really occurred to me that anyone would take it as trying to scold them about how they interacted with their own family, friends, or SO, or to shut them up from talking over their daily frustrations in a supportive environment, which I agree is totally out of line.
posted by tyllwin at 7:20 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Since everywhere outside the US, full-on socialism is the dead middle, most comments about the State of the American Left seem sort of . . . fanciful to me.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:37 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Imagine a galactic senate of 16 parties that meet in a tesseract, and every corner has a nickname.

I wonder whether, to most U.S. partisans and political pundits, a democracy with more than two political parties seems more or less like science fiction than that.
posted by XMLicious at 8:04 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was trying to say that a sizable portion of the community is indifferent to trans issues and dismisses attempts to seek justice for trans folks who are murdered.

I'm not going to hash this out much further, except to say that even using different phrasing, the above is pretty much the same homophobic, blanket statement as in its first incarnation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:11 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


My political philosophy is that politics is like a community housing project. You show up, you pick up some tools, and you Do the Job that Must be Done. It's often the case that I'm next to someone who's better than I am, so we talk a bit, and they help me Do the Job better.

Sometimes it's the case that the person next to me is throwing elbows into my space. In that case, we talk it out, figure out some space, and get back to Doing the Job.

Every now and then, I might be next to someone I just can't stand, so I swap out with someone and Do the Job on a different part of the site.

Part of coalition building is talking these things out. Because even if you're not throwing punches, you're likely throwing your elbow into someone unwittingly. In which case, you're getting in their way, and they are likely getting into yours. So you talk, disagree, and in the end, you figure out how to Do the Job.

Which is probably why I've done LGBT activism with Republicans and fundamentalists. We Do the Job. We show up to the classroom and answer questions. We show up to the rally point, put on our best parade face, and march. We line up at the city council meeting and testify. We make the donations, make the calls, write the letters, and press the buttons on the voting machine. Metafilter is, at most, is after-shift conversation, more often a side-show. Coalition building is about Doing the Job.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:14 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


If Metafilter stops doing this with "libertarians," by all means let's also stop doing it with "liberals" and "the left." Until then, it's a little hard to take this complaint seriously.
posted by John Cohen at 8:18 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle
posted by Greg Nog at 8:20 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I mean do all feminists actually align themselves with "the Left"? Surely there are feminist conservatives, or libertarians out there? I mean, I would hope no feminist would support the modern Republican party, but I'm sure some of them believe in lower taxes, etc.

Anyone who doesn't think there are plenty of feminists who are conservatives, Republicans, and libertarians* ... probably hasn't spent much time actually talking to a diverse range of feminists. But that's understandable — it's so much easier to assume that all feminists agree with oneself about everything.

* Example (video starts immediately) — a conversation about this by Megan McArdle and Kerry Howley, who both argue that libertarianism and feminism are a natural fit. McArdle: "I don't like power structures when they're patriarchal, and I also don't like them when they're the state."
posted by John Cohen at 8:28 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not going to hash this out much further, except to say that even using different phrasing, the above is pretty much the same homophobic, blanket statement as in its first incarnation.

is this the gay #notallmen equivalent? I was pretty clear that I was speaking about some people and not all, so I really don't see how it's a blanket statement. I'm speaking from my personal lived experience, which is extensive in this particular instance. I'm also a part of the community I'm criticizing, so I really do not think I'm overstepping my bounds here.
posted by zug at 8:52 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "I'm not going to hash this out much further, except to say that even using different phrasing, the above is pretty much the same homophobic, blanket statement as in its first incarnation."

Some of the most vocal slur supporters have been cis gay men. At least one other person and I mentioned this in the thread, along with ways to find examples. If you want more examples of cis gay men getting transphobic things published on large news outlets, I can provide you with more. Because that has basically been my RSS feed, whether I want it to be or not (I so do not), for the past three months. We really aren't just making this up.


More generally, I'd take a dozen "the left"s for every derisive instance of "Tumblr" or "SJW" or "identity politics," but of course I'd prefer none of these things.
posted by Corinth at 8:55 PM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I wanted to write something that used a Hitler comparison but wasn't specifically WWII related and I thought to myself "oh shit, Godwin's Law!" and erased the comment and closed the computer while I went off to think about that.

I really appreciate certain phrases popping up as reminders - mansplaining, feminism 101, Godwin's Law - for online debate tropes - that cut down those derails. Maybe we can come up with something like that? You're emptythinking!
posted by viggorlijah at 9:25 PM on June 12, 2014


a conversation about this by Megan McArdle and Kerry Howley, who both argue that libertarianism and feminism are a natural fit

This is like saying that solar power is a natural fit for your imaginary cloud castle. Yes, but no.
posted by bleep-blop at 9:43 PM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


is this the gay #notallmen equivalent?

No, not really, but this kind of language pretty much puts a big underscore underneath the core problem it creates.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 PM on June 12, 2014


Since everywhere outside the US, full-on socialism is the dead middle

hahahahaha i wish
posted by divabat at 11:49 PM on June 12, 2014


Since everywhere outside the US, full-on socialism is the dead middle

hahahahaha i wish


Whoa, my mistake. I thought when people in Java or Sweden referred to The Left, they didn't mean someone like, say, Garrison Keillor.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:35 AM on June 13, 2014


I don't know who Garrison Keillor is. I just know that in Malaysia it sees to be Right Wing vs Righter-Wing In Weird Coalition With Socialism And Pseudo-Progressiveness, and I think Singapore isn't that much different. Doesn't really take all that much to be "left".
posted by divabat at 12:44 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Garrison Keillor would be considered moderate-left here, no? He would be at Tiong Bahru drinking his latte.... Singapore is way more moderate than Malaysia with the weird fundamentalism surge. Our fundies get slapped down inbetween elections.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:32 AM on June 13, 2014


Although I will add that we would totally go way past right-wing into Handmaid's Tale territory if there was money in it.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:41 AM on June 13, 2014


I'd point people who think Mefi is a lefty monolith to the Uber thread.
posted by ersatz at 5:25 AM on June 13, 2014


The difference is that in terms of numbers, libertarians are a very small group with an even smaller number of maxims: government=bad.

The left is a huge diverse group, esp. after the Cold War. You can make more accurate generalizations about small group than a bigger one.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:03 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, since I'm someone who is an offender, let me say: this post seems to me to be wrong, and symptomatic of the problem of the MeFi orthodoxy/echo chamber.

In an effort to block use of one of the typical defense mechanisms (seemingly already on display above): no, I am not a conservative (though I am less aligned with liberals on a few issues).

Now, as for:

I can't help but notice the similarities between this and Etrigans excellent description of debates vs arguments vs fights. There's a discussing going on about sexism, or gender issues, or whatever. I have seen this come up in more than just that region of discussions. Then someone drops the nuclear warhead of "Well if this one person is making us focus on this issue, the entire left is OBSESSED with this issue" or something else equating the person, or group of people under discussion or even certain/all mefites besides themselves as being Official Representatives of the entire Left.

That seems radically confused to me. First, it is simply a straw man to claim that anyone here has ever said that "if this one person is making us focus on this issue, the entire left is OBSESSED with the issue." That's just nonsense. It's unfair, and it's representative of the way dissent is treated around here. No one has ever said such a thing here--not that I've ever seen, anyway. Something as outlandishly inaccurate as that, were it on the other side of the issues, would be absolutely shredded around here. But...differential standards and all that... I, for one, think that the left is obsessed with those things *because they talk about them all the time.* Not because one person talked about them once.

It is often helpful to speak in certain generalities. Prominent sectors of the American left *are* obsessed with these things, and MeFi is very lefty, and MeFi is obsessed with these things...for the purposes of making certain points, I see little reason to worry too much about fine distinctions here. But: I've never seen anyone here say nor suggest that certain/any/all mefites are "Official Representatives of the Left." No one needs to reason as your straw man does in the OP.

Anyway, who would think that any mefites are "official representatives of the left"? It really doesn't make any sense at all. To point out that MeFi is a left-left echo chamber with respect to certain social and political issues has nothing to do with identifying anyone as an kind of "official representative." It's just a handy and accurate shorthand for explaining what the local orthodoxy is like, and how dissent from it is treated.

Nor does it have to do with seeing the left as monolithic. To say, e.g., that MeFi has a lefty-left orthodoxy is in no way to suggest that the left is monolithic. It is, rather to say that MeFi has an orthodoxy on the relevant issues, and it's a lefty one. That is: it's on the left. Nothing in that in any way suggests that there aren't other aspects of the left. "Smith is a leftist" does not entail "Smith is the only leftist."

This is terrible threadshitting, and it borders on the way you see serious right wingers on newspaper website comment sections or free republic or something talk. Although, i'll admit that my ears are a bit attuned to hearing "the left" referred to as a monolithic entity as borderline radio talkshow material.

Honestly, this just strikes me as nonsense, and, again, as symptomatic of the problem of the MeFi political echo chamber. Every one of the copious MeFi threads on sex and race and gender and class and all the other obsessions of that sector of the left are echo chamber-y, and dissent is treated badly. People pile on, bad arguments are made, ad hominems are made, I often wonder whether differential standards are employed for deleting comments...dissenting here about those issues, even fairly modestly, is rather like walking into FreeRepublic and trying to argue that Obama might not be the Antichrist... And then dissenters are accused of being like extremist conservative wackos, and of "threadshitting" and a relatively minor feature of their comments is made the subject of another whole thread bashing them...

But, hey, at least "privilege" and "mansplaining" haven't been invoked yet...so...there's that...
(Sorry. But I really do think that this post is unfair, and that an equally shoddy set of accusations coming from the other political direction would not be tolerated here... So I'm a bit annoyed...)

Anyway: and so it bloody well goes...

Even though I often basically agree with the consensus here, I find the discussions are often embarrassing. Basically Tumblr for grownups, as I've said before. Often they are an explosion of lefty-left fads. If you dissent from these fads right now, you're a Fascist. Five years from now, we'll hear that no one ever really believed some of those things...something something straw leftists.

I could give examples, but here's the thing: it won't matter. This comment doesn't matter. Nothing is going to change here, and it's really kind of stupid for me to even write what I've already written. It's wasting my time and annoying most people who read it.

But, sorry, I've digressed. I was aiming at saying:
all the social/political threads have the same character, and personally I find them embarrassing and Tumblr-y, even when I don't disagree that much with the orthodoxy, or don't yet know what I believe about the issue. But--and here's the point, for real: one is not allowed to say things like "Jeez, MeFi sure is reliably silly about this issue" on those threads. Write something like that and you'll likely be warned to take it to MetaTalk.

So, anyway, eventually somebody starts a MetaTalk thread on roughly that. I (for one) saw the thread. I knew better, but I said my peace and left.

Now here's another Metatalk thread complaining about exactly the kind of thing I (for one) wrote in the last thread, and complaining in what seems to me to e a largely incoherent way. (I'm not, incidentally, saying that I'm being singled out--I'm just using myself as an example.)

So: don't say it on MeFi, say it on Metatalk. Say it on metatalk, and you'll not only be bashed there, but another thread will be started about what a nut and a right-winger you are....blah blah derailing blah blah...

Well, it is what it is.

MeFi, that is.

On the relevant topics, that is.

I don't know whether MeFi has changed, or whether I just didn't notice this before I joined or what. But the long and the short of it is: this is't the place for me.

That's ok. Not every place has to be a place for me.

There's a lefter-than-liberal orthodoxy on several issues, sometimes its sane but sometimes it's utterly damn daft, and dissent is not tolerated. I often disagree with the orthodoxy, and always disagree with treating reasonable dissenters badly, and am contrarian enough to insist on complaining about such things.

Bad combination.

But different sites have different characters. If I go to RedState and challenge the orthodoxy, I'm not sure I can complain if I think I'm treated badly. The point to get clear on is that MeFi does have an unofficial position on those issues, and if you don't keep that firmly in mind, you're going to have a bad time...

Incidentally, I've gotten several MeMails saying, basically "I totally agree with you, but I'm not going to say it in the thread, because I don't need that kid of grief." Make of that what you will.

Anyway, sorry. That's rambling, but I'm in a hurry. I'll take my abuse offline, so I won't see any responses to this. After trying for a long time, I've decided that discussions about this stuff here tend to be unproductive and angrifying. Perhaps its bad form to post a somewhat angry, accusatory comment and then go away, but I guess you could see it as the next stage of my MeFi de-tox. Soon I'll be able to not even post comments, then not even read--at least the threads in question here.... MeFi is actually annoying me enough that it's starting to nudge me a bit rightward (that's my fault, my own character flaw) and I can't let that happen.

But, hey, in a hundred years, perhaps people will look back on this and say "yeah, MeFi really was right about all that stuff, and FO'F really was a reactionary Neanderthal counter-revolutionary suppressive person...

Needless to say, I could be wrong about everything.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2014 [15 favorites]


I think most people are using "left" to distriguish from "liberal", not necessarily "right". I might use the term "radical", and it's probably more accurate from a political science position. But then I would sound like someone about to go on about microphones in pumpkins.

That difference is more meaningful in a left-leaning place like Metafilter, where the "near enemy" is around a lot more than the "far enemy". I've also seen people on Metafilter who might self-identify as "leftist" or "radical" being particularly sneering at American "liberals", and vice-versa. (See: any Obama thread, or any mention of Nader).

So, I think it's pretty easily to see how "left" becomes a shorthand, and that liberals/center-left/Democrats get lumped into one group as well. It's a problem when it derails.

I think the left- and Metafilter- does have a problem with being a circular firing squad, and I also think there's an over-obession with "purity", (which seems to now be happening in the American right too), but that should be it's own FPP, rather than shoehorned into a post about the Rolling Stones at Trader Joe's.
posted by spaltavian at 6:59 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


perhaps the truth is malcolm in the middle
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


FoF: Part of it is in response to comments like this:

If this becomes "the left" or becomes the public perception of "the left," then those broader issues get tossed out the window. If, as a result of these "unenlightened" attitudes on their part you then call them idiots or rubes or "-phobic," as you surely will, not only have you not created allies, you've created enemies. And you may think that's fine because you wouldn't want to be on their side anyway, but lemme tell you, the Purity Police are winning no elections, and certainly no legislative accomplishments, on their own. The support is not broad enough.

There's no consensus in that discussion. It's not an issue that's broken the mainstream news. And it's not a competition between LGBT rights and economic reform.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:50 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the left- and Metafilter- does have a problem with being a circular firing squad, and I also think there's an over-obession with "purity"

I like to think of it as the Society of Saints Conundrum.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:48 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, since I'm someone who is an offender, let me say: this post seems to me to be wrong, and symptomatic of the problem of the MeFi orthodoxy/echo chamber.


There are way too many attempts to police this place of late. Participation has been down for some time now. This is one of the reasons why. The endless MeTa callouts on this stuff are tiresome. If Mathowie decides this is a place exclusively of the Left, I get it. But a lot of people talk here as if they own the place.

This is a community in trouble. The donations show it, the lower comments per FPP show it, the need to let the best folks go show it. The idea that we're not supposed to say particular things because some other folks disagree with it just strikes me the wrong way on every level. Its fine to say no offensive language. Its another thing entirely to have call outs on particular argumentation. That's trying to shut people down by means other than convincing them.

The life is being squeezed out of this place after 14 years.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Anyone who brings up the whole "The Left" thing on Metafilter strikes me as someone who has an extremely low level of political sophistication.

I often bring up the fact here on MetaFilter that the Left hates heterodoxy. One other thing I might add is that one reason why "Conservatives" hate the Left is because the Left tends to think everyone who does not agree with them as being unsophisticated or stupid. It's arrogant and highly annoying.

Am I a Libertarian? No. A Conservative? No. A Lefty? No. I just try to form my own opinions without worrying about what is politically correct or not.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


gentle reminder that "political correctness" has little to do with the Stalinist system of repression, slavery, and murder to which the phrase refers
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:07 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is a community in trouble. The donations show it, the lower comments per FPP show it, the need to let the best folks go show it.

You know, I find Imminent Death Of Metafilter predictions sort of annoying in general, not least for their consistency over the long, long internet life of this place, but it kind of takes the cake to frame it in terms of falling google revenue as if on November 17, 2012, the userbase suddenly collectively realized that something was wrong with the site and thus convinced the entire internet ad structure to express systemic displeasure with the site.

You want to talk about how you think Metafilter has discourse problems, do what you need to do, but don't drag Jessamyn leaving or people spontaneously supporting this community into it like some fucking SEE NOW THE ROT BENEATH THE FLOORBOARDS bullshit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 AM on June 13, 2014 [37 favorites]


(Wait, has participation been down? That's not the first time someone's posited that in one of these recent threads -- but it may have been ironmouth both times.)
posted by nobody at 9:15 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a community in trouble. The donations show it, the lower comments per FPP show it, the need to let the best folks go show it.

You know, I find Imminent Death Of Metafilter predictions sort of annoying in general, not least for their consistency over the long, long internet life of this place, but it kind of takes the cake to frame it in terms of falling google revenue as if on November 17, 2012, the userbase suddenly collectively realized that something was wrong with the site and thus convinced the entire internet ad structure to express systemic displeasure with the site.


I'm primarily referring to a MeTa some years back where someone asked if thread participation was down. Matt said it was indeed true. There used to be a lot more comments per FPP on the Blue. While AskMe was still going strong, the Blue has been getting slower and slower.

The only times I've ever brought this up were yesterday and today. Its palpable to me, someone who has used this site so much in the last decade. Fewer people are commenting on the Blue these days. My own impression is that there used to be much larger, longer and more diverse threads back then. I've used the site enough to be able to get a good feel for this stuff.

And I do think that the groupthink here has gotten worse, especially on MeTa. The idea that we are supposed to police specific arguments being made by people just rubs me the wrong way and seems way different than the community I joined 10 years ago (and followed for 2 years before that).
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


The donations show it

The donations that were in response to a change in Google's Black Box that created ad revenue primarily from searches by the general population, *not* by users?

, the lower comments per FPP show it

In this analysis, are you accounting for the rate of FPPs themselves? Across all subsites? And the edit window reducing the need to re-comment to correct an error?

the need to let the best folks go show it

in response to a change in Google's Black Box that created ad revenue primarily from searches by the general population, *not* by users?

You're just making things up.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:19 AM on June 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ironmouth, if Metafilter was more hostile to certain groups of people and certain ideas and more tolerant of slurs and bigotry, I'd be out of here in a heartbeat.


And its MetaTalk not MetalShutPeopleDown.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2014


This should be an easily answered question. I've been doing a search for the thread in question where someone asked if their perception that fewer comments are being made on the blue was correct. Matt said it was. I'm sure the super smart computer folks out there can show whether or not my perception from being here 10 years is right or wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:27 AM on June 13, 2014


The idea that we're not supposed to say particular things because some other folks disagree with it just strikes me the wrong way on every level. Its fine to say no offensive language. Its another thing entirely to have call outs on particular argumentation. That's trying to shut people down by means other than convincing them.

How is an increase in people saying "hey, I wish people wouldn't say that" leading you to conclude that there is a decrease in unfettered speech on the site?

A MetaTalk callout is not An Edict From The Whatever From High Atop The Thing. It's basically like a Letter To The Editor. In some cases, it is indeed a letter to the editor that makes a lot of sense (unless you're personally trying to argue that "feh, we should go back to using the N-word or the T-word just because", in which case I think you 'n' me have problems), and sometimes they're letters to the editor of the sort that most people just sort of roll their eyes over like when that weird old guy writes in something about hip-hop music and Kids Today and everyone just sort of goes "whatever, dude".

In other words, these call outs are how people say "no offensive language", which -- as you state - is a good thing for people to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


In other words, these call outs are how people say "no offensive language", which -- as you state - is a good thing for people to say.

This callout isn't about offensive language. Its about asking folks to stop advancing a thesis about one side of the political spectrum. And although I'm no conservative, it would only be fair to control how people speak about the right if we are going to do this.

Offensive is calling someone a bad name or getting personal, not asking them not to make a particular argument. That's groupthink.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:43 AM on June 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


The number of comments per FPP is not really a great measure of anything since it's impossible to say what that trend actually means. I'd be wary of concluding it necessarily indicates that people are being driven away from the site due to its skewing too liberal; there have also been a lot of people closing their accounts after experiences in which they felt the site was too hostile to liberal viewpoints. Everyone's takeaway will be different because everyone brings their own set of perspectives with them.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:45 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I tossed the Infodump data into Excel, and see 26 comments per post in 2004, rising gradually to a high of 55 in 2011, and dropping only slightly to 50 per post in 2014.
posted by mittens at 9:47 AM on June 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Its about asking folks to stop advancing a thesis about one side of the political spectrum

And that thesis is.... 'stop complaining about shit that affects women/gays/trans*/nonwhites because it hurts The Cause'.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:48 AM on June 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


So here is a quick chart from the infodumpster data of the mean number of comments per post grouped by month since the site's inception, along with a 12-month moving average. To me, it looks like there have been some steady climbs, followed by some leveling off periods. Since 2010, the average has bounced up and down, and maybe if you squint at it you can see a tiny downward trend starting in 2012, but to my eyes, it looks much more like another leveling off period beginning around 2010 with some noise.

IOW, I don't think this comes close to any kind of apocalyptic downward trend that Ironmouth suggests.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


This callout isn't about offensive language. Its about asking folks to stop advancing a thesis about one side of the political spectrum. And although I'm no conservative, it would only be fair to control how people speak about the right if we are going to do this.

Right, but my larger point - which is that a MeTa callout does not automatically Enshrine Something Into Site-wide Policy - still stands.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2014


So here is a quick chart from the infodumpster data

Who do you think you are, Ezra Klein? This is a text-based site, so please present your information in anecdotal form only, thankyouverymuch.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Moar like apocryphanecdotal, amirite?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:55 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


perception that fewer comments are being made on the blue was correct. Matt said it was

Not true. I can't find the original thread, but the last time we looked up MeFi "participation" numbers they looked steady for number of comments. New user signups were declining but we were seeing more comments/user overal. So if the number of people participating was in any sort of decline, it was overshadowed by more comments from existing members to keep the numbers steady or rising.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fists O'Fury: "the problem of the MeFi orthodoxy/echo chamber

typical defense mechanisms

differential standards

left is obsessed with those things *because they talk about them all the time.*

Tumblr for grownups

lefty-left fads

If you dissent from these fads right now, you're a Fascist.

Tumblr-y

you're going to have a bad time

MeFi is actually annoying me enough that it's starting to nudge me a bit rightward.
"


Where do I turn in my bingo card?
posted by Corinth at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


Statistics only reveal a certain part of the picture. Individual interaction varies from person to person, day to day, topic to topic, mood swing to mood swing. Sometimes I yell loudly at the screen but can't be arsed typing it out, other days I type every stupid thought that comes into my head. Some days I agree with stuff that on other days annoys the crap out of me.

Comment numbers don't have to mean that nobody's interested or conversely that something is important. People will be people in their own unique way and sometimes that's more meaningful than statistics.

Ultimately only you can decide if something is worth speaking up about. You can't control how other people will take it so it's best to put a bit of thought into it before doing so, is my opinion.
posted by h00py at 10:07 AM on June 13, 2014


gentle reminder that "political correctness" has little to do with the Stalinist system of repression, slavery, and murder to which the phrase refers

The "gentle reminder" tone that attempts to correct or educate (and essentially calling me stupid and uninformed because I hold a different opinion) is exactly what I mean about the arrogant and condescending attitude I was talking about (I know you didn't mean it that way).

FWIW, I have, back in the olden days of the early 90's, heard Left-wing types use the term "politically correct" with no sense of irony whatsoever. This was during my undergrad years at Canada's second-most left-wing uni (the first, SFU, had a factulty that was dominated at the time by actual Marxists) when I volunteered on the student newspaper. The student newspaper's editorial policy had to be "politically correct" according to meet a particular left-wing point of view.

The house parties I attended back then were hosted by left-wing types (then, as now, left wing types thought I was a right-winger; right wingers thought I was a lefty), and actual Stalinists attended. Those guys were creepy.

So no need to gently admonish or lecture, comrade!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 AM on June 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


Where do I turn in my bingo card?

Anyone can write bingo cards of phrases frequently used by people who disagree with them. We can write the "PC bingo" card pretty easily.

"more people need to go back to the * 101 thread"

"like playing the game on its easiest setting"

"invisible knapsack"

etc

Neither bingo card says anything meaningful about the merits of the underlying arguments.
posted by tyllwin at 10:23 AM on June 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


but its so clever though
posted by Hoopo at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I have, back in the olden days of the early 90's, heard Left-wing types use the term "politically correct" with no sense of irony whatsoever.

Sorry, then. I'm young. I've only ever heard it as a jab at liberals who want people to show a little courtesy to people who belong to oppressed groups. I've never seen it used unironically by any leftists I've met, online or off, and certainly not by any liberals.

Am I a Libertarian? No. A Conservative? No. A Lefty? No. I just try to form my own opinions without worrying about what is politically correct or not.

That's great, as far as it goes, but people are still allowed to look at other people's opinions and behaviors and name their political tendencies, even if none is an easy fit.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2014


I'm 37 and I don't remember lefties using "politically correct." Was this just a Canada thing?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


A MetaTalk callout is not An Edict From The Whatever From High Atop The Thing. It's basically like a Letter To The Editor. In some cases, it is indeed a letter to the editor that makes a lot of sense (unless you're personally trying to argue that "feh, we should go back to using the N-word or the T-word just because", in which case I think you 'n' me have problems), and sometimes they're letters to the editor of the sort that most people just sort of roll their eyes over like when that weird old guy writes in something about hip-hop music and Kids Today and everyone just sort of goes "whatever, dude".

I don't think that's true. I'm not sure how one could possibly quantify it, but pretty much every callout thread I've seen is usually followed by scores and often hundreds of comments. They are, quite often, some of the most overwrought, agonised, and antagonistic threads on the site, and personally I've seen a lot more longtime users flame out in a huff on the grey than on the blue. I think it's quite clear that these huge arguments on the grey do have a long term and profound influence on site culture as a whole, because it's usually the most vocal and heavy users of the site that read and comment on the grey, and when some kind of consensus is reached here --- even when it's just "well, I better keep my opinion on That to myself, I don't want to get yelled at again" ---- it has ripple effects on what gets counted as acceptable discourse elsewhere on the site.

Merely starting a callout thread is no guarantee that you will get site culture to change to your preference, so it's not an edict in that sense. It is pretty much a guarantee of starting a long, drawn out, exhausting fight.
posted by Diablevert at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


PC
so 90s
much edge
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, Limbuagh pretty much had that term trademarked by the mid-1990s.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


I saw a Hello My Name Is nametag with a graffiti tag sharpeed on it stuck to the wall in a bathroom the other day, and someone had written "wow such tag" on it in ballpoint pen and someone else added "very art"
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:51 AM on June 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's a really, really weird thing to say to begin with, because if there IS any one generality you can make about people whose politics tend to lean leftward is that they tend NOT to all hang together on every issue. It's one of the reasons American policy has been so conservative-friendly over the last few decades - politicians who oppose conservative policies tend not to march in lockstep with each other to defeat them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:59 AM on June 13, 2014


Well, I'm glad commenting is not down. I do remember a MeTa thread where that was asked and answered as a positive. Perhaps that was a short-term phenomenon.

But I am long-term concerned about how these callouts (above and beyond sexism and racism) are affecting the way people comment on the site and how they limit diversity. I want to see statements I disagree with in the comments and I want to respond to those comments directly, not rely on some "don't call left/right this that or the other thing" self-censorship.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out why I give a shit. Where did this all start? Generally speaking, when hanging out with friends (and ideally on MetaFilter we're all friends, right?) we avoid discussing topics like religion and politics.

And I think I know why I am grinding my axe. I invest a good deal of time on the site by creating what I think are good posts (for the past 7 years it's been my way of sending traffic to the ads, right?) but over the last little while I've noticed a pattern where people make drive-by comments about OWS or whatever, essentially politicizing threads that aren't particularly political. And then, once the thread goes political, anything that is not "politically correct" is somehow "wrong". Politicize a thread, and then create a Metatalk callout or whatever if people happen to have different points of view.

I try to avoid political threads these days, but it is hard, and I am beginning to think that perhaps I am too old for Metafilter (as opposed to AskMe) which is, much like Reddit, really intended for 20-somethings.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:03 AM on June 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm 37 and I don't remember lefties using "politically correct." Was this just a Canada thing?

I'm around the same age and Canadian and I remember "politically correct" being used as a pejorative when I was in university, in the context of things like my school deciding to use the spelling "Wymmins Centre" and banning Vice magazine, then a weekly on newsprint, over an advertisement it carried for Serial Killer clothing, which had the unintended consequence of giving Vice a shit-ton of free publicity and arguably helping to make it what it is today.

Anyways, my school was left-wing enough, but not like KokuRyu's so I don't know. My school sorta had a bad reputation.
posted by Hoopo at 11:23 AM on June 13, 2014


When will "bingo card" be on the bingo card? Is there a class of fallacious argument whereupon one says "The other side tends to argue point X often, so by that fact alone they are 'bad and wrong and X is bad and wrong.'" It's like those libertarian Redditors who named a subreddit "Who will build the roads" and thought that it constituted a scathing and effective riposte.
posted by Mapes at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


When will "bingo card" be on the bingo card?

That's the free box in the middle. We use Metabingo cards here.
posted by tyllwin at 11:32 AM on June 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think there is quite a difference between how Ironmouth might use "the left" in a political thread and the deraily type of "this is why the left is doomed" stuff in gender threads. Sometimes the line is a little blurry, but it's there. When you talk about politics you end up kind of having to generalize to some degree. You are talking about large groups of people who mostly don't even agree what "the left" even is.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:37 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


And then, once the thread goes political, anything that is not "politically correct" is somehow "wrong".

I think it would aid understanding if you clarified this point or pointed to an example to illustrate what you mean.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:47 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't think the biggest problem is referring to a diverse political movement as a monolithic entity. I think the problem is the use of silencing techniques, of which "doesn't The Left realize it has more important things worry about than X?" is only one of many examples.

It's a problem because the impact of saying "pick your battles; X is a battle you shouldn't pick because it harms the larger cause" is to send the message "X is unimportant" / "stop talking about X" / "you may care about X, but I couldn't care less." Most posters either stop themselves from blatantly saying those last few, or those comments get deleted, because they are such obvious threadshitting. A really effective silencing technique can fool people, even including the speaker and the hearer and the moderator if any, into thinking there was more to it than just shitting on someone else's contribution.

As to the idea of does the same apply to the left, right, libertarians, etc.? Yes, the same silencing techniques unfortunately get used against activists in many contexts, but the details depend on which larger cause or community people perceive themselves to be part of. For example, it's silencing whenever someone says "your speaking up like this harms the geek community, the atheist community, the Christian community," and on and on.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:18 PM on June 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


To my recollection, "politically correct" was used as a sneer in the late 80s; I never heard it used among my lefty activist cohort then in a serious/non-ironic way. This was in New England.
posted by rtha at 12:54 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I often bring up the fact here on MetaFilter that the Left hates heterodoxy.

Everyone hates heterodoxy. Except when they're heterodox. And then they hate other heterodoxies. Or orthodoxies.

But I am long-term concerned about how these callouts (above and beyond sexism and racism) are affecting the way people comment on the site and how they limit diversity.

I don't know. I've encountered very few blogs or internet forums that can accommodate a really deep and sophisticated level of discussion of any given topic, much less topics that people find somehow threatening or distressing. It's just the nature of the medium and the nature of the contributors, most of us who are contributing either out of boredom, passion, or at our leisure. I do think a lot of these callouts are a little pointless and I do think that instances of "X said or did an offensive or inappropriate thing" are likely to go predictably shouty when they're brought to the front page—for the simple reason that there's usually not much to say other than "Well, X did, didn't X?"—but some people appreciate the opportunity to say that. And aside from the moderation it requires, it's not that big a deal if they do. Ultimately, I guess, I'm skeptical that any of this has much influence on the wider world of the left (or the right) at all.

It's true, "engage in hyperbole" often seems to be metafilter's favorite thing to do with its clothes on, but I think a lot of the "OMG, these lefties/feminists/Tumblrites are ruining metafilter" is drinking from the same fountain.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:40 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


by more comments from existing members to keep the numbers steady or rising.

I've looked at those same stats and at least 30 percent were just gutteral noises from Astro Zombie 3.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


A certain degree of self-censorship is a good thing on the internet. Derailing discussions isn't a good habit, and it's my opinion that trying to shift a discussion of local campus politics and academic approaches to the t-word to "pocketbook issues" and electoral politics is a derail.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:38 PM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fists O'Fury: “Even though I often basically agree with the consensus here, I find the discussions are often embarrassing. Basically Tumblr for grownups, as I've said before.”

As far as I can tell, nearly every single comment you post on this website at least obliquely refers to how terrible it is and how everyone here is a hypocrite. Maybe you don't mean it that way, but it starts to grate a little bit. As a personal confession, I'll say that I often find myself feeling a bit of agitation at this. I know I shouldn't let that impact my reading of your comments, but it sometimes does.

Are you absolutely certain that the "consensus" that you find yourself bumping up against here isn't less a left-liberal consensus and more a consensus that constantly harping on how we're all echo-chamber idiots isn't very nice?
posted by koeselitz at 3:03 PM on June 13, 2014 [16 favorites]


> I'm 37 and I don't remember lefties using "politically correct."

I hate to get this thread in my Recent Activity, but I have to step in and say that I'm 62 and I remember it very well. The Sixties: you had to be there.
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


As far as I can tell, nearly every single comment you post on this website at least obliquely refers to how terrible it is

That's not true at all.
posted by Hoopo at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hate to get this thread in my Recent Activity,

"(remove from activity)" is a boon, I use it often.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2014


I'm not really sure what people complaining about an alleged "echo chamber" think the solution is supposed to be other than...like...force people to change their opinions in the name of intellectual diversity or something?

I'll be honest. In the Trader Joe's thread, which we're still ostensibly talking about, I did start to feel a certain agitated sense of "ugh, everyone's shouting me down because I'm not expressing the 'right' opinions!" I think I felt a slight sense, too, that after having shown solidarity against misogyny in many threads before, I was somehow owed more benefit of the doubt than I was being given. Well, reflecting back-- that's kind of bullshit and gross, and it's freaking narcissistic. In reality, not only was I not being "shouted down", but hardly anyone had specifically addressed me at all, either positively or negatively. Just because people aren't lauding you doesn't mean they're censoring you. I realize now that when folks in that thread were speaking against the "misogyny camp", I took some offense myself even though (I don't think) they were directed at me, because I subconsciously sort of knew, and felt guilty, that my comments were not contributing to an anti-misogynistic space. So consider: if you feel offended by a call-out that isn't necessarily directed at you, ask yourself why.

I mean, the core of the "echo chamber" complaint is really just that most people don't agree with you, right? Which, whoop-de-doo, sorry yo.
posted by threeants at 4:10 PM on June 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm 37 and I don't remember lefties using "politically correct." Was this just a Canada thing?

I'm Canadian and yeah my experience of "politically correct" is rather in line with KokuRyu's, though for me it went back to the mid-80s. I can even remember the first time it got hauled out. An exec-meeting for a campus radio station. I can't remember the specifics. I just remember somebody saying in all earnestness, "Well that wouldn't be politically correct." To which I, in all my mid-20s punk rock subtlety responded, "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

I'm still waiting for an effective answer.

If you're looking for more history, I seem to recall Naomi Klein discusses her experience of it in No Logo, from the inside. She was part of the group that made a hash of things when it was decided "... that an exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, Into the Heart of Africa, was flagrantly, insultingly, viciously racist." (an situation she came to regret).
posted by philip-random at 4:14 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not really sure what people complaining about an alleged "echo chamber" think the solution is supposed to be ...

I believe it amounts to letting the stealth bigots be outright bigots.
posted by bleep-blop at 4:26 PM on June 13, 2014


we are descending into self-parody here
posted by Hoopo at 4:41 PM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


ascending
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:59 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


And that thesis is.... 'stop complaining about shit that affects women/gays/trans*/nonwhites because it hurts The Cause'.

And this is kinda my point, and why i made this thread.

Why are some people so opposed to these discussions going on here unimpeded, and so determined that their thoughts about how these discussions are "ruining the movement" or whatever so important.

It's as if every time you create a new thread, a new room is added on to a huge apartment building. You can go back into the old rooms, but most of the time everyone has moved on and no one is hanging out in there anymore.

So you leave your room, where everyone is sitting around in arm chairs reading books and come in to the room where we're all playing mario kart, and start giving us shit for playing mario kart.

Why did you have to come into the room, in the first place, if you have a problem with that?

Obviously some people here think there's some kind of issue with these discussions that MUST be addressed, or just wants to gripe. But in the end it comes off as "i think this discussion and focus is stupid" and it's like... so why did you say anything in this room?

It feels especially egregious too, because a busy thread is like a packed party in that little room. A lot of people might just be sitting down listening to what someone has to say, many others may be having little related side conversations and turning around when they hear someone say something interesting to respond to it. This usually works pretty well.

These posts, on the other hand, are like someone running in to that room without their pants on and going "HEY EVERYBODY SHUT THE FUCK UP". I mean, whether or not that's what they actually said, the effect can be that disruptive. And it gets even worse when the same person does it more than once, or more often several people come in and do it.

In addition to being confusing, it almost smacks of sour grapes. Like, if they aren't going to invite you to the party or have it the way you think it should be had, then you're going to call the cops and get it busted or otherwise try and disrupt it.

That feeling, which i couldn't really articulate at the time(and i thought my very open ended initial post was a better starting point for a thread anyways), was reinforced by the responses this thread has gathered. I'm not really any less confused though, because i still don't get why some people think these disruptive "you're doing it wrong" messages are so important or insightful.
posted by emptythought at 5:13 PM on June 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


I mean, whether or not that's what they actually said, the effect can be that disruptive.

I think this characterization goes a little far. In the Savage thread, kgasmart put the point pretty simply: "this is why the left never has, and never can, amount to anything: Purity tests." And that was the tone and message of the subsequent comments that agreed, which felt quite a distance from shouting for everyone to shut up.

I think the distinction is important, the distance is important, because that statement about the left is answerable, is falsifiable, and more importantly, isn't really strong enough to do any silencing. If this were a room full of people, and we asked for a show of hands for who actually was going to shut up once that statement was made, who would raise a hand?

Did it raise the grumpiness level of the room? Certainly. Lord knows I suffered retinal detachment from my eyes rolling so hard. But it didn't--and couldn't--stop the discussion, and didn't even really derail it, since it posed the same question about policing orthodoxy on the left that Savage did, with much the same answer. And hearing it answered, by so many people, at so many different levels of thoughtfulness and emotion, was a positive thing, I think.
posted by mittens at 6:02 PM on June 13, 2014


I believe it amounts to letting the stealth bigots be outright bigots.

No I believe it amounts to thinking that comments like this are complete bullshit and that the attitude that leads to you thinking that this reductive bullshit is actually adding to the discourse is part of the problem.
posted by aspo at 7:23 PM on June 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


And I don't understand the idea that people shouldn't say anything when their friends and allies do something hurtful, just because non-allies are doing worse things. If my boyfriend teases me in a way I don't like, I don't ignore it just because a shitty coworker calls me worse names.

This is very true, but it goes both ways.

It can be hard to tell, but some of the criticisms of the left are coming from people from the left going after their own group. There are a number of discussions and arguments that come from people I know I agree with wholeheartedly, but that doesn't stop it from being badly framed, or incorrect, or just plain obnoxious. While MetaFilter is better than most of the internet for all sorts of things, it still has people who argue in a style that has bloomed online, that hardcore 'You're either with us or against us and if you disagree you're a BAD PERSON' form, and that pops up all over the political spectrum.

It can be tough, considering while low on certain perspectives, there are still people here who bring these things up as a form of attack, as a concern troll, as a disingenuous tactic. But valid disagreement goes both ways, whether it be against someone who dismisses your concerns as unimportant, or someone who doesn't agree your personal perspective is completely correct.

I feel as if I'm in a minority on MetaFilter in not having a Facebook feed filled with people saying things I regard as heinous. With the exception of family members who I try hard not to speak about politics with, I'm surrounded by people and news sources which don't argue blindly from the right. Perhaps this is one reason I'm more concerned about shortcomings from my side of the political spectrum, because I am not constantly exposed to people who I disagree with 90% of the time, rather than 5% of the time.

To me, the carping about 'the left' isn't always carping about 'the other', it's frequently going against 'my group'. Which should be allowed, no matter how vigorously a few commenters argue when it's not done their way against their targets.

It cuts both ways.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:38 PM on June 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


maybe we all just need to get a little better at responding to criticism
posted by philip-random at 8:06 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


me: “As far as I can tell, nearly every single comment you post on this website at least obliquely refers to how terrible it is...”

Hoopo: “That's not true at all.”

Well, like I said, it may have been me taking things personally, and maybe it was unfair of me. It really annoys me when Fists does that thing where he quotes somebody and just says "facepalm" and walks away from the thread and doesn't say anything else. That's tedious and insulting. But it's rare enough, I grant you.

I feel like it's bad form to troll through somebody's comment history to dig up dirt they've said and repost it decontextualized, so I guess I'll say this: I appreciate that Fists O'Fury has a certain theory about how Metafilter works. It's actually a theory, not a repeated insult or a jab he likes to pull out. He actually explains this theory most clearly in his only comment so far in this thread, but he's said it many times on the blue. Here, talking about the recent misogynist killings in California, he rounded out what seemed to at least be a well-considered and civil response with this paragraph:

“This probably isn't the time--and I'm pretty sure it isn't the place--to try to have a serious discussion about these issues. It is difficult enough to get a clear view of something like this. But once something is seen largely as an opportunity to trot the hobby horses around the track, the odds of seeing the thing clearly drop to near zero.”

This whole paragraph seems to exist only to note that it's pointless to discuss the topic at hand on Metafilter. Fists O'Fury does this frequently – again, it seems to me, and I'm open to objections that this isn't true. He isn't shy about saying "this being the place it is" and obliquely noting that he can't say much more than he's saying, or that his stated opinion is sure to piss a lot of people off, or otherwise hinting hand-wavingly that everyone else in the thread is engaging in groupthink and not approaching the topic with seriousness or rationality.

I want to say that this annoys me largely because I think it's a terrible way to go about having a conversation. Why would anyone ever say this? What's the point of walking into a room and announcing loudly, "well, this is obviously a closed-minded crowd, and it seems pointless to have a discussion in here!" and then wheeling around and stomping out? It seems silly to me – almost as if the person doing it was merely trying to elicit the reaction in order to prove the point being assumed. People get irrationally annoyed when barely-implicit insults are hurled vaguely at them; and then, conveniently, Fists can point out that people are being irrational, so the whole thing was justified from the beginning.

I mean – the contradiction inherent in this approach can be boiled down to what happens in a single paragraph of his comment in this thread; watch what happens here:

“First, it is simply a straw man to claim that anyone here has ever said that ‘if this one person is making us focus on this issue, the entire left is OBSESSED with the issue.’ That's just nonsense. It's unfair, and it's representative of the way dissent is treated around here.”

In the first sentence, Fists O'Fury begins by objecting strenuously to the very idea that he would ever in his life generalize in such a way, making a single person the representative of the entire left. In the second sentence, Fists O'Fury generalizes broadly, making a single person the "representative" of Metafilter – even using the word "representative."

I found that very striking.

Fists O'Fury – I know you promised not to, and that annoys me, I will be honest, but I really hope you're reading this, because I'd like to talk to you about it. You do seem like you're a really intelligent guy, so it feels like such a discussion would be worthwhile. Maybe you can tell me if I'm wrong here: you believe that Metafilter is by and large closed-minded, that it's an echo chamber, that dissent is treated with contempt and derision. I get this from your comment above, but also from your frequent asides about this on the blue: you think we're too harsh on heterogenous opinions here, and you complain that it's driving you toward the Right because it's so irrational.

Here's what bothers me about you saying that as frequently as you do:

I do not believe that "Metafilter" is a thing that can be pointed to. It's not a document, it's not a storefront, it's not even a town square. At most, it's a mechanism by which a collection of people can come together and discuss things. So when people say "this place is like..." or "Metafilter is like..." or "site culture is like..." I tend to get very wary: that's not a thing they're talking about, it's just a whole bunch of people, people who may or may not agree on everything.

So all I'm saying is that generalizing about people when you're talking to them has a very offputting effect, and seems like a pointless telegraphing of an insult. When you say "this place," all you can mean is "the people here in this place" – so when you speak vague negatives about "this place," without being clear about what exactly you mean, you're not really helping anything, and in fact you're just casting aspersions on anybody who might happen, even innocently, to disagree with you. It's totally unnecessary to do this, and quite unhelpful to everybody involved. I can understand the temptation to do so, but there are better ways to approach it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 PM on June 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


Shorter version:

If people are saying things that seem irrational or unfair to you, the worst thing to do is to meet this with vague implications that people are being irrational and unfair but you can't talk about it because 'you know how this place is.' The only worthwhile and constructive approach is to find the exact comments which are irrational or unfair, quote them, and say "I think these comments are irrational or unfair," giving reasons why. This is how people talk rationally and fairly in actual discussions: not by hand-waving toward supposed systemic irrationality, but by pinpointing it, highlighting it, and discussing it with some precision.
posted by koeselitz at 8:47 PM on June 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


All these references to the left has Nitzer Ebb playing in my head.
posted by homunculus at 9:05 PM on June 13, 2014


Why would anyone ever say this?

Obviously I can't speak for him, but as someone who sometimes appreciates the type of comment you're criticizing, I can give you one answer: they make some of us feel less unwelcome. That may not change the character or direction of a conversation, that's true, but they make explicit that not everybody likes it.
posted by cribcage at 9:16 PM on June 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well, my point was that they certainly change the character of a conversation. The thing about saying things like 'this place is really closed-minded' is that it really only means 'you people are really closed-minded.' Which always hurts and annoys people. When you say a thing like 'it's not possible to have an honest conversation with you people,' it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That's not to say these things should never be brought up - on the contrary, I am saying closed-mindedness and things like that need to be brought up much more directly. That is - directly to the person who is being closed-minded (or whatever your objection is), in response to the comment in which they are doing the thing you object to.

We're all just individual humans here. None of us can answer for the crimes of Metafilter as a whole. But we can and should take responsibility for our comments, and when people disagree with us, we should be able to learn from that.
posted by koeselitz at 11:51 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


All these references to the left yt has Nitzer Ebb playing in my head.

I support the left, though I'm leaning, leaning to the right.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:54 AM on June 14, 2014


I am saying closed-mindedness and things like that need to be brought up much more directly. That is - directly to the person who is being closed-minded (or whatever your objection is), in response to the comment in which they are doing the thing you object to.


This doesn't really work in response to a pile on though, does it? Where you write something that generates a whole pile of animosity, you start to look nuts, or like an obsessive if you're the only person responding to a whole army of people making a range of responses -- some valid, some barking, some, somewhere in-between.

when people disagree with us, we should be able to learn from that.

So what have you learned from Fists O'Fury's critique?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:06 AM on June 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


I do not believe that "Metafilter" is a thing that can be pointed to. It's not a document, it's not a storefront, it's not even a town square. At most, it's a mechanism by which a collection of people can come together and discuss things. So when people say "this place is like..." or "Metafilter is like..." or "site culture is like..." I tend to get very wary: that's not a thing they're talking about, it's just a whole bunch of people, people who may or may not agree on everything.

Well yes and no. Surely you wouldn't disagree that, on average, MetaFilter deals with issues like sexism and homophobia better than, say, 4chan? Or bodybuilding.com?

No doubt in all 'communities' there are elements of both good and bad, but it seems a bit silly to me to handwave away the idea that online communities can ever be ascribed general tendencies or characteristics simply because they are composed of thousands (or more) of constituent parts. That is the nature of any community, online or off. No, we can't say "all Americans have value X", but we can say that in general, in comparison to $othercountry, Americans are more predisposed to X. "Culture" of communities is a real thing, and I don't think it ceases to exist simply by virtue of being transposed into the digital domain.
posted by modernnomad at 6:10 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The difference is that in terms of numbers, libertarians are a very small group with an even smaller number of maxims: government=bad.

The left is a huge diverse group, esp. after the Cold War. You can make more accurate generalizations about small group than a bigger one.


This is a perfect example. People think it's okay to complain monolithically about other groups as long as they're small, but just look upthread to see how irritated people are when other people complain monolithically about "social justice warriors" or "tumblr". Everyone seems okay with it as long as it's their ax being gored.

Meanwhile, I know I've commented - and even posted a MeTa or two - about how upsetting it was when people posted negative things monolithically about "the rich" "libertarians" and "conservatives", generally to be met with "Well that's different because they ARE."

If we want to encourage each other to be more nuanced, mazel tov, but if we just don't want to be criticized on our particular hobbyhorse, then this seems pretty self serving.
posted by corb at 7:39 AM on June 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't see a left that's devouring itself, I see a left that has largely lost it's nerve. I don't think it's possible to effect change without an enduring sense of optimism, and that optimism seems to be either missing or at best spasmodic.

For example, threads on climate change always seem to be generously salted with predictions that disaster cannot be averted. Threads about shooting massacres always have people asserting that the US gun laws will never change.

And then you have a thread about something great happening like the legalization of same-sex marriage and everyone is very positive and suddenly charged with hope. But that hope withers as soon as the next bit of bad news comes in. This is what I mean about optimism not enduring.

I feel like people on the left think that if only people get angry enough then change will come about, but all that happens is we get a bunch of angry people who are also filled with despair.

It is frustrating to watch.
posted by um at 8:25 AM on June 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


I don't think it's possible to effect change without an enduring sense of optimism, and that optimism seems to be either missing or at best spasmodic.

From my viewpoint, a lot of the "Hey, this issue IS important, so let's look at it!" push is coming from a sense of optimism, a sense that things can get better for everyone. It's fueled by anger, but so is every civil rights struggle; anger is what gives people the energy to push for positive change.

There's a wonderful book about healing from abuse that calls anger "the backbone of change"; it's what gives us the ability to say, "What's happening isn't right, and I'm going to work to change it."

I agree that there's a lot of pessimism, too, and that pessimism is reinforcing the status-quo (not just reflecting it). And I think that pessimism is what people are pushing back against when we get frustrated at being told to shut up for the good of the cause.
posted by jaguar at 8:37 AM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


For example, threads on climate change always seem to be generously salted with predictions that disaster cannot be averted.

I've actually come to get a certain dark amusement from such proclamations as they allow me to say, hey, stop going all Denethor on us. Which isn't to dismiss the perilous situation we humans find ourselves in, just (hopefully) to trip up some of the more absurd and enthusiastic public expressions of pessimism, because as a wise guy once said, it ain't over until it's over. Which I guess is my overall feeling about the so-called Left. If you're all tied up in various hyphenated ideologies and related grasping for power, all I can say is, please do collapse-wither-die ASAP ... because you're forever getting in the way of those of us who really don't care about anything that organized -- we just want to see a pragmatic and resilient commitment to the reality of of social safety net.

I mean, I'm probably more libertarian than anything else on most issues floating around there, but that's all seen through the filter of my freedom not being worth shit if my neighbors are getting all desperate about mere survival.
posted by philip-random at 9:19 AM on June 14, 2014


Frustration and despair are mostly with the legislative branch of the American federal government, half of whom are dutifully sitting at their desks ready to Do Things and half of whom are arguing internally over whether or not the federal government should exist. Nothing is going to come out of Congress for years. On the other hand, the judicial system has been killing it on the marriage equality issue lately, so it's easy to be pumped up about progress that is currently happening that way. That would seem to account for the at least some of the disparity in attitudes.
posted by Corinth at 9:27 AM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Frustration and despair are mostly with the legislative branch of the American federal government,

Not that things are better elsewhere. I just finished reading Perry Anderson's very long LRB piece "The Italian Disaster," which before it gets to the details of the Italian mess starts with a page and a half surveying the situation in the rest of Europe (and Turkey). If you have, or want to have, any faith in politics, for god's sake don't read it.
posted by languagehat at 10:34 AM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


um: "I feel like people on the left think that if only people get angry enough then change will come about, but all that happens is we get a bunch of angry people who are also filled with despair."

Thank you; that clearly articulated something I've felt, but had trouble putting into words, for a long while.
posted by Wordshore at 11:57 AM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


um: "I feel like people on the left think that if only people get angry enough then change will come about, but all that happens is we get a bunch of angry people who are also filled with despair."

MORE ACTION! LESS TEARS!
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:55 PM on June 14, 2014


me: "I am saying closed-mindedness and things like that need to be brought up much more directly. That is - directly to the person who is being closed-minded (or whatever your objection is), in response to the comment in which they are doing the thing you object to."

PeterMcDermott: "This doesn't really work in response to a pile on though, does it? Where you write something that generates a whole pile of animosity, you start to look nuts, or like an obsessive if you're the only person responding to a whole army of people making a range of responses -- some valid, some barking, some, somewhere in-between."

I know that pile-ons are a special problem, but at this point I feel as though direct, careful response is the only thing that works in response to a situation where a lot of people are echoing each other in disagreement of a point you've made. Choose the most cogent of the comments disagreeing with you, quote it at length, and respond thoughtfully and precisely, with civility. It can get overwhelming, yes, and it can feel like you have to respond to a bunch of people, but the one nice thing about a crowd of people all voicing the same dissent at you is that you recalling only have to respond to that dissent once if you do it right.

The thing not to do, I think, is to vaguely imply that everyone in the thread is a groupthinker and walk off. It may be possible to address everyone, if you carefully attempt to summarize a point of view that seems common in the thread: "It sounds like a lot of people are saying they believe X because Y; I disagree because..." But to make the disagreement vague, state plainly that it's not possible to discuss anything with such people, and summarily terminate the exchange - that only inflames what is usually already a tense thread, and makes it hard on everyone else.

Also, there's something that users tend to do over time if they give in to the temptation and start just writing off everyone on the site as group thinkers: they start doing this thing where they try to preempt pile-ons by mentioning that Metafilter is an echo chamber where dissent is unwelcome in their very first comment in a thread on the blue. This can be satisfying, since it invariably leads to the sort of pile-on that handily confirms the poster's belief that Metafilter can't handle dissent. Sometimes a poster that gets in the habit of doing this likes to dig in at that moment, and gets more and more belligerent.

But Fists O'Fury is not belligerent. As I said above, he's generally a very intelligent and thoughtful poster. He just sometimes does this thing where he'll note that Metafilter is a terrible place to talk about certain things because people here don't think critically - and then he'll drop out of the thread, never to be seen again, merely, I guess, watching the thread for that self-fulfilling prophecy to come true.

Sometimes the best thing to do with a pile-on is to respond carefully and sparingly to a representative comment. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just walk away. But I think lashing out vaguely, or deciding to try to preempt future pile-ons by predicting them before they happen, doesn't help much.

me: when people disagree with us, we should be able to learn from that.

PeterMcDermott: "So what have you learned from Fists O'Fury's critique?"

I can't - that's my point. If he quoted me - or anybody - and said "I disagree," and gave reasons why - then it would be possible to learn, because either he'd be right or he'd be wrong, but either way we'd be able to get somewhere. But when somebody won't even say who it is they're accusing of being a group thinker, there's no learning that can be done. I just have to do what everybody else does: hope that he's not talking about me in particular, and wonder what it could mean if he is.
posted by koeselitz at 10:03 PM on June 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Your criticism isn't invalid, Koeselitz. You're right: those comments are not rebuttal, and they lack the merits of rebuttal. But they also aren't aiming to be rebuttal. And more to the point, criticizing them on that ground is irrelevant to the reason I articulated above why I sometimes appreciate those comments. Dismiss that if you will, but it's an answer to your question. It's my answer.

I feel as though direct, careful response is the only thing that works in response to a situation where a lot of people are echoing each other in disagreement of a point you've made. Choose the most cogent of the comments disagreeing with you, quote it at length, and respond thoughtfully and precisely, with civility.

Respectfully, I find this naive. I don't think it's a realistic portrayal of how the type of threads we're discussing tend to go. A lot more civility is demanded of people whose opinions are unpopular. And indeed, people whose comments are frequently sarcastic, hyperbolic, or otherwise hostile in tone get praised for their "civility" by others who agree with their opinions.

I don't disagree with you in principle. You're right, honey works better than vinegar. But that's in the context of anything "working" at all. Sometimes nothing will work in the sense you're describing. A conversation isn't going to happen. In those circumstances, these comments serve a different purpose. At least, for me as a reader, they do.
posted by cribcage at 11:33 PM on June 14, 2014 [13 favorites]


A lot more civility is demanded of people whose opinions are unpopular.

Yup.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:23 AM on June 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


cribcage: "I don't disagree with you in principle. You're right, honey works better than vinegar. But that's in the context of anything 'working' at all. Sometimes nothing will work in the sense you're describing. A conversation isn't going to happen. In those circumstances, these comments serve a different purpose. At least, for me as a reader, they do."

I still stand by the belief that, if there's a thread where you believe no conversation can reasonably happen, it's better to say nothing than to comment on the futility of conversation. And respectfully I feel like, as a reader, you can only take comfort in comments about how conversation is impossible "around here" if you can be certain (or assume without thinking too hard) that you yourself aren't one of the ones implicated by that comment.

Maybe that says something about my own paranoia. Certainly my outlook on all this says something about me as a commenter on Metafilter; I tend to comment here a lot precisely because (I think) I tend to enjoy disagreeing with a lot of people at once, although of course all too often I fall to the temptation and try to take on all comers or get snarky or sarcastic. I know a lot of people don't like having a host of folks say they disagree with them. I think favorites add to this problem by jacking up the apparent numbers on all sides, which is why I keep them turned off.

In general, I think I see what you mean. It can be nice to know that you aren't the only one who feels like a conversation is becoming pointless because of the atmosphere of a thread. I don't agree that it's the right thing to do, but I can see how people who've felt that Metafilter can sometimes be alienating might see some comfort and some value in such comments. At least I think that's what you mean.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


A lot more civility is demanded of people whose opinions are unpopular.

This is true, but where isn't it true? It isn't a burden unique to metafilter. It's practically a fundamental principle of rhetoric: more patience is required of anyone trying to persuade an unfriendly audience than a friendly one. Now merely stating that can be satisfying, too; it can be an move to claim underdog status. But in terms of actually trying to make a persuasive point, koeselitz gets it right. If there's a particular point of view that you think is being shouted down, then identify that point of view as precisely as possible. But vague denunciations of "groupthink" or "echo-chamber-ness" aren't really persuasive of anything or very productive of conversation if you want a conversation.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:22 AM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sometimes nothing will work in the sense you're describing. A conversation isn't going to happen. In those circumstances, these comments serve a different purpose. At least, for me as a reader, they do.

And you're right here, also. Sometimes a conversation won't happen. If you find it satisfying to announce this, then vague denounciations are one of the more effortless ways to get r done, as they say.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:53 AM on June 15, 2014


At least I think that's what you mean.

Yes, it was. We're on the same page on both points.

It's practically a fundamental principle of rhetoric: more patience is required of anyone trying to persuade an unfriendly audience than a friendly one.

No, you're talking about something different. I'm not talking about what works to persuade a hostile audience. I am talking about the level of civility that is required to participate. MeFites who hold unpopular viewpoints are held to higher commenting-tone standards, while snarky allies are explicitly patted on the back for their supposed civility. It is hypocritical.
posted by cribcage at 1:04 PM on June 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


MeFites who hold unpopular viewpoints are held to higher commenting-tone standards

Not just commenting tone, but also standards of evidence and quality of argumentation. Comments from the majority viewpoint get thunderous applause even when they contain self-evident howlers that would be quickly identified and disparaged if that shoe were on the other foot. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen someone whose position I agree with but almost wish I didn't because they espouse it in such a dishonest or misinformed way.

This, too, is a very ordinary thing and hardly specific to MeFi, but one imagines that here at least it's possible to have a conversation about it and identify it when it happens.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:31 PM on June 15, 2014 [15 favorites]


Some "unpopular viewpoints" are just inherently below MeFi's standards.
posted by Corinth at 6:50 PM on June 15, 2014


I'm not sure what viewpoints you mean, Corinth, but since you're responding to me, I'll give you a straight answer back. I was saying that some people are held to different behavioral standards. You are an example. In the recent Dan Savage thread, someone complimented you for participating without seeming exasperated. I'm wondering if you think that was a fair assessment.

Your very first sentence in that thread was a sarcastic, "You know what's fun?", and your tone remained largely sarcastic throughout. Eg, "It's impossible to expect more from cis men, why can't we just be happy with what they trickle down to us?"; "Oh, jeez. Now the shrill trans women aren't just ruining it for themselves, but everybody else too? I'm awful sorry."; "FUN HOME EXERCISE"; etc.

I'm not asking whether you have a right to feel exasperated. Personally, I think it's easy to understand why you would feel exasperated. In your shoes, I might feel the same way. I also don't think exasperation is some horrible MetaFilter crime; I didn't flag any of your comments. However, I think it's bizarre and dishonest that someone would characterize your participation as not exasperated. That's what I am talking about.
posted by cribcage at 7:28 PM on June 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'd characterize my tone as exasperated, yeah. I think that's fair! I wouldn't assume that the person making the comment you're referring to was being dishonest, though. They may just have different expectations than you.
posted by Corinth at 8:30 PM on June 15, 2014


That's fair enough. Thanks for responding to that.
posted by cribcage at 8:33 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think one of the reasons that forcing unpopular opinions to have a higher standard is unpalatable coming from left-leaning individuals and sites is because so much of liberal and left theory is based around protecting minorities.

There's a lot of political pressure brought to bear on the idea that just because a group is strange, or small, or powerless, or offensive to the majority, that shouldn't mean they shouldn't have their concerns heard. There's a lot of political pressure brought to bear on the idea that the majority is not always either right or just.

Yet when it comes to left leaning sites and spaces, too often it feels like that is no longer the case. That minorities should not be protected.

And honestly, it feels a lot like hypocrisy - like the opinions about the minority voices being valuable were only a fig leaf for getting voices that agreed with them heard.
posted by corb at 6:00 AM on June 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, no, liberalism and leftist theory is not necessarily based around protecting minorities, and this sounds kind of like the problem of people who do carry a lot of power in larger spaces (like, say, the US) appropriating the language of the powerless to broaden their own influence. The liberalism you're talking to is more about ensuring that the power differentials aren't being expanded or taken advantage of. There's a number of minority viewpoints that liberalism has little to no truck with. You won't find a lot of liberal arguments that people who practice bestiality need protection, for instance. Nor is it based on the idea that the majority is not always right, either. To use the example I posted in the Dan Savage thread, a majority of Americans in every single Congressional district in the US support a trans-inclusive ENDA, which is widely supported on the left (apart from those who feel it doesn't go far enough) and opposed on the right. Same thing with Obamacare (and universal health care in general): polling on almost all of components of the had majority or plurality support, it's just when you get down to the name or the supporters did opposition increase. People who oppose miscegenation didn't all of the sudden gain liberal support just because they're a strange/small/powerless/offensive minority (and similarly, if SSM opponents become a small minority you won't see liberals asking to repeal SSM laws and reinstate bans).

All of which pretty much doesn't really apply here, because you're applying a macro kind of concept to a micro kind of community. It's kind of like the idea that people who don't get what they want complain about their First Amendment rights in private spaces where they don't really apply. You have the right to say what you want, but no one is required to let you say it unopposed, nor that it should be lauded or given equal time or judged on the exact same standards. Matt and the mods are perfectly free to do whatever they want here and let the site form how it does. And while ideas that have a lot of support outside the site (which many conservative and associated economic libertarian ideas do) aren't popular, that doesn't mean that liberal theory on the site should all of the sudden oppose their principles on the basis of what could easily become an arbitrarily-defined idea of who is a minority. That's not hypocrisy.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:44 AM on June 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


You are using examples of things that are supported on the Left, but if you look at every single one of those examples, but move them back 20-40 years, the Left (or at least the leftest parts of it) was in fact arguing in all of those cases that the majority should not define the law, and that minorities needed protection. A trans-inclusive ENDA would have been shot down in fiery flames 20 years ago, for example. In that case, how much credence would you have given "the majority opposes it?"

Matt and the mods are indeed perfectly free to do what they want, but that doesn't mean that members of the community who identify as members of the Left are somehow inoculated from hypocrisy charges.
posted by corb at 6:50 AM on June 16, 2014


People think it's okay to complain monolithically about other groups as long as they're small, but just look upthread to see how irritated people are when other people complain monolithically about "social justice warriors" or "tumblr". Everyone seems okay with it as long as it's their ax being gored.

Yet when it comes to left leaning sites and spaces, too often it feels like that is no longer the case. That minorities should not be protected.

It's startling to watch you scold people for making sweeping generalizations and then go on to make sweeping generalizations in the same thread. But beyond all that, why are you singling out "left-leaning spaces"? What is a "left-leaning space"? And even assuming that this absolutely isn't a figment of your own imagination, why hold "the left"—whatever that is—to a higher standard of discourse than any place else on the political spectrum? Honestly, that feels a lot like hypocrisy to me.

I am talking about the level of civility that is required to participate. MeFites who hold unpopular viewpoints are held to higher commenting-tone standards, while snarky allies are explicitly patted on the back for their supposed civility.

My dozens of deleted comments over the years would take issue with your back-patting, but if you're trying to make a distinction between the degree of civility required to participate and persuade, then the degree of civility required to participate remains the same.

Mostly I haven't a clue what the real complaint is here. As near as I can tell, it's "I'm not getting the respect I deserve."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:56 AM on June 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


You are using examples of things that are supported on the Left, but if you look at every single one of those examples, but move them back 20-40 years, the Left (or at least the leftest parts of it) was in fact arguing in all of those cases that the majority should not define the law, and that minorities needed protection. A trans-inclusive ENDA would have been shot down in fiery flames 20 years ago, for example. In that case, how much credence would you have given "the majority opposes it?"

You're kind of proving my point here, though. The left didn't change it's advocacy when the minority viewpoint changed to the majority viewpoint. They stuck to their principles on protecting the group with the least power regardless. Refusing to support the viewpoints of those who have unpopular opinions that they opposed wasn't their responsibility there, so why should it be here?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:01 AM on June 16, 2014


The left is held to a high standard for the same reason the Christian Right is. They claim the moral high ground which exposes them to charges of hypocrisy when they fail to live up to it. Nothing wrong with that, really, but it's not a standard you can really sensibly apply to random blog commenters.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:03 AM on June 16, 2014


They stuck to their principles on protecting the group with the least power regardless.

But is that really the case, either here or on Metafilter? It seems like the people with the least power in both cases are those with conservative viewpoints, but I don't see people on the Left coming out of the woodwork to defend them. The wheel has turned, and now Left ideas are in vogue, which is predicted to increase along with demographic shifts. There seems to be less an attitude of "we must protect our now powerless adversaries" and more a "triumphant glee" mood, which, while understandable, is hardly defending the high moral ground.

And on Metafilter, I can't see how anyone could possibly argue that the conservative voices are, here, the least powerful. They are the least numerous and hold the least influence with either other commentators or the mods. So again, if the Left's principles are protecting the group with the least power, and many people here state that they align with said principles, then a logical continuation of those principles would be to argue for the protection of edge views and demographics here as well.
posted by corb at 7:12 AM on June 16, 2014


"Conservatives on Metafilter" is not an oppressed class in the way that "people of color," "women," "disabled people," etc., are, and it's dishonest to try to sneak them into that category through a fog of generalities.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:16 AM on June 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think one of the reasons that forcing unpopular opinions to have a higher standard is unpalatable coming from left-leaning individuals and sites is because so much of liberal and left theory is based around protecting minorities.

No, much of progressive politics is about protecting and advancing the rights of the societally disadvantaged.

In our society, it just so happens that those who are most commonly disadvantaged are people who are in a group that also just so happens to be in an ethnic or racial minority - but they also include people who fall below a certain level of mental or physical capability, or who hold to a specific sexual preference or are not of a specific gender. In that sense you could say that progressive politics champions the cause of the "minority".

But it's not true that progressive politics automatically takes an internal head count of where everyone's allegiances lie in a given group and say "welp, there are only a handful of left-handed Baptists in this group - CHAMPION THEIR RIGHTS!" If those left-handed Baptists are saying things like "marriage is only for one man and one woman" or "we should only let millionaires vote," progressive politics is gonna be all "HELL no" even though it happens to technically be the "minority" opinion.

And frankly, from what I've seen of a lot of conservative thinking, the societally disadvantaged tend to get shafted by that policy, so...not surprising that a site like Metafilter, which includes a huge number of those that would be thus shafted, have a bit of a higher bar when it comes to conservative policy ("alright, buddy, you just TRY and convince me that I deserve to have less of a chance than you do just because I'm [foo]").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on June 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


The thing is, conservatives are extremely powerful and numerous in the world and in the United States. I value that the moderators work to try and make transgender people comfortable here in part because I don't get to hear their perspectives often in other venues. I can turn on the TV 24 hours a day and get a conservative perspective shouted at me.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:19 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


then a logical continuation of those principles would be to argue for the protection of edge views and demographics here as well.

Your flawlessly logical insistence on supporting the speech of the least-represented in every space isn't a political act, it's daffy rhetorical contrarianism. Flat-Earthers, September 11th conspiracists, and beastialists are equally powerless at metafilter. Why aren't you advocating for them?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:20 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


And on Metafilter, I can't see how anyone could possibly argue that the conservative voices are, here, the least powerful. They are the least numerous and hold the least influence with either other commentators or the mods. So again, if the Left's principles are protecting the group with the least power, and many people here state that they align with said principles, then a logical continuation of those principles would be to argue for the protection of edge views and demographics here as well.

The left's principles are, as pointed about above, pertaining to the broader picture of the world at large rather than some website. For someone who has made a major part of their site persona to be about almost religiously sticking to their ideals, I'm kind of disappointed that you're saying that people here should lessen or abandon their devotion to their own just to make the site more "fair" to people who would otherwise have a ton of support in large parts of their society.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:22 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


(And often, conservative perspectives are intolerant. Not implying anything about you corb, but you strike me as a no-BS person so we don't have to dance around how much hate is present on the right. That doesn't work well in inclusive communities, it often self-segregates. Many conservatives would simply not want to post here.)
posted by Drinky Die at 7:23 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, corb, what's up with this? Did you wake up this morning and say "Shit. I knew there was something I meant to do Friday afternoon!"
posted by octobersurprise at 7:27 AM on June 16, 2014


For someone who has made a major part of their site persona to be about almost religiously sticking to their ideals, I'm kind of disappointed that you're saying that people here should lessen or abandon their devotion to their own just to make the site more "fair" to people who would otherwise have a ton of support in large parts of their society.

I think I'm more confused about how anyone can defend, with logical consistency, having one set of rules for the broad world, and another set of rules for a smaller world within that world. If you can do so, I'm all ears, but right now, it sounds like a lot of wibbling.

And frankly, from what I've seen of a lot of conservative thinking, the societally disadvantaged tend to get shafted by that policy, so...not surprising that a site like Metafilter, which includes a huge number of those that would be thus shafted, have a bit of a higher bar when it comes to conservative policy

I mean, sure, it's not surprising, but it's not great, either. One of the biggest trends in history is that if you take any disadvantaged group, in any situation where it can achieve the majority, there's going to be some retribution. (See: almost any revolution ever) But I don't see that as a good thing, and certainly not a moral one.
posted by corb at 7:29 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, corb, what's up with this? Did you wake up this morning and say "Shit. I knew there was something I meant to do Friday afternoon!"

No, I was compulsively refreshing my recent activity because I wanted to talk about the Game of Thrones Season 4 finale and saw your comment pop up.
posted by corb at 7:30 AM on June 16, 2014


I think I'm more confused about how anyone can defend, with logical consistency, having one set of rules for the broad world, and another set of rules for a smaller world within that world. If you can do so, I'm all ears, but right now, it sounds like a lot of wibbling.

But there isn't one set of rules for the broad world and another set for the small one: Both ought to stop oppressing the oppressed. And as Drinky Die said, conservatives are not an oppressed class. You're equivocating between actual liberalism/leftism and the scarecrow liberalism against which Red State commenters fling "Who's the tolerant one now, libs."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:38 AM on June 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think I'm more confused about how anyone can defend, with logical consistency, having one set of rules for the broad world, and another set of rules for a smaller world within that world.

I can go naked at home, but at work I have to wear clothes.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:39 AM on June 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think I'm more confused about how anyone can defend, with logical consistency, having one set of rules for the broad world, and another set of rules for a smaller world within that world. If you can do so, I'm all ears, but right now, it sounds like a lot of wibbling.

You're talking about rules, I'm talking about principles. If we went by your rules, it sounds like meant every left group would have to have to change what they are fighting for just because it's all of the popular sudden in their group. I don't think that the NRDC should all of the sudden push for coal plant deregulation and fracking just because those things are the minority viewpoint in their smaller world. And this goes for onservatives, too. Would you say that a MeFite on Conservative Universe Metafilter where all the stuff liberals wanted was the norm would all of the sudden have to say "no, wait, I actually think we should be supporting SSM/unions/income redistribution/etc."? I really have no idea how that constitutes "wibbling" (side compliment: thanks for some new slang!) rather than ideological consistency.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:43 AM on June 16, 2014


One of the biggest trends in history is that if you take any disadvantaged group, in any situation where it can achieve the majority, there's going to be some retribution. (See: almost any revolution ever) But I don't see that as a good thing, and certainly not a moral one.

Wait, what do you mean by this? Because it kind of reads like you're equating getting feelings hurt on a website to Ceaucescu being the first up against the wall when Romania staged a coup.

I'm also not seeing that any one group is being treated differently by the mods. Everyone on Metafilter - and I do mean everyone - is subjected to the same basic standards, regardless of how "popular" you think they are. However, no one on Metafilter is COMPLETELY protected from the opinions of those who dislike them. Which is a good thing, to my mind - there have been progressive Mefites who've left because they were mad the mods weren't banning other mefites for expressing certain opinions. I can think of a couple Mefites (no longer with us) who would have wanted you banned for some of the things you'd said; and probably a couple of the things I've said might have made them want to ban me too.

But the mods don't do that, and I am grateful for that. They also don't come down harder on the unpopular opinions than they do on the popular ones. Yes, this does mean that I have to seethe over how every conversation that mentions the Roman Catholic Church ends up rehashing some very old arguments, but...they get the right to talk too, and so do I, and the mods aren't cutting me out either.

The protection of your right to speak does not lead to your protection from hurtful commentary upon what you say. The mods have established what boundary is too far, and it's just the same boundary for everyone. Maybe it's more permissive than you'd like, but that is also something that benefits you as well, because sure as shit you've probably said a few things that had someone emailing the mods and asking you to be banned or your comment to be removed, and the mods said "no we won't". And sure as shit I've also had that happen too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:43 AM on June 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why are we talking about the left and the right of the political spectrum as if they have any fixed relationship to populism, pluralism, or elitism? The will of the majority changes over time, and so to do the policies advanced by people of each political persuasion, often in ways that are strategic in the long-term. The will of the ruling class often lags behind, so those who push for equal rights for all may, at times, push for compromises that leave some groups out. Trying to paint this political pragmatism as hypocrisy requires having some unique insight into what was in the minds of the people who accepted these compromises, and I'd love to see that evidence if you have it.

The simple fact is, in almost all cases, it's the political left in the U.S. that's pushed for inclusiveness and equal rights for the marginalized, and the fact that progress for trans* people lags behind the progress of other groups says more about our culture at large and the political process at the time that rights were expanded for others than it does about what "the left" wants. Are there self-described liberals who don't support full equality for trans* people? Of course, just as there are surely self-described liberals who are homophobes, racists, etc. The question is, which political movement has done more to advance rights for all marginalized groups, and there is really no contest there. It's preposterous to claim that this somehow means liberals are hypocrites for not pushing for equal rights for all groups at the same time.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:44 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


If we went by your rules, it sounds like meant every left group would have to have to change what they are fighting for just because it's all of the popular sudden in their group. I don't think that the NRDC should all of the sudden push for coal plant deregulation and fracking just because those things are the minority viewpoint in their smaller world.

More like - as I understand it - that the NRDC shouldn't need to suddenly push for fracking, but that if the NRDC was in fact part of the left, that it would be willing to thoughtfully hear out the proponents of fracking before it said 'No, we're not going to do that.' It's less about changing the beliefs, so much as having a consistent way of talking and listening to the beliefs that are on the table. The discussion of, say, honoring minority voices seems more about how the politics impact discussions.

Would you say that a MeFite on Conservative Universe Metafilter where all the stuff liberals wanted was the norm would all of the sudden have to say "no, wait, I actually think we should be supporting SSM/unions/income redistribution/etc."? I really have no idea how that constitutes "wibbling" (side compliment: thanks for some new slang!) rather than ideological consistency.

I don't think that conservatives in general try to push for inclusiveness/protection of the minority as a broad-based guiding principle. Some do, but it's certainly not universal. Actually, I'm having trouble coming up with what the broad based guiding principle which would be similar /would/ be. Perhaps that decisions should be more local than federal? But that's more political action, and less about how people interact with ideas. The conservative sector seems, to me at least, to have a lot less metapolitics than the liberal sector. If you can think of any, I'd be game to figure it, but I can't.
posted by corb at 7:59 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, corb, but you are now in clear violation MeFi's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and, as such, your contact list will be voided (in addition, of course, to those of your 12 conservative "spouses") and your [+] button deactivated. Please understand that a Favorite, in the eyes of both God and the State, has always been between a liberal and a liberal ("It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve Forbes"), but you'll still have access to browser bookmarks and private messaging.
posted by nobody at 8:13 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


if the NRDC was in fact part of the left, that it would be willing to thoughtfully hear out the proponents of fracking before it said 'No, we're not going to do that.'

Would this also apply to Fortune 500 companies thoughtfully hearing out the Stalinists before investing, priests thoughtfully hearing out the atheists before saying Mass, and schools thoughtfully hearing out the pedos before hiring, or does this kind of theoretical openness only apply to "the left" as you imagine it?

Anyway, you're merely privileging process over ends without making any argument as to why process must be privileged over ends.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:13 AM on June 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Conservatism strikes me as a belief that the good things we have should be preserved and that change can be dangerous. It goes wrong when it doesn't keep in mind "we" don't all have the same good things. Mainstream American conservatism is especially off the rails because there does not appear to be any guiding principle at all. Not any that survives a few minutes of examination anyway.

They nominated Sarah Palin to be vice-president. This is not a serious political movement. With a terrifying amount of power.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:14 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


corb, the error you're making is defining "the minority" in purely mathematical terms. For all intents and purposes, women made up half the population in the early 1900s, but did not have the right to vote. They couldn't be meaningfully spoken of as a mathematical minority, yet they were marginalized. When the sex ratio in the U.S. changed from majority male to majority female in the 1940s, it's not like liberals suddenly saw the situation and said "hey, men are a minority now, let's protect them!"
posted by tonycpsu at 8:15 AM on June 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


a lot of this is starting to sound like my family when I was a kid.

My little sister had "problems" which, in hindsight, had mainly to do with undiagnosed dyslexia, but at the time manifested in her often being annoying as hell and prone to stirring shit up at the slightest provocation. My mom (in particular) couldn't help but expend a lot of energy on trying to neutralize the negatives of her behavior otherwise and calm her down. In other words, my sister got in a lot of trouble. But that doesn't mean the rest of us didn't get scolded ourselves for falling for her shit, and at the same time, implored to cut her some slack because she had "problems".

My point being, in a functioning family and/or community, stuff cuts both ways, sometimes simultaneously. Certain "minority" behaviors must be both reprimanded and allowed (certainly empathized with) if there's to be any progress.
posted by philip-random at 9:17 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's less about changing the beliefs, so much as having a consistent way of talking and listening to the beliefs that are on the table.

That's the difference between leftism and liberalism, though. Liberalism strongly prizes a consistent process for all participants. Leftism has ends, and is relatively indifferent to how the rules are bent to achieve them, often regarding "rules-lawyering" as an enemy of progress. Kerensky vs. Lenin, the Social Democrats vs. the Red Army Faction, Hubert Humphrey vs. the SDS.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:37 PM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


And what do you call what corb advocates, which is all process and no end in particular?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:20 PM on June 16, 2014


Hubert Humphrey vs. Flipper
posted by Pudhoho at 7:54 PM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


You mean Hubert Humfishy 'cause Flipper rules.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:01 AM on June 17, 2014


> Kerensky vs. Lenin

While your point in general is well taken, that comparison in particular is not a useful example. Kerensky was every bit as indifferent to consistent process as Lenin; he changed tack whenever he thought it useful in the service of his overriding goal, which was preserving and enhancing his own power. Part of Russia's tragedy in those years is that it didn't have any prominent liberals (in your sense); everybody was willing to overturn the table and smash the crockery in order to achieve their intensely desired ends.
posted by languagehat at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not really sure what people complaining about an alleged "echo chamber" think the solution is supposed to be other than...like...force people to change their opinions in the name of intellectual diversity or something?

This is embarrassing.

There is a decade of history here of some people warning about this trend and proposing solutions. You could try to read those. But based on the following comment, it's clear to me that you aren't actually interested in considering the issue or thinking about solutions:

I mean, the core of the "echo chamber" complaint is really just that most people don't agree with you, right? Which, whoop-de-doo, sorry yo.

The absence of any good faith being extended by you here is a primary cause of the phenomenon in the first instance. There's something harmonic about you using that same bad faith to demean those who "complain" about it.

Diversity of thought classically has been something that is championed by progressive individuals, whether it be John Stuart Mills' book On Liberty, Milton's Areopagitica, Thomas Jefferson's inaugural speech, Meiklejohn's full-throated thesis that "suppression of thought is always foolish", or even the compelling state interest for having affirmative action policies recognized by Supreme Court as exisiting to "further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body." There is a long and noble tradition of advocating diversity of viewpoints as a good and in of itself. For you to diminish that as people whining about others not agreeing them is embarrassing.

I wonder, how would you retort to Mills?
First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.
Would you just say, people who whine about silenced opinions are just butthurt because people don't agree with them, yo?

I think Ironmouth's overall point is well taken. In many regards, the echo-chamber nature of this site is, like the boiling frog, not as obvious to those immersed here. But it has been an undeniable trend. And at every step, we have those who argue that it is not problem, it's not that much different, and that is ok even if it was because we don't like those we are excluding. The absence of diversity--the exclusion of unorthodox or deviant thought--has lead, as Durkheim predicted, to an ever spiraling re-drawing of the boundaries as to what is not allowed in tighter and tighter windows, pushing us more and more in a defined heterodoxy where you have, as this post laments, people fighting over whether something is sufficiently "of the left." And this spiraling has had predictable effects.
posted by dios at 10:37 AM on June 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


dios, please tell us specifically how conservatives are being silenced. Yes, they are smaller in number, but that is not the fault of the larger number who disagree with them. Yes, because of the larger number who disagree, it's going to be harder for them to keep up, but that doesn't mean they're being silenced, it just means everyone gets to have their say, and short of culling the posts of the majority as part of some kind of bizarro fairness doctrine, I don't see any way to address that. If you have constructive ideas instead of unsubstantiated complaints about "silencing", I'd love to see them.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:51 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder, how would you retort to Mills?

Oh Christ, meatloaf again?

or even the compelling state interest for having affirmative action policies recognized by Supreme Court as exisiting to "further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."

OTOH, you should totally bring an affirmative action suit against Matt. Call your secretary. Get right on that.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:42 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The absence of diversity--the exclusion of unorthodox or deviant thought--has lead, as Durkheim predicted, to an ever spiraling re-drawing of the boundaries as to what is not allowed in tighter and tighter windows


Yeah, this seems like a problem really inherent to Metafilter. After all, Metafilter is defined by what it excludes. Lots of sites have links and discussion, but Metafilter is unique because it is heavily modded (that is, comments are not just downvoted, they're deleted) and excludes various forms of hate, as well as many things that some people think are too similar to things said by the hateful.

But when exclusion is the basis of your brand, there's an inevitable push to expand it by excluding more. First you delete openly misogynistic comments, then you delete MRA comments, then you delete comments that echo MRA rhetoric, then you delete comments that seem like the kind of thing an MRA would say, and so on.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:12 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder, how would you retort to Mills?

And now I'm sittin' here wondering if this is a Texas thing and you all have trouble tellin' Mill from Mills.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:20 PM on June 17, 2014


MetaFilter: Exclusion is the Basis of Our Brand
posted by tonycpsu at 12:26 PM on June 17, 2014


Metafilter is unique in deleting things? It is?
posted by rtha at 12:27 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


rtha: All slopes must be slippery, because
posted by tonycpsu at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


dios: "There is a long and noble tradition of advocating diversity of viewpoints as a good and in of itself. For you to diminish that as people whining about others not agreeing them is embarrassing."

You know what's "embarrassing"? You comparing people who consistently insult the people who they're presuming to have conversations with by accusing them of groupthink and "echo chamber"-ism before any exchange has even happened with thinkers like John Stuart Mill.

And, yeah, I've been here for ten years too. Long enough to watch hundreds of ill-mannered cranks accuse me of being a sheeple and not having a brain of my own. It wears a little thin after a while.

Agreement is not a sin. If you can't interact with people without accusing them of agreeing with other people as though it's a sin, then it's probably better not to interact with them on that point at all, since nothing is to be gained. Nobody here can answer for whatever sins you think Metafilter as a whole is guilty of, because Metafilter is just human beings communicating, and because communal sin is sort of a hogwash idea in the first place.
posted by koeselitz at 12:36 PM on June 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


"There is a long and noble tradition of advocating diversity of viewpoints as a good and in of itself. For you to diminish that as people whining about others not agreeing them is embarrassing."

As an ideal, yes. However, it's worth distinguishing political theory of liberalism from its practice; people forget that Mill also said, "Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians."

"I wonder, how would you retort to Mills?"

By distinguishing purposes — political debate versus conversation for one — as well as pointing out that there have been quite a few post-liberal philosophers that have had to contend with Mill, including a personal favorite, Chantal Mouffe, whose work on pluralistic democracies is largely concerned with this. She rightly points out that in any liberal democracy, there will be a cohort that is fundamentally opposed to the project of liberal democracy and that within any liberal democracy there is access to processes that fundamentally corrode or subvert that liberal democracy, e.g. fascism. In order to maintain the benefits of pluralistic liberalism (and remember, Mill's ultimate justification for liberalism was utility, not morality), she proposes something she calls "zones of contention," where arguments can be made with the goal of improving society (or just being heard or whatever), but that through strong institutions the potential damage of those contentions can be constrained so as not to undermine fundamentals (including the idea of the zones to begin with).

In the political context, that can mean, say, an unelected judiciary or strong universities where arguments can be made without worrying about immediate adoption.

" In many regards, the echo-chamber nature of this site is, like the boiling frog, not as obvious to those immersed here. But it has been an undeniable trend. And at every step, we have those who argue that it is not problem, it's not that much different, and that is ok even if it was because we don't like those we are excluding. The absence of diversity--the exclusion of unorthodox or deviant thought--has lead, as Durkheim predicted, to an ever spiraling re-drawing of the boundaries as to what is not allowed in tighter and tighter windows, pushing us more and more in a defined heterodoxy where you have, as this post laments, people fighting over whether something is sufficiently "of the left." And this spiraling has had predictable effects."

Dude, MeFi had a vote on banning you and Blazecock at one point. Like many of the "fall" arguments, your thesis relies on a halcyon view of MeFi that's just not all that supportable.
posted by klangklangston at 12:39 PM on June 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Or is it Hayley Mills you all have trouble with? Could you clear that up for me, dios, if you aren't too busy right now with your affirmative action case?
posted by octobersurprise at 12:40 PM on June 17, 2014


Also, I disagree with this bit:

dios: "Diversity of thought classically has been something that is championed by progressive individuals, whether it be John Stuart Mills' book On Liberty, Milton's Areopagitica, Thomas Jefferson's inaugural speech, Meiklejohn's full-throated thesis that 'suppression of thought is always foolish', or even the compelling state interest for having affirmative action policies recognized by Supreme Court as exisiting to 'further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.'"

None of these people were advocating "intellectual diversity." None of them suggested that a body or community must or even ought to contain a large diversity of viewpoints or opinions. What they argued was the thesis of the Enlightenment first explicitly elucidated by Baruch Spinoza: that freedom of speech is salutary and beneficial.

There's a huge difference between freedom of speech and "intellectual diversity." People who are free can agree with each other, because they're allowed. "Intellectual diversity" presumably means that people don't agree, though; and it does not necessarily indicate freedom of speech.

What I'm getting at is the fact that you're trying to argue here that there's some lack of freedom of speech somehow, some violation of that Enlightenment ideal. Now, I'm not going to argue again that that's an incorrect view of political freedom, that metafilter is not a nation, etc, because I'm sure you've heard that. But presumably you've spun freedom of speech into the idea that some manner of free expression is necessary for conversation. And I agree there.

Where I disagree - where I have always disagreed, though there have been plenty if fights about this over the years - is that I don't believe that there's any instance here in which the core freedom of expression on Metafilter has been violated. And I gather you can't point to one, either - because instead of saying "this was deleted, and it was wrong," or "this person was shouted down, and it was wrong," or "this person was insulted or harassed, and it was wrong," you're just listing Enlightenment proponents of freedom of speech, which has something to do with our ideals but nothing to do with how the site operates day by day.

If you want to talk about something someone has done wrong, point to it, call it out. Until you do, making vague imprecations of the people who post here, as though they bore some collective responsibility for some secret shameful sins, only gets in the way of actual productive conversation.
posted by koeselitz at 12:50 PM on June 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, to the extent that there is an echo chamber on MeFi, it is not an echo chamber which exists because of malfeasance. At the heart of it, it's a "be the change you wish to see" sort of situation. Respond productively. It would be nice if every single POV ever could be discussed without derailment etc., but the site has its cloud of viewpoints and...well...I mean...to those who wish to push back against the "echo chamber", what actual concrete proposal do you have?

I mean, there's a post about Francis Fukuyama, and some of the snarkier remarks are pretty lazy. But, people have a right to snark about things they don't like. I don't have the time, energy, or desire to defend Fukuyama all that much, so...so what? The site's gestalt is mostly opposed to what Fukuyama represents. People have opinions, film at eleven.

I'm not interested in turning this into a discussion of Fukuyama. What I'm saying is, even if the site's gestalt occasionally doesn't line up with my own, even if it's occasionally going to do so in a way that irks me, there's not much to be done about it. Either productively add to the conversation, or deal with the fact that you can't be 100% behind the gestalt all the time.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:30 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


To me, the point that Sticherbeast makes persuasively is that tolerance is important in a place like Mefi. In fact, Mefi is one of the few places where tolerance is taken seriously: through the dedication of mod resources, the existence of MetaTalk, and the motivation behind mod interventions. That does not mean that Mefi should be tolerant of attitudes that challenge aspects of Mefi's core principles of equality and civility: merely that minority opinions deserve protection.
posted by dmh at 2:32 PM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dude, MeFi had a vote on banning you and Blazecock at one point.

Wait, what, like off the island? When was this a part of site policy?
posted by corb at 3:42 PM on June 17, 2014


It was a real thing but only in the sense that a short-term voluntary goofy fundraising stunt did actually happen.

There has never been and will never be a banning-by-popular-vote aspect to Metafilter policy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:00 PM on June 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


There was that time ... Oops ... Maybe I've said too much.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:14 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, we voted on Paphnuty.
posted by klangklangston at 5:01 PM on June 17, 2014


Dammit, klang, you know what the cabal said about mentioning that.

There is no cabal.
posted by languagehat at 5:24 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


dios:
First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

koeslitz:
Agreement is not a sin. If you can't interact with people without accusing them of agreeing with other people as though it's a sin, then it's probably better not to interact with them on that point at all, since nothing is to be gained.

The problem is that it *feels* like people do in fact assume their knowledge is infallible-- like people anywhere. Yet that certainty seems at odds with their politics. The postmodern project emphasized contingency and multiplicity of meanings. Yet practice here feels different.

Example: TJ Meta kinda peters out with the consensuses that 1) there is misogyny in the comments critical of the TJ shopper 2) misogyny like that is a problem on the site, and 3) people need to do something about it.

We're not talking about slurs or hate speech, which are rightfully banned. We're talking about criticism directed at the published work of a writer.

This is a community. Behavioral expectations are enforced primarily through peer pressure in-thread. Communitarian writers probably have more relevance to how this place works than any of the political philosophers swung around above. I mean we aren't voting on representatives or exercising rights. The majority (frequent posters), their agreed-upon customs, values and actions in threads have a lot more influence than people are willing to admit. That is probably how it should be. At the same time, it also determines who buys in.

Right now there is a push to protect the feelings of the most vulnerable members of a community on the basis of a certain strand of postmodern gender politics. That does not seem coherent or practicable.
posted by CtrlAltD at 7:22 PM on June 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why not?
posted by Corinth at 8:18 PM on June 17, 2014


on the basis of a certain strand of postmodern gender politics.

I don't understand what that means.

Also explain, please, how it is not coherent or practicable to ensure the most vulnerable members of a community are not alienated and driven off.

I'm not goading you - I simply don't understand what you're getting at.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:09 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


CtrlAltD: "Right now there is a push to protect the feelings of the most vulnerable members of a community on the basis of a certain strand of postmodern gender politics. That does not seem coherent or practicable."

I am skeptical of the postmodern project, if it counts as a project. I think it ultimately leads to a dead end, at least politically (that being generally my discipline) - and this is a modern crisis on the left today, I think, the crisis of our overreliance on Rorty and his ilk, leaving us with no sound benchmark or social goal beyond something apparently grounded in feelings.

But at the same time I'm not sure everyone here who participates in these threads is really a postmodern critical theorist grounded in poststructuralism. In, fact, I gather they are not. And I wonder if most people here might point to something slightly more concrete than feelings if asked about the goal of the project we're engaged in. Something closer to justice.

Even a lot of the junior-league critical theorists on the Internet throw that word "justice" around quite a bit. It turns out, I think, that postmodernism is not really that monolithic; or perhaps we can say it isn't very coherent.

At the end of the day, I think we have what we've always had: a lot of people interested in what's right and what's wrong, and the hope that maybe we can see a way clear there. And based solely on that perspective, I think the "social justice" project, as a microcosm, is worth supporting. Its ideals may be limited, but they are correct as far as I can tell.
posted by koeselitz at 12:10 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


CtrlAltD: "... on the basis of a certain strand of postmodern gender politics."

Pudhoho: "I don't understand what that means."

You could probably read this wiki page and get everything you need to know. It's a somewhat influential academic milieu that lent us a lot of the terms we use about these things. Like "gender is a language construct."

"Also explain, please, how it is not coherent or practicable to ensure the most vulnerable members of a community are not alienated and driven off."

It's not coherent or practicable if it's only based on feelings. That's fair, I think. Feelings are pretty shifting and changeable. And I agree that that is what we're left trying to preserve if we subscribe wholly to what some people would call the postmodern gender theory project.

My response is that I don't think we do. There is such a thing as treating each other justly. Alienation isn't something we should avoid provoking because it's a bad feeling; we should avoid provoking it because it's not just to drive others away, and threatens the body of people generally who come together here.

It sounds like that's what you meant, I'm just sort of translating it as a critique of postmodern gender theory to make the point that I don't think it's as simple as CtrlAltD put it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:24 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


The issue of language comes up in (at least) two ways. First, the use of slurs in educational or work settings can contribute to hostile environments in which minorities ultimately suffer from economic disparities. Second, the use of slurs contributes to a psychological harm which is correlated with significantly worse medical outcomes.

Which makes it about more than just feelings.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:43 AM on June 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks, koeselitz, for the link, though I should have been more up front. What I really wanted to ask was:

Is this something I need an ivory tower to understand?

I believe, here, academia is a long-con swindle that excludes the most important voices from this conversation.
It strikes me as an avalanche of classist horse-shit.

If I need a decoder ring to decipher your message, I don't want to drink your Ovaltine.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:50 AM on June 18, 2014


Due respect, but that's an extremely anti-intellectual argument and is more a statement of your bias and ignorance than a coherent position.
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have bias toward plain speaking.

If you want to live in a shit-hole populated with wanna-be-erudite nose-pickers, that's for you.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2014


SOMEONE IS WRONG USING BIG WORDS ON THE INTERNET.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:16 PM on June 18, 2014


Due respect, but that's an extremely anti-intellectual argument and is more a statement of your bias and ignorance than a coherent position.

Sounds like sumthin a college boy would say.

Ma, get yer rifle. If he goes near the taters, shoot'em.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you want to live in a shit-hole populated with wanna-be-erudite nose-pickers, that's for you.

Dude, what the fuck.

(Is that plain enough?)
posted by rtha at 12:20 PM on June 18, 2014


rtha: Dude, what the fuck.

(Is that plain enough?)


I got the gist of what you were saying, but I couldn't read past the word "that" since the next two words(?) have more than four letters. Hell, I can't even make out several of the words I just typed here.
posted by gman at 12:27 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great job, everyone!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:29 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


You attempted to convey the criticism "Is this something I need an ivory tower to understand?" by pretending you couldn't Google an unfamiliar phrase and claiming "I'm not goading you", and now your complaint is that everyone else just doesn't favor plain speaking like you do?
posted by XMLicious at 12:31 PM on June 18, 2014


If you want to live in a shit-hole populated with wanna-be-erudite nose-pickers, that's for you.

Now that's a flounce.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:14 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I have bias toward plain speaking.

If you want to live in a shit-hole populated with wanna-be-erudite nose-pickers, that's for you.
"

Uh i am confuse

is shithole in ivory tower or ivory tower in shithole

speak plainer
posted by klangklangston at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pudhoho has disabled their account, which is too bad: CtrlAltD never explained why protecting the feelings of the most vulnerable members of this community on the basis of a certain strand of postmodern gender politics (!) was neither coherent nor practicable.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:17 PM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


That said, I don't completely agree with Pudhoho's apparent position on the value of academic discourse, and I think koeselitz's response to Ctrl's comment was good.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:27 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I believe, here, academia is a long-con swindle that excludes the most important voices from this conversation.
It strikes me as an avalanche of classist horse-shit.


There is more to academia that English departments.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:38 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rustic Etruscan
CtrlAltD never explained why protecting the feelings of the most vulnerable members of this community on the basis of a certain strand of postmodern gender politics (!) was neither coherent nor practicable.


Yes I apologize, I could not get back to this thread as soon as I wanted. I am still working out what I want to say. But before I get on the road again I will give it a start.

I think a response would touch upon what koeslitz wrote. This comment is very useful to me.

Also, this one: There is such a thing as treating each other justly. Alienation isn't something we should avoid provoking because it's a bad feeling; we should avoid provoking it because it's not just to drive others away, and threatens the body of people generally who come together here.

The principle of justice applies to individuals/citizens in a state. Is preventing alienation from a voluntary opt-in community the same kind of thing? I think it is not. Metafilter already has guidelines and an ethos about conduct, and we've changed with the times. Justice has never been part of the way the site works.

Now more than a light touch to community moderation is being asked for. Examples: 1) "Feminism 101": enumerate shared knowledge about gender important to a subset of members. 2) Calling out misogyny in threads. Both actually sound like things community do-- peer pressure, spread customs and new beliefs that are requisite to the community.

But that is not how liberal participatory democracy works, or how individuals exercise their rights as citizens. These community practices are coercive in their own way.

This is a voluntary social and internet-based group. Membership is always in flux. It seems that we are considering moving toward community moderation based in feminist principles that not even all feminists in the group agree on (that misogyny in everyday life and raising awareness are the most pressing fights in front of us). It wouldn't be a big deal if the moderation suggestions derived from these principles did not seem so certain about right and wrong and what is and is not appropriate. Anyone can feel offended for any reason, and that is ok. The line where it becomes alienation of a protected class is blurry and we should tread carefully. We have so far and we need to continue doing so.

Sorry for the length, lack of clarity and typos. I might not be able to reply again for a few days.
posted by CtrlAltD at 9:19 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


But that is not how liberal participatory democracy works, or how individuals exercise their rights as citizens. These community practices are coercive in their own way.

Oh please. I'm not sure why you're banging this drum of psuedo-intellectual objection to sensitivity to the opinions of the oppressed, but it stinks to high heaven for me and has done since you started it.
posted by winna at 9:32 AM on June 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thanks for responding, Ctrl.

It seems that we are considering moving toward community moderation based in feminist principles that not even all feminists in the group agree on (that misogyny in everyday life and raising awareness are the most pressing fights in front of us).

Many people deny examples of misogyny in everyday life even when those examples are right in front of them. Often it takes the weight of scores of examples to break that denial's back. The people who deny the small injustices usually deny the big ones, too, so that when they finally acknowledge and fight the small ones, the ones that are generally easier to point out, they also tend to acknowledge and fight the big ones. Given that, I don't see any reason not to try to raise awareness of "mundane" sexism even if you believe the "larger battles" - however you might care to define those - matter more.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2014


These community practices are coercive in their own way.

if by 'in their own way' you mean 'not at all because this is a voluntary psuedonymous online site and no one has ever been coerced to do anything here'.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:11 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh please. I'm not sure why you're banging this drum of pseudo-intellectual objection to sensitivity to the opinions of the oppressed, but it stinks to high heaven for me and has done since you started it.

This is a pretty shitty form of discussion policing. If you actually want to talk about your objection to this, fine, but you have to talk about it, not just call it "banging a drum" and "pseudo-intellectual" because you think it amounts to closet conservatism or whatever (and I believe you're quite wrong about that, as well).

if by 'in their own way' you mean 'not at all because this is a voluntary pseudonymous online site and no one has ever been coerced to do anything here'.

You really don't think the kind of community pressure displayed in this thread, the immediate gang-pile on the expression of opinions perceived as unacceptable, is coercive? It's obviously not physical force, but the kind of emotional and rhetorical pressure put on dissenters here is still pretty intense. And just to be clear, I think this is sometimes quite appropriate — in the case of overt misogyny or racism, for instance — but there's a ton of overreach and collateral damage and "friendly fire" here as well, and I don't find that very palatable at all.

The people who deny the small injustices usually deny the big ones, too, so that when they finally acknowledge and fight the small ones, the ones that are generally easier to point out, they also tend to acknowledge and fight the big ones.

Your logic here escapes me. Or at least that claim that "they also tend" strikes me as a form of wishful thinking endemic to consciousness-raising politics, which is only sometimes, in certain political circumstances, a successful organizing strategy, and other times can be distracting or counterproductive.

What you're calling "small" I'd call "individual" or "personal," and what you're calling "large" I'd call "structural" or "systemic" injustice — and there's unfortunately often very little connection between how people perceive and act on the latter as compared to the former. This is what I was trying to talk about above — this is one nutshell form of a left critique of liberalism that folks around here never seem even to manage to comprehend, since liberal-individualist politics is getting so axiomatic around here that anything approaching even a discussion, much less a critique, of its tenets often just gets angrily shouted down, and so the discussion very quickly becomes extremely unrewarding.

posted by RogerB at 10:31 AM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Justice has never been part of the way the site works. "

0_o

How people conceive of justice is pretty foundational to a lot of topics here, both within MeTa and in the broader MeFiverse.

"Now more than a light touch to community moderation is being asked for. Examples: 1) "Feminism 101": enumerate shared knowledge about gender important to a subset of members. 2) Calling out misogyny in threads. Both actually sound like things community do-- peer pressure, spread customs and new beliefs that are requisite to the community. "

The "feminism 101" stuff is, at least to my understanding, suggested because it eliminates the need to have feminism 101 discussions when someone gets caught up in a cliche derail. I'm often tempted to include "art history 101" links when posting if I think that an art thread is going to get mired in, "My kid could do that."

"But that is not how liberal participatory democracy works, or how individuals exercise their rights as citizens. These community practices are coercive in their own way. "

1) This site isn't a participatory liberal democracy. It's a benign dictatorship.

2) Liberal participatory democracy does include agitation for further conduct regulation beyond anarcho-liberalism. In fact, the participatory democracy part is often very much opposed to the putative liberalism.

3) The community practices are only coercive if adopted by the moderators, and then only in a descriptive way, really. That's different from the coercive power of the state, and the general soft coercion harms (loss of employment, livelihood, ostracism, libel, etc.) are hard to apply here.

"This is a voluntary social and internet-based group. Membership is always in flux. It seems that we are considering moving toward community moderation based in feminist principles that not even all feminists in the group agree on (that misogyny in everyday life and raising awareness are the most pressing fights in front of us)."

This wrongly implies an argument from prioritization, i.e. that misogyny in everyday life and raising awareness are the most pressing fights. That's not the justification for mod action, and you're misunderstanding the polity and justification that undergirds the mods' authority and suasion.

"It wouldn't be a big deal if the moderation suggestions derived from these principles did not seem so certain about right and wrong and what is and is not appropriate.

Is this a BND account? Because this reads to me as either naive about community practice or a weird framing of an old axe-grind, and either way ignores (again) the practice and history of moderation here.

"Anyone can feel offended for any reason, and that is ok. The line where it becomes alienation of a protected class is blurry and we should tread carefully. We have so far and we need to continue doing so. "

This also seems like muddled thinking, and implicitly endorses a kind of naive relativism that I disagree with, i.e. that all "offenses" are equal and that we're unable to discern which should be given weight within the moderation practice.
posted by klangklangston at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


Your logic here escapes me. Or at least that claim that "they also tend" strikes me as a form of wishful thinking endemic to consciousness-raising politics, which is only sometimes, in certain political circumstances, a successful organizing strategy, and other times can be distracting or counterproductive.

What you're calling "small" I'd call "individual" or "personal," and what you're calling "large" I'd call "structural" or "systemic" injustice — and there's unfortunately often very little connection between how people perceive and act on the latter as compared to the former. This is what I was trying to talk about above — this is one nutshell form of a left critique of liberalism that folks around here never seem even to manage to comprehend, since liberal-individualist politics is getting so axiomatic around here that anything approaching even a discussion, much less a critique, of its tenets often just gets angrily shouted down, and so the discussion very quickly becomes extremely unrewarding.


That's good food for thought, RogerB. Thanks. I'd be first to admit my thinking on this is unsophisticated and undoubtedly has large gaps - so I'll admit that now, and take a step back.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Everyone seems okay with it as long as it's their ax being gored.

Sad compulsive pedant says "ox". Oxen are gored, axes are ground.
posted by gingerest at 7:07 AM on June 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well ground axen well gore oxen.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:05 PM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


1) This site isn't a participatory liberal democracy.

Yes I said as much above.

Because this reads to me as either naive about community practice or a weird framing of an old axe-grind, and either way ignores (again) the practice and history of moderation here

This is where you are confusing yourself. The crux of the issue is not history and practice of moderation. The community largely moderates itself-- It is the members who shape expectations for behavior and discipline each other. The mods are secondary in bringing about change.

3) The community practices are only coercive if adopted by the moderators...

That's not how coercion works. Communities coerce members all the time. Example from this site: pile ons. You bring up another: ostracism. It's not a grudge, it's human nature, group behavior.

Your view of community reads as "group of autonomous individuals who use some flavor of Western political thought to achieve political ends." Metafilter might be that to some, but not to all.

It would be great to discuss big questions about civil society and political action and how they play out on Metafilter, but there's no agreement on how to have that conversation. Metafilter is not a polity, even the analogy doesn't work. Does that matter? I think it does. But maybe I'm wrong. There's too much suspicion for this discussion at this point.

Finally:
Given that, I don't see any reason not to try to raise awareness of "mundane" sexism even if you believe the "larger battles" - however you might care to define those - matter more.

If it were cost neutral it would not be a problem. But when every thread becomes grounds for raising awareness then other kinds of conversations become impossible, even conversations about tactics or related topics.
posted by CtrlAltD at 11:59 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


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